#SampleSunday: Bigger Than Beckham, by VK Sykes

Some of you know that in addition to my historical romances, I also write contemporary romance with my hubby under the pen name of VK Sykes.  We have a new book just out.  Bigger Than Beckham is book three in our Philadelphia Patriots series of sports romances.

The heroine, Martha Winston, finds herself the new owner of professional soccer team, left to her by her recently deceased father.  It’s the last thing she needs in her busy life, but her father extracted a deathbed promise that she’d do everything she could to keep his beloved team in the family.   Unfortunately, The Thunder is on the skids and deep in debt, with the bank about to bring down the hammer.  As Martha ponders her next move, she receives call from Tony Branch, former English soccer star and sports maven, and a man she’s been secretly dreaming about for quite some time.

In truth, it would be hell convincing her skeptical backers that her plan to turn the team around was working since there was scant evidence to back up the claim. The Thunder had been sinking fast when she arrived in June, and they’d fallen ever deeper down the rabbit hole since.

Sadly, her team sucked. It needed a full overhaul, requiring both time and money. A lot of money. Meanwhile, the fans would have to be patient.

Fat chance.

Jane Corrigan, her personal assistant and long-time friend, tapped lightly on her open door. Ever-cheery, she gave Martha a grin as she stepped into the spacious but sparsely furnished office. “There’s a guy named Tony Branch on the line. He’s calling from London, and that’s London as in England,” she said, her thin brows lifting in a question.

Martha’s pen fell from her fingers. Tony Branch? With his ruggedly handsome face, toned body, and penetrating gaze, he’d made an impression she’d never forgotten, even two years later.

Suddenly flushed, she brushed a hand carelessly across her heated forehead. It was exactly the same physical reaction she’d experienced when their paths had crossed in England.

“Are you all right, girl?” Jane asked. Her friend knew every one of Martha’s arsenal of looks and gestures, having spent five years working alongside her in the sports department of the Philadelphia Post.

“Right as rain,” Martha said with forced cheeriness as she fanned a hand in front of her face. “It’s just a little warm in here. As for Mr. Branch, please tell him I’m just finishing up another call, and I’ll be with him in a minute.” She needed a few seconds to regain her equilibrium.

Tony frigging Branch. The way-too-sexy Brit had wasted no time undressing her with his smoking hot gaze after that Wimbledon charity dinner. Though the encounter had been short, Martha had no trouble remembering all the relevant details about the man. Tall, with longish dark and wavy hair. Deep-set, dark eyes. Square jaw. On the lean side, but with a soccer player’s well-toned, well-muscled body. A British sports hero, a man worshipped by rabid fans since he was a teenager.

And a total lady-killer, if the gossip rags held even a hint of truth.

She couldn’t deny that his roguish, arrogant smile had almost knocked her off her pins. She’d been instantly attracted both to his looks and his can-do reputation, and had thought the attraction was shared. But, sadly, she’d let that twit from the tennis magazine hustle her off so quickly. The event had practically bored the silk stockings off her, and she’d been happy to leave early. Until she met Tony Branch, that is. Then the evening had ended all too soon.

When she got home, she’d even pitched a feature about him to her editor at the Post. But he’d told her that nobody in the States wanted to read about a British soccer personality unless his name was David Beckham.

But why would Tony Branch call her now? They’d just met the once, and that had been over two years ago.

Flutters danced below her ribcage. She pressed her hand against her stomach, trying to ignore them.

She picked up the phone and punched the flashing light. “Good morning, Mr. Branch. Oh, but I guess it’s already afternoon for y’all over there, isn’t it? You’re way ahead of us colonials, at least in that regard.”

People had always told her she sounded naturally perky, but she ladled an extra measure of southern sass into the mix to try to cover her twitchy nerves.

“Yes, it’s well into afternoon here,” Branch said with a deep chuckle. God, his voice sounded like whiskey poured through dark chocolate. “And please call me Tony. I’m not calling too early, am I?”

Martha remembered the way she’d been instantly drawn to his deep, throaty rasp when they met. There was no trace of poncey schooling in Branch’s voice. A working class lad all the way, and she’d found that enormously appealing.

“Oh, heavens, no,” she said. “It’s nine o’clock here. I’ve already put in two hours’ work.”

“That’s the stuff. Got to get up with the roosters if we want to stay ahead of the pack, don’t we?” Branch said, with a spectacular mixing of metaphors.

