Text Copyright 2014 Cat Johnson
EXCERPT #1 (Rated G)
“To the end of another season.” Cole raised his beer in a toast.
Trent would gladly drink to that. He clanked his longneck bottle against Cole’s and added, “And here’s to having a break from it all for a little while.”
A cold beer. A corner table in a dark bar. His good friend and teammate Cole Taylor seated opposite him. That right there had all the makings of a good evening in Trent O’Shea’s opinion.
Of course, how long it would last was up for debate. It was only a matter of time before the damned reporters tracked them down. Or one of the other patrons recognized that two of the San Francisco Outlaws defense were among them.
Then they’d either come over and ask to take a picture—which Trent didn’t mind—or they’d start trying to sneak one by holding their cell phones up and pretending to search for signal. As if he didn’t know they were really taking a picture to share on whatever the hot new social media site was this month.
That pissed Trent the hell off. It made him feel as if he was being hunted like some sort of human prey. Back in Texas, years ago when he’d been a normal guy, he would have pummeled a guy for less. But that was before the full-ride football scholarship to the University of Texas put his face on every television in the country. Before he’d lost all semblance of privacy and a personal life. Back when he could see a pretty little thing in the local honkytonk, take her out to his truck and not worry she’d sell the story to the papers the next day. Or make a play for a wedding ring and his millions.
A hottie with more boobs showing than he’d seen outside of a strip club sauntered by the table and shot him a heated glance.
Yup, that was just the type he knew would say she wanted to have his baby. . . and then take all his money.
With a sigh, Trent yanked his gaze back to the safe zone. God, he missed the old days when he was a poor nobody. And he really, really missed sex.
A crooked grin tipped up the corner of Cole’s mouth. “You really do hate it, don’t you?”
“The game? No. I love to play football and you know it. Hell, I’m from Texas. You don’t love football from the time you can walk, they run you out of town on a rail.” Cole laughed as Trent continued, “The other bull that comes with it though? Yeah, that I could do without a’ight.”
Just thinking about the paparazzi and the press had Trent turning to look for the waitress to order another round and see if he could spot any tabloid photographers who might have snuck in while he wasn’t looking.
He got the server’s attention and raised two fingers, then turned back to Cole. “You can stay for another round, can’t you?”
“Yeah. Anna’s baby shower should be going on for a couple of hours and I was warned it was girls only and to steer clear of the house.” Cole absolutely glowed when he talked about his wife and his impending leap into fatherhood.
Trent was torn between feeling scared and envious at the thought. Still, it must be nice to have someone to go home to, especially during the off season. “You have plans for the time off?”
“Yeah. I’ll be spending twenty-four/seven keeping my very pregnant wife happy.”
“Is Anna feeling okay?”
He figured she must be nearing the final stages of the pregnancy. She had to be. She was huge. She was still beautiful, but yeah, there was no doubt there was the baby of a linebacker growing in that belly. Poor little thing looked like she’d topple over if her front side got any heavier.
“She’s doing good.” Cole’s gaze cut to Trent and then away. “She’s in the stage where she’s, um, more demanding than usual. It’s supposedly all the hormones.”
“You mean like bossy?” Anna seemed as sweet as usual to Trent last he’d seen her.
“No, demanding in the bedroom.” Cole had dropped his voice low for that revelation, but not low enough for Trent.
“Dude. No, I don’t wanna hear that. TMI.” Trent buried his head in his hands trying to block his ears from the information he didn’t want.
Cole laughed. “What? It’s no secret. It’s in all the pregnancy books.”
“Well, I don’t happen to be up on my baby book reading so keep that shit to yourself, please.”
“Okay, sissy boy.” Cole rolled his eyes. “You’d probably crawl right under the table if I told you about mucous plugs and afterbirth—”
“Ugh. Cole, I swear to God, don’t make me knock you right out of that chair.”
Trent had pulled his share of calves during calving season back on his granddaddy’s ranch. He’d been elbow deep inside some pretty gross shit that Cole wouldn’t even be able to imagine, but hearing this kind of stuff about his friend’s wife was too much. He had to look Anna in the face next time he saw her and when he did he didn’t want to think about any of the things Cole was putting in his head.
Thank God the waitress appeared with their beers and gave Trent a reprieve from more talk of birthing horrors.
When the waitress had left them alone again, Cole eyed Trent. “What are your plans for the break? You headed home to Texas?”
Trent wobbled his head. “Eventually, yeah. But first I’m taking a week away from everyone, including family and friends. Someplace where no one knows me.”
It sounded horrible, but he really did need some time completely alone to decompress from the demands of the season. Especially a season when the Outlaws hadn’t made the Super Bowl. It seemed the press was even more vicious and relentless in pursuing the losers of the final playoff game, than the winners. That he and Cole had made it out of the team meeting and to the bar without fighting a throng of paparazzi was a miracle.
Cole snorted out a laugh. “Where do you think you can go that no one knows you? You buy a ticket to the space station? Because I’m betting the guys at NASA are fans too, so that plan could backfire on you. You’ll be floating around in zero gravity, running over game plans with a bunch of astronauts who’d wanted to play pro football when they were a kid.”
“Ha, ha. And no, not the space station. I got a place.” Miles of sandy beaches. The prettiest water he’d ever seen. Sunsets amazing enough to make even a jaded man like himself slow down long enough to take notice. An entire week of nothing but a cold drink in his hand and the warm breeze at his back.
