Amanda is a successful, levelheaded woman who built her restaurant from scratch. She’s certainly not looking for a prince charming to sweep her off her feet. So when Chase, baseball’s golden boy, begins to pursue her, she barely gives him the time of day. Her heart-shaped face and big blue eyes stop him dead in his tracks and her lush, plus-size curves don’t hurt either. And while Amanda’s used to celebrities and politicians dining at the Cold Creek Grille, she just can’t stop staring at Chase—he’s hotness personified.
At heart, Chase is a monogamist who likes strong women, despite his playboy image. Amanda is exactly the type he’s been looking to settle down with, but she won’t say yes easily. From daily visits to the restaurant to extravagant flower arrangements, Chase will stop at nothing to persuade her to go out with him—and he finally succeeds!
For Amanda their romance is all too good to be true, and something has got to give. Can Chase really be this perfect? And then she discovers that squeaky-clean Chase Walker has a spicy little kink. While readers of Big Girl Panties will remember it quite well, Chase’s fans have no idea that off the field, he likes to indulge in a little passionate spanking from time to time.
To her surprise, Amanda discovers a naughty side she never knew she had. But then, thanks to a tabloid, their secret comes to light and becomes the nation’s favorite water-cooler gossip. Will Amanda give up a little bit of her single-girl freedom for true love with a twist? Or will the pressure of Chase’s stardom spell doom for this sexy couple?
Chase took a moment to appreciate the clear blue sky just before putting on his batting helmet. He loved the first home day games of the season, before the humidity kicked in and the sun was so high at game-time the ball was difficult to spot. Not to mention, crowds were much more forgiving and optimistic in April and May. When they were being baked in ninety degree sun for two and half hours, unless the division title was already all sewn up, fans expected a win, and even then, they could be cranky.
But even in the dog days of summer, Chase Walker rarely needed to be forgiven. He had done his part since the day he put on the uniform as a rookie four years prior, a regular on the all-star roster. One of those years he won the home run derby. He was what sportscasters referred to as ‘one of those naturally gifted corn fed boys out of Iowa’, all of which was true. He could always make it as a farmer, but he learned early on as long as kept hitting balls over outfield walls, he wouldn’t have to. Luckily, the balls and the walls co-operated. The same could be speed and agility. Given his size, it wasn’t expected of him, but he worked on being quick anyway. He earned two gold gloves for the effort.
He walked out onto the field and picking up a weighted donut, slid it down the end of the bat before stepping into the on deck circle. He started haphazardly swinging to get the feel and thought about Julie Harrison‘s five year old son whom he’d signed a baseball for two hours before. Damn, that kid was cute.
Chase watched Baltimore’s pitcher a moment. Brandon Howard didn’t have a bad start; he had struck Chase out his first time up. But his curve ball was coming in high and his slider had started breaking just short of the plate. His fast ball was never anything to write home about. If Troy Miller noticed it too; he’d be working a walk and would load the bases. With the Miller’s count going to 2-0, chances were he did.
Chase went back to reflecting on Julie, playing with his batting gloves, oblivious to the twenty five thousand people around him. It was such a nice surprise when she showed up at the stadium during warm-ups. Eight years had changed her from a rebellious teenager to a graceful woman. When she called out to him from the row above the dug-out, an hour before only tickets holders had that kind of access, he recognized her right away. Some women just said his name differently. He had security bring them onto the edge of the field, where Chase met Julie’s son Milo and Greg, her Marine Corp Sargent husband. Greg was clean cut and sturdy with a firm handshake and a tall posture. Chase thanked Greg for his service, immediately offered them seats in his luxury box and signed the ball for Milo; all the while musing he wasn’t the least bit surprised Julie ended up with a military man. Julie had a thing for discipline. But then again, so did he.
Troy Miller had swung on 2 and 0, and then took ball three. The catcher got up and ran out to the pitcher’s mound to give a small pep talk to Howard. Troy looked over to the first base coach then back to Chase and they exchanged small nodding grins. Unless the next pitch was perfect, Troy would be strolling to first. Chase pounded the handle of the bat on the ground, releasing the weight and then leaned on it. The catcher and pitcher spent a few quality seconds conversing from behind their mitts before the home plate umpire started making his way to the pitcher’s mound to break up the pow-wow.
