Smooth Play

Smooth Play

by Regina Hart

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780758258823
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 01/01/2012
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)

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Smooth Play



Copyright © 2012 Regina Hart
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-5882-3

Chapter One

Troy Marshall needed a plan. But when the Brooklyn Monarchs' vice president of media and marketing had read the Twitter message that the professional basketball team's captain was drinking heavily at this trendy Brooklyn nightclub, he hadn't stopped to think. He'd simply reacted.

He navigated the hot, smoky space past the sweaty, gyrating bodies in the darkened downtown club. The bass of a popular urban song pounded in his chest, echoing his heartbeat.

Memories of his own club-hopping years came back to him. Another lifetime, another world. Who had he been and what had he been hoping to prove? Trying to hold on to an image and a lifestyle he'd lost.

Troy mounted the stairs to the club's VIP floor. Two mountains masquerading as men secured the perimeter of the team captain's private section. Their stony stares dared him to approach them. Before Troy could introduce himself, Barron Douglas's voice defused the standoff.

"He's OK." The Monarchs' captain shouted his grudging approval above the driving beat of the club music. His voice was slurred.

Troy's irritation rose. Shit. There were a lot of places he'd rather be at two o'clock on a weekday morning. Like home. In bed. Preferably with a warm and willing female. He'd leave that thought alone for now. He watched impatiently as Kilimanjaro on his left unhooked the purple velvet rope barrier to allow him into Barron's inner circle. He nodded to the large security guard as he walked through.

One of the women stood, separating herself from the pack. She moved toward him with practiced sensuality. Her stilettos' thin heels spotted her an extra five inches. The silver satin of her stingy dress wrapped her generous curves and shimmered against her brown skin. Even in the club's dim lights, Troy could see the avarice in her dark eyes.

"Who are you?" The groupie stood too close. She raised her voice above the club's entertainment.

"A friend of Bling's." Troy looked toward the NBA player. Hopefully using Barron's nickname would reassure him that Troy was there as a friend, not a representative of the franchise's front office.

"Are you a basketball player?"

The woman looked him over. Troy could hear the cash register in her head tallying the cost of his cream silk jersey, black pants, and Italian loafers. Did she think every tall, physically fit, and financially comfortable African American male played basketball?

"No." Troy started to move around her.

She shifted to block him, taking hold of his arm. "What do you do?"

Troy glanced from her to Barron and back. "I look after the players." As an NBA media and marketing executive, that wasn't part of his job. Then why was he here?

Her brown brow creased in confusion. "Like a babysitter or something?"

"Or something."

The groupie's greedy gaze considered him again. "You get paid a lot to do that?"

"Not enough."

"Do you want to babysit me?" She licked her lips as though her offer needed clarification.

In the past, it hadn't mattered whether a woman was interested in him or his wallet. But it mattered now. Troy removed her small hand from his arm. "No. Thank you."

Ignoring the groupie's disappointed pout, he continued toward Barron. He stopped beside the table. Barron scratched his scalp, bared between his thick cornrows. From the sheen in Barron's dark brown eyes, Troy feared alcohol wasn't the only contributor to the player's unnatural high. "Bling, let's talk."

Barron stared through Troy. His gaze wasn't quite focused. His movements were deliberate as he lifted a heavy crystal glass and took a healthy swallow of its brown contents. He put the drink down with a thud. "Talk."

Was the Monarchs' captain deliberately trying to antagonize him? It didn't matter. It had been a long day and Troy was short on patience. But he wasn't going away. "In private."

Barron's sigh was more tired than annoyed. He placed his hand on the shoulder of the big man beside him. "Move."

Barron stood with slow, unsteady movements. Troy tensed with worry. Getting drunk was bad enough, considering Barron was a professional athlete whose season hadn't ended. If drugs were involved, he wouldn't cover for the team captain any longer.

He followed the six-foot-five player past the velvet rope barrier and the human mountains guarding it. They came to the railed landing overlooking the dance floor. Shifting lights irritated him. What effect were they having on Barron in his intoxicated state?

Troy pitched his voice above the dance music. It seemed even louder up here. "What are you doing, Bling?"

The point guard's smile was too bright. "Partying!"

Troy wanted to shake him. "It's after two in the morning. Practice starts in nine hours. You need to bring your A game to the play-offs."

Barron's smile vanished. His glazed gaze hardened. "What do I have to do with whether the team does well in the play-offs?" Frustration tightened the other man's stance and strained his voice.

How could Troy reach the basketball player? "You're the team's captain. You represent the Monarchs to the public on and off the court."