“Indeed we do.” She thought she’d enjoy a bit of banter with him, but her nerves made her impatient to discover the purpose of his call. Still, that didn’t stop her from firing a little salvo. “I have to say how glad I am you called. Maybe you could give a rookie owner some tips,” she said in a playful voice. “Lord knows I could use a few. My team’s five and nineteen, and I can’t find a fan these days with a GPS and a bloodhound.”

Branch let out a rumbly chuckle. “Ouch. I can feel your pain. But look, Martha—may I call you Martha?” When he purred her name, her knees actually went weak.

You can call me intrigued. “Why, sure you can, Tony.”

“Excellent. Martha, believe me, I’ve been there. My first year after taking over Blackhampton, we managed one miserable win and two draws in our first fifteen matches. The fans wanted my bollocks on a plate.” He paused. “Sorry, I shouldn’t be using coarse language speaking with a lady. But in any case, after that we only lost six of the final twenty-one, and suddenly I’d become a savior instead of an incompetent, washed-up football player, as one columnist called me.”

Martha smiled. She knew Branch had performed miracles with his top tier club, getting them promoted to the Premier League in only a couple of years. And now they were more or less competitive for the league championship. “How did y’all turn it around, Tony? I’ll pay real good money for any of your secrets.”

Okay, I don’t have any money, but that’s beside the point.

Branch laughed again. Martha liked the throaty sound of it. Low and sexy as, well, sex on a stick.

“I had to kick a few backsides and get rid of some deadwood,” he said. “But the key was that I was able to convince the lads that I’d do whatever it took to turn the side a winner. I promised them that the next season we’d pick up a couple of top-flight midfielders no matter what the cost. The lads trusted me because they knew I’d been one of them. A player who’d gone through all the negative garbage they were going through, both on the field and off. Pretty soon they started acting like winners. Playing hard every minute of every match. Gutting it out.”

Martha sighed. No matter what the cost. It must be a sweet feeling to have deep pockets. Right now, hers were about as deep as a coat of paint. Hell, at this rate she’d be lucky to make payroll until the end of the season.

“You’ve certainly made a success of it,” she said, forcing a cheery voice. “Sixth place last year. Maybe fifth this season.”

“You follow the Premier League that closely, Martha?”

She frowned at the obvious note of surprise in his voice, hoping he wasn’t like some of the team owners and players who considered her little better than a dumb blonde.

“Of course,” she said as a flush of resentment swept over her. But she tamped down the spike and kept her tone light. “Some of us over here on the frontier still manage to keep track of what’s going on in the soccer motherland.”

Branch laughed again, and the rumble sent hot pinpricks dancing across her skin. The charming Brit seemed to appreciate her quirky sense of humor, something she’d found many men didn’t. “I’m glad to hear it. I think I’ll sleep better at night now knowing that.”

She picked up her fountain pen and tapped it against the leather trim of her desk blotter. Why wasn’t he getting to the point? She rather liked chatting away with him, but her stomach kept rolling around and perspiration was beginning to trickle down her spine. “Well, then, sweet dreams,” she said, hoping he’d get on with it.

He seemed to pick up her change in tone. “All joking aside, Martha, I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m contacting you.”

“Can’t say the thought didn’t flicker through my mind. But we southern folk would never be so impolite as to ask straight out.”

He cleared his throat. “I’ll come straight to the point, then. I know you’re in a bit of a pickle over there, and I’d like to find a way to help you out of it.”

You can read another excerpt of Bigger Than Beckham on our website, along with excerpts from our other books in the Philadelphia Patriots series.  Bigger Than Beckham is on sale for $3.49 at Amazon, Smashwords, and Kobo, and will soon be available on the Nook.

Happy Sunday, everyone!


#SampleSunday: Hot Number by V.K. Sykes

Some of my newer readers might not know that I also write sexy contemporary romance with my husband, under the pen name of V. K. SykesHot Number is set in Las Vegas, and it features Sadie Bligh, a geeky math professor from Chicago, and Nick Saxon, the assistant chief of security at a large casino.  Sadie is having a really bad year–her work life has flat-lined and her social life…well, that’s pretty much non-existent.  Desperate to shake things up, she heads to Sin City with a friend for a wild week of fun.  The thing is, Sadie’s not really sure how to do fun, which is apparent in her first meeting with Jake:

“See that big guy standing a couple of rows over, beside the pillar?” Cassie nodded toward her left. “Don’t look right away.”

Sadie tried to appear nonchalant as she swung her head around. When she located the pillar and the man in question, she realized he was staring directly at her, his gaze hard and assessing and implacably fixed on her. Not on Cassie. Not on anyone else at their roulette table. On her.

