Fast Breakby Regina Hart
He's a two-time MVP and three-time championship winner. He lives to be the best. And now that he's a first-time coach, DeMarcus Guinn will
It's 24/7 money, fame, and game on-and off-the court. But the real action is behind the scenes in Regina Hart's sizzling new pro b-ball series, where the stakes are everything and winning means playing for keeps. . .
He's a two-time MVP and three-time championship winner. He lives to be the best. And now that he's a first-time coach, DeMarcus Guinn will lead the NBA's worst team to the top his way-or no way at all. But the team's fiery franchise owner, Jaclyn Jones, is fighting him at every turn. And their unexpectedly seductive one-on-one is the kind of game time he can't resist. . .
Turning her family's team into winners is Jaclyn's only hope of saving them and her community. She's used to being in control, but DeMarcus' determination-and the way he makes her feel-are like no moves she's ever seen. And with everything they care about on the line, they'll have to play to win . . . or lose their hearts.
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By REGINA HART
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Patricia Sargeant-Matthews
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTwo years later
"Cut the crap, Guinn."
DeMarcus Guinn felt the sting of the honey-and-whiskey voice. It slapped him from the doorway of his newly acquired office in the Empire Arena. He looked up from his National Basketball Association paperwork and across the room's silver-carpeted expanse.
Standing in the polished oak threshold, Jaclyn Jones radiated anger. It vibrated along every curve of her well-toned figure. Contempt hardened her long cinnamon eyes. The media had nicknamed the former Women's National Basketball Association shooting guard the Lady Assassin. Her moniker was a tribute to her holding the fewest number of fouls yet one of the highest scoring records in the league.
As of today, DeMarcus called her boss.
DeMarcus pushed his heavy, black executive chair back from his massive oak desk and stood. He didn't understand Jaclyn's accusatory tone or her hostility, but confusion didn't justify poor manners. "Excuse me?"
"You took the Monarchs' head coach position." She threw the words at him.
DeMarcus's confusion multiplied. "Why wouldn't I? You offered it."
Jaclyn strode into his office. Her blood red skirt suit cut a wave of heat across the silver carpet, white walls and black furniture. Her fitted jacket highlighted the rose undertone of her golden brown skin. Slender hips swayed under the narrow, mid-calf skirt. Three-inch red stilettos boosted her six-foot-plus height.
She stopped behind one of the three black-cushioned guest chairs facing his desk and dropped her large gray purse onto its seat. Her red-tipped nails dug into the fat chair cushion. "That was my partners' decision. Gerry and Bert extended the offer. I was against it."
Her admission surprised him. DeMarcus shoved his hands into the soft pockets of his brown khaki pants. Why was she telling him this? Whatever the reason, it couldn't be good. "I didn't ask to interview for the Brooklyn Monarchs' head coach job. You came to me."
Jaclyn shook her head. Her curly, dark brown hair swung around her shoulders. It drew his attention to the silver and black Brooklyn Monarchs lapel pin fastened to her collar. "Not me. Gerry and Bert." Her enunciation was crisp and clear.
So was her meaning. You don't have what it takes. Stop wasting our time.
Confusion made a blind pass to bitterness. DeMarcus swallowed it back. "Why don't you want me as your coach?"
"The Monarchs need a winning season. We need this season. You don't have the experience to make that happen."
"I don't have coaching experience, but I've been in the league for fifteen years—"
Jaclyn raised her right hand, palm out, cutting him off. "And in that time, you won two NBA championship rings, three MVP titles and an Olympic gold medal. I saw the games and read the sports reports."
"Then you know I know how to win."
She quirked a sleek, arched brow. "You can play to win, but can you coach?"
"Winning is important to me."
"It's important to me, too. That's why I want an experienced head coach."
DeMarcus clenched his teeth. Jaclyn Jones was a pleasure to look at and her voice turned him on. But it had been a long, draining day, and he didn't have time for this shit.
He circled his desk and took a position an arm's length from her. "If you didn't want to hire me, why am I here?"
She moved in closer to him. "Majority rule. Gerry and Bert wanted you. I'd hoped, after the interview, you'd realize you were out of your element."
DeMarcus's right temple throbbed each time he remembered the way she'd interrogated him a month ago. He should have realized she'd been driven by more than thoroughness. Gerald Bimm and Albert Tipton had tried to run interference, but the Lady Assassin had blocked their efforts.
DeMarcus shook his head. "I'm not out of my element. I know the game. I know the league, and I know what it takes to win."
