The Lineup by Meghan Quinn
Want to know a secret?
It’s about that girl over there.
Don’t look, but she’s the one in the power suit—with the long, black hair and the serious expression, the one I’m about to go on a date with . . .
Yeah, according to her, she “accidentally” donated an obscene amount of money to my charity — The Lineup — to win said date but I found out the truth. Miss. Button Up Blouse has a secret, passionate crush on me.
I didn’t know her name until two days ago, despite the friends we have in common.
Was I oblivious? Probably.
Was I blind to it? Definitely.
But I’m no fool, I see it now. The High Heel Harlot wants more than just a date with Jason Orson, she wants to be able to claim the best butt in baseball as hers.
Here’s another secret . . . she has no idea I know.
Excerpt The Lineup by Meghan Quinn
It isn’t in my nature to cry over burnt ham, but here I am, tearing up like a jackass, because the meal I’ve been reluctantly slaving over for the past four hours is two shades away from charred dust.
I had it all planned out. The timing was right, the recipes perfected, the table decorated with impeccably folded napkins that impersonated angelic swans, and polished silver that I scrubbed for an hour until I could see my balls in the reflection. Nothing says polished silverware like a spoon that gives you a clear upside-down view of your gonads.
But even with countless hours of preparing this feast, naked as the day I was born with only an apron to cover my man-loins, I still ended up with a scorched ham doused in fire extinguisher agent because somehow, the damn thing caught on fire.
Imagine this, a grown-ass man—no, not just a grown-ass man, but a man at the fresh age of twenty-eight, built like a linebacker with buttocks you can bounce rocks off . . . thanks to squatting for a living—dancing around the kitchen on his twinkle toes, arms flailing with pink and white potholders attached to his hands, screaming like a banshee, as flames light up the Jenn-Air double oven where the brown sugar and pineapple ham resided.
Are you seeing it?
Add the imagery of said man naked, dick and balls harmoniously bouncing in panic while the apron his “girlfriend” got him that says Eat my food, Lick my dick, unravels in the fit to unleash the fire extinguisher.
That was me . . . a minute ago.
Frantic, screaming, and all in all losing any last shred of my man card I had left.
It’s why I’m currently weeping like a nitwit into the flaps of my apron, wondering where I went wrong.
If we’re going to be honest with each other—and I would like to establish honesty with you—I’ll admit, I’ve always leaned toward the sensitive side. You know, the cuddly grizzly bear. Big and intimidating but a fucking gooey butterball heart on the inside.
Tell me a love story. I’ll listen the crap out of it.
The Bachelor? Why yes, that’s one of my favorite shows.
Do I smile when sharing a candlelit dinner with myself, followed by a nice long soak in a bubble bath while Enya—the fucking goddess of all voices—plays in the background? I sure as shit do.
But if some ignorant asswipe gets in my face on the ball field, stirring up trouble, I’m the first to lay a fist across his jaw and the first to be thrown out of a game.
And I’m not even sorry about it.
People are arriving in an hour. I’m vulnerable as fuck with my bare ass resting against the cold white-oak floor of my girl’s apartment, while a lonely tear streams down my freshly shaven cheek. I have no main dish, and the apartment smells like burnt rabbit turd.
Why am I in this hopeless predicament?
Because of one person.
One single person who flipped my life upside down.
A bombshell in a suit, a ravenous sex-fiend in the sheets, a classy and sophisticated tight-ass in the boardroom. She’s a knockout who’s always on my mind. She’s the girl you do things for, that you never thought you’d ever do . . .
Like cook a fancy-as-fuck four-course meal for her and her business associates while practicing interesting conversational starters to ensure the night flows smoothly.
Back in college, I might have been referred to as the mother hen of the boys. I might have cooked at least two meals a week for the guys in the loft, and yeah, I was the ironing wizard, the one everyone turned to, to get out the most stubborn wrinkles. The title has carried on over the years, but my creativity in the kitchen has dwindled with the lack of time, my ironing is now done by my apartment keeper once a week, and the fresh flowers scattered around my place? They’re more dead now than alive.