She desperately wanted to avert her eyes, but something kept them locked in position. Maybe it was the intensity of his focus, or the heat emanating from his dark eyes. Even from this distance she would have sworn they were about the deepest brown she’d ever seen, so deep they looked almost black.

Most men would be embarrassed to be caught staring so shamelessly at a woman. But not this guy. He never even blinked.

“He’s staring at me, Cass,” she hissed.

“No kidding. Hell, I wouldn’t mind a hunk like him looking that way at me. Whew, he thinks you’re hot, Sade.”

Sadie swallowed nervously. If that intense gaze was a come-on, she wanted nothing to do with it. “Uh, I don’t think so. He looks like he thinks I’m an idiot.”

Cassie gave a reluctant laugh. “Maybe you’re right. Now that I think about it, I’d say he’s casino security. He sure looks the part. I guess he’s probably keeping an eye on you to make sure you don’t bowl over anybody else.”

Casino security. Cassie probably had it right. She should just ignore him. No doubt he would lose interest as long as she didn’t do anything else to cause a commotion.

Sadie lowered her gaze, staring down at the colorful piles of chips on the table. But the man’s image had burned itself into her retinas. Though his frowning stare had unnerved her, she had to admit that his looks were mesmerizing. Everything about him left one overwhelming impression: big, tough, and more than a little dangerous. The deep navy suit and white open-necked shirt accentuated his tanned, rugged features, as did his black hair and heavy five o’clock shadow. A gorgeous specimen. Gorgeous, but scary.

Then again, casino security agents were supposed to look scary, weren’t they?

Lifting her head, she braved another peek at him, letting her gaze run over his brawny chest and broad shoulders. Then she returned to those hard eyes and almost fell off her stool. They were still relentlessly fixed on her, and still making her as edgy as hell.

She sucked in a shaky breath, her head spinning both from the effect of the alcohol and that unnerving inspection. “I need to get out of here, Cass. Not just away from this table. I mean right out of the casino.”

Cassie looked dumbfounded. “What are you talking about? We’ve just started to play. Is that guy the problem? If it’s bothering you that much, I’ll go tell him to back the hell off.”

Sadie quickly shook her head. “Please, no more drama tonight. I’m not sure what’s wrong. I just feel really uncomfortable all of a sudden.” She swiped the back of her hand across her brow, surprised at the perspiration beading on her forehead despite the near-frigid temperature of the casino. “You stay, okay? I need to go up to my room for a while.”

“You sure? You want me to come with you?”

“I’ll be fine. I’ll rendezvous with you later.” Sadie grabbed her drink, scooped up her small stack of chips and gave Cassie an air kiss.

Unfortunately, the shortest route to the elevators ran directly past Mr. Scary Security Man. She gave a quick thought to walking straight up to the guy and telling him to lay off the surveillance, just like Cassie had threatened to do. But that idea, along with her courage, disappeared in the time it took to process it. No. Better to steer completely clear of him tonight and hope not to see him again.

By the time she reached the main aisle, a quick glance to her left told her he hadn’t moved. But at least he wasn’t still looking straight at her. She turned to her right. Going in that direction meant she’d have to practically circle the casino floor. Just what she needed—extended navigating in her skyscraper boots. But so be it. She needed to get back to her room, calm down, and remind herself why she was here in the first place.

As she stumbled along, trying to keep her balance, she belatedly realized that she should have left her drink back at the roulette table. She did not need another accident—or more alcohol, for that matter.

Spotting a casino waitress serving drinks at a nearby Pai Gow poker table, Sadie pivoted to head in that direction. The last thing she felt before becoming airborne was a small tug on her spike heel as it caught in the carpet. Then she crashed head first into the poker table. Her drink sailed out of her hand as she landed heavily onto the hard surface.

She didn’t move right away, so dazed she barely realized what had happened.

A shocked female screech blasted out from somewhere behind her. “What the hell?”

“Holy shit, lady!” another voice lashed out. “You just screwed the best hand I had all night!”

Sadie’s stomach gave a sickening lurch at the man’s nasty tone. With her face buried in a pile of chips and her butt sticking up in the air, she was too stunned to fully comprehend the profanity-laced invective hurled her way. While nothing felt broken except her pride, her thighs throbbed where they’d made a bruising impact with the edge of the table.

