Party girl Tyler Gillette has just one rule: no football players. As the daughter of the owner of the San Antonio Hawks, she grew up in the shadow of the sport and her father’s enormous wealth. She was even named Tyler because he wanted a boy. Life couldn’t have drawn up a better play for turning her into a wild child—until that same life is threatened by someone from the past . . .
Former Hawks running back Rafe Ortiz has a few rules of his own. First, no weaknesses. Second, no babysitting spoiled football princesses. But his new career as a bodyguard means he’s responsible for protecting the beautiful Tyler Gillette from her mysterious stalker. But keeping his hands off her might be harder than keeping her safe . . .
Praise for Desiree Holt and her fan-favorite novels
“Readers can’t help but root for them to fall in love.”—RT Book Reviews
“Her novels are about the story: the characters, their motivations, their flaws and back stories and always about human nature. They are also about mature love and respect and very steamy sex.”—Austin American-Statesman
“I have read many other books by Desiree Holt and have enjoyed every one of them. Just keep them coming.”—Fresh Fiction
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
A Game on Romance
By Desiree Holt
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Desiree Holt
All rights reserved.
Tyler Gillette swirled the amber liquid in her cocktail glass and stared into it for a long moment before taking a slow sip. Savoring the bite of the alcohol, she looked around the bar. About her usual speed these days. Slightly seedy, but in the dark it carried an artificial veneer of polish. Small (but not exactly what she'd call cozy), with a long bar on one wall and the rest of the room filled with tables and chairs. A jukebox in one corner banged out tunes, but, thank the Lord, the volume on it was turned down. She'd had enough jukebox headaches in her life, and she wasn't in the mood for one tonight.
Of course she wasn't in the mood for much of anything tonight.
She caught the sudden cloying whiff of heavy aftershave seconds before someone slid onto the bar stool next to her.
"Is this seat taken?" His voice was raspy, like a smoker's.
Tyler turned her head and looked at the man who had moved next to her. Dark hair, curling at the ends, hung to the collar of his black polo shirt, framing a face dominated by a crooked nose and thin lips. Why did men always think it was sexy to wear black? Didn't they want a little color in their lives? She let her eyes skim over him and took in the muscular body just beginning to soften, maybe developing a little flab. Okay, so men did the black-makes-me-thinner thing, too.
"Well, is it?" he persisted, in what she was sure he thought was a sexy voice.
Tyler was tempted to just turn her back on him, toss down her drink, and get the hell out of there. But her persistent self-destructive streak made her look him up and down, curve her lips in a smile, and answer him in what she hoped was a seductive voice.
"It is now."
The answering smile he gave her was part ego and part I think I'm getting lucky tonight. He hitched his bar stool a little closer. "Great. Just great, babe."
Babe. Crap, she hated that little word. She'd heard it from too many lips and too many men just like this one. And far too many times, in places just like this.
"So." He trailed a finger down her bare arm. Her shiver had nothing to do with a sexual response and everything to do with revulsion for the touch. "I haven't seen you at Tequila Sunrise before. You here with anyone?"
"Just myself." She gave him a sly wink and took another sip of her drink. God, she had this routine down pat, every comment, every single body movement memorized like a long-running play she'd starred in. How could she even stand herself anymore?
"Well." He returned the wink. "Me, too. That's quite a coincidence, isn't it?" He drained the rest of the liquid in his rocks glass and nodded at her empty one. "How about a refill?"
"Sure. Why not?"
Why not indeed? Tequila Sunrise was just one more dingy bar in the many she'd spent time in over the past few years. One more stop on her downward spiral. She could hardly tell one from the other anymore, and that went for the men, too. But it seemed to be the only way her father ever realized she was alive, albeit to tear his hair out at her behavior.
The bartender cleared the empties and set up the refills. Tyler picked up her glass and waited until the guy touched his to hers before taking a sip.
"So," he asked, smacking his lips, "you got a name?"
