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The Game Changer (The Perfect Game #2)

By:J. Sterling


I needed to leave.

I needed out of that apartment where Cassie's scent and my memories of her lingered. It hurt to be there without her, and I suddenly realized what it must have been like for her when I was gone and living with someone else. How painful it must have been to live here with the knowledge of everything I'd done to us. How much she must have suffered for my actions. She was innocent in all of this, so why had she paid the highest price?

"I gotta get back to my hotel before they freak out and think I've gone AWOL or something." I headed for the front door, my head throbbing with each battered beat of my heart.

"You need me to drop you off?" Dean asked, his eyebrows pinching together.

"Unless you want me to take your car back to the hotel. But, you'll have to pick it up first thing tomorrow so it doesn't get towed," I noted, gently reminding him that the team was scheduled to head back to Arizona in the morning.

Dean glanced at Melissa before flashing me a smile. "Nope. I'll take you."

"Jack? Don't forget that I'm here too. You can call me anytime, and I'll help you if I can," Melissa said with a sympathetic smile.

"I'm gonna hold you to that." I forced a half smile in return.

"Good. Because even though you're a stupid jerk-face, you're her stupid jerk-face and you two belong together," she whispered, before wrapping her arms around my waist and squeezing me with more force than I realized her tiny frame could provide.

"You're killing me, Funsize," I choked out, and she giggled.

Dean tossed an arm around her shoulders and squeezed as he looked down at her. "I'll see you later, OK?"

"OK," she said, and I didn't miss the look in her eyes. Or his.

I grabbed the keys from the table, pulled my Diamondbacks hat back onto my head, and turned for the door.

We walked in silence toward the gunmetal color Mustang I'd bought for Dean, the tinted windows looking almost pitch black in the darkness. He'd complained at first, insisting he didn't need it, but I knew it was his dream car and wanted to do something nice for him when I got my signing bonus. I tossed him the keys and waited at the passenger door. He clicked the remote, two beeps filled the night air, and we both slid into the chilly leather seats.

The engine purred to life as I stared out the window, my mind racing with at least a dozen thoughts all vying for my undivided attention. I shook my head and focused on my brother. "So, what's up with you and Meli?" I asked, eager for a distraction.

He grinned as he pulled out of the parking lot, but wouldn't meet my eyes. "Nothing. Why?"

"Don't lie to me." I punched him playfully in the arm, causing him to yank the steering wheel and the car to swerve with a jerk.

"Hey! Don't do that!" He glanced at me quickly before turning his attention back on the road.

"Tell me, what's up with you two? I saw the way she was looking at you."

"What way? How was she looking at me?" Dean straightened up in the driver's seat. I clearly had his attention.

"You're kidding, right? You don't see the way she looks at you? With her eyes all hot like she wants to eat you up. Are you really that clueless?"

Dean snorted. "She doesn't want me."

"How are we even related? Dude, she wants you. Trust me on this. I know women."

The roar of the car's engine as he accelerated on the highway was the only sound in the car. Dean focused intently on the road ahead, before glancing at me and letting out a long sigh.

"I tried to kiss her once. I thought I'd read all the signs right. But she stopped me," he admitted, his voice dejected.

"Did you ask her why?"

"No. I just apologized."

I laughed. Leave it to my brother to be sorry for trying to kiss the girl he'd spent every spare moment with. "Jesus, Dean. I'd bet a thousand bucks that she wants you."

"Then why didn't she let me kiss her?" He glanced at me again.

"That's a good question. You should ask her," I said. "Time to grow a pair, little brother. How are you going to feel if she starts dating someone else?"

I watched his knuckles turn white as his grip on the steering wheel tightened. "I'm not going to be happy."


Dean pulled into the hotel parking lot, and I hopped out of the car, half praying that my teammates would be in their rooms instead of the hotel bar. I walked around to the driver's side and extended my hand toward my brother, before he grabbed it and pulled me in for an awkward through-the-window hug. I pulled back, and we slapped each other on the shoulders before sharing a long look. I broke eye contact and turned to leave.

"It will all work out. You'll get her back," Dean predicted with naive confidence.

I breathed deeply before saying, "I fucking better, or I don't know what I'll do."

"I'll help you." Dean grinned up at me with a smile that looked eerily like my own.

I nodded and admitted, "I'll need it." Giving him one last pat, I said, "I'll call you later."

"Alright. Take care."

I watched as he drove off, his hand sticking out of the window in a good-bye wave. I raised my arm, waving back before he was out of view.

With a deep sigh, I headed indoors. All hopes for a quiet entrance were dashed as the sound of my last name filtered through the hotel bar and into the lobby.

"Carter! Carterrrrr! Get in here!"

I glanced to my right, noticing a few of my teammates getting comfortable with a group of good-looking women. I shook my head before walking over, making no attempt to hide the disapproval on my face.

"Where'd you run off to tonight, kid?" my teammate Costas asked, his head peering around the scantily clad woman currently sitting on his lap. I thought about his wife, staying home with their kids while he traveled with the team, and forced my judgment into quiet submission.

"I had some personal shit to take care of."

"Have a drink with us," he said and gestur