Whatever Life Throws At You ONLY
by Internationally Bestselling Author Julie Cross
Seventeen-year-old Annie Lucas’s life is completely upended the moment her dad returns to the major leagues as the new pitching coach for the Kansas City Royals. Now she’s living in Missouri (too cold), attending an all-girls school (no boys), and navigating the strange world of professional sports. But Annie has dreams of her own—most of which involve placing first at every track meet…and one starring the Royals’ super-hot rookie pitcher.
But nineteen-year-old Jason Brody is completely, utterly, and totally off-limits. Besides, her dad would kill them both several times over. Not to mention Brody has something of a past, and his fan club is filled with C-cupped models, not smart-mouthed high school “brats” who can run the pants off every player on the team. Annie has enough on her plate without taking their friendship to the next level. The last thing she should be doing is falling in love.
But baseball isn’t just a game. It’s life. And sometimes, it can break your heart…
Title: Whatever Life Throws At You
Author: Julie Cross
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Length: 384 pages
Release Date: October 2014
Print ISBN: 978-1-62266-404-7
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-62266-299-9
Price listed is for the U.S. digital format. Please confirm pricing and availability with the retailer before downloading.
Praise for Whatever Life Throws At You:
“I loved this book so hard. It was perfect, fun, and swoony!”
—Katrina Tinnon of Bookish Things & More
“Julie Cross’ writing is so addictive that you will be instantly hooked. I fell in love with Jason Brody!”
—Amanda Pedulla of Stuck in YA Books
“A delicious mix of baseball and romance, Whatever Life Throws at You is a book I was reluctant to put down. I absolutely loved it!”
—Jessica of Stuck in Books
“An irresistible story about family, first love, and following your heart.”
—Jen of Jenuine Cupcakes
“Julie Cross once again delivers with this swoon-worthy, laugh-out-romance between a sexy rookie baseball player and the new coach’s daughter.”
—Yara Santos of Once Upon a Twilight
“Whatever Life Throws at You is a perfect story about growing up and the hardships you’ll uncover no matter what profession you choose. It’s filled with laughs, heartbreaks, tears, suspense, and plenty of romance.”
—Jessica Reigle of Step Into Fiction
An Excerpt from:
An Whatever Life Throws At You
by Julie Cross
Copyright © 2014 by Julie Cross. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Annie Lucas: Goodbye Arizona, you have been wonderful to me. Facebook, you are my only friend now
20 hours ago, near Gallup, NM
Annie Lucas: States I’ve visited in the last 2 days—Arizona (hot, dry, familiar), New Mexico (why not call it Arizona? What’s the point of separation?), Texas (slept through it), Oklahoma (hot cowboys at rest stops that hold doors open and call me ma’am, MORE PLEASE!), Kansas (Toto, we’re totally not in Arizona anymore)
6 hours ago, near Wichita, KS
Annie Lucas: Does anyone else find it ironic that I have to leave Kansas to get to Kansas City? Why do humans insist on making life more complicated than it needs to be?
2 hours ago, near Topeka, KS
Annie Lucas: One question—who is Lee and what is he summiting?
1 hour ago, near Kansas City, MO
Annie Lucas: Apparently Kansas City is the barbecue capital of the world. Wtf? Is it also land of the frozen zombie people? How do they barbecue in this weather?
30 minutes ago, near Topeka, Kansas
I’m freezing my ass off.
Dad’s standing on the pitcher’s mound, mesmerized by the empty stadium. “Get over here, Annie!”
I jog over to him and stare at home plate. “Looks great. Now can we please go look at your office? Frank’s ready to give us the inside tour.”
“How many people get to say they’ve seen home plate from the pitcher’s mound?”
“Thousands.” I tug his arm. My hands are numb and my nose is running. “Isn’t March supposed to be springtime? Where’s the spring?”
“All right, all right, let’s go inside.” Dad laughs and throws an arm around my shoulders. “I never knew you were such a cold-weather wimp.”
I give him a shove. “Whose fault is that? You’ve never dragged me anywhere cold before. It’s dangerous. We could die out here.”
He laughs even harder, and we finally catch up to Frank, who is standing in the dugout with Grams. I hadn’t been as impressed with the stadium as Dad. I’d been to the Diamondbacks’ stadium in Arizona, and the Rangers’ stadium in Texas, but walking from the dugout to the locker room, I’ve completely changed my attitude.
