Read an Excerpt
The Billionaire Heartbreaker
Billionaire's Club: Texas Heartthrob
By Mandy Baxter
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Mandy Baxter
All rights reserved.
"No. No freaking way." Travis Christensen gave an emphatic shake of his head. He stared at the Dallas Stars's team manager, Bob Spencer, as though he'd grown a second head in the course of their conversation. The man had obviously lost his mind. An image consultant? They may as well have asked him to go visit a shrink or some shit. Travis's job was to stop the pucks that flew toward his face at 100mph. What the press — or anyone else — thought of him was none of his business. "I'm not doing it."
Bob's lips thinned as he returned Travis's stare. "You're going and that's that. I'm tired of cleaning up your messes, Travis."
With a huff of breath, Travis slouched back in his seat and threw one arm over the back of the chair. "Then don't. I couldn't give a single shit what the press thinks about me, Bob." The press chose to fixate on his social life. Totally not his fault. Or his problem. "It doesn't affect my game. Or did you not notice my shutout the other night?"
"Maybe you should care," Bob remarked sourly. He tossed a folded copy of the sports section from The Dallas Morning News onto his desk toward Travis. "Because the press sure as shit didn't notice your shut-out."
Travis leaned forward and glanced at the headline: "Travis Christensen's Wild Nights: The Dallas Stars's Goalie Skates through the Playoffs with the Help of Booze, Women, and the Local Club Scene."
He hiked a shoulder and sat back in his seat. "Sensationalism sells papers. It's not a big deal."
"It'll be a big deal when all of it catches up to you."
It might seem that way to Bob, but Travis wasn't about to slow down. "My game's tight."
"You were hung over at yesterday's practice," Bob replied. "And it's not the first time. I don't care if you stop every puck in every game for the rest of the season; that shit's disrespectful to each and every man on the ice and it's going to stop."
Okay, so maybe being hung over at practice wasn't the best idea. And yeah, he'd had a few late nights lately, but didn't he deserve to celebrate his accomplishments? "No one on the team has complained."
"Not to your face," Bob said with a derisive snort. "They're tired of the media circus. The press isn't asking them questions about the playoffs or their own games anymore. No one's answered a single question that isn't about who you're sleeping with or where you went last night or who you paid for a date and who you didn't."
"I didn't tell them to answer any of those nosy questions," Travis said. "Did you?" Honestly, it was no one's business what — or who — he did. His teammates didn't have to feed the media monster. They could do what he did: tell them all to fuck off.
"So the entire team is supposed to just walk on by?" Bob asked. "Sit at the post-game press conferences with their mouths shut? You know that's not possible."
Travis shrugged. He didn't see why not.
"It's only a matter of time before you do something that's going to wind your ass up on the bench, Travis," Bob said. "Hell, you're halfway there now. And this team can't afford that. You can't afford it. Scott Thomlinson wants the focus back on the Stars. Not you. And that's not going to happen until you're squeaky clean."
Of course the team's owner wanted the focus on the franchise and nothing else. Bo-ring. Travis stifled a yawn. He was too damned young to walk the straight and narrow. He'd save that shit for when he was old and retired, with a beer gut and a receding hairline. Until then, he planned on living every single damned minute of his life to its fullest.
"I'll lay low until after the playoffs," Travis suggested. He could behave himself for a month or so. How hard could it be? "The media will forget all about me in a couple of weeks."
"That's not good enough, Travis," Bob said with a sad shake of his head. "I'm not going to be happy with slapping a Band-Aid on it and neither is the coaching staff. It's time to make a change. You're doing this, whether you want to or not."
Travis shifted in his seat. Bob's attempt to give him a time-out wasn't going to help his game in the slightest. In fact, it might fuck up his flow. "This is a total load of bullshit. And a waste of my time."
Bob sat back in his chair and let out a long-suffering sigh. "Either way, you're meeting with the consultant tomorrow. We're paying a hefty chunk of change for her services."
Travis smirked. "How is you paying a woman to manage me any different than me paying a woman to —"
"Don't finish that sentence," Bob warned with a scowl. "I swear to God Almighty, Travis, if you give her so much as an ounce of trouble ..."
Travis snorted. "I'll meet with her, but I'm not promising that there'll be a second meeting." He'd make sure of it.
"I want you on better than your best behavior," Bob stressed. "I guess I have to spell it out for you. If you screw this up, your season is over. Period."
Travis shot up straight in his chair. "The fuck, Bob? I don't deserve that!"
"Meet with the consultant," Bob said. "Don't make me take our best chance at the Stanley Cup off the ice."
Travis shoved himself up from his chair and headed for the door. "This is blackmail, Bob. Plain and simple."
