AN: Thank you so much for taking a chance and being here to read my very first fic. I am DrivingEdward, aka Pamela Lorraine for those who don't know me by my fic name. I'm a long-time pre-reader and lover of words. What started out as a Fic Lab prompt on Facebook, a love of baseball, a muse, and a movie, spawned a story I've been excited and itching to tell.

I first and foremost want to thank my amazing pre-readers: Sunshine1220, Drotuno, Hopesparkles, iambeagle, Bratty Vamp, and my Ditch Bitch, jayhawkbb, for all their love, guidance, support, unending phone calls, texts, and long lunches they have given me. Their encouragement knows no bounds. I am eternally grateful for their enduring patience as I navigate this new world. To my amazing beta, the incomparable Di "Midnight Cougar" White, thank you for making my words look pretty and taking me under your wing. I am grateful beyond words for your guidance and support. Another big thank you goes out to aushapasha, Maplestyle, and BitterHarpy as my reaction readers, and Zn Willet for her friendship and support. It takes a village, they say, and I have a tremendous one. Without them, I would never have mustered the courage to step my big toe into the world of writing fic.

Lizzie Paige made the gorgeous banner. Thank you, Lizzie, you're a rockstar.

This has been a labor of love and baseball. A huge challenge to push myself and do something outside the box in the year 2023. So, with that, I am excited to share with you The Love of the Game. This story is loosely, and I stress loosely, based on the movie For the Love of the Game. It's a whole lot of love story with a side of baseball. I hope you enjoy this Edward and Bella as much as I have enjoyed creating them.

** Fiddling was had. All mistakes are mine.

Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight, nor do I own For the Love of the Game, though baseball and Kevin Costner do go hand in hand.

Chapter 1

"So, one, two, three, take my hand and come with me,

Because you look so fine that I really wanna make you mine

I say you look so fine that I really wanna make you mine

Oh, four, five, six, c'mon and get your kicks

Now you don't need the money

When you look like that do you honey."

"Are You Gonna Be My Girl" by Jet

~oOo~

"It's a gorgeous opening day at Truist Park here in Atlanta. I'm Chip Caray, sitting here with Jeff Francouer. Today is a big day for the Braves and the darling of Atlanta, Edward Cullen. After a less than stellar MLB debut three years ago, which was riddled with injuries and relegation back to AAA multiple times, Cullen has rebounded with a mighty force. He had an outstanding spring training, and it really seems this shortstop has worked out the kinks and is finally healthy and injury free.

After winning the College World Series, Edward was the number one draft pick out of FSU three years ago. This hometown boy from Kennesaw, Georgia got his dream job playing for the Atlanta Braves after a historic trade with the Rockies. The whole city is rooting for him.

It doesn't hurt that his roots are steeped in what can only be considered a baseball dynasty. Cullen's grandfather, Edward 'Big Ed' Cullen, was a starting pitcher for the Chicago Cubs. His father, Carlisle 'The Cleaner' Cullen, was a closing pitcher for the Braves, and his big brother, Riley Cullen, was a relief pitcher for the Houston Astros until that terrible ATV accident last year changed his life. The accident shook Edward to his core, and he has been very open about how it affected the whole family as Riley battles with his new normal and learns to walk again.

The Cullens are a tight-knit group, and Edward has commented they are his rock.

As far as the eye can see today, the stadium is filling up with Cullen's number seven jersey. He is what hopes and dreams are made of. He's the role model every baseball-playing boy looks up to, hoping one day they will make it onto their very own field of dreams."

Music blared through the room as Edward Cullen leaned his elbow on the bar of the stadium ballroom. He leisurely tilted back a beer, taking a healthy swig as his gaze moved around the room. It had been an exhilarating yet exhausting three days as the 2020 baseball season began. But at that very moment, he didn't feel tired. He was wired, antsy, ready to let loose, and it was definitely something he hadn't been able to do in quite some time.

The buildup to the weekend and his "debut" back in Atlanta had been hard earned, and he enjoyed reaping the rewards from all his work and dedication. It was all worth it, and at the moment, Edward allowed himself to savor it all.

As the song continued to play, Jasper Whitlock, the Braves first baseman, walked to the bar to order a drink. Jasper was an anomaly. His short blond mohawk made a statement, along with the pearls he wore around his neck, a good luck charm from his daughter. After he ordered a bourbon, he reached out to shake Edward's hand.

"Hell of a debut, Cullen," Jasper raved.

"Thanks, man. It felt…" Edward blew out a long-held breath. "It felt great to be back on the field, doing what I love, nothing holding me back anymore."

