Episode 4: "Strike Two"
Part One

Lana's place, El Patio Apartments

Jake knocked on the door to Lana's apartment. "Yo, Whitmire! Time's a wasting! Get a move on!" Impatiently, he pounded his fist on the door until Lana finally opened it. Jake's jaw literally dropped when his eyes fell upon a completely dolled up Lana. Her dark, usually straight hair cascaded in soft waves down her bare shoulders, contrasting with her flashing dark blue eyes and glossy red wine colored lips. Her skin glowed with an enchanting aura of translucent beige, intensified by the strapless black cocktail dress that hugged the contours of her curvy body. Her dainty feet, complete with flawless pedicure, permeated from thin strappy black shoes and complemented her smooth legs.

"Time taken to look like I do is not wasted time," Lana replied curtly, stepping on to the front stoop and locking the door behind her. "Do you need help picking up your chin? We're already late as it is."

Jake quickly regained his composure. "Sorry, I'm just not used to you, well..." He blushed, trying to find the most appropriate words. He has never felt this nervous around Lana before.

Lana smiled knowingly. "You're surprised at how well I clean up. I know, you and me both." Jake laughed and held out his arm. "Madame, your chariot awaits!" He gracefully brandished his tattered black Ford pick-up truck. Lana laughed as Jake helped her inside.

Moments later, Lana and Jake walked through the door to the Atlantis Room of Thurium's Banquet Hall. Embedded in the walls of the room were aquariums, at least three feet in depth, containing hundreds of exotic tropic fish. Round tables, surrounded by chairs with silver and blue helium balloons, were decorated with candles, glitter, and a centerpiece consisting of a silver baseball mitt holding a baseball. In one corner of the room was a small platform, where a jazz quintet serenaded the guests who danced on a mahogany tiled dance floor. Along one wall were long tables displaying items donated for a silent auction. Waiters dressed in dark blue baseball uniforms offered appetizers to guests mingling around the room.

"This is absolutely gorgeous," Lana remarked, breathing in the beauty of the meticulously adorned setting.

Jake couldn't have agreed more. "Shall we dance?" Jake offered his hand to Lana, who beaming back, acquiesced to his request.

Part Two

Atlantis Room, Thurium's Banquet Hall

Bryce McKeon's green eyes followed Lana as she danced with the handsome escort, pleased that his client, Penelope Grayson of Grayson Realities, had offered her ticket to the Bay Area Tempests' charity dinner. Ever since his accidental first encounter with Lana at the In Field Fly, a moment never passed without a thought of her. It had been a while since he had developed a crush, he was so used to falling for those who pursued him first. But any woman would have been too embarrassed to forgive his little assault with the pool stick.

Studying her features from afar, Bryce felt drawn to her eyes most, they intrigued him with the darkest possible shade of blue. When he first looked into her eyes, he saw himself falling into their depthless hollow of mystery. Her pleasant resolve of mystery excited him. The thrill of the chase was new to him, as was the gnawing nervousness in the pit of his stomach. Strangely enough, he liked the feeling.

"Hello, Bryce," Kendra Blake purred, tucking a stray strand of golden blond hair behind her ear. Standing before him in a firebrick colored satin spaghetti strapped dress, she batted her long eyelashes and smiled. "Kendra Blake, remember?"

Bryce had to admit, he remembered her well. She was actually the type of girl he usually attracted. He had to be crazy not to be attracted to such a breathtakingly stunning woman. Simon had told him more about her, how she was the wealthiest woman in the Bay Area, how she's been linked to several Hollywood hunks, how she was desired by nearly half the male population in the Bay Area. Perhaps that was why he had very little interest in her, but that didn't prevent his courtesy toward her.

"Yes, it's nice to see you again, Kendra," Bryce politely shook her hand. "Are you having a good time?"

"I could be having a better time, I guess," Kendra smoothed her skirt nonchalantly. "Have you found life in Palm Terrace comfortable enough for you?"

Glancing at Lana, Bryce nodded. "Yeah, it's beautiful. There's more people than I'm accustomed to seeing. And of course, it's great to be near some pro baseball."

"Oh? Is that your favorite sport?"

"Yeah, one of them. I used to play baseball in college, for Florida State. It got me a full ride through school, thankfully."

"Impressive. Ever thought of playing professionally? You certainly seem in good enough shape."

"Well, just thought about it. But I took over my father's business, I enjoy what I do now."

Kendra nodded absently. "Would you like to dance?"

Bryce had no desire to dance with Kendra, but he realized that it was a legitimate change to be near Lana, and quickly agreed.

Part Three

Atlantis Room, Thurium's Banquet Hall

On the dance floor, Lana was growing more annoyed by Jake's constant glimpses in Kendra's direction. It's obvious that he wishes he didn't ask me to come, Lana thought jealously, His reaction to seeing me earlier was just surprise, nothing more. Oh, Jake, why can't you see that I could be everything you need? She rolled her eyes. Of course, we're just friends. But your happiness is my ultimate wish..."You wanted to come here with Kendra, didn't you?" Lana spoke up.

Jake looked taken aback. "What? Oh, no, Lana, don't say that. I'm having fun with you," Jake nervously glanced over Lana's shoulder, his eyes never meeting hers.

"It's no use for you to be looking over my shoulder all night," Lana blurted out. She regretted these words after Jake shot her a sharp look. "What I mean is, you should ask her to dance." She regretted that suggestion even more.

Jake's indigo eyes finally looked into hers, now twinkling with excitement. "Really? I should?" Lana nodded. "Awww, wow. You know, this means a lot to me, your encouragement. You're my best friend. You give me strength, and I only do this because you inspire me to do so." He hugged her tightly. "Thank you." He turned quickly and headed in Kendra's direction.

Lana was grateful for his quick departure, for he didn't have the chance to see her eyes welling with tears. Think of his happiness. Yet Lana couldn't bear to see Jake and Kendra together. Turning on her heel, she made her way for the martini bar. But in her quick turn, she failed to see Bryce who was walking by behind her. Taken by surprise, Bryce dropped the martini glass, its contents spilling down the front of Lana's dress.

Already furious with Jake for leaving her alone on the dance floor, Lana shot an indignant look at Bryce, who could only stare helpless at the stain spreading on her dress. "I'm SO sorry," he tried to wipe the front of her dress with his napkin, but Lana slapped his hand.

"Not enough that you knock me upside the head with a pool stick, now you have to ruin my dress?" Fuming, she stormed her way out of the hall, leaving a hurt and disconcerted Bryce behind to recover.

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