She groaned, not just with the blossoming pain but with the humiliating realization that she’d made an ass of herself again. If only a chandelier would land on her head and knock her senseless, she would be happy. But no such luck. She knew she had to get up and apologize to…well, to everyone in sight. Maybe to the whole damn world.

Wedging her hands underneath her chest, she began to push herself up when a pair of very big, very strong hands clamped around her hips and lifted her backward off the table. Those same hands then set her carefully on her feet. She shoved the hair out of her eyes and gave a horrified squeak at what lay before her. The table was a disaster, with cards and chips flung haphazardly. Her drink had smashed, scattering booze, ice cubes and shards of glass over the chip tray and onto the poor dealer. Brushing himself off, the young man glared at her with undisguised contempt.

Upright now, Sadie carefully turned around to thank whoever it was who had helped her off the table.

She must have looked like a wide-mouth bass as her gaze met the obsidian eyes of Mr. Scary Security Man. Stomach lurching—this time all the way into her throat—she had to bite her lip to keep from letting out a groan of dismay.

“Are you all right?” he asked through clenched teeth.

His deep voice, as dark and menacing as the rest of him, shot a ripple of anxiety along her already over-taxed nerves. She had just enough of her wits left to notice him scanning her body from head to foot.

Dropping her gaze to the floor, she struggled to compose a dignified reply. Then she dredged up a smile and forced herself to look at him.

“It would seem so, thank you. I suspect I’ll be rather sore tomorrow, but apparently no lasting harm has been done.” She glanced back at the chaos she’d left in her wake. Players were collecting their chips and leaving the table in a huff. “Other than possibly ruining the surface of a card table and destroying some winning hands. But I suppose I shouldn’t minimize that.”

She tried to straighten out her rumpled shirt, noticing how his eyes followed her hands as she smoothed the fabric over the top of her jeans.

“Ma’am, I’m with casino security,” he said in a calm voice. “Please come with me.”

Without waiting for her reply, he grasped her wrist in one of his big hands. His touch was firm but not harsh, and Sadie felt a surprising and unfamiliar jolt as warm fingers closed around her bare skin. Not fear. This was something…well, she didn’t know what it was, but it still made her nervous.

Now that she’d declared her lack of injury, his eyes had reverted back to chips of black ice. She caught herself wondering what they might look like if something lit them and turned them to burning embers. He’d probably resemble Lucifer himself.

“I simply tripped, for heaven’s sake.” Sadie shook out of his grip, wincing at the shrill tone to her voice. But she didn’t want to spend a second more with this man than she had to.

His mouth thinned into a brutal line. “I can’t detain you, ma’am, but I can remove you from the Desert Oasis Casino. Not just for tonight, but permanently. You might prefer the option of talking to me for a few minutes.”

Cassie rushed up to her, breathless. “Sadie, are you okay? I heard the crash, but I didn’t know it was you till one of the waitresses told me.”

She gave Cassie a shaky smile. “I’ll live. Just a pair of bruised thighs and a whole lot of bruised pride.”

The security man began to look both annoyed and impatient. “Ma’am, please. Come with me.”

Darn it. There was obviously no point in arguing with the pig-headed brute. Better to get it over with than cause yet another scene.

“All right, Sheriff, lead on,” she replied, ladling on the sarcasm. “Do your worst. I’m ready.”

He shot her a look of sheer disdain and waved her in front of him.

“Hey, wait a minute! Just where do you think you’re taking her?” Cassie demanded. “Who the hell are you to treat my friend like that?”

“Casino security, ma’am. I’m simply taking her for questioning. It shouldn’t take too long. But the longer we stand here, the longer it’ll be.”

Cassie planted her feet like a prizefighter, ready to deck him if need be. “I’m going with her. I’m not letting her go off with you alone.”

The security man fixed Cassie with the coldest stare Sadie had ever seen and, sure enough, her friend bristled with outrage. She had to get the situation under control before Cassie wound up getting herself in big trouble, too. “It’s okay, Cass. I can handle this. I’ll catch up to you as soon as the law here is done with me.”

The big man switched his glare to her and then gave a sharp nod. “As I said, follow me.” He turned and strode off at a rapid pace.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” she burst out, exasperated by his mental density. “Sheriff, it appears necessary to remind you that I’ve been having a certain degree of difficulty with this footwear. I really could use some assistance. Or would you prefer to have to hoist me off a card table again?”

The man stopped and turned as gracefully as a panther. A big, terrifying panther. Cassie was right—the brute was undeniably handsome, in a dark, rugged, and altogether intimidating way.

