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Love in Play

Love in Play

4.4 17
by Zuri Day

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Zuri Day spins a captivating and sexy tale of taking charge, letting loose, and playing for keeps. . .

With her curvaceous full figure and a mega-successful magazine career, Dominique Clark is finally large-and-in-charge of her life. The last thing she needs is romantic drama--especially in the form of her son's football coach, Jake McDonald, a man who's


Zuri Day spins a captivating and sexy tale of taking charge, letting loose, and playing for keeps. . .

With her curvaceous full figure and a mega-successful magazine career, Dominique Clark is finally large-and-in-charge of her life. The last thing she needs is romantic drama--especially in the form of her son's football coach, Jake McDonald, a man who's used to calling the shots. Yet when their instant attraction leads to a sizzling all-night sexual marathon, they agree that several rematches are in order just to get each other out of their systems. The loving is good, but their differences of opinion have Dominique's head screaming time out. Her heart, however, wants to stay in the game. . .

"A completely entertaining love story. . .Day's use of humor and good sense creates a completely readable novel."--RT Book Club on Body By Night

"Day spins an erotic. . .tale of love in unexpected places." --Publishers Weekly on Lessons From A Younger Lover

"The pages of Body By Night are dripping with fire and desire." --The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers

"Day writes with zest and sensual appeal. The descriptions of food edge the bedroom scenes, but not by much."--Publishers Weekly on What Love Tastes Like

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Day (Lovin’ Blue) smartly limits the sex-as-sports analogies in this sweet, hot contemporary. Dominique Clark, a tall and curvy fashion magazine editor, is smitten by ex-pro football player Jake McDonald, Dominique’s son’s school coach and new hero. Though single mom Dominique doesn’t want to bring a man into her life, her overdramatic gay assistant, Reggie, talks her into agreeing to a limited, discreet fling with Jake. But Jake relentlessly challenges Dominique’s trust issues and pursues a real relationship using a mix of sex appeal, charm, great cooking skills, and his honestly good mentoring relationship with her talented son. Though real-life moms may squirm a bit at the complete flouting of teacher–parent ethics, Jake’s boundary-pushing wooing style never steps over the line into outright creepy, and readers will cheer for the happy family of three. Agent: Natasha Kern. (Dec.)

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Read an Excerpt

Love in PLAY

By Zuri Day


Copyright © 2011 Zuri Day
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-6000-0

Chapter One

"Mom, we've got a new coach!"

"Uh-huh," Dominique Clark absentmindedly replied, barely hearing her eleven-year-old son. Her mind was on a zillion other things: the upcoming model shoot, the rapidly approaching magazine deadline, her lovable gay assistant who'd just lost his man and therefore his mind, and right now the fact that there was nothing in the refrigerator to cook her son for dinner. Moments like these made this thirty-eight-year-old magazine executive feel that she was a much better career woman than she was a mom. It also made her value Tessa, her nanny/housekeeper who was out sick, all the more.

"Justin, you want McDonald's?"


"Okay, let's go." As Dominique walked to the car, she texted one of the editors to ask about the article on being fat, fit, and fabulous. I wonder if we've heard back from Sean Combs's people about buying the back page. She sent off a quick text to the advertising manager as well.

All the while Dominique clicked BlackBerry keys, her son continued to prattle. "Did you hear me, Mom? We got a new coach! And he is so cool. He's big and tall and can run really fast, and he used to be a professional football player like for real though, Mom, like in the NFL. He played for the Oakland Raiders, Mom. The Raiders ... my favorite team! Mom!"

"Justin! What?" Dominique buckled her seatbelt, put the car in drive, and headed for the fast-food-lined boulevard less than ten minutes from her comfortable San Fernando Valley home.

"We got a new coach!"

"That's good, baby," Dominique said, reaching to click the hands-free and answer her ringing cell phone. "Hello?"

"He hasn't called! I waited all day, just knowing that he would have left a baby-I-made-a-big-mistake message on my home phone. And that bastard didn't call, Miss Dom." Reggie fairly screeched the nickname he almost always used to address his boss. "He didn't call!"

"Reggie, you have got to calm down!" Dominique ordered in a quiet but firm voice. It was clear that her assistant, Reginald Williams, was no better now than before what she thought had been a successfully calming talk. "If a man can walk away from you, let him leave," she'd admonished. Now, here was Reggie in a Boyz II Men moment making it so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.

