by Cade Haddock Strong
Kay Corbett is a newly minted vice president at Logan, one of the largest airlines in the world, and she’s fallen smack-dab in the middle of a massive plot to swindle the airline’s passengers and defraud its investors. There is only one way out. Earn the trust of the ringleader while simultaneously working to bring him down and put an end to his elaborate scheme.
Things get a lot more interesting and a lot more complicated when she becomes entangled with Riley Bauer, the brilliant beauty in Finance. They form an imposing team both in love and in the fight for justice. As they race against the clock, each woman must decide how much they are willing to risk in order to expose the truth.
FROM THE AUTHOR
"As Cade discusses in her recent blog, blowing the whistle is not for the faint of heart. Whistleblowers often see their careers, and in some cases their lives, ruined when they sound the alarm on wrongdoing. Kay and Riley are no different. They see their lives upended when they expose the truth, but sparks fly as they navigate the perils at Logan Airlines together."
—Cade Haddock Strong
Pin’s Reviews - The author nails intrigue/thriller and romance in this book.... The whistle-blowing storyline is plausible, logical, tense and interesting, the romance believable and sweet, the ending satisfying. With all other elements done well, this one makes a second good book by Haddock Strong. I liked it, and will definitely check out her next offering.
Emma A. - This author is new to me but I'll be looking for more of her work because I really liked this story. It's a romantic thriller with two likeable leads, some well-done minor characters and very interesting plot that kept me interested from start to finish.
Diane W. - My belief is that when readers pick up this book, they will be enamored by a carefully and skillfully plotted story line that's also well written and doesn't sacrifice moral complexity to the demands of a fast-moving narrative. Ms. Haddock Strong does such a great job…
Ginger O. - The plot has many layers—lust, a whirlwind relationship, intrigue (where is the money going?)—and desperate characters on both sides of the law.
Kay Corbett, newly-minted vice president at Logan Airlines, was about to do something that might get her fired, or worse, thrown in jail. She poked her head out into the hallway. It was a glorious Saturday afternoon and Logan’s corporate headquarters was a complete ghost town.
After a moment of hesitation, she tiptoed toward the much larger glass-enclosed office three doors down, thankful she had on running shoes rather than her usual weekday attire of high heels. Agility was vital.
She stood outside the door, listening. All she could hear was the persistent hum of the central air-conditioning system. The urge to bolt back to her office coursed through her, but she refused to chicken out. It wasn’t her style.
The cold metal doorknob turned easily in her hand. She slipped into the office and closed the door behind her. There was no going back now. The sun was still high on the horizon and a beam of light split the spacious office in two.
Her tank top stuck to the perspiration pooling on her back. She tugged at her shirt and sat down at the sleek glass-topped desk. She’d watched her boss, Greg Brandywine, key in his password dozens of times. The idiot just cycled through his kid’s names. Lyle9999. Liam9999. Lacey9999. Lane9999. He had some fascination with the number nine. Something to do with baseball. He was a freak about the game and had played right field in college.
It took her less than a minute to find what she was looking for. She pulled a thumb drive out of her pocket, slid it into the back of Greg’s computer and drummed her fingers on his desk while the files saved to her device.
Her body stiffened at the sound of voices in the hallway. It sounded like two men. She looked down at the computer. The download crept toward completion. Ninety-six percent, ninety-seven... The second it hit one hundred, she yanked her thumb drive from the machine and logged off, praying she’d captured what she needed.
Her eyes darted around the sparsely decorated office. There was no place to hide. A small wooden conference table surrounded by six chairs sat on the far side of the room. She lurched under it and attempted to curl her nearly six-foot frame into a ball. The voices grew closer and she was certain one of them belonged to Greg. The door to the office clicked open. Kay held her breath and willed her legs not to cramp. She watched a pair of expensive leather loafers dash across the carpet. Her heart was beating so loudly, she was sure it would give her away. A set of keys jangled, and a drawer opened and closed. The shoes retreated and then the door clicked shut again.
Kay heard Greg say, “I got it.”
“Good. We better get to the airport,” his companion responded. Kay didn’t recognize the second man’s voice, and she couldn’t see his face from her perch beneath the table.