Seeing the inside of the athletic training facility, the place where they sit before a game, the place where they get good news and bad news, is so cool. The locker room is huge and the office Dad’s now going to occupy is off to the right of the players’ lockers. There’s a couch across from Dad’s desk where Grams and I take a seat. Grams walked a lot already today and it looks like she’s about to nod off any second. I reluctantly remove my coat even though I’m wearing appropriate cold weather clothing—skinny jeans, furry boots, and a sweater. It doesn’t seem warm enough, even inside.
“Annie and Evelyn can wait here while I introduce you to the rest of the coaching staff,” Frank tells Dad.
“Ann?” Dad asks.
I give him a nod even though I’m starving and tired from the long drive and also pretty curious about this house we’re supposed to live in that I still haven’t seen yet. It’s not like I could really say no and demand a snack and a nap. I’m seventeen, not five.
“What do you think, Grams?” I say after the thud of Dad’s non-leg has stopped and he and Frank are in some conference room.
“Holiday Inn is so much better than that Marriott place,” Grams says. “I saw bugs in the shower.”
“We’re staying in our new house tonight, Grammsie.”
“Well, good.” She leans her head back against the couch. “Wake me up when we get there.”
I roll my eyes. “Sure thing.” There’s a stack of spiral notebooks on the desk, and all of them have the blue and white Kansas City logo in the center. I pick one up, grab a pen, and start doodling until fifteen minutes pass on the clock behind Dad’s desk. My stomach growls loudly.
Grams is snoring now, so I decide to go in search of food—there must be a vending machine around here somewhere. I reach the doorway of Dad’s office and stop.
Jason Brody and all his dark hair and dark eyes and muscles is standing in front of a locker whistling to himself.
Wearing only a towel.
I can’t decide if I should dive back into the office or make him aware of my presence. I doubt Dad would have left me in this office if he’d anticipated naked baseball players roaming around.
A blaring rock song from his phone sends my heart all the way up to my throat. I’m still frozen in the doorway when Jason Brody answers his cell.
“Hey, how’s it going?” he says, then pauses to listen to the person on the other end. “Yeah, you’re assuming I actually know where anything is in this town.” Another pause. “Live music, beer, and easy women? I think I can handle that.”
I roll my eyes in disgust. What a pig.
“Um, yeah, I’ve got the ID thing covered. No worries.”
Now I really don’t want to be caught like a deer in headlights when he drops that towel and puts on his clothes. And if Jason Brody finds out I was lurking in the doorway like a high school girl trying to get a glimpse of a naked major league baseball player, I will literally die of humiliation.
He’d probably get off on that, too, and I’d rather not give him that option. Which leaves me only one choice—dive back into the office and hide out until he’s gone. I turn partway around and the notebook slips from my hand, the metal rings on the side clanking against the floor. My arm crosses the doorway barrier when I reach down to snatch up the notebook.
He jumps a mile when he spots me. “Jesus!”
Okay, now I’ve really only got one choice. I stride out into the open, preparing to introduce myself. My gaze drifts down to the towel dangerously close to slipping off his waist.
He grabs the ends, holding it together with one hand. “Sorry, I thought I was alone.”
My heart takes off in a sprint. I can’t do it. I can’t just say I’m Annie, a seventeen-year-old high school girl. “Um yeah… I’m…” He stares at me waiting for my big reveal. The notebook and pen in my hand catch my attention, giving me an idea. I swallow back the fear and lie. “I’m interviewing players for an article. You’re Jason Brody, right?”
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 have no idea where he was from but figure 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?”
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?”
I turn quickly and head toward the office again. “I’m starving. Can we get dinner?”
Franks laughs and Dad groans like I’ve embarrassed him. He’s probably regretting leaving me alone in the first place.
By the time we’re ready to leave the stadium, Jason Brody is fully dressed, winter jacket zipped up, and following us out of the building.
He grabs my arm and holds me back, allowing some distance to form between us and Dad, Grams, and Frank. “Well played, Annie Lucas.”
I shrug and flash him a smile. “Thanks.”
“You’re gonna write that interview for me,” he says, winking at me with a knowing smile.
I keep my eyes forward. “I’m not writing anything for you.”
