A Wedding Homerun in Loveland, Ohio

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MacNeill Hattaway jumped out of the rust-fringed pick-up truck, slamming the creaking door behind him.

That was close. Way too close!

He’d decided to drive his uncle’s rattletrap thinking it’d be less showy and conspicuous than his red Corvette, but water-slick roads or not, the thing really just wasn’t safe. He couldn’t—wouldn’t—do it again. Not when he couldn’t trust the brakes, and not when the questionable steering locked up without a moment’s notice.

Of course, it hadn’t helped that a deer had lunged across the road in front of him at the same time he’d turned the truck off Route 48 and onto West Loveland. Still, he’d almost gotten himself killed and all because he’d had a craving for a burger from Paxton’s before meeting up with a friend later that evening.

Even worse, he’d almost maimed another driver—a woman—who had every right to be standing in the street screaming uncontrollably at him.

Not that he wasn’t accustomed to people screaming at him.

Actually he was fairly used to it, being that it was pretty much a part of his job. As a pro pitcher, he’d heard way more than his share of fevered remarks from the Tristate Hawks’ fans over the years—both good and bad—all depending on how precisely he could get an orange-sized ball to cross over a seventeen-inch plate from a little over sixty feet away, preferably at a speed of ninety miles an hour or so.

Sometimes he managed to do that handily. Other times, he couldn’t do it to save his life, his ego, or his ears from the deafening cries of disgust from the stands.

So, yeah, he was used to people yelling all right.

But he could tell the woman wasn’t used to it—or at least she wasn’t used to being the one doing the yelling. Instead of flailing arms, hers were crossed over her chest, hugging her petite body. And her voice sort of trembled as it got louder, as if it was usually softer, more controlled, and not used to such extremes.

“What were you thinking? You could have killed us. All of us!”

At least she was kind enough to include him in the mix, he noticed.

“Hey, I’m sorry, miss. I really am. I’m sure I scared you to—”

“To death. Yes! You certainly did scare me to death.” She shoved a tendril of dark wet hair back from her forehead, attempting to tuck it into her ponytail. Letting more of her face show. . .a really nice, pretty face, he could tell that much even through the drizzle. “Do you always drive like that?”

“Do I, what? Well, no. I mean, actually there was a deer. A deer that came out of nowhere, leaping across the road. I tried to swerve away, but then”—he pointed to his uncle’s truck, ready to explain about the apparently lousy brakes and major lack of steering, but she cut him off.

“Do you know I have a child in my car?”

“A kid? You do? Is he—is she—all right?”

“He. Yes, he’s all right. But you frightened him. That’s for sure. As if he wasn’t already scared enough from the storm.”

Oh, great! A new infraction to add to his list. Frightening children without even meaning to.

“You scared my Sammy.” She suddenly pounced closer, right in his face, as if mentioning her son’s name had given her a surge of adrenaline, a boost of courage.

Mac couldn’t help but think she reminded him of the geese that had taken up residence around the pond out at his uncle’s farm. The mother geese—squawking, hissing, protecting their young at all costs. Ready to chase off an intruder—or go beak-to-toe, if they had to, with anything—or anyone—that got too near.

Of course, unlike the geese, Mac didn’t mind the woman getting close. So close he’d caught a whiff of her sweet-smelling perfume. The fragrance wrapped around his head, overriding the competing scents of the rain-cresting river and his running truck engine. And even if her words were harsh, and deservedly so, there was an underlying sweetness about her he detected right away.

“You could’ve really hurt him.” She jabbed a pointed finger in the air, nearly into his shoulder. “You could’ve killed him, and-and, are you a parent, Mr.—”

“The name’s MacNeill.”

“Mr. Neil, are you—”

“No, it’s MacNeill,” he corrected, enunciating slowly. Of course, as soon as he did, he wondered why he even cared.

“That’s what I said. Mr. Neil.”

“No, my first name is—”

“Whatever!” She planted her hands on her hips. “Are you a parent?”

“A parent?” What was the woman getting at? He scratched his forehead, protected from the drizzling rain by the bill of his baseball cap.

Unbelievably, her voice got shriller. “Yes. Are you?”

“No, but I—I mean. . .” Was not being a parent supposed to make him a total monster? Insensitive to children and their safety? Is that what she was implying?

“Well, Mr. Neil, you should learn to drive like you’re one.”

“MacNeill.” He repeated his name again, this time grinding it out, his jaw tightening. So that had been what she was getting at. Which pretty much irritated him to no end. Who was she to make such a jibe? Mother Teresa?

Sure, maybe in the past he’d been reckless in a lot of ways. He’d used his celebrity status inappropriately—for his own good and for illicit pleasures. And yeah, he’d driven many cars many times too fast and too often under the influence. No doubt the tabloids had had plenty to write about him over the years because he’d given them plenty of material. But he could tell she didn’t even recognize him as the baseball player most everyone else knew him as. She had no clue as to who he was. . .where he’d been and where he was now in his life.