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In the new Play-by-Play novel by the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Contact, a star quarterback is torn between his love of the game—and the woman who may be the love of his life.
Nathan Riley is ready to follow in the footsteps of his famous football player father. He’s been drafted as quarterback for his dad’s former team, and his future is bright. When his friend Mia Cassidy moves to the same city, their years-long friendship suddenly sparks hot, reminding him of the one night they had together in college that he can never forget.
Like Nathan, Mia is from a sports dynasty family and embarking on an incredible new career—as founder of her own sports management company. Her friendship with Nathan means everything to her, and tossing sex into the mix again could jeopardize it. But the chemistry between them has always sizzled, and it isn’t long before Mia realizes she wants more with Nathan than just late-night talks and pizza.
Passion has a funny way of changing the rules, and soon Nathan and Mia discover that to win it all, they’ll have to make an unexpected play for love.
About the Author
Jaci Burton is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling author of the Play-by-Play series, including The Final Score, Rules of Contact, Unexpected Rush, All Wound Up, Quarterback Draw, Straddling the Line, Melting the Ice and One Sweet Ride, and the Hope series, including Love Me Again, Don’t Let Go, Make Me Stay, Love After All, Hope Burns, Hope Ignites and Hope Flames.
Read an Excerpt
"So, here we are, once again living in the same city." Mia Cassidy took a sip of her green tea and looked over at Nathan Riley. "How did that happen?"
Nathan, the epitome of tall, dark, well-muscled and absolutely hot, leaned back in his chair and grinned at her. "Easy. You're obsessed with me so you followed me."
She laughed. "I don't think so. You knew I was thinking of starting a business here so you decided you had to get drafted by the San Francisco Sabers."
Nathan took a swallow of his iced tea and set the glass down. Mia tracked the movement of his hands. He had really big hands. She remembered that night several years ago in college when he'd used his hands to touch her-all over. They'd only had that one night together, but it sure had been memorable.
Yeah, the guy had magnificent hands.
"I've been here a year already, Mia. You just got here. So like I said, you followed me."
Her lips quirked. "And aren't you happy to have me here?"
"Actually, I am. Although who would have thought this kind of major shit would go down for both of us? You were going to get your PhD, and instead, you've got a start-up sports management company. I thought I'd end up in Cleveland or maybe in L.A., but not here in San Francisco, taking over as the Sabers quarterback now that my dad has retired."
Mia clutched her glass, feeling the cloud of anxiety rain down over her. Which was why she'd asked Nathan to have lunch. His charm and humor had always been a distraction for her, and oh how she needed it today. "Big changes for both of us for sure. How is your dad? Is he okay with the decision he made to retire?"
"He seems fine with it. The Sabers won the championship last year, and he had the knee issue that plagued him at the tail end of the season. He's thirty-seven, so he felt like it was the right time for him to step away."
"And you don't think he did that for you, to give you a chance to play?"
"I asked him that-more than once. He said no. Knowing my dad, he'd never walk away from football if he wasn't ready. He loves the game too much."
Mia nodded. "Since I have three brothers who play football, I believe that. You should believe him, too."
She knew Nathan had been worried when his dad announced his retirement at the end of last season. She also knew it added some pressure for Nathan, because he'd take over as starting quarterback this season for the Sabers. He'd had all last season to learn from him, but succeeding someone as high profile as Mick Riley wasn't going to be easy. Plus, Mick was his dad.
Now she was doubly happy she'd made the decision to launch her company here in San Francisco. Besides being a prime location for her, she and Nathan had always been close in college. Despite their one night together-which had definitely been a mistake-they'd remained friends. It was a bonus that now they would be in the same city.
"How's your company coming along?" Nathan asked.
"Just getting things rolling. I told you Monique Parker came on board as my executive manager, didn't I?"
He grinned. "Yeah. She'll make sure nothing falls through the cracks."
"I know. She's incredibly organized, even more than me."
"If that's possible. I've never known anyone as anal as you."
"Hey, I'm good at everything I do."
He waggled his brows at her. "Don't I know it."
She laughed. "We promised we wouldn't bring up that mistaken, drunken night ever again."
"No, you made me promise it wouldn't happen again. I thought it was amazing."
Her body heated at his words. "It was amazing. But we're friends, Nathan."
