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The Perfect Game: Epilogue

One Year Later

Jack walked into our apartment while I cooked dinner. He’d just gotten back from an away game, and his stuff was scattered in every direction, making the living room look like a bomb had gone off. “You’re such a slob. At least throw your crap in the bedroom where it belongs,” I teased from behind the stove.

“I’ll throw you in the bedroom where you belong,” he sassed, his dimples appearing on his tanned cheeks.

He’d moved in that night when he first arrived in New York last year, refusing to leave me ever again and I didn’t object, even though his presence made my already cramped apartment even smaller. With two incomes, we were soon able to afford to move into a nicer apartment in Sutton Place, not far from Central Park on the east side of the city. My commute to work became longer, but it was worth it to live in this gorgeous place with him. Our view consisted of the Upper East Side and we spent our evenings on the balcony as often as we could.

Jack took it as a sign when they offered us a two-bedroom apartment on the twenty-third floor. “It’s my number, babe. We’ve gotta take it!” And after we toured the place, admiring its granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and marble bathrooms, I couldn’t agree more. The fact that it had a fitness center and a pool was just an added perk. I also felt safe living here, what with the twenty-four-hour doorman and the front lobby concierge.

Jack traveled frequently with the team and I was often away on assignment for work, so the security of our apartment while we were out of town or if I was home alone gave us both much-needed peace of mind. Not to mention the fact that Jack was a Mets player now, which made him a local celebrity in New York. Fans had tried to sneak into our place on more than one occasion. We found it necessary to give our doormen extra bonuses last Christmas for their efforts.

We loved living in Manhattan, the hustle and craziness unlike anything we’d ever known in Southern California. The people were also completely different. For us, it was a welcome change of pace that suited us for now.

As I stirred the pasta, the sparkle of the diamond shining from my left hand caught my eye. I glanced down at it with a smile. The three-carat round diamond mounted on a diamond-encrusted band practically took up my entire finger, but I didn’t mind. It was the most beautiful ring I’d ever seen and more than I’d ever dreamed of.

We hadn’t set a date yet, what with Jack’s limited time off between the season ending and spring training, plus my assignments that seemed to pop up without warning. I didn’t mind, though. For now, it was simply enough just to be together and know where our future was headed. Especially after living through the time when I thought our relationship was dead and buried, with no chance for resuscitation. If we could get through that, we were certain we could get through anything.

“I picked up my mess. Happy?” Jack walked up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist, then dropped a kiss on my neck.

“Yes. Thank you.” I turned, his lips moving to mine with a passionate fire we’d yet to put out.

“I’m tired of waiting to make you Mrs. Carter.” He grabbed my left hand and kissed the top of my ring finger. “Marry me tomorrow.”

“You’re crazy.” I laughed, pulling my hand from his lips.

“I’m serious.” His brown eyes narrowed with his smile.

“If I can wait for a real wedding with all of our friends and family, then you can too.” I kissed his nose before turning back to the bubbling water.

“Fine. But I’m just going to tell everyone you’re my wife, whether it’s official or not.” He pressed his body against my back.

“You’re so weird.”

“You’re the weird one. What kind of girl can just wait patiently to get married?” he whispered into my ear, nibbling on my lobe before chills raced through me and I shoved him away.

“The kind of girl who doesn’t need to a piece of paper to tell her how to feel. The kind who knows that being married won’t change anything between us.” I turned again, wrapping my arms around his neck and pulling him close. “I’m the kind of girl who wants to share our special day with everyone who’s important to us. They deserve it. It’s not like we’ve made it on easy on them.”

He exhaled through his nose. “You’re right. Plus, Gran and Gramps would kill us if we eloped.”

“That’s what I’m talking about!” I chuckled.

“Let’s set a date though, okay?”

“Okay,” I conceded, pouring the boiling water and pasta into a strainer in the sink, the steam rising around my face.

“Tonight.” His voice echoed as he walked toward the calendar on the wall.

“So pick a date.”

“And you’ll make sure you’re not on assignment?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Jack.” I grabbed a jar, pouring the contents into a bowl and stirring before I continued. “Pick a date and I’ll tell the office on Monday.” His expression softened with my words.

He flipped the calendar to November before muttering to himself, “November has Thanksgiving, and then December is Christmas. No one wants to have to go to a wedding during the holidays. I think we should wait until after New Year’s. What do you think about a January wedding?”

He glanced over, his hand still holding the calendar. “January sounds cold.” I shivered over-dramatically to make my point.

“Not if we get married back home,” he suggested, as if it was the most obvious plan in the world.

“Yay!” I squealed, delighted at the thought. “January sounds totally doable then! I love January.”

“Alright, woman, you become a Carter on January twelfth.” His dimples deepened as his smile widened.

I glanced down at my ring, its brilliance losing focus as my eyes blurred with an unexpected tear. “Cassie Carter. I like the sound of that.”

“Kitten Carter. I like the sound of that better,” he said, as I placed two plates on our table.

“January twelfth,” I repeated, watching as his eyes relaxed with the permanence of our decision. I smiled as I scooped out a heaping serving of pasta and placed it on Jack’s plate.

Jack twirled the pasta against his spoon before looking up and smiling at me. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“I can’t wait to knock you up and have a whole team of little baseball players running around this place!” He reached under the table and rested his hand on my thigh, then slid it upwards teasingly.

“Slow down, Mr. Carter!” I swatted his shoulder.

“Aw, come on, Kitten. Let’s start now.” He badgered me good-naturedly, sensing my discomfort.

“That’s a discussion for another time. Like after we’re married,” I insisted as warmth coursed through my cheeks.

“Alright. On January thirteenth, we’ll start making babies.”


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