She listened as the voices grew faint again and counted to twenty before she dared to unfurl herself. Fuck, that was close. Way too close. Her knees cracked as she stood, and she headed for the door. She reached for the knob but paused. What had Greg taken with him?
She crept back to the desk and hastily tugged at each of the drawers. They were all locked save for the narrow one in the center which had nothing in it except a stack of Logan embossed stationery and a few empty Tic Tac containers. She felt for the thumb drive in her front pocket and trotted back to her own office. A loud thud stopped her in her tracks. She scanned the sea of cubicles packed into the vast room. A shadow drifted over the far wall. Someone was there. She was sure of it. “Hello,” she called. Silence. She slipped into her office and closed the door.
The following Tuesday morning, Greg Brandywine summoned Kay and the rest of his direct reports to his office for Logan’s third quarter earnings call. They sat around his conference table, the same one Kay had sought refuge beneath a few days earlier. She eyed Greg while they waited for the webcast to begin. His crisp, blue dress shirt brought out the grey specks in his steely eyes. The gel induced sheen of his wavy dark hair practically glistened in the morning sun shining through the office window and a hint of gray sprouted near his temples. His supply of Just For Men must be running low.
Eventually, the operator came on the line to kick off the earnings call, and after the usual formalities and introductions, Howard Rome, Logan’s CEO, spoke. Kay cringed as he highlighted the airline’s financial results for the latest quarter. He touted “solid revenue growth across all aspects of the business” and “higher fares offsetting rising labor and fuel costs.” He stressed Logan’s increasingly diverse revenue base, with a growing share of money coming from non-ticket sources like checked bag fees and the airline’s co-branded credit card. Logan’s shareholders would eat it up like starved piranhas. The company’s stock price was up more than twenty percent for the year and would likely shoot up even further in response to the rosy financial picture Howard Rome painted during this morning’s call.
When the earnings call was finally over, Greg leaned back in his chair, tucked his hands behind his head and looked around at the group gathered in his office. “Pretty good results, wouldn’t you say gang?”
Kay wanted nothing more than to wipe the smirk off his face, but she forced a smile. “Very impressive, Greg. Very impressive, indeed.”
A few of the others at the table uttered similar responses and Kay wondered how many of them knew what was really going on. Knew Logan’s finances were a massive house of cards, built on lies and artificially inflated revenue. It was true, Logan was charging higher fares, but they were cheating the system and totally screwing their passengers in the process. There was one thing for certain… It would all come crashing down, at least if Kay had anything to do with it. She just needed a little bit more time.
“I’m twenty-nine, practically an old maid by southern standards,” Riley Bauer lamented to her best friend Stephanie. It was a picture-perfect October day in Atlanta, and they were sitting at an outdoor café a few blocks from work.
“Oh, my God. Your biological clock has barely started ticking,” Stephanie protested, dabbing some salad dressing off her chin with her napkin.
“I don’t know Steph,” Riley replied. “I figured I would have found someone by now. It’s not that I mind being single. I just, you know… I really want to have kids. Family is central to people in the South and my mother is beside herself that she doesn’t have any grandchildren.”
“You shouldn’t let your mother get to you so much.”
“Have you met my mother?”
Stephanie shrugged. “Yeah, she seemed nice. And isn’t your brother’s wife due any day now?”
Riley groaned in frustration. “The truth is Steph, it’s not just my mother. I’m beginning to think my dream of having a big family is slipping away.”
“Newsflash. You don’t have to be married to have kids, you know?”
“It’s not that simple,” Riley replied, trying to keep the irritation out of her voice. She’d tried to explain what growing up in the South was like at least a thousand times, but Stephanie still didn’t get it. She’d grown up in Connecticut, and even though she now lived in Atlanta, she rolled her eyes at the mention of cotillions, collard greens and college football. “I haven’t even been able to work up the courage to tell my mother I’m gay,” Riley continued. “I’m certainly not about to announce I want to have a child out of wedlock.” She slumped back against her chair. “Shit, she’d totally flip.”
