In It to Win It – Excerpt
Hitting It Out of the Park Excerpt:
"Thank you." Frankie shook her head, lowering her gaze to the shiny wood of the bar.
"Did I embarrass you with the truth?" Jed squeezed her hand. "When I saw you step out onto your porch today I was blown away. I could have gotten some old woman with blue hair who wanted to make me cookies as a neighbor, but damn." He shook his head, and when he bit his bottom lip, she wanted to spread her legs for him. "I totally lucked out."
"I am a little older than you, and I do make really good cookies." She focused on his lips, fighting the urge to lean in and assault the mouth of a man she'd only met a few hours ago.
"I'm twenty-five." He turned to face her, setting his bottle down on the bar. "I don't believe you're older than me."
"I turned thirty two weeks ago."
"Age is nothing but a number, sweetheart, and if I were five years older than you we wouldn't even be having this conversation."
"True." She smiled when he spun her stool in his direction.
"About those cookies…" He moved closer to her. "How can I score those?"
"Uh-huh." He ran his thumb along her cheek, working his way down to her bottom lip. "And a kiss. How can I score a kiss?"
"You're the player, you tell me."
"Only on the field."
"Just do it." Did she say that out loud? Was it the alcohol? The adrenaline? Or the fact that the hottest guy she'd ever seen wanted to kiss her? Maybe it was a combination of all three. Before she could stop herself she raised her palm to his cheek, giving into the temptation to stroke his beard. "I've never kissed a guy with facial hair."
"We could rectify that right now." He pressed his hand over hers, bringing her fingers to his lips, kissing them. She shivered when he swept the tip of his tongue between her thumb and forefinger.
"Jed." His name tumbled from her lips. "I don't usually… We just met, but I…"
"Let's not overthink this." Cupping the side of her face in his hand, he guided her to his mouth. "Just kiss me."
"Okay." She breathed, relaxing once his heated mouth connected with hers. His lips were warm and tasted of beer. She liked the way his overgrown stubble scraped across her jaw when he turned his head.
He twisted his fingers in her hair, tilting her face and drawing her closer to him. The noise in the bar faded into the background, and all she could do was indulge in what he was doing to her.
"New town, new girl?" someone yelled behind them.
"Go get her, Jedi Force," another said.
Jed continued to ravage her lips for a few more seconds, ignoring the comments from what she assumed were his teammates. When he finally came up for air, he smiled at her, stroking her cheek before lifting his hand in the air and raising his middle finger to the baseball team behind them.
They laughed and cheered him on.
"Maybe I should take you home now."
"I may not have a six-figure income, but that doesn't mean I'm stupid, sweetheart. I'm not desperate enough to call up some chick who's embarrassed to be seen with me and beg her for a date, no matter how beautiful she is."
Sabrina was rendered speechless. She wasn't sure what she had expected Silvio to say, but now she felt like an idiot. She hadn't given him her number, but she'd assumed he would find it, or friend request her on Facebook at least. Note to self: find Silvio on Facebook.
"You're right." Sabrina gave him a genuine smile as she took a step closer, bridging the gap. "But you did say to come find you if I was interested in a real date. So here I am."
She tried to control her breathing, but her heart pounded so hard she could hear the thumping in her ears. She'd come to the gym on an impulse and just assumed he'd be excited to see her. But she had also assumed he would call her. He made her act like someone she didn't recognize. And right now he was making her feel like a fool for showing up unannounced.
"All right, princess." Silvio let out a huff before running his hands over his shaved head and then down his face. "I haven't had lunch. Wanna go to lunch with me?"
"What? Like a day date?" Sabrina said, almost horrified. "I didn't drive all the way out here, and creep around the parking lot like a stalker, just to have you put me in the friend zone via some stupid day date. You're a jerk."
"I'm a jerk?" Silvio said with a smirk as he took a step closer.
Sabrina eyed him as he took another step closer. A spark flickered in his dark brown eyes. When his fingers grazed her jaw, and followed it to the point of her chin, there was no holding back the warm shudder that ran up her spine. How could such a simple touch leave her mouth dry and her breath taken?
"Am I a jerk because I don't want to wait to see you again? You're here now, looking as gorgeous as ever, so let me take you out to lunch?"
He doesn't want to wait to see me. The thought made her swoon a bit. "Of course you can take me to lunch."
"I have a couple of conditions," Silvio said, slipping his hands around her waist as she settled her hands on his shoulders, waiting. "You promise to try and have a good time, and if I ask you out on a second date, you let me pick you up."
