Game OnBy: Tracy Solheim
When Bad Feels Good . . .
Unlike most of the men at the bar, Shane had eschewed the resort uniform of khaki shorts and a golf shirt. Instead, he was dressed in a pair of well-worn jean shorts, flip-flops, and a white linen shirt unbuttoned to reveal enough skin for Carly to know he spent a lot of time outdoors. Sun-kissed brown hair curled around his collar, one stray lock hanging in front of eyes so dark she couldn’t make out their color. A hint of stubble along his jaw gave just the right amount of danger to his look. His presence was . . . intoxicating, to say the least. And he was focusing all that dark, brooding intensity on her.
Strong arms held her against his tall, athletic frame and she sighed softly as his chest came in contact with her breasts. His lips brushed her hairline: the beginnings of his beard gently rubbing against her skin sent shock waves to the pit of her belly and below. He smelled of shea butter and soap. Clean and sweet. Definitely not the words most people would use to describe Shane Devlin, the Devil of the NFL. He shifted her against him again and she felt the heat and strength of his arousal.
Carly thought to herself, Okay, this was definitely a bad idea . . .
This book would not have been possible without an abundance of encouragement and dedication on the part of so many wonderful people in my life. Oh, and luck. It takes a little luck now and then to make dreams come true.
Thanks, first of all, to Melissa Jeglinski, for agreeing to represent my books even after enduring eight hours stranded in the Shreveport, Louisiana, airport with me stalking you! (See what I mean about luck?) Your patience and guidance, as well as your friendship, are appreciated.
Cindy Hwang, thank you for believing in this book and those yet to come. It is an honor and a privilege to work with you and all the wonderful people at Berkley.
To the four beautiful fellow authors who have shared this journey with me these past several years—Christy Hayes, Susan Sands, Laura Butler, and Laura Alford—thanks for gifting me with not only your talented critiques, but your friendship.
Thanks to my steadfast college buddies, Diane, Melanie, and Deanne, for always agreeing when I beg for beta readers. Well, okay, two of you do, but the other one brings wine and lets me drive her convertible when I’m in the throes of writer’s block.
To Allison, Chris, Dana, Donna, Jeanne, Kathy, Maureen, and Megan, my friends in the Talking Volumes book club, thank you for cheering me on and, no, we don’t have to discuss this book in detail. Unless, of course, you really, really want to.
Thanks also to my wonderful small group. Your prayers are always helpful. Peace.
Finally, thanks to the three people who never doubted this book would get published—even when I did. Greg, Austin, and Meredith, your unconditional love and support—not to mention the endless supply of cupcakes—mean the world to me. I love you!
“Well I’ll be doggone! Ain’t this a small world or what?”
Shane Devlin looked up from the screen of his cell phone, shaking his head slightly to readjust his thoughts. He’d been so focused on the text message he was reading, he’d tuned out everything around him. A lizard darted through the dahlia bushes bordering the bar’s patio where Shane sat. The ocean churned quietly beneath an inky night sky. Music and laughter from the nightclub drifted out amongst the strings of twinkling lights before being carried away to the sea by a quiet breeze. All in all, it was a travel agent’s dream night on the Mexican Riviera.
“Kitty, get over here with the camera. I gotta get a picture with him to show the fellas at the rotary club.”
Or it would be if not for the loud, obnoxious bar patrons. Shifting uncomfortably in the plastic resin chair, Shane glanced around for an escape route as the heavyset, balding man with the booming voice lumbered toward him, a wide-eyed Kitty in tow. Both looked harmless enough: a middle-aged couple dressed in typical tourist garb, complete with sparkling white sneakers on their feet.
“Mort, I don’t think we should disturb him,” Kitty whispered as Mort rummaged through the oversized, leopard-print bag on her shoulder, presumably looking for a camera.
Ahh, so Kitty with the bouffant hair wasn’t as impressed by a down-on-his-luck NFL quarterback as hubby Mort. Perhaps it was the stay-the-hell-away-from-me vibe Shane was putting out. After all, he’d escaped to Mexico to lie low for a few days while his agent negotiated a new contract for him.
“Honey, do you know who this is?” Mort asked as he pulled a small digital camera from the depths of the bag.
Here it comes. This is where Mort tells Kitty she’s looking at the idiot who, in the final minutes of the last game of the season, threw the winning touchdown—except the guy who caught it was wearing the other team’s jersey. Shane felt his jaw clench as he shifted his six-foot-three-inch frame to a more defensive position, not an easy feat considering the small chair. Wringing her hands in front of her, Kitty shuffled her feet as Mort’s pudgy fingers struggled to turn on the camera. From the look of panic on her face, she knew exactly who Shane was—or more important, who the tabloid press made him out to be: the Devil of the NFL. Nothing aggravated him more than fans bringing up that botched game or his even more botched-up personal life.
“This here is Shane Devlin, the son of a football legend. His daddy was one of the best players in the game,” Mort said reverently. “Heck, if his old man hadn’t been injured, he’d be in the Hall of Fame for sure.”
Okay, that actually aggravated him more. Shane reached for the bottle of beer he’d been nursing all night, not sure whether he wanted to drink its warm contents or smash it over something. Being compared to his father never failed to make him angry. Or to remind him of how his plans had been derailed. Shane was a man with no team to play for next season. At thirty-one years old, he was at his athletic peak. Yet one ill-timed interception—along with several highly publicized scandals off the field—was enough for the San Diego Chargers to send him packing.
But Shane wasn’t ready to hang up his cleats. It wasn’t money he was after; he’d saved enough to live well after retirement. No, it was the records he wanted. Records set by his father—Bruce Devlin—when he’d played pro football. The same father who’d abandoned him. Shane would be damned if Bruce Devlin’s name graced any NFL record books. No, he intended to break them all himself.
Several teams out there were looking for a veteran quarterback, but Shane couldn’t afford to just stand on the sidelines. He needed a starting gig. Hoping another player would blow out a knee tripping over his dog wasn’t exactly good karma, but Shane was running out of options. And tonight, sitting in a bar in Cabo San Lucas after thirty-six holes of golf with a few sponsors, his luck may have just turned. He glanced down at the text on his cell phone again, the message on the screen his talisman:
Blaze QB out 4 season. Working on a deal now.
Shane sucked in a lungful of air to calm himself as Mort edged closer. Stuffing his cell phone in his shorts, Shane stood, squaring his broad shoulders and puffing out his chest. The move had the desired effect; Mort stilled in mid-motion.
“Um, you don’t mind if the little lady snaps a photo of us, do you?” Mort asked, apparently finally finding his manners.
Hell yes, I do! Shane almost shouted. He bit it back, though, not wanting to listen to another lecture from his agent about playing nice with the folks who filled the stadiums, thereby funding his paycheck.
Also By Tracy Solheim
- · Game On