“Really?” Cole raised his brows. “Do tell. If this paradise really does exist, I want in.”
Cole was right. It was paradise. Trent’s paradise and he wasn’t sharing.
“Nope.” Trent shook his head. “Sorry, man. It’s secret.”
A furrow creased Cole’s forehead. “What do you mean it’s a secret? You won’t even tell me?”
“Especially not you.”
“Why the hell not? Don’t you trust me?”
“Hell yeah, I trust you.” It was most everyone else in the world Trent didn’t trust. “But if you show up people are gonna recognize you. Once word spreads that the Outlaws vacation at this place, I’ll never be able to go there again.”
“Come on. You’ve been there and no one recognized you, right?”
“Because I take extreme precautions to make sure they don’t. And I go alone, not with a wife who’s been in the press as much as you lately.” Trent shook his head again, more adamantly this time. “Nope. I can’t risk it.”
When Trent said extreme precautions, he meant it. Fake name. Adding blonde highlights to his normally brown hair. He was so careful he kept a tank top on even at the pool to hide the Texas Longhorns tattoo he’d gotten on his chest senior year.
Two years ago he’d even considered brown contact lenses to cover his green eyes. That plan had fallen through before it even got off the ground. Day one in the eye doctor’s office Trent had found that though he could face the biggest meanest opposition during a game, he was too scared to stick a piece of plastic in his eye. Luckily, he’d gotten away with sunglasses during the day and fake eyeglasses at night for two years running with no problem.
Letting Cole in on the deal knowing his fame? Nope.
Including his friend would be the end of Trent’s annual retreat. Cole’s longtime infamy with the press had only been escalated by the notorious bad boy’s recent marriage to and pending child with Anna. A superstar couldn’t marry a completely unknown first grade teacher on a whim in Vegas without causing some pretty big ripples in the press.
“I can’t believe you.” Cole scowled.
“Sorry, Cole. I love you like a brother, but you’ll have to find your own hidey-hole. This one is mine.”
“Fine.” Looking pissed, Cole took a swallow of his beer as Trent laughed at his expression.
His friend would get over it by the time he finished this bottle. Trent, on the other hand, might just lose his mind completely without his annual weeklong escape from the hell of being famous, and that price was too high to pay even for friendship.
He was heading to Florida and he was going alone.
EXCERPT #2 (Rated PG)
Laurel slipped into the water and hadn’t even had time to swim all the way across before she heard the splash of Trent diving in. She reached the other side and gripped the edge. Turning, she was surprised to find him right there behind her. “Oh, hi.”
With the water sluicing off his hair and shoulders, he reached for the edge on either side of her, framing her inside his arms. “Hey.”
“The water’s warm.”
And getting hotter by the minute with Trent barely a breath away from her. “I figured it must be . . . Trent?”
“Thanks for dinner.”
“You’re welcome.” He didn’t move. Not closer and not farther away. The temptation of him stayed right within range and she itched to reach out and grab it.
He was waiting for her to make the next move. She sensed that and somehow knew that if she swam away and put some distance between them he’d accept that.
Now that she’d spent a bit of time within the confines of this man’s arms, she didn’t want to move away. She wasn’t sure she could. It was like he had his own gravitational pull and she’d become trapped in his orbit.
So now what? Laurel swallowed.
The tiny voice in her head screamed kiss him! While the other voice of reason asked what kind of woman kissed a man she’d only known for a couple of hours?
One who’d had some fruity drink with a hell of a kick to it and then a good portion of a bottle of champagne, that’s who. But also the kind of woman who knew what she wanted and went after it.
For better or worse, that was who Laurel was and always had been. It took guts to be a woman in a male dominated industry like private investigations, yet she’d done it and pretty darn successfully too.
The woman who’d faced down angry husbands and white-collar criminals shouldn’t be afraid to go out on a limb and make the first move with a hot guy who’d invited her to dinner and didn’t look as if he was too anxious to put any distance between them anytime soon.
Bracing herself, Laurel moved in just a bit, yet remained shy of his lips. “Trent?”
Making the move to kiss him seemed too scary. Too risky. The best she could come up with was to say, “Kiss me?”
He didn’t object. So fast it caused the water to slosh between them, Trent moved closer and crashed his mouth against hers.
Her inner voice only needed that much encouragement to tell her to hold on to this man and hold tight, and she did, wrapping her arms and legs around him. He supported her with his hands beneath her bottom, but in the water she was buoyant, weightless as she moved against him, desperate to get as close as possible.
Trent angled his mouth over hers and deepened the kiss. He plunged his tongue between her lips and groaned as she equaled his enthusiasm, matching the thrust of his tongue stroke for stroke with her own.
She felt his erection pressing against her. Only the barrier of her swimsuit and his kept him from being where she needed him to be. She pressed closer and he drew in a sharp breath through his nose.
Liking the reaction as well as the sensations rocketing through her from the contact, Laurel set a rhythm that had her insides twisting, tightening for release.
He broke the kiss and hissed in a breath between his teeth. “You keep that up and I’m going to embarrass myself right here.”
She didn’t stop her motion. It was hard enough just to say, “I’m so close.”
“Christ.” He smashed his mouth against hers again.
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