Authors: Catherine Hart
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary
Jessica Myers is a spirited freelance journalist who has just
caught her biggest break: a feature story on the NFL expansion team, the
Columbus Knights. She figures the perfect place to start is by hiding out in
the team locker room--until she finds herself trapped inside a jammed locker
and running out of air. Now, Jessica has no choice but to reveal her
embarrassing predicament to the dazzling Knights' quarterback, Tyler James, who
mistakes her for some whacked-out groupie.
Ty had enough on his mind worrying about taking the Knights to the
playoffs. But then management orders him to pose as the headstrong reporter's
lover so that his fellow players will open up to her during interviews. Ty is
absolutely furious. Instead of chasing adoring cheerleaders, he's being
sidelined by this nosy woman who had the audacity to trespass on sacred team
ground and has a knack for putting her two cents in where it doesn't belong.
THE BIG PLAY
Now, in close quarters, the inescapable attraction between the
feisty reporter and the ultimate player is too hot for either to ignore. And
soon, the pair discovers they are in desperate danger of losing a game where no
rules apply...the game of hearts.
"Those two announcers in the booth seemed to think you were
pretty terrific," Jess informed him.
"Do tell. And what did you overhear?"
She grinned. "I shouldn't tell you. You might get a swelled
head." Darn! There was one of those double entendres again. She'd never
had so much trouble keeping her mind out of the gutter. "They said you had
great hands, and you didn't fumble very often," she related, managing to
keep her tone flat. "But they also said you've got to avoid the sack and
have better protection."
Ty drew in a deep breath, an unsuccessful attempt to tamp down his
rising libido. "Did they now? Well, I have to agree to some extent. Good
protection is a must. But eluding the rush isn't always possible, is it,
Jess?" He took a deliberate step toward her, his sharp, searching gaze
boring into hers. "Like now, for instance. 'I'm getting quite
Jess gulped and stepped backward. "You throw a smooth pass,
on or off the gridiron, but I'm not much for playing 'bump and run,' Ty."
"Me, either. I like to retain possession as long as
possible," he said, matching her quip for quip. He took another stride
forward and she retreated again. "Don't back down now, sugar, just when
the game is starting to get interesting."
One last step and he'd backed her to the edge of the bed. Jess
lost her balance. As she fell, she reached out, grabbing for something to hold
her upright. Her hands caught at Ty's shirt, and she wound up dragging him down
on top of her.
"Nice tackle," he said, before his mouth shrouded hers
in a long, blistering kiss....
ZEBRA BOOKS are published by Kensington Publishing Corp. 850 Third
New York, NY 10022
Copyright © 1998 by Diane Tidd
I dedicate this book to football fans everywhere, especially
female fans, like me. Also, I would like to assure everyone that I intend no
disrespect to the various NFL teams (or their players) that I mentioned in the
course of writing this book to enhance the story line. They're all great, in my
Whoa! Talk about tight ends and backfields in motion!
Myers squeezed her eyes shut once more and leaned her hot, damp forehead
against the inside of the locker door. One peek through the vent slats at the
chaos in the locker room beyond was enough to give her a whole new perspective
on these much-used football terms—not to mention the male anatomy—in a very
up-close, in-your-face kind of way. Now, if she could just keep herself from
hyperventilating in this claustrophobic tin box she'd chosen as her hiding
place, she might survive the experience!
When she'd decided to snoop around the locker room, she hadn't
counted on practice breaking up early, or having to stow away in an empty
locker so she wouldn't get caught. So much for Plan A! Now, thanks to a badly
timed chance glance, Jess would never be able to look these fellows in the eye
without recalling the sight of their bare behinds and turning beet red in the
Her only remaining hope was to stay hidden until she could sneak
out undetected. Given time, perhaps the memory of all those hairy, bulging
thighs, sweaty Godzilla-like chests, droopy jock straps, and assorted tattoos
would fade into oblivion. Then
again, maybe not. But with
luck, at least it would be her secret cross to bear, for this was one escapade
Jess didn't care to reveal to anyone.
A bead of perspiration rolled down her face and dripped from her
chin onto her chest to join others that had preceded it. Jess grimaced, forced
to ignore the growing discomfort, and the itch in the center of her back and
the end of her nose, neither of which could she scratch at the moment. Wedged
into the locker like a canned sardine, she couldn't even raise her arm far
enough for a glance at her watch. At five-foot ten inches tall, the only way
she'd fit inside at all had been to scrunch herself in with her knees bent, her
toes overlapping, her shoulders hunched together, and her arms crossed.
Her back was protesting the strain now, and—God help her—her knees
were beginning to wobble. Jess could only pray they didn't begin to knock
against the thin metal door, the latch of which she was holding onto with
near-numb fingers, lest anyone try to yank it open. Of course, with all the
racket these gridiron jocks were making, cracking towels and jokes at each
other and clanking equipment and lockers to beat the band, she doubted they
would hear any noise she'd make anyway.
Though it couldn't have been more than half an hour, or forty-five
minutes at most, it felt as if she'd been stuck here for an eternity already.
How long did it take these guys to shower and change clothes, for crying out
loud? She could have done it in half the time, and curled her hair to boot!
