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Read an Excerpt
Earning A Ring
More Than A Game
By Kristina Mathews
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Kristina Mathews
All rights reserved.
Bryce Baxter sat alone in the San Francisco Goliaths' clubhouse. He didn't want to go home and watch the replays of tonight's game. There was enough of that going on in his head. He'd blown the game. How many times had he made that play since he first picked up a baseball at the age of five? A thousand? Ten thousand? Probably more. Not tonight. Tonight it was as if he'd forgotten everything he knew about the game. What should have been an easy double play ended up being the game-winning run.
The loss put his team even farther behind in their division going into the second month of the season and had reporters questioning the Goliaths' chances of repeating a World Series run. Some were even questioning the team's decision to re-sign Baxter to the big contract extension. The biggest one he'd ever inked. So naturally, he was having his worst start to the season ever. He couldn't hit. Couldn't draw a walk to save his life. And when he struck out, he did it in spectacular fashion.
Last November he'd been king of the world. San Francisco's biggest hero since Willie Mays. As World Series MVP, he'd been awarded a brand new Corvette. His face had been on the cover of magazines. He'd made the talk show rounds. Met the President. Women had lined up outside his door. And he'd had his choice of endorsement deals, including a line of men's hair care products. Now, if his game didn't improve, his agent would be lucky to get him a spot peddling adult diapers.
Reluctantly, he headed toward the parking lot.
"Hey, Bryce, you got a minute?" He recognized the voice of the woman standing beside his car. A month ago, he would have been happy to see her. Professionally, personally, a little bit of both. But not now.
"Look, Rachel, I'm not giving any more interviews tonight." He was so down, all he wanted to do was go home and crawl into bed. Alone.
"I'm not here for an interview." She would have waited in the clubhouse if she were. He knew that. Rachel Parker was a professional, the in-game reporter for Bay Area Sports Network. "Can we go somewhere? Somewhere private?"
"I'm not giving that tonight either." He waited for his body to protest, recalling the dozen or so encounters with the sexy journalist. She'd been hot. Real hot. Hot enough for him to forget his rule of one and done. They'd been hooking up off the record since before spring training of last season.
"Look, I really do need to talk to you." She seemed a little nervous, not her usual confident, perky, and always upbeat self who was part bubbly cheerleader, part hard-hitting reporter. She was still hot. But instead of smoking, she was ... smoldering. His body stirred. Enough for him to think that maybe spending the next several hours in bed might not be such a bad idea.
But it probably wasn't a good idea either.
The last time they'd hooked up had been intense. Almost too intense. Too real. But maybe he'd just been riding the high of signing his ridiculous contract. Or maybe he'd felt the pressure of the deal and had transferred it to his personal life. Something he could control.
"You know, I think maybe we should take a step back." He raked a hand through his hair, still damp from his long shower after the game. "I'm not good for anyone right now."
Rachel gave him a weird look, almost as if her eyes slipped out of focus. Her face drained of color. She turned and stumbled toward his car, bracing herself against the front fender. Then she threw up on the hood of his Corvette.
"Are you okay?" He took a step toward her.
"No, I'm not okay." She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "I'm pregnant."
Bryce unlocked his car, grabbing a bottle of water he kept for emergencies. This pretty much qualified. He handed her the water. She took a sip, swished it around, and spit. Then she took a long swallow before pouring the rest on his car.
She shook out the last few drops in a futile attempt to rinse off the hood. "Sorry about the mess."
He could say the same.
"So, you're pregnant." Bryce shoved his hands in his pockets. "I'm guessing it could be mine."
The timing was about right. But he had no way of knowing for sure. He couldn't be the only guy she'd been with. Yet, here she was.
"Yes, it's yours." She took slow, deep breaths to calm her nerves. Or maybe just her stomach. "I know we had a non-exclusive agreement, but I've been exclusive."
"Yeah. Sure." He wished he could say the same. But Bryce had tried to get Rachel Parker out of his system the only way he knew how. It hadn't worked. And now she was standing here, pregnant with his kid. Talk about things getting too real.