“Sorry,” he said, sounding genuinely apologetic. “You’re right. I should have thought about that. Here, ma’am, take my arm.”

Sadie almost fell over, yet again. Where had that gentlemanly behavior suddenly come from? Cautiously slipping her hand into the crook of his arm, she encountered an impressively hard set of arm muscles. They flexed beneath her fingers and her edgy feeling returned. This time down low in her belly and between her thighs.

As he led her away, Sadie couldn’t help but wonder what kind of trouble she’d stumbled into this time.

Hot Number is currently available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords for only $2.99.  And don’t forget to check out our other books, CaddyGirls, Fastball, and Hardball.

Have a great Sunday, everyone!

#SampleSunday: HOT NUMBER by VK Sykes

Here’s an excerpt from my latest VK Sykes book, one of the sexy contemporary romances co-written with my husband.  Hot Number is set in Las Vegas and it features Sadie Bligh, a geeky math professor from Chicago, and Nick Saxon, the assistant chief of security at a large casino.  Sadie has an uncanny knack for getting into trouble, which brings her to the attention of Nick.  In this scene, Nick–Sadie has nicknamed him “the sheriff”–has just pulled her off the dance floor of the casino’s club.  He takes Sadie to a quiet little bar in town for a “chat.”

It had to be the darn mojitos again. As she gazed at Nick, no doubt looking like a moonstruck teenager, Sadie found herself contemplating crawling into his lap and wrapping her legs around his waist. That’s how turned on she was after his little intervention at the casino.

When he charged across the crowded dance floor of Esprit, he’d reminded her of a bull with a hapless matador dead in its sights. The guy she had been dancing with—if that’s what you could call what he’d been trying to do with her—had looked first astonished and then more than a little alarmed when he caught sight of Nick. Her partner hadn’t been wrong to see impending mayhem in the sheriff’s coal-black eyes. Maybe it had just been a caveman moment for Nick, but she’d loved it anyway. She’d have happily gone anywhere with the man then, even back to the dreaded gulag if that’s what it took to be alone with him.

They sat at a small table in a bar that might have been physically near the Strip, but was light years away from the glitz of Las Vegas Boulevard. With worn brown carpet on the floors, Michelob neon in the front window, and waitresses that might have been working Vegas since Bugsy Malone opened the Flamingo, it had a down-in-the-mouth charm that spelled relief after the Strip’s relentless glam. When Nick ordered a Bud, she’d made it two, even though she usually hated the taste and smell of beer. But not tonight. Tonight the cold brew tasted delicious.

Round five to the sheriff.

Smoothing the silky and slightly damp bodice of her dress down over her breasts, Sadie contemplated the best way to provoke a response in the strong but silent type leaning back in the chair next to her. Nick had hardly said a word on the ten minute drive from the Desert Oasis. Not that he’d ever been a fountain of words at any time they’d been together. He seemed more comfortable with interrogation than small talk. But that wasn’t a particular problem, since her father had always told her she could talk enough for any two human beings.

A little stab of pain sliced through her haze of pleasure. With effort, she forced away memories of her father, her job, and anything to do with her life back in Chicago. All she wanted to think about right now was Nick Saxon.

She gave him what she hoped was a sultry smile. “All I can say is you sure have a funny way of cutting in on a dance, Sheriff. My partner probably had to go back to his room and change his underwear.” To her surprise, her voice actually came out in a soft purr. Sadie had never purred at a man in her life.

He studied her, his face expressionless but his eyes gleaming hot. “Didn’t I tell you to call me Nick?” He slugged down the rest of his beer and gave the waitress a hand signal for refills.

She’d tried once or twice on the ride over to call him by his first name, but ‘Nick’ and ‘Sadie’ registered a discordant note in her ears. She wondered how long it would take her to stop thinking of him as the sheriff or as Saxon. Nick was surely a manly name, but Saxon sounded so lustfully medieval. Somehow, it seemed part and parcel of the fantasy this Vegas trip had become. “Sorry. Nick, it is. And you ducked my implied question.”

His mouth thinned in a way she was beginning to recognize. “I didn’t like the way he groped you,” he said in something approaching a growl.

That almost blew her concentration. Finally, the guy had let out some feelings. “But what made you think I didn’t welcome that poor man’s ardor? I told you, Cassie and I came to Vegas for the express purpose of having ourselves a riotously good time. I was well on my way tonight until you launched into the fray like a pit bull on steroids.”

He snorted. “Nice analogy. But did you really welcome what he was doing?” His gaze told her he didn’t believe a word of it.