“Well, try not to fret so much about it. It’ll only cause wrinkles,” Stephanie said, pausing to sip her sweet tea. “Why did you break up with Brianna? It seemed like things were getting serious between you two.”
Riley sighed at the mention of her ex-girlfriend. “They were. I don’t know. I just sort of freaked out when she started talking about moving in together.”
“Did you love her?”
Riley fiddled with the edge of her napkin. “Yeah, I did, but not in a head over heels kinda way.”
“Real life isn’t like a romance novel, you know?”
“Maybe not, but I’m not giving up on finding true love yet. I want to find someone who makes my heart melt when I spot her across the room. Someone who makes me laugh and comforts me when I’m sad. Someone who is honest and genuinely cares about other people. Is that too much to ask?”
“No, I guess not. It just seemed like…”
“Like you had a lot of that with Brianna. It was obvious she really cared for you.”
“She did, but she was way more invested in the relationship than I was, and it wouldn’t have been right for me to string her along. She’s a really good person. I want her to find someone who loves her as much as she loves them. She just didn’t light my fire, if you know what I mean.”
“Yeah, I do.” Stephanie squeezed Riley’s hand. “You’re gorgeous, smart and funny. You’ll find that special someone soon.”
“Thanks, Steph.” Riley unconsciously tucked her long, blond hair behind her ears. She’d always been modest, but she wasn’t stupid. She knew her looks—crystal blue eyes, radiant smile and shapely athletic build—were part of the reason she’d never had a problem getting a date.
“Well, we should probably get back to the Mother Ship,” Stephanie said, referring to the corporate headquarters for Logan Airlines.
“Yeah.” Riley stood from the table and pushed in her chair. “I’ve got a big partnership meeting this afternoon and I have some stuff I need to review beforehand.”
“Oh, yeah. I forgot you were working on that joint venture deal.” Stephanie said as they walked back to the office. “It’s with a Japanese airline, right?”
“Uh-huh. Kamadori Airlines. Actually, we’re going to Tokyo next week to finalize the details.”
“Wow, I’m so jealous. I never get to work on cool projects like that,” Stephanie replied. “How many of you are going to Japan?”
“Seven or eight including me. Two of us from Finance, a bunch from Pricing and Network, plus at least one person from Legal. It’s a pretty big group, but these agreements have a zillion moving parts.”
“The whole joint venture thing is a complete black box to me. I get why we have them. They make it seamless for passengers to fly on two different airlines. They can get from Detroit to some obscure city in China without having to sew together a mess of different tickets.”
“Yeah, but the deal with Kamadori will be good for the airlines too,” Riley replied. “It will enable both Logan and Kamadori to make better use of their aircraft capacity and allow the airlines to harmonize fares.”
Stephanie shook her head as they approached the front gate. “You’re speaking Greek to me. I think I’ll stick to marketing.”
Just before two, Riley walked into the large conference room and slipped into a seat next to Jill, a junior member of her finance team. Jill was only two years out of college, but she was a genius with numbers and had been an incredible asset to Riley’s team. So much so that Riley promoted her to manager after only a year at Logan.
“Hey, Jill,” Riley said as she took a seat. “Ready for the big trip?” Riley was taking Jill to Japan. It was only fair given all the work she’d done crunching the numbers for the impending joint venture with Kamadori.
“Yeah, I’m really excited.”
The conference room suddenly went quiet. Riley looked up and saw Kay Corbett, Vice President of International Pricing, saunter in. To say Kay commanded a room would be a serious understatement. Her exquisitely tailored navy power suit perfectly fit her lean frame. Toss in her high cheekbones and long, silky dark hair, and it was no surprise most men at Logan turned to mush in her presence. Riley couldn’t blame them. Kay often had the same effect on her. There was something about the woman, something utterly captivating. The way she carried herself, the way her dark eyes sparkled when she smiled, the slight rasp in her voice and the fact that she was whip smart.
Riley didn’t know a lot about Kay, although she’d pegged her to be somewhere in her mid-thirties, young to be a Logan VP. Based on what she’s heard, Kay had been with Logan since she’d graduated from college and had worked in the pricing department the whole time.