"Look at it however you'd like," he said smugly. "Just show up at your appointment in the morning."
If Bob or the coaching staff, or even the team's owner thought a sit-down with some stick-up-their-butt image consultant was going to fix anything, the next few weeks of the season were going to be very long for all of them.
* * *
Reily Martin stared down at the laundry list of Travis Christensen's faults, all laid out on her pristine yellow legal pad written in crisp, black ink. He was the total package and then some: pro athlete, Texas oil royalty, rich beyond reason, and good-looking, not to mention charming. Panties all across Dallas dropped simultaneously at the mention of his name. The media had painted him as an irreverent bad boy, that was for sure, but she wasn't worried. She'd been known to transform Dallas socialite party girls into Disney freakin' Princesses. Turning the wild, party-boy goalie into an upstanding role model was a challenge — and a paycheck — that was too good to walk away from.
Reily had built her career on being able to polish the most tarnished of reputations to a high sheen. She wasn't just an image consultant, she was a spin-doctor extraordinaire. People came to her as a last resort, and they paid her to salvage careers before they sank too low to be recovered. From what Bob Spencer had told her, Travis was on the cusp of losing his. According to her intel, Travis was a serial dater who wasn't above seeing call girls when it suited his fancy. He frequented all of Dallas's hottest clubs, hung out with celebrities, and stayed out until all hours of the morning, sometimes showing up to practice hung over or on no sleep. Life was one big party for Travis Christensen.
Too bad for him, all of that was about to come to an end.
Reily never could understand that sort of out-of-control behavior. She lived her life by a schedule as well as a code of conduct that she never violated. Never had more than a glass of wine or a single cocktail. Didn't stay out past her bedtime and kept her associations to people whose reputations were as pristine as hers.
To some — like Travis Christensen, no doubt — her life probably seemed tragic. Then again, wasn't it Reily they came to for help when their own wild lives spun quickly out of control? None of them mocked her regimented lifestyle then, did they?
A smirk curved her lips as she ticked off one item after the next on her damage control list. Scott Thomlinson, the Dallas Stars owner, wanted the Stanley Cup this year and according to Bob, they needed Travis in the net to get it done. None of them was willing to take the risk that their goalie would run off the rails before it happened. And if Reily managed to turn Travis around, she'd get a hefty bonus for her efforts. Cozumel, here I come!
She'd been saving up for the trip before her previous firm had gone under last year. Instead of taking her dream vacation, she'd sunk every dime into starting her own PR and consulting firm. So far, she'd been able to keep her head above water, but that was about it. It took close to five years for any new business to gain a solid footing. Snagging the Stars's business was definitely a step in the right direction.
In the end, Reily supposed she had party boys like Travis to thank for keeping her afloat. If they weren't so hell-bent on ruining their lives, there would be no messes for her to clean up.
Her office phone rang and Reily let out a low sigh. It totally sucked that she had to wear all of the hats around here. But until she started pulling in more money, she'd have to be a one-woman show.
She picked up the receiver and answered, "This is Reily Martin."
"Reily, this is Bob Spencer. Just wanted to let you know that Travis is set to meet with you in the morning."
From the sound of Bob's beleaguered tone, it had been a hard sell. Not surprising. Most of Reily's clients had to be dragged in, kicking and screaming. "Don't worry," she said with a laugh. "I'll get him on the right track."
"I don't know," he replied with a gust of breath. "Travis is a tough nut to crack. Always has been. I gave him a stern warning not to push your buttons, but I've never known him to back down from a challenge."
Reily had dealt with her fair share of stubborn personalities. No one embraced change well. And those who were forced to change took it even harder. "He can try to push my buttons," she replied. "But I'm pretty unflappable."
Bob chuckled. "For your sake, I hope that's true. Look, I don't want you to get the wrong impression about Travis. He's —"
"There's no need to explain," Reily interrupted. "It's not my job to be his friend, or his therapist, or anything else. My job is to make sure he makes the right choices for his career so we can change the way the media sees him. Everyone will benefit from it in the long run. And though Travis might not see it that way right now, I'm sure when everything is said and done, he'll appreciate what you've done for him."
Bob's good-natured laughter told Reily that he thought hell would freeze over before Travis thanked him. "We've never tried this approach before. Most times we slap the guy on the bench and wait for him to turn around on his own. We don't have that sort of time here, Reily. We need him on the ice with his head on straight and his focus laser-sharp. I need him in bed at a respectable hour and sober for practices."
"I'll make sure that happens," Reily replied.
"Call me if he doesn't show up tomorrow," Bob said. "Or if he gives you even an ounce of guff."
"I will. But I'm sure we'll be fine."
Bob grumbled something unintelligible on the other end of the receiver. "I'll be checking in soon. Good luck."
