A Team of Love Ch. 03bysimply_cyn©
Raelyn waved good-bye to Bradley as she shut the outer door of the office. She took a deep breath and relaxed against the wall before heading home for the day.
“Hard day?” came the unexpected remark.
Raelyn spun around to find the source of the now recognizable timbre. She smiled up into the sparkling indigo blue eyes of J.T. Young. She was surprised to see him here. “What are you doing?” she asked, reaching into her purse for her keys. “You just about gave me a heart attack.”
“You should be better prepared when you walk out of your office,” he informed her. “You never know what kind of maniac could be lurking outside your door.”
“You mean like now?” she teased.
“I’m serious, Raelyn,” he said, frowning at her. “You never know who’s listening to your station and everyone knows where it’s located. You need to be more careful.”
“I’ll remember that,” she said.
“I’m serious,” he repeated.
“I know,” she said, reaching out to touch his arm. “You’re right. I’ll be more careful, not to mention paranoid now that you’ve mentioned it,” she added.
He laughed for a moment and then said, “You want to go out for a cup of coffee? I’d offer dinner, but it’s still a little early for that.”
“Uh, okay,” she said. “Summer’s still at her grandparents so I don’t have to rush home.” She led him down the corridor to the elevators, pushed a button and turned to face him. “You didn’t come all this way just to take me for coffee,” she said.
“Yes I did,” he replied, escorting her into the elevator once it opened.
“J.T.,” she began. “I think you should know . . .”
“I know what you’re going to say,” he said, pushing a button for the first floor and turned to look at her. “You don’t want to start a relationship right now, right?”
She gave him a level look and then glanced up to watch the buttons light up of the floors they passed. Letting a deep breath exhale, she said, “I’m just not ready to get into another relationship. The last one took too much out of me.”
As the elevator doors slid open, J.T. took hold of her arm. He turned her to face him, his eyes clouded over with seriousness. “I don’t know what happened to you before we met, but you have to know that I am not your ex-husband. I deserve a chance and you’re not seeing that.” He shook his head at her, determination etched across his brow.
She stared at him for a moment, knowing in her heart that he was right. It wasn’t fair what she was doing, but her head kept getting in the way. “It’s not just me,” she pointed out, as the elevator doors shut once again. “I have a daughter to think about as well.” She reached out to push the button once again, the doors sliding open once again.
J.T. followed her out into the foyer, the heels of his cowboy boots echoing across the marble floor. It only took a couple of long strides to catch up with her once again, his hand reaching out for hers as he stopped her once again. “I am not out to hurt you or Summer,” he tried explaining to her. “I just want a chance to be a part of your lives, that’s all. I don’t think it’s asking that much.” His eyes searched hers once more as Raelyn’s softened.
“I know,” she replied, reaching out to touch his jaw and then withdrew her hand just as quickly, like she had temporarily lost control of her physical movements. “I just need time.”
“How much time will it take, Rae?” he questioned, his eyes still boring into hers.
“I don’t know, J.T. I just don’t know.”
At Starbuck’s and two cups of cappuccino later, Raelyn found herself finding out more information about this six foot four, two hundred and twenty-eight pound, blonde-haired hunk with blue eyes. He informed her that when he was ten years old, he began practicing his autograph and when his mother had asked about it, he calmly explained that one day a lot of people were going to want it. She had to laugh at his arrogance, even back then. “You’ve haven’t changed a whole lot, then?” she pointed out.
“Oh, I think I was a lot more arrogant back then,” he explained, his eyes laughing along with hers. “One time, when I was playing baseball in junior high, I yelled at the coach telling him that he was doing the wrong thing by pulling me from the game.”
“No you didn’t!” she exclaimed.
“Yeah, I did,” he said, grinning at her sheepishly. “And that was the last time I ever did anything like that. My mom marched right out onto the field, grabbed me by the ear and let me have it, right there in front of the whole town.”
“Good for her,” Raelyn said, nodding her head in approval.
“She set me straight,” he added, taking another sip of his hot beverage. “But, I have to admit … I was right, even back then. When the coach finally did put me back in, I won the game for them.”
“You mean, in your mind you won the game for them,” she corrected him, her eyebrows arching slightly at his arrogance.
“No,” he laughed. “I won the game for them. That’s a fact.”
“Have you ever doubted yourself?’ she suddenly wanted to know.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he answered. “When I was younger, I really thought I would be a professional baseball player when I grew up but then in high school my coach turned me onto football and I’ve never looked back.”
“So you didn’t know by the time you could walk that you would play football?” she clarified, surprised at his comment. “I thought maybe you had been born with a football in your hand.”
“No,” he laughed. “If I was born with anything in my hand, it was probably a hoe or baling wire. To tell the truth, I’m just a plain ole’ country boy from Oklahoma.”
“Are you really?” she asked, surprised once again.
