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Game On Series
By Desiree Holt
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Desiree Holt
All rights reserved.
"Damn it, Hank. Why don't you answer?"
Shay Beckham pressed End on her cell phone yet again and sighed. She and her brother had been playing telephone tag for two days. When he called, she was in meetings. When she called, he was out of signal range. The only voices talking to each other were their voice mails. How godforsaken could it be in Wyoming, anyway? It was still in the United States, right?
And why was he trying so hard to reach her? They exchanged texts now and then, but they were both so busy they only called each other in case of emergency. The places he went, cell reception was spotty at best and talking to him was like playing leapfrog. Wait! Was he okay? Her heart stopped for a moment at the thought he might be hurt, but then she relaxed. If something had happened to him, his boss would have reached out to her. So what was on his mind that had generated this flurry of aborted phone calls? Obviously, he wanted something because he was the one who'd initiated this current game of phone tag.
She leaned back in the taxi as it turned from the airport access road onto the interstate. Less than half an hour and she'd be home, thank God, and she could get out of her sweatshirt and jeans that wore the remnants of her diet cola from the plane.
With the way her luck was running, maybe she shouldn't have accepted her complimentary beverage. On the flight out to New York a week before, a little turbulence had been responsible for her arriving with a huge coffee stain on her favorite yellow sweater. Maybe she should carry a bib with her. Or a large tarpaulin.
On today's flight, she had just set up her iPad and lifted her glass gingerly to take a sip when the plane hit an air pocket and everything bounced. Her iPad. The purse beneath the seat. Worst of all, her drink. Her hand flew up, with it her diet soda and, most importantly, the ice cubes. Up in the air. Over the back of her seat. Into the seat behind her.
She could still hear the man behind her growling. "Shit!"
Then, "Damn it anyway."
She'd used the miniscule courtesy napkin to blot up what she could from her sweatshirt and jeans. Shay had cringed as the man behind her continued to mutter under his breath.
"Hey, you in front. Didn't you ever learn to pay attention on a plane? You got your damn drink all over me."
He hadn't seemed impressed with her mumbled apology so she'd just slid down even farther and buried her nose in her iPad again. And been damn glad to get to the end of the flight without further incident. When it was time to deplane, she'd avoided even looking back at the man, hustling up the Jetway into the terminal as fast as she could. Getting home was all she could think of.
Sighing, she brushed a few wisps of hair away from her cheeks and tugged on the brim of her red ball cap. A lean cougar prowled across the red background, a new graphic she'd created for Dazzling Designs. The company she worked for produced merchandise for college and professional sports teams. This prototype had been waiting for her when she flew in for four days at the main office and she'd decided to wear it on her trip home.
She was worn out from the long, intense days of discussions and brainstorming. This was her third round trip to New York since she'd made the move back to Texas. After five months, she was piling up plenty of frequent-flyer miles, which she hoped to use one of these days.
She realized with a start the taxi, which had slowed a moment ago, had come to a standstill. The driver's two-way radio crackled in the front seat, but she ignored its staticky sound as she checked her phone again. Still no answer from Hank. She leaned forward, seeing rows of vehicles stopped in every lane of the interstate as far ahead as she could see. Shit.
"Is there an accident ahead of us?"
"Yes, miss." The driver was nothing if not polite. "Dispatch radioed me a moment ago. Sorry, miss."
Well, crap. Just what she didn't need. She wanted a hot bath, a glass of wine, and pizza delivery.
She checked her watch again. Was it really only two minutes since she'd tried calling Hank? Maybe a text would reach him. Sometimes she had better success with that.
"In cab on way home from airport. What's up? Try a tin can for reception."
She hit Send and waited to see if he answered. In less than two minutes, her phone chimed.
"Yes. What's up with you? What's with all the phone calls?"
"Just wanted 2 let you know Laura had 2 vacate condo for repairs for 2 days. Told her she could stay at house. She knows where extra key is."
That was what was so important?
Shay snorted and wrote, "I'll bet."
"She'll be gone sometime 2day. Just a heads up." Shay ground her teeth. Damn it. Why couldn't the damn woman have gone to a hotel? And what was with giving out the location of the key? She loved her big brother and was grateful to him for sharing his house with her but she definitely needed to find a place of her own. She didn't need his females driving her crazy when he wasn't there.
"She'd better be out of there when I get home. Want peace and quiet."
"I'll text her now. Just wanted to get yr flight info."
"On my way home from airport now."
"Thx. I'll tell her. How was NY?"
"Same old same old. U home soon?"
"Maybe. Don't know. Take care."
Traffic was still not moving. Shay bit down on her frustration, sighed again, and unzipped the front pocket of her carry-on. She'd grabbed a sports magazine in the airport, planning to check the ads her company was running, but hadn't bothered to read it on the plane. Maybe she could use it to pass the time now.