"Have a great rest of your day." Reily tried to keep her own tone airy. "Goodbye."
She set the receiver down on the cradle, bemused. Bob's doubtful tone had managed to rattle her confidence a small degree. She'd dealt with guys like Travis before. He couldn't possibly be that hard to handle.
At least, she hoped not. More than Travis Christensen's reputation weighed on her ability to wrangle him. If she failed, Reily had a feeling that her fledgling business would fail as well. She was bound and determined not to let that happen, though.
"Bring it on, Travis Christensen," Reily said as she carefully made a note at the bottom of the bright yellow paper. "I'm ready for you."CHAPTER 2
Travis paused outside the door of Martin Public Relations and Image Consulting, his head still pounding from last night's party. He'd woken up in the spare bedroom of a friend of a friend of a friend's house on the outskirts of Flower Mound, naked, hung over, and alone. He wasn't quite sure how he'd ended up in the guest room, and if he'd been with someone, she'd cut out long before he was sober enough to remember. The worst part of all of it though, was that he'd had to endure the flash of paparazzi cameras as he stumbled down the sidewalk and into his car.
He stepped into an office not much bigger than his closet. For someone who'd staked her reputation on power washing even the dirtiest public image, his new image consultant didn't have the impressive executive space to back it up. Travis squinted at the woman staring at him from the lone desk, her lips pursed with disapproval and he swallowed down a groan.
Great. Looked like the morning was already off to a stellar start.
"Good morning to you, too," Travis grumbled as he flopped down in the chair opposite his assigned torturer. He slid his sunglasses down the bridge of his nose and squinted at the name plaque on the desk — Reily Martin — before sliding them back into place.
"It's two o'clock in the afternoon." She did nothing to hide the disapproval in her tone. "Our meeting was scheduled for nine. This morning."
"Nine ... two ..." Travis glanced around the cramped office as he slumped back in the chair. Jesus, he needed some Excedrin. He didn't know what the big fucking deal was. It didn't exactly look like she had clients lined up at the door. "Whatever."
The dragon lady let out a long-suffering sigh and spun her computer monitor toward him. "It appears you had a good time last night."
Had he? Hell, he couldn't remember. Travis leaned forward in his seat and tried to make sense of the images blurred on the bright LCD screen. When his vision cleared, Travis's gut knotted up. Splashed across some woman's Instagram account were pics that detailed last night's antics. Looked like he'd had more than a little fun. Too bad most of the night was washed clean from his memory.
"Maybe I did," Travis replied with a shrug.
"The internet is forever, Travis."
Was she for real? He slipped his glasses down his nose once again to get a better look at the woman Bob had designated as his babysitter through the playoffs. The disdainful sneer he'd coaxed to his lips melted away. Her dark brown hair was pulled away from her face in a ponytail that cascaded down her back. The large, tortoiseshell frames of her glasses framed brilliant blue eyes that stood out in contrast to her nearly black lashes and the delicate arch of her brows. Her pink lips came together in another severe pucker that was cuter than it was disdainful. Her creamy skin looked as though she'd never put an ounce of makeup on it but it shone with a glow that women would pay good money to replicate. If not for her attempt at a sour expression, she was actually very pretty. Not exactly what he'd expected.
Travis tugged his sunglasses off his face and tucked them in the neckline of his t-shirt. He leaned forward and rested his forearms on the desk as he affixed his most panty-melting smile on his lips. "Who doesn't want to be immortal?"
Reily's expression screwed up into something totally opposite of the reaction Travis had been going for. She looked confused — and a little like she thought he was an idiot. Usually, his intense eye contact and husky voice earned him blushes and giggles. What the hell? Was he losing his touch?
"Unless you want your immortality to be a montage of your walks of shame, I'd reconsider that opinion, Mr. Christensen."
Travis looked around. Mr. Christensen? The last time he'd heard that title it was from a boardroom full of stick-up-their-butt executives and they'd been talking to his brother, Nate. "It's Travis," he said with a grin.
One haughty brow arched gracefully over her crystal blue eye. Damn. She could give Bob a run for his money in the intimidating stare-down department. Though Bob wouldn't look half as hot doing it. Travis ruffled his hand through the long tangles of his hair and let out a gust of breath. Hard to believe he'd found a woman immune to his charm.
"I think people will remember me for more than that."
Reily opened the file sitting in front of her and leafed through its contents. "Travis Christensen," she said as a matter of fact. "Twin brother of Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback Carter Christensen. Clean cut, father of two, role model, and philanthropist. Engaged to be married and no matter how deep I dug, I couldn't find a single speck of dirt on him."
Excerpted from The Billionaire Heartbreaker by Mandy Baxter. Copyright © 2015 Mandy Baxter. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.