"So what do you want from me?" Besides the obvious. He had just signed the biggest contract of his life. It was ridiculous what they were paying him. Even after giving half to his ex-wife, a third to the government, and ten percent to charity, he still had plenty of money coming in. For the next six years, at least.
"I don't want your money, if that's what you're thinking." She shook her head, as if she was offended he'd even ask.
"Really?" He laughed. "You'd be the only one. My agent, my ex-wife, hell, even my old man all want a piece of me. It seems like the only person who doesn't want my money is me."
Shit. Why did he go and say that? It had never been about the money for him. He loved the game. Even when it didn't love him back.
"That's not why I'm here." She started to reach for him, but dropped her hand. "Look, I just wanted to let you know you're going to be a father. I don't want anything from you. I just want to give you the chance to be a part of your child's life."
"You know I'll take care of you." He rubbed the back of his neck. This wasn't the first time he'd gotten himself into this situation. He thought he'd have learned a lesson from the disaster that was his short-lived marriage. Guess not.
"I don't want your money. Really. We'll be fine." She let out a frustrated sigh. "I have a good job. For now."
"What do you mean, for now?" Rachel Parker was the one reporter the Goliaths players actually looked forward to talking to. It didn't hurt that she was gorgeous. And she knew how to stroke a guy's ego just enough to make him more than willing to talk about himself.
"People are already starting to speculate." She gave him a look that said she really shouldn't have to spell it out. "Some of my fans have noticed I've put on weight. I've seen a couple of tweets about it already."
"There's nothing wrong with your weight." He was offended for her. "If anything you're a little too thin."
"Not for television." She shook her head, as if he couldn't possibly understand. "Besides, once I start showing ... I could be out of a job."
"They can't fire you for being pregnant." He couldn't understand. Not really. He hoped it was just pregnancy hormones making her overreact. Not that he would say that out loud. He wasn't that stupid.
"Not technically. But damn it, Bryce ..." She leaned against his car. "I'm not supposed to fraternize with the players. Let alone get knocked up by one."
"I always thought it was frowned upon, but they'd look the other way." He stood next to her, wanting to put his arm around her, but there were so many emotions going on inside him, he was almost afraid to touch her. Because once he touched her, he wouldn't be able to stop. Look where it got them. "I mean, come on, we've been sneaking around for over a year. Surely your boss has clued in."
"No. I'd be long gone. Believe me."
"You're kidding." The serious look on her face told him she wasn't. Not at all. "If this was such a risk for you ... why did you take it?"
"You really have to ask?" She gave him a hopeless smile. "You're just too damned charming to resist."
"Yeah. It's the hair." He shook his head, tossing his shoulder-length hair with all the exaggeration of a late-night infomercial model.
She laughed. A real, laugh-out-loud laugh. She'd often teased him about his long hair, both on and off camera. But it hadn't stopped her from running her fingers through his manly curls and admiring its silkiness and ability to elicit giggles when he tickled her inner thighs with just a shake of his head.
"Seriously, I never wanted to hurt you. Or get you in any kind of trouble." He reached for her hand, twining his fingers through hers. What was it about this woman that felt so good? So impossible to walk away from? "Besides, you're the one with the irresistible charm. I was doomed the minute we met."
"Yeah. I'm every man's fantasy." She gave a self-deprecating laugh. At least she didn't let go of his hand.
"You are." He turned so he could look into her eyes. They were more brown than green tonight. Almost golden. "That perfect combination of girl-next-door charm and amazing skills in the bedroom. Besides, you don't put up with my shit. You're not at all impressed by a spoiled, arrogant, immature, millionaire playboy."
"I guess I was impressed enough." She let go of his hand and put both her hands on her lower belly.
Right. The baby. The reason they were standing here in the parking lot instead of tearing each other's clothes off back at his place.
He'd known that his life would change dramatically after signing the contract. What an idiot he'd been to think it would get easier. That he wouldn't have to worry about his future. Not only had his game suffered under the weight of expectations, but now he had the added pressure of becoming a father. Again.
