Heath Lancaster's happy to be on the practice squad of a professional football team, but instead of a lucky break taking him to the next level, a league-wide strike leaves him unemployed. Until he finds a new semi-pro league in Virginia Beach, where a bikini-clad hottie snags one of his passes on the beach and offers him a tour of the area . . .
A scandalous affair turned Jordan Walker into media fodder--and in no hurry to get back into the dating game. But the easy going tight end of the new Triton's team unleashes an inhibited wild streak in her and has her tempting him with a game of her own. But when she finds out who the owner of the Tritons is, she's wondering if she'll repeat her mistakes . . .
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A Seaside Heat Romance
By Dani Jace
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Dani Jace
All rights reserved.
Heat, ninety-percent humidity, pain and exhaustion. None of it mattered. Football fueled Heath Lancaster's blood. Sweat streamed down his face as he drove the sled another five yards.
After six grueling weeks, he'd made the cut to play on Virginia Beach's new semi-pro team. Over the grunts and groans of the offensive line, a whistle blew, stopping them mid-step.
Heath yanked off his helmet then grabbed one of the water lines from the portable station. Cooling H2O washed over his head and face before he gunned a stream down his parched throat.
"Wanna hit the beach after lunch?" Dugan McKenzie, drank from another hose.
Dugan ran through a string of women the first couple of weeks of camp until he nearly washed out. Performance now improved, and on the roster, he was on the hunt again. This time, Heath planned to join him, imagining cool waves and a sea of curves wearing bikinis. "Sure. Meet you back at the house."
After practice, he showered and donned a pair of board shorts and a Tritons t-shirt. He climbed into his open-door Jeep and clicked on his seat belt as his cell phone went off. For the first time in weeks, he answered without checking the display.
"Hey, babe," Sandy cooed.
Crap! After a couple of weeks without calls, he figured she'd given up. "How's Ben?"
What else should he say to the woman he'd found with her tongue down a friend's throat? Make that former friend.
"You misunderstood, Heath. He was inconsolable after Marcie left him."
"Yeah right, so you were just giving him a little mouth to mouth resuscitation?" Silence filled his ear. "Ancient history and I'm a time zone away now."
Click. He accelerated the Jeep out of the sports complex. It had taken weeks to gain some distance from her manipulations. After her call, the commercial Virginia Beach oceanfront seemed intrusive.
A June sun blazed brightly in a cloudless sky while he cruised down Sand Fiddler Lane. Ninety degrees was cool compared to summer heat in Texas. When he'd signed the six-month lease on the house, the realtor touted Sandbridge as a locals' beach.
He pulled into the driveway and found Dugan beneath the stilted house, applying a coat of wax to the chrome of his Fat Boy Harley. He and his linebacker buddy had scraped through college classes but shined on the gridiron. They'd landed on the practice squad of a pro team in Texas a ouple of years ago, but in March the league went on strike.
Dugan paused from his task and squinted at him with brown eyes. "You look pissed. We still going to check out the local talent?"
"You go ahead. Think I'll just go snooze at Sandbridge." He grabbed his bag from the Jeep.
She called again?" He continued buffing the red metallic gas tank to a high sheen.
Through his sunglasses, Heath leveled a hard stare at Dugan. He'd almost been glad for the league's strike just to get away from Sandy.
"You're better off without her, man. She was dragging you down." He tossed the rag into the bucket of cleaning supplies.
Heath regretted playing her stupid mutt for months. "Think she's figured out her new dog isn't as easy to train. She might be having second thoughts."
"Hope you're not going to roll over if she decides to head this way." Dugan had a gritty determination and was known as a man who never got involved.
Heath intended on picking up similar habits since his defunct relationship. "Those days are done, bro." He reassured Dugan before climbing the stairs.
After snagging a brew from the fridge, he sat on one of the bar chairs. Through the sliding glass door, the blue Atlantic looked cool and inviting after his hard practice. This view had sold him on signing the lease.
The house's central living area and kitchen with bar combo separated the bedrooms and included a bathroom on each side which appealed to their bachelor-style living. Plus he didn't have to hear Dugan when he had a chick stay over.