“Fine, then I’ll just have to explain to your dad some of the concerns I have for his daughter’s well-being,” he says.
I grab his coat sleeve. “What concerns?”
His eyes dance with amusement. “Touching naked guys inappropriately…”
“I did not touch you!” I let out a breath and lower my voice. “Besides, he’s not going to believe you.”
“Maybe not,” he says, all casual. “But I do think your lying problem and your lack of respect for other people’s privacy could be masking a bigger psychological issue. You might find therapy helpful.”
“Whatever.” I fold my arms across my chest and continue walking. “Don’t you have beer and women waiting for you? Better hurry so you’re not late.”
Of course Dad wouldn’t really send me to therapy, but my behavior was a bit extreme and Brody looked really uncomfortable when they walked in. Better not take any chances.
“Can’t wait to read my interview,” he says before rounding the corner and heading in a different direction.
I stand there for a minute scowling at his back and then jog to catch up with Dad, wondering what Brody would say next time I saw him without that interview.
It’s hard to complain about the weather after seeing the large four bedroom ranch home Frank rented for us. My room even has a bathroom. I’ve been sharing one with Dad for as long as
I can remember. Dad’s also got a brand-new silver SUV, which gives me full driving privileges to our very old, yet still running family car.
So yeah, I’m liking Kansas City so far. Even after the Jason Brody incident.
The movers have already arrived with our stuff and piled the boxes in various rooms. The house is furnished, so we only brought clothes and other non-furniture items. All I want to do is flop on my new queen-sized bed and play around on my laptop, but Frank is still here standing in the living room with us, waiting for some woman named Savannah to arrive.
I’m trying to figure out how to work the TV for Grams when a twenty-something red-headed woman walks through the front door carrying clothes on hangers with dry cleaner plastic in one arm and a stack of folders in the other arm. She’s wearing heels, a black pencil skirt, and a matching black blazer. She looks the opposite of a baseball-associated person.
“Savannah, you’re under there somewhere, aren’t you?” Frank jokes, reaching out to take the dry cleaning order from her arms, setting the clothes across the back of the couch.
The woman reaches out to shake Dad’s hand. We’ve both been doing a lot of hand shaking today. “Nice to finally meet you in person after all the emailing over the last month.”
“I’m gonna take off. Call me if you need anything,” Frank says, heading toward the door. He turns to me before leaving. “And stay out of trouble, kid, all right? Jason Brody’s going to turn interview shy if you spend any more time around him.”
Somehow I doubt I’ll ever be able to fool him again.
I stand up perfectly straight and give Frank a salute. “Yes, sir.”
Savannah immediately launches into a major info dumping session with Dad, pulling out various papers from folders for him to sign. She’s going through the hours Grams’ babysitter will be here to keep an eye on her when I finally get a good look at the clothes across the back of the couch.
I pick up the first hanger and hold it out. “Dad, have you taken up bagpipes as a hobby?”
Savannah laughs. “Those are your school uniforms.”
Savannah looks from Dad to me. “For St. Teresa’s Academy.” It’s obvious to Savannah that Dad has made some plans without informing me. She looks worried. “Oh boy…your dad said to find the best track program in the area and this school has the best girls’ track-and-field coach in the state. They won last year.”
I lift the hanger up to get a good look at the red plaid skirt. “Well, this is different. That’s for sure. Do they care that I’m not Catholic?”
“Not really,” Savannah says. “But I can give you a crash course
if you’d like?”
I let out a breath. I don’t want Dad to know I’m nervous since I’ve conveyed nothing but confidence regarding this whole move north. That’s probably why I subconsciously avoided
drilling him with questions about school and the house before arriving in Kansas. No, Missouri. “Yeah, we should do that.”
Savannah helps me carry all the clothes to my room. I sit on he bed and watch her peel off the plastic covers and place the five skirts, seven white polo shirts, and two V-neck sweaters into the closet. “The school’s about twenty minutes from here. It’s right downtown near the stadium.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever worn a skirt to school in my entire life,” I admit.
She gives me a sympathetic smile. “The good thing about uniforms is that you’ll look like everyone else.”
“The boys wear skirts, too?”
She stops in the middle of smoothing pleats. “No boys.”
I stare incredulously at her. “An all-girls school?”
“Is that bad?”