My point—I’m not the lady of the house I used to be. But I’ve been getting back into the swing of it.
So when my girl asked me to perform the impossible feat of an intimate dinner for four, I should have ordered in, tossed everything in serving dishes, and called it a night.
But nooooooooo, I had to attempt to be a goddamn hero and try to cook everything myself.
And all for what?
For one girl?
No. Not just one girl. The girl who owns my balls, who has a grip so tight on them that if she asked me to bellow out my ABCs in soprano while swirling my finger around my belly button . . . I would.
Who is this girl that has brought me to the brink of boo-boo smush bear insanity and caused me to weep like a schoolgirl in the corner of the apartment?
There’s only one lady with more than enough ovaries to buckle the knees of the mighty Jason Orson.
The one and only Dorothy “Dottie” Domico.
A few months earlier . . .
There’s one sentence every baseball player never wants to hear: you’ve been traded.
Especially after being drafted by a team you’ve worked tirelessly through their farm system for, and finally earned a spot on the starting lineup in the big leagues . . . only to be traded after four short years. Not six or eight years. Four. Years. Four years where you’ve grown relationships, built a fan base, and established all your favorite restaurants within a five-block radius of your apartment.
It’s a kick to the crotch . . . for most.
For me, I couldn’t be more ecstatic. My agent called me two weeks ago, told me about the trade, and once we ended the phone call, I started looking for apartments.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ll miss the fans, my teammates, and the gyros with extra tzatziki sauce I’ve come to rely on, but Tampa has never been my home. It’s been a nice temporary place to launch my career, but I’m ready to move on.
So when I got the call that I was being traded to Chicago, I literally whipped my shorts down, yanked out my dick, and shook it to the ceiling out of pure joy.
Bobbies, here I come, right? Going to play with my boys, Carson and Knox. Just like old times, like in college. Maybe they want to share a place, maybe they want me to make them some of my famous potato salad. Maybe they want to rub their loving relationships in my face—fine by me. As long as we’re back together, holding each other’s nutsacs and singing Take Me Out to the Ball Game together, I’m happy.
At least, that’s what I thought at first . . . one big happy family.
Until I finally calmed down and stopped shaking my dick enough to hear my agent.
Not the Bobbies, he told me.
I was traded to the Chicago Rebels.
I’m not going to lie and say my nipples didn’t shrivel up from the thought of playing for the rival team of the Bobbies. I grew up in the area, the Bobbies were my team—secretly still are—and as a Bobbie for life, the thought of slipping on a black and red jersey made me want to break out in a cold, dead sweat.
I started to backtrack.
I stuffed my dick back in my pants. No way was I touching that thing while thinking about the Rebels.
Have you ever had a moment of pure rage, where you’re about to fly off at someone, spittle ready to shoot past your lips, and arms geared up to flail irrationally? That was me, seconds away from firing off.
How could I possibly even CONSIDER playing for the Rebels?
But then he said five invaluable words.
Annual donations to your charity.
Lots of cash.
Damnit all to hell.
That day, I sucked up my pride, smiled, and envisioned myself in red and black, because I would do anything for the benefit of my foundation.
And, the trade wasn’t bad. Because I’m near my friends again, living in my home state, and piling on the cash for my charity, The Lineup. I also get to brag to everyone who wants to hear that not only am I catching for the best arm in baseball, Maddox Paige, but I get to play with the one and only . . . Cory Fucking Potter.
Yes, THE Cory Potter. You know, the guy who accomplished more than I could ever dream of by the time he hit thirty. He’s a legend. A hero. A goddamn wet dream.
And I get to play ball with him on a regular basis.
I never let a moment go by when talking to my boys about the opportunity. And sure, Cory might be Carson’s brother-in-law and he has access to him whenever he wants, but he doesn’t get to snuggle up to him in the dugout and nuzzle his shirt while they announce the starting lineup.
Nope. I get that privilege.
Well, technically, I haven’t had the opportunity yet since baseball season is freshly over and I was just traded, but this spring, oh boy, Cory Potter better watch out, because there will be some nuzzling.