The pungent odor of muscle liniment tickled her nostrils, and Jess
squelched the urge to sneeze. Drat! Couldn't these macho Goliaths use the newer
brands that didn't stink so badly? Didn't they worry that the smell would clash
with their aftershave and make them reek to high heaven? Obviously not. After
years of inhaling the stench of the locker room, which had undoubtedly dulled
their olfactory capabilities beyond redemption, they probably thought they
smelled like veritable roses.
Liniment, varied colognes, several brands of soap and shampoo and
deodorant, talc, foot spray, mud, blood, sweat, grass, musty showers, grimy
shoes, and clothes filthy enough to defy
detergent—these scents and more combined to create that unique fragrance
familiar to locker rooms the world over. Whereas under normal circumstances it
would not have bothered Jess in the least, the odor totally permeated what
little moisture-laden air seeped through the door slats to her, and she was
fast becoming queasy. Hot, nauseous, even slightly light-headed. If these
gorgeous galoots didn't speed it up, so she could make good her escape, Jess
was apt to do something she'd never done in all of her twenty-seven years.
Faint. The question was, would she do so before or after she up-chucked her
Gradually, the locker room cleared out. The noise faded as one by
one and in small groups the men exited through the double doors to the outer
hall. Jess heard them calling farewell, trading a last joke or ribald comment.
Finally, all was silent.
Jess ventured another look. Big Willie Watson was just rounding
the far end of the row of lockers, hiking his jeans over his abundant
"love handles" as he went and offering Jess a parting glimpse of the
crevice between his buttocks in the process.
Jess made herself wait for several more minutes, listening for
footsteps or other indications that anyone else was still around. She heard
nothing but the hum and splash of the jacuzzi, which someone had left running.
She was really going to have to mention that to Tom. Here he and the other
owners were trying to make a go of a new NFL expansion team, and the players
were already squandering tightly budgeted money by leaving lights and equipment
on when they left for the night.
She had to flex her stiff fingers several times before she could
get any mobility back. Then, when she tried to manipulate the lock, it wouldn't
cooperate. She jiggled it. She smacked it with her fist. It gave a satisfying
rattle, but the door remained shut. Jess pushed on the thin metal panel, and
kicked at the bottom corner with her tennis shoe. Though she had little
leverage to her benefit, she shoved with hands and knees, applying all her
weight. But to no avail. The locker door was wedged tight. Jammed.
Again and again, Jess rammed her body against it, gaining
but a bruised shoulder. The door shook and resounded like a Chinese gong; with
each effort, it would bow outward only to snap back into place. Though not
normally prone to panic, Jessie was precariously close to it now. The more she
tugged and lunged and squirmed, the more excited she became, the quicker she
depleted the muggy supply of oxygen in the locker. Not that she was in any
danger of suffocation. Additional air continued to enter the door slats, but
she was rapidly consuming it in short, jerky breaths now—half cursing, half
sobbing. Tears blurred her vision, soon mingling with the salty streams of
perspiration running down her face.
"No!" she wailed, pounding on the jammed door. "I
refuse to be stuck in here!" Briefly, she wondered if one of the guys had
slipped a lock or something through the outer hasp, anchoring it fast. Could
she have missed that while she'd had her eyes closed? Was that why the door
refused to budge?
"Oh, please, no," she groaned. If that were the case,
despite the embarrassment it would cause, her only chance of release would be
to yell loudly enough to attract someone's attention. But whose? The players
were all gone. No one else was likely to drop by the locker room at this
hour—not even the malingering janitor who obviously needed to get the lead
out—and the Lysol! Good grief, it stank in here! And she could be trapped, like
a rabbit in a snare, until tomorrow, when the team returned to resume practice.
They did have practice the following day, didn't they? What if they didn't?
At that thought, hysteria
blossomed once more, full-bloom. Amid rising shrieks and several choice curses,
Jess pounded fists and feet against the stubborn door. "Let me out!
Somebody get me out of here!"
Ty was relaxing in the whirlpool, letting the swirling water
soothe his aching, abused muscles. His mind and body were adrift in a warm,
fuzzy state of bliss when the most god-awful racket yanked him rudely back to
reality. It seemed to be coming from the connecting locker room, and was fast
growing in volume, rising well above the rumble and splash of the jacuzzi.
or something, was banging on the lockers to beat hell.
"Hey! Knock it off out there!" Ty hollered.
The metallic din continued. "If I have to come out there, I'm
gonna kick some ass!" he warned. As an afterthought, he hoped he hadn't
just threatened "Sir Loin" Simms, a massive defensive tackle who
weighed well over three hundred pounds if he weighed an ounce, with hide as
tough as buffalo jerky. While no wimp himself at six-foot-three and tipping the
scales at two hundred ten, Ty was still just a slim-line quarterback by
comparison, and thumping "Sir Loin" was a task he'd rather leave to a
hapless member of an opposing team, thank you very much.
The noise built, the clanging now accompanied by an unearthly
shrieking. A week ago there had been a similar ruckus when, as a joke, one of
the guys put a baby pig in a comrade's locker. Ty sighed in exasperation.
"Here we go again. It's probably another pig, or maybe a cat this time,
and it had better not be trapped in my locker or there will be hell to
Reluctantly, Ty heaved himself up and out of the whirlpool. The
towel he hastily knotted around his waist did little to impede the streams of
water puddling in his wake as he trod barefoot into the locker room. The source
of the commotion, while as yet unidentified, was not difficult to locate. Ty simply
followed the nonstop clamor down the aisles until he stood opposite locker