Seeing her had made him nostalgic. After all, Julie was the first girl. They had been seniors at Jefferson/Scranton High School in Iowa, long before he became a household name. Back then, it was more an instinct born of his moral code. They had been dating for several months when he dragged her kicking and screaming out of a party when the drugs came out.
“I’m not about to blow my scholarship to Irvine over a buzz, Julie,” he had calmly told her from the driver’s seat of his father’s pick-up truck. Wise beyond his years, he was already good at impulse control. “You shouldn’t want to get mixed up in that stuff either.”
She accused him of sounding like her father and told him to drop her off home; she would find another way back to the party. He remarked that with the way she was behaving, if she was his daughter, they’d be taking a trip out to the woodshed. She threw down the gauntlet and replied she’d like to see him try.
He pulled the truck over into the driveway of a deserted farm and showed her in no uncertain terms what he thought about dares. After scorching the seat of her jeans until she screeched a promise to stay put after he dropped her off, he drove her home and they made out in front of her house for an hour. Julie would go on to dare him countless times before they graduated. The night before he left for college she told him under a moonlit sky he was destined to be big and that she’d never forget him. He never promised he’d be back and she had no means to follow.
Miller fouled off another two pitches before earning the walk. Chase heard his theme music start up and his name reverberating through the stadium’s address system followed by the accompanying cheer. He strolled up to the batter’s box and went through his set up routine.
It was different in college. Girls were liberated and experimental, the dares became bolder and antics to get his attention were brattier. He was more than happy to deliver, but it wasn’t the same. It was purely for sex. He couldn’t get too invested in them. Baseball took up a lot of his time. And he took his education seriously, having never forgotten the words his father told him the day he left for California.
“Son, no matter where your talent takes you, you’re going to be a man a lot longer than you’re going to be a ball player. Knowledge is the only true power. Learn all you can.”
Chase got a degree in business and stayed at university for the duration. He hit eighteen home runs his freshman year and only got better. It took him until his junior year to convince scouts he wouldn’t be leaving Irvine until he finished what he’d gone there to do. After graduating magna cum lade, he signed with the team he always wanted to play for and began to call New York home. His father died of a massive heart attack two years later, proud of the man his son had become. He convinced his mother to sell the farm and moved her into a gated community in Florida, where she ran one of his foundations, dates a doctor from the local hospital and plays a mean game of Canasta.
“Strike one,” Chase heard the umpire call. Shit, he had been so busy strolling down memory lane; he had zoned out and completely missed the pitch, one that spent quality time over the plate. Not good. Not good at all. He’d better get his head back in the game and start getting down to business.
And that business was Brandon Howard. Chase Walker didn’t take kindly to striking out. It’d be over his dead body that it would happen again. With the bases loaded and his current count, odds were he could expect some junk thrown at him in the hopes he’d panic and swing. Or, a pitch was coming down the pipe that he was going to send screaming out of the stadium. The latter sounded like the better scenario, if he could just get Howard to cooperate.
Once he hit the majors, all the rules changed. It became all about excess. Women sought him out, his dominance like a beacon. Some wanted to be hurt. It was no longer about the give and take of a mutual caring, respect or even fun. Without the emotional attachment, the act often left him feeling hollow and sometimes guilty. After an array of one night stands, he had a nearly yearlong romance with a well-known actress who indulged him occasionally. But her requests were few and far between and when it was rumored she was having an affair with a co-star, he promptly cut the relationship off. He didn’t want to go back to arbitrary women that were a vague memory the next day. He began to shy away from the scene all together as his responsibilities and his stardom grew. But he missed the feel, the sound, the very company of women. He wanted it all, and he knew it was out there. He just had to be patient.
Patient. Like he had to be with Brandon Howard, who was busy shaking off his catcher, something Chase considered a very good indicator that Howard was losing his confidence, at least for the day. Chase set himself and Howard began to wind up.
“Strike two!” the umpire shouted, flamboyantly taking a step and pointing his finger to the side.
Chase backed up off the plate and out of the batter’s box. Okay, this was serious. It was time to think of nothing but baseball. He adjusted his gloves while glowering at the catcher.
“Bet he doesn’t have another one of those in him.”
“What’s the matter, Walker?” he heard the snicker from behind the catcher’s mask, “The thought of going O-fer giving you the willies?”