To bring this full circle, I was traded, I’m happy about it, and because the gods seemed to have lined up with my luck, I’m currently moving into an apartment right across from one of my best friends.
“When do I get a key?” I ask Knox, who sets one of my boxes down on my kitchen counter.
“To my place?” he asks, pointing to his chest.
“Yeah, to your place. We are neighbors, you know.”
“Yup. Neighbors, not roommates, therefore no key.” He swipes at his forehead just as Carson plops another box on the counter and huffs out in pain.
“What the fuck is in that thing?”
Perfectly labeled with my state-of-the-art label maker, I run my finger over the black typed text and say, “My KitchenAid Pro and attachments. You should be able to carry that without making a stink about it.”
Carson slides down the side of the wall, spent. “I threw my back out last night. Milly was adventurous, but that’s beside the point. Why the hell do you have a KitchenAid mixer?”
Milly is Carson’s wife. They got married a few years ago, right after he made it to the big leagues. It was a small, intimate wedding with family and a few friends, nothing too big, perfect for them.
“Who doesn’t have a KitchenAid?” I ask, perplexed. Both Carson and Knox raise their hands. “Well, how the fuck do you make cookies?”
“We don’t,” Carson answers for both of them. “There are things here in Chicago called bakeries.”
I shake my head. “But what about the fresh cookie smell in your apartment?”
“Candles,” Knox answers, just as Emory and Milly walk through the door of my new apartment, lunch in hand.
Emory and Knox reconnected this year. Thank. God. After being apart for so long, they’re finally back together. I’m not going to lie, when I heard the news, my little romantic heart shed a tear of joy. I remember the day they split, because it was the day that a very different Knox was born. He was known for being one of the good guys, the man everyone wanted as their friend, the man who always had a kind word and a quick joke. But when he lost Emory, Knox became a complete bastard. No one wanted to be around him. Carson and I stood by him, but at times, it wasn’t easy. But now they’re back together, and the world feels right again.
“Wow, looks just like our place,” Emory says, setting the food on my table and reaching into her pocket. She hands me a key and says, “In case you need anything.”
Smiling wide, I hold up the key to Knox and Emory’s apartment and say, “Well, would you look at that. I have a key to the sex den.”
“Sex den?” Emory’s lips curl in disgust.
I thumb toward Knox. “That’s what he calls it. Says you’re horny all the time.”
Eyes wide, Emory spins on her heel just about to pummel Knox with her fist when he says, “I did not fucking say that.”
“Yes, you did. When we were lifting the couch into the elevator, you said you guys must have fucked on your couch at least fifteen times since you got back together, so it was good you had a sturdy one.”
“Knox.” Emory smacks his arm as Knox gives me his I’m going to kill you eyes. “If anyone is horny in our apartment it’s you. I can’t walk by you without you reaching out and trying to graze my breasts.”
He stares at her chest. “Can you blame me?”
Milly, the more private of the bunch says to Carson, “We’ve been together for years. Surely you don’t still talk about that stuff, do you?”
“Eh, depends on what you want to hear. If you don’t want me talking about our still fucking incredible sex life, then nope, I haven’t said a damn thing. Stopped years ago.” Knox and I both snort. Milly’s face turns bright red.
God, he’s a lucky fucker, because Milly is the best. Seriously, when we first met her in college, the girl only had to start talking the mechanics of baseball and the guys in the loft got a boner. Throughout the last four years, she’s Skyped with me numerous times to offer advice and encouragement, somehow knowing when I needed to and was able to hear both. She’s one of my best friends.
To ease her embarrassment, I say, “Don’t worry, Milly, he was just asking us if it’s normal to only last thirty seconds before blowing his load. For the record, it’s not. Normal guys can last longer. If you want to see, I can give you a key to my apartment.” I wiggle my eyebrows.
“Hey fuckhead, that’s my wife,” Carson spits at me.
I scratch my chin. “Yeah, I guess wives are different than girlfriends, huh?” I turn to Emory. “I guess that means all my sexual teasing is coming your way.”
Knox steps in front of Emory, plucks the key to his apartment out of my hand and sticks it in his pocket. “Or you can get a girlfriend for yourself.”