Flipping it open, the first thing she saw was Joe Reilly's face smiling at her in full living color. Crap. Joe Reilly. Her childhood hero, her teenage crush, and the star of her adult erotic fantasies. The same Joe Reilly who'd called her squirt and pest when she tagged after him and Hank. The football idol who had been a babe magnet since his voice changed.
The man she'd been secretly in love with all these years, a love that stilted every other relationship she'd had. When was she ever going to admit that it was an impossibility? That she needed to stomp on it, bury it, and move forward?
In Texas, where football was the number one religion, high school stars wrote their own tickets. As the star quarterback for the Granite Falls High School Coyotes, Joe had had women hanging over him like so much drapery. During his outstanding career in college and then in the NFL, it seemed every time she turned on the television or checked sports online she saw his picture with one female or another. She was sure he had a black book that rivaled an encyclopedia in size. She might as well have been chopped liver for as much attention as he ever paid to her.
She'd wasted so much of her time studying football, until she could diagram games almost as well as Joe could. She could even point out the percentage of success for each play. Joe had always grinned and winked at her. Only in hindsight had she realized he'd tolerated her because she was Hank's baby sister, with the emphasis on baby, even as she stupidly wanted him to wait for her to grow up.
She needed to find a way to get Joe Reilly out of her head. For good. Certainly her obsession with him wasn't helping her love life. She needed to stop looking for Joe Reilly substitutes. The men she tried to build relationships with may not have been athletes, but they were ardent sports fans and that was what attracted her.
And look how far that had gotten her. One cheated on her with a coworker, one out and out lied about who and what he was, another wanted to move in with her and have her pay the rent. Thank God she'd never said I love you to any of them, probably because, in retrospect, she hadn't. All those experiences left her with a strong distrust of the male sex, Joe Reilly being no exception.
Yeah, she was the champion of stupid. What was with her, anyway? She was smart, savvy, successful at her work. She'd braved the Big Apple and found herself a dream job she loved, which paid her extremely well. People would be lining up to be her if she let them. Now she needed to find a way to get rid of this restless, unfulfilled feeling she hadn't been able to shake in years.
For weeks she'd been telling herself tomorrow she'd take the first step to build a new life here in San Antonio, back in Texas where her roots were. Reach out to old friends. Meet new people. Rebuild her life and shake the ghosts of the past. Stop burying herself in the house with her work and marathon sessions with old movies and popcorn. How pathetic was that?
What she needed was the right guy, one who understood emotion and who respected her. One who wasn't a Joe Reilly substitute. It wouldn't hurt if he was really hot and could make every one of her erotic fantasies come to life. And also didn't lie or cheat. Time to finally put the vestiges of her crush, her childish daydreams, where they belonged — in the mental Dumpster. She was through lusting after Joe Reilly.
If she was going to hero worship someone she should have stuck to Joe Montana. He'd be a lot safer. And better. Yes, way better.
She closed the magazine, putting Joe Reilly where he belonged. In her carryon.
Time to get on with life.
* * *
Joe Reilly wheeled his rental car out of the parking lot toward San Antonio. Checking his cell phone for traffic alerts, he discovered an accident on Interstate 10 that had traffic at a standstill. He programmed the GPS for an alternate route and headed out.
He could still smell the traces of a soft drink on his slacks. He'd done his best to wipe away the stains but the rental clerk had given him the fisheye, probably thinking he was a real slob. It wasn't his fault some idiot who couldn't walk and chew gum, or manage to hold onto her drink on the plane, had dumped its contents over the back of her seat and onto him. Just another indication of how crummy his day was going.
He'd seen this trip as a chance to spend some quality time with Hank Beckham, who, despite geographical differences, was still his best friend. He didn't get to see as much of him as he'd like to these days. The last time had been three years ago.
Their schedules just hadn't allowed for any time together since then. Hank was an engineer who was always being sent to some assignment for his company while Joe ran around the country for Fox Sports One and for the Coaches Conference business he'd started. The latter was an important project for him, workshops for high school coaches on how to lead as well as coach. How to teach players personal values as well as diagrams and game plans. He'd seen too many kids come out of high school without understanding that playing was only half the deal. Personal responsibility was a big part of it. His programs were geared to help coaches pass that along.
Unfortunately Hank had texted that morning he was still in Wyoming working on plans to build a bridge, but Joe should make himself at home in the house.
"I'll try and catch a quick couple of days while you're there, buddy," Hank had assured him. "But if not, just make yourself at home."
He'd also hoped to spend some time with his parents, of course, who were happy in their new adults-only community, except they were away on a trip. Bad timing, but it couldn't be helped.
So he'd be alone in the house.
