“Uh, Coach? Why is there a naked woman in our showers?”
Jonah Landis looked up from the latest team roster to find Tommy standing in the doorway, looking as confused as he was excited. Poor kid, the ball boy was just fifteen. At his age, naked women were still a novelty. “Is there, now.”
Tommy nodded, his already sunburned cheeks very nearly to full-on scarlet. “She’s there, all right. And she’s, uh, singing.”
“Wonderful.” Jonah pushed himself out of the creaky wooden chair. “Okay, Tommy, show me this naked woman.”
Jonah followed Tommy across the locker room the Rochester Rogues rented from Tarpon Springs High School on Florida’s western coast while the school was on winter break. There was no attraction to playing baseball in upstate New York in February because Rochester had two seasons: winter and July. Rogues’ management had sold out “the two-week immersive baseball experience,” despite the fact that during the regular season, they couldn’t fill half the seats. Who didn’t want to get out of Rochester in the dead of winter?
They turned a corner, and steam billowed out of the shower room. Over the rush of water hitting tile, Jonah heard what, indeed, sounded like a woman’s voice, singing…Aretha Franklin?
He walked into the shower area and was immediately swamped by humid air perfumed with soap and female skin. In spite of the steam, his mouth went dry. Remy Turner stood under the stream of water in all her naked glory, doing her best karaoke “Think” into the shampoo bottle. Jonah pursed his lips before Tommy caught him smiling. She couldn’t carry a tune in a basket, but she put her heart into it anyway. One of many things that made her so completely unforgettable. Damn her.
She swiveled as she danced, all that almost-black hair piled high on her head, covered in tiny bubbles. He fought for air at the sight of her, wet and sleek, dancing in front of him like she thought no one was watching. But she had to know someone was watching. How could she not know? Did she not see the grounds crew outside and half a dozen coaches, all prepping the field for Fantasy Camp?
More than that, how had he missed her slipping into the team lockers unnoticed? Shouldn’t her arrival have been preceded by a swarm of locusts? Famine? At the very least, a nasty head cold?
She turned her back to the showerhead, stopped singing and looked at him, startled only for a moment. She still had a talent for covering her emotions quickly and well. When she made not even the slightest attempt to cover up, his body reacted accordingly. “Hey, Jonah.” Her tone was flat, the look in her eyes anything but welcoming.
“What the hell are you doing here?” He couldn’t tell which was louder, the splash of water hitting the floor, or the rush of blood in his ears. What blood wasn’t already on its way somewhere else, that is.
She stepped backward into the shower spray, hands raised to rinse the shampoo from her hair. “Isn’t it obvious?” she said. “It was a long, hot ride, and I wanted to clean up before I got started. I’ll take any excuse to get out of the studio, but all those miles on the Harley and a girl gets a little dirty, you know?”
“You rode a bike all the way from Rochester?”
“No. I rode a Harley.”
“When did you get a Harley?”
She pinned him with her eyes, solid and brown and deep and cold. They weren’t always cold. A vice twisted around his heart. “I started doing a lot of things after you left. Things I always wanted to do. Life is too short.” She shook bubbles from her hair. “I hope you don’t mind.”
Dizzy from the steam and the scent of her wrapping around his soul, he drew a ragged breath. “No problem. I just wish you’d given me a little warning. You’re lucky Tommy’s the only one who saw you.” He turned toward the lockers, expecting to see lockers, but Tommy stood there, his jaw hanging loose around his midsection. “Camp starts tomorrow, Tommy. Those bats don’t rack themselves.”
Tommy’s Adam’s apple bobbed almost to his eyeballs. “Uh yeah, sure Coach.” He tapped his ball cap and nodded. “Ma’am.” He turned to leave, craning his neck for one last look before he reached the hallway that led to field level.
Remy rolled her eyes. “Crap. I’m thirty. ‘Ma’am’ makes me feel like my mother.” She leaned her head back for one last rinse of her hair. Water and bubbles sluiced down her throat, over her skin, between her breasts, down the flat plane of her belly, dancing off a navel ring that hadn’t been there before, past…
Memories he thought he’d buried came flying back at him like angry birds. He sat on a bench before she knew how turned on he was. “What’re you doing here?”