"And friends can't have sex?"
"I don't know. Do you have sex with your friends?"
He cocked his head to the side. "You know what I mean, Mia."
"I do. But we agreed after that night it wouldn't happen again."
"You made me agree. I wanted to keep you in bed with me the next day."
She laughed. "We were drunk. It was a mistake. And I'd much rather have you as a friend than a lover."
"Oh, so now you're implying the sex wasn't good enough?" He leaned over and grasped her hand, the contact instantly electrifying. "Because if that's the case, I'm calling you out for faulty drunken memory loss. If I recall, you came three times that night."
At least he whispered that last part. And if he kept talking that way she was going to have an orgasm right there in her chair. So much for pushing those memories aside. She snatched her hand away. "That is not what I meant and you know it."
"Fine. We're friends."
"You need me as your friend, Nathan. Who will get you past all your training camp anxiety?"
He frowned. "Who says I have training camp anxiety?"
She twirled the stirrer around in her tea glass. "Don't you?"
He leaned back in his chair again. "Maybe. Don't you have a little anxiety, too, miss big shot business owner?"
"Yes, I have anxiety. Like you would not believe. Which is why I'm glad we're friends. I need you, Nathan. As my friend."
He glared at her. "Shit. Fine. You know I'm always going to be here for you."
He had no idea how much his friendship and counsel meant to her. "Good. Now let's order lunch because I have to get back to work."
"You're a tough woman, Mia Cassidy."
"But I'm also your best friend, Nathan Riley. And don't ever forget it."
These next few months were going to be critical-for both of them. They were going to need each other more than ever.
As friends. And nothing else.
After having lunch with Mia, Nathan drove to the Sabers stadium. He felt calmer after spending some time with her.
In many ways, Mia was right. Having her as his friend was one of the best things that had ever happened to him. They both came from sports families, so when they met in college in Texas they'd formed an instant bond. It had been a little weird for Nathan to have a female friend at first, but Mia was smart, funny and absolutely beautiful. And since she hadn't seemed at all attracted to him, she was the one he'd gone to with girlfriend issues.
She'd always been straightforward with her advice, and it had always been helpful. When his girlfriend Sonja had broken up with him his junior year, he'd been a wreck. It was Mia who'd been there to help him pick up the pieces and move on. She'd kept him focused on football while soothing his ego about the breakup, reminding him that college romances rarely lasted anyway. After that he'd played the field without getting emotionally attached.
Until that one night he and Mia had been at his apartment, drinking and watching one of her brothers and his dad play a game against each other on TV. They'd ordered pizza and drank a lot. After the game they'd talked sports and family and careers and what they wanted to do with their futures. It was a heavy conversation. He didn't know how it happened, but suddenly they were on the couch making out.
Damn it had been good. He was pretty sure it had surprised both of them, but neither of them stopped once they'd started.
Mia had been soft and pliant and the sounds she'd made had driven him crazy. She'd been receptive to his touch, and they'd moved things into the bedroom.
They'd spent all night together, and it had been a damn good night.
Until the next morning when Mia had told him it couldn't happen again because she valued his friendship more than anything.
He could still remember the way her body had moved under his, could still feel the softness of her lips when they kissed, could still hear the sounds of her breathing as he moved inside of her. And now, goddammit, he had a hard-on as he sat in his car in the stadium parking lot.
He cranked the music up loud and focused on the playbook to get Mia out of his head. When he finally got his shit together, he got out of the car.
He bypassed the locker room and stepped onto the Sabers field. It felt like the first time. Hell, he'd been there countless times before with his dad, the famous Mick Riley. He'd watched him play the game, learned under his tutelage, picked his brain after every play, good and bad.
Now his dad was retired and the Sabers was his team to lead. It wasn't his first time on the field as a Sabers player, of course, since he'd been drafted by the team last year, but back then he'd been nothing more than a benchwarmer. This was the first time Nathan walked the field as the Sabers starting quarterback.
Christ, how had all this happened? It had been a goddamned whirlwind starting with his dad announcing his retirement. These past several months had been some kind of otherworldly dream, like he'd been asleep all this time and it wasn't real.
But as his feet crunched into the turf, it all felt solid. Real. As if he belonged here, like he'd always belonged here.