Joe shifted in his seat, trying to stretch out his left leg. The ache served as a constant reminder the glory days had come to an abrupt end.
His cell phone rang, interrupting his thoughts. He looked at the readout and swore. Lisa Margolin. No doubt calling for his help with Gina again. God. How had he gotten himself in this pickle anyway? Because his parents raised him to take care of people who couldn't take care of themselves. That was how. He let the call go to voice mail, not in a mood to deal with it right now.
He was aware the most recent company Gina worked for had gone out of business a few weeks ago. Employees had received a one-month severance package and Joe knew Gina was coming to the end of hers. She didn't deal well with uncertainty. Her dysfunctional family had set off her battle with the bottle to begin with and he knew the thread of sobriety was always very shaky.
Ten minutes later the ringtone chimed again and he knew without looking who it was. She was nothing if not persistent. Setting his jaw, he pressed Accept.
"What is it this time, Lisa?"
"You know I wouldn't call you unless it was important, Joe. Really." She always began the calls that way.
Except it was always important. "Yeah, okay. Just tell me what's up now."
"I hope you aren't mad."
She was as good at sounding tearful as Gina always had been.
"Lisa, I'm kind of busy. What's the deal?"
"Well, um ..." She paused.
"Look." He chuffed with impatience. "Just spit it out. How much?" It was always money. Of course.
"She's got a few job interviews coming up and she could use a couple new outfits."
Joe squeezed the phone so hard he was amazed he didn't crush it. "What happened to the money I just sent her?"
Pause. "She got sick." Lisa's voice was very quiet. "I mean, really sick. She needed medicine."
He could only imagine. Medicine that came in bottles of cheap booze.
"She really wants to make a good impression at these interviews," Lisa added.
A headache began to burrow its way into his temples.
"Fine. Give me an hour and I'll transfer some money into your account."
"Can't you just meet me with a check?" she whined.
"No. I'm busy. It's the transfer or nothing."
"Whatever." Her heavy sigh was clear across the connection. "Sorry. I just want this to happen for her."
"We're coming to the end of the road here, Lisa. It's time Gina took responsibility for her own life."
"But you're all she has," Lisa protested, a familiar refrain. "You can't let go of her now. I-I'll make sure she stays clean. Gets a job. Goes to work."
"Do that. I'll check back with you to see what's going on." He disconnected the call in the middle of her thanks, grinding his teeth.
Gina Rivera. High school bombshell. Wild child who'd captured his virtue. He hadn't seen her, had even forgotten about her, until his third year in the NFL. She'd shown up at a game, waiting for him at the player's gate, all masses of blond hair and tight clothes. He'd been high enough on the excitement of the win to succumb to her sexiness and spend the night with her.
He hadn't thought much of it, not even when she showed up twice more. Then he'd discovered her secret, answered her one plea for help and after that he was trapped, just because he was basically a good guy. Occasional contact turned into regular contact. And when he'd stopped taking her calls, she'd had Lisa contact him with a sob story that plucked at his conscience.
How long was he expected to offer aid to a raging alcoholic who didn't help herself? He should have told Scott Manchin, his agent, about it from the beginning. By now so much time had passed if word got out, the media wouldn't look at him as doing something kind for a friend. They'd want to know why he'd kept her hidden all this time. Did they have a child together? All that shit. He'd seen it happen to others and hadn't been smart enough to protect himself. It would be gossip fodder for weeks and kill all the work he'd done to clean up his act. He really had to cut the cord here.
Okay, enough of that.
Following the GPS directions, he pulled off the interstate and into an attractive neighborhood of larger homes and mature trees. A little farther on and the GPS directed him to turn left into the long driveway of a two-story colonial. Nice digs, Hank, he thought. But the guy was making big bucks. He deserved a good place to come home to.
He parked in front of the garage door. Maybe when he got inside he could grab the opener from Hank's car and use it while he was here. The key was right where Hank had said it would be. He opened the front door, pulled his suitcase inside, and headed toward the room Hank had said was his to use. On the way he passed a room that looked far too feminine to be Hank's. He wondered briefly whose room it was. Hank hadn't mentioned anything about sharing the house with someone.
Too much for him to think about right now. He wanted a shower, and then he'd see about ordering some dinner. Less than five minutes later he was under hot, steaming water, washing away the grime of the day.
* * *
The taxi moved forward with a jerk and Shay's eyes popped open. She leaned forward and tapped the driver on the shoulder.
"Did they clear away the wreck? We're finally moving, right?"
"Yes, miss." He shrugged. "But slowly."
Excerpted from Forward Pass by Desiree Holt. Copyright © 2014 Desiree Holt. 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
This is like reading about two teenages! Her doubts come from a childish view. So what, at one point in life he was promiscuous. And the men in it talk about there high school football years like it was only a year or so before. Very hard to read and get into.
