Crossing Hearts

Crossing Hearts

by Rebecca Crowley

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781516102631
Publisher: Random House
Publication date: 03/21/2017
Pages: 202
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.46(d)

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Crossing Hearts

An Atlanta Skyline Novel


By Rebecca Crowley

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.

Copyright © 2017 Rebecca Crowley
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5161-0263-1


CHAPTER 1

"Rio! Rio! Rio!"

His name was the only word he could decipher as he entered the arrivals area of Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. He was hungry and tired after the overnight trip from Antofagasta and five minutes earlier he'd almost asked a security guard to sneak him out a back door so he could spend the first several hours of his new life in America soundly asleep.

Now, as flashbulbs lit up the already bright airport and a group of reporters thrust a bouquet of microphones toward his face, he thought this might be one of the best moments of his life.

His grin came easily as he surveyed the crowd. Members of the press vied for proximity, a group of fans waved Chilean flags, and a welcoming committee wearing brick-red Skyline jerseys turned in unison to show his name and number printed on their backs: Vidal, 17.

He focused on each photographer in turn, flashing the practiced smile that showcased his expensively straightened teeth. The fans' cheering grew louder, the reporters shouted over them, and by the time Skyline's manager, Roland Carlsson, waded over to him, Rio couldn't make out what the stylish Swede said as he clapped him on the back.

Not that he would've understood the words if he'd heard them.

He blinked up at his new boss, who returned his stare expectantly. He took in Roland's perfect haircut, the touch of grey at his temples, his tailored clothing — he couldn't be more different from the pudgy, tracksuit-wearing manager he'd played for in Chile. After several uncomfortable seconds Roland raised his eyebrows behind his hipster glasses and repeated himself loudly enough for Rio to hear.

"Bzzz Atlanta, Rio. Bzzzbzzzbzzz."

Rio widened his smile, hoping it was an appropriate response as anxiety quickened his breathing. It would be so embarrassing if he turned out to be grinning like an idiot at the man who'd just asked him a question — or fired him.

Roland's friendly expression faltered. Rio's mouth went dry. He quickly inventoried the few English words he could deploy.

Soccer. Bon Jovi. One, two, three ...

"Señor Vidal, buenos dias." A woman appeared at his elbow, her Skyline jersey so oversized it nearly met her knees. "Soy Eva Torres. Su traductor."

"Eva the translator, just in time to save my career," he gushed, grateful to be back in the safe waters of his native Spanish. "Please don't say Roland just told me to get on the next plane home to Chile."

Her smile was more magnificent than the flashbulbs sparkling around the room. He took in her small stature, olive complexion, dark hair falling thickly over her shoulders. Her eyes were wide-set, the exact shape of almonds and slightly hooded, as though their black-coffee depths were so accustomed to keeping secrets it had ceased to be a challenge.

From nowhere he thought of his grandmother's obsession with the Virgin of Guadalupe, the paintings and candles and statues that cluttered her curtained-off corner of the tin-roofed shack where he'd grown up. She used to insist the eyes of the Virgin changed, that it was possible to read warnings and reassurances and answered prayers in those heavy-lidded orbs. As a child he'd spent hours nose-to-nose with one of her figurines. Watching. Waiting.

He always blinked first.

But this Eva ... He bet the cool eyes she tilted up to him could give that ceramic Virgin a run for her money.

"He welcomed you to Georgia, as does everyone here." She swept an arm to indicate the increasingly frantic crowd. "The plan is for us to make our way to the auditorium for a brief press conference, then you'll be taken home to rest for the evening. I'm sure you're exhausted after your journey."

So polite, so professional. He stole a glance at her ring finger.

Bare.

Encouraging.

"Who could be tired with all this excitement? Lead the way, I'm all yours." He gave her his trademark cheeky grin, which she returned with a slight dip of her chin before ushering him toward a corridor.

He resigned himself to her indifference as she turned her back and walked so briskly he had to quicken his pace to keep up. Evidently his hopelessly romantic side had made it through all those long flights. His celebrity status in Chile certainly hadn't aided his love life, so he was silly to think that would change in the United States. As if the woman of his dreams was going to be the first one he spoke to off the plane — ridiculous.

Signing to one of the best Championship Soccer League teams in America was the biggest leap of his career. He couldn't mess it up, couldn't let it pass him by. Definitely couldn't get distracted by a beautiful woman with secretive eyes.

At that moment Eva glanced over her shoulder, probably checking to make sure he was keeping up. Their gazes locked and in the split second before her expression resettled into cool disinterest, he saw it. Barely a flicker, almost imperceptible, but bright enough to sear onto his memory: the same shimmering, teasing flame of bald lust that began roaring in his gut the instant he'd laid eyes on her.

