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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Matt Jackson, Catcher - Bottom of the Ninth, Baseball romance series

I received this review from a reader on Book Bub: 

I recommend this book
I received a complimentary copy of this book and loved it so much that I purchased a copy. This was a fantastic book and a great addition to the series. I just love the entire Nighthawks and their women. Reading each of their stories has been a wonderful journey. I love the dual POVs and the addition to the having the entire Nighthawks reappearing in all the stories. This book was wonderful. I loved the scene with Matt at his sister's grave. What a touching scene. I cried. The book is so well written that I do get disappointed when the stories end. I highly recommend this story as well as the entire series to anyone!!!
Reasons I enjoyed this book:Easy-to-readEntertainingFunnyHappily Ever AfterOriginalPage-turnerRealisticTear-jerkerWonderful characters 


After reading this, I went back and reread the scene. I agree with her, the graveside scene is poignant. I want to share it with you. Here it is:

“Come on, Matt. Going to Texas de Brazil. Steak. Meat. Lots of it,” said Jake Lawrence.
“You go ahead. I’ve got to be somewhere.”
“What’s more important than red meat?”
Matt laughed. “Not today, buddy.”
“Okay, but it’s your hard luck.” Jake headed for his car.
“So it is,” murmured Matt to himself.
Not quite out of earshot, he heard Jake complain to Dan. “Where the hell does he go when we get to Pittsburgh? Every time. He disappears.”
“It’s personal business, Jake. Don’t worry. He’s okay.”
“If you say so.”
Matt silently thanked his friend for stopping the query. He didn’t want to let everyone in on his personal pain. Pity embarrassed him. He slid behind the wheel and maneuvered the car to the Allegheny Cemetery, where Marnie was buried. He’d paid for her plot and the upkeep on it. He stopped to pick up some flowers on the way. Roses, if he could find them, were her favorites.
He placed the flowers on her grave and sat on a cement bench nearby. He was thirty now. She’d been gone two years. He smiled to himself. Last month she would have been twenty-two.
Sometimes, he’d simply sit there. Other times, he’d talk to her as if she was still alive. Today was one of those days.
“I’m doing good this season. Not batting as well as I could. Yeah, yeah, I know. I need to practice more. Maybe I’ll let Dan pitch to me. If I can hit his shit, I’ll be doing fine.”
He recounted the game, almost play-by-play. Marnie had loved to listen to his commentary on who was good and who had had a bad day. She swore she learned from his teammate’s mistakes and smart moves. Her attention had filled him with pride. So, he kept doing it, even though she wasn’t there to comment. He’d hear it in his head. Yes, he had known her that well.
After he reached the final out, he stared at the sky. A few wispy clouds blew by overhead. A bright red, male cardinal landed on her headstone. The creature watched him for a bit. Matt reached out. The bird darted his head from side to side, looked at Matt once more, and flew off.
“I get it. So, you’re wondering about my love life, right? I knew you would be. You always wanted me to get married. Don’t think that’s gonna happen, Marnie.”
He was quiet, as if listening to her voice.
“Yeah, I did meet someone. She’s hot. And like you, she plays ball. No, no, she’s not the one. I tried to tell you last time, there isn’t going to be ‘the one.’ Not for me. Women. Too much heartache.”
He sighed and looked away. “Maybe if I could find someone like you, well, that’d be different. But they broke the mold, sweetheart. Not gonna happen. Dusty comes close. The way she took care of my foot. Nothing to worry about. It’s fine now. But that’s because she nursed it. Like you would have.” He glanced at his watch.
“Gotta go. Having dinner with Pop tonight. Yeah, I promise. No yelling. Okay, kitten. I’ll be back when I can.” He pushed to his feet, took a deep breath, and walked to his car. “See ya next time,” he mumbled.
Visiting Marnie had helped him. It always did. But following it with time with his father…well, two steps forward, one step back. He maneuvered the rental car to Mifflin Mobile Court, where his dad lived.
Most of the mobile homes were in good condition. His father’s was passable, thanks to the handyman and housekeeper Matt had hired. They came by once every two weeks, fixed things, prepared meals, and cleaned. And the catcher footed the bill. His father had a small pension and social security, but barely enough money to scrape by every month.
He knocked on the door, and his father answered. He was taller than Matt, and slim. His eyes were bloodshot and his thin hair, gray. His shoulders were wide, but bony.
“Hi, Dad. Ready?”
“I thought we’d eat here instead. Grendel came by today. She fixed some stew for us. Come on in. Take a load off,” Tom Jackson said, moving away from the door.
Matt stepped inside, grateful that the housekeeper had been there. At least there wouldn’t be mold in the bathroom and a ton of dirty dishes in the sink. Something smelled good. He smiled. Guess she was a good cook too.