Nick was right, of course. Still, she wasn’t giving up just yet. Teasing him was more fun than she’d had in a very long time.

She shrugged, enjoying the way the movement brought his gaze down to her breasts. “I might have. Maybe,” she said thoughtfully.

He tipped back in his chair, his eyebrows arching in polite disbelief.

“Well, not so much, truth be told,” she finally admitted. “He was pretty grabby.”

“That’s what I thought.” There was a trace of smugness in his tone. “You just like to yank my chain with all those quips and hundred-dollar words. I’ll bet it would drive you crazy to know I actually get a kick out of it.”

Wow. A guy who likes the way I talk. Prince Charming, where have you been all this time?

You can read more excerpts from Hot Number here and here.

Hot Number is currently available on Amazon and Smashwords for only $2.99.  It’s also available at Barnes & Noble and at other e-tailers.  And don’t forget to check out our other books, CaddyGirls, Fastball, and Hardball.

Have a great Sunday!

#SampleSunday: HOT NUMBER

Here’s an excerpt from my latest VK Sykes book, one of the sexy contemporary romances co-written with my husband.  Hot Number is set in Las Vegas and it features Sadie Bligh, a geeky math professor from Chicago, and Nick Saxon, the assistant chief of security at a large casino.  Sadie is having a really bad year–her work life has flat-lined and her social life…well, that’s pretty much non-existent.  Desperate to shake things up, she heads to Sin City with a friend for a wild week of fun.

“Sadie, you do not look like a hooker,” Cassie said. “You look sexy.”

Professor Sadie Bligh cast a doubting glance at her friend before doing a pirouette in front of the mirror for one last look at the derrière she’d managed to squeeze into skintight designer jeans. “Come on, Cass, these jeans are insane. If I had a dime in my back pocket, you could tell the year it was minted. And this top…” She peered at her reflection, assessing the scooped neckline that plunged precariously close to her nipples. “I can’t believe I let you talk me into this.”

Cassie gave an exasperated sigh. “Tight is good, Sade. Guys like tight things. A cute guy wouldn’t give you a second glance if you were wearing one of those schoolmarm pantsuits you always pick. You’d have figured that out by now if you’d ever looked past the top of your math books.”

Sadie ignored that low blow as she tried to calculate just how large her behind looked in her new and way-too-expensive jeans. “Please tell me my butt isn’t as wide as I think it is,” she pleaded.

This time, Cassie let out a snicker. “Just think J. Lo, and you’ll be fine.”

Sadie grabbed a throw pillow off the bed and took an uncoordinated swipe at her friend’s model-perfect rear end. “You are congenitally incapable of speaking the truth, but I love you anyway.”

Abandoning the perusal of her butt, Sadie shook out her unruly mass of auburn curls, then twisted open the pricey lip gloss Cassie had insisted she buy. “What if I run into some professor I know when I’m dressed like this? I’ll never be able to show my face in academia again.”

Cassie rolled her eyes but Sadie didn’t care. She had every intention of ragging her friend nonstop for talking her into this ill-conceived Las Vegas blowout, even though she knew Cassie had been right to make her flee Chicago and her deepening depression. Of all her friends—not that Sadie had that many close friends—only Cassie truly understood what a life-changing disappointment she’d just suffered.

Disappointment didn’t even begin to describe the blow to her spirit that threatened to pull her under. Getting passed over again for the prestigious Eagleton Mathematics Prize had made Sadie feel like a hopeless loser—nothing more than an imposter in a high-powered world where she’d never be more than Professor Anthony Bligh’s precocious but insufficiently talented daughter. Devastated, and feeling like her career and her life were slipping out of her hands, she’d been ripe for Cassie’s prescription: get the hell of out of Dodge. In Sadie’s case, Dodge was the math department of the University of Chicago, the same department where her father conducted his own research.

Cassie sauntered over to the king-sized bed in Sadie’s hotel room and flopped down, her long, tanned legs making a dramatic contrast to the white duvet. Sadie glanced at the whiter-than-white skin of her own chest and arms, liberally dusted with freckles. Crap. Maybe she should have made that visit to the tanning salon, after all.

“If you do see one of your colleagues here, chances are he’s doing even worse things than we are,” Cassie drawled. “You know what they say about what plays in Vegas.”

“Stays in Vegas. I get it.” Sadie reached for her champagne flute, but paused before taking a sip. For all her brave words, her stomach was tied in an anxious knot. “I do want to go for it. I want to try every damn thing I never thought I’d have the guts to do. The problem is I’m not sure I’ll be able go through with it.”