Jaclyn scowled up at him. A soft floral fragrance—lilac?—floated toward him. He could see the darker flecks in her cinnamon eyes. His gaze dipped to her full red lips
"But you don't know how to coach." Her expression dared him to disagree. "When you were with the Miami Waves, you led by example, picking up the pace when your teammates weren't producing. You were amazing. But I don't need another player. I need a coach."
DeMarcus crossed his arms. "We went over this during my interview. I wouldn't have taken this job if I couldn't perform."
Jaclyn blinked. Her gaze swept his white shirt, green tie and brown pants before she pivoted to pace his cavernous office. "We're talking about coaching."
"I know." DeMarcus tracked her movements from the black lacquered coffee service set against his far left wall and back to his desk. Her red outfit complimented the office's silver and black décor, the Monarchs's team colors.
The only things filling the void of his office were furniture—his oak desk, a conversation table, several chairs and a bookcase. The tall, showy plant in the corner was fake.
Jaclyn paced away from him again. Her voice carried over her shoulder. "The Monarchs finished last season with nineteen wins and sixty-three losses."
DeMarcus heard her frustration. "They finished at the bottom of the Eastern Conference."
"We were at the bottom of the league." Jaclyn turned to approach him. Her eyes were tired, her expression strained. "What are you going to do to turn the team around?"
He shrugged. "Win."
She was close enough to smell the soft lilac fragrance on her skin, feel the warmth of her body and hear the grinding of her teeth. "You sound so confident, so self-assured. It will take more than the strength of the Mighty Guinn's personality to pull the team out of its tailspin."
"I'm aware of that." He hated the nickname the media had given him.
"Then how are you planning to win? What's your strategy?"
As majority owner of the Brooklyn Monarchs, Jaclyn was his boss. DeMarcus had to remember that, even as her antagonism pressed him to respond in kind.
He took a deep breath, calling on the same techniques he'd used to center himself before making his free throws. "I'm going to work on increasing their speed and improving their defense. Your players can earn style points, but they do everything in slow motion." Jaclyn stared at him as though expecting something more. "I can give you more details after I've studied their game film."
He glanced at the tower of digital video discs waiting for him to carry them home. It was late September. Training camp had started under the interim head coach, and preseason was two weeks away. He didn't have a lot of time to turn the team around.
Jaclyn settled her long, slender hands on her slim hips and cocked her right knee. The angle of her stance signaled her intent to amp up their confrontation. DeMarcus narrowed his eyes, trying to read her next move.
"Maybe I should have been more specific." Her voice had cooled. "The players no longer think they're capable of winning. How are you going to change their attitudes?"
"By giving them the skills they need to win."
"These aren't a bunch of high school kids. They're NBA players. They already have the skills to win."
"Then why aren't they winning?"
Jaclyn dragged her hand through her thick, curly hair. "Winning builds confidence. Losing breeds doubt. I'm certain you've heard that before."
"Yes." But why was she bringing it up now?
"Even with the skills, they won't win unless they believe they can win. How do you plan to make them believe?"
DeMarcus snorted. "You don't want a coach. You want Dr. Phil."
Jaclyn sighed. "And you're neither. I'd like your resignation, please."
DeMarcus stared. He couldn't have heard her correctly. "What?"
"It would save both of us a great deal of embarrassment and disappointment."
His mind went blank. His skin grew cold. Jaclyn had landed a sucker punch without laying a finger on him. "You want my resignation? I've only been here one day."
"Think of your reputation. Everyone remembers you as a winner. You're jeopardizing your legacy by taking a position you're not qualified for."
Blood flooded his veins again, making his skin burn. "I disagree. I have what it takes to lead this team."
Jaclyn didn't appear to be listening. She dropped her hands from her hips and paced his spacious office. "You can keep the signing bonus."
"It's not about the money." The vein above his right temple had started to throb. He heard the anger in his voice but didn't care. He was through playing nice with his new boss. She was threatening his goal and maligning his character.
Jaclyn frowned at him. "Then what is it about?"
DeMarcus doubted she was interested in his motives for wanting to be the head coach of the Brooklyn Monarchs. "I'm not a quitter."
"You're not a coach."
DeMarcus studied the elegant features of her golden brown face—her high cheekbones, pointed chin and long-lidded eyes—searching for a clue to her thoughts. What was her game? "Do you have someone else in mind for my job?"
Her full, moist lips tightened. "We interviewed several candidates I consider much more qualified to lead this team."
