(Beasts of Baseball, #1)
Publication date: October 1st 2016
Genres: Adult, Romance, Sports
I thought I’d achieved everything I ever wanted. Then I lost her…
Standing on the pitcher’s mound for a professional baseball team has been my dream since I was a small boy. Now I’m here, pitching for the newest team in the league — the New York Beasts — with the woman I’ve loved since high school by my side.
Calvin and Whitney forever! Wow, we made it.
But there’s a downside to instant fame and fortune, a trap that unleashes self-control and morals. A gilded cage that separates us from the real world. This is the big city, the major leagues — the big time. And temptation is around every corner. People change. We changed. Neither for the better. I don’t even recognize us anymore.
Calvin and Whitney forever? I used to think so, but the beasts that had been hibernating in both of us have taken control, and now I’m not so sure. The dream has become a nightmare. Can we wake and find our way back to each other?
Rookie Mistake is the first sexy installment in Alice Ward’s brand new sports romance series, The Beasts of Baseball. But don’t worry, this book has an emotionally charged HEA you won’t soon forget, and no cliffhanger.
Q&A WITH ALICE WARD
What motivated you to start writing?
I was a shy kid so lived out many of my fantasies through the stories I read. In time, I decided that I wanted to write some of my own. What a blessing it is that there are readers who want to read them!
What kept you going throughout the writing process?
Nothing keeps me going. I mean, I don’t need anything to keep me going. I absolutely love writing and look forward to it every day.
Who is your most meaningful character and why?
This is a tough question. It’s like asking me to choose between my babies. But if I’m forced to answer… I think all the characters in my first book, Reckless, were my most meaningful. That story… those characters… helped show me that I might actually be able to do this. Tell stories that other people want to read. So it will forever hold a special place in my heart.
What experiences from your past do you find yourself drawing upon repeatedly for inspiration in your work?
I think this is, for me, the opposite. I was a shy kid so a big part of why I started to write was so I could have the adventures in my own head that I thought other people were having in real life. So, I guess I might be writing about the things I might want to do and then I just let my imagination take off from there.
Since you are a storyteller, please tell one good lie about yourself.
Well, my mother brought me up to never lie so I guess I’ll have to tell you now that all my books are based on my own life. Before I settled down and got married, I had one hell of time!
What do you think makes a good story?
The characters – if I don’t care about them as I write them, then the reader won’t either. And, if the reader doesn’t care about them, having the best story in the world won’t save the book to make it an enjoyable read.
Do you ever experience writer’s block and if so, how do you overcome it?
If any other writers are reading this – please don’t hate me! I have so many overflowing ideas that my biggest problem is having enough time to write them all. So, no – I don’t experience writer’s block. At least, not yet. Hope I haven’t just jinxed myself!
What was the scariest moment of your life?
Hitting “Publish” for the first book I ever uploaded to Amazon. What a deliciously terrifying time that was! All my hopes and dreams went into that moment and I had no idea how it would all turn out. That book is called Reckless and I haven’t looked back since. I count my blessings every day.
What would we find under your bed?
Isn’t that where the monsters lurk? Oh wait, I’m a romance writer not a horror writer! Under my bed… probably a couple of dust bunnies and a paperback or three.
What hobbies do you actively pursue?
Reading… I tend to have a one-track mind. But I also enjoy scrapbooking. I have one dedicated to potential hot male characters and go to it when I need some inspiration.
If it was mandatory for everyone to read three books, what books would you suggest?
Any three books. It doesn’t matter what they are. Just read. Discover the joy of losing yourself in a good story.
I’d dreamed of this day, for how long I couldn’t even remember. I knew I was a boy, maybe seven, watching the New York Yankees play against… who was it? I couldn’t recall, but I remembered the excitement that soared through my grandfather’s living room that afternoon.
My pops, grandfather, and I were all rooting them on. The way my pops screamed at the TV, you would have thought he was right there in the action, hoping to get their attention as he yelled for them to run! When they won, he grabbed me by the waist and lifted me high in the air.