He pulled out his phone and blocked Sandy's cell number. With a new road ahead, he put her in his "done and moved on" category.CHAPTER 2
Jordan Walker frowned at the skimpy red bikini her friend GiGi held in front of her.
"Come on, try it on."
They'd already scoured the other big stores in the sprawling mall. Any less coverage on the bottom and it would be a thong. Okay for the Hooters' calendar models, but she'd be too self-conscious. "I like to boogie board, remember? The string top would be ripped off in the first wave."
"Wear a surf shirt, scaredy cat." GiGi tossed her long blond tresses with an agitated flick of her hand. "You got a Zumba body. Need to show off those curves, girlfriend."
Jordan fanned through the kaleidoscope of colors and designs, well aware of GiGi's mission to hook her up with a man. Zumba had returned her to the lacrosse shape of her college days, but a skimpy bikini couldn't change her personality. Even if she wanted, Jordan would never pull off the bimbo routine or the sophisticated model persona her friend had down pat.
At least she had the base tan necessary to pull off wearing the turquoise suit begging her attention. Halter top, modest bottom, a sexy accent of lime piping. Beside it hung one in a matching floral pattern in the same style. "What do you think?"
GiGi's hazel eyes widened with approval. "Awesome, you could mix and match. Try 'em on."
Twenty minutes later, Jordan sank into the passenger seat of GiGi's new two-seater convertible. She relaxed as they zipped east along I-264. The wind worked through her hair like massaging fingers. "Love your new ride!"
GiGi shouted above the wind, "You're the one who needs a new ride, my friend! And not the four-wheel variety." She winked.
Call her gun shy or cowardly, but after being blindsided a year ago and her name and reputation shot, Jordan feared the shark infested dating world. "Easy for you to say."
"We've still got the whole afternoon." GiGi's long golden hair whipped behind her. "Let's hit the oceanfront and watch the guys surf."
Jordan never enjoyed the crowds at Virginia Beach, but GiGi was all about the eye-candy. "Let's just make this a girl's day. What about Sandbridge?"
GiGi eyed Jordan over her shades. "Nothing but daddies there."
"Yep, and hard to lie about being married when your kids are with you."
"Quit beating yourself up. Richard was a dick!"
GiGi had reeling in single men down to a science, but they were usually poor musicians and suffering artists' types. Still, it was better than being plastered all over the internet or in the paper as a home wrecker like Jordan had been.
"You know that saying, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me."
"Chicken." GiGi veered off the next exit to the road leading to Sandbridge.
No point denying the obvious. "Yep."
* * *
Heath and Dugan parked at Sandbridge, a small public beach a couple miles south of their rental. The rangy dune line reminded Heath of the beach where he grew up. Bright umbrellas dotted the shore like colored pinwheels. The number of beachgoers thinned as they reached the fishing area.
Dugan found an open spot near the surf. "Hot chicks and MILFs get their exercise walking down this far. We'll catch some sights."
Heath set up his chair and stretched. "Through my eyelids, bro. I need a brew and some z's after this morning's practice." He rolled his shoulders, the soreness already sinking in. A swim would help and cool his inner core before naptime.
"So, how was playing tight end this morning?" Dugan grinned. "That catch you made when the QB threw wide was amazing."
"Right place at the right time." At six-foot-three, Heath topped the scales at two hundred thirty pounds, but Dugan rolled like a tank at two hundred sixty-five. He grabbed the sunscreen from the zip compartment at the back of the chair. "I'm just glad you weren't playing strongside linebacker today. Didn't feel like getting pounded by your ass."
"Never heard that complaint from the ladies." Dugan laughed and cracked the top on a beer.
"Yeah, stud boy, just hope I'm around to see the one that turns you into ground beef." Heath headed to the water for a swim.
* * *
Above Jordan, a lovely green canopy of trees shaded the Miata as they shot along the two-lane road to the beach. Counting the days until school let out, she'd had a tough year of teaching. Not being able to coach lacrosse left her without an outlet and she was ready for a break.
