Country boy, Ryder Davis has the world at his feet. A stellar rugby career, a winning way with women and a beach view that keeps him in blue sky and bikini babes. He's living the dream. The last thing he needs is a Great Dane called Tiny destroying his feng shui.
Dog whisperer, Juliet Morgan is about to start living her dream and she's counting down the days. In two months she'll finally be moving to Italy and no man's going to stop her this time. Not even a rugby superstar with a badly behaved pooch.
But when Ryder skids into the animal shelter looking for help Juliet agrees to assist him with his canine issues. Pretty soon they're assisting each other out of their clothes and tumbling headlong into a sex thing with an expiry date.
Neither of them expected it to become more. But when for now starts to feel like forever Juliet hits the panic button. Ryder knows he has to play the long game and let her walk away. After all it's not over until the final hooter sounds and all's fair in love and rugby.
Each book in the Sydney Smoke Rugby series is STANDALONE:
* Playing By Her Rules
* Playing It Cool
* Playing the Player
* Playing With Forever
* Playing House
* Playing Dirty
About the Author
Amy is an award-winning, USA Today best-selling Aussie author who has written seventy plus contemporary romances in both the traditional and digital markets. Her books bring all the feels from sass, quirk and laughter to emotional grit and panty-melting heat. At sixteen she met a guy she knew she was going to marry and several years later she did. They have two grown kids who have flown the coop for distant shores which enables their travel fetish.
She loves good books and great booze although she'll take mediocre booze if there's nothing else. For many, many years she was a registered nurse which means she knows things. Anatomical things. And she’s not afraid to use them! She's just taken a sea change and gets to create sexy stories whilst overlooking the mighty Pacific Ocean. Life is good.
Read an Excerpt
Ryder Davis may have been country to his bootstraps but there were definite advantages to city living. For example, it was rare to find women walking around in itty-bitty bikinis back home. Here, in his apartment overlooking Sydney's Coogee Beach, he was spoilt for choice.
He doubted there was a better way to recover from a gruelling training session than slugging back a beer on his deck, appreciating the bounty.
And the booty.
There weren't too many people on the stretch of golden sand at two in the afternoon on a Monday. It'd pick up in a couple of hours when school was out, the calm surf conditions more family friendly than the trendier Bondi. He'd go down for a dip later after he'd finished icing his right Achilles.
Two years after snapping the bloody thing, it still had a tendency to inflammation. After a decade of playing rugby at an elite level, he knew his body well enough to know it wasn't serious. He knew the treatment — rest and ice — and knew it'd be fine for training tomorrow.
He sure as shit could have done without it, though.
The cries of seagulls and the sound of laughter from the beach came to him on the light breeze and he pulled his black Akubra lower on his forehead as he breathed in the salt and sunshine.
It wasn't the outback, but with the Pacific Ocean as his front yard and the big stretch of sky overhead reminding him of home, it'd do.
Life was good. Fucking good. He was one lucky bastard.
His doorbell rang and he ignored it. It rang again and he sighed. There was only one person who rang twice — old Mrs Henderson from next door. Usually asking for assistance with a jar that wouldn't open or a light bulb that needed changing or dragging her cat off the top of the kitchen cupboard where it insisted on hanging out even though it apparently had no idea how to get down.
He drained his beer and hobbled inside, tossing his Akubra on the couch. He was shirtless and needed a shower, but the old biddy appreciated some eye candy. He knew that because she'd told him. And who was he to disappoint?
It was not Mrs Henderson.
It was the coach's daughter, Valerie King. She didn't mind some eye candy, either, and blatantly checked him out. One of the perks she'd told him when they'd first met six years ago. But she was like a kid sister to him. Not to mention Griff — his coach — would probably murder him and bury him beneath the hallowed turf of Henley stadium if he knew she was here.
"I'm so pleased you're home."
Normally, Val's striking red hair and cute freckled face was the first thing that registered, but not today. Today, it was what was standing beside her — the most enormous Great Dane he'd seen in his life. It was white with black spots — like a Dalmatian had mated with a Clydesdale — its pricked-up ears almost reaching Val's shoulders. Her gaze told him she had a problem and he was the answer. He sure as hell hoped it had nothing to do with the supernatural creature by her side.
