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Authors: Jaci Burton

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BOOK: Straddling the Line
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“This one will definitely do.”

“Great. I’ll go get your bags and bring them up.”

“I’ll help you.”

They did it all in one trip. “I’ll just unpack and change clothes,” she said after Trevor set down her bags.

“Okay. Are you hungry? I’ll get us some dinner ordered.”

“Ordered?”

“I have someone on staff here who cooks. Salmon or steak tonight? Unless you’re vegetarian. Hammond makes kickass tofu stir-fry, too.”

“I’m not vegetarian, and either sounds great to me.”

“Okay. See you downstairs.”

After he shut the door, she shook her head. Not only was she living in a huge house, he had people to help him take care of it.

Did he even live alone, or were there other people here?

A girlfriend, maybe? She hadn’t even asked.

He’d been so polite, too. Not at all like his typical teasing ways. He hadn’t seemed like himself, which was . . . odd.

Haven shrugged it off and chalked it up to maybe Trevor treating her differently because he was doing an interview with her. It wasn’t like before, when she was just Bill Briscoe’s daughter, and he could laugh and tease with her. Though she certainly wouldn’t care either way. She knew when to get into professional mode, and right now she was just . . . Haven. She hoped he wouldn’t feel uncomfortable around her. That was the last thing she needed. She felt uncomfortable enough in her own skin these days.

She took a look around, pretty damned impressed with what she saw. The house was huge, the furnishings expensive but tasteful. He’d obviously put some care and effort into this place, unlike a lot of guys who might just buy a condo and get a couch and a TV and not care. It was clear that he cared, that this place meant something to him.

Trevor had certainly come a long way. Much further than she’d expected. He had a chef, and people to clean his house. He’d certainly surprised the hell out of her. She had no idea he was doing so well for himself. He’d always seemed so laid back. A blue-jeans-and-T-shirt kind of guy. She’d just never given much thought to his salary, though she knew he made a lot of money playing both baseball and football. And he had all those endorsement deals, too. He was a popular athlete, both on the field and off.

She went over to the bed where Trevor had laid her suitcases and pulled out her notebook to jot down some notes. She’d known Trevor since his freshman year of college, just like all the guys who’d passed through the university and stayed in the dorm managed by her mom
and dad. She’d like to think she knew more about him than anyone else she’d ever interviewed.

But she still had questions, and needed to develop an interesting angle to approach the interviews. There were very few athletes who played dual sports, at least few who did it successfully. Trevor had managed to be lightning quick at tight end for Tampa, and also put up some impressive statistics for the St. Louis Rivers baseball team. How did he do that? And how did the teams feel about a player who couldn’t really give his all to either team? Did his agent negotiate his ability to move between the two? How did his teammates feel about a hotshot player like Trevor dividing his time between the two sports? She was eager to ask those questions.

She had a lot of questions about his personal life, too. Like this house, and his lifestyle.

Would he answer those?

For the first time since her father died, she felt stirrings of excitement about her job.

She unpacked and changed into capris and a short-sleeved shirt. Even though it was late September, it was a very warm day. Maybe Trevor would give her a tour of the grounds.

She took her time walking down the long hallway that connected her wing with the main section of the house. Wide windows gave an expansive view of the wooded area she’d seen while coming up to the house.

It was a beautiful view, and there were so many windows in this place, she understood the appeal.

She wound her way through the myriad of rooms, finding a tall, thin, gray-haired man in the kitchen.

“You must be Hammond.”

He smiled at her. “And you must be Haven.” He wiped his hand on his apron. “Very nice to meet you.”

They shook hands. “You, too. I didn’t mean to intrude.”

“You’re not intruding. I was just cooking up some steaks for dinner. And now that you’re here, you can tell me how you like yours, since Trevor didn’t know.”

“Medium well, please.”

“Okay, then, Haven. I’ll just get back to dinner.”

“You wouldn’t happen to know where Trevor is, would you?”

“I saw him heading toward the sunroom a little while ago.”

“Okay, thanks, Hammond.”

She made her way toward the sunroom. At least every room led into another via the hallway, so she couldn’t get lost.

