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Straddling the Line

By:Jaci Burton

ONE


"HAVEN'S IN TROUBLE."

Those were words Trevor Shay never wanted to hear, especially not less than a year after the death of Haven's dad, Bill.

Bill Briscoe had been more than just a dorm parent back in Trevor's  college days. He and his wife, Ginger, had been like substitute parents,  especially to Trevor, who'd needed guidance more than the rest of them.

And now he sat in Ginger's living room, in a house he'd once thought of as his second home.

Trevor had always counted on Ginger's confidence, that smile and  optimism that had assured him everything was going to be all right.

Now she just looked worried.

He picked up her hand. "What's wrong?"

"She hasn't been herself since Bill died. You know Haven. She's always  been upbeat, and she'd come to grips with the eventuality of Bill's  death." Ginger took a deep breath. "As we all did."

Trevor squeezed her hand.

"It wasn't like we didn't know it was coming. Bill prepared us all for it, made sure we were ready. Never thinking of himself."

He saw the tears welling in her eyes and wished he could take them away.

"I know, Miss Ginger. I know. I miss him, too."

She grabbed a tissue. "He'd kick my butt if he saw me cryin' over him.  But Haven, she has a great life and an amazing future. She got a job  with the network as a sports journalist."

Trevor smiled. "I heard about that."

"It's an amazing opportunity for her. One she should be seizing. I told her that her father would be so proud of her."

"He would."

"Instead, what is she doing? She's thinking about quitting the job and coming back here to live with me."

Trevor leaned back and frowned. "Coming back here? Why?"

"I don't know. She said something about getting a job at the local TV station instead."

"Is that what she really wants?"

"I don't think so." Ginger leaned forward. "Trevor, I don't know what to  do. She hasn't even given this new job a shot. I think she's scared,  and without her dad, she feels alone for the first time in her life."

"She's not alone, Miss Ginger. She has you."

"I know that. And believe me, I don't feel slighted in the least. I know  Haven loves me. I also know she's worried about me being here all  alone. I don't want her to make a mistake and screw up the best job she  might ever have because of me, and because of her fear."

She paused, took a breath. "I was hoping you could offer me some advice,  tell me what I could say to her to make her stay in her job."

Trevor thought about it a minute. "Let me see what I can do about that."

"Thank you. I know you're big in the sports world, and I don't know if  there's anything you can do for her, but gosh, I'd sure appreciate  anything. Anything at all."

An idea formed in his head. He had the pull. He could get this done. And  he'd do anything for Ginger, and to honor Bill's memory. Haven needed  help, and he sure as hell was in a position to help her.

He spent the day with Ginger, and honestly, it was great to see her  again, to while away the hours talking about Bill, reminiscing about  college life. Besides, she fixed him lunch, and he loved her home-cooked  meals. Hours later as he sat on the plane on his way back to St. Louis  for a game, Trevor already had the plan formulated. The media were  constantly hounding him for a feature story on his life and career.  After all, it wasn't too many athletes who played multiple sports. At  least not too many who played them well. He'd been closed off to the  idea of it for a lot of reasons.

He leaned back in his seat and smiled.

Now it was Haven's turn to shine. And he was just the person to make it happen.

HAVEN TRIED TO MUSTER UP ENOUGH SALIVA TO SWALLOW as she pressed the button to return the phone call she'd missed from her boss.

She knew what was on the other end of that phone call.

Her ass was going to be fired, less than six weeks after she'd gotten the job of a lifetime.

It would have been much better if she could have resigned. It would have  looked better on her résumé, but then again, what did she care? Her  career in journalism was over anyway, right?

Never quit. Whatever you do, Haven, never give up on anything until you're sure you've given it everything you have.

Her father's words rang in her ears, guilt squeezing her stomach until  nausea caused her fingers to pause on the call button of her phone.

It was too late to beg to keep her job. She'd already passed up multiple  travel assignments, content to do the local ones, then sit in her  apartment in New York, dwelling on how much she missed home, her mom.         