He could still remember the first time he'd walked out onto the field, after seeing his dad play. His mom and dad had just gotten together. Nathan had been fifteen at the time, and being around professional football had been new to him. This stadium seemed enormous, out of reach to a scrawny kid who had only dreamed of someday walking in shoes as big as Mick Riley's.
And then his mom had fallen in love with and married Mick, and Mick had adopted him. He'd been one lucky sonofabitch to end up with a father who loved him as much as his dad did. He'd taught Nathan everything he knew about football. How to love and respect the game, and how to respect himself in the process.
Nathan couldn't have asked for a better role model. And he was going to do everything he could to make his father proud of him.
He sucked in a deep breath and walked from one end of the field to the other, cognizant of the weight that now lay on his shoulders. When the Sabers had drafted him, he'd been excited to learn the game under Mick Riley. But he didn't think he would play right away.
In college, he had worked hard, played hard, and he'd been a damn good quarterback.
Now he was going to have to be better.
He turned to see the coach walking onto the field. He cracked a smile and reached out to shake Tom Butterfield's hand. Tom had been hired on as head coach three years ago, and had been doing a kickass job. Nathan couldn't wait to work with him as the starting quarterback.
"Getting a feel for your turf?"
His turf. The crush of expectation already weighed on him. "Yeah. Feels good."
"We expect great things from you this season."
Nathan felt that squeeze of pressure in his chest. He shook it off. This was what he'd waited his whole life for. "I'll give you everything I've got."
Coach slapped him on the back. "You sound just like your dad. We're going to miss him around here." Dad had retired. He understood the reasons for it. The Sabers had won the championship last season. His dad was thirty-seven and he wanted to go out on top, plus he had the knee issue that had cropped up. He'd fought through it all season, and the docs said he needed surgery.
Sure, he could have rehabbed and come back. Mom and Dad had discussed it. Dad had even talked to Nathan about it, but in the end, it was his father's decision to make. Man, Nathan was going to miss watching him play.
And now to step into his shoes, for this team, on this field?
Yeah, that was the reason for the tight knot in his chest.
One of many.
"Let's go talk over the new season," coach said.
Nathan pushed all those pressures aside and tried to remember to breathe. He plastered on his signature grin, the one that said "I've got this," even when he didn't.
"Yeah, Coach. Let's do that."
Mia lived for her planner and her checklists. At this moment she needed them more than anything, because she had a million things to do. The movers were supposed to be here an hour ago and they were late, she had a separate furniture delivery that was supposed to be here this morning and it was almost noon and so far no one had showed up. She had a client coming in at three. If stuff didn't show up soon, she and her client were going to be sitting on the damn floor.
Not good. Not good at all. Her heart beat like a jackhammer in her chest.
She stopped and remembered her breathing. Falling to pieces wasn't going to do anyone any good.
She pivoted and headed down the hall of her very spacious and very empty offices.
"Monique, are you in here?"
Monique, her best friend from college and her absolute lifesaver, was on the phone, so she held up a finger to silence Mia.
"You need to be here yesterday," Monique said, obvious impatience in her voice. "We had a guaranteed eight a.m. delivery time and it's now eleven thirty and no one is here. So get it done and if you can't, then transfer me to the manager."
Monique listened for a few seconds, then smiled, shooting Mia that look, the one that said she had it all under control. And when she nodded at Mia, Mia exhaled.
This was why she'd begged and cajoled and pushed Monique into moving from Texas to San Francisco to be her executive manager. No one had better organizational skills or the take-no-shit demeanor that Monique did. When Mia had decided to start up her company, she knew she wouldn't be able to do this without having Monique on board.
Monique finally hung up. "The movers are on the way. They got hung up in traffic, then thought they could stop for lunch. I made sure to let them know their movers could have lunch after they delivered our furniture."
Mia exhaled. "That's why you're the best."
"Now I'm about to crawl up the ass of the supply delivery people."
"Monique Parker, will you marry me?"
Monique laughed. "You are pretty and all, but I like dick. Thanks for the offer, though."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Good easy read. Love Play by play novels
I love her stories. It's hard to her books down and not read them straight thru in one sitting....... which I sometimes do anyway.... like I did with this one!
