For #Sample Sunday, here’s another excerpt from Hardball, the sexy contemporary romance I wrote with my husband under the pen name of VK Sykes. Nate, a superstar baseball player, and Holly, a serious and rather shy pediatric surgeon, had been dating for several weeks until problems meshing their competing careers drove them apart. But Holly has real problems at work – a dangerous ex-con is stalking her. When Nate finds out she’s in trouble, there’s no way he’s not getting involved.
Holly jumped at the chime of her doorbell. Then she swore under her breath for being such a wimp, reacting badly to every little thing.
“Just a sec,” she yelled toward the front door. Only minutes had passed since she’d arrived home. Exhausted from lack of sleep—she’d been up most of the night, startling at every noise and repeatedly checking the locks—she’d left the hospital early to catch up on paperwork and reading at home. In the middle of changing out of her work clothes, she quickly pulled on shorts and yanked a tank top over her head. Barefoot, she hurried to the door.
Her over-active imagination pictured Lance Arnold on the other side, but she banished the frightening image. There wasn’t much chance the lunatic would be standing on her porch at four in the afternoon, politely ringing the bell while Holly’s next door neighbor weeded her flower garden.
Still, she peered carefully through the peephole before touching the latch. What she saw made her take a quick step backward, almost losing her balance.
Oh, God! What’s he doing here?
She took a deep breath and unhooked the safety chain with trembling hands.
Nate, looking fierce and determined, brushed past her into the living room before she had a chance to react. “We have to talk. I tried the hospital and they told me you’d gone home.”
Holly stood frozen, dumbfounded. Not only had he shown up unannounced at her door after no contact for two weeks, he’d barged straight into her house and started ordering her around! Her initial, instinctive reaction of relief gave way to irritation.
“Well, hello, Nate. How are you? I’d invite you to come in, but that’s clearly unnecessary now.” Planting her feet apart and crossing her arms, she glowered at him. She must look like she was ready to strangle him, because that was how she felt.
Well, she also wanted to leap on him and rip his clothes off, but that was just her body being stupid. Belatedly, she noticed he’d brought a sports bag with him, which he now dropped with a thump onto the floor.
Nate looked like he wanted to laugh at her retort, but then caught her expression and stopped himself. “I heard what happened with Arnold. How he’s calling again. I couldn’t sit up there in Canada wondering if he was really going to try to get at you.”
Her heart started to flutter, and she pressed a hand to her chest. “How did you find out?”
“Doesn’t matter. Listen, babe, I’m not going to let you face this guy alone. I was awake all night, thinking hard about it.” He pointed to the sports bag. “I’m moving in with you until the cops nail the bastard, and don’t even try to tell me no.” He mimicked her gestures by planting his feet wide and crossing his arms, looking much more intimidating than she ever could.
Holly’s legs almost collapsed out from under her. She managed to steady herself by leaning against the archway to the living room. Speechless, scared, thrilled, all she could manage was a shake of her head.
He wagged his index finger at her. “No, don’t go shaking your head,” he said firmly. “You know damn well you should have somebody around to watch out for you. The cops can’t do it.”
True enough. But that didn’t mean she could let him stay. Even though it felt right on so many levels, she knew it was wrong.
He grimaced and his eyes pleaded with her. “Let me do this for you, Holly. You need my help.”
She’d dreamed of someday living with Nate. The last two weeks, more than she cared to think about, she’d wept over the death of that dream. Now here he was, suitcase and all, ready to move in. But this wasn’t the stuff of dreams. Lance Arnold had made it the stuff of nightmares.
Holly couldn’t seem to find the right words to explain it. Nate must not have been expecting a lengthy silence, because he tilted his head and gave her a puzzled look.
She cleared her throat. “I appreciate your concern. I really do. But I’m quite capable of taking care of myself, thank you. I don’t need a bodyguard. Or a babysitter. And I’m sure you have lots going on in your own life.” Knowing him, he probably even had a new girlfriend by now.
That nasty little thought stiffened her spine, and she glared back at him.
Nate’s mouth thinned into a hard, determined line. He looked as if he’d like to pull her onto his lap and spank her. Somehow, the thought didn’t alarm her as much as it should have.
“Come on, Holly. You’re smart and capable and tough. You’ve got nothing to prove. But if that creep gets a chance, he’ll grab you, and I don’t think you’ll be able to do much about it.”
When he took a step toward her, she backed away. More than anything, she wanted to collapse into his arms, but there was too much at stake for self-indulgent weakness. He couldn’t stay forever, and then what would she do when he left again?
Nate threw up his hands in frustration. “Jesus, woman! Just let me help you, okay? I can’t stand by and do nothing when you’re in danger.”
Holly shook her head again, but she could feel her resolve start to erode. “I can’t do it, Nate. I just can’t,” she pleaded.
Now his eyes gleamed, as if he sensed her weakening. “Sure, you can,” he said in a coaxing voice. “Because if you kick me out of here, I swear I’ll sit on your sidewalk all day and sleep in my car out front all night.”
She stared at him, all six-feet-five inches of rampant masculinity, hard as a rock, his jaw set with a determination she knew meant he’d stop at nothing to keep her safe. It made her feel all gooey inside, but it also scared the hell out of her. If he stayed with her, they’d end up in bed at some point as sure as the sun rose every day in the east. When it came to him, she was that weak.
Have a great Sunday!