"Gerry and Bert hired me. Your partners don't respect your opinion."
Jaclyn made an irritated sound. "I've realized my business partners don't have the team's best interests at heart."
"Careful, or you'll hurt my feelings."
Jaclyn's eyes narrowed. "Are you helping them destroy the team?"
"What are you talking about" Was Jaclyn Jones unbalanced?
"Why would you stay where you're not wanted?"
He gave her a wry smile. "But I am wanted. I have the letter offering me this job to prove it."
"I didn't sign that letter."
DeMarcus turned to reclaim his seat behind his desk. "Two out of three isn't bad."
Jaclyn followed him, stopping on the other side of his desk. "You should be more careful of the company you keep. Gerry and Bert don't care about the team. They don't care about you, either."
"I don't need your help picking my friends." DeMarcus pulled his seat under his desk before giving Jaclyn a cool stare. "Now, you'll have to excuse me. I have work to do."
Jaclyn straightened. "I want your resignation. Now."
DeMarcus dropped his mask and let her see all the anger he'd been hiding. "No."
"Then you're not getting my support."
"Lady, you don't scare me." He leaned back in his seat. "You're convinced I don't have what it takes to coach your team, but you haven't given me one damn reason why you've made that call."
"I've given you several."
DeMarcus held up one finger. "You want someone who'll get in touch with your players' emotions. Look, if they don't want to win, they don't belong on your team."
"You don't have the authority to fire players." There was apprehension in her eyes.
He raised a second finger. "You think your partners aren't looking out for the team. That's only because you didn't get your way."
"That's not true."
He lifted a third finger. "You don't think I can coach." DeMarcus stood. "How do you know that? Have you seen me coach?"
"Have you seen you coach?" Jaclyn clamped her hands onto her hips.
DeMarcus jerked his chin, indicating his office. "This is what I want, an opportunity to lead the Brooklyn Monarchs to a winning season. And, in a few years, bring home the championship. We have to be realistic. That won't happen this season. But it will happen. That's my goal. And I'll be damned if I'm going to let anyone deny me."
Jaclyn's gaze wavered. But then she raised her chin and squared her shoulders. "That's a very moving speech, Guinn. Can you back it up?"
"Watch me." DeMarcus settled back into his seat and nodded toward his doorway. "But do it from the other side of the door."
The heat of her anger battered his cold control. DeMarcus held her gaze and his silence. Finally, Jaclyn inclined her head. She grabbed her purse from the guest chair and left.
DeMarcus scrubbed his face with both hands, hoping to ease his temper. The Lady Assassin had charged him like a lead-footed defender at the post.
They shared the same goal—a winning season for the Monarchs. Then why was she determined to get rid of him?
Cold air cut into Jaclyn's skirt suit as she exited the Empire Arena. Leaving her coat at home during autumn in Brooklyn hadn't been a good idea. But at least the chilled breeze was cooling her temper.
She shivered as she hustled toward the curb. "Thanks for waiting, Herb." Jaclyn gave the liveried limousine driver a grateful smile.
Yes, she was angry about the Mighty Guinn's galactic stubbornness and mammoth ego. But she wouldn't project her wrath onto Herbert Trasker. The quiet older gentleman from the limo service she retained had been driving her around the city for years.
Herbert straightened away from the silver Bentley sedan. The black suit and tie made his wiry frame seem taller. "You're welcome, Ms. Jones."
Herbert's emerald eyes twinkled at her. With a familiar gesture, the driver touched the brim of the black leather hat covering his iron gray hair. He opened the back passenger-side door and waited while Jaclyn thanked him before settling in. Their routine eased some of her tension.
Herbert slid behind the wheel. "The Bonner and Taylor office, Ms. Jones?"
"Yes, thank you, Herb." She'd stopped trying to get him to call her Jaclyn.
Herbert muscled the Bentley into the crowded, chaotic streets and set it on a course toward the downtown law firm. Bonner & Taylor represented the owners of the Empire Arena, which had been the home of the Brooklyn Monarchs since the franchise's birth in 1956.
Herbert maneuvered them past the neighborhoods of the borough in which she'd been born and raised—the congested city sidewalks, packed bodegas and busy storefronts. Framing these streets were trees, young and old, their brilliant autumn colors vying for attention.
The glass and metal corporate building that housed Bonner & Taylor rose into view. Jaclyn beat back her cresting nervousness. Could she convince the arena owners' lawyers to extend the franchise's opt-out clause?