I have loved every book in this series but this was not my favorite. I think it was the ending.
Love the sports side of the story. And the characters are well written.
Jaci continues to draw you in with the trials of relationships. This was one of my favorites as I remember reading about Mick and Tara's story when Nathan was just a teenage boy. Hot steamy sex doesn't hurt at all either.
So good. Always end too soon
This story was amazing for fans of the series. We got to see some of our old time faves from the first few books, as well as Mia’s brothers and wives/fiances. It was great getting to see everyone again. It felt like a happy family reunion… and that’s essentially what it was. So, I guess it bothered me a bit when Mia and Nathan decided to become an item and yet Mia still wanted to hide it from everyone, including their family and friends. It’s one thing to not want the press to know your personal business, but you don’t want those closest to you to know? By the way, they weren’t fooling anyone with their “covert love sessions”. So, I guess I was just really irritated with Mia and her weirdness over their relationship. It was frustrating to say the least. While this was still an enjoyable read, it wasn’t my favorite. That gold medal is still held by Gavin and Liz from the second book. You want a book with insane passion and ADULT characters, look there. They are what made me love this series and ultimately decide that this author was worth keeping my eye on.
This one is not as good as the rest of the series...
I have loved all the books in this series & have even re-read them. I was very disappointed in the ending of Nathan & Mia. This is why I can only give it 4 stars.
Jaci Burton was my first author thanks to which I fell in love with sport romance. And after all these books, I always love to go back to her stories and more or less, but I always like them and get what I came for here. Hot and full of passion sport romance. But what makes these series still attractive is the family and friends, that create the heroes of those stories. No fan of sports romance can not ignore this author. However, if you have not read her books, do it quickly. I will not tell anyone.
I have loved this series from the beginning and I’m sad to see it winding down. This story fell flat for me. I never felt a connection between the two characters other than sexually and Mia was a bit too selfish for my taste. The ending of the story was disappointing and these two characters deserved more. My overall rating is mainly based on the fact, this story was written by a ghost writer. This is not Jaci’s work. I could tell the parts she did contribute on, mainly the sex scenes as well as the sports ones, but the rest? Not her. Read the first book in the series, The Perfect Play, which I gave five stars to and you’ll see what I mean. The repetitive structure of the writing grated on my last nerve and was the equivalent of a badly written soap opera script. I’m critical of New York Times best-selling writer’s works for a reason, because they are on the list for their stellar writing as well as sales. In a nutshell, this was someone going for their doctorate degree, being assigned the topic for their final thesis, deciding they didn’t like it and handing it off to a freshman to do it for them. It just didn’t work. I’ll read the next in the series because I sadly preordered it, but it will be the final purchase of this series for me because the writer has obviously given up on these characters and wishes to move on to other projects. I can respect that, but I just wish she had thanked her fans with actually writing this book.
I love Nathan from the 1st book of the series. I'm so happy Jaci Burton this book is about him.
I'm a fan of Jaci Burton and her Play-by-Play Series so I was surprised, and excited, to receive an ARC in the mail last week. Mia Cassidy and Nathan Riley are best friends. They had one HOT drunk night together in college, and chose to be friends instead of lovers. Nathan is the new starting quarterback for the San Francisco Sabers. Nathan is happy to have his best friend Mia living in San Francisco, and he wants to be more than friends. Mia is starting up a new Sports Management Business and doesn't have time in her life for a relationship, OR does she. I love that Nathan knows what he wants but is respectful of Mia's feelings. As for Mia … she is afraid of loosing her best friend, and this makes her do crazy things … like make pros vs. cons lists on every aspect of her relationship with Nathan. Mia is scared and this causes her to make a decision without consulting Nathan. Will Mia figure out that love is everything before it's too late? I was cheering Nathan on as I yelled at Mia (in my head) at times. These two are an amazing couple together. I volunteered to review an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
This is a favorite series of mine! Loved it
A fast paced adventure of friendship, hot sex and football … what more could a girl ask for? This was my first book in the series, but I had a lot of fun with the characters and I look forward to going back and catching up on the series! Both Nathan and Mia have previous family members that were in the series as they both come from a sports family. The characters were well-defined and even though I didn’t read the priors, I had no problem keeping track of who everyone was and their history. Nathan Riley is stressing his upcoming season when he will be taking over the position his father filled before him as the Quarterback of the San Francisco Sabers. He wants nothing more than to make his teammates and his father proud, but the pressure is really piling on the closer it gets to the season opener. Mia Cassidy is happy to be living in the same town as her best friend Nathan again. It’s been years since they got to hang out on a regular basis like they did back in college! Starting up her new sports management company is going to keep her on her toes, and she’s going to need Nathan’s jolly attitude to keep her from losing her mind. Neither of them expects the other to be willing to become more than just friends! They shared one hot night in college, but agreed never to speak of it again and their friendship has flourished over the years regardless, but when the attraction is boiling hot between them, will they decide to rock the boat and get some real stress relief … between the sheets??
