Hard and Fast (Locker Room Diaries)

By: Kathy Lyons

Dear Reader, Thank you for supporting a small publisher! Entangled prides itself on bringing you the highest quality romance you’ve come to expect, and we couldn’t do it without your continued support. We love romance, and we hope this book leaves you with a smile on your face and joy in your heart.





xoxo

Liz Pelletier, Publisher





This book is dedicated to three brilliant women who are also very special friends.

Thank you Brenda and Nicole, you make my writing and my life shine so bright.

And great love to one other very talented, special soul. You know who you are. I’m so glad you’re in my life.





Chapter One


Connor


“Can we talk about baseball now?”

I said the words with a smile because it was never smart to growl at a journalist, especially one who ran the biggest baseball groupie fan site on the web. Normally, I’d have a sense of humor about this, but I was at the All-Star Game, about to play one of the biggest games of my career. And instead of icing my aching knees, I was sitting in the locker room, giving an interview to an overblown redhead with too much makeup on her puffy, I-partied-hard-last-night face. And if that wasn’t bad enough, she seemed to be only interested in salacious gossip, not the upcoming game. As the catcher for the Indianapolis Bobcats, I was ready to answer all the questions she could come up with about baseball, not the least of which was our very real shot at the World Series this year. But instead, the woman seemed more interested in my personal life.

“Let’s move on to something more fun,” she said.

I made sure my smile was fixed in place and wondered how long I had until my muscles locked in rigor.

“I’m sure you’ve seen this calendar made by your fans.” She held up that hideous piece of stalker pornography and pointed to the title. “My heart beats for Connor Hart.”

Behind her, my older sister Sophia grinned. She was my publicist and the stalker behind the calendar. She’d figured out how much of a money-maker those things were and, knowing I’d refuse to pose for something like that, had hidden in bushes and snuck into my apartment to get the shots.

“I hear it’s already sold over a hundred thousand copies.”

Which meant the number was really more like ten thousand. Even that was ridiculous, but I wasn’t supposed to admit it. I felt embarrassment heat my cheeks, and I shrugged. What was I supposed to say? That my sister would do anything to make money, including pimp me out as a sex symbol. I’d changed my locks the moment I’d found out, but she’d already managed to get enough pictures that, with skilled use of Photoshop, she’d been able to put together that calendar.

“You asleep by the swimming pool, you stripping off your Bobcats jersey, and my personal favorite, you just out of the shower and barely holding on to your towel.” The reporter leaned forward, her eyebrows rising as she tried to get me to dish. “Is it true that you had no idea that these shots were being taken?”

“I had nothing to do with the calendar.” Absolute truth.

“You seem embarrassed.”

Yes. And really pissed off. I owed my sister a lot, but lately, she’d been going too far. Like a million miles too far. I didn’t think it was malicious. She just had a greedy streak, and given the way we’d had to scrimp as children, I really couldn’t blame her.

The journalist held up another picture of me asleep in bed, obviously naked and fully erect under the artfully draped sheets. “I wouldn’t be embarrassed. This is—”

“Photoshop.”

The redheaded reporter giggled like a pre-teen girl. “Maybe. But most guys wouldn’t claim it as fake. Not when you look like this.”

She flipped the page of the calendar. This one showed me in full frontal position, complete with ripped abs and an artfully placed baseball bat and catcher’s mitt.

“When I look in the mirror, I don’t see that.” I saw aging knees, dead eyes, and a lack of interest in anything. Including pleasing any woman with my “bat.” I tried for a bland, almost bored look. Unfortunately, a perverse twist in the female mind often turned it into a challenge. Each one wanted to be the one to crack me, and this reporter was no different.