Trevor was on the phone, so she hung back, watching him. Sunlight glinted off his dark hair. His long legs were stretched out and he looked . . . completely relaxed, at ease, so casual, incongruous with this behemoth of a house.

He was living in Wayne Manor. Was he Batman? She smiled at the thought of Trevor as some superhero. On the field, definitely. But off the field? Not really. He wasn’t the type of athlete who made a spectacle of himself. He was very low profile, easygoing, just an everyman kind of guy, not a superstar. Whenever he’d been around her, he’d always seemed so at ease with everyone. Whereas Haven . . . well, she’d never been comfortable around him, had she?

Her thoughts drifted back to the tutoring sessions she’d given Trevor in college. Her father had suggested them, and she’d balked. She’d loved the idea of gaining experience in one of her chosen fields, since back then she hadn’t yet decided between a career in journalism or teaching. So she’d done a lot of tutoring. But spending one-on-one time with Trevor had made her freeze up.

He’d intimidated her, likely because she’d been crazy in love with him—at least the kind of crazy in love a nondescript girl could have been with the unattainable type of athlete Trevor was. He’d only half paid attention to her because she’d been Bill Briscoe’s
daughter, and all the guys had worshipped her dad. And when her father had offered her up as a tutor, Trevor had known better than to say no. Besides, he had to pass his classes, or risk losing his scholarship, so he’d agreed.

She remembered her heart pounding incessantly, her palms sweating as she’d sat next to him in her room at the house while she’d worked with him. She’d been so preoccupied with his muscles, his clean, crisp scent, how big his hands were, and the way he always laughed with her and teased her.

That had been Trevor, even back then. Always at ease, able to laugh. While she’d been a giant ball of tension.

She’d been such a mess around him, not her usual cool, confident self. In academia she’d been a rock star. He’d even teased her about being brainy, the worst possible thing he could have said to a young woman with a monster-sized crush on a sexy athlete. She’d wanted to be sexy and beautiful, not smart, back then. At least around him. And all he’d noticed about her was that she had the smarts to help him pass his classes. He hadn’t made it easy on her, either. God, he’d been lazy. At least academically. Sportswise, he’d been a goddamned superstar.

Which intrigued her, because he’d carried that perseverance into his professional career.

And look at his success now.

He’d finished his phone call, so she stepped into the sunroom. When he spotted her, he stood.

“Oh, hey, did you get unpacked?”

“Yes.”

“Is your room okay?”

“My room is fantastic, thanks.”

“Great. Have a seat.”

She took a seat across from him in one of the cushioned chairs.

“There’s some iced tea and water in the pitchers,” he said,
motioning to two glass pitchers on the nearby table. “Would you like something?”

“Tea would be wonderful.” She started to get up, but he stopped her.

“I’ll take care of it.”

“What? No servants hovering nearby to do that for you?”

“Uh, no. I’m pretty sure I can take care of this part by myself.”

“But you have a chef.”

“Yeah.” He took a drink out of his glass, then set it down. “Hammond used to work for the Rivers organization in concessions. He’d always been a big fan, and all the players liked him a lot. A couple of years ago he reached retirement age, but he and his wife Lyla still have a mortgage to pay off. Plus they’re raising two of their grandkids because . . . well, because of some private circumstances. When I heard about that, I hired him on to help here at the house. He’s a hell of a cook. Wait till you taste the steaks.”

What a story, and what a surprise. “You’re quite the humanitarian, Trevor.”

Trevor gave her an enigmatic smile. “I like good food, and like I said, Hammond can cook the daylights out of anything. I think I got the better end of the deal.”

He was modest as well. He didn’t want to appear the hero. She didn’t know what to make of that. “That was very nice of you.”

Trevor just shrugged, and she felt awful for thinking him living the rich and privileged life, when he’d just given an old man and his family a decent break.

She had a lot to learn about Trevor. And she needed to stop prejudging him and start using her investigative skills in the way she’d been taught.

She wished she’d brought her laptop down with her so she could make some notes.

It was time to put her game face on and get to work.

THREE

“SO TELL ME, TREVOR . . . WHY THIS HOUSE?”

