NBA star Mike Giamaria won’t risk his career by playing with love. Ever. But when his cute, quirky, brainiac of a new neighbor falls off her death trap of a roof into his arms, Mike knows he’s caught a heap of trouble…
Trouble sums up Tori's life. Despite her academic success, no one believes she can take care of herself—not her family, not her ex-boyfriend. She's determined to live her life on her own terms, and if that includes a hot summer fling with the super-sexy athlete next door, so much the better.
With Tori around, Mike can’t keep his mind on basketball. He wants…more. And to his horror, not just more time on the court. But when he puts the game ahead of the girl, he’ll have to hit the biggest shot of his life to win her back.
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||2 MB|
About the Author
Kathy Lyons is the fun, contemporary side of USA Today Bestselling author Jade Lee. She loves sassy romance with lots of laughter and sex. Spice is the variety of life, right? Okay, so maybe two kids, two cats, two pennames, and writing over 30 books has messed with her mind, but she still keeps having fun. And in her new Dream Nights series couples share erotic dreams that lead to a sizzling reality. Check her out at www.KathyLyons.com Or check out Jade Lee's titled heroes with dark secrets. They always fall for women who add more than just spice to their lives. Find her at www.JadeLeeAuthor.com. Facebook: JadeLeeBooks Twitter: JadeLeeAuthor
Read an Excerpt
The Player Next Door
By Kathy Lyons, Liz Pelletier
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Kathy Lyons
All rights reserved.
It was a sushi cookbook that ended Tori William's five-year relationship with Edward. They were at a small bookstore that served hot chocolate and brought in acoustic guitar musicians when Tori saw the thing. She thought the cover image was clever — a dragon roll curving around wasabi and ginger made to look like a knight on an orange steed.
She smiled at the picture. Edward had taught her not to laugh. He said her sense of humor was often inappropriate and so she smiled rather than chuckled. Grinned rather than laughed. It was the best she could do and he had pronounced that better than nothing.
So she smiled at the picture and held the book up for him to see.
He looked up from his tea and scoffed. "As if you could cook even raw food without poisoning yourself."
"What?" It took her a moment to understand him as she had just seen another book over his shoulder featuring a cute kitten in a teacup. Kittens always distracted her.
"That's raw food, Tori. It takes a special grade meat and careful monitoring to make sure it doesn't go bad. You'd poison yourself."
She looked back at the dragon vs. knight picture. She hadn't even noticed it was a how-to book. And at that moment, she decided to be irrational and argue.
"I'm an intelligent woman with a PhD," she said in her most prim teacher voice. "Of course I could make sushi without killing anyone."
"I suppose food poisoning isn't necessarily fatal."
"I'm buying this book," she said, suddenly thinking of all the money they would save on sushi if she made it rather than purchased it from their favorite organic Japanese restaurant.
"If you must," he said, going back to his tea and a book on the gruesome death of a pair of foolish mountain climbers. "But I'm not going to eat it."
That was the end of their argument. He'd pronounced the final word and looked back to his own book. It didn't help that he was probably right. She had no true interest in making sushi and was well known for getting distracted while ... Well, while doing anything. It was how she was made, and Edward always said it was charming in a rare, overbred toy dog kind of way. She could never survive alone in the wild, according to him, but he appreciated having a purpose in life as her owner.
He never actually said owner. He wasn't that stupid. But her sister had made that joke just last week at Aunt Mabel's funeral, and the idea had festered in Tori's thoughts.
"I bought Aunt Mabel's house," Tori said, not intending the words to come out, but then that often happened. Words slipped out while her mind was busy elsewhere.
Edward didn't look up. "You inherited it, Tori."
Actually, what she meant is that she paid all the taxes and the mortgage on it. The place was hers now, free and clear.
Meanwhile, Edward wasn't done instructing her on what to do. "Did you contact Georgie? He could use the commission on selling the house, and though that rat trap isn't worth much, it's in a great area."
"No," she admitted, a groundswell of emotions building inside her. She didn't get stirred up by much — she was too easily distracted — but when a storm finally broke, it tended to blow her entire life around.
Meanwhile, Edward set his teacup down with an audible click. It was a clear sign that he was out of patience with her. "Really, Tori, you can't let this just hang out there — a death trap of a house with no one living in it. I'm too busy with the semester ending to take care of this for you. Just call Georgie and have done with it. Some sucker will buy it and with a quick closing we can have a tidy sum within a couple months."
"Can we?" she said, her words sharp and cold. They were like lightning flashes of fury, but he was too caught up in his own irritation to notice. Even when she tossed out the warning shot, "I believe it's my inheritance."
"Yes, yes, of course. But we've been talking about buying a boat to sail on Lake Michigan."
No, he'd been talking about that. Tori had no special love of things nautical. No particular hatred either, but it seemed to her that she ought to get some fun out of spending that much money.
"I thought we'd go on safari instead." She'd always wanted to do that.
He frowned, clearly thinking of the possibility. "I suppose a quick trip could be fun. But we'd have to get shots. You know how you hate those."