“Sure,” he answered, sitting back in his chair. He looked uncomfortable in the small plastic chairs in the coffee shop. She had to smile at the sight of his huge frame crammed into one of them. “I lived seven miles off the paved road, straight down a dirt road that was too rough even to ride my bicycle on. In the mornings before school, I had to slop the hogs and then in the summer, I hauled hay, usually late into the night.”
“I would’ve never pictured you doing that,” she concluded.
He laughed gently for a moment, caught up in the memories of his childhood. “It’s not something I’ve gone around telling too many people. I was dirt poor and even though I’ve come a long way from that life, it’s still a part of me. I do my damndest to use what I’ve accomplished to help my family and they’re what counts. None of this other stuff . . .” he said, trailing off.
Raelyn just smiled and let sleeping dogs lie. He seemed like that’s where he wanted to leave that conversation, so she picked something he would talk about … football. “And college?”
He smiled at her, realizing she knew when to leave a conversation. “Well, I was offered a full-time scholarship to college because of football and my ability to throw the ball. It just seemed to come naturally to me.” He took another sip of his cappuccino and then quickly added, “Not that I didn’t practice, ‘cause believe me, I did. I’ve always felt driven to work hard even when things come easily. I think that’s the one thing I really learned from my father and growing up on a farm.”
Raelyn continued to watch him over her cup of cappuccino. He fascinated her, about that there was no question. A part of her wanted to throw all caution to the wind and take him into her life. But then her mind flew instantly to Summer and the pain she had already gone through in her young life. From now on, she had to be very careful about who she let into her life. Coming out of her own thoughts, she asked, “And then from college you went straight into the NFL?”
“Yeah,” he answered, setting his cup down. “I was the first draft pick last year.”
“And then there’s always the Heisman Trophy . . .” she prompted.
“I didn’t win that thing,” he argued.
“No,” she agreed. “But you finished third in the voting.”
“You sure seem to know a lot about me for someone who’s not interested,” he observed, his eyes sparkling mischievously.
“You forget,” she said, smiling over at him. “I had to do my homework before you came for an interview at the station.”
“Oh, that’s right,” he said, but she could tell that he knew there was more there than she let on. “So tell me,” he began, “What else do you know about me?”
Raelyn laughed softly, her eyes shimmering in delight as she took a slow sip from her cup and then began, “Let’s see … you love lasagna, Mexican food, and pizza. Oh, and skim milk and if you don’t mind me saying, boy does it do a body good.” J.T. laughed at her cliché as she continued. “You can never get enough chips and salsa and can watch the movie Shawshank Redemption over and over; sunsets, summertime, Christmas, the color blue and, of course, bar-be-que.”
J.T.’s eyebrows shot up as a wide grin split his face. “Okay, now you’re scaring me,” he chuckled.
Raelyn grinned and then tapped her forefinger on her chin thoughtfully, as if she was remembering more. “You have a Harley Davidson, a replica of the 1948 Heritage Ol’ Boy AND you wear your helmet.”
J.T. simply whistled and shook his head. “Damn, is there anything you don’t know?”
“Uhhhmmm, let me think,” she said teasingly and glanced to the man that she felt so drawn to. If she wasn’t careful, she was going to let him get too close. “You have two older sisters that are both nurses. One lives in Texas and the other in Oklahoma.” J.T. smiled as she mentioned Dori and Darbi. He loved both of his sisters and now that she mentioned them, he couldn’t help but wonder when was the last time he had called either of them. He glanced at Raelyn and knew that his sisters would love her to death. He leaned back in his chair as he watched Rae go over all his vital statistics like a roster from one of his games. “You have a 75 gallon tropical fish aquarium and a black Labrador retriever named Simba but you had to give him to your sister because you’re not at home enough to take care of him.”
“Yeah,” J.T. mumbled, a small frown crossing his face. “I miss that mutt.”
Raelyn couldn’t help but reach out across the table and cover his hand with hers. “Maybe some day you can get her back,” she offered.
“You never know,” J.T. smiled and started to take her hand in his but she was quick enough to slip it from his before she continued.
“You love country music and hate head-banging music. Your favorite song is “The Dance” by Garth Brooks and you stick out your tongue whenever you throw a football or hit a golf ball.”
“Okay, okay,” he said, throwing up his hands dramatically. “Enough! You’re killing me here!” He shook his head in amazement as he looked over at her. “You sound like a book of statistics.”
Raelyn laughed softly as her fingers curled around her cup and gazed at the handsome football player across the table from her. “All part of the job,” she said.
“Yeah, I guess,” he replied as he gazed at her. He couldn’t help but wish that she would open up to him more but not wanting to push it, waved the waitress over with a flick of his wrist. “I don’t know about you, but you’ve worn me out with the play-by-play recall of my life.”
Raelyn laughed softly as he asked for the check and watched him as he paid the waitress, silently chastising herself for letting out too much information. She probably let too much out of the bag. He was going to figure out pretty soon that she was more interested than she let on.