"Look, Rachel. Everything is going to be fine." He stood there like a fool. Yeah, he was a fool, especially where Rachel was concerned. He'd tried time and again to get her out of his system. Now he'd be tied to her for life. And what scared him the most was the fact that he wasn't as terrified of the idea as he should be. "I'm going to support you. All the way. You don't have to worry about money. But I think you should fight for your job if it means that much to you."
* * *
"Thank you." Damn it. Why did he have to be so sweet? So supportive? Rachel had expected Bryce to at least get a little pissed off at her for telling him she was pregnant with his child. Hell, the way he talked about his ex, she was surprised he wasn't completely freaking out.
She was freaking out. Big time.
"Look, I'm sure it's illegal for them to fire you for being pregnant." He was being so rational. Especially after she'd vomited on his car.
"They can make it difficult for me, that's for sure." She didn't think they'd outright fire her. But a reassignment might be in her future. They could send her to another city, but getting players and fans to trust her would be an issue. "They could make it difficult for both of us."
She couldn't bear the thought of taking his child away from him. He already had a daughter in Pittsburgh he rarely saw.
"So you don't have to tell them who the father is." Maybe he was freaking out, too. He was just better at hiding it. "Tell them it's none of their business. If they press, you could always say you were artificially inseminated. Or that you're serving as a surrogate for a gay couple. They certainly couldn't fire you then. Talk about bad press."
"Except when I kept the baby, they'd figure out I wasn't a surrogate." She welcomed his extreme suggestion. It was more like the Bryce Baxter she knew and had spent the last fifteen months trying not to fall in love with.
"Say you changed your mind." He shrugged. As if he thought it was a simple solution. "I'm sure it happens often enough."
"Bryce, I appreciate that you're trying to help. Really. But once my pregnancy becomes public, so will our relationship, and I know you want that even less than I do."
"Why? Why do you say I want it even less?" Now he was defensive. Good. She could deal with that.
"Come on, we both know you don't need any added pressure right now."
"Ah. Yes. I suck. I knew we'd get to that." Now his pride was stung. "I suck and it must be because of personal reasons. Because of our relationship? Well, you know what? I sucked a few hours ago. I sucked yesterday. And the day before. It has nothing to do with you, sweetheart."
"I know that. But come on, people want to blame someone." She'd been in this business long enough. She knew the score. Winning the World Series was just the beginning. Now expectations were even higher. Pressure more intense. They'd have to do it again. Or risk being called a fluke. A one-shot wonder. "They'll blame me. For getting pregnant. For distracting you."
"They'll call you a gold digger." Bryce ran his hands through his hair again. He made a fist and she could tell he was angry. "Or worse. They'll speculate that I wasn't the only one. They'll read your friendliness, your ability to joke with all of us, as something else."
Yeah. That's exactly what she was afraid of. Her on-air persona was somewhat flirtatious. She used her feminine charms to get through the players' defenses. Make them feel like big, strong, manly studs, and they'll say just about anything. She'd never crossed the line, though.
"Why don't you let me give you a ride home?" He put his hand on the small of her back, to lead her around to the passenger seat. "I don't like the idea of you taking BART at night, anyway."
"Thanks, but I have my car." She tried not to read too much into his concern. "I can't ride the train right now. I'm fine until those doors close and the train starts to lurch forward ..."
She put her hand on her stomach, wishing she hadn't brought up the queasiness. Slow breaths through the nose, closing her eyes, and willing the nausea away sometimes worked. But not always.
"I'll follow you home, then. To make sure you get in okay."
"No. I'm fine. Thanks anyway." She held her hand up, as if she could keep him at bay. He could be thoughtful as well as charming. It was the charming part that had gotten her in this mess in the first place. "I've got my first doctor's appointment in the morning. So it's best if we head our separate ways for tonight."
"Do you want me to go with you?"
"No." She answered too quickly and far too forcefully. "I mean, not this time. I think we both need a little time to adjust. And you really don't need the distraction right now."
"No. I guess not." He frowned. Her timing couldn't have been worse. "But hey, let me know what the doctor says."
"Yeah. Sure. I'll be in touch."