Once on the beach road, GiGi turned into a convenience store parking lot. "I'm getting a couple of hard ales." She hopped out. The woman never had to watch her weight.
Jordan followed while mentally counting the calories from her breakfast. Shelves of cool beverages behind the glass tempted her. She debated before opening a door. A rush of frosty air washed over her as her favorite low-carb beer tempted her. What the hell? A couple could be a tasty, low-cal lunch.
A few minutes later, they arrived at the beach. Inside the bathhouse, Jordan changed into her new suit. Eyeing herself in the mirror, she frowned.
GiGi painted her lips with a coral gloss. "It's been over a year now, Jordan. No one will recognize you. The media is feeding on some other poor soul now."
She could only hope.
After making their way to the pier, Jordan checked out the surf zone. Only a few young teens and old dudes on longboards bobbed in the ocean. The surf lacked the exciting swells necessary to attract anyone hot enough for GiGi. She should have relented and gone to Virginia Beach.
"Let's cruise." GiGi shouldered her beach bag stuffed with towels, drinks and their cell phones. They sank their toes into the sand at the water's edge. "Looks like mommies' day out with the kiddies." She grumbled.
"Says the huntress." Jordan kept walking toward the less crowded fishing area hoping to find GiGi something to stalk.
"I want confirmation this new bikini is worth the money." GiGi thrust out her tits and swayed her hips.
Jordan glanced up, snagging a spiraling football inches from their heads. The ball stung her fingers with a slap.
GiGi squeaked, dropping her bag with their drinks.
"Sorry!" The intended receiver stood in the surf.
"Jesus! My bad!" The passer grimaced.
At least he had the decency to appear embarrassed.
Mr. Sandy Blond rushed from the water toward them. Damn. He had all the attributes of her favorite NFL tight end. Aviator shades hid his eyes. His brawny shoulders tapered to a waist set off by a six-pack.
"You okay?" His gaze followed GiGi's to the bottles littering the beach. "Oh. Sorry about your drinks. He plucked the brews and wine coolers from the sand. "Wouldn't open these for a bit."
GiGi eyed their buff physiques and smirked. "Suppose you'll have to share yours." She nodded to their cooler.
"Not a problem." The dark-haired passer motioned to his beach chair.
But of course, her model-looking friend was always first pick. Jordan handed the ball to the blond. More to her tastes anyway. The stripe on his board shorts accentuated his well-carved butt.
He extended his hand. "Heath."
"Miller?" Jordan asked. Almost as tall and as muscular as the pro tight-end. A definite hard-body. He might have been threatening-looking if not for his endearing dimples and genuine smile.
He enveloped her hand with a firm grip. "Sorry, no. Lancaster is my last name, but you'd make a heck of a cornerback the way you picked off that pass."
Electrified by his touch, her thoughts fired in directions she'd been dodging for months. "Jordan, sister to three older brothers. I can tackle, too, if necessary." She grinned.
He let out a low whistle.
* * *
Enthralled by her spunky comeback, Heath offered Jordan his beach chair then dropped cross-legged on the sand.
Wavy, reddish brown hair spilled over toned shoulders to an athletic, yet shapely figure. He liked women with some curves. Her sunglasses hid the feature he sought most.
Dugan dug in the cooler, popped tops on two cool ones and passed them to their guests. "Sorry ladies. Didn't see y'all. Heath and I had been throwing passes on the fly. I'd just turned and fired."
"I'm GiGi." She accepted the brew and winked at Dugan's come on.
Heath had seen Dugan raise his eyebrow after the flubbed pass. The dog?make that hound. GiGi might be totally oblivious to his farce, but Heath suspected Jordan wasn't so easily deceived.
Dugan complimented GiGi on her bikini and gestured for her to take his chair.
"So are you vacationing?" Heath asked Jordan.
"Nope, born and raised here." She tipped back her beer "I assume you guys are?"
Saying he played for the Tritons was a gamble. "Dugan and I just started a job in the area. There's a probationary period, so we're renting a house near here."
"You didn't want a place on the strip along Virginia Beach?"