The Final Score is the first book I have read by established author Jaci Burton. It is a well-written love story, with hot romantic scenes and characters that I really liked getting to know. This is the thirteenth and last book from Ms. Burton's Play-by-Play series, and it can be enjoyed as a standalone. Mia Cassidy has been surrounded by sports royalty all of her life. She now calls San Francisco her home, as she embarks on a new career in sports management. Running her own company is thrilling as well as nerve-wracking, as she works very hard to cultivate the careers of others. Placing all of her time and energy into her company is what she believes is necessary to be successful and happy. Nathan Riley is the new quarterback of the San Francisco Sabers. His talented and successful father held the coveted position previously, so Nathan has a ton of pressure to deal with. Luckily, his family and his friends are very supportive. Since gaining the respect of the team is his main priority, he has no time to form any romantic relationships. Mia and Nathan have been best friends for years, and they shared one amazing night of passion during college. There has always been a spark between them, and it is only recently that they have agreed to evolve their friendship into much more. Falling in love was not on their to do list, yet it happened anyway. I really liked this book, however, I found Nathan's family tree to be a bit confusing. Mia and Nathan are a steamy couple, and Ms. Burton does an amazing job of creating heat and sexual tension. The secondary characters added a lot of personality to the plot, and I especially enjoyed the warm relationship Nathan had with his little brother Sammy. If you like the best friends to lovers romance trope and football, then you must add The Final Score to your TBR list. Complimentary copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
Yes! Finally, we have Nathan’s book! We first met Nathan at the beginning of the Play-by-Play series in THE PERFECT PLAY. He’s the son of Tara Lincoln, a party planner who falls hard and fast for pro quarterback Mick Riley (my personal favorite!) Years later, Nathan has graduated college and been drafted by the same team his dad—Mick—plays for. Having ridden the bench for a year learning everything he can, Nathan takes over as starting quarterback replacing Mick when he retired. Nathan’s both excited and nervous about the opportunity. He’s got some big shoes to fill and a lot of people counting on him to lead the team. Thankfully, his good friend Mia Cassidy just moved to the same town, so he’s got a shoulder to lean on. But that’s not all he wants to lean on her We met Mia a few books back when she was introduced during QUARTERBACK DRAW where her brother Grant Cassidy meets his lady love. A few more books and three more Cassidy brothers later, Mia is out of college and starting her own business. She’s glad she’s got a friend in her new city despite the underlying chemistry that sparks between them every time she and Nathan get together. Neither are ready for a relationship but both could use some good old fashioned stress relief—aka hot monkey sex. Can Nathan and Mia keep it friends-with-benefits only or will their reluctant hearts get entwined along with other parts of their anatomy? I freakin’ loved the hell out of this book! I love that Nathan and Mia are friends and have a history together. I also LOVE that we get to catch up with the Riley family and get to revisit the Cassidy family as well! I also love how devious Jaci Burton is and how seamlessly she was able to join these two crazy and loveable families together! I can’t wait to see what she have in store for us next! ***I voluntarily read a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings are my own***
Here we are at lucky #13! I've loved Nathan Riley since he was a young teenager back in book 1, and watching him grow up throughout the series has been so fun. But, here we are and he's finally getting his own HEA, with none other than the youngest daughter of one of the other main families, who have been the focus of this series, the Cassidys. Nathan Riley was raised until age 14 by his single mom, Tara. He never really had a male role model in his life, until his mom started dating famous NFL quarterback Mick Riley. When they fell in love, and got married, and Mick adopted him, he felt like the luckiest kid in the world. He has a great, big family now and he's grown into adulthood knowing how much they all love him. He went to college in Texas, and became a very successful quarterback in his own right. Then, he was drafted last year, by his dad's team in San Francisco, and he got to learn from him up close. Now, Mick has retired, and Nathan will be the starting quarterback for the team. He's stressed, but he's ready and he can't wait for the season to start. He and Mia have been friends since college, and ONLY friends, but