|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)|
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Slamdunked by Love
A One-on-One Story
By Jamie Wesley, Tracy Montoya
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Jamie Wesley
All rights reserved.
Put, put. Eerrrgh. Clunk.
And just like that, Caitlin Monroe's beloved car said, "No more." The side of the road was as far as it was willing to go. It was done. No hope for recovery.
She dropped her forehead to the steering wheel. Yes, she'd heard the Jetta making weird noises over the past month — okay months — but wasn't that what cars did, especially when they were fifteen years old? The vehicle always started and got her where she needed to go. She'd always planned to get it looked at — at some nebulous point in the future when she could bear to part with the money.
Now she was stuck. At least until the tow truck arrived. But who knew how long that would take? She pulled her phone out of her silver clutch and called her roadside assistance company.
"Someone should be there within the hour," the customer service agent said.
She ended the call, huffing out an impatient breath. Damn it, she had somewhere to be. Someone to confront. Someone to expose.
It was going to be glorious.
Assuming you can go through with it. Caitlin lifted her chin and told that stupid voice in her head to shut up. Of course she could go through with it. She would go through with it. She was on the side of right.
But when was she going to get there for her moment of glory? She checked her watch. Only fifty-five more minutes to go until help arrived. "Ugh."
Why weren't things going as planned? Tapping her fingers on the steering wheel, she stared out the window. A few cars zoomed by without stopping. She didn't blame the drivers. They didn't know her from Eve. She didn't want them to stop anyway. She didn't know them from Adam. She'd be okay. Downtown Dallas wasn't exactly a beehive of activity on Wednesday nights, but streetlights kept some of the shadows at bay.
Her gaze fell on her phone. No time like the present to find the perfect raspberry cheesecake recipe she was certain existed on Pinterest somewhere.
A few minutes later, her head jerked up at the sound of a car pulling up behind her. But instead of the AAA utilitarian vehicle she was expecting, a low-slung sports car appeared in her rearview mirror. She sucked in a breath. Oh God. She was going to be murdered because she chose to drive a fifteen-year-old clunker.
She quickly double-checked that her doors were locked. And one more time when the door on the driver's side of the — was that a Porsche? — opened and a shiny, expensive-looking black wingtip hit the pavement.
A rich serial killer? Sure, why not? There was no law that said serial killers couldn't be rich. Hell, being rich probably meant they had more resources at their disposal to use to commit their crimes.
Other cars continued to drive by, so hopefully if the other driver did try to kill her, someone would witness the crime. Caitlin shook her head. Wait. Was that really her silver lining in all this? An eyewitness to her demise? Why had her car chosen tonight of all nights to crap out on her?
Only her seat belt saved her from the indignity of hitting her head on the roof of the car. Porsche Guy tapped the driver's side window again. She stared straight ahead out the windshield. Maybe if she refused to acknowledge his presence, he'd go away.
He stepped in front of her car. From this angle, he was standing too close for her to see his face, but she saw that he wore a suit. Long legs. Cufflinks — diamonds? — winked under the streetlight. Then he bent down and waved.
Caitlin's eyes widened. She recognized him. Even through the faint wisps of smoke billowing out from under the hood of the car. Kind of impossible not to if you spent any time on the internet or ever turned on a TV. When he wasn't starring in soda and shoe commercials, his fantastic plays and sometimes caustic soundbites were being highlighted on ESPN.
Brady Hudson. The newest point guard for the NBA's Dallas Stampede.
God, he was hot. Drool-worthy. Fine. And whatever other superlatives came to mind. She took the opportunity to go slow and take it all in. His dark blue jacket hugged broad shoulders. A red tie and crisp, white shirt drew attention to his wide chest. Slim pants accentuated long legs. Her eyes slid up. Black hair cropped close to his scalp. Skin the color of rich mahogany. His eyebrows were drawn together in concern over eyes the color of her favorite dark chocolate. Sharp cheekbones any woman would kill for only added to his appeal.
Not that she was interested, of course. Just admiring the pretty.
She took a deep breath, her heart rate slowing down. Talking to him should be okay. Yeah, the basketball player had a reputation for being kind of an ass who'd gotten the boot from his last team because he'd never learned how to get along with others, but that was better than having a reputation for being a murderer. She pressed the button to roll down the window. And growled in frustration when nothing happened because the damn car was dead.
Brady rounded the car to her side and peered at her through the glass with those hypnotizing eyes. She eased the door open.
"Looks like you're having some trouble here," he said.
She offered up a small smile. "Yeah, but AAA will be here soon. I'm good."
"Want me to take a look at it?"
"In that fancy suit?" She shook her head. "No, I wouldn't do that to you."
He scanned her figure. "You're dressed pretty fancy yourself. Going somewhere special?"
"Probably the same place you are."
He nodded once. "The team's charity casino night. Right. Makes sense you were on this street." He paused. "So you know who I am?"
