Release date: December 5, 2016
Once a Mets draft pick, Arlington Aces outfielder Giovanni Caceres never thought he’d be stuck playing in an independent league in small-town Pennsylvania. If he works hard and steers clear of trouble, he has a good shot of making it back to the majors. Until the team owner recruits him to give her niece hitting lessons and her repressed sister dance lessons…
Helen Anne Reed is being pulled in a million different directions, dealing with a struggling bookstore, her father’s Alzheimer’s, a controlling ex-husband, PTA madness, and now her daughter Macy’s desire to play baseball with the boys. Helen Anne is far more comfortable with pearls and aprons than cleats and gloves, but then sexy ballroom dancer-turned-baller Giovanni unexpectedly comes to her rescue.
When he reluctantly agrees to be Helen Anne’s dance partner for a school fundraising event, things heat up quickly between them, much to their surprise. Amid salsa lessons and ballpark bonding, can this vibrant charmer teach Helen Anne how to quit worrying and just let go? Or will Giovanni’s big league dreams bench this relationship before it even begins?
by Elley Arden
Sensuality Level: Sensual
Elley Arden is a born and bred Pennsylvanian who drinks wine like it’s water (a slight exaggeration), prefers a night at the ballpark to a night on the town, and believes almond English toffee is the key to happiness. Find Elley Arden at www.elleyarden.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter @elleywrites.
An excerpt from The Sweet Spot:
Giovanni Caceres had seen a lot of crazy shit go down in locker rooms, but this was the first time he’d been greeted by a blow-up doll wearing his jersey.
He turned his back on the buxom plastic lady with the oversized mouth and scanned the room’s guilty occupants. They were fresh from morning practice. When did they have time to pull this off?
A few guys snickered but didn’t make eye contact.
“Okay. Which one of you assholes misplaced your date?” he asked. “Pratt? This has your name written all over it.”
“No way, man. She’s got your name on her jersey. She must’ve heard you’ve been having trouble scoring.” Catcher Ian Pratt stuffed his head into his locker, where his laughter echoed.
Giovanni stopped playing hard ass and laughed, too. He never had trouble scoring on field or off. He dropped his duffle bag and grabbed the doll, pulling her into a dramatic embrace. “¿Cómo te llamas?” he cooed as he rubbed her cold, latex bottom. His teammates egged him on with whistles and catcalls.
He raised a hand to her breast and gave it a squeeze as he leaned in and pretended to be listening to her. “What’s that?” After a beat filled with more harassment from his teammates, he gasped like she’d said something scandalous. “Pratt, I didn’t know you had a sister.”
The clubhouse rattled with raucous laughter, but the revelry quieted almost immediately, leaving behind an eerie silence.
Slowly, he lowered the doll and looked to the door, chagrined and expecting to see Pauly Byrne standing there. Coach’s calls for a “more sensitive locker-room environment” on behalf of their star pitcher, the Independence League’s first female player, hadn’t exactly fallen on deaf ears but … well, they were still in the adjustment stage. It wasn’t Pauly at the door, though.
No, it was Rachel Reed.
The team’s owner drilled her stone-cold eyes straight at him. “Come with me, Mr. Caceres.” Then she glanced at the doll. “And leave your friend behind.”
Shit. Giovanni propped the doll against his locker and left the room amid quiet jeers. Pissing off Reed wasn’t on his list of goals for his third season with the Aces.
“Sorry about that,” he said, sheepishly.
Rachel waited until the locker-room door closed behind him, and then she turned on him in the empty hall. “I’m glad you’re sorry, because that will make this a whole lot easier.” She flashed a satisfied grin. “Sam has been called away on a family emergency, and that’s unfortunate because he was supposed to be giving a batting lesson in the cages in five minutes. Since it’s too late to cancel, you’re going to fill in for him.”
“Batting lessons? Like, to a kid?” Not that Giovanni didn’t like kids, but coaching Little Leaguers wasn’t on his list of goals either.
“To my niece.” She stressed that last word. “So don’t screw up. Watch your mouth. Keep it clean. And take it seriously.”
“I thought she played softball.” He’d seen the kid hanging around a few times over the last two years, and had a vague memory of the girl’s eyeball-searing lime green Arlington Softball Association T-shirt.
“Not anymore. She wants to be the next Pauly Byrne.” She caught his reflexive eye roll and her own pupils narrowed. “Do you have a problem with that?”
“No, sir. Uh, ma’am!” he gulped. “No, ma’am.”