Forward Pass by Desiree Holt is an awesome read. Ms Holt has delivered a well-written book loaded with fantastic characters. Shay and Joe's story is a fun read. The characters are lovable and the sparks fly. There's plenty of drama and sizzle to keep readers engaged. I enjoyed this fast paced read and look forward to reading more from the talented Desiree Holt in the future. Forward Pass is book 1 of the Game On Series but can be read as a standalone. This is a complete book, not a cliff-hanger.
**I received an ARC of this story in exchange for an honest review** Shay has been in love with Joe, her brother’s BFF for as long as she could remember. Too bad he’s a player always looking for the next party. When he was a pro in the NFL, Shay was forced to see just how much Joe got around. Coming back home to Texas, she finds that her brother, off in Wyoming working, has invited Joe to stay at their home while he’s in town to visit. This puts Shay’s feelings, as well as her insecurities, to the forefront. Joe has finally noticed that his friend’s little sister isn’t so little anymore. The problem is, he’s not sure how to convince Shay he’s not the same guy he used to be either. The author did a great job of building the characters and giving them a complete and believable history. Shay has finally come to terms that she needs to get over Joe just as she finds him in her home. This causes her to lash out at him in a way that at first seems spiteful and childish, but as you get further into the book, you get to understand her a lot more and why she trying to protect her heart from him. Joe’s character starts right off by basically getting hit in the face with a sledgehammer by his feelings for Shay. His determination to win her makes him do some inner-reflection on how he was and how he’s been around her. This was a really good book. It was also VERY HAWT. Recommended for those that like steamy contemporaries with a football twist. I can’t wait to read more from this author.
This book is a roadmap on you you get from big brothers pesky little sister to his best friends wife... Ten years in the making but a good fun story about it all came about. Just enough of everything in this book to make it a good story.. Shay and Joe were meant to be and after a very successful career Joe sustained a serious injury and had to build a new life.. There was a secondary story here that added a bit of drama but overall a good book that I think is worth reading... As usual, football has nothing to do with the story so if you don't like the game don't be deterred... Read and Enjoy!
Fate has a way of smiling down on a couple. No matter how long it takes, Fate will have their due. It took fifteen years for Shay to realize that she has been sabotaging her own love life. As a young girl, she fell hard for her brother’s best friend. She didn’t know better, but she followed Joe around idolizing him. From that time on, all her boyfriends never stood a chance. With a new start ahead of her, she is ready to start over. As soon as she gets her brother’s next fling out of her shower! Well getting away and coming home couldn’t have ended up better. A couple of years ago, Joe set his eyes on the grown up Shay and he didn’t know what hit him. Now that he will be in town on business, he is going to take every chance he can get to show her the new him. But first things first after a long day of traveling…a hot shower. One strong, single minded man and one stubborn but extremely pragmatic woman could make for a very ordinary story. Shay wants to be strong, but she has such a hard time when it comes to Joe. So she will take what she can get and enjoy it. Too bad Joe wants forever, when all Shay can think of is right now. I loved their play. The chase was fun and their interactions were spunky. You saw trouble in the horizon heading their way. When it finally hit home it was a doozy, but not capitalized on completely in my opinion. It was forgiven a bit too easily and the conclusion was a bit fast, but all in all it was a very fun story. All the experiences that happen before the ending more than make up for it. Ms. Holt writes such fun characters and even though I knew who played the role of Fate, it was still fun to watch it all unfold. *rubbing hands together for the next installment*
This is a wonderful story by a new to me author. Shay has had a crush on Joe, her brother's best friend since she was a teenager but when her brother allows Joe to stay at their house while out of town, it opens up a bunch of possibilities. Great story, quick read and hopefully this is the beginning of a new series.
Former football star finds love with best friends little sister is a common theme in many sport related romances and this book is an excellent example of why it works so well. Shay Beckham has been in love with Joe Reilly the majority since she was a little girl. He treated her as a little sister, until they both return to their hometown in Texas as adults. Shay has decided she needs to get over her first love, and Joe is trying to rehab his player image to one of being a responsible adult. They reestablish their friendship, but quickly move to being friends with benefits. Can they work out their differences a create a relationship that will go the distance? This is the first book I have read by Desiree Holt, a well know author of erotica, and this book was smoking hot. It had fun dialogue, a fast moving plot, and a meddling family. Both leading characters were well written and interesting... I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was give a free copy for an honest review.
This was a very enjoyable read! Steamy, funny, and charming. I would have liked a little less whining from Shay about Joe's past and a little more info on why Joe changed his ways but overall it was very entertaining. After years of crushing on Joe, Shay now has a chance with him if she can let go of the past and live in the moment but can Joe live up to her expectations?? I would recommend this one.