Cassie leapt back up and rushed over to give her an encouraging hug. “Hey, enough with the doubts, Professor. Damn straight you’ll go through with it, because I’m going to be right behind you, kicking your J. Lo ass if I have to.”

They stared at their reflections in the floor-length mirror for several long seconds. Sadie looked forlorn and uncertain—which she hated—and Cassie looked concerned.

“Don’t get so down on yourself, Sade,” Cassie finally said. “You took a big whack when those assholes on the prize committee stiffed you. No wonder you’re a little uptight and scared.”

Sadie nodded, trying to smile for Cassie’s sake. Her best friend knew her better than anyone, but even she couldn’t begin to understand what losing the Eagleton meant. Most mathematicians would have been over the moon just to be nominated for the most coveted award in the entire field. Not her. Winning was all that counted, something her father had drilled into her again and again. To Anthony Bligh, second place meant first loser, and he hadn’t bothered to hide his disappointment when the Eagleton results were announced. The memory of that unpleasant phone conversation—conducted in polite, stiff tones—still made her feel sick to her stomach.

“Nothing’s mattered except that prize, Cass. It’s all I’ve worked for since Dad won it.” Not just once, either. Her father had captured the Eagleton three times. She gave a hollow laugh at the thought that she could even compete. “How crazy am I to do that?”

Cassie jabbed her shoulder. “Like you’d be elected Mayor of Crazytown in a landslide.”

Sadie laughed again, but this time it felt a bit more genuine. “What we’re going to do here is plenty crazy, too. You know that, right?”

Cassie shook her straight, shoulder-length blond hair and threw her a haughty look. “Some people would call it crazy. I prefer to call it therapy.”

Sadie couldn’t repress the prickles of apprehension dancing up her spine. She wished she could convince herself that they were caused by the blast of cold air from the overhead vent. “Cutting loose in Vegas isn’t really going to change anything, at least not for me,” she said dubiously.

Cassie began to look impatient. “Well, to paraphrase John Lennon, all I’m saying is give crazy a chance.”

Sadie knew when to sound the retreat. After all, she had agreed to this adventure of her own free will, and it wouldn’t be fair to Cassie to chicken out now. “You’re a dangerously unbalanced woman, but all right. If we’re going to let loose, dressing up like bimbos is as good a place to start as any.”

Cassie grinned with relief and grabbed her champagne flute, raising it in a quick salute. “Amen to that. Now, pull on those wicked boots you got at Neiman Marcus and let’s get down to the casino. There’s a progressive slot machine, a margarita, and some hot guys on that floor, and they’re all calling my name.”

You can read more excerpts from Hot Number here and here.

Hot Number is currently available on Amazon and Smashwords for only $2.99.  It’s also available at Barnes & Noble and at other e-tailers.  And don’t forget to check out our other books, CaddyGirls, Fastball, and Hardball.

Have a great Sunday!

#SampleSunday: Hot Number

Here’s an excerpt from my latest VK Sykes book, one of the sexy contemporary romances co-written with my husband.  Hot Number is set in Las Vegas and it features Sadie Bligh, a geeky math professor from Chicago, and Nick Saxon, the assistant chief of security at a large casino.  Sadie is having a really bad year–her work life has flat-lined and her social life…well, that’s pretty much non-existent.  Desperate to shake things up, she heads to Sin City with a friend for a wild week of fun.

And Sadie does shake things up, but not in the way she intended.  After causing a scene in the casino, Security Chief Nick hauls her off for an interrogation.

Nick stared at the little bombshell who sat quietly before him. He had to deal with drunken bimbos every single day. It sure as hell wasn’t one of the more interesting parts of casino security work, but it came with the territory.

When he’d hauled this one’s tantalizing ass off the poker table, he’d pegged her as the usual single girl tourist on the make, too excited by Vegas to know her booze limits. But it hadn’t taken him long to figure out that with Ms. Sadie Bligh—and that was a name for the books—he had an entirely different animal on his hands. How many bimbos used the word contretemps, for Christ’s sake?

But the Desert Oasis had strict security policies and procedures, and Nick was a professional. People who caused disturbances didn’t get a free pass. With rare exceptions, they were taken to a room like this one so he or other security personnel could scare the living hell out of them. No way would he have abandoned that policy and let this woman off without a trip downstairs. Not even though her luscious, jiggling body gave him a hard-on that would only temporarily obey his mental commands to subside. During the long walk to the interview room, he’d had to focus his mind on the worst firefight he’d ever been in, just to make sure she wouldn’t see him pitching a tent.