She leaned her arms on either side of the shower stall, one corner of her mouth quirking up in a repressed grin. “I think it’s fairly obvious.”
“I work here. For the next two weeks, anyway.” She ducked her head under the water again.
He shot to his feet. “Like hell!”
Her laughter hinted at evil. Not murderous evil, but an evil that would torment him at night when he was alone and inevitably thinking about her. “Talk to Jack. My beloved program manager assigned me to your little train wreck.” She shook some of the water out of her hair and met his eyes. “Trust me, other than the chance for some fresh air, sunshine, and baseball, I’m as happy about it as you are.”
“Then why are you here?”
“Because after you disappeared, I had nothing else to do but focus on my career, thank you very much. Besides, Jack and the Rogues’ GM are golf buddies. I think Jack lost a bet or something, and I got sent here, but as long as I’m here, I have a job to do. I’m expected to report impartially on this pathetic attempt to save the team. If it gives me a shot at National Sports Network, so much the better. Otherwise, I go where my boss tells me to go.” After one last rinse of her hair, she rolled the soap between her hands. He hated to think where she was going with it. “So tell me, what’re you doing here? I thought you quit baseball, among other things. Don’t tell me you grew a sentimental streak while you were gone.”
“You know you can’t stay here,” he said, only slightly ashamed to ignore her question.
“I don’t plan to. I’m renting an apartment not far from Sunset Beach. Great view. Soft bed.” She peeked down at him, brow wagging.
He banked the urge to snarl at her. “I mean at camp.” Camp, hell. Anywhere in the state was still too close.
She shrugged, the movement lifting her breasts just enough to draw his complete attention. “No choice. I’m on assignment.”
“What’re you doing? Playing ‘Remy Turner, Girl Reporter’?”
“Ha! No, I’m going the full Monty.” She shut off the water and reached for a towel. He wasn’t sure if he was disappointed or relieved to see her covered again. “’Full participation’ were Tony’s exact words. I’m playing with the team, filing live video feeds and audio reports, blogging at night, Tweeting everything I do. Generally recording the whole thing for posterity. There’s talk cable might opt it, depending on how the video looks. You know, like a reality show. Personally I think it’s going to be a cluster foul-up, which I suppose only adds to the appeal. Throw me that towel over there? I’ve got to dry this mess.” She held the lower lengths of her sable brown hair in her hands like a thick rope.
That hair felt like silk between his fingers once, a long time ago. “You never cut it.” Stretching as far as he could reach, he passed her the towel.
“Nope. Female news reporters can get away with short hair. Female sports reporters have to keep a man’s attention fixed on the screen. Short hair doesn’t achieve that.”
“You’re on radio.”
“Not for long, if I play my cards right.” She rubbed the towel around her hair and grinned. “Jonah Landis. You’ve been keeping track of me. You did go all sentimental. I may have to check your Man Card.”
“That’s not in question and you know it” came out of his mouth before he could stop himself.
Looping the towel into a faux turban, she piled it on top of her head and let the other one fall to the floor. Her eyes raked over him, rough and merciless, like he was naked, not her. The impact was a sucker punch to the gut.
“No,” she said, fixing her gaze on the zipper of his uniform pants as if she could see what was going on behind it. “No it’s not.”
He shifted his stance. “You can’t stay here. I’ll talk to Jack.”
“You can try, but it’s not going to get you anywhere. He’s high on the idea.” She snorted. “Thinks it’s really going to save the team. Right. Anyway, it’s not your call. This is my job, like it or leave it. Last I heard, you’re the one who volunteered for this assignment, and you still haven’t explained to me why. On the record, of course. It’ll make a great sound byte. Personally, I didn’t think you were into ripping open old sounds.” She gathered up the pile of clothes on the bench. “If you developed a thing for S&M while you were gone, tell me now. This is information I can use.”
Teeth grinding, he walked away before he did something stupid. At the moment, the list of possibilities was endless.