“You’re a man now, my boy!” he shouted, then gave me a sip of his beer. It was bitter and almost made me sick to swallow, but I did, because I was a man. After that day, I knew I would one day be a man like the ones wearing the blue striped uniforms. I was going to be a major league baseball player. I was certain of it.
Right now, I felt more like a pussy because my damn hands trembled as I took my first steps towards the pitching mound of the gleaming new stadium, sweat streaming down my face in rivers.
That was okay. Rookie nerves. That was me — a rookie. For the newest and most badass team in the Majors.
I made it!
“Welcome to the New York Beasts,” a man with a sun-crinkled face and large potbelly greeted me. “I’m Coach Griffin.” I extended my hand, hoping that it wasn’t covered in sweat from my anxiety and greeted my new coach. “I’ve heard great things about you.”
“Thank you, sir, it’s a pleasure to be here,” I said, trying to keep the awe from my voice.
Last year, I’d been thrilled to find myself in the minors straight out of college and had worked my ass off to deserve a spot on a team. Then, out of nowhere, I got the call that I’d be a replacement pitcher for the Beasts. One of their starters was in an accident that ended his career, and they wanted me to replace him.
And now I was standing on the mound where I would pitch for New York’s newest team. It wasn’t the Yankees, but I knew my pops would be proud nonetheless.
“Let’s introduce you to your team,” Coach Griffin suggested with a pat on my back and a nod towards the dugout and the locker room beyond.
“Listen up, fellas!” Coach Griffin yelled into the chaotic locker room that was larger than most people’s entire home. The main portion was a gigantic oval featuring six-feet wide lockers surrounding the perimeter. Each locker boasted a massaging leather chair and recessed television and sound system with personal headphones to keep the noise to a minimum. There were doors leading to bathrooms, a state-of-the-art weight room, as well as areas for physical therapy and recovery. The clubhouse also featured a high-tech theater with enough seating for the entire team to review post-game analysis. I’d never seen anything like it.
The men didn’t seem to notice or pay attention, so Coach pulled out his whistle and gave it a long, hard blow. “I want you to meet your new starting pitcher.”
The men calmed, and the room became eerily quiet as their eyes fell upon me. They all began walking toward the central meeting area. I looked around, somewhat intimidated to meet the group directly in the eye, but with so many in various stages of undress, looking down put me in a very uncomfortable position as well.
“This is Calvin Malone,” Coach announced, again patting me on the back.
There was a round of handshakes and head nods, then the men went back to their lockers, getting ready for practice. Coach led me to the locker with Calvin Malone engraved at the top, pointing out the stacks of practice gear and cleats. My days of washing my own uniform were over.
“You’re gonna do fine, Calvin. Just keep your chin up, your nose clean, and your eye on the ball, kid,” Coach Griffin said with encouragement. “Practice starts in twenty minutes!” I watched as he exited the locker room.
“So, you’re the new star pitcher?” a voice sounded from behind me. I turned, instantly recognizing Ace Newman, star shortstop and power hitter. His leathered skin didn’t take away from his rugged good looks, and the small goatee that dangled from his chin as he chomped on his gum only seemed to add to his powerful presence.
“Yep, I’m Calvin Malone,” I introduced myself, extending my hand to shake his.
“I got that, kid,” he said as he glanced down at my hand that now was left awkwardly extended between us. “Where’d ya come from?”
“Indiana,” I replied, yanking my hand back and shoving my fists into my pockets.
“No shit, that’s written all over your corn-fed face,” he said, half-laughing as he spoke. “I meant what team?”
“Well, I graduated from the Red Hawks last year and was all set to play triple A for the Beasts, but got the call to come here before I even played my first game.”
“Whooweeee, so you’re practically a college drafted starting pitcher, you must have one helluva arm on ya.” Sarcasm oozed from Ace’s lips as easily as his drawl. He leaned over, spit his gum into the trash can by my feet and then grinned. “Stick with me, kid. I’ll show ya the ropes around here.”
I was psyched that Ace Newman was a fellow Beast. A notorious player, he had a short fuse and loud temper. He spent plenty of time screaming in the umpires’ face, throwing bats against the fence, and even threatening other players. He was a wild card, but one of the best players in the league. I knew very little about the owner, Rhett Hamilton, and had yet to meet him, but if he had the money to score Ace Newman, and the balls to try and control him, then he must be a pretty powerful player himself.