"Marie." She always used her middle name. It offered a small amount of damage control and gave her a measure of anonymity. For herself, not for her father. It allowed her to separate the person she was from the things she did.
"Marie," he repeated. "Nice name." He waited for her to ask for his. When she didn't, he said it anyway. "I'm Dewey."
"Here's to ya, Dewey." She lifted her cocktail glass and took a healthy swallow. The alcohol burned as it slid down her throat and into her body, searing away her unhappiness.
"You live around here?" he asked.
Good Lord, were all his lines so stale?
"Sort of." She took another sip.
"You're sure a sexy little piece. I didn't think I'd see any action in here on a week night, but lucky me. Here you are."
Yes, lucky him.
"So, what do you do when you aren't hanging out in places like Tequila Sunrise?"
She shrugged. "This and that."
What did she do, anyway? Not a hell of a lot. She'd studied many things during her scattered college career but never pursued any of them. She'd thought about what she'd do if she completed her degree but — She took another sip of her drink, pushing those thoughts from her mind.
Glancing around, she noticed some of the people had left but others had wandered in to take their place. All of them looked as seedy and desperate as Dewey. When he coasted the tips of his fingers over her knee and tried to ease them beneath the hem of her skirt, she jerked, sloshing some of her drink on her dress. She grabbed cocktail napkins from a stack on the bar and blotted up the liquid. As she did, she brushed Dewey's thick fingers away, too.
"Awww, don't be like that." He tried to touch her again, but she swung her body at an angle away from him. "You got really soft skin. Nice skin." He leered at her. "I'll bet it's just as soft all over."
Again he made an attempt to ease his hand up the inside of her thigh. Tyler gave a forced laugh as she grasped him by the wrist, her stomach roiling at the contact.
"No touching in public." She made herself laugh again. "I have rules."
"That so?" He took a deep swallow of his drink. "Any other rules I should know about?"
"Yes. No personal questions."
"Uh-huh." He studied her. "You got something to hide?"
"Doesn't everyone?" She dug up a friendly look from somewhere. "I'll bet you do. Right?"
He shrugged. "Maybe, but nothing all that interesting." He shifted on his bar stool in an attempt to lean closer again. "I'd rather talk about you."
She hated to think how many men like Dewey she'd been in this same situation with over the years. It was a game; one she played far too often. Tease but don't give in. They can look but don't touch. Don't get too close unless she was desperate. Thank God she hadn't been that desperate in a long time.
By the third drink, she was getting sloppy and Dewey was getting more aggressive. She needed to pull herself together because she had no intention of letting Dewey and his ego get any more private with her than the seats on the two bar stools.
Nor did she plan to leave with him or anyone else. She knew the prevailing assumption was she slept with anything that had a dick but they were so wrong. Oh, sure, she'd had a few lovers, but not nearly as many as people thought, and not for a long time. It was an act she'd perfected so no one could see who was beneath that slutty armor.
She'd begun to realize lately, though, that the slutty armor pinched. That even as a disguise, it didn't seem to fit her anymore. She wasn't comfortable with herself and that disturbed her. Had she gone so far over the edge she'd lost the core of Tyler?
Unexpectedly, he stopped trying to paw her. "Hey, Chuck." He signaled to the bartender and pointed to the television mounted up in one corner behind the bar. "Turn that thing up, will you?"
"Aw, no one wants to hear that crap tonight," Chuck argued. "They got the jukebox going."
"I said turn up the fucking television," Dewey challenged. "That is if you expect any kind of tip tonight."
"Asshole," Chuck muttered.
Tyler wanted to agree with him, but the man threw down his bar towel and reached for the remote. When she looked up at the screen to see what was so important to the jerk next to her, she really didn't want it turned up. Behind the sportscaster was a huge rendering of the new logo of the San Antonio Hawks. Up in the corner was an inset of Kurt Gillette's photo. Her beloved father.
