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Very Unlikely Prologue

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

Please note this has not had a final proof.


Prologue


Lennox


“I thought your pitches broke records because you stroked one out too many times during your high school days, but the Matched app ding possessing your phone the past ten minutes proves otherwise. Tap ‘no’ occasionally, man. Leave some fish in the ocean for the rest of the chumps.”


Terrence, third baseman for Morrison State University, tosses me my cell phone. I only just catch it since my hands are wet from a recent shower I had to wash off the funk of a grueling training session. Even with the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1 baseball season not officially starting until February, Coach Randall has us running drills like tryouts are next week.


Mercifully, they’re not, leaving me plenty of time to comb through the matches I’ve secured the past week. Matched is like every other dating app out there, except it doesn’t pussyfoot around the fact it is a hook-up app. You scroll, you approve, and if you’re matched with someone in the area, you organize a time and a location.


Easy fucking peasy.


Dating has never been an issue for me, but with my athletic scholarship also based on academic performance, I don’t have time to wine and dine anyone, much less college girls yet to ditch the three-date rule. Matched keeps it simple. We match, we hook up, then we go our separate ways, but regretfully, there have been a handful of loonies constantly ruining it for the rest of us lately.


Fingers crossed, I don’t stumble onto one of them tonight. I’m eager for some fun. I’d just rather it be without the drama my father’s life is rarely without.


“I’m officially fucking jealous.” Sprouts of Terrence’s twisted black afro bounce along with his big head when he hops foot to foot. “Your matches are like scouring the pages of a Victoria’s Secret swimsuit edition.” He stops bouncing, cranks his neck, then scrolls back through my potential ‘dates’ like the fumbling fingers that should have gotten him booted from the minor league won’t have him accepting some unwanted pairings. “That is a Victoria’s Secret model, isn’t it?”


I take a closer look, my heart rate kicking up when the brunette’s face registers as familiar. “I think it is. Let’s send her a message.” I express my comment with a cocky edge that will have Terrence convinced I’m inviting him for a three-way. The truth is only exposed when I twist away from him to ensure Amia’s private message details aren’t disclosed.


A touch of the sky-high ego Amia’s immediate reply causes takes a beating when her message announces she’s out of town for a month. She’s keen. Just not until fashion week is over.


“Lucky there is still plenty of fish in the sea,” I murmur when Terrence’s chuckle about the disappointment on my face isn’t reserved. “Well… for some of us.”


When I scroll through possible candidates with immediate availability, Terrence keeps watch over my shoulder like his junk is covered by more than an almost see-through towel. I could tell him to scan his own potential hookups, but since that would have him de-nutted by his high school sweetheart, Indigo, I let him live precariously through me. It’s the least I can do since he conned the RA of his dorm into letting us room together.


Originally, I was assigned a dormitory on the other side of the campus. It was the furthest from the baseball mound and full of students who think a raging Friday night is playing dungeons and dragons until the self-imposed eleven o’clock curfew.


I met Terrence while scoping out the playing field Morrison spent over two million dollars perfecting last year. He organized for me to be bunkered with him within three hours of being informed about my rooming situation. We’ve been teammates and somewhat friends ever since.


I say ‘somewhat’ as I’ve walked in on him in the buff too often to feel comfortable giving our ‘thing’ an official title. Teammate works much better.


My bluish-green eyes lift from my cell’s screen when Terrence murmurs, “She’s cute. Different, but cute, nonetheless.” I unknowingly slowed my scroll on the profile of a petite blonde with big blue eyes and thick-rimmed glasses balancing on her tulip-shaped nose. She’s attractive but far left field compared to the type I usually go for. That might have more to do with the fact the goody-two-shoes, brainy girls don’t often troll Matched for Friday night entertainment. When they do, it’s because they’ve misunderstood how it operates. “She has the sexy scientist look down pat…” His words trail off when I flick past SummerNights23’s profile. “What was wrong with her? Girls can be smart and cute. Indigo sure puts that theory to the test.”


When he rubs his hands together as if he looks forward to Indigo’s recognition of his underhanded compliment, I dart my eyes around the locker room, seeking an electronic apparatus. Upon failing to find a flashing red light directed my way, I shift my suspicious eyes back to Terrence. “If I find out you re-registered me on Hidden Watch, you won’t need to worry about Indigo castrating you for looking with no intention to touch. I’ll be front and center with a pair of tweezers and a blow torch.”


Hidden Watch is a dating app for voyeurs. They don’t approach you like a married-up mother of four with a weekend free pass. They watch from afar like freaks with disfigured morals. The last time Terrence rigged his cell phone to the ceiling fan in our dorm without my permission, he made a fortune. Although my hits on Matched quadrupled when my videos went viral, I wasn’t given a chance to gobble up the attention. The instant my father gloated on social media that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, I scrapped the thousands of matches Hidden Watch had gained and started anew.