How many times had she promised herself that she'd forget about Bryce Baxter? That each time she saw him off-camera would be the last? It didn't matter now. They were forever linked through the child growing inside her.
* * *
Even though she'd asked him not to, Bryce followed Rachel home. He gave her enough of a head start that she was able to make it inside before he pulled up to her modest apartment in Walnut Creek.
He'd been there a few times, when he'd been desperate for her touch. It was a nice place. Small, but nice. Perfect for a single woman. Not so great for a family.
He'd have to do something about that. But Rachel Parker was the kind of woman who wouldn't just stand aside while a man told her what to do. She wouldn't take his money, either. At least not until she absolutely had to. Legally, if he was the father, he'd owe child support after the baby was born. He was fine with that. He wouldn't want his child to have to go without, not while he could still do something about it.
Why else would he agree to pay for fencing lessons for his nine-year-old daughter? Fencing? Really? But hey, if that's where her passion took her, he wasn't going to question it. He couldn't be there to play catch with Hailey, so it didn't really matter that she'd tried every sport, dance, and activity except baseball.
Bryce waited in front of Rachel's house until she turned off the lights before he drove away, satisfied that she was safe, but worried about how this was going to play out. What if she did lose her job because of him? Or worse, transferred to another city? He already had one daughter he never saw because they lived in different states. He wasn't going to do that again.
He'd just have to make sure Rachel didn't lose her job. That she stayed in San Francisco and they'd somehow manage to be a family.
He drove back over the Bay Bridge, into the city he'd come to call home. The lights were off, but the silhouette of the ballpark was still a striking view. Some of his best memories happened in that ballpark. The rest had been with Rachel.
Excerpted from Earning A Ring by Kristina Mathews. Copyright © 2015 Kristina Mathews. 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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I enjoyed this whole series. I hope there will be more books to come.
Review Format: Galley Copy Rachel has found herself in quite a pickle. She is pregnant, by Bryce an MVP baseball player. The kicker? It's the team she interviews regularly and relationships between her and a player is looked down upon. Bryce has the solution but how does he prove that he's willing to give up his playboy ways and get Rachel to trust him? Bryce is one hottie mctottie that is hard to resist. He's charming and loving. His love for his daughter melted my heart. He's loyal to those he cares about. In trying to protect Rachel from what he perceives will upset her too much and stress her out. Rachel loves Bryce but learning to trust that's he's over his playboy ways is difficult. Her character is extremely believable and reacts the way most people would in the "real world". She's loyal almost to a fault, and I was rooting for true love to win out despite all the difficulties thrown at Rachel and Bryce left and right. Earning A Ring had me enthralled from the first chapter. If you enjoy romances that have heart, true love, forgiveness and a touch of baseball this is a book I highly recommend.
This is book # 4 in the More Than A Game series. This book can be read as a standalone novel. It would be better enjoyed with reader full understanding. This can be achieved by reading the series in the order intended. Bryce and Rachel have had an on and off again fling of sorts. He can never seem to pin her down. She has no plans for commitment. Maybe he shouldn't either? Rachel reports on his team for the local media. She has insider access to both him and the team. Who knew the attraction would get so hot? This story was such fun! Lot's of heat, lots of laughter, and lots of great story. I found this to be a hard book to put down. Great addition to the More Than A Game series. ***This ARC was given by Netgalley.com and its publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The story is good, but the amount of inner dialogue from the characters was a bit much. I would have much preferred to have them talk to each other, or at least other people, about the way they were feeling. Bryce is actually a good guy, but clueless when it came to dealing with Rachel most of the time. Luckily he gets his act together and figures out what he needs to do for his family. I love the way Rachel is into baseball, since it is my favorite sport. I only wish she would have been more open with Bryce as well. Their chemistry is good, but this book was lighter on the sexiness. Overall a good read, looking forward to the next book in the series, there are plenty more Goliaths that need to find their HEA. 3.5 stars I received an ARC via NetGalley for the purpose of an honest review. I was not compensated for this review, all conclusions are my own.