Jasper nodded his head in agreement as he took a sip of his drink, perusing the room. Seeing the other players and team officials arriving with their significant others was exciting. The kickoff to a new season always was an awesome experience. The atmosphere in the room was exhilarating. Baseball was back, and nothing could kill the mood in the room tonight.

Elated congratulations were continually handed out as other players, family, coaches, and management approached Edward and Jasper. They'd both had a great series, but the light was shining brightly on Cullen.

Edward's smile lit up the room. He was enjoying the triumphant feeling, but he knew it was fleeting. It could all be taken away from him the next time he was out on that field or up at bat. The hard work would be never-ending. Staying physically healthy was key. Since someone always wanted to take your spot, you had to work relentlessly to keep it. Nothing in life was handed to you; you got what you put into it and nothing more.

His strong work ethic had been drilled into him since he was a little boy—as the son of Carlisle Cullen, he knew what it took to get to the top. Edward and his brother were both products of that philosophy, and continuing the family tradition was one of the boys' proudest accomplishments. This series meant so much to Edward, knowing not only his mom and dad were in the stands, but so were Riley, his wife Maggie, and his nephew, Liam.

Riley being there for all three games was a herculean effort, but somehow he managed it. When Edward looked up into the friends and family box, he saw them beaming, proudly wearing their Braves jerseys with Edward's name and number displayed on their backs. That was all the motivation he needed.

Jasper raised his arm and waved to his wife, Alice, as she entered the room. Beside her was Rose McCarty, wife of their new catcher, Emmett McCarty, whom the Braves recently acquired from the Cubs. As they sauntered across the floor, Edward noticed they were not alone. Accompanying them was a stunningly beautiful brunette who wore a sexy black dress that accentuated her figure in all the right ways. She had legs for days and a body made for sin.

As they approached, Edward turned back to the bartender and motioned for another beer. He needed a second to compose himself, as the evening, he could tell, was about to get interesting.

Running a hand through his thick, unruly mane, Edward took a sip of his beer and casually turned around, ready to meet the beauty who stood in front of him.

"Hey, darlin'," Jasper greeted Alice, wrapping an arm around her waist and pulling her to him.

Alice smiled and kissed his cheek tenderly. Without any fanfare, she sweetly rubbed off the lip print she left and turned to Edward.

"Hey, Edward." Alice leaned in for a quick hug.

Edward graciously hugged her back as he whispered a "hello."

The Whitlocks, Alice especially, were some of his favorite people. He admired them. He also envied their relationship. Theirs seemed genuine, pure, and Edward hoped to find something as special…one day.

The men both greeted Rose with a hug. Edward met her at spring training this year and felt an instant friendship. She was the kind of woman who loved to hang with the guys and could drink a few, if not all, of them under the table. She was no-nonsense and told it like it was, much like her husband, Emmett. However, he was the softer of the two; his gentle spirit balanced them out.

"Good evening, boys," Rose began. "I would like to introduce you to my sister, Bella Swan."

Jasper offered his hand to Bella, his face open and inviting.

"Hey, nice to meet you." Edward reached out and took Bella's delicate hand in both of his, giving it a gentle squeeze of hello. "I'm Edward Cullen," he said, a sly smile growing on his face.

The moment their hands touched, Bella's chocolate eyes met Edward's vibrant green ones. The feel of her hand in his gave her a warmth she hadn't felt in quite some time, and she welcomed it.

"Well, surprise, surprise," Rose quipped as she eyed Edward admiring her sister. She glanced at Alice and mouthed, "I told you so," giving her a quick wink.

"What?" Jasper asked as he looked between them all.

"Nothing, babe," Alice replied, patting his arm.

Bella stopped staring at Edward and flashed her eyes to Rose and Alice.

"Shush it, you two." Bella pointed at her sister and friend. "Stop making trouble about nothing."

They both tried to stifle a smile, but Bella knew it was hopeless to expect them not to cackle and meddle like two old hens. Being the single girl in the group, Bella was always being set up by her sister.

She shook her head in dismay as she returned her gaze to Edward. Bella could see the slight look of confusion on his face.

"Do I even want to know…?" Edward gestured in the direction of Alice and Rose.

"No. Don't pay attention to them. They're up to no good as usual," she assured him.

He nodded his head and looked at Jasper for any insight, but he simply shrugged his shoulders with the same confused look on his face that Edward had.

Bella knew she needed to steer the conversation in another direction, so she brought up today's game—the reason they were together in the first place—knowing it was a smart decision to shift the attention onto the guys.

"Great game today. It was exciting to see y'all finally sweep the Dodgers and watch them leave here with their tails between their legs for a change."