Barron curled his lip. "That didn't stop the Mighty Guinn from benching me last night."

Troy should have expected that response. DeMarcus Guinn was the Monarchs' rookie head coach. The media had been stunned when DeMarcus led the perennially losing team to a postseason berth. But DeMarcus had done it with Barron riding the bench at the end of the last regular season game, the game that determined whether the team got into the play-offs.

Was there anything he could say to ease the other man's anger? His temper was probably worse because of his pride. Troy drew from his experience playing for a successful college basketball team. "This is the first time in four seasons the team's gotten to the play-offs. And it's the first time in your career you've made it to the postseason. Isn't that incentive enough for you to give one hundred and ten percent?"

Troy stepped back as Barron swept his arms in an emotional gesture.

"I gave one hundred and ten percent all season." Barron's expression twisted with pain and disappointment. "The Mighty Guinn still benched me in the final sixteen minutes of the game."

DeMarcus had been right to bench Barron. If he hadn't, the players would be preparing to watch the postseason games from their sofas. But Troy kept those thoughts to himself. He'd read somewhere you're supposed to humor drunks. "That's between you and Marc. My concern is that it's two in the morning. The team doesn't need headlines about your early-morning clubbing when the first play-off game is Saturday."

Barron swayed on his feet again. "It's only Wednesday. Well, Thursday. And what do I care about headlines?"

At least the point guard wasn't so drunk he'd forgotten what day it was. "Believe me, you'll care when your name is smeared in the press. So humor me. Let me take you home."

Barron jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "I came with Ten-speed."

Was he referring to the heavyset guy who'd sat beside him in the VIP lounge? "Ten-speed can find his own way home. You're coming with me. Now."

Barron frowned. Would the point guard continue to argue? Troy didn't have time for this.

Barron rested a heavy hand on Troy's shoulder. "Yeah. I guess I'm ready to leave. Thanks, man. How'd you know where I was?"

Troy stared at Barron. "You sent a Twitter message about where you were and what you were doing. Don't you keep track of who's following you?"

Barron shrugged. "I have thousands of followers, man. How am I supposed to keep track of all of them?"

"Try. Andy Benson is following you."

Barron gave him a sloppy grin. "Oh, yeah? That Sports reporter? She's hot."

Why did the other man's observation rankle him? "She's a reporter. You need to know who's reading your messages. Do you want the press to report that you're getting plastered at a nightclub during the play-offs?"

Barron scowled. "They've turned against me, too."

"Stop giving them reasons to criticize you." He gestured toward the player. "Do you have everything you need?"

Barron slapped both pants pockets. "Yeah, I've got my wallet."

Troy followed Barron to the steps as a young male server approached. The large, circular tray the young man balanced was burdened with alcohol.

Barron stopped. "Yo, my man. If that tray is for Barron Douglas's private group, take it back. I'm leaving and taking my credit cards with me."

The server switched directions to carry the tray back downstairs.

Barron looked at Troy over his shoulder. "I don't mind their company, but their freeloading gets on my nerves."

Troy frowned. "Then why do you hang out with them?"

Barron started down the stairs. "They want a good time. I want a good time. And they don't hassle me about basketball."

Troy caught the verbal jab. It didn't matter if Barron was annoyed with him. It mattered how he performed during the games. That's why he was pulling the team captain out of the club.

He followed the athlete across the club to the exit. Barron lost his balance several times, stumbling into the club's other patrons. Interesting that he subjected only women to his clumsiness. Troy braced himself, unhappy at the prospect of being dragged into a fight because of Barron's childish antics. He saw a headline in his mind: Monarchs' Captain, Media Exec in Drunken Brawl. Luckily, once the men recognized the klutz tripping into their dates was Barron "Bling" Douglas, they were more understanding.

Despite Barron's attempts to antagonize the clubgoers, his celebrity got them out of the establishment unscathed. Outside, the cool mid-April breeze seemed even colder after the heat generated by the crush of sweaty bodies in the club. Troy handed the valet the ticket to retrieve his Lexus.

He watched Barron take deep breaths of the early-morning air. "Your friends in the club don't have your back."

"And who does? My teammates?" Barron sneered the word.

Troy didn't react. "Yes."

"Those punks don't have my back. They let Coach bench me in the last sixteen minutes of the game." Barron didn't sound as drunk now. Was it the fresh air or his anger?

"You're stuck on those sixteen minutes. Where were you the other thirty-two?"

Barron's face twisted with temper. "I was leaving everything I had on the court. I was busting my ass to make the plays no one else would."