The whistle sounded from outside the locker room door, and Coach poked his head inside just long enough to yell, “Let’s go!”
“Good to have you on the team,” Marty Peters said as he walked by. He was a first baseman from Atlanta. Not the most impressive player, but there were rumors of a bad breakup that led to his falling stats last season.
“Thank you, glad to be here,” I replied and then followed the rest of the team — my team — onto the field.
It was surreal walking back to the mound, this time with players I’d watched for years. Ace picked up a bat and headed to home plate. “Show me what you got, kid,” he shouted.
My palms were sweating as I picked up the ball next to my feet, then stretched out my arm and shoulder, loosening up the tight muscles. I continued to stretch as I waited for the catcher to suit up. Ace pounded his bat into the dirt, kicked a clearing for his feet and pushed dust over the plate as he waited for me to wind up my pitch.
“You ready, hot stuff?” he yelled.
I nodded. “Ready.”
Was I ready?
This was Ace Newman, one of my favorite players. A fucking idol in my books. My skin began to crawl and my forehead beaded with sweat. I watched as he crowded the plate, a move that I knew was meant to taunt me. I glared past the sun to the catcher who was offering up a variety of pitches. My head shook at each one until he suggested the four-seam fastball. I found my opening over the plate and wound up before sending the ball out of my hand.
“What the fuck?” Ace screamed and tossed his bat on the ground. The ball had barely missed him, his hips tucking back just in time.
“You’re crowding the plate, Ace,” Marty yelled from first base. “Not a smart move with a south paw.”
“He better learn how to handle it,” Ace countered and switched to the left side of the plate. One of the best switch hitters in the league trying to mess with my head. “That is, if he wants to play with the big boys.”
Ace picked up the bat he’d thrown on the ground and repositioned himself back over the plate. It was obvious he wasn’t going to take it easy on me, and even more evident that he didn’t believe I belonged on the same field with him. I clenched the ball in my hand, sweat dripping onto the cowhide as I stared into Ace Newman’s eyes.
The catcher went through his signals for pitches once again, and with each one, I shook my head until he motioned a knuckleball. I nodded and positioned my fingers around the ball. I wound up and let loose. I watched as it flew straight towards my target. The ball found the opening over the plate, and he took his swing. And missed.
“Lucky throw,” he snorted before taking his position back at the plate, this time not crowding it, leaving me plenty of room for my strike zone.
I nodded towards the catcher as my index and middle finger positioned over the seam for my famous forkball. I threw it hard, and Ace swung just as it dropped diagonally, violently, and without warning. I just got my second strike.
“Not bad, kid,” Ace yelled out, tossing the bat aside.
“If you’re all done playing, let’s get warmed up,” the coach said sarcastically before shooting me a smile of admiration.
It was obvious that Ace was testing me, hoping that I would fail, but I hadn’t. Something told me it wouldn’t be that easy to get on Ace Newman’s good side.
Coach blew his whistle and told us to run the bases. Ace was fast, faster than the others, but I was a close second. He picked up the pace as he looked over his shoulder. His expression displayed the irritation of me being so close behind. Ace was used to being the center of attention, the big man on campus, so to speak. I’d read plenty about his temper and knew he didn’t play well with others, on or off the field, but something about him intrigued me.
Coach Griffin, although seemingly nice when we first met was a drill sergeant on the field. He had us doing calisthenics and agility training for over an hour, then batting practice before another hour of hard exercise. I was exhausted when he blew that final whistle. “Alright, go clean up,” he yelled.
The locker room smelled of sweat and cologne. Since I hadn’t pitched other than the few tosses to Ace, I skipped icing and post-practice rehab to head straight for the bank of showers in the back.
“Impressive,” Ace said, sliding in beside me to the free shower.
I had to admit, I had an “oh shit” moment so big I thought my damn head would explode when I thought my hero was admiring my dick, ass, or both. My mind raced, trying to decide how to handle it. When he added, “Hell of a good arm,” I stuck my face under the water to wash away the panic.