The guys thanked her and laughed, knowing there was no love lost between the Dodgers and the Braves. Jasper and Edward ceremoniously clinked their drinks together before taking a sip, relishing the taste of victory.

Emmett finally made his appearance, apologizing for being tardy. The hotel put Rose and him in the wrong room, so he'd gone to the front desk to ask them to make it right.

"Today was especially great, my dear Bella," Emmett inserted as he slung an arm around her shoulder, "because we shut them the hell out in our own damn chapel." He pumped his arm up in the air. "It was a fucking sight to behold! And Cullen here? Damn, this boy was on fire. That double banger was a thing of beauty." Emmett pounded Edward's fist. "Enjoy the moment, Edward. You never forget your first home run."

Edward grinned in appreciation, though it always made him uncomfortable when any sort of attention shined on him. He just loved the game and wanted to be the best he could be. Winning was always his prime objective.

He really couldn't have asked for a better opening weekend. None of them could. The Braves were riding high for the night in Atlanta, but the hard work would continue again in the morning.

Soon, the individual conversations began humming around them. Bella, needing a drink, turned her attention to Edward. "So, what does a girl have to do to get a drink around here?"

Edward, not one to miss an opportunity, offered his arm and replied, "Shall we?"

After getting everyone's drink order, Edward tucked Bella's arm into his.

The line had increased significantly while they'd stood talking, so they found their way to the end of it and settled into a nice cadence of small talk to pass the time. Once the formalities were out of the way, the comfortable exchange between them continued to flow, each digging a little deeper with the questions.

"So, am I correct to assume you live here in Atlanta?" Edward asked, hoping to pull a little more information out of her.

"Your assumption is correct, sir," she teased, nudging his elbow with hers.

"Ouch." Edward feigned injury as he rubbed his arm in fun. "That's quite a lethal elbow you have there, ma'am."

"You look like you can handle it, Mr. Baseball." Bella side-eyed him as they moved forward in the line. "And if you think that's lethal, you should see me tackle."

"I'd love to see you 'tackle,' but isn't that a bit forward on the first date?" Edward teased.

"Date? Who said this was a date? You seem pretty self-assured there, Cullen, if you're asking a girl to tackle on the first 'date.'" She waggled her eyebrows. "And just so you know, I never tackle on the first date. So, don't get any ideas."

Edward laughed at the playful banter between them. So far, everything between them was easy, but using "tackle" as a metaphor for all the dark and dirty things he would love to do to this girl, whom he met a mere thirty minutes ago, would only get him into trouble. He might have the boy next-door persona, but he was a man, after all, and all the innuendo was affecting that man. So, he steered the conversation back to the task at hand and asked her why in the hell she tackled. There had to be a reasonable explanation.

"Hold on, just a sec." Edward paused as he put his hands on his hips in confusion. "What the hell do you do that requires you to tackle?"

Bella couldn't help but giggle as she watched Edward try to figure that one out. Humbly, she looked over at him and lowered the boom.

"Have you ever heard of the Atlanta Storm?"

"The women's pro soccer team?" He raised his brows in surprise.

"Yep, that's the one. I play for them."

They once again moved forward a bit more in line.

"Really? That's just…damn, that's awesome. What position do you play?"

"Forward. Do you know anything about soccer?"

Edward shook his head in the negative. "Not really. Just enough to get by when I watch it," he was embarrassed to admit.

"I'm a goal maker. That's my job." She shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly. "I've been playing since high school."

He nodded in understanding. He wasn't very schooled in the sport, and now he was silently kicking himself for his lack of knowledge.

"That's impressive to be a goal maker. When did you join the Storm?"

"They recruited me last year from the Washington Spirit in D.C., so this is my first year playing for them. They're a great organization, and I'm very thankful to be a part of it. Have you ever watched women's soccer?" Bella felt she knew the answer, but didn't want to insult him by assuming.

"Actually, I haven't, but I've watched the Atlanta United play over the years. We get season tickets every year from the team, but I've only been to a handful of games. Sounds like I need to see some women's soccer in the near future."

"Sounds like you do." She smiled, feeling satisfied with herself. "Our season is already underway, so if you want, I can hook you up with some tickets," she offered.

It was no secret women's soccer didn't get the airtime or the ticket sales men's soccer did, nor did they draw the same salaries, which continued to be a sore subject among women athletes everywhere. However, drawing up viewership and attendance was something they, as a team, worked on and promoted in the Atlanta area. So, Bella was hoping she'd just recruited another fan to watch the Storm play, and that fan would be the Braves' shortstop, Edward Cullen.

