Today I am so pleased to welcome K.D. Casey to Joyfully Jay. K.D. has come to talk to us about her latest release, Unwritten Rules. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
July, Present Day
Zach stands in the All-Star Classic clubhouse, his feet rooted to the floor. It hasn’t actually been that long since he saw Eugenio. The Gothams and Swordfish play each other about twenty games a season, the Gothams the closest thing Miami has to a rival.
But usually one of them is wearing a mask, set up behind the plate, and the other is at-bat, and they don’t say anything to one another beyond the basic interactions necessary to complete a game of baseball. A task made easier by the chaperoning presence of an umpire and spectators in the stands. Not that Zach would know what to say even in their absence.
Now he stares at Eugenio for a minute, long enough to be awkward, before Eugenio says, “Hey,” and Zach says, “I didn’t know you were coming,” at more or less the same time.
Around them, players continue to greet each other, giving the sort of back-slapping hugs that Zach and Eugenio have, conspicuously, not tried, one that would confirm if Eugenio still smells the same: like cologne and the cigarettes he sneaks when he’s having a bad day. He looks good, like he was at the barber recently, a neat fade to his sideburns. Like he got a few years of good nights’ sleep, even if he’s been on a bunch of New York nightlife websites that Zach definitely doesn’t follow, connected with this or that actress or musician.
“Here.” Eugenio points to the chair next to where he’s sitting, which Zach eyes, wondering if he’s only talking to him now because of the forced proximity of the game. “I was gonna go get another.”
He holds up a mostly empty beer, the kind of craft thing he used to drink and convinced Zach to try, even if Zach thought it tasted like soap and flowers. “You want one?”
Zach’s tempted to tell him to go ask the bartender for an entire bottle of bourbon, or possibly a swimming pool full of it. “No, I’m good, thanks.”
Eugenio goes over to the bar, where the bartender looks like he’s giving him the same spiel about bourbon he gave Zach, except this time it ends with him handing Eugenio another beer and a napkin on which something is obviously scrawled.
Eugenio comes back holding his beer, napkin wrapped around it, condensation making the ink feather. But he sets his beer down and then wads the napkin up, making a dead-on throw into the nearest trashcan with the accuracy of someone who’s caught more base stealers than Zach has this season. “How’ve you been?” he asks, sitting down in the chair next to Zach, like they’re just two former teammates catching up.
“You know.” Because what else is there to say about living in a half-decorated apartment in Miami playing for a half-good team?
“Not really, Zach.”
“First All-Star Classic.” He shrugs, like there’s not more to it than that.
“You’re not excited?”
“I might not even get to play.” Zach’s probably the fourth or fifth catcher down on whatever endless depth chart governs the game. Certainly below wherever they have Eugenio, who’s having a career-best year. Not that Zach has been following it. Or checking his stats. Or watching his interviews.
“Thought you’d be good with that,” Eugenio says. “All of the good parts, none of the effort.”
It hangs there for a second. For a long second. And it’s gotta be a joke—has to be—considering they’re sitting around drinking, surrounded by other ballplayers, in a clubhouse that for once doesn’t stink, about to go play on national television. Talking to each other like that’s just something they do.
“Fuck,” Eugenio says, “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Yeah, no worries.” Zach waves his hand like he’s brushing it off.
Next to him, Eugenio is drinking his beer. Zach doesn’t study his face, the angle of his nose or the possibility of his lips, not in a clubhouse filled with fifty other players. Not when it’s been almost two years since they had a real conversation. Not with how that conversation ended. “Do we need to game-plan with the pitchers?” Zach says, finally.
“I think we just need to be sober enough to know which way the mound is, though—” Eugenio nods over to where a player for the Millers is already swaying to the music with the confidence of someone not quite sober “—maybe not.”
“You haven’t been planning with anybody?”
“If it’s like the last time I was here, no one really expects us to take this seriously.” A reminder that, unlike Zach, this isn’t Eugenio’s first time as an all-star. That his career really took off when he left Oakland for New York. That this is ordinary for him.
“You mean, you’ve already game-planned with the Gothams pitchers,” Zach says, and Eugenio rewards him with the flash of a grin, a slight shrug of confirmation.
Zach fumbles in his pocket for the schedule again, but it doesn’t say anything different from when he looked at it before. Sit and wait and wonder when he can go back to Miami where he doesn’t have to deal with Eugenio’s over-preparation or the way his beer bottle wets his mouth. Or that he’s looking at Zach like he wants him to say something, though every word feels slippery, just beyond his grasp.
“We could go look around.” Eugenio gestures to the tunnel leading from the clubhouse to the dugout.
And Zach needs to get out of the dim clubhouse lighting, the din, the airlessness in his lungs. If they’re going to have a conversation, or an argument, it would be better to do it away from a clubhouse full of the all-star players, most of whom are also all-star gossips.
Outside, it’s a nice day, sunlight picking out the glints of red and blond in Eugenio’s hair. He has another tattoo, one Zach can just see the edge of through the long armhole of the sleeveless T-shirt he’s wearing, an outline of something. And Zach wonders what else has changed since they last talked to one another with anything more than a passing grunt during a game. Wonders who else has seen that tattoo and in what context.
If they’re why Eugenio looks so well-rested or why Zach gets occasional text messages from him asking when they’re going to meet up for dinner, always immediately followed by a Sorry, wrong person. Texts he can’t bring himself to delete, even if he should.
“KD Casey’s sexy, dreamy, poignant baseball romances hit a homerun every time!” — Lauren Blakely, #1 NYT Bestselling author of Scoring With Him
Ex-teammates—and exes—reunite for a second chance in this delightful sports romance from debut author KD Casey.
Zach Glasser has put up with a lot for the sport he loves. Endless days on the road, playing half-decent baseball in front of half-full stadiums and endless nights alone, pretending this is the life he’s always wanted.
The thing is, it could have been everything he ever wanted—if only he’d had the guts to tell his family, tell the club, that he was in love with his teammate Eugenio Morales. Well, ex-teammate now. When Zach wouldn’t—couldn’t—come out, Eugenio made the devastating choice to move on, demanding a trade away from Oakland. Away from Zach.
Three years and countless regrets later, Zach still can’t get Eugenio out of his head. Or his heart. And when they both get selected to play in the league’s All-Star Classic, those feelings and that chemistry come roaring back.
Zach wants a second chance. Eugenio wants a relationship he doesn’t have to hide. Maybe it’s finally time they both get what they want.
KD Casey is a romance writer and baseball enthusiast living in the Washington, DC area. Her debut novel UNWRITTEN RULES, about a Jewish catcher who unexpectedly reunites with his ex-teammate—who’s also his ex-boyfriend—is available from Carina Press. Come talk baseball and writing with her on Twitter or Instagram, and subscribe to her newsletter for periodic freebies and updates.