Herbert double-parked beside a delivery van and activated the Bentley's hazard lights. He climbed from the driver's seat and circled the sedan to hand Jaclyn from the car. Stepping onto the street, Jaclyn felt as though she were moving in slow motion.
"I'll meet you right here, Ms. Jones."
She smiled with more confidence than she felt. "Thank you."
Jaclyn strode to the offices. Revolving doors swung her into the tall, thin building. Her stilettos clicked against the stone floor as she crossed the lobby. The business directory mounted to the marbled teal wall listed Bonner & Taylor's offices on the twenty-eighth floor of the thirty-floor structure.
Jaclyn wove through the hustling crowd toward the express elevators. The lobby reeked of wealth, prestige and self-importance. As she waited for the elevators, Jaclyn straightened the jacket of her power suit. Hopefully, it would prove more effective with Bonner & Taylor than it had with the Mighty Guinn.
Despite its claim to express service, the elevator ride gave her plenty of time to settle her nerves. It wasn't until its doors opened to the firm's offices that she realized she hadn't been successful.
A thin-faced, blond receptionist looked up as Jaclyn approached. "Good afternoon. May I help you?"
Jaclyn tried another confident smile. "Jaclyn Jones to see Misters Bonner and Taylor."
The receptionist's expression warmed to a polite welcome. "Yes, Ms. Jones. They're expecting you." She gestured toward a grouping of beige armchairs to the left of her desk. "Please make yourself comfortable. I'll let them know you're here."
She'd just settled into the chair, which was as comfortable as her sofa, when a tall, middle-aged gentleman in a double-breasted, navy pin-striped suit strode toward her. "Ms. Jones, I'm Greg Bonner. It's a pleasure to meet you."
Jaclyn stood and accepted Gregory's outstretched hand. "Thank you for meeting with me, Mr. Bonner."
"Greg, please." The firm's senior partner studied her with sharp, gray eyes. His salon-styled chestnut hair grew back from his forehead.
Excerpted from FAST BREAK by REGINA HART Copyright © 2011 by Patricia Sargeant-Matthews. Excerpted by permission of DAFINA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Was totally into this book from beginning to the end
Great story! The realistic, interesting, and complex characters as well as their commitments to each other, their family, friends, team and community made this book easy to enjoy, and feel a part of this story. Cannot wait to read the Smooth Play, the second book about The Monarchs.
Regina Hart has written a simple story filled with complexities and excitement. This basketball driven romance is simply delicious and I enjoyed it very much. In Fast Break, a former Brooklyn basketball star returns home to coach a history filled second rate team, that wasn't always second rate. He waltzes into a tension filled situation that is dressed in deceit, manipulation, hate and controversy wrapped in many egos....wooo weee!! While DeMarcus Guinn assumes the head coaching position with his father's favorite basketball team he is confronted with some near impossible situations that are compounded with him falling in love with one of the team's owners, Jaclyn Jones. Jaclyn Jones, a former WNBA superstar, is fighting to save her family's legacy and plans to do so at all cost. While these two battle the forces that have allowed this team to became the worst team in the NBA, they battle finding the footing with each other as well. Dive into this engaging novel and see if love wins.... I eagerly await her next one. Very good job Regina Hart.
Fast Break by Regina Hart takes us up close and personal into the exciting world of pro basketball. The action off the court is just as fast and exciting as on the basketball court. DeMarcus Guinn former outstanding guard in the NBA left the game at the top of his field. He needs a new challenge and restoring his hometown team the Monarchs back to their former glory may be just the ticket. But first he has to get the owners on his side and that will be a much bigger challenge then Marc had bargained for when he took the head coaching position. One owner in particular gets under his skin, Jaclyn Jones. Jaclyn Jones left her law practice to turn her focus to her late grandfather's basketball team the NY Monarchs. Her grief over her beloved grandfather's death caused her to let management of the team slide. At first she is less then thrilled with her co-owners choice of coach. But Jaclyn discovers there are many layers to this compelling man. As they both fight to get their team back to its former winning ways they give into their immense attraction to each other. Will the growing tension between the other owners and outside factors put a damper on their budding romance? Fast Break is a multi-layered book. The world of basketball is wonderfully written, the games sequence make you feel like you are right there courtside watching the action. Marc and Jaclyn passion for the game and each other is electric. Rather they are going head to head about coaching or heating up the bedroom you can feel the sparks flying. Loved this book to pieces, hated for it to end. Hopefully, more players will be getting their own story soon.