for that one drunken night that she made him swear would never happen again. They both value their strong friendship, and they've continued that up till now. Mia Cassidy is the youngest in her family. She's also the only girl. She's grown up around sports her entire life. Her father was a famous NFL player, and so are 3 of her older brothers. Her 4th brother plays major league baseball. So, with that family dynasty behind her, she's decided to start her own sports management agency. She's got a great business plan, and she's extremely organized. So far, she's been more successful than she could have imagined, but she's also been extremely stressed out. She needs to get laid. Nathan, being a good friend, and also, still being hot for her, offers to take care of her problem. But, is sex worth risking a friendship that means so much to her? What's the worst that could happen? Nathan and Mia were a perfect match for each other. They're already friends, so they care deeply for each other, and they have trust already ingrained between them. Plus, their chemistry is explosive, and the sex is super steamy. The pace of the book was pretty quick, and I like how the author keeps her stories moving. I love getting to see all the side characters from the past here and there, and it's fun to catch up on their lives. I also love how Nathan and Mia think they're keeping things quiet, but everyone who knows and loves them is so not fooled. This book made me smile, and swoon, and I loved every second of it. Neither Nathan nor Mia had huge commitment issues, or bad relationships in their past affecting them, and that was so refreshing. They just both had very busy lives, with careers in the fast lane, and didn't really have time for love or relationships. They thought they had found the perfect solution for them both until the FEELINGS started creeping in. The conflict, when it came, was hard to watch, as they always are, and I was so pulling for them to figure it out together. Also, I always wish for an epilogue that I rarely get, but I'm biased, I guess. I am definitely an epilogue lover, and I would've loved to have one here. I truly enjoyed this one and I highly recommend it!
3.5 Stars! Nathan and Mia have been friends since college. They had one night of drunken sex, but Mia didn't want to lose his friendship and put limits on no more sex. Nathan wants more, but he also cares about keeping Mia as his best friend so he accepted her terms. That doesn't stop him from constantly flirting with her. 3 years later, both of them are starting off in very stressful careers. Nathan as the new starting Quarterback and Mia starting her own sports management company. To ease the stress, Nathan suggest trying the friends with benefits relationship. Mia agonizes over this decision but eventually decides to try, however Mia struggles with this decision. I love a good sports romance, but I gotta say this was super angsty. This is a friends to lovers trope and Mia struggled throughout the whole book with her relationship with Nathan. The amount of times she claimed they were just friends, was a bit overwhelming. It's a great story, I just wish we got more of these two as an actual couple vs the angst of Mia wanting to hide them. The author brings back a lot of the characters from previous books in the series. There was no other women/men drama and no violence. It's angsty but a safe read. ARC provided by NetGalley.
The first book in the Play-by-Play series was probably my first sport romance series and I loved the early books. But I had gotten away from this series for a while, and when I had the opportunity to read and review the latest book I had to take it. The Final Score revolves around a second generation of characters in this series. Nathan Riley of Riley family fame is the son of Mick Riley from the very first Play-by-Play book. He's following his father's footsteps as quarterback. Mia Cassidy, his friend from college is also related to previous characters in the series. Nathan and Mia are good friends from college, although they did have one special night together that neither one can forget. But getting involved in a relationship at this stage in their career isn't going to work. Nathan wants a friends-with-benefits situation, where they can scratch their itch without it messing up with their friendship. Seriously, does that ever work out like that? Mia's struggles with her changing relationship with Nathan provides the light angst and conflict in this book and it does take a bit for Mia to see what's right in front of her face. I love the family atmosphere in this series, and The Final Score did not disappoint when it came to that. Overall, I enjoyed this return to the Play-By-Play series and I'm thinking of catching up on the installments I've missed. Jaci Burton knows how to write a heart-warming sport romance that will have you coming back for more. ARC was provided for review.