There was a pulsing energy rumbling through the Rattler's stadium. An odd mix of quietness waiting with bated breath and a hungry rumble as the first batter in the bottom of the ninth stood in the box. This was it. It was for all the marbles. It'd been a long season of ups and downs and being here on baseball's biggest stage felt like pipe dream through the slumps of the long season, but somehow Gunner and the rest of the Rattlers were in the bottom of the ninth of the final game in the World Series.
They'd been battling hard all game, and the score went back and forth. If the Rattler's didn't score this inning, the game would go into extra innings, and my already nervousness would skyrocket even further. Gunner had given me lots of baseball lessons this year.
Makenna reached over and squeezed my hand, lacing her fingers with my mine. "It's going to be okay."
I took my eyes off the field for a second and stared at her. "You don't know that," I whisper-hissed.
"Gunner's got this, Mom." Tuck sounded so confident. He was sitting on the edge of his seat, gripping the armrests. He was just as nervous as me, even if he wasn't showing it. "Look, there he is!"
Tuck pointed to the on-deck circle where batters warmed up and got ready before it was their turn. The game was tied. All of our friends and family were here. Jenna sat on the other side of Tuck. We took up almost the entire row. I didn't want to sit in the family suite for this game; I wanted to be so close to the field. It was also Tuck's preferred spot, front row, and in between the dugout and home plate.
Colt reached over Makenna, and she backed into her seat, avoiding contact with his arm as he squeezed my leg. "Sorry, Mak," he said.
Colt's gaze slid to mine. "They're going to win."
I nodded. I wanted this for Gunner so badly. Every fountain I passed, I threw in a penny for luck. I got down on my knees and prayed every night. I sat with Gunner in our favorite spot, our back deck porch swing wrapped in each other's arms, and wished on the stars. Even better than all of that, Gunner and his team wanted to win so badly, and they kept fighting.
The ball cracked against the wooden bat and flew just an inch past the third baseman's glove. We had one runner on the bases as Gunner approached the batter's box. The air stalled in my lungs and every muscle tensed.
"Go, Gunner!" Tuck stood, clapping his hands. Ridge joined him, using two fingers in his mouth to blow a whistle. I resisted the urge to hide behind my hands. Part of the reason I was so nervous wasn't about winning or losing the World Series. I had something to tell Gunner and somehow Makenna got it into my head that it would be romantic if I told him after he'd won the biggest game of his life.
I never thought about if they would lose. I shook my head. I couldn't do that now either.
Gunner strolled in front of us with a swagger in his step. His head turns to the side and he made eye contact with me. "This is for you, buttercup." And winked.
I couldn't stop the grin from spreading across my face and shook my head at his cocky demeanor and it brought me back to this morning before he left for the stadium. He'd kissed his way down my body making promises with each kiss. And, I swore to give him the night of his life if he won for me.
My eyes were glued to Gunner's taut ass in his tight baseball pants as he did his usual routine before batting. When he was in his stance, my eyes roamed every part of his form. Every muscle was tense and ready for the action. I bit my lip as desire flooded me.
Makenna laughed and I tore my eyes away from Gunner for a split second. "Your dirty thoughts are written all over your face."
I shrugged and turned my attention back to my man as the pitcher wound up and launched the ball toward Gunner. I released a pent up breath as the umpire bellowed "ball!".
The entire routine started again and with each passing second, my lungs seized again. Gunner's hands tightened on the bat as the ball released from the pitcher's grip and came toward him. The ball and Gunner's bat collected. Simultaneously our row lifted their heads in the air watching the ball sailing back, back, back as the other team's outfielder ran toward the wall, but it was over. It was gone. Gunner hit a homerun and the stadium erupted.
Tucker wrapped his arms around my waist and our family and friends converged on us, but my eyes were still lost in the crowd across the stadium where someone had caught that ball. Slowly my eyes went to the field as I watched Gunner trot around the bases and his team waited for him at home, bouncing up and down. The crowd was roaring and was deafening, but I barely heard it.
The only thing I knew was Gunner was staring at me with a grin on his handsome face. He shot me a wink as he rounded third and went home. A few feet before he reached his celebrating teammates, his eyes turned skyward and he patted his chest before looking up and pointing.
I closed my eyes and silently thanked Declan.
I could only hope the baby I was carrying in my belly was a boy who would grow up with Gunner's best friend's name.
The security guard opened the hidden gate on the retaining wall and led other player's families and us through. Gunner broke away from his team. He had a t-shirt on his head and he unbuttoned the buttons on his jersey top as he walked toward me, not looking anywhere else. My gaze dropped to his abs and I bit my lip.
"Buttercup." Gunner's voice was deep, scratchy, and holding so much emotion as we finally met on the field. He put on the World Series Champion shirt and I launched myself into his arms, wrapping my legs around his middle. He held me, crushing his face into my neck and breathed me in. I knew he was feeling overwhelming emotions. Happiness he won. Disbelief that a lifelong dream happened. But, also sadness that Declan wasn't here.
I held him tight and whispered in his ear. "Congratulations, baby. I'm so proud of you. I love you so much."
"Buttercup." My nickname from him was his only response. He finally lifted his head and kissed me. His tongue swept into my mouth and his hands tightened on my back. I broke the kiss and slid down his body, but kept my arms wrapped around him.
Tucker crashed into us from the side, nestling his way between us. Tears were streaming down his face. Jenna wrapped her arms around Gunner from the other side of us. The rest of our family and friends joined in on our huddle.
I smiled and looked into Gunner's gorgeous blue eyes. "I'm pregnant."
He slowly blinked. I felt Tuck's head come up. "What?" They said in unison.
"I'm pregnant," I repeated as my smile never wavered.
Our entire group started jumping up and down celebrating and hugging us tighter. A slow grin began to spread across Gunner's face and his large hand slid to my belly. "We're having a baby?" He asked.
"We need to get married," he said.
"We have to wait until the barn is done at the inn."
He looked over his shoulder at my dad. "Can I pay the contractors to work faster and get it done as soon as possible?"
My dad nodded, walking around the group and kissed my temple. "We'll figure something out."
"Can I call you Dad when you marry my mom?"
Gunner turned his attention to Tuck and squatted down, but kept an arm around my waist. Neither of us was willing to let go of the other one. "You can call me that now."
Tucker wrapped his arms around Gunner's neck. A fresh wave of tears coated my eyes. In my wildest dreams, I wouldn't have been able to imagine a better moment. When they broke the hug, Gunner stood again, planting a searing kiss on my lips as he whispered against them. "You owe me the night of my life. I told you I'd win for you."
I laughed and kissed him back as my core clenched thinking of what's to come. "I can't wait."
"I love you, buttercup."
"I love you, too."
Want to know what happens next? Get ready to meet Zoe and Ridge!