The Art of Catching Feelings

The Art of Catching Feelings

by Alicia Thompson
The Art of Catching Feelings

The Art of Catching Feelings

by Alicia Thompson

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Overview

Notes From Your Bookseller

What's more American than baseball? Romance, of course. Just remember, there's no crying in baseball — unless you're falling in love with these characters and their story.

INSTANT USA TODAY BESTSELLER!

A professional baseball player and his heckler prove that true love is worth going to bat for in the next swoony romance by USA Today bestselling author Alicia Thompson.


Daphne Brink doesn’t follow baseball, but watching “America’s Snoozefest” certainly beats sitting at home in the days after she signs her divorce papers. After one too many ballpark beers, she heckles Carolina Battery player Chris Kepler, who quickly proves there might actually be a little crying in baseball. Horrified, Daphne reaches out to Chris on social media to apologize . . . but forgets to identify herself as his heckler in her message.

Chris doesn’t usually respond to random fans on social media, but he’s grieving and fragile after an emotionally turbulent few months. When a DM from “Duckie” catches his eye, he impulsively messages back. Duckie is sweet, funny, and seems to understand him in a way no one else does.

Daphne isn’t sure how much longer she can keep lying to Chris, especially as she starts working with the team in real life and their feelings for each other deepen. When he finds out the truth, will it be three strikes, she’s out?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593640937
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/18/2024
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 3,767
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

About The Author
Alicia Thompson is a writer, reader, and lover of baseball. She has never caught a foul ball but she was once two seats down from a Jumbotron proposal and that has to count for something. She’s currently taking in home games in sunny Central Florida with her husband, two children, and a cat named Luna who has yet to hit for the cycle (aka has not escaped out of every door in a single day, although with the numbers she’s been putting up . . .)

Read an Excerpt

One

The crowd erupted in a shout-obviously, something was happening-but Daphne didn't bother to look up as she turned a page in her book. She hadn't meant to read at the baseball game, but she had a book in her purse and her best friend Kim was running late, so . . . here she was.

Not that the words were sinking in. She'd read the same paragraph three times, and still her brain pounded with the same two words over and over.

I'm divorced I'm divorced I'm divorced

She was about to put the book away-there was no point-when the people next to her stood up, allowing Kim to make her way down the aisle. "Sorry," Kim said cheerfully to each one of them. "Excuse me, sorry." When she got to the empty seat next to Daphne, she plopped down and said, "Are you reading during America's Pastime?"

"More like America's Snoozefest," Daphne said, slipping the book back into her bag. "A guy throws a ball, another guy tries to hit it, and if they connect there's running involved. Beyond that, who knows."

"Well, that's sacrilege, especially since we have these sick seats. Layla hooked you up."

Daphne shrugged. Her sister-in-law Layla was the sideline reporter for the Carolina Battery, and her brother Donovan worked in Guest Services for the team. He acted like he was in the dugout from the way he carried on about all the perks their connection to the team got them. Daphne had never taken Layla up on an offer for tickets before, and she wouldn't have this time, either, if it hadn't been for extenuating circumstances involving her husband.

ex-husband ex-husband ex-husband

"Technically, your ticket was Justin's."

Kim pulled a face at the mention of Daphne's ex. "How was that even going to work?"

The goateed man on the other side of Daphne stood up so fast he jostled her elbow, muttering something about couldn't fucking catch a cold out there. She glanced toward the field, briefly curious about whatever had happened to upset this fan so much. The pitcher was getting set to throw again, the batter was still standing with his bat, and everyone else was standing where they'd been the whole game. She could feel the tension from the crowd hanging heavy in the humid Charleston air, but out there it looked placid as a lake.

A metaphor for her short-lived marriage, if ever there was one.

"You know Donovan," she said, trying to give a wry smile that she hoped didn't look as painful as it felt. "Justin's his best friend. He can't believe we're not going to work it out. So he gave us each a ticket to today's game, I guess hoping we'd somehow make up in time to go? Or just show up and find our way back to each other by the end, like we're in Parent Trap and he's Lindsay Lohan?"

"Your brother has the hair and freckles to be Lindsay, but not the gravitas."

This time, Daphne's smile was more natural. Unlike Donovan, her hair had turned more auburn as she'd gotten older, but Kim had a point about her family's coloring. Freckles had been her nemesis since she was in second grade.