She nodded. She did hate shots, though she'd suffer through them to go on safari. She had a secret love of African music but it gave Edward a headache.
"You're right," she finally said as she lifted up the book. "No safari."
"I'm going to move into Aunt Mabel's house." She spoke it so calmly that it took a moment for her to realize that here was that storm of emotions bursting through her. Fury had such a grip on her that it had taken over the bulk of her body, making decisions and speaking them out loud while the rational part of her mind was relegated to a tiny shocked corner. Which was weird because she wasn't even shaking and her voice sounded completely rational. But she was furious. She had to be, otherwise what she said made no sense.
Meanwhile, Edward's head whipped around to stare directly at her, his expression darkening into an angry scowl. "Don't be ridiculous. I'm not going to live in that ramshackle place."
She grinned. "I know." Then she walked away and bought her how-to book on sushi.
* * *
Mike Giamaria jerked in alarm, his only thought: WTF?
He'd been out for his third run of the day, enjoying himself as he zipped through Evanston, IL without being followed by the paparazzi. It was a pretty place as suburbia went, and he liked seeing chalk drawings on the sidewalk, a couple fat family dogs snoozing in the shade, and a woman dangling upside down from her roof.
That was when he jerked to a stop.
A woman — blonde and slender — swaying upside down from the roof. One foot was caught in the gutter, but the rest of her was hanging by a thin nylon rope tied to the chimney. She'd looped the cord through the belt loops of her jean cutoffs. Her T-shirt had drifted up to her nose, and while he watched, she stripped the thing off and let it drop lazily to the ground — another good ten feet below her.
He immediately started cataloguing thoughts. First the assets: creamy white skin, pink bra with a torn piece of lace, and a nice slender torso. Nice cleavage, he thought, even as his mind was racing through the cons. A too-thin nylon rope pulled taut, a ten-plus foot drop, and soft dirt that would still break her neck when she fell.
Holy shit, she was going to die.
That's when his feet started moving again. He easily cleared the package of roofing tiles on the ground. Had she been roofing? Then he leaped over the sickly looking hedge to reach her side.
"Stay calm. I'm here," he said.
Damn, she was too quiet. No hysterics, no screams. Had she fainted? He came up right underneath her, accidentally stepping on her dropped tee. Her head was tilted and her eyes widened in surprise when he came into view.
"Oh hello," she said, her voice surprisingly cheerful. "I didn't see you there."
"Too busy taking a header?" he asked.
But she just frowned as she popped earbuds out of her ears. He could hear the rapid beat of drums, loud and clear. "Sorry. What did you say?"
"Just stay calm," he repeated, though she seemed bizarrely casual. He reached out to steady her, his hands settling on her shoulders even though they practically itched to slide over to her generous tits. The thought wasn't appropriate, but he was a guy after all, and he wasn't immune to the sight.
He waited a beat to refocus his thoughts. Besides, it was best to get over the sudden recognition and starstruck gibbering now. After all, he was a superstar athlete for the Knicks, recognizable even here in Chicagoland. After she'd calmed down, they could move on to deal with the situation.
But nothing happened. He'd flipped his hoodie back so she was staring full at his face. She just looked at him, her expression bizarrely serene.
Okay. So maybe she didn't recognize people upside down. Or maybe she was a little more freaked out than she let on. Her jaw was rigid in the way of someone holding back fear while remaining outwardly calm. Either way, he had to get her down from there.
"Where's the ladder?" he asked. Even with his busted shoulder, he could probably haul her up. But he had to get on top of the roof first.
"My car's a Prius."
She frowned at him, then explained with a slow, patient voice. "No ladder. It was too big for my car."
Ah. Right. He'd seen the powder blue thing in the driveway. But ... "How'd you get up there?"
She gestured with her arm, the motion making her sway such that her strawberry blond ponytail seemed to spin as she twisted. "Tree."
He looked into the backyard where a dying locust tree had overgrown the roof. Sure it would be an easy climb for a kid, but he wouldn't want to carry roofing tiles up there. Those things were damned heavy. And sure enough, there was another spilled package of tiles on the ground.
Jesus. "Okay. I'll climb the tree."
She twisted back to look at him. Bright blue eyes the color of her car caught his gaze. "Okay. But there's no need."
"You're about to plunge to your death." He wouldn't usually say something like that. One mention of falling and his sisters would have descended into hysterics, but this woman seemed practically blasé. Maybe she'd hit her head and was concussed. That would explain a lot.
She smiled, and he was momentarily startled by the charming sight of her slightly crooked teeth. "Don't be silly. I have everything under control." Then she winked at him. "And if I fall, you can be heroic and catch me."
Things were very much not under control, but he recognized the stubborn set to her jaw even if she was hanging upside down. She was an I-can-do-it-myself girl. He had a couple nieces who were masters of that particular mindset, foolish though it was.
"Look, how about I just come up there and —"
"I'm fine," she called. "I've been working out the details." She sounded like she was convincing herself. Then she proved that she was completely nuts. She used her foot — the one that had caught on the gutter and stopped the worst of her fall — and kicked off. While he stood there in slack-jawed astonishment, she started swinging back and forth, kicking off the roof when she could and reaching out for the gutter with her free hand.
