I’m a big fan of Jaci Burton’s work and I can’t think of a better author to jump start the BECAUSE YOU ARE MINE contest! Let’s give this talented author a big welcome!
PLAYING TO WIN by Jaci Burton
Someone’s going to have to let down their guard…
Football star Cole Riley is notorious for doing as he pleases—on the field and off. He parties hard and fights harder, but if he doesn’t clean up his act, his career is over—so Cole reluctantly agrees to work with image makeover consultant Savannah Brooks. He’s not used to being told what to do, especially by some (admittedly hot) southern belle. As for Savannah, she’s not convinced she can transform this cocky (and aggressively sexy) force of nature. But she’s determined to give it her best shot.
When the sparks start to fly, Savannah lays down the ground rules: no personal complications. If she can turn off the tingle she feels every time Cole gives her a hot stare, he can turn off his desire as well. But for two people determined to have it all, a hands-off policy can only last so long before one of them yields.
She was beautiful, sure, with a face that would stop traffic. And the way she was put together screamed money or high society. Her hair was piled up on her head, she wore a pearl necklace that he knew damn well wasn’t fake, and he’d been with enough women to learn designers, and that little purse on the table cost a lot of money.
Maybe she was related to the team owner. But he hadn’t seen anyone come within ten feet of the table in the past two hours. She was no wallflower, but she wasn’t giving off vibes that said “Come talk to me.”
Wasn’t his problem. He didn’t know her and he intended to have fun tonight. Team parties were always a blast, and even better, this one was media free. He could down a few drinks, chill with the ladies and have a good time.
There were plenty of women here to have the kind of fun he was looking for. The blonde wasn’t the right type. He could tell from the rigid set to her shoulders and the stick up her ass way she sat that she wasn’t a partier. She surveyed the room and gave off definite “keep the fuck away from me” signals, which was likely why no one approached her.
Still, his gaze kept gravitating back to her. He hated seeing anyone sitting alone. He went up to the bar and nudged Grant Cassidy, the Traders quarterback.
Grant turned, then nodded. “Hey, Riley. What’s up?”
“Do you have any idea who that blonde is sitting by herself over in the corner?”
Grant followed the motion of Cole’s head, then frowned. “No. Who is she?”
“No idea. I figured you know everyone on the team. Is she related to the owner?”
Grant shook his head. “Ted Miller’s daughter is a brunette. And she isn’t here tonight. I have no idea who the blonde is. She looks mean.”
Cole laughed. “That’s what I thought, too.”
He should ignore her and concentrate on the two other women. But for some reason the blonde in the corner kept grabbing his attention and wouldn’t let go.
Maybe it was because she kept staring at him. Not in the way other women looked at him—the take-me-home-with-you-tonight plea. Her gaze was different. Cool and assessing, an occasional brief glance and then she’d look away, like she wasn’t at all interested in him.
Oh, she was interested all right. They all were.
So maybe she was a game player after all, and this was a new kind of game.
He pushed off the bar and headed her way. She could throw off all the stay away signals she wanted, but he was curious now. Someone that beautiful was alone for a reason.
He stopped at her table and her gaze lifted, slowly assessing him. She didn’t smile, but she didn’t frown, either.
“You here alone?” he asked.
“As you can see, I am.”
Southern accent. It fit her. She was all peaches and cream complexion, full lips and the prettiest eyes—like his favorite whiskey.
He slid his hand out. “I’m Cole Riley, wide receiver with the Traders.”
She slipped her hand in his and finally gave him a smile—the kind of smile that made a man glad to be a man.
“Hello, Cole. I’m Savannah Brooks. Won’t you sit down?”
Lord have Mercy, but Cole Riley’s photos and videos did not do the man justice.
In person he made a woman go weak in the knees. Savannah was glad she was sitting down, because now she understood the mystique she’d read about in the tabloids and all the articles about him as a lady killer.
Sure, she’d seen the photos, and he was certainly pretty. Great body, beautiful dark hair. She could see how some women might be attracted to him, but she didn’t understand why he was such a hot commodity.
But in person? Oh, yes, definitely. He had charisma, a way of looking at a woman that would make her drop her panties faster than he could flash those unusual eyes in her direction.
She certainly felt the heart palpitations when he slid his very large hand in hers and graced her with one look of his drop dead—what color were his eyes anyway? They were grey, tinged with blue, like a sky coloring up for a storm.
Amazing. When he looked at her it was as if everyone else in the room fell away, and she as the only woman on Earth. Which she knew wasn’t true, because she’d studied him all night long, and there were at least twenty women focused on him like they were a starving pack of wolves and he was meat.
He wasn’t meaty at all. He was perfect and absolutely delicious. About six-foot one, two-hundred and fifteen pounds of sex on a stick would be her guess.
If she were out scouting for a man—which she most certainly wasn’t—she’d pick him out of a crowd. He stood out, with his inky black hair and gorgeous, well toned and muscled body, even if he did wear his hair a little long and shaggy. There was a certain presence to him.
Arrogance, maybe, though she was surprised after reading his file that he wasn’t standing on top of the bar or involved in a brawl or wrapped around two or three women in a dark corner.
Maybe the media had blown his off-the field antics out of proportion. Maybe his reputation was more hype than anything.
“So, Savannah Brooks. Why are you sitting here all alone?”
He cocked a brow, his defenses obviously up as he bent forward, on the edge of the chair like he was ready to take flight. “You’re not a reporter, are you?”
She smiled at him. “No. I’m definitely not a reporter.”
He relaxed and leaned back against the chair, stretching his long legs out in front of him.
“You don’t like reporters.”
“And why is that?”
“All the damn time.”
“What kind of lies have they told about you?”
“I don’t want to talk about me. Let’s talk about you. You have a beautiful southern accent, Savannah. Where are you from?”
Not at all what she’d read about him. That he was an egomaniac, that every conversation centered around him, his stats, his prowess in the bedroom, that he hit on women as a second career, pressuring them to go home with him.
Maybe the media did lie.
Jaci has generously offered to give away an autographed copy of Taking A Shot, the previous story in my Play by Play series, to one commenter on her post today! And if you haven’t yet entered the Huge Because You Are Mine contest, with prizes including a Kindle Fire and a Nook, please do so here!