Fourth and Goal-- Available Now
Tuesday, May 03, 2011 5:31:00 PM
by Jami Davenport
|In a game played on and off the field, only one of them will emerge the winner.
Armed with an uncanny ability for evaluating football talent, a dogged determination to succeed in a man’s world, and an empty bank account, Rachel McCormick agrees to help struggling wide receiver Derek Ramsey get his game back. Rachel believes Derek, her former best friend and lover, knows the truth behind a points-shaving scandal which ruined her father. She vows to expose the secret even if it destroys Derek in the process.
When Derek’s coach suggests sex as an excellent tension reliever the night before a game, Rachel takes one for the team. The next day, Derek has the best performance of his not-so lustrous pro football career. As Derek and Rachel rack up nights in bed and other places, the team racks up wins on the field. Rachel is torn between her loyalty to her father and her growing affection for Derek. Now it’s fourth and goal, one second left on the clock. Their hearts are on the line. Do they trust each other enough to go for the long bomb or do they get dropped for a loss?
Chapter One -- The Kickoff
Hiring the one woman he could never forget was a dumb-assed idea and the wrong play to run, but Derek Ramsey took the ball and ran with it anyway. Five years ago, his one-weekend affair with Rachel McCormick had tackled him for an emotional loss. She’d been his best female buddy, and he’d fucked up a good thing by following his dick instead of his brain. After battling a half decade of guilt and coulda-shouldas, he dreaded and anticipated this reunion.
She’d been employed as his caretaker and living in the little house next to his barn for a few days. He’d managed to avoid contact by taking an impromptu weekend visit to his dad and stepmom a few hundred miles away. But he couldn’t stay away forever.
Weary of postponing the inevitable, Derek walked down the driveway from his ranch house to the barn and small caretaker’s house. Pausing halfway down the hill, he whistled for backup. Consider him a coward, but his chocolate Lab would serve as a diversion if this reunion didn’t go well. Oddly, Simon didn’t come running. Derek shrugged. He must be chasing rabbits in the woods or something.
He’d have to go it alone. As he rounded the last bend in his driveway, Rachel McCormick stomped up the hill toward him.
Oh f***. He knew females. He’d endured growing up with an older sister. Rachel had that close-fisted, furious carriage to her stride that meant only one thing: someone was going to die. Please, God, don’t let it be him.
Even as he planned possible escape routes, his male head perused her body and responded with a resounding thumbs-up, though it wasn’t really his thumb that was up.
The woman marching toward him with murder in her eyes barely resembled his tomboy buddy from his high school and college days. This Rachel wore a navy blue blazer with matching skirt and shoes, complete with manicured nails and makeup. The suit hugged her tall, lean body and accentuated her curves and straight-to-heaven legs. Long reddish brown hair was pulled back into a tidy ponytail. While he preferred the blue jeans and T-shirt version, this one was just as gorgeous and way more unapproachable. Don’t mess with me radiated from every pore in her body. Not a glimpse of the shy, sweet Rachel he had once known.
“Rachel, good to see you again.” Derek spoke calmly -- hoping to defuse the bomb -- and halted a few steps from her.
She didn’t return his small talk. Green eyes blazing, she scowled, as dangerous as a hand grenade with the pin pulled in the hands of a chimpanzee.
“Problem?” he asked conversationally and forced a pleasant smile on his face.
“Do you own a demon chocolate Lab?”
Derek barked a laugh and sealed his death sentence. Her expression went beyond homicidal. “I have a Lab named Simon. He’s opinionated and untrainable. It sounds like you’ve met him.”
“How long has he engaged in a life of crime?”
“Oh s***. What did he steal now?”
“My truck keys. My only set.”
“Where is the little delinquent?” She glanced up and down the driveway.
“I called for him earlier. He didn’t come. I suspect he’s busy burying the evidence.”
“I missed a job interview because of that hoodlum.” Her laser-tight glare sliced through his defenses.
“I’m sorry. I could get you a cab.”
“It’s too late now.” She spoke through gritted teeth and visibly drew in a long, calming breath. A split second of uncertainty flashed across her face, peppered with a vulnerability that brought memories flooding back to him of the girl he had once known. Sweet Rachel with a passion for football and a kind word for even the most unworthy person.
He watched as she gathered her composure and hid behind an emotionless mask. “I still need my keys.”
“I doubt we’ll find them. He’s very good. A serial digger.”
“What do you expect when you name a dog Simon? It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.” She stared up the dirt road. “My keys could be anywhere.”
Derek didn’t hold out much hope. Dense woods surrounded the driveway on both sides. At the end of the woods was a large field, cross-fenced into several smaller grassy paddocks. It’d take an act of God to find her keys. He truly doubted the Big Guy considered such a trivial matter worthy of his attention.
“So Simon’s on your hit list along with me.”
“Right up there at the top.” No denial of his place on the list.
“Are you a member of AAA?”
She pointed down the driveway. “That’s my truck. What do you think?”
He knew what he thought. He thought her lips looked pretty kissable, even without lipstick or gloss. He thought she was the sexiest thing he’d seen in a long time. And he thought -- oh damn, every thought bordered on dangerous and impossible and stupid.
“Derek.” She stared at him as if she expected an answer, but he’d be damned if he could remember the question.
“I said I’ve scaled back on material goods and choose to live life simply.”
He raised one eyebrow, not buying that one.
“Judging by the dents in the thing, you might want to part with a few bucks…for your own safety.”
“Harvey has character.” Her anger still simmered below the surface, and a stranger stared back at him with frosty green eyes. Still beautiful, but formal and cold. He liked her better mad.
Derek snorted. “Harvey looks like he escaped a life sentence in a wrecking yard.”
“He runs great.” Rachel squared her shoulders and stood up straighter. She gave him her most charming smile, as if she didn’t have a care in the world. “Look, champ, I’d love to stand out here and shoot the breeze with you, but I’m a busy woman. Your agent already discussed the particulars of the position with me.”
He imagined all sorts of particular positions he’d prefer to do with her. She’d feel pretty good in his arms right about now, all soft and warm. And then he’d take her to bed and bury his cock deep inside her. She’d scream and beg for more, just like one weekend so long ago. Derek shook his head. This line of thinking headed nowhere but trouble and stopped now.
“I’ll get you a locksmith.”
“Don’t bother. I’ll call one.”
Derek wiped sweat off his brow and shoved his hair off his forehead. Damn. Was she so oblivious to him that she wasn’t picking up on his thoughts? He hoped so. As far as money, he knew better than to offer any. She had her pride. He’d let her keep it. He knew how valuable pride was. Since college, his none too lustrous pro career had severely dented his.
A joyous bark caught his attention. Simon trotted down the road toward them. A stick hung from his mouth, and his tail wagged with enthusiasm. No sign of stolen goods. On his best doggy behavior, the felonious Lab sat down next to Derek, grinning for all he was worth and incredibly pleased with himself.
“Simon, meet Rachel. Rachel, meet Simon.” Simon thumped his tail on the ground and gazed up at her.
“We’ve met.” Rachel glared at the dog. Undaunted, Simon took it as a compliment and drooled on her foot.
“Rae, I’m sorry. He’s my dog. I’ll take care of this.”
“A dog-skin rug in front of my fireplace would be payment enough.”
“You don’t have a fireplace.”
“One small detail. I’ll build a campfire on the porch.”
“You’re a heartless woman.”
“Don’t you forget it.”