He gave her points for innovation, but no way would the gutter hold her weight. It would break off. Plus, she didn't have the strength. Despite what happened in the movies, no one really could pull themselves up by their fingertips. And then, most obvious of all, she didn't have the angle right. Every time she pushed off, she went out, not sideways. Not even King Kong had the reach to catch the roof with the way she was swinging.
What was it about rich people that made them completely ignorant of reality? Anybody with an ounce of real life experience would know this wasn't the way to roof a house. Or get back up on a house. But there she was swinging back and forth as if it made perfect sense. Of course, now that he looked at her, she didn't look like she was dripping in diamonds despite the fact that this was a ritzier area of Evanston. The only expensive thing she had on was that pretty pink bra with the torn piece of lace. He noticed because he couldn't help looking at the way the bit of fabric swung back and forth next to her cleavage. Meanwhile, he waited for her to realize her mistake, taking a step back to see if he could spot another way. That's when he chanced to look at the rope.
Oh shit, it was fraying.
The thin nylon cord was rubbing against the metal gutter as she swung. It couldn't hold out against her weight and the steady sawing motion.
Too late. He heard it pop right when she was in full swing up toward the roof.
Just like catching a bad pass. He calculated the angle of her fall and leaped into position before she even recognized the problem.
Except she wasn't shaped anything like a basketball. And she didn't exactly fall neatly into his hands like one.
He didn't hear her scream, which he logged firmly in the plus column. He heard a gasp of surprise but nothing more. Then she landed in a diagonal sprawl of arms and legs that thunked into his chest like a pillowy train.
His shoulder screamed, but he'd braced enough to protect it from the worst of the impact. Normally, he could have held her aloft. Normally, his shoulder wouldn't be a lightning poker of fire because of his torn rotator cuff. But this wasn't a normal summer by any means, and so he couldn't fully support her weight.
Not a problem though because he'd stopped the momentum of her headfirst plummet. Even as his legs were bending to absorb most of her weight, he was able to maneuver her bottom half down. He heard the soft impact of her feet in the dirt, but supported every other part of her tight against his body. Hips, torso, those beautiful breasts — everything was pressed sweetly against his body.
Then it was over. Her feet were on the ground, her body was clasped tight in his good arm, and her face was pressed to his neck, her breath quick and hot against his skin. He breathed a sigh of relief and started to adjust her body against him. That was his mistake.
Pain seared up his neck and into his brain. Ice pick type of pain, and — fuck — he knew what that meant. He'd just made his rotator worse. His potentially career-ending injury was now worse. Jesus, the pain was throbbing through his brain. He let go with his right hand, doing everything he could to save his shoulder. She was on her feet at least so she didn't stumble, but she was still flopped awkwardly against his chest.
"Did we land in the flox? I can't see."
Flox? He didn't even know what flox was. "Straighten up," he growled. He couldn't take care of his shoulder if she didn't get off him. Fuck, it hurt. But even worse was the knowledge that he'd just delayed his recovery by God-only-knew how long.
"They're probably doomed," she said with a sigh, her breath feathering across his chest as she tried to extricate herself from his hold. But her legs got tangled in his, and her arms were awkwardly placed with her left one beneath one shoulder, and the right one over the other.
"I landed there on Monday while trying to clean out the gutters."
Jesus. If she would just freaking support her own weight he could deal with his pain. She managed it finally, but only after jarring his shoulder again. A list of profanities blew through his mind, and a few spilled out of his mouth behind his clenched jaw. Distantly he heard her squeak in alarm, but that was it. A tiny mouse sound amid the storm of agony in his shoulder.
He focused on that sound. It was high and came from somewhere near his left ear. And then he felt her hands on his face. Soft. Gentle. A stroke across his jaw in a steady, sweet rhythm.
He concentrated on that, letting it consume his whole attention while his breath eased, the pain dulled and he could slowly, inevitably open his eyes.
The first thing he saw was her clear blue eyes, wide and worried. The next was the sweet red bow of her lips. She had a peaches and cream complexion that was rosy in just the right places.
Then she shook her head. "You should have told me you were hurt. We could have thought of a different way for me to fall. On a mattress or something."
Too bad she was a complete ditz.CHAPTER 2
He gave her a tolerant smile. The one reserved for lunatics and the terminally ill. But since that proved he wasn't dying, Tori exhaled in relief. She could tell the strain around his eyes and mouth had eased with just that small gesture. If she could make him laugh, then everything would be okay. Or at least less bad. And lucky for him, she could make just about anyone laugh. Usually at her, but at the moment, she would make the sacrifice.
She looked down at the ground and huffed out an annoyed breath at the small patch of now trampled greenery. "We've killed it for sure."
He sighed, sounding very much like Edward at his most impatient. It was not an endearing sound. "What have we killed?"
"My flox," she said. "It's not your fault."
"I was saving your life — "
Excerpted from The Player Next Door by Kathy Lyons, Liz Pelletier. Copyright © 2015 Kathy Lyons. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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