Jerk. Sabrina rolled her eyes. The problem was he wasn't a jerk. Those had to be the simplest requests a man had ever made. But they were also sweet and sincere and almost innocent. It felt real, and real had been majorly lacking in her life.
Soccer Mum Excerpt:
Depositing the ball on the ground at her feet, Leo stood behind Maggie and placed his hands on her hips. "Feet apart, knees slightly bent."
His mouth was awfully close to her ear, making concentration virtually impossible, especially when the pressure on her hips increased.
"Keep your stance forward. I'm going to go over there, and I want you to kick the ball to me using the inside of your right foot."
"Okay." Earlier weariness from the warm-up run was replaced with an excitement that zoomed through her bloodstream, sending her muscles into action.
Leo ran several yards in front of her, where he gave a nod and waited to receive the ball.
Maggie bounced up and down with newfound energy, accompanied by a sense of confidence that must have fallen from the sky when she wasn't looking. She was going to be good at this soccer gig. She could just tell.
The ball left her foot with a loud crack, and went flying way over Leo's head, past the confines of the field, into the darkness of the wintery night where the overhead lights didn't even begin to reach.
She ran after it, but as she passed Leo he grabbed her arm, shaking his head. "It's too dark."
"I'm so sorry."
"Don't worry about it. Some kid will find it tomorrow, and it'll make his day."
Maggie chewed her bottom lip, riddled with guilt.
Evidently it showed all over her face, and Leo laughed. "Maggie, don't worry about it. It's just a soccer ball."
"I feel terrible!"
"Hey, look at me. It's okay." Leo was still clutching her upper arm, and he skimmed his hand upward, coming to rest on the base of her neck.
Maggie swallowed, staring at the ground.
"Look at me." His voice was soft. Soothing. Sexy.
Guilt was suddenly replaced with something else. Desire. It consumed her entire body, filling her with a warmth that shouldn't have been possible in the chilly night air. She lifted her gaze to find him watching her, mouth slightly open, eyes searching.
If only she were taller. She could simply move an inch forward and they'd be kissing right now. But given that he was a whole head above her, even standing on tiptoes wouldn't make her high enough.
They stood completely motionless, his hand still on her neck. He was breathing as unsteadily as she was. Maggie wanted to close her eyes, get blissfully lost in the floaty feeling orbiting every cell of her body. Yet that would mean losing the perfect view in front of her, and there was no way she was letting that go.
Second Time Around Excerpt:
"Why are you here, Dustin?"
Kelly's stern tone had him taking a step back. He fiddled with his hat brim while his heart beat loud enough surely she'd hear it.
He cleared his throat. "Well, I figure you'll find out soon enough, so I wanted to let you know before you saw the contract. I'm buying the land you had up for sale."
Her mouth dropped open and she blinked. "Wait, what?"
"I moved back to town and need land to set up shop. I'm opening a…a rescue I guess, for retired rodeo horses."
Kelly closed her eyes. Dustin waited, holding his breath. Would she kick him out? He didn't know the woman standing before him anymore, but he hoped she'd forgiven him enough not to hate him.
She opened her eyes, they swam with emotion. She licked her lips, a teasing motion that had him swallowing hard over a lump in his throat.
"You can do whatever you want to do, Dustin. I need that money, so I won't refuse the sale. It's good… It's good, what you want to do. It's hard work, it's heartbreaking work, but it's fulfilling."
They stood staring at one another. Dustin wanted to say things he had no words for. I'm sorry for what happened to Keith. If I could, I'd go back and trade places with him. You never deserved that kind of pain, and I would've done anything to keep you from feeling it. But there was too much feeling in those sentences to be able to voice it. If she could feel the wrenching of his heart with every memory of her that fateful day at their last rodeo, the horrible guilt he'd carried around for the past decade, then perhaps she would understand.
The silence stretched until they both fidgeted. His business was done, but he didn't want to leave, not yet. He wanted to stand in this spot forever, inhaling the peachy fragrance that had always belonged to Kelly. He wanted to drown in her eyes, feel her velvet skin beneath his hands. Taste her…
Dustin cleared his throat. "I reckon I'll be on my way. Have a nice evening, Kelly."
He turned on his heel and stepped to the door, opening it.
"Wait." Kelly grabbed his upper arm, stopping him.
The feel of her fingers sent heat through his veins. He turned to face her.
She opened and closed her mouth several times before she finally squeaked out, "I'll see you at closing."
All You Wanted Excerpt:
"Why are you here?" Wade tossed the towel, and it landed in a crumpled heap on the floor next to the wall.