     



 

Her dad.

This wasn't the right career for her. She'd made a mistake accepting  this job. She wasn't cut out for the rigors of sports news-the travel,  the insane schedule, the arrogant athletes.

What was she thinking? Her father hadn't even been gone a year yet.

She couldn't do it.

Be brave, Haven. You can do anything, be anything you want to be. Just be happy.

Tears pricked her eyes and she swiped them away as every conversation  they'd had those last few weeks replayed in a reel over and over in her  head.

Be happy.

She didn't know how to be happy without hearing her father's laugh,  seeing his smiling face, being able to pick up the phone and talk to him  every day.

Who was she going to go to when she needed advice?

She loved her mother, and in the ways of relationships and men and things like that, she had always gone to her mom.

But her dad-he'd been her buddy. She'd learned about sports from her  father, had sat next to him and watched football, baseball, hockey, and  every sport imaginable. He'd taught her balls and strikes in baseball  and the difference between a post pattern and a shovel pass in football.  They'd driven up to St. Louis together and taken in all the  professional sports. She'd never been more content than to sit next to  her dad and watch games with him.

She'd learned to love sports because of her dad.

She'd gone after this job because of him.

And now she was going to be fired because she hadn't had the energy  after his death to do this job she'd wanted for years. For that, she  only had herself to blame.

"I'm sorry, Dad," she said, then pushed the call button on her phone. It rang. She was hoping for voice mail.

"Haven. I've been waiting for you to call."

She cringed as the loud and very no-nonsense voice of her boss, Chandler Adams, came on the line.

"Hi, Chandler. Sorry. I got tied up."

"Well, untie yourself. I have a job for you."

"A . . . job?" He wasn't firing her?

"Yeah. You know Trevor Shay, right?"

"Trevor . . . yes, I know him."

"Great. We're going to do his bio. A whole feature on the life of Trevor  Shay. Personal and professional. We've been after him for years to do  this, and he kept putting us off, until now. He's finally agreed to let  us do the feature, and he's asked for you."

"For me?"

"Yeah. Says you two go way back to college."

"Uh . . . yes. I knew him in college."

"Then it's a damn good thing we hired you, Haven. Pack a bag. You'll  meet him at his place in St. Louis to get everything set up. Narrative  and background first, and then we'll get camera work involved later."

Was she in some alternate universe? She hadn't been fired. In fact,  she'd just been assigned to interview one of the biggest stars in the  sports world right now.

"Okay. Sure. Thanks, Chandler."

"No, problem. I'll e-mail you the specs on what we're looking for from  you on this, Haven. This assignment's going to take a while, so clear  your calendar."

"Consider it done."

When she hung up, she sat back and stared out the window of her very  tiny apartment, stunned that she hadn't been kicked out the door. She'd  been mentally prepared, and as she stared at the boxes in her apartment,  already half packed, she realized she'd been set in her mind that she  was going to head back to Oklahoma to be near her mother, her roots.

Where memories of her dad were.

Now she had to change her focus.

Why had she agreed to do this interview? This job wasn't what she wanted to do anymore.

Was it?

She sat on the bed.

Follow your dreams, Haven.

She still heard her dad's voice so clearly in her head. Maybe he was  trying to tell her something. She didn't know if this was her dream  anymore, but she'd agreed to take this job.

With Trevor Shay, of all people. She hadn't seen Trevor since her dad's  funeral. She wondered how he'd react knowing it was her doing this  assignment.

He'd probably ignore her, just like he had in college.

No, wait. He'd specifically asked for her. He'd agreed to the  interviews, so this time, she wouldn't allow him to pretend she didn't  exist.

She got up and went to her closet to grab her suitcase.

Her and Trevor Shay. God, she'd had such a crush on him in college, back  when she was tutoring him. All those nights they spent shoulder to  shoulder, when she'd done her best to try to persuade him to focus on  his books, when all she'd really wanted was for him to notice her as a  woman.         

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