I bet she’s married, Riley thought to herself as the meeting got underway. No way a woman like her is single. Riley tried to imagine who would be worthy of Kay. A tall, dark-haired man, a successful entrepreneur…or maybe a woman? Riley didn’t get a strong gaydar reading from Kay, but a girl could dream.
Riley snuck a glance at Kay while the guy from Legal droned on about some detail in the joint venture contract. Her blouse was open slightly at the neck and Riley ached to run her fingers over the smooth, tanned skin around her collarbone. When their eyes met, Kay gave her a soft smile. Riley quickly diverted her gaze.
When the meeting finally wrapped, Riley gathered up her belongings and filed out of the conference room with the rest of the attendees, but she paused when a hand gently touched her shoulder. Kay smiled at her. “Do you have a minute?”
“Um, yeah, sure,” Riley stuttered.
“You did a nice job presenting some of the financial projections for the Kamadori deal, but I have a few follow-up questions.” Kay gestured toward the hallway. “Why don’t we go back to my office?”
Riley practically had to jog to keep up with Kay’s long stride, which was somewhat of a challenge in her three-inch heels. They settled around the small conference table in Kay’s office. Prior to the Kamadori deal, the two women had never worked together, and Riley decided to take her cues from Kay.
Kay played with her thin silver necklace. “I’d like to hear a little more about the assumptions you used in your revenue calculations.”
Riley popped open her laptop and walked Kay through a slew of spreadsheets. They sat inches apart, their arms occasionally touching. It was near impossible for Riley to concentrate while she explained the key factors in her financial model. She knew the figures inside and out but kept losing her train of thought. Kay no doubt thought she was an idiot.
When Riley was done, Kay sat back in her chair and crossed her legs. “Thank you, Riley, that was very helpful. You’ve done a lot of hard work and it shows. Is this the first time you’ve worked on one of these deals with another airline?”
Riley cleared her throat. “I’ve worked on a few loyalty-type partnerships, but, yes, this is the first joint venture I’ve been involved with.”
“Well, you’re obviously a quick learner,” Kay said with a wink. “These deals are quite complex, and you seem to have an exceptional grasp of the various components.”
The wink threw Riley a little off-kilter. Was Kay Corbett flirting with her? No way. Riley had been working long hours over the last few months. She was sleep-deprived and it was obviously making her delusional. Kay Corbett was way out of her league, not just because Riley was three rungs lower on the corporate totem pole, but because Kay was…Kay. Beautiful, sexy and brilliant. “Thank you, Kay. You’re very kind,” Riley said as she stood to leave.
Kay walked Riley to the door of her office and gently squeezed her arm. “I’m really glad you’ll be joining the team on the trip to Tokyo.”
Riley looked at her feet, partly because she wasn’t very good at accepting compliments and partly because the intensity of Kay’s gaze made her heart flutter.
Kay ran a hand over the smooth surface of the large wooden desk situated in the middle of her extra bedroom. The desk was solid walnut and it weighed a ton. It had taken four guys to heft it up the narrow staircase to the second floor of her house. It had belonged to her grandfather, Papi, and she thought of him as she sat down and tugged the chain for her desk lamp. He’d emigrated to the US from Spain as a penniless teenager, and through hard work and chutzpah, he’d built a successful tailoring business. His clients included some of New York’s wealthiest women. He’d been tall for a Spaniard and strikingly handsome, which probably hadn’t hurt business. Lucky for Kay, she’d inherited some of his Mediterranean good looks and she had him to thank for her flawless olive skin and big brown eyes.
Papi had been honest almost to a fault, and he’d always stood up for what he believed. He had treated everyone, from the garbage collector to the mayor, with respect, and he’d instilled his values in Kay. If he were still alive, Kay was certain he’d support what she was trying to do. Wouldn’t he?
After logging in to her computer, she pulled a small stack of leather-bound notebooks out of one of the desk drawers. She’d stayed up way past midnight the last three evenings going through the files she’d downloaded from Greg’s computer. The information was damning; there was no doubt about that, but there were no entries for the last six months. Zilch. The data just stopped in mid-May.