"They couldn't. You wouldn't give up the ball." Troy held up his palm. "What happens on the court is between you and Marc. My concern is the media coverage. The team can't afford negative publicity, not when we're trying to rebuild our fan base and increase revenue."

Anger still sparked in Barron's eyes. "What do I care about that?"

Troy gave the belligerent baller a hard stare. "The negative coverage affects your money, too. Do you want an advertising contract? What company wants to have their product pushed by a drunk?"

The silence between them was tense. It continued when the valet pulled up to the curb with Troy's silver Lexus. He gave the young man a generous tip before getting behind the wheel. His irritation spiked when Barron sprawled unmoving in the passenger seat. "Buckle your seat belt."

The point guard complied, his movement jerky. "Why'd you come for me tonight, man?"

"You mean this morning?" Troy checked his rearview and side mirrors before merging into traffic. "It's my job to make sure the team gets only positive media. It would really help me out if you'd stop screwing around." He let Barron hear his frustration and disappointment.

"So you left your bed—and probably a honey—at two in the morning to make sure the team gets positive press?"

"I wasn't with a woman."

Barron chuckled. "Guys like you are always with a honey."

Troy ignored him. "I was working late at home."

Barron's voice was distant. "You think you're going to get some kind of recognition for your hard work? I'll give you some advice, man. Wake up. You think the front office cares that you care?"

Troy pulled up to a red light. He turned to Barron. "I'm in the front office."

"At the end of the day, your desk won't protect you. The front office isn't loyal."

"If I weren't loyal, I wouldn't be here."

Barron grunted. "You aren't here for me. You said yourself this is about the franchise."

"And you're part of the franchise."

"Am I?"

Of course he was. He was the Monarchs' starting point guard, their captain. He and the team were inseparable. To protect one, you had to protect the other. And that's exactly what Troy was going to do.

Troy strode into the New York Sports newspaper's weathered and worn reception area. The middle-aged woman behind the desk was simultaneously transferring phone calls, typing at a computer, and signing for packages. She stopped typing, transferred the call, and thanked the delivery woman before turning to Troy.

"May I help you?" The question was brisk and delivered with a hint of an Asian accent.

"Troy Marshall to see Andrea Benson."

Her dark eyes studied him as though trying to decide if he was trouble. "Do you have an appointment?"

Maybe he should have called before driving to the newspaper's office. But after reading Andrea's article in that Thursday morning's edition of the Sports, he hadn't stopped to think about it.

He tried to win the receptionist over with a smile. "No."

Her cheeks flushed. She lowered her eyelashes and picked up the phone. "I'll see if Andrea's available." She pressed a few buttons. "Andrea, Troy Marshall is here to see you." After a moment's silence, she slid her eyes back to him. "I'll let him know." She replaced the receiver and nodded toward a row of chairs. "She's on her way. Please have a seat."

Troy stepped toward the cracked and battered vinyl chairs. He chose one in direct line of sight of the newsroom. Before long, Andrea Benson walked through the doorway. Troy stood as she came closer. Her long, lithe body moved with a sexy confidence that defied her conservative black slacks, white blouse, and gray blazer. Her honey brown skin glowed. Her straight dark hair swung hypnotically behind her narrow shoulders as she advanced on him across the aging linoleum.

She stopped and offered her hand. The expression in her wide sherry eyes was more curious than welcoming.

"This is a surprise." Her melodic voice reminded him of satin sheets and summer nights. But with her distant manner, he'd never confuse fantasy with reality.

At five-foot-nine, she was almost a foot shorter than his six-foot-four inches. But her energy and assertiveness made her seem even taller.

Her hand was warm and delicate in his. Troy gave her the smile that had won over her receptionist. "Do you like surprises?"

Andrea ignored his question and drew her hand from his. "What can I do for you?"

He glanced behind her at the newsroom before meeting her gaze again. "Could we talk privately?"

She arched a winged brow. "A private conversation? What was wrong with the phone?"

Andrea was his challenge. He needed something more than a smile to charm her, but he still hadn't figured out what that was. "I wanted to talk with you in person."

Her perceptive eyes searched his. "All right." She led him to the newsroom.

Troy had never been to the New York Sports offices. He'd suspected the organization struggled financially. The worn gray carpeting, peeling paint, and battered furnishings confirmed his suspicions.

He was struck by the stench of newsprint and burned coffee, battered by the cacophony of ringing telephones and shouted conversations. The scene brought back memories of his days as a sports reporter. Part of him missed the adrenaline rush of chasing a story. But, on the whole, he'd rather be back on the court.

Andrea turned a corner, leading him around the newsroom's perimeter and into what appeared to be a combination conference and storage room. She turned on the light.

