All-pro tackle Nick Logan is on the defensive. Not only is he sidelined with an injured knee, he’s been framed for drug abuse. Desperate to get back on the field, he hires a beautiful, redheaded physical therapist. But Willa Trask isn’t just any healthcare professional—she’s the former flame of the teammate who may have sabotaged his football career. Nick will do anything—including charm, intimidate, and seduce—to get the truth out of Willa, but the last thing he expects is to fall in love.
Unaware that her new client suspects her of treachery, Willa opens up to Nick—and he seems to reciprocate her feelings. But Nick’s hidden suspicions, fueled by his overwhelming need to clear his name, might just sack their budding romance before it begins. Although she’s been unlucky in love, Willa hopes that she’s finally found her match in Nick . . . unless, that is, he fumbles her heart.
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: The Devil’s Thief, Paradise Café, and The Perfect Catch.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||2 MB|
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“As the charges against you stem from evidence obtained without a properly issued search warrant, I have no choice but to dismiss this case. Mr. Logan, you are free to go.”
The pounding of Judge Hanover’s gavel was lost in the cacophony of angry shouts and groans of disappointment from spectators packing the courtroom.
Nick Logan rose slowly from his chair at the defense table, wincing as he straightened the injured knee that had stiffened painfully during the long morning session. Frowning, he retrieved his briefcase. He should be overjoyed that he’d be leaving the courtroom without cold bracelets around his wrists, but he wasn’t. Justice hadn’t been done. And he wouldn’t be truly free until he could prove he was innocent.
Murmuring a thank-you to his attorney, he picked up his cane, then started up the aisle. A legion of reporters was sure to be waiting on the other side of the heavy swinging doors and he mentally prepared himself to face them. Those reporters certainly wouldn’t be fawning over him the way they had just the previous year when he’d helped the Jaguars win their second consecutive Super Bowl. No. They’d keep on attacking him as they had since the police had conveniently discovered packets of cocaine in his locker the day after he’d failed the NFL’s supposedly foolproof drug test.
The moment he emerged into the corridor, flashing lights blinded him while a thunder of questions assaulted his ears. Head held high, Nick threaded his way through the crowd. He tamped down his temper and the urge to tell the media his side of the story. It wouldn’t help. He’d come off looking as though he was out to get sympathy … or worse, that he was an outright liar. Pride was the only thing he had left.
Pride and Skylar Buchanan. Not for the first time Nick sent up a silent prayer of thanks for his college buddy. While the rest of the world believed Nick was just another overpaid jock who’d let success as an all-pro offensive tackle go to his head—and up his nose—Sky had gone out of his way to be supportive and to ferret out the truth.
Dazzling spring sunshine bounced off windshields and chrome as Nick picked his way through the cars in the lot and found his sedan. He tossed his briefcase and cane onto the passenger’s seat and carefully angled his six-foot-four-inch frame under the steering wheel. He smiled. Now that he wouldn’t be appealing a conviction from a jail cell, he could take a more active role in clearing his name. And he had a lot to work with. He and Sky had followed leads to one name, one startling name: Eric Miller. The Jaguars’ star quarterback just might be the man who had framed Nick. Sky had taken a job with the only person who might be able to give them conclusive proof—Eric’s lover at the time of Nick’s arrest: Willa Trask.
Out on the open road, Nick floored the accelerator, all pretense at patience gone.
Nick was frowning as he followed the winding corridor of the Millennium Sports Club to the weight room, where Sky had said to meet him. A fruitless and frustrating week had passed since his case had been dismissed. He’d come straight to the club from the airport; his trip to New York to appeal personally to the commissioner of football for reinstatement had been a failure.
His frown deepening into a scowl, Nick recalled the gratingly polite way the commissioner had dismissed him and his request for the ban to be rescinded so he’d be eligible to play for the Jaguars in the fall. Damn. The man wouldn’t even listen to him or his explanations. Nick vowed not to waste another minute. He had to clear his name. And fast. Thank God for Sky. He’d left a message on Nick’s machine that he had important new information and asking for a meeting at the club.
Hearing Sky’s unmistakable voice, Nick hesitated before opening the weight-room door.
“I don’t … think I can … get it up … again.”
“Sure you can. Come on, concentrate” came a feminine voice that was soft yet deep and brooked no argument. “You can do it, Sky. Now push. Push.”
The urge to find out who belonged to that intriguing voice of pure honey mixed with pure steel was irresistible. But Nick wasn’t one to invade a man’s privacy at a potentially delicate moment. He waited a discreet few seconds, then said loudly before cracking the door, “So Sky Buchanan can’t get it up again?” He eased into the cavernous room and stopped dead in his tracks.