“Yeah, if you had a girlfriend, we wouldn’t be moving all your shit for you.”
“How do you see that?” I ask.
“Because you would be so busy with her, you wouldn’t need us to keep you company,” Carson replies. “You would have hired movers instead of being a cheap-ass motherfucker. Dude, we have money, so we shouldn’t have to move boxes anymore.”
“But then we wouldn’t be able to share my first meal in my new place together.” I hand out sandwiches with a winning smile. “How nice is this? The gang is together again, minus Holt and Romeo, and Gunner . . .”
Carson takes his sandwich and says, “I still think you need a girl. Did you even date in Tampa?”
I shake my head and pop open the chips bag. We take a seat on the floor, spread out the wrappers of our sandwiches, and pass the chips around, taking a few and placing them on the wrappers while Milly hands out waters.
“Here and there.” I shrug. “But nothing serious. Not even sure I’m looking for anything serious at this point.”
“But you’re such a catch,” Knox deadpans with a roll of his eyes.
“Hey,” Emory says, defending me. “I think Jason could make any girl happy. He’s sensitive—”
“Too sensitive,” Knox says.
I “fluff” my short hair. “Why, thank you.”
“And he knows how to cook. That’s a win for me,” Emory says with a wink in my direction.
Just to piss Knox off, I say, “Well, you’re not married yet. Want me to give you a key to my place, you can test things out with me?”
“Keep pushing your luck, man,” Knox warns. “See where it gets you. I can get you kicked out of this place. The majority of people who live here are Bobbies fans.”
“Yes, but do they get to play baseball with Cory Potter?”
Milly groans and rests her head against the wall. “Please, don’t remind me that you’re going to be playing baseball with my brother. It haunts me that he is playing for Satan’s team.”
Born and raised in Chicago, Milly Potter has been a Bobbies fan her entire life. When Carson even joked about playing for the Rebels, she nearly had a heart attack, so to say she took the news hard that her brother was going to be a Rebel is an understatement.
According to Carson, she cried sporadically for a week and refused to acknowledge real life until her other two brothers dragged her back to work.
“Have you worn a Rebels shirt yet?” I ask.
She shakes her head. “No, and I refuse. I can’t fathom the idea of even touching one. When Carson and I started dating, they went back and forth with whose jersey I would wear. I thought of making one myself that supported both men in my life, but now”—she shakes her head—”I only support my husband.”
Carson kisses the side of her head. “The way it should be.”
“Now that you’re back in Chicago, do you think you’re going to reconnect with any old flames from college or high school?” Emory asks.
“Old flames?” I take a bite of my sandwich and chew for a few seconds before swallowing. “I didn’t have any old flames, one-night stands, sure, but nothing I’d consider rekindling.”
“Are you open to a relationship?” Milly asks. “I know a few single moms who I’m sure would be interested.”
I glance at the two eager matchmakers and motion my finger between the two of them. “Are you guys trying to set me up?”
Emory shrugs. “You’re such a catch. It’s hard to understand why you don’t have a girlfriend.”
“Taking a little too much interest in his love life,” Knox says from the side of his mouth.
Emory palms his face and pushes him away. “Don’t worry, your penis is the last penis I’ll ever touch.” Knox perks up with a smile. Such a douche. “But wouldn’t it be fun to all go out on a date together?”
“The guy just moved here, maybe give him a second to unpack before you start thrusting women at him,” Knox says gently. “Unless . . . do you want women thrown at you?”
I grab the bill of my hat and give it a nervous tug. “I don’t know. It would have to be the right woman, you know? Someone who’d handle my lifestyle, be understanding, and also despite playing for the Rebels, be able to cheer for me with pride. But I’m not sure if I’m quite ready. This offseason I have a lot to do for my charity, so I’ll be focusing a lot of my time on that and training. I might not have time for a woman.”
“If you find the right one, she’ll help you with your charity,” Milly says. “Which reminds me, if you need anything from Division One Athletics, let me know.”
That’s where Milly works. Did I fail to mention she’s a mechanics marvel when it comes to baseball? I would personally say the best in Illinois. She knows her stuff, helped Carson with his swing back in college, and they still work together. She works at one of the top facilities in the country, perfecting the swings of Chicago’s youth.
