Here’s another excerpt from Fastball, my latest contemporary romance that I wrote with my husband under the pen name of VK Sykes. In this scene, superstar baseball player Jake Miller is warming up for a game. This is his first meet with the heroine, sports reporter Maddie Leclair.
After about ten minutes of warm ups, Jake jogged over to the batting cage to wait for his turn. As he leaned on his bat, watching other guys take their cuts, he got a prickling sensation on the back of his neck, like someone was eyeballing him. He was used to that, but this felt different and slightly unnerving.
A moment later he heard a voice as smooth as a shot of the finest single malt calling out from behind him. “Hey, Jake. Got a minute for me?”
Unable to resist those rich amber tones, Jake turned and looked back at the rail behind first base. A woman stood there, a woman so freaking gorgeous the sight of her caught up him up short, as if he had run nose-first into a sheet of Plexiglas.
The eyes got him first—eyes of startling, vivid blue that were made even more striking by her flawless, lightly tanned complexion. Her mouth was pink and full, her smile an intriguing combination of sensuality and, weirdly enough, innocence. She was short, not much more than five-three, but she held herself with a slender, athletic strength that took nothing away from her bombshell looks.
She stood just above the barrier, her knee-high leather boot propped casually up on a concrete step. That pose hiked her short skirt up, affording him an unimpeded view of her shapely legs. Her black stockings emphasized the unconscious sensuality of her stance, and a slow crawl of lust began to build in his muscles. Letting his gaze drift upward to the sweet curve of her hips and her slender waist, he took in the gently swelling breasts outlined in a trim-fitting black jacket.
Finally, he returned to her striking face and those magnetic blue eyes, framed by glossy, short black hair. And what he liked even better was her aura of quiet confidence. No simpering smiles, no overtly flirtatious glances or wriggling her hot body in an effort to attract him. She just waited for him to answer—cool, collected, and totally beautiful.
Oh, yeah, I’ve got a minute for you, sweetheart. No worries.
Jake did his best to look nonchalant as he crossed the dirt path and approached her, but the truth was that he wanted to hustle over like he was trying to stretch a single into a double. As he closed in, the woman’s engaging smile made him break into a grin himself. She held out a small, slender hand for him to shake, and he took it firmly but as gently as he could. But he needn’t have been concerned about crushing her hand. The pressure of her grip surprised him.
“I’m Maddie Leclair,” she said in that amazing voice of hers. “I’ve been covering the Patriots for the Philadelphia Post since the beginning of the year.”
Jake knew who she was as soon as he heard her name. He was not one of those athletes who ignored the sports press. In fact, he liked to read all the coverage he could, from the daily papers to the magazines and the Internet sites. It was just something he’d always done, because he wanted to know what was going on—what people were saying and thinking about the game.
“It’s a pleasure, Maddie.” He slowly released her hand, letting his fingers graze her smooth skin as he pulled back. “I’ve read your stories and columns. But that grainy little black-and-white photo on top of your column doesn’t even much look like you, let alone do you justice.”
What he was really wanted to say was that no picture on earth could possibly capture her luscious magnetism. He’d only just met her and she was exerting a pull stronger than a riptide.
She sighed dramatically, even though her eyes laughed at him. “The only worse shot of me is my passport photo, which should tell you something.” That amazing gaze dropped briefly, giving his body a quick up-and-down. “But your picture in the media guide doesn’t exactly capture your many qualities, either.” Her lips tilted in a knowing smile that shot heat right to his groin.
“Well, I appreciate that. I think.” Jake almost had to laugh at his lame reply. He was normally at ease with banter and pretty quick with a response, but little Ms. Leclair was making him feel like a tongue-tied fool.
She moved to lean against the barrier, her posture a little tense. In an instant, her startling blue eyes turned serious. Intent. All business.