“Thanks, you certainly weren’t taking it easy on me out there,” I said and tossed a glob of shampoo on my grimy hair.
“Would you want it any other way?” he asked in that cocky way of speaking I was quickly getting to know.
I said nothing, just rinsed the suds from my hair and turned to look at him. He smiled his famous asshole grin. “C’mon kid, you’re gonna get it a lot worse than that out there soon enough.”
I knew that was true. This wasn’t college anymore, or even the minors. This was the majors, and some of the players I would be up against had decades of experience.
What did I have?
Ace shut his water off and quickly wrapped his towel back around his waist. He wasn’t much older than me, maybe six years, but he looked to be every bit in as good shape as me.
As I was getting dressed, I heard Ace asking Marty out for drinks. They didn’t exactly strike me as a pair that would hang out.
“Come with us,” Marty said, looking my way.
“Can’t tonight,” I admitted. “My girl is finally coming into town, supposed to be here in a few hours.”
“Don’t be a pussy!” Ace chimed in with a smirk. He held his towel in his right hand, twirling it until it made a tight point at the end. Snap! I dodged, but he whipped it perfectly, the end bringing up a three-inch welt on the cheek of my ass.
“What the fuck was that for?” I yelled, forcing myself not to rub it. Damn it. Thought I was finally out of high school.
“For being a pussy,” Ace replied with another smirk. “It’s just one drink, rookie. You’ll be home in time to please your mommy.”
Pulling on my boxer-briefs and a t-shirt, I considered the request, knowing these men would be watching my back and needing them to want to. A good arm helped, but I needed them to pick up anything that hit a bat. Plus, it was one drink. On my first day of professional practice, I could use it. Celebrate being here.
“One drink,” I said sternly, pulling on jeans and sticking my feet into shoes. “And don’t do that shit again.”
Ace laughed as if my orders meant nothing to him. I finished dressing and walked out of the locker room, partly hoping they left without me, and I could just go home.
“You’re riding with me, hot shot,” Ace insisted. He was leaning up against a black Porsche that looked like it had just been waxed. It was beautiful and expensive.
Wow, I was really in the big leagues now.
Marty left with Frank Lewis, the centerfielder from the same Atlanta team where he’d been poached. “So, who is this owner anyway?” I asked Ace as I climbed into the passenger seat of his car.
“He’s a real heavy hitter, lots of money, need for power, and a damn good player,” Ace responded.
“Player?” I asked, thinking about all the players I’d ever heard of. “I’ve never heard of Rhett Hamilton. Which team?”
Ace laughed and pushed his foot on the gas as we tore out of the parking lot. A puff of smoke filled the rearview mirror, and the screeching likely scared any animal within a thirty-mile radius.
“I didn’t say he played baseball, kid,” he said sarcastically. “He’s a player, the kind with a different woman in his bed every night.”
That explains why he chose Ace. They shared a love for that game.
My ass cheeks tightened with every turn, my fists clenched as I held my breath. Ace was a wild man, driving like he owned the road. It was scary. Death defying scary. When we pulled up to the bar, I knew my face had to be pale as a ghost.
“Clean her up while ya got her,” Ace said and tossed the keys to a young valet. The kid scampered to get behind the wheel, thanking Ace repeatedly as we walked towards the entrance.
I checked my phone. No messages from Whitney yet.
“What, are ya worried your momma’s gonna call?” Ace snorted.
I shoved the phone back into my front pocket and smiled, ignoring his sarcasm, which I was quickly learning was just Ace being Ace. “My girl will be here sometime tonight.”
He shrugged and shook his head. “There’re plenty of girls here already.”
A large man wearing a black suit and red vest reached to open the door as Ace and I approached the entrance to the bar. It was a swanky place, like one I’d only seen in the movies. My jeans and tight-fitting t-shirt made me feel out of place, especially next to Ace who wore slacks and a button down that probably cost more than my dad’s monthly salary. I hadn’t been planning on going anywhere that afternoon, at least not until Whitney arrived, and hadn’t brought anything nicer.