“Hardly,” He scoffed, digging a small hole in the dirt with the toe of his left cleat before resetting himself. His sight zeroed in on the ball in Howard’s hand. And as if imagining it was all it took to make it happen, Brandon Howard threw a lackluster fast ball that landed smack dab in the middle of the plate. And Chase Walker did what he did best. He swung. The resulting sound of the bat making contact told the rest of the story.
Chase took a few slower steps in the direction of first base until he was sure the ball was making its way into the parking lot and then he picked up his pace. He ran the bases at a decent clip into the awaiting high fives of his three teammates having already touched home. They ran as a group into the dug-out and Chase tossed his batting helmet back into its slot, followed by his gloves amid all his team mates congratulatory slapping him on the back. He grabbed a paper cup full of water and after pouring it over his head, took another and sat down next to Troy.
“What time is it?” Chase asked before swallowing the water in one gulp.
Troy squinted at the opposite end of the dugout and the digital clock near the phone to the bullpen. “2:02. Why?”
Chase crushed the paper cup in his hand and tossed it in the direction of a nearby trash can. He reached for a nearby towel then held out a fist for Troy to bump.
“I just wanted to know exactly when I’d found the sweet spot for this season.”
The Kings went on to beat the Orioles 8-3. And Chase had his first grand slam of the year.
He gave his interviews when the game was over and headed for the showers.
“Got any plans for dinner?” Troy asked him as Chase was finishing the buttoning of his shirt before tucking it into his trousers. Troy was new in town, having been traded in the off season from Atlanta. His wife stayed behind in Georgia until they decided what, if anything, to do with their house there. Their lockers were side by side, which added a comradery. Chase often asked Troy to join him after games for whatever he was up for. It was also a way for Chase to keep an eye on Troy, after it became apparent that Troy clearly had a drinking problem, only exacerbated by his wife’s reluctance to join him in New York. Chase would never stand in the way of another guy’s party, but he could make sure the man got home in one piece.
“Can’t,” Chase sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, in anticipation of his impending headache, “I’m having dinner with my agent.”
“Sorry to hear that,” Troy replied, understanding everything Chase implied. They shared the unique negotiating styling of Alan Shaw, not that Troy got nearly as much attention. Chase could be working three-hundred-sixty-five days a year if he didn’t keep Shaw reigned in. “I hope at least you’re going someplace where the food is good.”
“So do I, but I doubt it, ” Chase said, running his fingers through his full head of still damp sandy blonde hair before he finished getting dressed. “It’s some place in Hoboken. One of those chic trendy places that refuses to serve lunch. I’m totally expecting to need a pizza after they serve me four peas, half a potato and a leg that belonged to the tiniest chicken on record.”
I first met Amanda and Chase in Big Girl Panties and I am so happy that they have got their own story in The Sweet Spot. Chase is the perfect MLB poster boy – he’s amiable, charming,and old fashioned. He’s pretty perfect off the field too, but while he is a Mr. Clean in the streets he’s a bit of a freak in the sheets and that’s what makes him so special. Not that having a secret kink is special, it’s that he is just like everyone else (albeit gorgeous and a world class ball player), but his private bedroom activities are just that private (although truth be told it’s really not all that raunchy). What I think I liked best about him was that he wasn’t your stereotypical alpha hero, he’s not a troubled bad boy with a chip on his shoulder that is out to push everyone away in his life. He’s actually, gasp, a nice guy!
Amanda too is not the shrinking violet nor naive ingenue. She’s like the girl next door that you can totally identify with. She’s a good girl, but one who has never felt free to explore her wild side. Which is what makes the lead up to their kinky liaison all the more enjoyable. However, there is no big payoff. If you’re looking for explicit details or just details in general of the between the sheets action, you may be a little frustrated. While I can appreciate Evanovich’s safer spin on romance I was disappointed. Why the big lead up if there was going to be no home run? It felt like more of an omission that artistic vision. That one issue aside I quite enjoyed The Sweet Spot and for chick lit fans this one hit the spot quite nicely.
About the Author
Stephanie Evanovich is a full-fledged Jersey girl from Asbury Park who began writing fiction while waiting for her cues during countless community theater projects. She attended New York Conservatory for the Dramatic Arts and acted in several improvisational troupes and a few small-budget movies, all in preparation for the greatest job she ever had, raising her two sons. Now a full-time writer, she’s an avid sports fan who holds a black belt in tae kwon do. Facebook | Twitter | Website
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