"This way." She snapped her attention back to the front, walking even more quickly as a door labeled Auditorium loomed ahead. The corridor echoed with the shuffling din of onlookers finally being allowed to follow them, and before he could process the sequence of events the heavy door swung open. He was shown to a seat at a table dressed with the Skyline banner on the stage, and the horde that had greeted him just minutes earlier was filing into the room.

Roland dropped into the seat beside him and leaned in, winking conspiratorially. "Bzzzbzzzbzzzbzzz."

Rio glanced around for Eva, who was standing behind the seat on his other side, speaking to a man holding a microphone. Roland seemed to be waiting for a reply, so Rio nodded and smiled. Roland winked again and Rio released an anxious breath, knowing full well that these head-bobbing responses would only suffice for so long.

Eva took her place beside him and he smiled at her for longer than he probably should have, unable to shake the memory of what he'd seen in her face. She gave him a muted nod before turning her attention to the audience, where hands were already raised to ask questions.

Roland spoke first, hushing the onlookers as tiny tape recorders clicked on and pens scratched across notepads. Rio kept his camera-friendly grin fixed firmly in place as Roland buzzed on and on. He caught a few of the manager's words — his own name, the team's name, the name of his fellow midfielder, Nico Silva — but for all he knew Roland could be singing his praises or apologizing to the fans for signing a total unknown from an obscure team in Chile.

When Roland finished Rio glanced at Eva for some clue as to what his boss had said, but there was no time for her to translate as members of the press began firing questions.

"Bzzbzzbzzbzzbzzzzzz?" The reporter barely looked up from his notepad as he spoke in rapid, urgent tones.

"He'd like to know how it feels to join a Championship Soccer League team," Eva murmured.

Rio blinked at the journalist, then at his translator. "Are you serious? That's his question? He sounded so angry, I thought he was accusing me of cheating on my wife."

"But you're not married."

"Exactly."

A suggestion of a smile flickered across Eva's mouth. "That's his question."

"Tell him I'm delighted to be joining Atlanta Skyline. It's the highlight of my career so far. I just hope I can live up to the fans' expectations."

Eva nodded, leaned into the microphone, and buzzed a response to the audience. Approving smiles spread across the room and he sighed with relief. He'd gotten the first answer right, at least.

Another reporter barked a question, extending his tape recorder above the head of the person seated in front of him. Rio looked expectantly at Eva.

"He wants to know whether you've had adequate time to rest after the South American Cup tournament, and if you'll be appearing for Skyline right away."

Roland spoke before Rio could, hunching his big frame over the microphone.

"He's telling them you're fully fit and will start playing immediately," Eva whispered. Rio nodded gratefully, his head beginning to spin with the back-and-forth of translations.

The next question was from a woman who introduced herself in Spanish, explaining she worked for a Spanish-language newspaper. He grinned at her, relieved to be back in control, even if only for a minute.

"I think most of us learned your name for the first time during the South American Cup, from those assists in the early rounds to the goal in the final. You've been playing soccer for twelve years, since you were scouted at the age of fourteen. Why has it taken so long for the world to discover Rio Vidal?"

He exhaled heavily, buying time as he considered his answer. What to tell them? As he looked out over the rows of seats in the dim auditorium he saw his childhood home slouching amidst hundreds of identical shacks on the edge of the desert, the packed dirt in the empty lot where he and his friends played five-a-side, the trail of exhaust from the car his mother borrowed to drive him to youth-league training in Calama, the stomach-dropping lift of the airplane as he took his first-ever flight to Santiago to make his professional debut.

Should he tell them how hard he'd worked to overcome his height, his size, to channel his frenzied energy on the pitch?

Maybe he should tell them it was all thanks to the mining accident that killed his father, the life insurance payout that arrived in the mail, the move to the apartment in the school district where an involved coach made a phone call that changed his life.

Or should he admit that he'd been conflicted about leaving Santiago to join an American team, and that it felt a lot like selling out? Should he remind them of the footage from the Cup final, the famous shot of his eyes welling as he hefted the trophy? Should he explain that nothing he could win at Skyline would compare with the pride and privilege of playing for his country?

He cleared his throat, shifted in his seat. Cameras rolled, pens hovered, and the Spanish-speaking journalist smiled patiently. These would be some of his first words on American soil, his introduction to the fans he was asking to trust him, believe in him, and support him through the season ahead. He wanted to show them his heart. Tell them his story. Share the joy and tumult of his journey to this career-defining moment.