Still, he couldn’t bring himself to really scare the crap out of her. She was harmless and she was cute, and he should just let her go back to her hotel room and sleep it off. But some instinct kept pulling him back. Though still a little tipsy, she’d had no trouble stringing together some of the most articulate sentences he’d ever heard in a casino. Or anywhere else, for that matter. With her around, you’d never need a dictionary. For some reason he couldn’t quite put his finger on, she wasn’t adding up.

She began to fidget, offering him a vulnerable smile that made her look even more adorable.

He wouldn’t call Sadie Bligh a model-perfect beauty. Her face was sweet and pretty, not stunning, or particularly beautiful. Her hair—a color his mother referred to as auburn but he called reddish-brown—fell to her shoulders in soft curls. He figured if she hadn’t dressed so provocatively, she wouldn’t have attracted a whole lot of notice on the casino floor. Legions of hot young women with skimpy outfits and pounds of expensive makeup easily overshadowed her.

She did, however, have a killer body, one which Nick couldn’t help taking the time to appreciate.

Ms. Bligh moved uncomfortably in her seat. “Sheriff…Mr. Saxon, there’s really no need to give me the silent treatment. I’m more than willing to admit you make a very good point. Truly, I should have exercised better judgment. I’m thoroughly embarrassed. I came to Las Vegas intending to have a really good time, but I seem to have started out badly, indeed.”

Nick was glad she’d ditched her faked-up brassy attitude in favor of an apparently sincere mea culpa. She’d tried her damnedest to make him believe he didn’t intimidate her. But while she could keep her words under tight control, she hadn’t been able to rein in the nervous hands and shifting feet that gave her away to a professional like him. “Where are you from, ma’am?”

She stopped fidgeting, probably glad he’d shifted the discussion away from her behavior in the casino. “Massachusetts, originally. Now I work in Chicago. It’s a nice city, but I absolutely hate the weather there. Boston was bad enough, really, but when you’re trying to walk down Michigan Avenue with sleet flying—”

“Right.” He interrupted her. As much as he enjoyed hearing her talk, he didn’t need a Weather Channel special on life in the Windy City. “And how long will you be staying in Las Vegas?”

She smiled. “I was babbling, wasn’t I? Sorry about that. I seem to do that a lot when I’m nervous. As to your question, I’ll be here for just a few days. Less than a week.”

As much as he would have liked to have studied that hot little body some more, it was time to cut her loose. “All right, Ms. Bligh,” he said. “We can leave it at that for now. I’ll escort you to the hotel. I assume you’ll want to return to your room for a change of footwear.”

Her sigh of relief was both visible and audible. “Thank you. I do want to go back to my room, but I won’t be putting on new shoes. I think I’ve had enough excitement for this evening. So, I intend to crawl into bed with a book.”

Wouldn’t you rather crawl into bed with a security officer? He almost had to bite his tongue to keep the insane and unwelcome thought from transforming into words. Fraternizing with guests was strictly verboten. “That sounds like a good plan, ma’am,” he said in a gruff voice. “I hope you’ll continue to enjoy the Desert Oasis casino for the rest of your stay. But with a little less emphasis on the mojitos.”

Her lips curved into an effortlessly sexy smile—the first genuine one she’d given him since he’d hauled her off that poker table. Her mouth was on the small side, but her lips, tinted a bright pink that kind of matched her filmy top, were full. Lush, even. He couldn’t stop from thinking how much he’d like to crush those lips against his own, and then trail a string of wet kisses down into that soft, creamy, and very generous cleavage.

Nick frowned, disconcerted by his reaction to her. It didn’t make sense. Maybe that was because she didn’t make sense. Not to him. Or at least she didn’t fit into any of the neat categories he’d always used to classify women. Though sexy, she was odd, to say the least.

She tilted her head and stared at him, clearly puzzled. Her soft green eyes shone with an intelligence and perception that belied the trashy outfit she had poured herself into. Yep. Something just didn’t add up.

And right then, Nick decided to keep an eye—a very watchful eye—on Ms. Sadie Bligh for as long as she remained in his hotel.

Hot Number is currently available on Amazon and Smashwords for only $2.99.  Within a few weeks, it will also be available on Barnes & Noble, and at other e-tailers.  And don’t forget to check out our other books, CaddyGirls, Fastball, and Hardball.

Have a great Sunday!