This is only my second week back in the game.


I look like my father and pitch like him, but our personalities are on opposite ends of the spectrum. He’s the sole reason I opted in for three years of school instead of being drafted to the MLB straight out of my senior year. The man who’s been watching me pitch since the ninth grade was peeved as fuck I turned down a fat-wadded offer ballers would sell their left kidney for, but after meeting my father, Lindsay understood my hostility.


Perhaps if my father were given the chance to be a youth when he was a youth, he wouldn’t be trying to relive his formative years now. He hurt my mother a lot during their ten years of marriage, and just when she had finally had enough, the universe had other plans for her.


After brushing off the downer my father’s multiple failures always plague me with, I whip off my towel, then tug on a pair of briefs and gray sweatpants. By the time a plain white tee covers my torso, an address for one of my Matched candidates has dropped into my inbox. It’s for a location not too far from Morrison, and our meetup time is only a short twenty minutes away, so instead of calling it a night like Terrence will since he is as pussy whipped as they come, I double tap on BookLover21’s message, agreeing to both the time and location cited, then slap Terrence on the shoulder. “Don’t wait up. Coach Laker's plan to exhaust us to the brink of collapse didn’t work. I’ve got a week’s worth of testosterone to disperse.”


When he reads my comment in the correct manner—my testosterone comment has nothing to do with excess hormones and everything to do with the heaviness of my nuts—he grimaces before reminding me to cover up. “Remember… herpes is for wimps.”


The first time he quoted that, my dick wanted to hibernate in my stomach. I wrongly believed he had heard about the rumor my father paid out the eye to make disappear. It was only after taking in a handful of conversations in the locker room did I unearth the reason for his caution. The head cheerleader wasn’t popular last season for no reason. The catcher, star quarterback, and almost all the basketball team discovered that the hard way in the weeks following summer break.


Thankfully, I rocked up for the first semester six weeks late, or I may have been one of those statistics. My fondness for cheerleaders only waned when I learned my father appreciated their easy-access skirts and midriff tops as much as I did. He also believes age is merely a number. Not even chasing girls in the same age bracket as his son slowed him down. If anything, it made him work harder.


With the hour late and my annoyance taken out on my bike’s throttle, I make it to the address cited in the Matched messenger app with four minutes to spare. I stand on the sidewalk with my helmet lodged under my arm and my dark brows drawn together. The location isn’t quite what I was expecting. It’s too quaint to be nestled between glammed-up sorority houses, but the ‘Best Coffee for the Next Four Hundred Miles’ sign flashing in the front window makes it even less kosher.


Curious to discover if the ‘50s bungalow has guest bedrooms, I walk up the cracked footpath and enter the carved wooden door. My lips twist when the pungent aroma of coffee filters through my nose. It smells rich and inviting, even with most college-goers preferring a different type of brew this late on a Friday night.


A smile tugs on my lips when a worker hustles my way. She’s juggling half a dozen empty mugs on a tray like her hands are double their size, and a smidge of the chocolate powder sprinkled on every beverage is dusting her noticeable yet still delicate nose.


In preparation to ask her if there are rooms in the back, I hold my finger in the air like a kindergarten student busting to use the bathroom. Before a word can fire from my mouth, the blonde with wild, crazy hair barely contained in an alligator clip dumps the dirty dishes into a sink a foot past a swinging kitchen door, then digs a cell phone out of the pocket of her dowdy overalls.


“No photos. I just want to enjoy my Friday night like an everyday guy.” When disappointment crosses her face, I groan out, “Fine. Just one, though. I’ve got places to be and people to schmooze.” I snatch her phone out of her hand, swipe up to clear the app she was in the process of scrolling, then jab my thumb onto the camera icon. “Smile.”


Snap.


My lips twist when I drink in the recently captured image. The flash bouncing off the waitress’s pale face and big blue eyes makes her look like a deer trapped in headlights, but I have the furled lip, angled jaw, arched brow model pose down pat. It’s a good picture. So much so, I forward it to myself so I can upload it to Matched after my date tonight, then I shift my attention back to the waitress.


It takes her a couple of seconds to get over her shock that she’s standing across from a three-time state champion, but when she does, her words come out snappier than I’m expecting. “Table twenty-three. Far right corner.”


After giving myself a moment to absorb both her abrupt dismissal and unique country twang, I inform, “I’m not here for coffee.”