He leaned toward the microphone, summoning every last shred of recollection from the hour he spent half-watching YouTube language lessons.

"I ... excite ... to play ... Skyline."

Laughter and applause warmed the auditorium. The inquiring reporter inclined her head in thanks, blatantly charmed by his broken English. It wasn't his most eloquent statement to the press, but it seemed to have done the job.

Roland interjected in his characteristically thoughtful tone, and Rio sat back in his chair. To think he'd thought the long-haul travel from Chile had been exhausting. Now he knew he was in for the ride of his life.

CHAPTER 2

Eva led Rio down the carpeted steps to the cinema room, where oversized posters of classic Mafia movies loomed over plush theatre seating. "I don't know if it's exactly to your taste, but hopefully you can deal with it until you find a place of your own."

"Are you kidding?" Rio's jaw slackened as he took it in. "I love it."

Eva bit her lip for the millionth time that day, trying to hide her endeared smile at Rio's enthusiasm. From the middling turnout at the press conference, to her two-door hatchback instead of the limo that had broken down on the highway, and now this ostentatious house, Rio's excitement hadn't waned.

The mansion had been built by former Skyline player Hector González, who'd sold it to the club for a bargain-basement price when he signed a bountiful new contract with a club in his native Spain. He'd been so delighted to get away from Atlanta — and her, by extension — that he probably would've given it away for free if Roland had been more patient.

She hated the seven-bedroom monstrosity in the exclusive Buckhead neighborhood. Every ornate cornice and embellished light fixture reminded her of the two years she'd spent as Hector's interpreter. Two years traipsing behind the most self-centered man on earth, being treated like the semi-human equivalent of a can opener: absolutely essential when you needed it, utterly forgettable when you didn't.

Hector's English was better than Rio's — which wasn't saying much, from the look of things.

Rio would undoubtedly require much more from her, and her contract didn't include overtime, but she didn't mind. Two years with Hector made her hate the job she'd worked so hard to get in a sport she'd loved since childhood. Two hours with Rio had already turned that around.

It didn't hurt that he was easily ten times more attractive than Hector — to her at least.

Hector was classically handsome, and probably spent more time in magazine photo shoots than he did on the pitch. Whenever people found out she was his translator, the first question was always whether she had the inside scoop on his love life. Although she always said no, the answer was yes.

She knew full well how many young, inebriated, dubiously consenting women came and went from his bed. She'd even raised it with Roland, who'd been visibly concerned but said his hands were tied until someone made a complaint. No one ever did, but she still lost sleep over that parade of women and whether she should've — or could've — done more for them.

Every instinct she possessed told her Rio was completely different. For one thing, he was unlikely to grace the cover of a glamorous men's magazine unless it was a special South American issue. At barely five-foot-seven he was short and compact, nowhere near the statuesque, six-foot-two Hector.

And as much as she chastised herself for indulging the stereotype, she liked how Rio looked, well, Latino. She liked his dark-olive skin, his nut-brown eyes, the thick, black hair shaved closely on the sides and coiffed on top. She liked the way he spoke Spanish with a working-class Chilean accent, full of dropped consonants and distinctive vocabulary. She especially liked his smile, its lopsidedness, the way it showed his back teeth, and the frequency with which it appeared. Hell, she even liked his horribly pronounced attempts at English.

Whereas Hector had artificially tanned skin, light eyes, and all the airs and graces of a royal-blooded European, Rio looked and acted authentically, never contradicting exactly who he was: the son of an industrial port city caught between the desert and the sea, where copper mines made people unbelievably wealthy and crushingly poor by turns. The local soccer star who'd caught the world's attention — and hers — with his boundless energy and creativity on the pitch. The new signing trying to make his way in a foreign city, in a foreign language.

Me gustas, Rio. I think we're going to get along just fine.

"Oh my God." Rio pulled open the drawers built into the wall beneath the screen to reveal row after row of DVDs. "I thought I had a big collection but it's nothing compared to this. Why didn't he want to take any of these with him?"

"I don't think American DVDs work in European DVD players." She perched on the edge of one of the leather-upholstered theatre seats, trying and failing to settle her internal debate. She should get going, give Rio space to check out his new house, take a nap, have a shower — she slammed on the mental brakes at that last thought, fighting back an image of the chiseled torso he'd shown millions of viewers when he ripped off his shirt after scoring a goal in the South American Cup final.

She should definitely leave. She'd see him bright and early on Monday morning, and he needed time to decompress after everything that happened today. He was probably jet-lagged, desperate to unpack his essentials, decide which of the seven bedrooms he wanted to sleep in ...