A gorgeous, sexy redhead stood behind the weight bench where Sky was working out. Startled by Nick’s voice, she had straightened up and was looking directly at him.
The woman was tall, exceptionally fit, and slim. Her breasts were full, soft curves that pressed against the mint-green sweatsuit she wore. The sleeves had been cut out of the shirt, revealing two well-toned arms; the loose-fitting pants obscured the shape of her extremely long legs. His attention returned to her crowning glory, lingering on the strands of bright auburn hair escaping the band holding it away from her face. The curling wisps of hair clinging to her damp skin along with the memory of her caramel-coated voice made Nick forget his urgent need to talk with Sky. The woman took his breath away. His sudden desire for the striking redhead surprised him. Since his college days playing ball, he’d attracted the opposite sex like nectar drew bees. But it hadn’t taken long after turning pro for him to learn that the major reason a lot of women wanted to get into his bed was because he was a famous ballplayer. Bragging rights about sexual conquests weren’t the exclusive territory of men, he’d discovered. As a result, he’d become very selective.
Annoyed at being so easily sidetracked, Nick decided to get to the matter that had brought him to the club. To do so, he had to brush off the redhead.
“Millennium is certainly a ritzy enough health club, Sky, but the weight room?” The deliberately sarcastic edge to his voice worked as he’d hoped; the woman seemed more than a little annoyed. “You should have chosen something more seductive,” he went on. “The steam room, maybe? Of course, atmosphere isn’t everything, but most women require at least a pretense of class.”
No longer irritated, the redhead’s expression turned to one of full-fledged anger. Nick belatedly realized that Sky’s taste in women must have changed. Judging from her stiffened spine and lifted chin, he could tell she was no fawning groupie—which meant there would be no practiced pout or flouncing out in a calculated chase-me-down-and-apologize huff.
His regret over his less than polite tactics must have shown on his face, because Ms. Sexy Voice’s expression changed from anger to resigned tolerance. She started to speak, but was interrupted by a loud groan.
The barbell hovered dangerously over Sky’s head for a moment before she snapped to attention and guided the heavily weighted iron bar to the rack in front of her. “Sky, I’m sorry,” she said, her voice even huskier than before. She fired an accusing glare at Nick before turning back to Sky, who was now sitting up and mopping at the sweat on his forehead. “I wasn’t … I mean … he distracted … Sorry,” she finished lamely.
When she looked back at Nick, her anger had returned full force. He was too far away to see the color of her eyes, but with her russet-red hair he’d lay odds on green.
“Mister, I don’t know who you are, or how you got in here after hours,” she stated clearly, her deep voice all steel now, “but in the future please be more careful about startling people around heavy weights. It’s dangerous and could result in serious injury.” Her pointed look left no doubt as to who the injured party would be.
Truly regretting his earlier words, Nick realized his error in judgment even more. She’d handled his rudeness—crudeness, really—very professionally, earning respect and an apology. Caught up in dealing with his continued fascination with her, Nick was a beat late recognizing how odd the expression on Sky’s face was.
“It’s okay, Willa,” Sky said. “I told Kelly to let him in before she left for the night. He usually has better manners.” He shot Nick a quelling look, silently urging him to keep his cool. “But I still claim him as a friend.” His smile tight at the corners, Sky gestured Nick over to them. “Willa Trask, meet Nick Logan, former college football teammate and a major cramp in my style.”
Willa Trask! This was Willa Trask? Nick’s mind raced as the news sank in. He fought a hard-won battle to maintain a calm facade, extremely difficult considering he was looking at the woman who had very possibly helped Eric Miller ruin his career.
He glanced from Willa to Sky, whose massive shoulders lifted in an apologetic shrug. Not trusting himself to speak, Nick grabbed his cane and crossed the room, buying some much-needed time to collect himself.
Willa Trask. He’d been looking directly at her when Sky introduced him. Not a flicker of recognition had crossed her lovely face. She was good, he thought, real good. Nick studied her carefully, his stony expression giving no indication of his inner turmoil.
“You must be a really good friend,” she said, her whiskey voice holding his full attention, “if Sky is willing to overlook the fact that because of you, I almost let three hundred pounds of iron come crashing down on his chest.” She looked back at Sky. “I really am sorry. I’m not usually so easily distracted.”
A year ago Nick would have been delighted to be a “distraction” to a beautiful redhead, but not now—and most certainly not under these circumstances with Willa Trask. He stopped a few feet away from the weight bench, cursing himself for his stupidity. He and Sky had talked about charming the lovely Ms. Trask into incriminating herself. And while she was a damn sight more intriguing than he’d expected, Nick doubted if this queen bee would go for his nectar after his rude performance.