Stealing His Heart (The Kingston Heat Series)By: Ella Jade
To my three guys...thanks for making sure all of my baseball facts and lingo were correct. I couldn’t have written this one without you.
As Sophia Ballis jogged around the lake and over the hill on a cool April morning she took in the pretty setting before her. Overnight dew covered the grass. Fog disappeared into the tree line. Spring had made its appearance. The birds tweeted, and the sun peeked out through the clouds. This was the first year in many that she wasn’t living in a college dorm. She was happy to be home, even if it had meant moving back in with her parents when she graduated the semester before. Her teaching degree had taken her an extra few months to obtain, but not everyone completed their degree in four years these days.
She trotted through the long and winding paths of the upscale neighborhood, humming the notes of the classical sonata she planned to play for the kindergarten children later that morning. She hadn’t found a full-time teaching job, but managed to land a job as an assistant at a local private elementary school just a few miles from the house her parents cared for.
Her parents had immigrated to the well-do-to Rhode Island community of Kingston from Greece in the late seventies when they were sixteen. They had worked for the Cambridge family for the past forty years. They were trusted employees who resided on the huge family estate. The Cambridges cared for her family and treated them as more than workers. They even put Sophia through college. Now that their own children were grown and out of the house, the couple traveled many months of the year and left Sophia’s parents in charge of the property and main house.
She was fortunate to be able to come back and live with her parents, but had hoped she would have a more stable job that paid better by now. Her father told her not to worry—her time would come and until it did, she always had a home with them.
As she finished up her jog, she rounded the lake one last time. Just as she had the past three mornings, she saw him. He was a bit later than usual today but he still came out of the east path and around the lake. It was early, so not many people were out yet. She wondered if that was why he chose to run there. A man like him probably wouldn’t want to be bombarded by fans when he took his morning run. She would never bother him but she did like watching as he took off through the paths. He had a perfect running stride that accentuated his tight, muscular calves each time his foot hit the pavement. He always had his earbuds in and his baseball cap down low. Sophia might not have known who he was if it wasn’t for her father’s love of major league baseball. She’d been watching the Kingston Crushers for as long as she could remember.
She stopped under a huge oak tree to stretch out her legs. The morning sun had become stronger in the last ten minutes. Glancing at her phone, she realized it was time to head back home to shower and get ready for work. Shoving her phone inside her hoodie pocket, she stepped out onto the path. She wasn’t paying attention and before she could move out of his way she collided with Paxton Hughes, the starting pitcher for the Crushers.
“Whoa, little lady.” He gripped her upper arm to keep her from falling flat on her face, but she couldn’t catch her balance and ended up smacking into his hard, muscular chest.
“I am so sorry.” She gazed into his hazel eyes. “I didn’t see you coming.”
“Good thing I saw you, sugar.” Morning stubble covered his chiseled jaw and stretched down his neck. “You could have run me down.”
She’d heard him speak during post-game interviews but his low, southern drawl seemed more prominent in person.
“Again, I’m sorry.” When she realized her palm was still pressed against his chest, she quickly retreated.
“No harm.” He grinned, flashing his brilliant white teeth in her direction. “You live around here?”
“Just across the lake.” She pointed to the trail leading to her house.
“I’m on this side of the lake.” He nodded toward the path that she assumed led to his place. “I’m new to Kingston.”
There weren’t that many homes in the private gated community, so it had been big news when he moved into the neighborhood. He’d signed a four-year deal with the Crushers and wanted to lay down roots in the area according to interviews.