"You're only upsetting yourself while the man who can't see your value and is therefore unworthy is off playing kissy face with some new dude." Reggie's cries began in earnest. Okay, that probably wasn't the best thing to say.

"Mom, you passed the McDonald's!" Justin cried.

I don't have time for two kids right now! Yet many times that's how Dominique felt when it came to her and Reggie's relationship, that she was the mother he never really had. She made a right, did a quick U-turn and headed back to the Golden Arches.

"Reggie, look, I'm sorry that you're feeling so badly and I know you need to talk, but I have to go. Why don't you take a nice, long soak and try and take your mind off what's his name. We'll talk tomorrow, okay?" Silence. Dominique remembered Reggie's last breakup and how some designer suits became cloth confetti thanks to his skill with sewing scissors. "Reggie, don't even think about doing anything crazy like going over to that man's house or out with your instigating friends. I need you bright and early tomorrow and the day's going to be a beast. We'll both need to be on top of our game."

"I don't know if I'll be in tomorrow," Reggie lamented between sniffles.

"Don't start with me, Reggie!"

"I can barely breathe, Boss." His voiced had now dropped to a raspy whisper.

Dominique pulled into the drive-through and rolled down her window.

"I want the number three, Mommy!"

"Welcome to McDonald's. May I take your order?"

"I gave that man everything. Every part of me," Reggie emoted, and then began crying again.

"I'm sorry you're hurting," Dominique replied.

"Hello, are you ready to order?" The question crackled through the drive-through speaker.

"Mom, I want the number three with a strawberry shake instead of soda."

"Just two weeks ago he sang "I'll Always Love You" and said I was his soul mate!" Reggie held out the word like he was Don Cornelius in a Soul Train flashback.

Reggie's lost his mind and now I'm getting ready to lose mine!

"Welcome to McDonald's. May I—"

"Hold on a minute," Dominique barked into the speaker.

"Mommy, I want a—"

"I heard you, Justin." Dominique threw the words over her shoulder. "Reggie, I'll call you back."

Three hours later, Dominique sat back against the headboard of her king-size four-poster, canopied bed—the one she'd had shipped from Europe after seeing it in a magazine. Her home definitely was her castle, a fact that had been very important to this former South Central projects-dweller when she'd become able to afford a place of her own. This abode was understated elegance with a little opulence sprinkled throughout. Her bed wasn't simply a place to sleep, it was a masterpiece—a place to be seen sleeping. It was made from rare pommelle sapele lumber, shrouded in silk, and draped with a politically incorrect chinchilla spread. Dominique had purchased this bed to celebrate her release from what she vowed would be the last nonproductive relationship of her life. She'd further vowed that no man would sleep in this bed unless he was "the one."

She sat there surrounded by photos slated to be included in a future Capricious edition, with several articles to read and approve. In this age of technology, Dominique still preferred to read the work in paper form, feel its weight in her hands, and use a red marker to highlight and comment. Glancing at the clock, she eased reading glasses away from her face and rubbed her eyes. Then she reached her hands to the heavens and gave her five-foot-nine, 175-pound frame a good stretch. She'd been up since six and now it was almost eleven. The long day had held few dull moments. She chuckled, recalling how her son had gone on and on about his new coach at school. What was his name? Jack? Jason? Whatever they called him, Dominique was glad that her son liked this new guy. Justin was an intuitive judge of character and didn't take to just anybody. Good male role models were just what her son needed. Dominique often felt guilty at the lack of such men in her son's life. She kept planning to get him involved in some type of mentor program, or a Boys & Girls Club, somewhere where he could be around strong men who looked like him. She wished his uncle could be more of an example, but her brother had not handled life well and had seen his nephew less than a dozen times in the last five years. Thankfully, her sister's husband, Aaron, was a good man and an example to Justin, who spent time in their Inglewood household every weekend.

And then there was her other son, Reggie. What am I going to do with that drama queen? After returning home from the drive-through she'd called him, refused to let him wallow in his own misery, and threatened him to within an inch of his life if he wasn't gracing the desk in front of her office by nine AM. Dominique couldn't remember when her and Reggie's five-year relationship had gone from boss-employee to friends (or mother-son depending on the day or circumstance). But at various times he'd been the girlfriend she needed to talk to or the brother she never really had. Dominique remembered how heartbroken she'd been to find out that her last lover had dipped his hands where they didn't belong. Reggie had been a comforting presence throughout that fiasco and Iyanla Vanzant, yoga, white wine, and buffalo wings had helped her heal. I was probably too hard on him, she belatedly thought regarding Reggie's predicament. He was crazy about that man. But the publishing industry was relentless, giving no quarter to breakdowns and broken hearts. Reggie Williams would just have to put on his big-girl panties. They had a deadline.

Dominique finished her work, turned off the lamp on the stand next to her bed, and slid down between luscious Egyptian cotton sheets. She adjusted the pillow under her head and snuggled the body pillow against her stomach. For a moment, more like a split second, she wished that there was someone there to wrap his arms around her, to knead her tight shoulders, or to hug her spoon-style. Dominique quickly replaced thoughts of a man with plans to have Reggie schedule a massage. Better to pay somebody to put their hands on her body, she figured, than take chances with a man who could grab ahold of her heart again and break it.

Chapter Two

Jake McDonald cut a commanding presence as he walked out of the back door of Middleton Prep, crossed a lined asphalt racetrack, and stepped onto the grassy football field behind the school. At six five and 275, he stood out everywhere. Even without the height and solid build, his well-groomed head, smoldering brown eyes, luscious lips, and sparkling dimples would ensure that he got noticed. Jake McDonald was a triple threat—looks, talent, and personality. He'd been special his whole life.

"Coach Mac! I'm ready to play!"

Jake laughed and playfully slapped the shoulder of the energetic boy who'd become his shadow since the first day of practice a week ago. When he'd been hired as athletic director, boys like the one standing before him were the reason he'd also stipulated he be the football coach as well. So that he could change lives. He'd liked Justin Clark right away, had seen a bit of himself in the child's eager, searching eyes. Just as Jake stood out in life, Justin stood out on the elementary school football field. Tall and big for his age, he was also one of the few boys of color at this award-winning suburban private school, where the annual tuition was more than some folks made in a year. He'd heard from other teachers that Justin was academically sound, but it was his talent on the football field that made him popular. Jake had gleaned from school records that Justin had brought home the gold in that region's punt, pass, and kick competition and that kind of talent, along with his smarts and ready, infectious laugh, would help Justin Clark go a long way.

Jake blew his whistle, rounding up the team from various parts of the field. The assistant coach, who was also the offensive coordinator, ambled over as well. Twenty-five boys dressed in a mixture of shorts, sweats, gym trunks, and T-shirts made a sloppy circle around Jake, giving him their undivided attention.

"All right, team. These first practices are going to be all about conditioning, so get ready to run— sprints, routes, Oklahomas. And that's after you drop and give us 100 push-ups, 250 crunches, and 100 squats." Jake ignored the chorus of moans and groans, and continued. "And, since your verbal reaction tells me that what we've planned is not enough, we're going to divide up into offense and defense to work on a few basic techniques." Jake put his hand to his ear and listened. You could hear a mouse pee on cotton. "That's more like it. Guys, if we want to be number one then we've got to put in the work! Practice, heart, and attitude is what it takes to rise head and shoulders above the competition. We've got to come hard or go home. Are you with me?"

Twenty-five heads nodded and for the next two hours tried to give Jake McDonald and the other coaches everything they had and then some. Jake was impressed and let the players know how much he appreciated their hard work, which, of course, only made them want to work harder.

"How does it feel?" The assistant coach, Shawn Gallagher, moved the folders from a chair in front of Jake's desk and plopped down.

"How does what feel?" Jake asked, handing Shawn a bottled water from the mini-fridge before sitting behind the desk.

"Being a god."

Jake snorted.

"Coach, Coach!" Shawn mimicked, his green eyes sparkling. "The boys love you, man, especially that Clark kid."

"Aw, well, what can I say?" Jake drawled, straightening invisible lapels. "I'm the man."

Actually, it had been a difficult time of adjustment when Jake retired from the NFL eight years ago at the ripe old age of thirty-two. He'd experienced an unexpected bout of fame and team-withdrawal— one moment he was part of a family whom thousands adored every Sunday, and the next moment he was sitting in his home gym minus the cheerleaders and the roar.

Shawn took a swig of water. "I noticed somebody else who wants to play on your team."

Jake raised an eyebrow. "I hope it's that Burnett kid. I know his mind is set on basketball, and his father is pushing him to just concentrate on that and track, but I think that he'd make one heck of a running back."

"It's not just his dad; Alvin isn't interested in football. But I'm not talking about him."

Jake looked up from the player chart he'd been studying. "Then who?"

Shawn's smile widened. "The new fourth-grade teacher."

"The tall brunette with those long, sexy legs?"

Shawn nodded.

"She's gorgeous, but I don't think she's interested in me. I saw y'all hanging out before the meeting started, and her looking at you goo-goo-eyed."

Shawn was a red-haired, green-eyed heartthrob with an infectious smile and charming personality everyone loved. "I wish, man," he said. "Our conversation before the meeting was friendly chitchat. But during the meeting she was looking at you. Which is just as well, since I think Taylor might throw a few penalty flags if she caught me flirting with a colleague."

Jake laughed. "Your wife might have a problem with that? You think?" A reminder pinged on Jake's computer. He clicked on his calendar. "Damn."

Shawn stood. "Forget about a hot date?"

"Hardly. It's this Hollywood educational benefit where I'll rub shoulders with celebrities and influential movers and shakers ... maybe rustle up a few deep-pocketed sponsors for our program."

"That's definitely your arena, man. I'm not the black-tie type."

"Me either," Jake said, putting away the folder and reaching for his duffel bag and keys. "But duty calls."

Chapter Three

Dominique ran her hand discreetly over her abdomen as she stepped into Hollywood's W Hotel's great room. Having grown confident in and comfortable with her plus-size figure years ago, she still thanked God for the body shaper that smoothed, toned, and highlighted the curves that flowed in all the right places. Her freshly done twists accented the high cheekbones in her otherwise round face and her auburn hair with gold tones sparkled under the light of the chandeliers. In this room of size twos, Dominique felt good about how she looked. She went to black-tie events all the time.

So why is my stomach fluttering?

Was it because of the stress of a deadline a week away, Reggie's continued depression, or the fried catfish with jalapeño cornbread she'd had for lunch? No matter, Capricious rarely missed a PR opportunity and tonight's event benefiting education was one that would get major press. When solicited last year, Dominique and the board had immediately agreed to be one of the night's sponsors and she'd also agreed to provide complimentary subscriptions to one hundred lucky student winners. In an age when girls under sixteen were having plastic surgery and a size 10 was considered big, the magazine's brass felt it more important than ever to tout their message: beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and in every Capricious magazine! So even with a looming deadline and the knowledge that she shouldn't stay long, Dominique had braved an hour of LA traffic to show her support.

Secure that she was a walking ad for "fat, fit, and fabulous," she looked around, recognized the organizer whom she'd lunched with last month, and headed in her direction.

Someone tapped Jake's shoulder. He turned and saw a TV host he'd known for years, a beautiful blonde who was the ex-wife of one of his NFL buddies. They'd just started to chat when he saw someone else—a statuesque African American woman gliding across the room, her chin slightly tilted as she scanned the crowd. Her form-fitting copper dress showed pow out to here and bang out to there and as if that wasn't enough to make a brothah's mouth water, those thick, shapely calves would definitely do the job. Dayum! Who is that?

"Jake, did you hear me?"

"I'm sorry, Madison, what did you say?"

"I was asking if you'd seen my ex lately. I heard he got divorced again, and quite frankly I'm worried about him."


Excerpted from Love in PLAY by Zuri Day Copyright © 2011 by Zuri Day. 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Love in Play 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of my favorites!
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This is the first time I've read an book by her and I'm glade that I did and I truly love this book. I haven't read a book by her that I didn't like so far. So check it out u wont reget it, I know I didn't.
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I advise any woman who feels like love will never come to read this novel!!
Tkae1290 More than 1 year ago
This was a great book I read it in one day it was that good.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. It was a real page turner. All i wanted to do was keep reading. I felt like it could have ended a little better, but still good. Really liked the love scences, it wasnt porn, but it was hot and very realistic. I think this whole book, includin the characters was very relatable. Which is what i love, stories that sound like they can happen to anyone. But if u get this book be very prepared to never put it down. Its even a little funny.