Trevor could tell Haven wanted to make this an interview, that she wanted to get down to business right away. Maybe that was a good thing—at least for her. She seemed at ease, which he was happy to see.

“Why that question? And is it a professional question, or a personal one?” Trevor asked.

Her lips tilted. “Maybe a little of both.”

“Fair enough.” He leaned back in the chair. “I liked all the trees. And all the space. Plus the pool. There was plenty of space to do everything I wanted. I didn’t grow up with a lot of room, so just having that freedom to wander makes me happy.”

She stood, went to the window, and looked out over the back of the property, before turning back to face him with a smile. “I can see that.”

How had he not noticed her in college? She was beautiful. She’d
always seemed pissed off at him when they were in school together. Then again, she’d been forced to tutor him, and he knew damn well he hadn’t been an easy student.

He’d been too preoccupied with football, and with trying to pass his classes by the skin of his teeth so he wouldn’t lose his scholarship. Haven had been nothing but a means to an end for him. He hadn’t thought of her as a desirable young woman. She’d been his salvation, and he’d used her in that way. Besides, she was Bill’s daughter, and that had made her strictly off-limits.

But now? Now . . . ah, hell. She was still off-limits. He owed Ginger—and Bill—and it was his duty to get Haven fired up. And not in a sexual way.

But damn, as she stood there, her posture perfect, her legs outlined in those tight pants she wore, he realized how much time he’d let get away without really getting to know her better.

And now—now they were working together, which meant he couldn’t cross that line.

Or he shouldn’t, anyway. That wasn’t what she was here for, and she sure as hell wasn’t interested in him that way. She’d made that clear in college, and the two of them had butted heads ever since. He was surprised she’d agreed to this assignment, but he saw that as a good sign. So had Ginger, when he’d told her.

But when had his body ever cooperated with his mind? He found her attractive, especially now. She’d grown her raven hair out some. She always used to wear it very short. Now it framed her face, the breeze coming in through the open windows blowing strands of it against her cheek. She’d taken off her sunglasses, giving him a look at her beautiful blue eyes. But they weren’t normal blue. They were . . . what was that color again? He couldn’t remember.

“You’re staring at me, Trevor.”

“Was I? Sorry. Want to take a walk outside before dinner?”

“Sure.”

No hesitation. He liked that. He stood and led her out the side door and down the steps toward the pool. “It’s heated, in case you want to take a swim.”

“Okay, thanks. It’s still plenty warm outside. It might feel good.”

“Yeah. Especially after a hot game.”

She stopped, turned to him. “Your next one is tomorrow? A home series this weekend?”

“Yeah. Against Chicago. You’ll be there?”

“I will.”

They walked along the path between the backyard and the woods. He liked the quiet, the sounds of the breeze rustling the leaves of the trees. It gave him time to think.

“So you had a day off today,” she said as they walked side by side.

“Yeah.”

“What do you do on your rare days off?”

“I spent some time on the phone with my lawyers, hashing out some business deals. Talked to my football team in Tampa.”

“They’re under way now,” she said.

“I know.”

“Does it pull at you, knowing you’re missing the start of the season?”

He shrugged. “Not much I can do about it. There’s only one of me and I can’t be two places at one time.”

She paused and tilted her head up to look at him. “Are you sure? I mean, you are a superstar and all.”

He laughed. “Yeah, that’s me.” He liked that her sense of humor seemed intact.

When they made the turnaround on the path, he said, “Come on, let’s go see if Hammond has those steaks ready.”

“Okay.”

“Oh, I have one more phone call to make. Meet you in the kitchen?”

“Sure. I’ll just take our drinks in there.” She stopped at the sunroom, picked up the tray, and left the room.

Trevor took a minute to grab his phone and give her mom a quick call.

“Why, hello, Trevor.”

“Hi, Miss Ginger. I don’t have much time, but wanted to let you know Haven’s here.”

“How is she?”

“She seems okay. She hasn’t been here long, but we had a short talk. She seems in good spirits and doesn’t appear to be down or anything.”

BOOK: Straddling the Line
8.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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