Troy looked around at the room's stained walls and scarred furniture. "Maybe you should turn the lights back off."

Her eyes sparkled with humor, but her manner remained cool. "What's on your mind, Troy?"

She shut the door, closing them into the musty space. Troy quashed the urge to step closer and inhale her soft scent instead. He'd better get this over with before he became even more distracted.

He rested a hip against the conference table and slipped his hands into the pockets of his suit pants. "Let's talk about the article you wrote on Barron."

She remained near the door. "What about it?"

"You weren't fair to him, were you?" Troy tossed the words as a friendly question. But he was here to demand a retraction.

Andrea's eyes widened. "What makes you say that?"

"You accused him of being on drugs without giving him a chance to respond."


Excerpted from Smooth Play by REGINA HART Copyright © 2012 by Regina Hart. 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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Smooth Play 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
RtBBlog More than 1 year ago
Reviewed By~Tee Review Copy Provided By~Author Smooth Play by Regina Hart is the second book in her Brooklyn Monarchs trilogy. I was not disappointed at all in this second book. Ms. Hart did a great job of letting us see how these two characters want to fight their feelings for each other but come together in the end. The lead characters both love what they do for a living, but both have regrets in things they have said and done in the past, but are willing to work on their mistakes. Troy has a hard time letting the past go and is slowly learning to trust again and Andrea has a very big heart, but is leery of herself when she is near Troy. Smooth Play is a perfect title for this romance, for while the main characters have issues with themselves and their potential other, when they need to come together, they do so and work it as a "Smooth Play" - in other words, they work it together as a team, for both each other and the team's. Smooth Play is a must read and I think once you've finished it, you'll find yourself looking for more Regina Hart books, as well as Patricia Sargeant.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was slow and awkwatd. Not believable. The characters never came to life for me. And there was no humor between the characters. Whatever happened to Connie's ex or Serge's interest in her? Did the author forget? Sure it was about addiction- sort of- and forgiveness - sort of- but it was not believable. Only finished it because I do not like loose ends and I paid good money for the book.... really anal.
Rhea-Alexis More than 1 year ago
Smooth Play is a fantastic novel that shows us many sides to people’s personalities that are both good and bad for their well-being. We witness first-hand how hate, jealousy, fear and hurt can impair one’s future but most importantly how love concurs them all. GREAT READ!! Regina Hart penned a novel that is full of passion on all fronts listed above. This is the tale of two people, Troy Marshall and Andrea Benson, that could easily be on different sides (so to speak) but in actuality they are not. Troy is the head of PR for the Monarchs, a lower ranking New York NBA team and Andrea is a sport’s reporter for a struggling New York paper, the Sports. Troy looks upon the media as the enemy and Andrea looks out for the Monarchs as she tells the public the stories about the team even those that some don’t want told. This puts them at odds but the fire between them can’t and won’t be denied, that is until Troy’s unreasonable demands and unfounded accusations tear at the fabric of them both. This is a fast paced, engaging read that elicits numerous emotions as one dives head first into all of this “passion” and excitement. I truly commend Ms. Hart on the “game parts” as one feels like they are right there, experiencing it all. I give this novel 4 stars and eagerly anticipate the final installment of the series.
Judy_F More than 1 year ago
Regina Hart delivers another slam dunk in her latest story….Smooth Play. Troy Marshall VP of Public Relations for the Brooklyn Monarch’s takes his job of protecting the team very seriously. He won’t let nothing nor no one to put the team in a negative light. Not even the tempting reporter Andrea Benson. Troy won’t let his growing feelings for Andrea cloud his judgment. Andrea Benson loves her job as a sports reporter for the New York Sports. Its not the most glamorous job in the business but she has to start somewhere to rebuild her shattered career. Andrea’s gut tells her that something is off with the Monarch’s this play off season. If she could only get Troy to trust her she could help him and the team. Troy was badly burned in the past and it takes a lot for him to drop his guard. Just when he had let Andrea in her past may prove a barrier that he can’t over look. Andrea needs Troy to trust her and her ability to be fair. Will their relationship be able to overcome Troy’s mistrust? Can they both forgive each other and their past to forge a strong relationship? Smooth Play is a fast paced, sexy ride. Troy and Andrea relationship starts out on opposite sides of the court but their attraction is electric and can’t be ignored by either of them. Their past still lingers in their actions today but you know that if they try they can have it all. Basketball plays a major part in this book and you feel like you have courtside seats to the action on the court. Smooth Play should be a must buy for any romance reader. It delivers a fast paced game as well as a terrific love story.