"Rent is steep there." Heath raked his fingers through the warm sand wondering if she lived nearby. "I like it here. Got a decent ocean view from the rental. I can sneak through the neighbors' yards for a swim, or come down here if I'm feeling social."
"Are you normally a hermit?" She wrinkled her nose and laughed.
"More like picky with whom I spend time." He winked and grabbed a beer.
Her subsequent grin sent his heart rate climbing. He liked her sarcasm and her cute, slightly upturned nose.
She leaned forward, flipped up her shades and claimed him with a pair of wide, honey-brown eyes. "Me too."
Arousal snaked through his belly. Thankful for concealing trunks, he shifted. It'd been a long two months of practice with no sex.
Beautiful Jordan. A summer fling? Or more trouble? Heath's body demanded what his mind cautioned against. Then again, there wasn't anything wrong with having a meal with her. "So would I meet your standards for dinner out?"
"Possibly. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I hear a southern inflection in your voice." Her smile reached her mesmerizing eyes.
"I'm originally from South Carolina, darlin'."
The moment he said darling, Jordan sank back in the beach chair. Gooseflesh pimpled her arms.
"I'm sorry," he said, softly. "That was forward."
"Just a sudden chill from the beer." She waved off his concern.
He didn't buy it.
"Hey you two, let's do dinner and then drinks." GiGi's fingers traced along Dugan's shoulders in silent invitation.
"Sorry, got an early morning tomorrow. I need to get my car from your place." Jordan eyed GiGi.
Heath had never tanked with a woman by calling her darling. How could the mere endearment piss her off more than almost nailing her with a football?
Dugan stood. "You sure, Jordan? Thought GiGi and you could show us your favorite spots along the Virginia Beach strip."
"Some other time."
Which meant never. Heath rose and offered his hand to Jordan.
After a second of indecision, she accepted.
Heath wrapped her cold fingers in his heated palm. She seemed frightened. Damn. "You okay?"
"Fine." She loosened her hand from his. "Thanks for the beer."
Polite. A kiss-off none the less. He'd felt some chemistry between them. A wrong word and he'd been banished.CHAPTER 3
Jordan latched her seat belt as GiGi started the car. A perfect beach day and she'd been having a great time. One stupid word shot her into flight mode.
Her gut reaction to the endearment proved the Richard fiasco still controlled her life. Damn him. She gritted her teeth, hating how he'd jaded her view of men. If she hadn't been so gullible, she wouldn't have become news fodder as a business man's plaything. She'd lost her self-esteem, ability to trust, and nearly her livelihood.
"What the hell's gotten into you, Jordan?" GiGi followed the black Jeep to the beach house. "You were into him."
"Just not ready to go there, G."
"He's hot as fuck. They're new in town. Ride him like a stallion and be done." She popped the clutch and jerked the car into third gear.
Jordan had worn down the last of GiGi's patience. "Sorry, I'm not like you."
"No, you don't give anyone a chance anymore. The first wrong word and you dismiss people like they're not good enough."
Like your mother. Gigi didn't say it, but the message rang loud and clear. Hiding her fear had turned her into a hardass.
Heath turned into the next driveway. The sleek black four-by-four reminded Jordan of her eldest brother's ride. She missed rides on the beach down on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Good times. She'd love to return to that simple life.
GiGi stopped the car at the end of their driveway.
Dugan swaggered his beefy self to the driver's side and leaned on the door.
Enthused with the jock, GiGi chatted him up like a teen.
Heath grabbed the cooler from the back of his vehicle and then glanced her way. "Nice meeting you, Jordan." Barefoot and shirtless, he waved and turned for the house.
Without an explanation, she'd blown an opportunity with a seemingly nice guy with an amazing body. One man had ruined an endearing word that another's sexy and southern pronunciation had her shivering with desire.
Take a chance. She might wind up being his vacation playmate, but at least it would be her choice. As long as he wasn't a liar and deceiver like Richard. Taking GiGi's advice, Jordan rose from the low sports car and followed him up the driveway. She reached him as he was about to enter the outside shower. "Heath."
Excerpted from Game On! by Dani Jace. Copyright © 2016 Dani Jace. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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