Edward's impression of Bella shot up tenfold once he found out she was an athlete. Damn if that didn't explain the multitude of things he noticed the moment he laid eyes on her. Her legs were not only shapely, but also taut and firm. Her whole body exuded confidence, and her ass was high and tight. He could easily take each globe in his hands; they would be a perfect fit.

He ran a hand briskly over the scruff on his face, as he tried to get his mind out of the gutter and his thoughts centered. As he released a gust of air from his lungs, he gave himself a silent pep talk.

Too late, Cullen. You're already in the damn gutter. Show the lady some respect and stop ogling her. Your momma raised you better than that. Bella is a class act, and you would be a fool if you blew this chance to get to know her better.

After a slight, awkward pause, Bella wanted to recapture the easygoing and playful conversation they had only moments ago, so she asked Edward a bit about himself.

"So, where are you from originally?"

Edward smiled and proudly replied, "Born and bred here in Atlanta. Kennesaw, actually. I'm a Georgia boy through and through. I can't imagine living anywhere else."

"Wow, the Atlanta boy comes home to play. How amazing is that? Your family must be thrilled."

He chuckled as he ran another hand through his hair. "That would be an understatement. What about you? Where are you and your family from?"

"My parents are in Charleston. That's where I grew up. They never missed a game, so they're very excited to get me closer to home. I'm not gonna lie—having Rose, Emmett, and my parents closer has been a real blessing. I'm hoping to put down some roots here."

Edward nodded in appreciation, knowing exactly how her parents and she must have felt. He decided to open up and tell Bella an abridged version of his hometown story.

He shared how surreal yet exciting it was to play the game he loved, in the town he grew up in, for the team he only dreamed he could be a part of. Truly, it sounded like a movie, Bella thought, and it really added to the charm that was Edward Cullen.

After quite the wait, Edward put his hand on the small of her back and led Bella to the bar, where the bartender was ready and waiting.

"What would you like?"

Bella was having a difficult time concentrating, as the touch of his hand was driving her crazy. After a feeble attempt to peruse the wine selection, she chose one.

"I'll have a chardonnay." She smiled, hoping the strain of her voice didn't give her away. He was having an effect on her, and she knew she needed to get herself under control.

His hand, still on the small of her back, gently moved in small circles, his thoughts clearly not on his order. The bartender, pulling Edward from his thoughts, asked him what he would like.

Edward, still feeling celebratory, ordered a bourbon, along with the group's order.

As they waited for the drinks to be poured, Edward changed the subject and asked her the age-old question every Atlantan asked when they wanted to know where someone lived in Atlanta. Did they live "outside the perimeter" or "inside the perimeter" of I-285? Those things mattered…to some, but not most. It all boiled down to the pretentiousness of the person, which he most certainly was not.

"So, Bella." He looked her in the eyes and gave her a gentle, crooked smile. "Where do you live in Atlanta? Are you OTP or ITP?"

"Oh, I'm ITP. I live in Decatur," she responded, popping a cherry from the garnish tray into her mouth. She grabbed another, taking the stem in between two fingers and plucking it off just as her red pouty lips molded around the tart fruit.

Edward stared at her mouth and quietly groaned as she began chewing. The juice from the cherry ran over her lips, begging him to taste her. He was internally admonishing himself as he felt a stirring in his pants he was not willing to acknowledge quite yet.

Fuck, he thought, how long had it been since he'd gotten laid, anyway? Way too long, he considered.

Women had been a distraction while he was working his way back to the show, so he only indulged when he needed to scratch an itch. It was always mutual—no hurt feelings when one or the other got dressed and left. But Bella wasn't an itch to scratch. She was the kind of woman you brought home for the parents to meet. He knew that within the first five minutes of meeting her. She was the kind of girl who played for keeps, and he wasn't sure he was ready to be caught. She was affecting him much more than he ever wanted to admit, and that could be a problem. His focus was singular—baseball—but neither his dick nor his brain was following the game plan.

Bella looked up at Edward, as she thought she heard a moan, but she wasn't prepared for what she saw. His dark green eyes were concentrating on her mouth as his own tongue darted out to lick his lip. His eyes swept up to meet hers, and in that moment, he couldn't feel embarrassed being caught admiring her.

His intense eyes seemed to hold her captive, and Bella couldn't help the heat that crept up on her cheeks. She quickly looked down, hoping her blush wouldn't give her away, because damn, the boy was so, so easy to look at. She brushed away an imaginary piece of lint on her dress and gradually regained control of her blush. As she raised her head, she saw the cocky yet sweet smile that bloomed across Edward's face. She couldn't help but return the smile as she grabbed another cherry from the tray.

