by Lauren Blakely
It should have been a simple play…
She needed a football player to step up and be the star for a charity calendar. I needed a sharp and savvy publicist to manage a brand-new sponsorship deal. I scratched her back. She scratched mine. And oh hell, did Jillian ever drag her nails down my back on one hell of a hot night. Okay fine, it was several hot nights on the road.
Now we’re back in town and it’s time to set the play clock back to when we were simply player and publicist. Given the way the last few years have gone, I can’t risk this deal, so it's hands off for us once again. Trouble is, I want more than than just another night with her.
What’s a guy to do when he's always been most likely to score, but the woman he’s falling for is just out of bounds?
I don't date players.
And I definitely don't sleep with players.
And I absolutely don't fall for a certain player when I get to know him and learn he's more than just sexy -- he's clever, funny and has a heart as big as his . .. well, you get my drift.
But my job is at stake, and I can't afford to lose that as well as my heart. The problem is, I think I've already lost that game.
What's a girl to do when the clock is running out, but the man she's falling for is off limits?
Read an Excerpt:
“Love it,” Christine says emphatically, her lips and that metal hoop in the bottom one the only parts of her face visible since the lens covers the rest. “How about a little tough-guy look now?”
Because tough guys hold footballs in front of their junk.
“This is my best badass pose,” I say, narrowing my eyes and staring at the camera like I’d stare at the secondary of the Miami Mavericks.
“Oh yes, more of that, right, Jillian?” Christine shouts to the other person here in the studio with us.
That person is Jillian, and she hasn’t looked my way since I strolled in here and dropped my drawers. Damn shame.
From her spot leaning against the far wall, the team publicist answers in a crisp, professional tone I know well. “Exactly. We love his tough-guy face.”
She doesn’t even look up from her phone.
I keep working it for Christine, doing my best to make sure my blue eyes will melt whoever is looking at the picture when the magazine hits newsstands and Internet browsers in another few weeks.
It’s an evergreen kind of issue, since the body edition is one of the most popular. Gee, I wonder why. I’ve no doubt this shot of me with a football for my skivvies will quickly surpass the previous most-searched-for image of yours truly—the game-winning catch I made in the end zone in the Super Bowl two years ago.
But, to be fair, there’s another shot of me that’s searched for maybe a tiny bit more. I like to pretend that shot doesn’t exist.
“The camera loves you,” Christine croons as the snap, snap, snap of the lens keeps the rhythm.
“The feeling is entirely mutual,” I say, pursing my lips in an over-the-top kiss.
Christine laughs. “You are my favorite ham in all of sports, Jones. That’ll be a perfect outtake for our website.”
“That’s a brilliant idea,” Jillian chimes in. “Make sure to send me a copy for social, please.”
“Absolutely,” Christine answers.
I sneak a peek at the dark-haired woman by the wall, that silky curtain of sleekness framing her face as she smiles a bright, buoyant, outgoing grin at the photographer then drops her head back down.
Jillian Moore is one tough nut to crack.
I’m nearly naked in front of her, and she hasn’t once looked my way.
As the woman behind the lens shoots another photo with my favorite ball covering my favorite balls, Jillian doesn’t even spare another glance.
I’m going to need a whole new playbook to get this woman’s attention.
He runs his hand through his hair, flashing a lopsided grin then a wink. “Sorry. I meant are you my personal PR person now?”
That word zips through me like an electric charge. A light gust of wind blows my hair across my cheeks, and I tuck the strands behind my ear, grateful for the temporary distraction courtesy of San Francisco’s windy morning. I shiver lightly from the chill. “Yes, that seems to be the case, and I’m happy to do it.”
He cocks his head to the side. “Are you like my babysitter?”
My jaw drops. “What? No. No. No. That’s ridiculous. I’m not a babysitter.”
He arches a brow. “A nanny?”
I smirk. “Jones, I would hope you’ve outgrown the need for a nanny.”
“That’s up for debate, it seems. But maybe you’re my governess?”
I roll my eyes and gesture to the car at the curb. “I’m not your nanny, I’m not your babysitter, and I’m definitely not your governess. I’m here to help you create the best image possible. I can market, publicize, and help you manage putting the best foot forward,” I say, my tone earnest, my meaning important. “I believe in what I do. I know you’re a great guy, and I want the world to see what I’ve seen in the last couple days.”
“That’s why I said yes when Ford asked for my help. I’m not interested in being anyone’s au pair. I am very interested, though, in showing this city what good things our team does on and off the field. Including you.” I take a breath and try to read him. To understand what’s beneath the teasing. I think I know what it is. He wants a choice. “But if you don’t want me to help out, I’ll step back and we can stick to just the calendar. I told Ford I’d do this for your new deal, because I want to be the one to help you if you need it, and it’s the kind of help I can give. Since you signed the contract yesterday, and the folks at Paleo Pet are local, they want to stop by the shoot later today. Take some pictures, chat, and so on. I’m happy to be there by your side the whole time, making sure you’re comfortable with everything, and you’re represented in the best way possible. But if those aren’t your wishes, and if it isn’t what you need, then I’ll be hands-off. I hold up my palms as if I’m backing away.
In a heartbeat, he grabs my wrists. Possessively. A thrill rushes through me, like a drumbeat pulsing in my veins. I look away from him briefly. I can’t make eye contact when he does this, when he touches me. If I do, he’ll know. He’ll realize I’m just like all the other women who fling panties at him, who chase him down in bars, who line up at the players’ entrance to become his football floozy for the night. I won’t ever be someone’s football floozy, and I can’t let him see for a second that I want some of the same things those other women want from him. Him.
“Don’t be hands-off,” he says, his voice soft.
A #1 New York Times Bestselling author, Lauren Blakely is known for her contemporary romance style that's hot, sweet and sexy. She lives in California with her family and has plotted entire novels while walking her dogs. With fourteen New York Times bestsellers, her titles have appeared on the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Lists more than eighty times, and she's sold more than 2 million books. In October, she'll release HARD WOOD, the final standalone romantic comedy in the Big Rock series. To receive an email when Lauren releases a new book, sign up for her newsletter!