He narrowed his eyes. "Oh?"
She affected a wide-eyed innocent look but dropped it when she realised it wasn't working. "Is your Achilles playing up again?" She tipped her chin at the bag of frozen peas strapped to his lower right leg.
"It's fine." He dismissed the distraction, preferring to get to the elephant on his doorstep. He suspected he was about to be conned. "I didn't realise you had a pet, Val?"
Her nervous laugh confirmed it. "Tiny's not mine."
Ryder blinked. Tiny. Someone sure had a sense of humour.
"He belongs to a work colleague. She's gone overseas for two months and I agreed to puppy sit."
Ryder blinked again as he inspected the animal. Its big pink tongue lolled from its mouth. "Puppy?"
"I know, right?" Another nervous laugh. "She failed to mention that Tiny was a rather ... large puppy."
Ryder sincerely doubted that Tiny had ever been a puppy. "And the reason why you're both on my doorstep is ...?"
"I was wondering ... I was hoping —"
"No." Ryder interrupted her with a firm shake of his head. If this had been yesterday — April Fools' Day — Ryder would have suspected a set-up. His teammates taking the piss. But it wasn't. "Absolutely not."
"But you like dogs."
"That" — he pointed at the animal — "is not a dog." Tiny's head angled side to side as if he understood every word. "That is a horse."
"You like horses, too."
"Not in my apartment."
He hated it when women used that voice. It appealed to his good country boy upbringing.
And she knew it.
"My flatmate freaked out and you've always said how you've missed having a dog since you left the farm. It's a win/win."
"I live in an apartment," he reiterated. It was big as far as apartments went but still ... Tiny looked like he could leap over the four-story block in a single bound.
"You know it's not true that Great Danes need a lot of room, they're just as content to be inside dogs."
He shoved his hands on his hips. "Is that a fact?"
"I Googled it."
Ryder didn't say anything, just stared at her, waiting for her to read the hell-no on his face.
"He's fully house trained," she went on hurriedly, "as long as you can take him out a few times a day. You know, before and after training and before bed. Think of it as extra fitness sessions. Pleeease."
"Don't you have anyone else you can give him to?"
"No one who wants or needs a dog as much as you. And did I mention how much chicks dig guys with dogs? Go out with Tiny and they'll flock."
"Val ..." Ryder shoved a hand through his hair. "I play in one of the country's most elite rugby teams. I'm on the tele. And billboards. In my underwear. I do okay with the chicks."
That was an understatement, but he didn't like to brag.
"Yes, but these will be the right kind, not the ones who only want you for your body."
Ryder gave a half laugh. "Newsflash, Val, I like those chicks. They're my kind of women."
"Ryder." She tisked. "You told me your mother wants grandchildren."
"My mother wants George Clooney to move to the farm, too, but that ain't ever going to happen."
She frowned for a moment. "Okay ..." She brightened. "How about this? What if you take him for a few days, just until I can find someone else? Please. He's really very sweet and well behaved. Look." She half turned and said, "Sit, Tiny."
Tiny sat, looking at Ryder like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth as Val said, "Good boy," and stroked her palm back and forth over the dog's big, boofy head. "Please?" she pleaded. "For me?"
Ryder sighed, feeling himself weaken, and rubbed a hand over his forehead. "Goddamn it, Val."
"Yes." She grinned and did a funny little jig then launched herself at his chest. "Thank you, thank you!" She dropped a quick peck on his cheek as she thrust the lead into his hand. "I'll just go and get his stuff."
Tiny stood and looked over his shoulder at Val as she scurried to the lift. He turned back to Ryder and barked.
"Sit." Tiny blinked and remained stubbornly on his feet. "It's going to be like that, huh?" He barked again. "Yeah," Ryder sighed. "Of course it is."
It took two hours for Ryder to fully understand he'd entered the ninth circle of hell. Or rather, he'd been dragged, as Tiny pulled on the lead, clearing a path along the seafront more efficiently than any tornado.
Little children saw the massive animal loping along and ran screaming for their mothers. Tiny, of course, thought this was a game, careening from the path to chase them onto the grassy areas, barking excitedly at them or the myriad seagulls hanging around hoping to score some hot chips.