My balls tightened just thinking about her. All I wanted was to take her in my arms and make love to her, an “I made it” fuck fest to rival any others. My testosterone levels were high, and I could tell in the last few days I was becoming irritable. Jerking off had become a bore — all my moves were old news. I just needed my girl, that’s all, nothing more.
“Hey, Ace!” A tall man who had to have been of Italian descent welcomed us as we walked through the large doors. He wore a button down shirt, similar to Ace’s but more colorful. His thick black hair was slicked back from his face, and he sported a mustache that twirled on each end like Gomez from the Addam’s Family. “We have your table ready.”
I was impressed at how everyone seemed to fawn over Ace. It was like he was a local legend, a hero, or at the very least, a celebrity. A beautiful blonde wearing a short black skirt and low-cut top took Ace’s hand, leading him to a table up a small set of steps. I followed behind, feeling slightly rejected as all attention focused on the shortstop. I watched as his hand slid around her waist and over her ass. He gave her a squeeze and a none too gentle pat as he slid into the circular booth.
“Grab us a bottle, darlin’,” he said to the woman, giving her a long wink. She didn’t ask what kind of bottle. She just giggled and rushed off to follow her orders. “You’ll get used to this, kid.”
Before I could even get situated in the booth, the blonde had returned with a bottle of Jack Daniels on ice with two glasses, then surprised me by sliding into the booth next to Ace. “Why haven’t you called me?” she whined. Her voice was squeaky, and her pouting lips were over exaggerated as she leaned in towards Ace.
“Oh, darlin’, you know spring training started. I’ve been a busy man,” Ace replied, his hand sliding over her leg. I couldn’t help but watch his movements; they were so smooth, so precise. She giggled again as his hand slid even higher up her skirt, then disappeared. Her face went soft and her eyes closed, her tongue sliding slowly across her top lip as she let out a long moan.
What the fuck?
I looked around, but no one was paying attention as Ace’s hand started to move and the girl’s moans grew louder. Ace looked at me and winked.
Holy shit. Was this seriously happening?
The waitress’ head fell back, and she gripped his arm, biting her lower lip to stifle a cry. Ace’s hand returned to view and her eyes slowly opened. She smiled and leaned over to give his cheek a quick kiss. She seemed to be satisfied. At least for now.
“I’ll bring you some appetizers,” she said cheerfully and scooted out of the booth.
Ace lifted his fingers to his nose and closed his eyes as he smiled. “Oh, that’s sweet,” he said, drawing out the words. “You wanna know what success smells like, kid?” He pushed his hand towards my face.
“No, thanks,” I replied, pulling away quickly.
He laughed and poured us both a drink.
“I see you’re getting the royal treatment,” Marty said as he and Frank slid into the booth with us.
“Only the best for the best,” Ace boasted, motioning for the young blonde to return to the table. “We’re gonna need a few more glasses. sweetie.”
“You have an incredible arm,” Marty said as he gave my back a few hard thumps. “Not bad at the plate either.”
“Thanks,” I replied and tossed back half of my drink. Most pitchers couldn’t bat for shit, but I could hold my own, which I knew made me an even bigger asset.
The blonde showed back up with two more glasses and a basket of chicken wings. She smiled at Ace as he ran his hand up her thigh.
“Aw, man, don’t shit where you eat,” Frank said, finally speaking.
Ace grinned and turned to watch the young blonde’s ass as she walked away. He picked up the bottle, poured Marty and Frank a drink before topping off mine and his. He held the glass up high.
“Here’s to the Beast’s first kickass season.”
We clinked glasses, and I tossed my drink back. All of it this time.
Alice Ward is the bestselling author of dozens of hot and steamy contemporary romances. She’s an amazingly prolific writer, releasing a new book almost every single month. Her books are widely read, especially by women and any other lovers of the romance genre. My Stepbrother, My Lover, was her first smash hit.
Alice lives in Miami with her hunky husband. The beach is her all time favorite place to relax with her laptop and write.
She might or might not have a thing for Gerard Butler (it’s the accent).
To find out what Alice is up to currently, visit authoraliceward.com.