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Mighty Casey: The only thing extroverted Nate loves more than baseball is his quiet, reserved wedding planner, Casey. The feeling’s mutual, thanks -- but it isn’t all fun and games. Casey cringes at the thought of ball games, and Nate freezes at the thought of tying the knot. Casey might wish things were different, but he wouldn’t trade Nate, his big heart, or his skills between the sheets for a wedding worthy of a Rockefeller. But things don’t go quite according to scheme for the odd couple when Nate takes his lover out to the ball game. And who knows what might happen when Casey’s called up to bat?
Home Run: If opposites attract -- and in this case, they do -- Casey and Nate fit like puzzle pieces. Though married for a year and still rocking the honeymoon lifestyle, Casey’s starting to feel like it’s time for the next big challenge. Casey’s never been interested in having kids, but he knows Nate would love a family of their own. He thinks he’s ready to put aside past prejudices, but he knows it’s not the kind of decision you make on a whim. Is Casey ready to grant Nate his wish to become a dad and wind up the pitch for a proper “home” run?
Publisher’s Note: Mighty Casey (Duet) contains the previously published novellas Mighty Casey and Home Run.
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Mighty Casey (Duet)
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2018 Willa Okati
Excerpt from Mighty Casey
Dee, dee, dee-dee dee-dee-dee --
Neither skill nor natural talent were required for turning off a clock radio’s alarm with one’s eyes closed. Whether night or day, Casey knew exactly how to coil into the proper position on his side, work one arm out from beneath the duvet, and batter the monster into submission before it switched over from noise to chatter.
Correction: usually he knew exactly how to manage that feat.
Today was not a day for good aim.
“Never too early in the morning for a game, Frank; that’s what I say.”
“You couldn’t be more right, Bruce, and how about that upset last night between the Red Sox and the Yankees?”
“Oh no. We’re not fighting another turf war in that age-old battle.”
“Janice, you like the Cubs. You’re out of this argument completely. But even you have to admit, that ninth-inning home run was a thing of beauty and a joy --”
Casey groaned. He scrunched his eyes more tightly shut. He’d missed. How had he missed? He patted the top of the radio carefully, searching for the right button.
As he touched the snooze button, the volume rose.
“Frank, Bruce, he was lucky. That’s all there is to it.”
“If you want to call it ‘luck’ instead of ‘talent’ or ‘skill,’ go right ahead, but I’ll disagree.”
“Why can’t he have all three? Mendez has been riding a rising star since he set foot on the field.”
“You might have a point, Bruce.”
“Exactly. Let’s take a look at his stats in the past year alone --”
To Casey’s left, the bed, previously unoccupied, dipped under the weight of a very full-grown man. One who radiated the heat of a small blast furnace, the good cheer of a kennel’s worth of puppies, and the sex appeal of a bottle full of testosterone milked from a hundred well-experienced underwear models.
Casey turned to lie on his back and blinked his eyes open. “Mmm. Morning, Nate.”
Lips brushed Casey’s ear as Nate spoke in a warm whiskey tenor that soothed some ragged nerve ends and tickled others wider awake.
Casey dragged the covers over his head. “Nope. It isn’t. It’s just your imagination.”
“And I have an excellent imagination,” Nate said, tugging the bold Navajo-print duvet down, stripping it completely off Casey and their bed, and onto the floor. “It liiiives. Here. I bet you’ll like me better if I do this.”
Casey cracked his eyes open again for a bleary, blurry view of Nate aiming a remote control at the TV, which shut up with a pop that took the sportscasters’ enthusiastic chatter with it. “Classic Sports Network?”
“Their Best of 2010 showcase,” Nate confirmed. “What a game.”
Nate beamed. “And you say you don’t know anything about athletics.”
“What I remember is you needing to be peeled off the ceiling afterward.” Casey rumpled Nate’s hair. “A little too much excitement for me, thanks.” Casey twisted to squint at the clock radio… which, being unplugged, had apparently never gone on or off at all. “What did you do that for?”
Nate brushed his lips across Casey’s before Casey could get a word out. “All’s fair in love and war,” he said, simply and cheerfully. And then, brighter and more enthusiastic still, nearly glowing from the inside out with the enthusiasm of the true zealot, “And in softball.”
Casey took Nate’s pillow and put it over his face. Sometimes he wondered exactly how an introverted homebody from the Pacific Northwest ended up with a sports fiend from the Carolinas.
Nate plucked the pillow out of Casey’s hands and sent it after the blanket. He flopped happily down on the bare mattress and beamed at Casey.
Eyes open yet again, his vision clearer now, Casey got a prime look at the man’s face and had to admit he knew the answer to the particular aforementioned question. From the minute Casey had laid eyes on Nate, he hadn’t stood a chance. Bats and balls notwithstanding.
For as much as he loved Nate -- and he did -- there was nothing in the world Casey loathed more than softball or baseball. Team sports in general, actually, but games of ball and stick in particular. If anyone asked why a slim, clumsy man named Casey wasn’t a fan of either, Casey wasn’t about to explain.
Nate, on the other hand, had put himself through college on a baseball scholarship and played three parsimonious years in the minors between undergrad and going for his master’s degree in education. Some men Casey had known in his life loved the game. Love was not a strong enough word for Nate’s athletic fervor. Nor was passion or wildfire or zealotry, but after a few adjectives anyone would get the idea.
Very lucky for Nate that he loved Casey just as much. Which surprised Casey as much as anyone, but that was love for you. It never did make sense. Best thing to do was let go and enjoy the ride.
Speaking of… Casey twist-flipped over with a decided lack of grace to lie facing Nate and Nate’s side of the bed. “What are you still doing here? It’s light outside. Every Saturday there’s a game, you’re bouncing around for hours before they even think of throwing the first pitch.”
Nate tapped the center of Casey’s forehead. “Ah, but this isn’t any ordinary Saturday. Remember?”
Memories sifted through Casey’s mind as if through a sieve, filtering out bits and pieces. Awake early on the weekend… Nate making a point of it… Turned off the TV, so whatever’s going on is more interesting than a classic rerun…
Casey groaned. “It’s today, isn’t it? The community softball tournament.”
"Hmm? You mean the day I collect on the bet I won?” Nate asked far too innocently. “When you come and watch an entire day’s worth of games? That day?”
“If I hadn’t been sure of it before, I am now,” Casey said drily.
“No welching,” Nate coaxed. He knew Casey well. “C’mon. There’ll be no joy in Mudville if Mighty Casey --”
Casey slapped a hand over Nate’s mouth. “Rule number one.”
He had to let go. Hard to even pretend to be stern when your lover, naked except for a ball cap turned backward, was laughing with force enough to jostle himself free anyway.