Authors: Cat Johnson
Text copyright ©2014 by the Author.
This work was made possible by a special license through the Kindle Worlds publishing program and has not necessarily been reviewed by Nyree Belleville, Oak Press, LLC. All characters, scenes, events, plots and related elements of Game For Love remain the exclusive copyrighted and/or trademarked property of Nyree Belleville, Oak Press, LLC, or their affiliates or licensors.
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game for love, only the winners walk away with their hearts intact…
Trent O’Shea is a superstar athlete on the football field, but for one week each year he escapes into anonymity at an exclusive resort in the Florida Keys that caters to the rich and famous. Armed with a fake identity, he’s happy to sit by the pool and do nothing except enjoy some breathtaking scenery—and maybe ask her if she needs help putting sunscreen on her back.
Laurel Burnett never met a bad boy she couldn’t catch. Cheating spouses. Deadbeat dads. Scammers. Once the determined PI sets her sights on them they all fall, and the next alleged perpetrator in her crosshairs is none other than the San Francisco Outlaws’ Trent O’Shea. The super-sexy linebacker who Laurel’s client hired her to track will be her biggest trophy yet. She’ll do anything to bring him down, even follow him to a resort paradise and use herself as bait.
But things aren’t always as they appear and Trent and Laurel both learn that sometimes even perfectly planned plays can go wrong when love and lust are involved. Then it’s game on!
end of another season.” Cole raised his beer in a toast.
Trent would gladly drink to that.
He clanked his longneck bottle against Cole’s and added, “And here’s to having a break from it all for a little while.”
A cold beer. A corner table in a dark bar. His
good friend and teammate Cole Taylor seated opposite him. That right there had all the makings of a good evening in Trent O’Shea’s opinion.
Of course, how long it would last was up for debate. It was only a matter of time before the damn
ed reporters tracked them down. Or one of the other patrons recognized that two of the San Francisco Outlaws defense were among them.
Then they’d either come over and ask to take a picture
—which Trent didn’t mind—or they’d start trying to sneak one by holding their cell phones up and pretending to search for signal. As if he didn’t know they were really taking a picture to share on whatever the hot new social media site was this month.
That pissed Trent the hell off. It made him feel
as if he was being hunted like some sort of human prey. Back in Texas, years ago when he’d been a normal guy, he would have pummeled a guy for less. But that was before the full-ride football scholarship to the University of Texas put his face on every television in the country. Before he’d lost all semblance of privacy and a personal life. Back when he could see a pretty little thing in the local honkytonk, take her out to his truck and not worry she’d sell the story to the papers the next day. Or make a play for a wedding ring and his millions.
A hottie with more boobs showing than he’d seen outside of a strip club sauntered by the tabl
e and shot him a heated glance.
Yup, that was just the type he knew would
say she wanted to have his baby. . . and then take all his money.
With a sigh, Trent yanked his gaze back to the safe zon
e. God, he missed the old days when he was a poor nobody. And he really, really missed sex.
A crooked grin tipped up
the corner of Cole’s mouth. “You really do hate it, don’t you?”
“The game? No. I l
ove to play football and you know it. Hell, I’m from Texas. You don’t love football from the time you can walk, they run you out of town on a rail.” Cole laughed as Trent continued, “The other bull that comes with it though? Yeah, that I could do without a’ight.”
Just thinking about the
paparazzi and the press had Trent turning to look for the waitress to order another round and see if he could spot any tabloid photographers who might have snuck in while he wasn’t looking.
He got the server’s
attention and raised two fingers, then turned back to Cole. “You can stay for another round, can’t you?”
“Yeah. Anna’s baby shower should be going on for a couple of hours and I was warned it was girls only and to steer clear of the house.” Cole absolutely glowed when he talked about his wife and his impending leap into fatherhood.
Trent was torn between feeling scared and envious at the thought. Still, it must be nice to have someone to go home to, especially during the off season. “You have plans for the time off?”
eah. I’ll be spending twenty-four/seven keeping my very pregnant wife happy.”
Is Anna feeling okay?”
He figured she
must be nearing the final stages of the pregnancy. She had to be. She was huge. She was still beautiful, but yeah, there was no doubt there was the baby of a linebacker growing in that belly. Poor little thing looked like she’d topple over if her front side got any heavier.
he’s doing good.” Cole’s gaze cut to Trent and then away. “She’s in the stage where she’s, um, more demanding than usual. It’s supposedly all the hormones.”
“You mean like bossy?” Anna seemed as sweet as usual to Trent last he’d seen her.
“No, demanding in the
.” Cole had dropped his voice low for that revelation, but not low enough for Trent.
“Dude. No, I don’t wanna hear that. TMI.” Trent buried his head in his hands trying to block his ears
from the information he didn’t want.
Cole laughed. “What? It’s no secret. It’s in all the pregnancy books.”
“Well, I don’t happen to be up on my baby book reading so keep that shit to yourself, please.”
“Okay, sissy boy.”
Cole rolled his eyes. “You’d probably crawl right under the table if I told you about mucous plugs and afterbirth—”
, I swear to God, don’t make me knock you right out of that chair.”
Trent had pulled his share of calves during calving season back on his granddadd
y’s ranch. He’d been elbow deep inside some pretty gross shit that Cole wouldn’t even be able to imagine, but hearing this kind of stuff about his friend’s wife was too much. He had to look Anna in the face next time he saw her and when he did he didn’t want to think about any of the things Cole was putting in his head.
