RELEASE DAY: Whatever Life Throws at You by Julie Cross

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Whatever Life Throws at You

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Life loves a good curveball…

Seventeen-year-old Annie Lucas is too young to remember her dad’s glory days as a pitcher for the Yankees. So when her father is offered a coaching position with the Kansas City Royals, Annie is intrigued to see the baseball side of her dad. Of course, knowing he’ll be a mentor to hot young rookie pitcher, Jason Brody, certainly makes it more enticing.

After an awkward first meeting with “Brody” involving very little clothing and a much-too-personal locker room interview, Annie’s convinced she knows Brody’s type: arrogant, self-involved, bossy. As her dad grows closer to the pitching phenom, the friction between Brody and Annie increases. But when opening day arrives and it looks like both her dad and Brody may lose their dream jobs, Annie steps up and offers support. She and Brody call a truce that grows into friendship—and beyond. Falling for a rising star who’s quickly reaching a level that involves rabid female fans is not what Annie would call smart, except suddenly she’s getting hints that maybe this crush isn’t one-sided after all. Could someone like Brody actually fall for a girl like her?

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He eyes me skeptically. “What kind of article?”

“It’s for Sports Illustrated,” I say without hesitation and then quickly realize that I don’t look nearly old enough to be a real reporter for a huge publication. “I’m an intern,” I add.

The skepticism falls from his face and he looks nervous, which gives me a boost of confidence. I walk closer and pull out the chair in front of the locker beside his, propping my feet up on the bench across from me. “Frank Steadman said you’d be willing to answer a few questions.”

His mouth falls open, and he looks down at his towel and then back at me. Water drips from his hair and off his dark shoulders. “Um…okay,” he says. “Mind if I get dressed first?”

I wave off his concerns, my face heating up, blowing my confident cover. But him getting dressed might allow enough time for Dad to return, and I’d rather not have to deal with that. I duck my head down, letting my hair hide my cheeks and flip open the first page of the notebook. “This will just take a minute… So, you’re nineteen? And you’re from Texas?”

 “Chicago,” he corrects.

I had no idea where he was from but figured it sounded better if I pretended to know. I write down this information and then search my brain for some more questions. “Does the wind in Chicago affect your curveball? Do you throw into it or against it?”

He gives me a funny look. “I…well…I just throw toward home plate.”

My face gets even hotter. “Right, kidding. What’s your favorite color?”

 “Orange.”

I take my time writing orange in really big loopy cursive while I think of my next question. “What are your opinions on sushi?”

His forehead wrinkles like I’ve just asked him to publicly declare a political party. “Raw fish and seaweed? I think it’s best eaten while stranded on a desert island with no other options.”

 “Very diplomatic.” I scribble down his answer. “How many strikes have you thrown in your career?”

 “Don’t know,” he says. “Do people actually count that stuff? Before the majors?”

 “Some of them do,” I say, though I have no idea. “If you could be any magical creature in the Harry Potter series, which would you choose?”

 “You said this is for Sports Illustrated, right?”

“Yeees, But it’s the…kids’ edition.”

“Oh, right.” He scratches the back of his head. “I guess maybe one of those elves.”

“A house elf? Seriously? They’re slaves.” I shake my head. “Why would you want to be an enslaved elf? They can’t even wear clothes.”

He grips his towel tighter and releases a frustrated breath. “Fine, I’ll choose an owl. That’s what I’d want to be.”

I snort back a laugh and drop my eyes to the page again.

“What? What the hell’s wrong with being an owl? They’re smart, they know geography and shit like that.”

“Owls in real life are actually pretty stupid. But no big deal, I’ll just relay that message on to the children of America. Jason Brody, temporary Royals pitcher, wants to be an owl when he grows up because they know geography and shit like that.”

Okay, I’m getting way too into this fake reporter role.

“Who says this is temporary?” he snaps.

“Your two-way contract.” Isn’t that how Dad explained it? He plays a few games then goes back to Triple-A, all without signing a real major league contract.

He yanks a pair of jeans from his locker and then grabs a bundled up orange T-shirt. “Well, I plan on kicking some ass on Opening Day and making this a permanent gig.”

“I think you need a reality check,” I say. “One game isn’t going to be enough–”

“Annie, what the hell are you doing?”

I leap off the bench and turn around to face Dad and Frank standing about five feet from me. “Introducing myself to your new pitcher.”

“Brody, what are you doing here, son?” Frank asks. “We’re off today.”

“Just getting in some cardio and weights.” His gaze darts from me to Dad to Frank. “I was just finishing up this interview for Sports Illustrated. The kids’ edition.”

“Well, we won’t keep you from getting your clothes back on, then,” Frank says, like he’s trying not to laugh. “And just for future reference, all interviews will go through the team’s publicity department so no one will be wandering in here, surprising you. Savannah will meet with you tomorrow to discuss publicity.”

Dad moves forward and extends a hand to Jason Brody. “Jim Lucas, nice to meet you, son. I’ve seen your spring training videos. You’ve got some real talent. I’m looking forward to working with you.”

Brody shakes Dad’s hand, his eyes still on me.

“And this is my daughter Annie,” Dad adds.

Brody glares at me. “Let me guess—you don’t work for Sports Illustrated?”

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Julie Cross Author PhotoJulie Cross lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children. She’s a former gymnast and longtime gymnastics fan, coach, and former gymnastics program WHATEVER LIFE THROWS AT YOUctor with the YMCA. She’s a lover of books, devouring several novels a week, especially in the young adult and new adult genres. Outside of her reading and writing credentials, Julie is a committed—but not talented—long-distance runner, creator of imaginary beach vacations, Midwest bipolar-weather survivor, and expired CPR certification card holder, as well as a ponytail and gym-shoe addict.

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