I thought her husky yet still girlie voice would be her greatest asset, but the quiver of her top lip when she struggles to force it into a snarl proves otherwise. She’s extra cute when she is mad. You’ve just got to look past her mismatched clothing, uncontrollable hair, and multiple personalities to discover that. She went from greeting me with an I’ll-be-right-with-you smile to a stare that looks like she wants to conduct a science experiment with my intestines while I’m still alive.


“Believe me, Simple Simon, I know you’re not here for the coffee.” She drags her eyes down my body, her stare more heated than the scorn she delivers her words with when she repeats, “Table 23. Far right corner.”


Even confident the zap that darted up my arm when I curled it around her shoulders has short-circuited her brain, I’m more opposed to my intuition than I care to admit. So, after a wink that announces I won’t keep her from her horde of cats too long after closing, I head for the back of the almost empty café/bookshop in hunt for a table with twenty-three engraved in one corner.


When I find it, I seek the waitress’s eyes from across the room before pointing to the chipped wooden tabletop. I can read. I know I have the right table. I’m merely playing the role she cast for me the instant she recognized me.


She’s glaring at me like I’m nothing more than a dumb jock, so I am more than happy to give her an Oscar-winning performance. Her assumption that I’m an airhead is the reason I scrolled past the sexy scientist I was matched with earlier. The last story I heard about a jock and a nerd going head-to-head resulted in my conception. That fairytale didn’t have a happy ending, and although I am the spitting image of my father, I have no intention of retelling his story.


I’ve only just dug my phone out of my pocket to check the time when the waitress arrives at my table. When she digs her hand into the front of her apron, I mumble, “First a request for a photo, now an autograph. Are you planning to take my order at any stage tonight?”


My attitude takes a massive step back when she places the napkin onto the table before covering it with a frosty vanilla milkshake. “Figured you might need a pick-me-up. Wouldn’t want you falling asleep before the job is done.”


“And a vanilla shake will do that? Right.”


She gets one over me again when she sets down a double shot of espresso. Not only is it my beverage of choice, but it also proves she knows more about me than the little tidbits I share on social media. I raved about this concoction for weeks last month, but not once did I mention it on any media site, so she’s either been watching me, or I should have checked her phone for the Hidden Watch app after logging her out of Matched.


“Thanks,” I praise, my voice nowhere near as intense as the heat racing through my veins. I’m not concerned she’s looked me up. It’s part of my unpaid job description. I’m more wondering what someone like her is doing on the Matched app. She doesn’t seem like the one-night-stand type. I’d be surprised to learn she hooks up at all.


Our eyes meet when she mutters, “Don’t mention it.” Her voice lowers to that of a whisper before she adds, “It may be the only sweet thing you’ll consume tonight.”


After hitting me with the same wink I gave her earlier, she saunters off, her hips swinging when she feels the heat of my gaze on her ass. This will make me sound like an arrogant jerk, but so be it. I’m known for my honesty. I’d be a liar if I said she has a nice ass. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying her figure has my eyes wrenching away like there’s nothing enticing to drink in. I just can’t tell if I could bounce quarters off her backside or if it is as flat as a tack. The denim overalls she’s wearing with only one shoulder fastened like she rocked up to work straight out of a ‘90s music clip isn’t doing her any favors, and neither is the super baggy shirt plumping out the outfit she should have left hidden in the back of her mother’s closet.


All she needs is a pair of white lace ankle-capped socks and teased-out bangs, and she’d be a perfect ring-in for a Guns and Roses remake. Her crazy platinum blonde locks are pulled off her heart-shaped face with an outdated hair clip, her eyeshadow is all types of a fucked-up blue, and her shoes are neither sneakers nor boots. They’re a combination of both.


She’s a goddamn mess, but for some reason, I can’t help but smile while taking in her springy steps. She’s so comfortable in her own skin, she doesn’t give a fuck what I think about her. It’s a refreshing change from the girls I usually hang out with.


I’m so occupied mentally stripping back the waitress’s layers, I startle to within an inch of my life when my thorough inspection is interrupted by a massive pair of double Ds.


“Lenigan69?” asks a busty brunette with nipples that should come with a warning. One inch closer and I would have lost an eye!


My inward chuckle about my witty monologue hides my disklike of the nickname Terrence inputted when he signed me up for Matched, freeing BookLover21 to take a seat across from me.