Taking the beast for a walk had seemed like the sensible thing to do. Familiarise Tiny with the area and the places he could pee. But Ryder hadn't counted on the dog's split personality. Placid, well-mannered puppy with Val had quickly morphed to frenetic, evil, devil's spawn with a penchant for indoor plants and gnawing on chair legs.
"Tiny!" Ryder cursed Valerie under his breath for the hundredth time as his shoulder was yanked again and he was pulled along, his Akubra threatening to be unseated from his head.
Just as abruptly, and also for the hundredth time, Tiny stopped to pee. The dog had peed on every bush, car tyre, and blade of grass, not to mention every one of the huge Norfolk pines that lined the sea front. He'd dragged Ryder around and around the massive trunks like a fucking quality inspector until he found just the right spot to cock his leg.
He knew dogs liked to mark their territory, but this was ridiculous. Satisfied with a quick squirt he took off again before Ryder could exert any control. A child flying down a slippery dip in a play area squealed excitedly and Tiny's ears pricked up.
"Oh no you don't."
But it was too late. Tiny dragged him in the direction of the playground and a group of excited toddlers. They hollered in fright when they saw Tiny bearing down on them.
Not that Ryder could blame them.
Tiny wasn't aggressive, just energetic. And badly behaved. He knew the dog just wanted to play with the kids, maybe lick a few faces but, to a bunch of shorties, Tiny probably looked more Cujo than Scooby Doo.
Ryder managed to create enough drag on Tiny's lead to prevent toddler skittles, apologising profusely to a bunch of scowling mothers as the dog dragged him on to the next shiny thing.
His Achilles hurt like a bitch, his shoulder was practically dislocated, and women were scowling at him.
Women did not scowl at Ryder Davis.
Ryder's lack of control over Tiny was even more ridiculous considering he'd grown up on a cattle property surrounded by dogs. Good working dogs that ran all day and thrived on hard yakka. He'd trained about a dozen of them himself to do his bidding, to obey any command through a series of quick sharp whistles.
Tiny did not respond to whistling.
Tiny was possessed.
The folks back home would be pissing themselves for sure if they could see him now. They'd say all that poncing around in his underwear for billboards had made him soft.
How Ryder managed to turn the dog around and head back to the apartment he didn't know. He was just pleased to be leaving behind the path of destruction before someone called the cops. Or an angry bunch of mothers came after him with their pitchforks.
Ryder had never been so happy to see the loom of his apartment block in his life. He was fishing his key out of his pocket, trying to figure out what the hell he was going to do with an out of control horse-dog when he remembered there was an animal shelter a few blocks away.
Perhaps they'd be able to give him some advice or point him in the direction of a home for wayward dogs. Maybe dish out some canine calm- the-fuck-down pills.
At the moment, he'd take anything.
Tiny took off excitedly at Ryder's urging, much to the chagrin of people on the footpath. He galloped along like a drunken racehorse, swerving in the path of everyone they passed.
Consequently, they overshot the shelter entrance by metres and it took some effort to turn the dog around. Even more effort to get him up off his butt once he'd sat stubbornly down just outside the entrance, looking up at the sign over head — Coogee Animal Rescue Centre — as if he was reading the fucker.
Underneath was a list of services. Adoption, health checks, micro- chipping, dog walking, grooming, desexing and, much to his relief, dog obedience classes.
Ryder pulled on the lead, but the dog dug its nails into the path and didn't budge. "What?"
Tiny glanced at Ryder, then back to the sign, then at Ryder again. Jesus. The dog couldn't walk in a straight bloody line but he could read?
"I'm not leaving you here." He forced a reassuring smile onto his face, but the dog didn't look convinced. "Seriously. I'm just going to enquire about the dog obedience thing."
Ryder tugged on the lead. Tiny resisted, continuing to stare at the sign with a doleful expression.
He sighed. "I'm not getting your nuts chopped off, either, if that's what you're worried about." Tiny blinked and didn't budge. "Dude." Ryder laid his fisted hand over his heart. "Solidarity."