Even though Greg was as cocky as ever, Kay wondered if something had spooked him. She thought back to the previous spring. The earnings call for the first quarter had been exceptionally testy. The airline analysts really grilled Howard Rome about the string of healthy financial results Logan had posted quarter after quarter, even as the economy had begun to wobble and many of the smaller airlines were in the red. One of the analysts—some guy from Goldman Sachs—had questioned the “unprecedented harmony” with which Logan and some of the other big airlines had been raising fares. Implying, the frequency with which they moved in lock step was difficult to chalk up to pure coincidence. The act was too well choreographed to be improv.
Maybe Greg had begun to worry about leaving too much evidence around—evidence that Logan and a handful of other airlines were conspiring to drive up airfares. Maybe he’d decided to erase some of the evidence from his work computer, or perhaps he’d just stopped tracking the fare increases altogether in order to sever the paper trail of what he’d been doing, although Kay doubted that. Greg was way too meticulous. He kept records of everything, even stuff that could someday incriminate him.
Assuming the data for the last six months did exist, Kay had to get her hands on it, and the sooner the better. She slumped back in her leather desk chair and closed her eyes. “If I were Greg, where would I keep it?”
It was possible he had it saved on his home computer, but if that were the case, how the hell was she going to get her hands on it? She remembered the locked drawers in his desk. There was only one choice. She had to sneak back into his office, except this time she’d be better prepared. Surely, she could pry open the drawers with a screwdriver or an old nail file. In the meantime, she’d keep plowing through the data she had.
She scanned the files on her computer and clicked open the one she’d been reading the previous evening before her eyes had grown heavy and she’d finally dragged herself to bed. If nothing else, Greg was well organized. His files were labeled by month and year, starting with January 2012, the year he’d been promoted to Senior Vice President at Logan. Kay had worked at Logan back then, but she hadn’t been senior enough to be included in executive-level meetings.
Everything had changed once she was promoted to VP late last year. It was like someone had handed her a key and invited her to join a secret society. She became exposed to the deep innerworkings of the airline, and some of what she’d seen and heard was shocking. At times, she pined for the blissful ignorance she had before the promotion.
Her first real exposure to the dark side of Logan Airlines occurred when she and Greg attended a conference in Brussels. Greg invited her to what she thought was a conference-related “meet and greet” but ended up being drinks at some seedy cocktail lounge with a small group of people. Greg referred to the group as Concordia, and Kay’s mouth dropped open when he’d made introductions. The people gathered at the cocktail lounge that night were their counterparts—top level pricing executives from a handful of Logan’s competitors. The gathering, even if it was just for casual drinks, had been perilous. If they’d all been spotted together, it would have raised more than a few eyebrows.
That evening at the cocktail lounge, Kay had listened intently as Greg spoke with the other members of the group. The conversation had mostly revolved around mundane things like sports and somewhat oddly, the latest men’s and women’s fashions, but it didn’t take Kay long to realize the whole meeting was a finely choreographed dance. The hints and code words were subtle—comments like “that football club from China won by five points,” a comment which on its face made no sense, but was actually a clear signal to the group gathered that night. Each carrier would raise fares to the Chinese markets they served. In other words, barefaced price fixing had taken place right before her eyes.
Kay’s suspicions were confirmed the following week. Every carrier in attendance that night increased airfares to their Chinese markets by exactly five percent. The whole thing had fraud written all over it. They hiked prices knowing their competitors would do the same. It was a win-win for the airlines. More money in their pockets without the risk of passengers turning to a lower-priced competitor. All of the big powerful airlines belonged to Concordia, leaving passengers few other reliable alternatives.
Ever since the meeting in Brussels, Kay had done her best to play along, or at least pretend to play along, while she tried to figure out how to sound the alarm about what was going on. She had no choice. She loved working at Logan, but she wasn’t going to stand by and let this blatant corruption continue, and she certainly didn’t want to play a role in it. There was no way she’d be able to live with herself if she did.