She lifted an eyebrow. "Dude, the only reason I opened my door was because I recognized you. You could've been an ax murderer."
He chuckled. "Watch a lot of Discovery ID, I take it?"
Her shoulders stiffened. "I do not." He shot her a disbelieving look. "Okay, yes, I do."
He laughed again. "Since you know my name, seems only fair that I know yours."
She hesitated. It felt a little revealing, a little personal giving him that piece of info. Like they were forming a connection. Which was ridiculous. How many thousands of times had she introduced herself to people? Telling him her name would mean exactly nothing. "Caitlin."
"Ms. Caitlin." Her name had never sounded so sexy rolling off the tongue. He propped his hand on the roof of the car and glanced around before returning his attention to her. "Look, it's dark out here. How about I stay with you until the tow truck gets here?"
Wait. What? Mr. Self-involved was going to stay with a woman he didn't know for who-knows-how-long? "You don't have to do that."
He shrugged. "I know, but you're rubbing off on me. It's dark and quiet. A little scary. I can't leave you out here by yourself." He placed a hand over his heart, his lips tilting upward. "Humor me."
Struck dumb by his winning smile, the answer popped out before she could stop it. "Okay."
He slipped off his jacket and relaxed against the backseat door. Awkward silence filled the air — at least on her part. He looked cool as could be, like it would never occur to him to even think about having a worry in the world. Still, she couldn't leave him out there by himself. Well, she could, but that would be rude. He was being nice. With a sigh, she unlocked her seat belt and stepped gingerly out of the car, taking a moment to gather her footing. As cute as her shoes were, she didn't wear spindly, four-inch heels every day. Falling on her butt would be the evening's final indignity.
He straightened from his perch. "I misspoke."
That didn't sound good. She frowned and took a hasty step back. "About what? Being an undercover serial killer?"
He laughed again, drawing her eyes to lips she'd undoubtedly be dreaming about tonight. Which was not okay. Neither was the way he smelled. Like leather and soap. All man. "No, I said you looked fancy. That was an understatement."
He did nothing to hide the appreciation in his eyes. Don't let the flattery go to your head. He definitely had game that extended well beyond the basketball court. His love life was featured prominently on celebrity gossip sites. Models, entertainers, and socialites. All beautiful. All temporary. Getting into any kind of entanglement with an athlete, especially one with a reputation for being tempestuous, was nowhere to be found on her bucket list. Been there, done that. Had the scars to prove it. She glanced down at the floor-length, red sheath that hugged her curves. "Thanks."
She moved away to lean on the hood of the car.
He stepped directly in front of her, bringing him and his scent way too close again and forcing her to look up at him. Because he was a point guard, he wasn't required to be a giant like most of the other players in the NBA. He was "only" six-three, if memory served her correctly, but he towered over her anyway. Granted that wasn't saying much since she was five-two without heels. If she practiced perfect posture. Even with the heels, she wasn't setting any height records. But looking up at him wasn't exactly a hardship. In any way, shape, or form. He was a fine specimen of a man.
"Caitlin? You okay?"
She started, realizing she'd been staring at his sculpted lips again. And based on the smile that played across said lips, he knew it. Great. Yep, it had been too long since she'd gotten laid. Hell, even kissed. She needed to make an appointment ASAP with Bobby, her battery-operated boyfriend. Because fantasizing about Brady Hudson was a non-starter, even if by some miracle he didn't see her as a charity case.
"Sorry, I spaced out for a second," she said. "You know you don't have to stay."
He crossed his arms, pulling the shirt tight over his biceps. "Yeah, you said that already, but the question is why. Usually women do whatever it takes to get me to stay."
"I'm not a groupie," she fired back.
His eyebrows arched. "Duly noted."
Chill, Caitlin. There was no way he could've known that associating her with groupies, no matter how vaguely, was a particularly sore spot for her. "Sorry," she muttered.
"Don't worry about it." Like he had every right to do so, he settled next to her. Damn, he smelled good. And he probably knew that too.
She breathed a silent sigh of relief when the AAA driver pulled up a minute later and hopped out of the truck. "Somebody call a tow service?" His eyes grew big when he spotted Brady. "Hey, aren't you Brady Hudson? Sorry about the game last night. The ref was so off-point. What was he thinking? You should've gone off on him. I would have. How are you liking Dallas?"
"Thanks for the support, but I can't risk a fine or suspension for referee abuse," Brady said with a slight smile. "I haven't seen much of the city yet."
"Oh, that's too bad. I can show you around if you want. I've lived here my whole life."
"Thanks, but I don't want to put you out like that."
"Oh, it's no trouble at all."
Caitlin not-so-gently cleared her throat.