"So when I saw Justin on Friday, he told me to forward my ticket to him." If he'd asked, she probably would've done it. She might've daydreamed about setting every single one of his Salt Life shirts on fire, but her spite didn't extend to subjecting herself to baseball just to cheat him out of the experience.

"But you didn't." Kim's eyes were glittering, like she knew things were about to get good.

Daphne was kind of proud of herself for this one, actually. "Nope. I said we could play rock paper scissors for them, best two out of three. He threw rock twice in a row. And I threw paper."

You're so predictable, he'd said after the first time. I know you.

But he didn't. He never had.

Meanwhile, she knew him. He always threw rock on the first turn-she suspected because he was busy thinking what to throw, and didn't get his hand out of a fist in time. And he always repeated on the second turn, trying to outbluff your bluff.

"And then I had his lawyer write it into the divorce agreement-Simultaneously herewith, Husband will transfer one (1) Carolina Battery ticket in his possession to Wife. We had to initial the change and everything."

Kim pressed her hand over her heart. "Well, I'm honored you chose me to take that douchebag's place." Her eyes widened as she seemed to take in the full import of Daphne's story. "Wait-you saw him and his lawyer? So does that mean . . .?"

"It's official."

It was rare to see her best friend speechless, but Daphne could tell that she didn't quite know how to react. Knowing Kim, her instinct would be to give Daphne a fierce hug, to start scream-singing "freedom" through the stadium like she was Aretha, to list all the ways Justin could go fuck himself. But her friend must've also seen something in Daphne's face, something fragile that said I'm very close to losing it so please be careful with me.

They were still locked in that stalemate when the guy next to Daphne shot to his feet, beer sloshing out of the bottle he still gripped in one hand while he used the other to gesture toward the field. "That throw was a mile high! Get him outta there!"

Daphne glanced at the action, such as it was, but she still couldn't tell what was happening. The guys in gray outfits were standing on the bases again? It looked like there might be more of them?

"What are you going to do now?" Kim asked.

She knew that Kim's question was mostly about logistics. Was Daphne going to be able to move out of the crappy studio unit she was living in? (No-he'd been the one to stay in the house they'd rented together. She couldn't afford it.) Was she going to start looking for a full-time job since her freelance copywriting work was so sporadic lately? (She was trying.) Was she ready to start dating again? (Oof. She couldn't even let herself think about that one.)

Strands of Daphne's curly hair were sticking to her cheeks, and she automatically reached for the hair-tie she usually kept looped around her wrist. But it wasn't there, and even though there could be any number of rational explanations why-she'd left it on the bathroom counter! it somehow snapped without her noticing!-it felt like just one more thing that wasn't right. She didn't want to think about her divorce, or the bleak ocean of her future disappearing into the horizon. She didn't want to think at all.

"I want to get really, really drunk," she said.

Kim quirked an eyebrow at her. "Well," she said. "That's one way to enjoy a baseball game."


Several beers later-three? four? They were local craft-brewed IPAs flavored with raspberry and vanilla and were surprisingly smooth-Daphne was in a much better mood. So what if her life was stalled out? The sun was shining and she was at a baseball game with her best friend, making more friends by the minute.

The older goateed guy next to her, for example. It turned out she didn't need to understand the game-just mimic his reactions. Soon they were high-fiving when the Battery scored a run, or he'd slap the netting in front of them and say, "You've got to be kidding me!" and she'd say, "I know, right?" and shake her head. Kim had limited herself to one beer-someone had to be sober to drive them home-and observed this new dynamic with amused indulgence.

"You're really getting into this, huh?" she said at one point. Daphne took another gulp of her beer before letting out a loud boo with the rest of the crowd.

"Come on, play the game!" she yelled. She was proud of herself for having figured this one out. Whenever the opposing pitcher threw over to first base instead of making another pitch, the entire crowd reacted, and the guy next to her would throw up his hands and say something similar to what she was now shouting herself. Only usually with more colorful language.

Another part that was really fun-you could heckle or cheer for players with little puns on their names. Daphne didn't have to be a baseball expert to figure that one out-she just glanced up at the scoreboard, where they put a picture and information about the batter currently on and the next one up. There was an opposing player named Chapman, which was a quick consonant change away from Crapman. She was pretty pleased with herself for that one.

It was especially easy when the players were right there. Kim had a point-Layla had given them great tickets, and they were just behind the on-deck circle, where the next batter up swung his practice swings while he waited his turn. If Daphne wanted to shout to the guy named Bummer-at her current inebriation level, she wasn't above picking some low-hanging fruit-she could. Meanwhile, Kim chose to focus her energies in a thirstier direction.

