Thank you so much reading Say You’ll Stay. These Hennington’s are everything to me and I hope you love them as much as I do. As a token of my appreciation for loving them as much as I do, here’s an exclusive bonus scene of Zach and Presley only available to my newsletter subscribers. Love, Corinne
“No pressure today, Logan.” I try to reassure him, knowing it won’t work.
For a ball player, there’s nothing more important than today. There are games in your life that, no matter what the coach or your stepfather says, it’s do or die time. This will define him in so many ways. If it goes well, he’ll think he’s invincible . . . if it goes badly, he’ll hate life.
I’ve experienced both. I just didn’t think I’d be having the same emotions about baseball again, this time as a father. Here I am, coming full circle.
“What if I make an error?” he asks while looking over at the stands, which are starting to fill with fans. “What if I strike out? What the hell was I thinking?”
“Listen, you just go out there and play the best you can. It’s a game. At the end of the day, someone will make an error, someone will strikeout, and someone will make a play that changes the game, you don’t know which you’ll be, but it’s a game.”
I’ve said those words to him a million times.
Logan releases a heavy breath, and nods. “Thanks, Dad.”
I clasp his shoulder. “I love you, son. I’m proud of you no matter what.”
Logan does his best to shove down his fears, and I release my grip. I may not be his biological father, but watching my boy find himself has been the most gratifying thing in the world. Seeing him take the field today . . . there aren’t even words.
His brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are waiting outside Yankee Stadium, ready to watch him start in his first major league game. I’m here in the hall that leads up to the dugout, watching him walk toward the field for batting and fielding practice.
“Surreal, huh?” Presley’s arms wrap around me from behind.
She has no idea. I don’t say a word, I just nod.
“You did good just then, Cowboy.”
“Yeah,” she kisses my cheek. “He looks calmer. I remember when it was you all freaked out, and I would try to talk to you down.”
Her memory of how she calmed me and hers are a little off. There was very little talking before games. A lot of tongues, hands, and promises of what would come if I played a good game.
I turn, holding my beautiful wife in my arms. “Not how I remember it,” I give her a playful grin.
Recognition hits her, and I fight back the laugh at her disgusted face. “Well, I prefer Logan’s way.”
“As his mother, I bet you do. What made you come down here? I thought you were up in the stands.”
Her small hand grazes my cheek. “I was, but I had a feeling you two needed some support.”
This has been bittersweet for me. Many moons ago, I wanted the life Logan is living, but injuries took that from me. In hindsight, everything happened as it should. Had I still been playing ball, I wouldn’t be married to Presley or have two boys I love more than I knew was possible.
“I gave up that dream a long time ago, darlin’. I’m pretty happy with my lot.”
“Still, I know what it’s like to lose a dream.”
“And I know what it’s like to gain an even better one,” I counter.
She leans in, presses her lips to mine, and sighs. “I love you, Zachary.”
“I’m glad since we’ve been married damn near fifteen years.”
“I didn’t say I liked you,” she says as she slaps my chest. “Come on, let’s go see your family before they decide to wander the streets, forgettin’ this is New York and not Bell Buckle. Even though Angie knows how to navigate a city, corralling Trent is a full-time job.”
I can’t even imagine Angie trying to handle that group. My mother has never been anywhere except Tennessee, and Nashville is not anywhere close to this city.
We head over to the group, and sure enough, Angie looks like she’s about to lose her mind.
“Where’s Cayden?” I ask.
Angie tilts her head to a crowd of girls standin’ around Cayden. “He’s letting everyone know his brother is playing with the Yankees.”
Logan’s only focus is baseball and has been since high school, whereas Cayden is girls. I swear they took the two things I cared most about and split them. I loved both, I lost both, and found the one that really mattered. Funny how life works out that way.
“Which, by the way,” Angie tacks on, “as a Philadelphia fan is absolutely killing me to wear this damn jersey. I feel as though I’m betraying my city.”
“He’s your nephew who loves you, get over it. Wear it and bask in your newfound love of the Yankees,” Presley says and then looks over to Cayden, who has all the girls laughing.
I smile as Cayden works the girls a little. “He does realize they want to know his brother and not him, right?”
Presley laughs. “It’s Cayden, he’s twenty-four and more like Wyatt than I’d prefer, but it’s why he transferred to NYU for grad school.”
“Those two can’t even handle being out of the same state,” I note.
“Nope. Twins through and through.”
They both grew up to be great men. Cayden is in law school at NYU, where Logan was drafted right out of college.
Thankfully, he didn’t choose to make the same mistakes that I did. He leaned on Presley and I to help with the right steps to achieve his end goal.
Cayden on the other hand, took every opportunity to get in trouble just so he could argue his way out. I never doubted he’d follow this career path. He’s going to make an excellent lawyer.
“They’re both a whole different level of trouble,” I note as I look at my other son. “Do you remember when Cayden tried to sneak out but didn’t remember to shut the alarm off?”
She huffs. “And then Logan tried to tell me he was sleep walking?”
“What about when Logan was grounded from using the car so he picked up that girl on horseback . . .”
Presley groans. “Those two drove me crazy until they left for college. I’m just glad they haven’t done half the shit you and your brothers did. I swear, you Hennington boys just breed trouble.”
“That’s all your bloodline, darlin’.”
She rolls her eyes. “They’re mine when they do dumb shit and yours when they’re on top of the world?”
“Basically.” I smile.
At least she’s catching on.
“Listen, I wanted to put a baby in you, but you were all: I’m too old,” I say in my best impression of her. “So, I get the good parts of my boys, and you get the jacked-up part.”
Presley goes quiet, and I know I’m in for it now. “Put a baby in me? And what jacked-up parts are you referring to, Cowboy?”
“You know, the dumb things.”
She looks up to the sky before meeting my gaze. “I’m pretty sure that’s learned behavior, honey. Because . . . that was just dumb there.”
I wrap my arm around my wife and pull her to me. “It’s okay, I forgive you for messin’ them up.”
“I’m going to mess you up if you don’t quit it.”
The gates open and my chest tightens. All of us stop talking as dawning hits us. We’re going to walk in there and watch Logan Benson-Hennington start as the Yankee’s second baseman.
“You ready?” I ask Presley.
Her hand tucks into the crook of my arm. “I’m ready.”
I love her and these boys more than I knew I was capable of. I always thought I understood unconditional love, but then Presley and I found each other again, and I realized I had it all wrong. Cayden and Logan are a part of me, and I’m thankful every day that I’ve been given the gift of them in my life.
They’re mine as well.
And I wouldn’t change a single thing because it led me to right here.