"... still pouring in," the man was saying. "The public is still divided almost equally on whether they want the team to remain the Bisons or keep the new name, the San Antonio Hawks."
The female reporter laughed. "Like it or not, Kurt Gillette won't be changing it back. Since the big switch, with a new logo, new colors, and new uniforms, the team has rebounded from the slump it's been in since the loss of star quarterback Tate Manning."
"Gillette says they'll get used to it as the team keeps racking up wins. You have to admire the man for taking such a bold step, but it seems to be working."
God! It seemed no matter where she went, Tyler couldn't get away from her father or his precious effing football team. As the television reporters continued to discuss the topic, nausea roiled up into her throat. She needed to get out of here. Fast. Get away from both Dewey and yet another news blast about the vaunted Kurt Gillette.
She slid from the bar stool and grabbed the thin strap of her purse. "Be right back," she said, slurring just a little.
"Hey, wait." He grabbed her upper arm with his thick fingers. "You're not gonna run out on me, are you? I got drinks invested in you, Marie."
She forced a smile. "Would I do that? I just need to head to the little girls' room for a minute."
She glanced pointedly at where he held onto her. With a frown, he released her, but took the moment to stroke his fingers the length of her arm. Tyler managed to keep from spitting in his face. After all, the whole thing was really her fault. If she hadn't been here in the first place, having her usual pity party —
She shook herself. "I'll be right back. Promise."
"You'd better be." The tone of his voice had an unpleasant cast to it. "If you take too long, I might have to come after you."
She lifted her eyebrows. "In the ladies' room?"
"Wherever." He grabbed her arm again. "I don't let my women run out on me. Not until I get my money's worth."
"Your women? Damn, Dewey, all we had was a couple of drinks."
"You gave me the come-on, sweetie. Don't try to deny it."
She yanked her arm away again and took a step back. Arguing with him would get her nowhere so she dug up a smile. "I told you. I'll be right back. You just order us another round of drinks."
As if he needed one. She managed to make it to the restroom although inside she was shaking. Usually she was a pretty good judge of the guys she met. If they got a little too aggressive, she could back off and they looked somewhere else. Apparently Dewey didn't fit into that category.
Inside the ladies' room, she took a good look at herself in the mirror. What a mess. The hair she'd arranged so artfully to fall just so to her shoulders looked as if she'd been combing it with her fingers. Okay, so she had. BFD. The black dress that she'd thought so sexy when she got dressed now looked like a cheap come-on. Her makeup, well, it didn't look too bad, but her vision wasn't quite as sharp as it had been early in the evening. All in all, she was bordering on a mess.
She was doing herself in. At this rate, she'd be dead before Kurt Gillette had a change of heart.
She had another little problem to deal with, too, one she hadn't told a single soul about. Mostly because she had no idea who to bring it to. She really hoped it would just go away.
Yeah, right. Like that was going to happen.
Sighing, she took care of business, washed her hands, and pulled her cell phone from her purse. She'd taken a cab so she didn't have to worry about driving, but she needed an alternative now. She was pretty damn sure good old Dewey would put up a huge fuss if he saw her trying to get into a taxi. No, she needed a better solution to the mess she'd gotten herself into.
Taking out her cell, she dialed her friend, Betsy. She'd definitely come and bail her out. But all she got was Betsy's "Leave a message." She tried ten more numbers, people she felt comfortably asking to help her with this ugly situation, but she only got their voice mails.
Damn! Damn! Damn!
Did no one have their cell phones on tonight, when she desperately needed to reach someone?
Bam, bam, bam.
The heavy pounding on the door startled her.
"Hey, Buttercup. You comin' outta there tonight?" Dewey's voice was edged with anger, an anger no doubt fueled by his consumption of alcohol.
Holy crap. No way was she opening the door. Still, she couldn't spend the night in the ladies' room.
"Miss?" A strange man's voice. Oh, wait, it sounded like the bartender. "Miss, are you okay in there? You need to open the door."