Heartfelt and emotional story, filled with passion, family in all the different forms it comes, and baseball. Bryce and Rachel, they have the connection, the chemistry, the spark, the passion. The over year long on-off hook ups now has consequences, Rachel is pregnant. I adored how Bryce reacted to the news, the bad boy has a heart of gold, and is a true, solid stand up guy. And he tries so hard, to do the right thing, to be good, to win Rachel's heart, to make a family, you name it, he is all in, but the more he tries, the more mistakes and misunderstandings are between him and Rachel. Because Rachel just can't believe that he cares, isn't mad, angry, resentful. She has her trust issues, and is ready to see her worst fears come to life, and to run, because her heart has been broken so many times before. So the fumble, stumble, and botch, but they are on the right path, and as long as they are willing to fight to stay together, for their family, they just might make it. There's the issues of Bryce's past, his ex-wife, and young daughter. It was commendable how they both, Rachel and Bryce, reacted to that mess. I thought as a story, it wasn't maybe necessary to bring the mess with the ex, maybe there was enough of obstacles on their way already, and in the end, it didn't affect the story as a whole. Most of the story is told by inner reflection of Rachel and Bryce. There's a little dialogue, I wish there would have been more. The long thoughts give a great insight to the characters, you see how they grow and develop, but too much of a good thing, and it can get a bit heavy to read. I liked the amount of the actual baseball was part of the story, the moments and events at the ballpark were a big part how the story advanced, and you could feel the excitement and occasional disappointment of the fans and players. The family of the team, of the people working in the park, how they pulled together, and took care of each other, was lovely. The humor and laughter brought lighter moments into the story, and the passion between Bryce and Rachel was blazing. Bryce with his daughter was just the sweetest thing, with his overly protective alpha male reaction to a nine year old. This mesmerizing story pulled me in, and I couldn't put it down until the end. To live those moments of fumbling into love, family, and future with Bryce and Rachel were touching, so honest, and somehow raw, I couldn't help but root for them ~ Four Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
3.5 stars – rounded The first I have read in this series, the book stood alone without issue and for a baseball themed story, a sport that intrigues me as much as watching paint dry, it kept me engaged and interested. Having won the “big game”, being named MVP and a new high dollar contract and Bryce has everything he could have wanted: but he’s in a slump, and things just aren’t as wonderful as they should be. Rachel is a sports reporter assigned to cover the Goliaths, and while she doesn’t lack in knowledge about the game and her job, she often missteps off the pitch. A ‘friends with benefits’ situation with the hottest guy on the team (Bryce) has them both wondering what next, especially when you add in the twist. Together these two were cute, funny and lighthearted even if they did spend more time in their own heads than communicating honestly with one another. My real issue was Rachel and her apparent inability to actually perform a job that will have all eyes on her behavior, and how quickly she drops the ball there. I don’t want to get all ‘feminist preachy’ but her inability to separate work from pleasure/dating, and her lack of sense in that regard just rankled. So we have Bryce who is the one ‘determined’ to reform his playboy ways and commit, but she’s just dithering. It felt more than a bit contrived, and the ‘big secret’ really wasn’t one that I would expect in this day and age from someone who is ‘determined to make a name for herself in her chosen career. There’s a name, just not sure that her wishes and my perception were on the same letter in the dictionary. Despite those hiccups I had with the plot trajectory, the story was cute and fun, and while I could see the growth and determination in Bryce to be ‘more’ for Rachel, these two just can’t say what they think TO each other, despite the obvious enjoyment. That was the real stumbling block in their relationship: being able to communicate, and while it gave us good insight into each character, I thought they took quite a while to open up and talk to one another. A cute story, that is sure to please many who appreciate the series. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Bryce and Rachel had chemistry, fire, and passion amongst themselves and for the professions they have chosen. Even with a past between them their story truly begins here. Bryce in a slump and Rachel in a quandary over recently received news. There was a lot if inner dialogue the two carried within. There needed to be more interaction of conversation between them. I felt if there was more open communication between them there would have been no distrust, mistrust, or hurt feeling from lack of communication. More @http://mileythebookjunkie.blogspot.com/2016/02/blog-tour-earning-ring-more-than-game-4.html