"Mmm, the forearms," Kim said as a bigger guy came to the on-deck circle. "You can have the infielders. I want those designated hitter muscles."

Daphne giggled. "He'll hear you."

"So?"

"Hey, Gutierrez!" Daphne yelled, until Kim pulled her in and clapped a hand over her mouth, laughing the whole time. Apparently she wasn't as sanguine about being perceived as she claimed to be. Daphne, on the other hand, had no such inhibitions at this point. Who cared? These guys made millions of dollars and were probably used to people shouting at them. It was a nice outlet. Like scream therapy.

The atmosphere had been buzzing with excitement when the Battery scored a few to take a narrow lead, but toward the end of the game, that lead was long gone and they had their backs against the wall. At least, that's what Goatee Guy reported, looking as red-faced and fired up as though he were on the team's coaching staff.

"And now it's Chris fucking Kepler on deck," he said, gesturing angrily toward the guy coming out of the dugout with his bat. "Bottom of the ninth and this joker's on the interstate. Hell, put me in to hit for him. Who's running this fucking team?"

"Dude," Kim said under her breath, "it's April. Chill out."

But Daphne liked Goatee's passion. He was just a man who cared about his team. Wasn't that a good thing? Shouldn't people care more? "Chris Kepler?" she said, more to feel the name in her mouth than anything else. Kepler. That was a hard name to do anything with. Chris Kepler, watch your step-ler! She'd sound like an after-school special rap battle. The very idea had her laughing so hard she almost choked on her beer.

"You are on another planet," Kim said, and Daphne couldn't tell, but she didn't look as amused anymore. More concerned, but truly, she had no reason to be. Daphne felt great. She'd gone to sporting events with Justin before and always felt like she was solely there to make sure he had a good time-hold his cup when he needed her to, make the snack run when he didn't want to miss any of the action, stay sober enough to drive them home. She'd never have been able to let loose like this on his watch. This was freedom, baby! She cupped her hand around her mouth.

"Chris!"

Kim wasn't wrong. Baseball players did have amazing forearms. There was netting between them and the players, but this guy was so close that she could practically feel the texture of the red clay streaked down one leg of his white pants. He twisted one foot every time he took a swing, flashing the bottom of his shoes, and she could see the clumps of grass and dirt stuck in his cleats. His back was to them, and there was a small nick on his left elbow, the dried blood of a scab. Daphne felt like she could reach out and open it up with the flick of a fingernail.

Which was an extremely weird thought to have.

She felt her mood starting to tilt precariously, like it was a boat on choppy waters she had to get back under control. Chris Kepler. What could she do with that?

"Yo, Chris!" she said, clinging to the netting in front of her. "Your name should be Christopher Robin, 'cause you're hitting like Pooh!"

Bam! She'd hit that one out of the park. A play on his name and a reference to a charming children's book-an all-star heckle if she'd ever heard one.

Then he turned and looked at her.

Her breath caught in her throat. For all the shouting she'd been doing for the last half hour, it had honestly never occurred to her that this could happen. It felt as strange as if she'd been watching the game on TV and one of the players had faced the camera to address her directly. Because she'd said something from her cushy seat in the stands, and suddenly here was this guy all dressed out in his uniform with the clay rubbed into it and the nick on his elbow, and he was looking right at her.

Weirder still was the way he was looking at her. She might've expected anger-it would've been uncomfortable and made her face flame even more than it probably already was, but he'd be justified in getting irritated with some random drunk woman telling him his playing was shit. She might even have expected a nonchalant, lighthearted clapback, the kind of thing she imagined famous people had to get really good at. Something that said, Keep talking trash while I make fifty times your annual income, but you know, in a fan-friendly way.

But this guy-Chris Kepler, a real name that belonged to a real person-didn't look like he was angry or like he was ready to take a little heckling in stride. He looked . . . stricken.

That was the only word she could think of.

His eyes were in shadow, his batting helmet low over his forehead, but somehow she still felt his reaction like a punch to her stomach. His lips were slightly parted, like he was about to say something, his knuckles white where they gripped his bat. He wore the navy blue jersey of Carolina's team, Battery in stitched-on letters across the chest, and for some reason it only then hit her. She'd been yelling at the home team. Why would she yell at the home team?

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