“I hope you don’t mind that I organized for us to meet here. First meetings are hard.” Even with her nipples showing she’s cold, she removes her jacket, then curls it over her barely covered thighs. “Like do you just say ‘hi, come on in, let’s fuck?’ Or should you do coffee first? I always struggle, so I thought, ‘Chelsea, your sorority house is next door to a coffee shop. Take advantage.’” Her hand shoots up to cover her clearly veneered teeth when she laughs like she’s accustomed to having one-sided conversations. “So here we are. Having coffee.” Her eyes lower to the milkshake and double shot of espresso the waitress delivered earlier before she says with a pout, “Well… I’m not really sure you can call that coffee, and I thought you would have waited for me before ordering.”


With her sulk game strong, she tosses her hand in the air to summon the waitress to her side like we’re at a world-famous restaurant instead of a little unknown coffee shop.


Although disgruntled about how she was beckoned, like magic, the waitress arrives at our table in under a second. Like earlier, she isn’t carrying a pen and paper to jot down Chelsea’s order. She’s balancing a pot of boiling water, a saucer, and a porcelain cup on a tray with a box of teabags of various flavors.


“Oh, my goodness,” Chelsea purrs out with a long sigh of happiness. “You ordered for me and got it right. Golly gosh. I don’t know what to say.”


I really wish that were true. Her voice is so high, the dogs in the neighborhood respond to it like they’re being called to battle. It’s equally ear-piercing and nasally.


When my eyes shoot to the waitress, curious as fuck to learn how she knows everyone’s favorite brew, she smiles a grin that has me forgiving her warped sense of style before she whispers, “Don’t worry, the water is only lukewarm.”


I’m lost to what she means, but like all good college stories, Chelsea clues me in only thirty seconds later. She doesn’t take kindly to my reminder that Matched isn’t a dating site. It’s for people who want to fuck. And her frustration sees her tossing her recently filled teacup into my face. The murky brown liquid ruins my shirt, but thankfully, due to the quick-thinking waitress, my face remains scald-free.


“I will have you know, my nipples may be in a constant state of erection, and I may have an inclination for sniffing soiled undergarments, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be treated like a lady!” As quickly as Chelsea’s psycho switch flicked on, it switches back off. “So please remember that during our walk to my sorority house. I don’t want my sisters thinking poorly of me.” After placing down two crisp one-dollar bills onto a check more than six times that amount, she nudges her head to the front of the café. “Shall we?”


“Umm…” For the first time in my life, I am lost for words. I sure as fuck don’t want to go home with her—I’ll most likely end up tied to a boiler in the buff for the next six years if I do—but I don’t know how to tell Chelsea that without risking having my face peeled off by the bubbling bowl of soup of the patron sitting next to us. “I haven’t finished my beverage yet,” I eventually blurt out upon noticing my full yet ruined vanilla milkshake.


When Chelsea prepares to retake her seat, I’m saved by the waitress for the second time tonight. “He also failed to advise you he has herpes.” While folding her arms under her chest, she locks her eyes with mine. “You know it’s a requirement of your parole, Lennox. One more failure to give notice will see you sentenced this time around. The judge excused the first three instances but only because the cluster of infections it spread during the off-season was the worst the Infectious Disease Department had ever seen.” She gags like she personally inspected the pus-filled warts. “He knew the university’s reputation would never recover from such a scandal.”


Chelsea’s eyes bounce between the waitress and me for the next several seconds. Her mouth is hanging open, exposing she’d have no trouble taking a man with my girth, but it’s also bone-dry, hinting that it would be a rough and scratchy road to climax.


Her lips only become friendly again when the waitress mumbles, “But I guess you could class this as disclosure if you want. You know he’s crusty. He knows you’re willing to risk infection to see if his off-field bat is as big as his on-field one. It’s kind of perfect.”


“Ah…” Chelsea looks as speechless as I did earlier, but there clearly isn’t as many pockets of air in her brain as her ditzy appearance indicates. “I just remember it’s my turn to vacuum the lawn… uh, mow the lawn. I need to mow the lawn.”


After digging a handful of bills out of her purse, she dumps them onto the table before making a beeline for the closest exit. The gust of her race is still felt by my face when the waitress hums out in a singsong voice, “Her share of the bill only covered your tip. You can pay the rest at the register on your way out.”


Once she stuffs Chelsea’s notes into the front pocket of her stained apron, she collects the dishes from my table, including my untouched drink, then moseys back to the kitchen.


I take a second to gather some sort of normality before taking off after her. “How did you know she was a full-on psycho?”


She pours my double shot of espresso down the sink before stacking it and my milkshake glass into a dishwasher on her right. “It isn’t hard. A pattern is a pattern no matter how wonky the design.” After stacking the dishes she juggled earlier into the almost overflowing dishwasher, she turns it on, then twists to face me. Her face is prettier than I gave credit for earlier, even with the recent scrub of her nose adding to the sprinkling of cocoa dusting it. “All minorities present the same.” She waves he