Thank God the waitress appeared with their beers and gave Trent a reprieve from more talk of birthing horrors.
When the waitress had left them alone again, Cole eyed Trent. “What are your plans for the break? You headed home to Texas?”
Trent wobbled his head. “Eventually, yeah. But first I’m taking a week away from everyone
, including family and friends. Someplace where no one knows me.”
It sounded horrible, but he really did need some time completely alone to decompress from the demands of the s
eason. Especially a season when the Outlaws hadn’t made the Super Bowl. It seemed the press was even more vicious and relentless in pursuing the losers of the final playoff game, than the winners. That he and Cole had made it out of the team meeting and to the bar without fighting a throng of paparazzi was a miracle.
Cole snorted out a laugh. “Where do you think you can go that no one knows you? You buy a tic
ket to the space station? Because I’m betting the guys at NASA are fans too, so that plan could backfire on you. You’ll be floating around in zero gravity, running over game plans with a bunch of astronauts who’d wanted to play pro football when they were a kid.”
, ha. And no, not the space station. I got a place.” Miles of sandy beaches. The prettiest water he’d ever seen. Sunsets amazing enough to make even a jaded man like himself slow down long enough to take notice. An entire week of nothing but a cold drink in his hand and the warm breeze at his back.
Cole raised his brows. “Do tell. If this paradise really does exist, I want in.”
Cole was right. I
t was paradise.
paradise and he wasn’t sharing.
“Nope.” Trent shook his head. “Sorry, man. It’s secret.”
A furrow creased Cole’s forehead. “What do you mean it’s a secret? You won’t even tell me?”
“Especially not you.”
“Why the hell not? Don’t you trust me?”
I trust you.” It was most everyone else in the world Trent didn’t trust. “But if you show up people are gonna recognize you. Once word spreads that the Outlaws vacation at this place, I’ll never be able to go there again.”
“Come on. You’ve been there and no one recognized you, right?”
“Because I take extreme precautions to make sure they don’t. And I go alone, not with a wife who’s been in the press as much as you lately.” Trent shook his head again, more adamantly this time. “Nope. I can’t risk it.”
When Trent said extreme precau
tions, he meant it. Fake name. Adding blonde highlights to his normally brown hair. He was so careful he kept a tank top on even at the pool to hide the Texas Longhorns tattoo he’d gotten on his chest senior year.
Two years ago h
e’d even considered brown contact lenses to cover his green eyes. That plan had fallen through before it even got off the ground. Day one in the eye doctor’s office Trent had found that though he could face the biggest meanest opposition during a game, he was too scared to stick a piece of plastic in his eye. Luckily, he’d gotten away with sunglasses during the day and fake eyeglasses at night for two years running with no problem.
Letting Cole in on the deal
knowing his fame? Nope.
Including his friend
would be the end of Trent’s annual retreat. Cole’s longtime infamy with the press had only been escalated by the notorious bad boy’s recent marriage to and pending child with Anna. A superstar couldn’t marry a completely unknown first grade teacher on a whim in Vegas without causing some pretty big ripples in the press.
“I can’t believe you.” Cole scowled.
“Sorry, Cole. I love you like a brother, but you’ll have to find your own hidey-hole. This one is mine.”
Looking pissed, Cole took a swallow of his beer as Trent laughed at his expression.
His friend would get over it by the time he finished
this bottle. Trent, on the other hand, might just lose his mind completely without his annual weeklong escape from the hell of being famous, and that price was too high to pay even for friendship.
He was heading to Florida
and he was going alone.
Burnett handed the very pregnant and sobbing woman seated on the other side of her desk the box of tissues she kept in her office for instances just like this one. “Here.”
, a Ms. Becky Langley, thanked her and then blew her nose loudly.
To give the woman the time she needed to get herself together, Laurel made a show of rea
ding over the file on her desk.
ou’ve tried contacting Mr. O’Shea about the . . . situation?” Laurel glanced at what she could see of the woman’s protruding belly before yanking her gaze back up.
“Yes. Over and over from the moment I found out I was pregnant.”
“And what was his response, if any?”
let out a snort. “I have no idea. I’ve never been able to get past his ‘people’. They protect him like he’s some sort of god. Meanwhile, who was there to protect me from him that weekend he got me pregnant and then disappeared? Hmm?”
Speaking of protection, the client probably should have used some
, but that ship had long sailed. Laurel glanced down at her notes and confirmed that the incident had occurred in July. Six, soon to be seven months ago.
“Did you know who he was when you two
were, um, spending time together?”
“Well, no I didn’t recognize him until he told me
his name and that he played for the San Francisco Outlaws. Then, of course, I recognized him immediately.”
“Can you describe him to me?”
“You can do an internet search yourself. There are pictures all over the web.”
Since Laurel wasn’t a footbal
l fan she would have to do that, on top of more in-depth searches that her resources allowed her to access. Things the average layperson couldn’t get to.
“Though, he does
look a lot different online,” the client continued.
Warning bells went off in Laurel’s head. “Different how?”
“Well, he was a lot heavier when I met him, but he explained that. He’d been injured in practice and couldn’t work out, so he’d put on a lot of weight. The extra weight even made his face look different than his team picture. Besides, that was taken the year they recruited him when he was much younger, so of course he looked different. And he said the Outlaws airbrush all the guys’ photos so they look better.”
Seriously doubting the bullshit this guy was spewing, Laurel sighed at the gullibility of some women. “What about specifics? Hair color?”