Edward could tell he had some sort of effect on her, but what that was exactly, he wasn't certain. Their connection was palpable as they both enjoyed the game they were destined to play. As he glanced at her once again, his eyes took in everything about her. Her face was naturally beautiful, her eyes wide and soulful. She had a light smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose and cheeks. The slender length of her neck looked like it needed attention, and all he could think about was leaning in to press small kisses there, only to take a little taste of what he knew would be the best thing he had ever consumed.

Bella Swan was indeed alluring, and Edward Cullen found himself in hot pursuit.

Bella felt the heat of his stare radiating into the side of her face as he stood beside her. She discreetly regarded Edward behind a curtain of her hair as it fell around her while she finished her treat. She took quick inventory of the man beside her. Yes, he was handsome. Gorgeous, in fact. And so far, he seemed to have an easygoing personality. His hair was a bronze color that women worked hard to emulate, and its thick, disheveled look made her want to run her hands through it just to see how soft it was. His body was lean and muscular, and damn, he looked fine in a suit. When he moved beside her, she was acutely aware of his presence at all times; he was intoxicating. His scent, his looks, his personality…he had the ability to draw a person in without even knowing it.

The moment Edward put his hand on the small of her back at the bar, she felt his hand moving, soothing her in some way. The tiny, incremental movement made her break into gooseflesh at the knowledge that maybe, just maybe, he was as affected by her as she was by him.

Edward cleared his throat and turned back to the bartender just in time to see him put their drinks down in front of him. Bella accepted her glass of wine from Edward, enjoying the simple fact that their hands brushed together for a mere moment. Things were simmering between them; there was no doubt. She took a calming sip as she scanned the room, trying to look unaffected by his presence.

Edward picked up the rest of the drinks that arrived on a tray and walked over to the group to deliver them. Everyone seemed to be chatting away and enjoying themselves, and their small group blossomed into more and more people as the evening's festivities continued.

~oOo~

"So, you and Edward really looked like you hit it off," Rose surmised as they walked around a table filled with hors d'oeuvres. "Y'all looked quite chummy chatting in line waiting to get our drinks." She continued to peruse the table with a slight smile on her face.

"Rose, it was just a casual, friendly chat. You know how I feel about athletes." Bella sighed as she replayed their conversations in her head. It was the first conversation she'd had with a man that wasn't all about him, but Rose didn't need to know that. Best to keep that to herself. "You and Alice seem to have found the only two decent ones left."

Bella smirked. She knew complimenting Rose would stop her from prodding. She had grown tired of everyone setting her up and thinking she needed to be with a man to be happy. The men Bella had been with recently were toads, and she was tired of kissing them. Simple as that. Where the hell was her prince?

"Well, I say just enjoy the attention. You're in a room full of handsome men, and I believe there is one certain athlete who has really zeroed in on you." Rose glanced over Bella's head to acknowledge the man walking toward the two of them.

Bella clucked her tongue to the roof of her mouth in irritation, dreading having to talk to Edward in front of Rose. She didn't want her sister to read anything into it or make a big deal out of it, but Rose was Rose, and she wasn't blind. Her radar would pick up what they were puttin' down. If Rose figured out what was brewing, she'd call their mom, Renee, and tell Emmett before Bella knew what was happening.

Bella smoothed down the sides of her hair just before she spun around to meet Edward's eyes. However, the eyes she met were not the shade of green she had become accustomed to this evening. Instead, she looked into the piercing blue eyes of a man she had never met.

He smiled at Rose and Bella and extended his hand, introducing himself.

"Good evening, ladies. I don't believe we've met. I'm Mike Newton."

AN: Ewww…Mike Newton! Go away. So here we're off and running. How are we feeling? Big day for Edward. He's riding high, and oh so interested in this sexy, confident Bella. Banner day for Cullen all around.

** If you caught it, the year is 2020, I am skipping the pandemic and just writing this as a regular baseball season.

Thank you so much for reading. I'll be updating every other Tuesday from here on out. This story is over half way written with over 20 chapters in the bank, so once I finish, it will move to weekly updates. So follow or favorite me if you are so inclined, to get your updates.

This story has a few adult themes that may pop up. Please message me if you have any concerns. I'll be happy to answer your questions.

You can follow me on my FB account Pamela Lorraine for any updates and pic teases, as well as many other FB groups like For the Love of Sports(Ward) Twilight Fan Fiction. I'm always around.

HEA all the way.

Be happy.

Be kind.

Be blessed.

~DrivingEdward