“Jake, I know you don’t have much time to talk, so I’ll get straight to the point. I was wondering if you’d be willing to do a feature interview with me tomorrow. I’d like to write an in-depth piece on you for the Sunday edition. You’ve been away for quite a while, and I think the readers would really like that.”
The idea of spending time with Maddie Leclair sounded pretty attractive, even in a professional setting. The little slip of a thing was pulling on Jake’s imagination and hard, which was a hell of a surprise. Like most players, he’d been pursued by beautiful women throughout his baseball career. It was something he’d learned early on to keep in perspective, so his extraordinary response to her didn’t make sense a lot of sense. All he knew was that when he saw her again, he wanted to be alone with her, not in some formal interview under the watchful eye of one of the team’s PR guys.
It was a crazy idea on his part, but it had already taken hold and he couldn’t seem to shake it.
He nodded. “I think I could manage that.”
Just as he was about to suggest some conditions for their meeting, Maddie jumped in. “Great!” She flashed him a blinding grin. “How about tomorrow morning? If that works for you, I’ll get Media Affairs to set it up. Here at the park, as usual.”
That’s what he’d expected to hear, but it was definitely not what he had in mind. He didn’t say anything for a few moments, rapidly formulating a plan.
“Here’s my problem with that, Maddie,” he finally said, frowning a little. “I don’t think you’re going to get the kind of interview you’re looking for if we’re stuck across a table in some formal media room, like we’re a couple of lawyers facing off against each other.” He shook his head slowly, as if pondering. Yeah, he was being manipulative, but he had the feeling it would be well worth it. “It’s one of the reasons I don’t give many interviews, and tend not to say a whole lot. I’m afraid that if we do it the way you said, all you’re likely to get from me is stuff everybody already knows.”
Maddie shot him a quizzical look, edged with a tinge of wariness. “Do you have an alternative in mind?”
“Absolutely. This is a little unorthodox, for sure, but why don’t we meet for dinner tomorrow evening? That way I can give you all the time you need, and I guarantee you’ll get a much better story that way. I can relax and not worry about some PR guy waiting to jump down my throat.” Jake casually swung his bat, keeping an easy smile in place and knowing he risked putting her off from the get-go. It was obvious from the way her eyes had narrowed and her body tensed that she was surprised, if not shocked, by his unusual proposition.
“Hmm,” she murmured in a suspicious tone. She dropped her arms from the railing and crossed them over her chest, clearly perplexed by his request.
“You don’t have to answer right now,” he said. Actually, he wanted to push her for an answer, but he sensed she would bolt if he did. “You can catch me after the game, or leave a message at the hotel.”
Maddie smiled but didn’t look particularly happy. “I’m not sure taking time will help, Jake. We both know that all formal interviews with players are supposed to be set up by the team and take place in the media room or another approved location. You know what could happen if we violated those rules. Media Affairs hates it when players go rogue. It wouldn’t be smart for either of us to do that, as I’m sure you realize.”
Despite her words, Maddie’s assessing gaze suggested she might actually be mulling over his suggestion. And she hadn’t said no. She’d said it wouldn’t be smart, which he figured was a long way from a flat turndown.
He dropped the bat at his feet and leaned both arms on the barrier. “I admit it’s a bit unorthodox. But the PR flacks don’t have to know, right? We can make it an informal interview,” he said, playing on her words. “And we can pick a totally out-of-the-way restaurant, like somewhere up the coast. We meet, we eat, you ask all the questions you want, and then we go our separate ways back to the hotel. We’re in San Diego, not Philly, so it’s pretty unlikely anybody would recognize you, anyway. Then, if somebody asks where we did the interview, we can say we did it over the phone.”
“Lie, you mean,” she said in a doubtful tone.
“A harmless lie. And we can have a phone call, too.”
She peered down at her feet, suddenly looking a bit shy and fidgety. Jake could practically hear her thinking it through, weighing the pros and cons. God, she was cute. He decided to push it another notch.
Have a great Sunday!