“I don’t know.” We’ve moved a lot and with taking care of Grams, outside of the ex-boyfriend, I haven’t really had many close friends that are girls. My ex’s friends were my friends, which means by default, we all sort of broke up when he and I split. “Girls can be a pain in the ass sometimes but then again, much of that revolves around boys and fighting over boys so maybe…” I look at Savannah. “What do you think?”
She takes a seat in the desk chair. “I went to visit last week and it seemed very relaxed, no one really wore much makeup, lots of ponytails and headbands. I think the lack of boys allows everyone to sleep in a little later in the morning.”
I shrug. “Guess I can live with that.” I wouldn’t say I ever really primped for boys at school but I’m sure even I was influenced by their presence at least a little. “So the track team is good? Have they already started practices?”
Savannah looks relieved that I’m not throwing a teenage tantrum and goes back to hanging uniforms. “Yes, they have, but the coach is really looking forward to having you. Your dad emailed your times and events from last year to her. Also, I haven’t picked any courses for you or anything. You’ll meet with the counselor tomorrow morning and take care of all that.”
I’m not used to having people hang up clothes for me. I’ve been doing mine, Dad’s, and Grams’ laundry for years. Sitting and watching her work for me is uncomfortable so I grab a box from the floor, toss it onto the bed, and start removing items. “Thanks for…you know…visiting the school and all that. I’m sure the last thing you wanted to have to deal with is registering someone’s kid for high school.”
“I don’t mind at all,” she says. “I’ve wanted to visit St. Teresa’s for a while now. I’d love for my daughter to go there.”
I drop my running shoes onto the bed. “You have a daughter?”
“Lily.” She gives me a sheepish grin. “She’s only six, but I can’t help planning ahead. Not sure if I’ll be able to afford the tuition at St. Teresa’s though. We’ll see.”
“Is it expensive?” Can Dad afford it? I’d been too caught up in the Catholic, uniform, all-girls school details so private school equals expensive hadn’t crossed my mind.
“It’s five times more money than the neighborhood Catholic elementary school around here,” she admits. “That’s where Lily goes now. She’s a first grader.”
“You live in this neighborhood?” I’m surprised because it’s kind of fancy and she just expressed concern with school tuition.
“We live in the apartment complex a few blocks away.” She’s finished hanging all my school clothes, but instead of leaving, she picks up a box of clothes from home and begins unpacking that next. “Jake London’s daughter goes to St. Teresa’s, too. They live right down the street.”
I’m carrying a stack of books from the bed to the shelf beside the dresser. “Jake London?”
“First baseman,” she says.
“Oh, right.” I shake my head. I tend to reference players by their position rather than names. Probably because I’ve never really had to address one personally. Until Jason Brody. Ugh. “What exactly is your job?” I ask Savannah.
“For your dad, I’ll handle scheduling, interviews, and travel arrangements, and I work with two of the other coaches as well. I’m also the publicity liaison for the all the Royals pitchers. I go between the press and the agents and get everything scheduled and keep everyone happy.” She quickly steers the conversation back to me. “Sounds like you got to meet Jason Brody today?”
I laugh. “I guess you could call it that.”
Savannah turns around to face me. “Do tell?”
“Yes, Annie, do tell.” I look up and see Dad leaning on the doorframe. “What exactly was your goal earlier? The fake interview and all?”
I walk over to the doorway and shove him back. “Sorry, Dad, this is girl talk. I gotta practice, right? Since I’m being sent to an all-girls school.”
He has the decency to look embarrassed for keeping this important detail from me. “Best track program in the state, Ann.”
“Oh, I’m sure that was your main focus.” I succeed in shoving him the rest of the way out of the room and close and lock the door before turning back to Savannah. “Okay, so, Jason Brody…killer abs, let me tell you. He wears a towel very well.”
She covers her face with her hands, laughing. “Your dad’s going to ban you from the locker room now, isn’t he?”
“Oh yeah, no doubt.” I flop onto the bed again, already bored with unpacking. “The track is like inside and heated, right? It’s gotta be against the law to make kids run in the cold.”
She shakes her head. “I’m pretty sure they practice outside.”
I groan. “Great.”
I may have survived my first Jason Brody encounter, but it’s quite possible I’ll die trying to run outside tomorrow.
RIP, Annie Lucas. The girl who may have been the fastest runner in the state. Now we’ll never