Stealing the data from Greg’s computer had been a vital first step, and although Kay had only begun to sort through it, one thing was already glaringly apparent. Greg was an arrogant fool and had kept detailed records of his wrongdoing. “Fucking moron,” she mumbled as she stared at the numbers on her computer screen.
Greg knocked on Kay’s office door late the next morning. He did not look happy. “Got a minute, Kay?”
“Of course, Greg. What’s up?” She chewed on the pen she was holding. Maybe he was onto her? Maybe he knew she’d been in his office and had downloaded files off his computer. What if he’d reviewed footage from Logan’s security cameras? She wouldn’t put it past him.
He stepped inside, closed her door and leaned against it. He lowered his voice and said, “There’s a Concordia call this afternoon at three. You know the drill.”
Kay stopped chewing on the pen and nodded. These conference calls with their counterparts from other airlines were a relatively new thing. In the past, Concordia had only met in person like that fateful meeting in the cocktail lounge, but recently Greg had become increasingly frenzied about the need to push fares higher more often. At his insistence, the group had started holding calls on a regular basis. A few members of the group had pushed back at first, arguing it was all too risky, but Greg had brushed them off and assured them it would all be fine.
If Greg was growing more paranoid, he certainly wasn’t showing it. He often made the Concordia calls on his Logan-issued cell phone, which Kay found absurdly brazen.
She gnawed on her lip before responding. “I’ll meet you at the usual spot.”
He glared at her. “You aren’t getting cold feet, are you, Kay? You know I abhor weakness.”
“No, Greg. I’ll be there.” She gave him the sweetest smile she could muster. “You know you can always count on me.”
He opened the door. “I certainly hope so,” he growled and marched out of her office.
As ordered, Kay slipped out of her office at ten of three and trudged across the vast parking lot that surrounded Logan’s headquarters. A familiar nausea swept through her. Although she was doing all she could to gather evidence against Concordia, no one else knew that. At this point, she was an active and willing participant in the whole price fixing scheme. After each call, she directed her team to implement the price increases Concordia had agreed upon. If someone were to expose the fraud before she did, everyone would assume she was just as guilty as Greg, and essentially she was. This thought weighed heavily on her as she scanned the parking lot.
It wasn’t hard to spot Greg’s car. He drove a bright yellow Porsche. He lowered the window as she neared and spat, “Get in. We’re going to be late.”
She slipped into the supple leather passenger seat and set her purse on her lap. Greg peeled out of the employee lot before she’d even had a chance to buckle her seatbelt. “Today, I’m going to push for a fare increase in all of our European markets, especially during the peak summer travel season,” he said as they made their way to the parking garage at the airport, which, for reasons Kay didn’t understand, Greg thought was a good place to conduct the Concordia conference calls.
He whipped his car around the long spiral ramp until they reached the roof of the garage. A few cars were clustered near the entrance to the elevator, but otherwise, all the spots on this level were empty. He parked and punched a number into his cell phone. After a few rings, a loud voice echoed through the speakers of his car. “Hello.”
“Who’s on the line,” Greg bellowed, causing Kay to practically jump out of her seat. Her purse fell to the floor and she snapped it up, praying she hadn’t inadvertently turned off her phone’s voice recorder. It would be such a waste. To sit through this meeting and not have evidence of it having taken place. A knot formed in her stomach and she barely uttered a word during the entire thirty-minute call.
As soon as she was safely back in her office, Kay dug her phone out of her purse and hit “play” on its recorder. When she heard Greg spell out his pricing proposal for the European markets, she collapsed in her chair. She’d captured the whole thing.
The softball slipped out of Riley’s palm when she threw her first pitch. It sailed wide of the strike zone. “Ball one!” the umpire yelled.
Normally, she was cool as a cucumber on the mound, but not today. Kay Corbett was playing on the opposing team—one of the many Logan Airlines sponsored—and Riley was determined to impress her with her softball prowess. She wasn’t off to a good start. She wiped her hand across the pants of her white polyester uniform and kicked the dirt with her cleat. The batter swung at her next pitch, a low ball to the outer right side of the plate and nailed a line drive straight at the pitcher’s mound. The ball made a smacking sound when it landed in Riley’s mitt.