"Sorry, ma'am," the driver said, finally turning her way. "Let me take a look at the car. I'm Joe, by the way." He raised the hood and inspected its contents. Shook his head and let out a heavy sigh. And then he started telling her everything that was wrong with her car. Which would have been fine except her car-maintenance vocabulary didn't extend beyond "gas," "oil changes," and "tire tread."
"Radiator something something something. The fuel pump blah blah blah. Yeah, I need to bring it in," Joe said, wrapping up his spiel and slamming the hood shut.
She nodded politely like she understood car-speak. Like he wasn't giving her the worst news possible. "Okay."
The driver hooked her car up to his truck and raised it on the bed. He drove away, leaving her clutching his business card and stranded on the side of the road with only the NBA's biggest Don Juan to act as her rescuer. "Bye, Hans," she said, her spirits sinking as her much-loved car faded away in the distance.
"Who's Hans?" Brady asked, his eyebrows pinched together.
"Yeah. Jetta. Volkswagen. German car. German name."
His brows stayed drawn together. "Sure. Okay."
She gestured to the silver Porsche gleaming under the streetlight. "You're telling me that attention-getter doesn't have a name."
His lips cracked into a small smile. "No, can't say that it does. Ready?"
That got her attention. "Uh, what?"
He hitched one shoulder. "Since we're going to the same place, I'll give you a ride."
"You don't have to do that." She knew she sounded silly, but he unnerved her. She'd felt off-center since they'd made eye contact, and she didn't like feeling that way. Truth be told, she'd felt off-center since she'd found the letter a few days ago that had led to tonight's mission.
Brady spread his hands out wide. "I mean, yeah, I could leave you out here at the mercy of the next mom in a minivan with a machete who drives by, but I'd feel bad."
Caitlin cocked her head to the side, narrowing her eyes. "Are you making fun of me?"
"Now why would I do that?" His face remained impassive, but the slight twist of his lips gave him away.
And had her own mouth twitching in response. "Good answer. I'd hate to have to hurt you."
His dark chocolate gaze swept her figure. "Yeah, with what army? You're five foot nothing without those shoes."
Dutifully ignoring the way her skin tingled under his scrutiny, she thrust out her chin. "I am five-two, thank you very much."
He held up a hand. "My bad. Clearly you are five-two. A veritable giant."
"You're laughing at me."
His lips twisted again. "Maybe. Now let's get going, Ms. Caitlin."
He moved to the passenger side of the Porsche and held the door open. She slid in, doing her best not to inhale his scent as she moved past him. Doing her best not to make a fool of herself with her contortions to make sure she didn't touch him. Because caressing — err, touching him? Nothing good could come from that.
Brady strode around the car to the driver's side, his athletic grace a sight to behold. He slid in, his broad shoulders dominating the space. Desperate to concentrate on something other than his impressive physique, she asked the question that had been bugging her since he showed up. "Why did you pull over?"
He turned toward her, surprise flashing across his face. "What?"
Caitlin shrugged. "No one would've blamed you if you'd kept going. It could've been a ploy to find my next victim. I could've been holding an ax in my lap."
A rumble of laughter spilled from his lips. Damn, he was gorgeous. "You're awfully bloodthirsty. You looked like you needed help, and I can take care of myself. Besides, look who I found. A beautiful woman. I'm the lucky one."
Her entire body warmed. He could turn on the charm in an instant. Effortlessly. She'd have to be hella diligent about not falling for it. She side-eyed him. "Please. Save the smooth talk for the groupies you're so fond of. Speaking of, is there going to be someone waiting to pull my hair out when we get to the hotel?"
She was making small talk, that's all. Joking. She didn't really care if he had a girlfriend.
A shadow crossed his face, but his lips curved up. "No, I've only been in town a couple of weeks, trying to get acclimated to a new team, a new city. I haven't had any time for dating. What about you? Am I going to have a talking-to from some guy who doesn't know he's supposed to pick up his date?"
She laughed. "No, I'm a free agent. No one's waiting for me." No, it was the other way around. She'd planned to lie in wait for someone else. But the night was still young. No need to abandon her mission just yet.
"Want to play blackjack?" Brady asked, strangely unwilling to part company with the woman he'd spent the better part of the last hour with. As small as Caitlin was, he got the sense she could and would handle herself in any situation she found herself in.
And that intrigued him. She intrigued him.
Surprise and something else — uncertainty maybe? — flashed in the pretty brown eyes that dominated her face. She scanned the room like she was looking for someone.
"Thanks, but I'm okay. I'm sure you have better things to do than babysit me," she said, brushing aside a lock of the shiny black hair that swung near her ears in a style that managed to be both cute and edgy.
He dismissed the wave of disappointment that rippled through him. No one liked to get turned down even if it was a casual invitation, that's all.
"Okay. I guess I'll see you around."
Excerpted from Slamdunked by Love by Jamie Wesley, Tracy Montoya. Copyright © 2015 Jamie Wesley. 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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