Tiny, apparently satisfied with that, rose and bound into the shelter, yanking on Ryder's arm. They both skidded to an unceremonious halt in front of the counter as Tiny's paws lost their grip on the polished cement flooring.
The place was hot, laden with the sound of distant barking and the aroma of wet dog. There was no one behind the counter but a harried, "I'll just be a sec," came at him from off to the left.
Ryder's gaze sought the source, a woman, standing at a bank of sinks, her attention on some kind of fluffy mutt, its front paws up on the sink edge, covered in soap suds. It yapped at them and Ryder tensed for some macho male bullshit from Tiny, but the massive dog just stared at the midget animal dog, his big pink tongue lolling from his mouth.
"Shh, Bessie." She sluiced water from the retractable shower head down her sudsy arms and gave them a quick shake. "You stay there, missy," she said to the dog before turning to attend to Ryder.
"Oh." Her eyes — blue — widened for a moment as she wiped her hands on an apron. Had she recognised him?
Or did she just like what she saw?
The thought was quickly swept away as Ryder took in the wetness of her navy T-shirt dominated by a huge paw print logo smack bang in the middle of her chest. And what a lovely chest it was, her big breasts nicely displayed by the dip of the V-neck and the cling of wet fabric.
Ryder loved boobs almost as much as he loved rugby. Big ones, little ones, and every size and shape in between.
Her face was flushed and dozens of strands of her long sun-bleached hair had escaped some kind of ponytail/bun construction. They stuck to her face, forehead, and neck and she had a patch of soap bubbles on her cheek. She wiped at the strands and bubbles with the back of her hand as she walked toward him.
Her apron hung halfway down her tanned legs, but Ryder could see enough of them to know he wanted to see more. Tiny's tail swished across the floor as if he agreed.
Ryder relaxed for the first time since he'd clapped eyes on the ridiculous animal.
Thank you, universe.
"Can I help you?"
"I hope so." He gave her one of his famous country-boy smiles as he glanced at her name tag perched on the slope of her left breast. "Juliet."
Up close she was even more gorgeous. A dark ring around the lapis blue of her iris set off the dark fringe of her lashes. Her nose was of the cute button variety. And her mouth was perfectly bowed.
She was very girl next door. Tanned and beachy, glowing and healthy. His gaze flicked to her left hand. No rings. In fact she wore no rings at all.
"I've been lumbered with this great lug of dog through a friend of a friend for a couple of months and he has some ... behavioural problems I need to manage ASAP."
"Really?" Her gaze switched to Tiny, who wagged his tail, looking completely angelic. Ryder could have sworn the damn mutt was smiling. "Look at you, you gorgeous boy," she crooned, unlatching a section of the counter, lifting it up and ducking through it to join him on the other side.
Tiny wagged his tail harder as Juliet approached, one hand held out in friendly greeting. Tiny, whose head came to her breasts, took full advantage, nosing her right in the cleavage as the woman slid her hands on either side of his face and cooed at him. "You are adorable, aren't you?"
Tiny licked, actually licked, her cleavage, then shot a shit-eating grin in Ryder's direction. If the dog had eyebrows, one of them would be arrogantly cocked.
Ryder blinked. The damn animal had more game than him.
"Are you sure?" She leaned forward to drop some kisses between Tiny's eyes, pushing his snout even farther into the cushioned heaven between her breasts. "He seems very placid."
Tiny gave an ecstatic little shiver, his tail a blur as it dusted the floor. "Trust me. He's the antichrist."
"Oh, I don't believe that," she said to Tiny, her voice light and teasing, her mouth a cute little moue. "Look how sweet and well-behaved he is. Good boy." She kissed him again. "Good boy."
Ryder would be sweet and well-behaved if Juliet called him a good boy while cradling his head between her breasts.
Hell, he'd roll over and play dead if she wanted.
"You're putty in my hands, aren't you, big guy?"
Ryder wondered how wrong it was on a scale of one to ten to be turned on by a woman baby-talking a dog. "He's faking it."
Tiny had been the same with Valerie. Tiny was a flirt. A complete and utter hound dog!
Excerpted from "Playing with Forever"
Copyright © 2017 Amy Andrews.
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.
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