4 1/2 STARS! I really enjoyed this book! You gotta love the sexy, arrogant jocks even though occasionally they are so dense and don't know when they've got a great thing going on. :) Bryce was a fun one to have a love/hate relationship with for awhile there ... Bryce Baxter should be riding high. He was MVP when his team won the World Series last season and signed the best multi-year contract around. Instead he's in a slump this season and irritated that he can't get a certain lady off his mind. Rachel Parker has been working hard at getting her sports reporter career off the ground, but got a little closer to a player than she was supposed to. When she shows up to see Bryce with a little problem on her mind, he steps up to aid the situation. Will they decide their spark and inability to get each other off their minds is enough to build a relationship on? ** Received free in exchange for an honest review **
This was a great sport romance. I was hooked from the beginning. I liked Rachel and Bryce. They had a nice amount of tension and angst. But also had easy fun and a playful demeanor. Great balance between sexy and fun. Liked the story but the progression was a little hard to handle at times with so much going on against them. It was written in dual POV which I love and it did help in understanding where they were coming from. Although I wanted to hug him, scream at him and tell him to wake up at the same time. I thought there was a good pace and build through out as well as great character development and great secondary characters. Loved learning the history between Rachel and Bryce and seeing the tender moments that showed their connection. Loved the pull they had on each other. This was well written and captured my attention from the beginning. A full story with great details and lots of twists along the way as well as drama and intensity. Read this story in one sitting. Great ending. Complimentary copy received through NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.
Kristina Matthews adds another excellent addition to the More Than a Game series. This book features journalist Rachel Parker and star shortstop Bryce Baxter. They have a secret affair is mostly physical, because Rachel's employers frown on relationships between players and reporters. His team won the world series, and she isn't looking for a commitment. Life drops a big surprise and disrupts the plans of both Rachel and Bryce. Will their relationship survive as they learn more about each other and overcome problems together? This is a great romance that features a surprisingly sympathetic baseball star and a realistic reporter trying to succeed in a man's field. I have really enjoyed all of this series and am looking forward to the next book in the series! I was given a free copy for an honest review by netgalley.com.
Rachel Parker loves being a reporter and covering news for the San Francisco Goliath's, not only is she able to live out her dreams in front of the camera, but she is also front and center at every game covering her favorite sport...baseball! Being surrounded by all the handsome players could certainly be viewed as a added bonus by some, but for Rachel, she decided early on to never let her work life mix with her home life. Which seems to be a rather easy rule to follow, that is until after she meets the Goliath's smooth talking star player Bryce Baxter, then she begins to wonder how bad it would be for her to make a one time exception... Being with Bryce outside of her work world would definitely be breaking the rules, and potentially putting her job at risk, but there is just something about him that has her wanting to stray from the straight and narrow. Not realizing though that this one time exception could change the course of her entire life... To an outsider looking in it would appear that Bryce Baxter seems to have it all, a career that he loves, many accolades under his belt, fame and fortune, and a fancy sports car to boot. But even with all these riches he still feels like there is something missing from his life... a feisty redheaded reporter to be exact. After a few secret hook-ups with her, he can't seem to shake the hold she has over him, and it's starting to effect his game. He knows the only way to get things back on track is to either get over her, or convince her they have something more than just a casual friendship, but she has a rule, and isn't so willing to break it. Just when he thinks it's time to let her go, she shows up on his doorstep with some news that has him wanting to do admit things to her he never thought possible... This story captured my attention right from the start and had me flying right through the pages, with a dire need to know more, which inevitability had me staying up well past my bedtime just to get my fix! This was my introduction to Ms. Mathews work, and I have to say that it left a very memorable first impression, so much so, that I plan to revisit the series and read the books released prior to this one. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute spent getting acquainted with these wonderfully crafted characters and I highly recommend that you take a chance on them too! It is a highly satisfying read that will melt your heart and having you looking at baseball players in a whole new light... and possibly leave you with the desire to catch a game..or two!! ARC requested through NetGalley and kindly provided by Kensington Books in exchange for a honest and unbiased review.