"I saw you leaving your truck earlier," Rebecca said. "I had a presentation in one of the English classes, and I thought I'd stop in and tell you hello, you know, because I saw you." She shook her head to get her mind straight. "Why are you here? Is this your appointment, the reason why you wouldn't stay at the pub last night?"
Wade didn't answer, instead bending over and grabbing another water bottle. He took a long gulp then screwed the lid back on the container. His gaze went to a row of weight benches, his jaw tight, and Rebecca imagined a droplet of sweat rolling down his temple, tracing the length of his neck. She swallowed hard, wanted to be closer. Her mouth went dry when she thought about how his chest might look under the drenched workout shirt.
"Something like that," Wade said, but his voice startled her and she couldn't remember what she'd said for him to respond to.
"Something like what?" she asked.
"This is why I left last night."
"Oh, I wasn't there long either, left about half an hour after you because of other responsibilities also. It's funny. When I saw you in the parking lot I thought you were here giving a speech to the students about your job. But I met this guy, Bo. He was in the office over there." Rebecca pointed to the back of the building. "He said you were running drills. So you're a football player…or used to be?"
"Am," Wade replied and began walking across the fake green grass covering the floor, straight to her, his gaze unwavering.
"What?" His movement had her flustered.
"I didn't used to be. I am." Wade stopped an arm's reach away from Rebecca. His chest still heaved from the exercise, his brow damp. "The job at KDRD is temporary. I've got four months before I'm invited to camps as a free agent."
Rebecca nodded, but she hadn't a clue about sports, so the words 'free agent' meant nothing to her.
He must have read the confusion on her face and explained, "I can sign to play for any franchise, which means in four months I'll be on a professional team. It means I won't be in this town. I won't be anywhere near here, and even if I were, I'd be too busy for anything other than the game."
She didn't appreciate his cutting tone and retaliated with her own dash of sarcasm. "Good for you, Wade. And might I suggest, try not to make friends with the commoners while you're here in this town, gracing us with your presence. And you better believe I'll be chairman of the parade committee that escorts you out when the time comes."
Rebecca smirked at his stunned expression. Turning on her heel, she marched away without looking back.
Love in Victory Lane Excerpt:
After the first run Cat returned to the hauler for a quick debrief as the crew readied the car for the next run. Drew, Gabe, and Larry left the room, but Chad held her back.
"Alone at last." He dragged the elastic band from her ponytail and forked his fingers into her hair, holding her still for the demanding onslaught of his kiss.
Cat pushed at his chest, but her arms were wedged between them and she had no leverage. His kiss spread fire through her blood and set her nerve endings alight as the swift current carried her away. Chad angled his mouth over hers. The first stroke of his tongue nearly sent her to her knees.
"I want you," he said, his arms banded around her back. "Meet me for dinner."
His words were a douse of ice water. "Chad." She turned her head, pushing him away. "Chad, stop."
They were both breathless when he finally released her. Her foot caught on the table leg as she stepped back, knocking her off-balance. He steadied her with a hand on her spine.
"Easy, Cat." Amusement danced in his eyes.
If anyone had walked in on them, they would've seen the crew chief keeping his driver from falling. But the strength of his taut muscles through her uniform made her want to give in.
"Dinner," he reiterated.
"Why?" She wheezed the word past the tightness of her throat.
"So we can analyze today's runs and develop a strategy for qualifying." The side of his mouth quirked into a sexy half-grin as his hand gently massaged the back of her neck. "And because I can't stand not touching you."
"Chad." Cat took another step back, but he didn't let go. "I don't—we can't—" She jammed her fingers through her hair, stifling a groan. He was so close that her brain short-circuited; the musky citrus of his aftershave dominated her senses. "I don't know if I can have an affair with you."
"Who said anything about an affair?" His eyes flashed with desire as his fingertips gently stroked the curve of her jaw. "Yet."
Despite her reservations about getting involved with Chad, his easy command had her body quickening in desire. "I—I shouldn't," she stammered, her will crumbling.
"You should." The hand on her back pressed her tighter against him.
His masculine heat made mincemeat of her resistance. She pushed away, but his hand tightened like a vise on her waist.
"Let go." Her voice was low but firm.
"Not until you say yes." He loosened his grip, but she couldn't escape completely.
"Why?" The word slipped out before she could bite it back.
Chad chuckled. "Because we can. Because I like you, and I'd love to get to know you better."
Her heart pounded with excitement. "But—" Her voice caught. "What if I don't like you?"
His eyes smoldered. Heat flooded her core as he tweaked her nose. "You really don't want me to test that theory here."