“Nice play, Riley,” her coach yelled from the sideline. “Major league.”
Riley glanced at the visitor’s dugout and was pleased to see Kay’s eyes on her. She struck out the next two batters and was greeted with high fives as she trotted off the field with her teammates.
In the last inning of the game, Riley cheered when her teammate Mandy hit a triple. The game was tied at 3-3 and there were two outs. Riley was up next. She got into position at home plate and gazed toward the pitcher. The first pitch was fast and high, just how Riley liked them. She swung the bat and sent the ball deep into left field. As she rounded first base, she watched Mandy slide across home plate to score the winning run, taking out the opposing team’s catcher—a petite woman—in the process.
The catcher yanked off her helmet and clutched her right leg. Riley never made it to second base. Instead, she sped toward home plate and knelt next to the catcher. It was obvious her leg was broken, and blood oozed from a nasty gash on her forehead. “Someone call an ambulance!” Riley yelled.
Riley yanked her jersey over her head and the catcher flinched when she pressed it against her head wound. As the woman writhed in pain, Riley cradled her head and whispered, “It’s going to be okay. Try and stay still.”
By now a crowd had gathered. “Did someone call an ambulance?” Riley asked no one in particular.
“I did,” a voice replied. “They’re on their way.”
Riley looked up. Kay was standing next to her, a cell phone in one hand and a towel in the other. Their eyes locked, and for a split second, all the chaos in the background disappeared. It felt like they were all alone on the field.
The catcher moaned and Riley gazed down at the injured player. Kay knelt next to her and took over tending to the catcher’s forehead. She removed Riley’s jersey and replaced it with the towel she was holding. Together they worked to keep the woman calm and the bleeding on her forehead had almost stopped by the time the paramedics arrived.
A few of the catcher’s teammates followed the ambulance to the hospital and the rest of the players from both teams wandered to the small pub across the street. The mood at the post-game happy hour was more subdued than usual.
Riley was standing near the bar with Stephanie and Mandy when she felt a hand on her arm. When she turned, she once again found herself staring into Kay’s beautiful brown eyes. “Oh, um, hi, Kay.”
Kay smiled. “Hi. I just wanted to come over and say that you handled the situation with Carrie, our catcher, extremely well. You just took charge and you were so calm. Thank you.”
Riley felt her face go red and her ears get warm. “Thanks, Kay. You played the role of nurse pretty well yourself.”
“Guess we make a pretty good team,” Kay said with a laugh.
This comment made Riley blush even more. She doubted Kay had meant a team in the romantic sense, but that’s what ran through Riley’s head, just like it had at the Kamadori meeting earlier that week.
Kay took a sip of her beer and licked her lips, her beautiful full lips. Riley briefly fantasized about feeling those lips pressed against hers. She stared into her pint and tried to push the thought out of her mind, hoping Kay didn’t notice the effect she was having on her. “I just hope Carrie is okay,” she mumbled.
“Me too. Not only is she one of our best players, she’s also the nicest person you’ll ever meet.”
Riley looked back up at those beautiful lips. “Y’all played really well.”
Kay gave her a wry smile. “But we lost.”
“I know,” Riley said, “but we’re ranked number one in the corporate league. A lot of times we win by double digits, especially when we play one of the other Logan-sponsored teams.”
“Really?” Kay asked.
“Uh-huh. Last week, we played the team from Legal. It was pitiful. We put in all of our third stringers and we still beat them by fifteen runs. At least your team gave us a real run for our money.”
“You’re quite a pitcher. Did you play in college?”
“Um, thanks. Yeah, I did.” Riley glanced back into her beer. “You’re a pretty good player yourself. That one ball you dove for out in left field, that was amazing. I can’t believe you caught it.”
Kay seemed pleased by this comment. “I may have been showing off a bit.”
“Hoping you would notice.”
Riley wasn’t sure she’d heard Kay right. Did she really just say that? She got her answer when their eyes met again. Kay’s eyes were full of warmth and something else…lust. The tiniest ray of hope bubbled up inside Riley. Maybe Kay Corbett liked ladies, and maybe, just maybe, she liked Riley.