He glanced at her over his shoulder. "Are you hungry? Should we order dinner?"

"What? Why? Aren't you tired?"

"Not really, but I am starving. Do you have to be somewhere?"

Say yes.

"No."

Dammit.

One corner of his mouth lifted. "Are you sure? It's Saturday night. I wouldn't ask you to cancel your plans."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Crossing Hearts by Rebecca Crowley. Copyright © 2017 Rebecca Crowley. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Crossing Hearts 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Maria-Rose More than 1 year ago
Okay, I’ll admit it. The cover of this book is what drew me in (hello, hot soccer player!) and combined with the synopsis, I was excited to read this story. The first thing that sticks out is that unlike the majority of romance heroes, Rio is short at just over five-and-a-half feet tall. It’s a disadvantage for most sports, and as a soccer player it means he has to be quick and maneuverable on his feet. His height disadvantage means he always feels like he has a lot to prove on the field, especially now with his new team. He’s not short of confidence though – he knows he’s fit and attractive, and his elite sports status means he doesn’t lack for female companionship. But he isn’t an arrogant man. He’s friendly and hardworking and dedicated. He’s used his wealth to better the lives of those living in the poor area he comes from in Chile, and supports his family. It’s not hard to see why a woman would be flattered to have his attention. Eva, a smart, passionate and caring woman, is drawn to Rio despite her best intentions to keep things professional. There’s a bit of conflict involved due to her position as team translator, and this makes her hesitant to reveal that she’s attracted to him. Eva wants to be an immigration lawyer, and when she isn’t working for the soccer team she volunteers at her local Catholic church (that Rio is happy to attend with her as a fellow Catholic) where she assists undocumented immigrants. Eva herself is the daughter of a Mexican illegal immigrant who was deported when Eva was twelve. She was fortunate enough to be taken in by a neighbor, but naturally it still affects her. It’s a timely political storyline dealt with in an empathetic way. The story is told from dual points of view which I always appreciate. Rio and Eva’s attraction results in some steamy love scenes and emotional moments as they connect on all levels, both of them eventually sharing the truth of their difficult pasts with each other. As for the soccer aspects, the business of running a sports team is dealt with well and there are several on field scenes that are exciting to read, and show the author has a good grasp of the sport. We see Rio’s successes and challenges; he’s trying to make a name for himself on the team, keep up his physical game by extensive training, build a working relationship with his teammates and learn how to speak English. All this, and he successfully romances Eva too! The happy ending after a few ups and downs is wholly satisfying. If you enjoy sports romances, Crossing Hearts delivers an exciting and passionate read. Rebecca Crowley has made herself a new fan.
Anlenhart1 More than 1 year ago
Crossing Hearts is one of the best sports related romances I have read in a really long time. It features the sweet romance of a Chilean soccer star and his interpreter. Rio and Eva captured my attention in the first page, and I was hooked until I finished it several hours later. I strongly recommend that anyone who like romance buy this book! I was given a free copy for an honest review.
gigiluvsbooks More than 1 year ago
New to the U.S. soccer scene, not to mention the English language, compact yet explosive Chilean soccer legend Rio Vidal is driven to define a role on his new team, Atlanta Skyline. But he must also adapt to a new culture—and accept that he can’t do it alone. His beautiful interpreter, Eva, has been his voice, his refuge. But she is becoming so much more. If only he could convince her he isn’t like the other men she’s worked with, players on—and off—the field. As a translator for pro athletes, Eva Torres is used to dealing with self-interested super stars. But Rio seems different, and she’s blindsided when he locks eyes with her across a church pew. By now, after weeks of close contact with the endearing athlete with whom she shares a language, her thoughts are far from holy. She must remind herself flirtation is probably just his default style. Plus, she’s the only one he can really talk to. But when his ambition threatens to derail his career—and their deepening connection—they’ll both have to lay their hearts on the center line. Review: Two things that made this story interesting and intriguing for me were; one the story is centered around professional soccer and two that the main characters are Latin American. That Rio is new to America and cannot speak the language gave a lot of realism to his character. Then add the unique and intimate relationship between Rio and his translator, Eva and you can totally imagine these characters being real. Rio and Eva's love story was a slow build which made sense for them and the story. There is instant lust, but they work together and Eva is leery after being around professional athletes for so long. Once they give in to their feelings, it is sexy and sweet. Of course they have some obstacles to overcome but reading about them made me root for them even more. After reading this first in this new series I cannot wait for more! 4.5Stars *I voluntarily read an advance reader copy of this book provided by the publisher.*