“Thank you, that means a lot to me. Still trying to get everything up and running. There’s a lot more to all of this than I thought, but my family has been a huge help.”
When I knew I was ready to start a foundation in honor of my brother, I turned to my family to help me. My sister was more than happy to step up, as well as my parents, especially after I told them it was to honor Joseph, who has cerebral palsy.
My twin, my biggest fan, the guy who gives me drive to do better every day. He’s the best person I know and because of him, I want to make an inclusion foundation that raises money for those with disabilities to be included in The Lineup by providing them with the right equipment to do so.
In high school, I had the most understanding and caring coach of all time. He saw my talent and saw the way Joseph yearned to be on the field with me, so my junior year, after I sat down with Coach and asked him if Joseph could be the bat boy, he said, “Why don’t I do you one better and put him on the team?”
I wasn’t sure how that would work given Joseph uses a walker to get around, which requires both of his hands, but Coach Whittaker had another vision: Joseph became a pinch runner.
After sitting our family down, Coach Whittaker asked Joseph, “Have you ever wondered what it felt like to score a run for your team?” When Joseph emphatically shook his head, yes, Coach told him, he was going to get that chance.
And sure enough, Joseph did.
Between our junior and senior year, he scored fifteen runs as a pinch runner.
Let me tell you, standing at home plate, my brother and his walker at third, begging to be able to cross that plate, nothing ever inspired me more to someway, somehow, get my brother to score a run for the team.
Out of those fifteen runs, I hit him in ten times.
That’s a feeling I’ll never forget, and something I want to be passed on from ballplayer to ballplayer. No matter your limitations, there’s always a spot for you in the lineup.
“Don’t you have that date thing coming up too?” Carson asks. “I’ve seen PSA about it all over the damn place.”
“Yup, I think people have one more week to enter and then the winner will be announced right away.”
“What date thing?” Milly asks while dabbing her mouth with a napkin.
“It’s with that group called Charity Hustle. They contacted me a few months ago asking if I wanted to participate. Basically, they set up an exclusive opportunity for fans to have dinner with a celebrity and the way you enter is by donating to the celebrity’s charity of choice.”
“Oh yeah, I entered a few,” Emory says with a blush to her cheeks. “There was one where you could go on a dinner date with Emily Blunt and John Krasinski. I knew it was a long shot but I donated anyway.”
“Aren’t you cute,” Knox says. “I can score you a dinner date with them if you want. Remember, I used to date Mia Ford. I know people.” Knox tacks on a smile, but it does nothing to help him from the scowl directed at him. Mia Ford is a well-known celebrity and while Emory and Knox were apart, he dated her. Let’s just say, I don’t think Mia is a name used often around their apartment.
“Do you want to spend the night in Jason’s apartment tonight?”
“I’m a good cuddler,” I say. “I’ll make sure you feel the love, but I do sleep naked, so it’s up to you.”
Knox rolls his eyes and pulls Emory into his chest, pressing a kiss to the side of her head. “You know I’m kidding.”
“I want to know more about this date,” Carson says. “Are you really going to go out with a stranger?”
“Not by myself.” I shake my head. “I’m taking Natalie.”
“Smart.” Carson nods his head.
“For many reasons. First of all, who knows if this person is a psychopath? I need to make sure I have someone with me in case the winner tries to steal me and take me off to their organ harvesting den. And second of all, what if it’s a girl? My sister will be my chaperone so she can’t pull a fast one on me, like a ‘he touched me without my consent’ kind of thing.”
“Very smart.” Carson nods.
Knox asks, “Organ harvesting den? Is that something you’re really concerned about?”
“Yep.” I bite down on a chip. “I’m always concerned about my organs being harvested. You can never be too sure these days.”
“You’re insane,” Knox says while standing and picking up everyone’s garbage.
I clap my hands together. “Okay, who’s ready to help me unpack?”
Without another word, my friends stand and quickly make their way out of my apartment, the door shutting with their retreat.
Huh, I’m going to take that as no one.