“Have a shot,” his father said, waving a bottle of gin at his son.
Matt raised his palm. “No, thanks, Dad. I don’t drink on the road. And you shouldn’t either.”
“Hell, we all shouldn’t do a lot of shit, but we do it anyway.” He poured himself half a glass and took a slug.
“It’s killing ya, you know,” Matt said, easing into a fake leather chair.
“So, what? What have I got to live for, anyway? Who cares if I die? You?”
“We’ve had this discussion a thousand times.”
“Yeah. So, let’s can it.”
“I promised Marnie I wouldn’t fight with you. So, let’s talk about baseball.”
“Marnie? She’s dead. She can’t talk to you.”
“I visit her grave, Pop.”
“I should do that. I’m a shitty father. Always have been.” He took another jolt of alcohol, to wash down the bitter words.
“Why don’t we have a pleasant conversation? How about those Yankees, huh?”
“You won yesterday. Way to go,” his father said, bringing the glass to his lips.
“It wasn’t too hard. The Wolves aren’t bad, but we’re better.”
“You always had confidence. God knows where the fuck you got if from. Sure as hell wasn’t from your mother or me.”
“Pop, can’t we have a pleasant conversation? What’s going on in your life?”
“Nothing. Not one Goddam, fucking thing. Screwed any girls lately?”
Matt made a face. “I’ve got a girlfriend.”
“She hot?”
“Yes. Nice too. She plays ball, like Marnie.”
“Bangin’ her?”
“Pop, that’s not an appropriate question.”
“Well, are ya? I bet you are.” His father sniggered.
“None of your business. Geez. Shit. Don’t you know when to shut up?”
“Stew’s probably ready. Let’s eat.” Tom pushed up on the arms of his chair and wobbled.
Matt grabbed his dad’s skinny arm and steadied the old man. “Why don’t you sit down? I’ll serve,” the catcher said.
“Good idea.” Tom plunked down onto a metal chair by the tiny table he called his kitchen.
Matt went to the stove. He took down two of the three bowls in the small cabinet and filled them with stew. Searching through a drawer, he managed to locate two forks and knives. He shook his head. Living like this was shameful. Last time Matt had given his dad enough money to move to a nicer place, the man had drunk it up in two months.
His father’s liver was failing. He didn’t have much longer to live, according to his doctor. He surely wouldn’t be a candidate for a transplant. Matt’s mouth pressed into a thin line when he remembered the conversation. Tom had been present and threw a fit when the doctor refused to put him on the donor list.
Matt wasn’t a man accustomed to doing nothing. He shifted his weight as he evened the portions in the bowls. He was a man of action, on the field and off. He took charge of his life. During off season, he had taken a short course in money management and handled his own finances. He’d done pretty well too. Watching his father throw his life down the neck of a gin bottle killed him. Anger gathered inside. What Marnie wouldn’t have given to have had this many years?
He carried the bowls to the table and prayed for silence while they ate.
“She’s a damn good cook,” his dad said, stuffing a piece of meat in his mouth.
Matt had to agree. As soon as he finished, he cleared, washed, and dried the dishes. Breathing a sigh of relief, he headed for the door.
“Great seeing you, Pop,” he lied, shrugging his jacket over his impressive shoulders.
“Say, son, can you spare a twenty?”
Every visit, he tried to make his getaway before his father hit him up for money. But the old man had caught on and snagged him at the door.
“Sure, Pop,” he said, slipping a crisp bill out of his wallet.
“Take care. Don’t get hurt now,” his father said.
“I won’t. Go easy on the booze, Pop.”
“I will, I will. Love you, son.”
“Love you too.” It was that last double lie that left a bad taste in his mouth. He pulled away from the parking lot and hit the gas pedal. He needed a shower.When he returned to the hotel, he raised a palm to his buddies in the lobby, but didn’t stop to talk. He turned on the water as hot as he could stand it and stood under it for fifteen minutes. 

Matt Jackson, clutch hitter, fielder extraordinaire, and team captain, is dynamite on the baseball field, but a loser with women. Or is he? He makes a show of coming on to chicks in bars, but always strikes out. Convinced being dateless is safer, Matt keeps his distance from women. Is he simply an insensitive chauvinist, or a crafty man hiding a secret?
Everything he believes in is challenged the day he walks in on a beautiful woman in the locker room. Dusty, the sharp-tongued spitfire, cuts the all-star pro down to size. Unwilling to accept second-class status, she challenges everything he knows about women.
Does a solo life make living with emotional pain easier? Drawn to the stunning, talented woman, Matt has a long way to go to win her trust. Getting close to Dusty is dangerous. Can he risk his well-protected heart? Matt faces a difficult choice -- will he make the right decision?

In case you want to read more of this stand-alone book, you'll find it in ebook, paperback and audio here: