When my mum gets sick, I volunteer to fill in for her and clean some hot jock's penthouse. I've heard all the rumors about him, so the plan is get in, clean some toilet bowls, and get out. After my last experience with a "sports hero," I'm done with that sort of guy.
But Lucas Carter is full of surprises. He wants to help me clean and is nothing like the toad the press has made him out to be. Resistance may be futile for some girls, but not me. Then he asks me to help him with the interior design of his new place. I can't say, no. It's going to look great on my resume.
Unfortunately, spending time with Lucas is dangerous. He's so charming and sweet, but I can't let myself forget--once a player, always a player.
Read an Excerpt
Who has a party on a Thursday night?
I pull off my work jacket and drape it over a clean section of the nearest sofa as I survey the disgusting mess before me. It'll take me hours just to clean this room before I can even start on the rest of the place. And if every room is in the same state, I'll be here all bloody weekend.
Which would be fine if I didn't have an assignment to finish before Monday. But if I hadn't agreed to do this cleaning job for my mum, she would've tried to drag herself out of bed and do it herself. And she's already feeling sick enough without having to face this hot mess.
Not that I know who's responsible. Just that they live in a freaking huge penthouse full of marble surfaces and have really bad taste in furniture. The interior design student in me longs to rearrange it all, but that's not what I'm here for.
Fuming about it isn't going to help. I take a deep breath and start on the rug.
It takes over an hour just to clean that one rug, but when I finally stand back to scrutinize my work, relief washes through me. It was a fiddly pain in the arse, but I think I nailed it.
I scoop up several bottles and march toward the kitchen, which is just beyond the dining area, and dump them in the sink. And then, like one of those dreams that suddenly turns into a sinister nightmare, the double doors slowly open.
Well, shit. It's been so quiet, I assumed everyone had gone out after trashing the place.
Put your professional face on, Violet.
Whoever lives here is a Class A slob, someone so rich they don't care what kind of mess they leave behind, but the last thing I want is this new client to guess my thoughts.
I don't know who I expect to see, but my whole world tips sideways as Lucas Carter, star striker of Harrington United, and the hottest Premier League football player in the history of everything, ambles into the room wearing nothing but a pair of boxer briefs. Why didn't Mum warm me who the client was?
He pauses as he takes in the view of Hampstead Heath through the windows, and I'm having a hard time dragging my bewitched gaze from his sculpted profile.
Not that I haven't seen him half naked before. Although he hasn't played for months due to a knee injury, he's always on the TV and in magazines, advertising cars and cologne, and invariably, he has his shirt off at the very least.
It doesn't compare to the seeing the real thing. His thighs are a work of art and a miracle to behold.
Oh my God. I'm totally drooling.
I'm not fifteen anymore.
It's been years since my bedroom walls were plastered with posters of him and I had a schoolgirl crush. I'm so over players it's not funny. But I still can't stop admiring his rippling muscles or the tattoos that wrap around his left bicep, and the glint of his earring in the morning sun is ridiculously erotic.
Should I say something? My mind's a complete blank. In any case, there's no way he doesn't know I'm standing here, and he's fine about ignoring me. I'm already behind in this job, and I'm not going to waste more time ogling a guy who clearly thinks he's God's gift.
It still takes more nerve than I care to admit to leave the relative safety of the kitchen and force my feet to move across the dining area.
Lucas swings around, and the shock on his face has me coming to an abrupt halt. Maybe he wasn't ignoring me, after all? Not that it matters. Except for an annoying reason, it does.
"Whoa," he says, his voice all deep and sexy, and treacherous tremors of awareness skate along my spine.
Just because he's hot and my body's having a weak moment doesn't mean I'm attracted to him.
"Good morning," he adds.
It's a perfectly reasonable thing to say, so I don't know why it sounds so sinfully suggestive. Get a bleeding grip, Violet. Lucas Carter is a renowned flirt. Just because I haven't been on the receiving end of a flirt in over a year, since the horrible breakup with my ex, is no excuse to dissolve into a hormonal mess all over this expensive carpet because he happens to smile at me.
Please stop smiling at me.
"Good morning." I give him a brief, glacial smile. I hope he can't hear the way my heart's thundering.
He strolls across the room, and I can't tear my mesmerized gaze from his magnificent pecs. Oh. Bloody. Hell.Stop gawping at him. My back is against the counter that overlooks the dining area, and Lucas has now reached the steps. Only the sleek glass-topped dining table is between us.
He's not stalking me like I'm his prey.
I think he is.
"You need a hand with anything?"
If anyone else asked that, it'd sound completely innocent. Coming from Lucas, it totally doesn't.
I'm so overreacting. Pull yourself together. Forget about his rep, he's just being polite.
I almost convince myself, but then he gives another of his devastating smiles, and my charitable thought crumbles.
Polite? Yeah, right. He soooo isn't. My face tightens, and I lock- down my hormones. I've spent far too much time with dickhead players who think they exist to be worshipped.
And I'm not going to fall for it again.
* * *
Who the hell is she? I don't remember her from last night, when some of the guys turned up with a group of girls I'd never met before. I might have a mother of all hangovers, but there's no way I'd forget her face. Especially with that red hair tumbling down from her topknot, or whatever it's called.
Since she appears frozen in place, I halt this side of the table and give her one of my charm-infused smiles. At least, that's what my good mate Yolanda calls them, but my hangover must be worse than I thought, since this chick recoils.
Well, fuck. Unfortunately, it does nothing for my hard-on. Heat roars through me. Although I don't usually care if that part of my anatomy does its thing when meeting a hot girl, that's because the attraction is generally mutual. Why didn't I drag on a pair of shorts?
I didn't think anyone was here. Except for Yolanda, but she's like a sister to me.
"Thank you," she says, all formal, as though we're having a conversation at some high-profile charity ball. "But I'll pass."
It takes a second for her comment to penetrate the thud in my brain, and a snort of laughter escapes. I don't even remember the last time a girl threw one of my not-so-subtle offers to get to know each other better back in my face.
"Fair enough." Since my dick refuses to get the message that there's not gonna be any early morning delight with this gorgeous redhead, I rest my arm across the top rail of one of the chairs in a deliberately casual manner. I hope she can't see anything below waist level. "Were you making coffee?"
I can't think of any reason why she was by the kitchen just now unless she was looking for something to drink. And although I really want to know which lucky bastard brought her here, I don't want her to know I can't remember who she turned up with.
"No, I wasn't." Her tone is so painfully polite it grates my eardrums. It's almost as though she's being nice because she has to, not because she means it. Yeah, sure she is, Carter. I really need to find some painkillers before my head explodes. "I was just clearing up the empties."
Wait. What? "You don't need to do that." Why was she doing that? I glance over my shoulder and take in the state of the room. What the fuck? Why didn't I notice the mess as soon as I walked in? "Ah, shit."
My mind's a blur from the point we finished eating and I crashed into bed, but the guys could've dumped their crap before they all fucked off to the nightclub.
I swing back, and she hasn't moved. The chicks hanging off my teammates' arms last night were all dressed to kill. And while the redhead is killing me with her worn jeans and the tight T-shirt that's showing a glimpse of her midriff, there's no way she was in the group the guys picked up last night before gate-crashing here.
Not unless she brought a change of clothes with her. Possible, I guess. Although, if she bailed on the nightclub to sleep here instead, the big question is why? It obviously isn't because she wants to get inside my boxers.
"Don't worry," she says with that same polite voice and another smile that doesn't reach her eyes, which are green and fringed with curling black lashes, and now that I've noticed them, I can't stop staring. "I've got this all under control."
I wish I could say the same. Despite the fact I spend half of my professional life, and a good portion of my private one, with most of my gear off, right now I'd give a great deal to be wearing at least a pair of shorts. I can't stand behind this chair forever but as soon as I move she'll see my erection, which in spite of my mental demands, refuses to diminish. For some reason I don't want her thinking I'm led by my dick.
"Great." What the fuck's that supposed to mean? I rake my hand through my hair and admit defeat. "Sorry. What did you say your name was again?"
She inches around the table, never taking her eyes from me, as though she expects me to pounce like a panther. Shut the fuck up, Carter. Unless she's playing a really elaborate game, she's not here to seduce me, so I can stop with the sex-play images.
"I didn't say." She's standing by the pillar now, her thumbs tucked into her pockets, and she's close enough that I can see freckles splashed across her nose and cheeks. Damn, she's cute. I shift my weight from one foot to the other, but even the residual ache from my knee doesn't lift my mind from the gutter.
"No, you didn't. I'm Lucas, who are you?" I grin, since this is the most insane conversation, and I've never had to work so hard in my life just to find out a girl's name.
She chews the inside of her lip, as though she's debating whether or not to honor me with her name, and I choke out a cough to hide my laugh.
She gives a long sigh. "I'm Violet Henderson. I'm your cleaner."
She's my what? "Ah, right."
"So, if you'll excuse me, I need to get on."
As she goes down the steps into the sitting room, I swing about and am once again confronted with the mess my so-called mates left. I grimace and follow Violet into the room.
"Look, I'm sorry about all of ... this." I wave my arm in a vague gesture, and she shoots me a glance over her shoulder before hastily looking away and picking up some half-empty glasses.
"It's fine." Her voice is neutral, but her rigid shoulders and the way she's pressing her lips together tell me she's not fine about this at all.
Can't blame her, either. Not when all she was expecting was the usual quick flick around with the vacuum or whatever. My agent Bec told me she'd found a local cleaning agency for the penthouse while I stayed in the flat I've rented for the last four years in Cockfosters. The lease on the flat expires in a couple of weeks at the end of June, which is when I plan on moving into the penthouse. Yolanda and I only stopped by yesterday evening because she wanted to check out the place, but then the lads turned up, so it evolved into an all-nighter.
"Here, let me help." I pick up a heap of takeaway cartons, and Violet faces me, clutching the glasses to her chest.
"Please just leave it."
"Come on, Violet. I banged up my knee, not my hands. I can carry a few boxes."
For the first time, I see a hint of a genuine smile hover around her gorgeous lips before she clamps down on it as though it tried to escape without her permission. Intriguing.
"That's not the point." She takes the glasses into the kitchen, and I follow her. I try not to admire her cute butt. Yeah, like that's gonna happen. I exhale a long breath and dump the rubbish in the bin. "You're paying us to do the job."
I grin as I swing around to face her, belatedly recall my damn erection, and take up position on the other side of the workbench so she has no chance of seeing it. "So, don't tell anyone."
She blinks a couple of times as though my comment doesn't make sense. Unfortunately, my damn dick finds her reaction irresistible. "Why would you want to help, anyway?"
"Because I don't want you thinking I'm an entitled prat."
A slow blush spreads over her cheeks. Guess she'd already come to that conclusion.
"I don't think that." And she's a lousy liar.
"I'll be right back." There's no way I can do anything useful until I've got some clothes on, which is ironic. Usually the only reason girls want me around involves me having my kit well and truly off.
"Yes, um, but Lucas ..."
I halt jogging toward the door and glance over my shoulder. "Yeah?"
She's staring at me with a bemused expression. It's obvious her opinion of me is so low she can't believe I'm capable of helping her clear up. I don't know why that bugs me so much. I don't even know her, but I sure wouldn't mind changing that.
Except she's not interested.
Then why's she checking me out?
"Er ... nothing." She tears her gaze from me and starts to load the dishwasher with far more concentration than is necessary. I hide my grin and jog back to my bedroom where I grab a pair of shorts and drag them on.
It's rare I need to do anything to impress a girl. Violet might be holding back, but she's not as indifferent to me as I first imagined.
All I need to do is impress her with my mad skills at how to fill a black rubbish bag and whip the vacuum around the floor. There's no way Violet's leaving here today before she's agreed to go on a date with me, or my name's not Lucas Carter.CHAPTER 2
I did not just ogle Lucas Carter's hard-on.
Yes, I did. My face is still burning even though my unforgivable slip happened about three minutes ago. And much as I want to believe he didn't notice, I saw the satisfied smirk on his face just before he left the room.
A mortified groan shudders through me as I wash the surprisingly clean workbench in the kitchen. There's no chance I can sneak out of here before he returns, but it doesn't stop me fantasizing about it.
Why couldn't he have been a total wanker? It was way too hard being all detached and professional when he was helping to clear up the rubbish. Even though I try and hold his smirk against him, it's not working.
That's my own fault for eyeing his goods. He probably thinks I'm just playing hard to get.
He's a player in every sense of the word, and I need to remember that.
By the time he strolls back into the room, I've managed to compose myself. No more sneaky peeks at his equipment. Luckily, his shorts hide everything there, and he's also pulled on a white short-sleeved shirt, which would be helpful if he'd taken the time to button the damn thing up. As it is, he's just hotter than ever.
He folds his arms on the back of the sofa I'm working on and leans over it, which is distracting when I'm trying to clean the white leather.
"Hey, Violet." Why does he keep using my name? It sends a tingle down my spine and I so don't need that. "Do you want a coffee? Or cup of tea?"
I could do with a stiff whiskey. "No, thank you." I concentrate on the task at hand and refuse to give in to my weak desire to glance up at him.
"Have you been working at the cleaning agency for long?"
Why does he want to know that? It can't be because he wants to lodge a complaint. I've been super polite. Anyway, he's not behaving like he has a problem with the service. I give in, roll back on my knees, and catch his warm Mediterranean blue gaze. God, I loved his blue eyes when I was fifteen.
"For the last three years." I hope that satisfies his curiosity. I'm not sure if he's aware that Mum's cousin is his agent, and I don't want to accidentally say something I shouldn't. On the other hand, I'm not going to lie, since it wouldn't take him a minute to find out the truth.
"Full time?" The distracting flash of dimples that accompanies his inquisition should be illegal. If not for the way my ratbag ex, Geoff, totally played me by cheating with my best friend Monica, I'd be in serious danger of falling for Lucas's sweet talk.
He's only asking me about my work! Well, yep. And this just goes to show how much of a hermit I've been when it comes to chatting with guys during the last year.
While the logical thing to do is to tell him I don't have time to gossip, there's no way that will sound anything but rude, and I can't let Mum and Bec down like that.
Yes, sure, that's the only reason why I'm going to answer him.
"No, I'm just casual. I help out when needed."
His forehead creases, which has the effect of making him sexier than ever. "Is this the first time you've been here?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Once Upon a Player"
Copyright © 2018 Christina Phillips.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If you’re looking for a story where a prominent sports star, a footballer with the world at his feet, falls for Cinderella who doesn’t exactly trust him, look no further . . . . Lucas Carter finds his usual cleaner has been temporarily replaced by someone he’s attracted to. Shouldn’t be a problem for a star like him! However, the young woman in question has been burnt by a star before and is determined to resist being attracted to him. Can Lucas win her over? Will love find a way? This is a light hearted read, a modern version of Cinderella with plenty of twists, especially as communication proves to be a major problem between the two! I enjoyed how Violet resisted Lucas’s charm and he had to work to win her over. I also liked how Lucas wasn’t really a bad boy underneath it all. A fun easy read to escape into when you don’t want anything too heavy to read. I requested and was given a copy of this book, via NetGalley. This is my honest review of the book after choosing to read it.
A sports love story between football player Lucas and student Violet. Violet is helping her mom so she ends up cleaning penthouse who belongs to Lucas. Lucas is immediately attracted to Violet and is in shock when she doesn't want to go out whit him so he tries to be friend with her. Soon friendship turns into something more. But Lucas is keeping a secret from Violet who can break them or make them. Lucas was an ok character, a person with daddy issues, a football player with not knowing how successful will be his recovery and going back to the field. We can see he has some good friend, a good relationship with the family and priorities set straight, for me he was a likable character. Violet was an ok I did not feel in love with her and didn't find something special in her. Lucas was her teenage crush and what was the odds that her previous cheating boyfriend was also a football player. She is at first shown as an introvert girl but doesn't seem to be one. And her saying no to Lucas and determination to stay away quickly crumbles. There are some other things that were too predictable not great and what bothers me the most was a public conference confession. I volunteered to review an ARC of this book for Netgelly
I don't care if I knew it was a little predictable. It was exactly wanted I wanted to read. I wished Lucas still would have punched that dude.?
Once Upon a Player is a cute and sweet new adult romance that was a pleasant way to spend a few hours but ultimately is probably not going to be terribly memorable. Violet and Lucas are likable characters who it's easy to root for, but their main conflicts come from 1) not telling each other the whole truth about what's going on with them outside their relationship and 2) being pretty dense about the other person (though they still somehow manage to ultimately figure out that they were being dense on their own). There's not a lot of friction in their relationship, then there's a ton/its over (or is it? they're not totally sure), then it's pretty much all gone again and they're good. I liked them both, but spent at least half of the book mildly annoyed with them for not communicating. Once Upon a Player is the second in the series, but works just fine as a standalone. Honestly, I wasn't even 100% sure who the couple in the first book was--I guessed probably his brother, but it wasn't terribly obvious from what happens here (Harry doesn't really seem terribly "bad boy" here, but maybe he's more so in his book?). So if sexy footballers are your thing and you want to start here, you should be okay. Rating: 3 1/2 stars / C+ I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
3.75 stars-sweet, sexy, spirited 3.75 stars--ONCE UPON A PLAYER is the second instalment in Christina Phillips’ contemporary, adult BRITISH BAD BOYS romance series. This is British footballer Lucas Carter, and interior design student Violet Henderson’s story line. ONCE UPON A PLAYER can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty. Any important information from the previous story line is revealed where necessary. Lucas Carter is the twin brother of Harry Carter-Cinderella and the Geek-book one. Told from dual first person points of view (Lucas and Violet) ONCE UPON A PLAYER follow the building relationship between British footballer Lucas Carter, and interior design student Violet Henderson. Lucas Carter is on medical leave following a potential career ending injury but an out of control party at his new penthouse finds Lucas face to face with his new house cleaner-Violet Henderson- the woman with whom Lucas will fall in love. When Violet’s mother takes ill, our heroine steps in to help with her mother’s contracted cleaning service never expecting to meet her teenage crush in the guise of Lucas Carter. What ensues is the friends with benefits/no strings attached relationship between Lucas and Violet, and the potential fall-out as misunderstanding and miscommunication force Violet to walk away from the man with whom she is falling in love. Violet Henderson is an interior design student but works several jobs in an attempt to pay her way. Meeting Lucas Carter brings with it memories of her ex Geoff Hawthorne-Douglas, a footballer himself , who humiliated and betrayed our story line heroine. For all of Lucas Carter’s strengths, popularity and fame, our hero battles issues of self-esteem in the face of his twin brother’s successes in life. The brawn to the brain, Lucas believes he doesn’t measure up to his family’s high standards of education and fame. Lucas’ vulnerability and Violet’s insecurities make for some mistaken beliefs and heart breaking misunderstandings. The relationship between Lucas and Violet is one of immediate attraction but Violet battles memories from the past, and the devastating humiliation she endured at the hands of her former boyfriend. With Violet’s refusal to date professional footballers, Lucas makes Violet an offer she cannot refuse. The $ex scenes are intimate and passionate without the use of over the top, sexually graphic language and text. There is a large ensemble cast of colorful secondary and supporting characters including Violet’s parents, and her best friend Katie; Lucas’ brother Harry and his girlfriend Alice, and their sister Mackenzie; Lucas’ friends Will, Caleb, and sometimes plus-one Yolanda; and an assortment of ex-girlfriends who may or may not add fodder to Lucas and Violet’s tremulous relationship. ONCE UPON A PLAYER is a sweet and sexy story. The premise is engaging, entertaining and spirited; the characters are sassy and moving; the romance is spicy and captivating. ONCE UPON A PLAYER is an energetic and heart warming story.
My first Christina Phillips book, and I loved it! Lucas Carter has it all – he’s a premier league football player, drop dead gorgeous and a real charmer with the ladies. He's in for a surprise though when Violet Henderson walks into his life. She doesn't instantly fall for his charming ways, and he's a bit put out by this! Lol! But what he doesn't know is that Violet used to date a football player, and there's no way in hell she's going to go down that road again! Or will she?! Once Upon a Player is one of those books you just don't want to put down. It’s highly enjoyable and entertaining and one I would definitely recommend. 5 big shiny gold stars!
Loved this book! It's a quick and totally enjoyable read. The story is fun, sexy, sweet, and lighthearted. Lucas and Violet are great characters. He's a footballer with a reputation as a bad boy. She's a woman who has been burned by the jock type before so there's no way she's going to get involved with this one. She does have to clean his penthouse though since he's paid for it and all. Once Violet gets to know Lucas she realizes he not at all like his reputation portrays him. He's actually a great guy. Kind, caring, funny - NO, just no. Maybe? The writing is excellent and I adored these characters. I think this is a book everyone will enjoy. I definitely recommend it.
I loved this book! Lucas is the totally hot and swoon-worthy professional athlete, while Violet is the young woman filled with insecurities and an ill mom who first encounters Lucas while helping her mom out by cleaning his house. He isn't quite what she expected and they begin a tenuous friendship. As their friendship grows and changes, each makes lots of assumptions and miscommunications. This brings in all the angst that you would expect in a young love story. I found myself turning pages quickly as I became engrossed in Lucas and Violet's tale. This is the second book in this series and I enjoyed it just as much as the first, however, it is a stand alone novel. The author is on my must read authors' list.