Not for any amount of money. But she had to get herself out of this mess and away from a drunken Dewey.
She had one more number she could call. She referred to it in her mind as her when-the-sky-is-falling-and-no-one-else-is-around number. The number for a man she'd been lusting after for a long time, who was unfailingly polite to her whenever their paths crossed yet as much as possible avoided her. She had hoped she'd never have to use it, for a number of reasons. A woman didn't want to call the man she'd dreamed about for so very long to get her out of this kind of trouble, a mess of her own making. She didn't want to see the disgust and censure in his eyes. But the sky was definitely falling tonight and this number would reach the one person she knew would get her out of it swiftly and cleanly.
She'd probably have to pay for it by listening to a good lecture and beg him not to tell her father.
Swallowing her misgivings, she dialed the number with hands that trembled. No one knew she had his number, that she'd programmed it in just in case. This was definitely a just in case. She prayed that he wouldn't hang up on her. Surely he couldn't refuse a plea for help, right? After all, he worked for her father, so how could he say no?
* * *
"Okay, Ortiz, what do you think of the big name change for the Bisons?" Cal Hopewell looked at his poker hand, pulled out two cards, and threw them down on the table.
Rafe Ortiz studied his hand while he tried to form an appropriate answer. As the head of security for the San Antonio Hawks as well as Southern Bank Stadium, he had to be careful what he said, even in the company of his closest friends.
He slipped a single card free and tossed it down. "I'll take one," he told Andy Milliken, who was dealing, as he took his time putting his thoughts together. This wasn't the first time he'd been asked this question.
"The name change," Cal prompted.
"I think Kurt is a smart businessman who wants to inspire both his team and his fans. Whatever you might think of this, it's working."
"Yeah, but you played for the Bisons," Andy reminded him. "Don't you feel a disconnect to this new, so-called revitalized team?"
"Not at all. Some of the guys I played with are still on the active roster, and I want success for them. My relationship is to the team, whatever it's called."
"Well, whatever the circumstances," Cal said, "we're glad Gillette didn't forget about you. He gave you a nice cushy job when you decided to retire."
"Cushy?" Rafe laughed. "Did you say cushy? You come down to the stadium any Sunday and watch my staff wrestle drunks, sore losers, and bullies. Or corral some of the team members when they're loose in a new city. Then tell me it's cushy."
Not that he was complaining. He loved his job, more money than he'd ever use and a circle of friends he was comfortable with. Friends who didn't care about the celebrity status that still dogged him.
"Come on," Andy teased. "How hard can it be to herd all those groupies?"
The ringing of Rafe's cell phone broke into the conversation, saving him from having to answer. Because of his position with Lone Star Security, he kept the phone on twenty-four/seven. He pulled it out of his pocket and looked at the readout, expecting it to be one of the players or, worst case, Kurt, with a problem. When he saw who it was, he cursed silently.
Kurt's spoiled, pampered princess. The wild child of Texas.
And the woman he'd been secretly dreaming about for ten years.
Just what he needed.
He pressed the Talk button. "Ortiz."
"Um, Rafe?" Her voice was soft and a little unsteady.
His stomach clutched, nervous apprehension dancing up and down his spine. What trouble had Tyler gotten herself into now? And why was she calling him, of all people? She never called the security team, never had anything to do with the Hawks unless she was forced to. And certainly never with him. Whenever he'd run into her, he was very careful not to show any interest that could be misconstrued. It hadn't been just the reputation she seemed intent on building. No, it was actually the fact she was Kurt Gillette's daughter with a big out-of-bounds sign on her. Getting involved with the boss's daughter was a sure recipe for disaster.
So often he'd been struck with the feeling that her entire lifestyle was just one big masquerade. That beneath her outrageous exterior was a woman in a lot of pain, determined to tell the world to go to hell. But he wasn't about to get in the middle of whatever complicated relationship she and her father had. Nope, not at all.
Excerpted from Pass Interference by Desiree Holt. Copyright © 2015 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.