Authors: Lorhainne Eckhart
Tags: #sagas, #contemporary romance, #women's fiction
The Wilde Brothers
Jake Wilde has two loves, but neither is going his way.
Jake Wilde, the youngest of the Wilde brothers, has it all. He’s a pro football star with the woman of his dreams by his side…or so he thought.
In a desperate attempt to keep the woman he loves, he asks her to marry him. The last thing Jake Wilde expects is for her to turn him down and walk out the door at the same time that his football team decides to trade him.
Chris Jeger, a legal assistant and part-time cheerleader for the Cardinals, has been waiting for true love. When she overhears Jake Wilde making a personal plea to some woman on the phone, she can see he’s heading down the road to disaster. Instead of walking away, she steps in to offer him advice so he doesn’t turn his life upside down the same way she once did.
Their friendship develops, and one night their emotions collide—but when someone unexpected suddenly knocks on his door, Jake learns that sometimes, what you wish for isn’t what you really want.
As real life interferes with her hopes and dreams, will Chris once again be brokenhearted, left on the outside looking in?
If you love the Wilde Brothers, you may also enjoy these other series:
THE OUTSIDER SERIES:
An emotionally charged romance series beginning with the Amazon bestseller
The Forgotten Child
THE FRIESSENS: A NEW BEGINNING:
The return of the Friessen men and the women they love in this family
saga that follows
THE OUTSIDER SERIES
THE SAVED SERIES:
A hot suspense with a love story in a military setting. “This was a hard book to put down! A tough captain of a war ship finds a pregnant young girl in a dinghy alone in the ocean!”—Audrey
“The story that unfolds after Abby is rescued is a story of love and how it can change even the toughest man.”—Crazy Fast Reader
WALK THE RIGHT ROAD SERIES:
will leave you questioning your own morals and motivations and leave you asking others what they would do in that same situation. This is a genre-bending novel that will surprise you.”—JRA.
“Rarely have I spent time reading a series that had me feeling every thought and emotion.”—Mary Ellen
Table of Contents
“Son, that’s the way things work here. You being traded is a part of life, and Phoenix is a great team, great place to live. It’s hot, never rains, plenty of women to choose from.”
Jake stared into the deep-set blue eyes of Murray Donnelly, his about-to-be former coach for the Seahawks. The man had a heavily lined face and thin white hair, and he rapped his knuckles on the desk before leaning back in his chair. He had been behind this crappy old beat-up desk in the basement office for probably half a century. Hell, the team could afford better,
better, but Murray had a thing for old and beat up. Or so Jake often thought.
He squirmed in the wooden chair, and it squeaked under his weight. It wasn’t that he was overweight: Jake Wilde, the youngest of the Wilde brothers, was in the best shape, he figured, of his football career. At six foot two and packing a solid 230 pounds, all lean and hard muscle, he wondered if the chair would hold his weight. It sometimes seemed like all the furniture around him had been made for a kid.
“Look, I know you didn’t want this, but let’s get real, son. You’re young, at the prime of your life, and you’ve already been out with how many injuries?” Murray scowled and then ran his tongue over his coffee-stained teeth. He wasn’t much to look at, but he’d kicked Jake’s ass from one end of the field to the other and had been the closest thing to a father that he’d ever had—that is, next to Logan, his older brother.
It hurt to be tossed away, turned away by a man he’d thought would fight for him.
“Cardinals are a good team. Bucky Phillips is a good coach.”
Jake wasn’t a moron. Murray always called out in great detail who was who and who sucked big time. Jake wondered if he’d had to choke out the “good” part, as Murray and Bucky were about as friendly as two hounds circling the same bitch. His lips actually twitched when he pictured them both snarling in the same undignified way.
“Look, son.” Murray fidgeted in his chair, leaning back, resting his elbow on the seat arm as he turned to the side. He pulled away just enough that Jake could tell the old man was getting nervous. Feelings were the one thing this man didn’t do, didn’t talk about.
“I know, Coach. It wasn’t your decision.” At least he hoped it wasn’t. He spied a flash of color on Murray’s cheeks. Maybe he was wrong. His stomach tightened at the thought that Coach could be responsible for sending him on his way.
He cleared his throat, which thickened when he thought too much. Reading too much into a situation was one of his flaws. “So I’m replacing Brown?” he said. “He was a second-round pick, a favorite.” He couldn’t say anything else, as he knew he had tough shoes to fill. Brown had been fast, but Jake was faster—or had been before his ACL tear. Now the Phoenix quarterback would be looking for Jake on that field, and it was their relationship, the trust between them, that would mean the difference between winning and losing and being part of that team.
“Yeah, Brown’s out. Tough card he got dealt with that last injury. Retired young, retired early. But not you.” Coach swung around, setting his feet on the ground and standing up, sticking his hand out to Jake. It was his way of saying they were done, so long, get out of here.
It was awkward and impersonal. Jake thought the old man would have hugged him after all they’d been through: the games, hotels, travelling, training. They had been closer than family at one time, or so he thought. He stood up, feeling a twinge in his knee, and shook the old man’s hand, looking down at him.
Murray slapped his shoulder with his other hand. “Get out of here, and make sure you listen to the doc. Stick with your physio. You can’t afford any more injuries, because right now the entire world is watching you.”
Jake knew what he was saying. The football world was the only world that existed for the coach. Anyone or anything else out there was a nobody.
As soon as his thumb pressed the numbers on his cell phone, he knew he shouldn’t have made the call.
Hang up now, stupid!
he could hear his head screaming at his heart. This was one of those idiotic things Jake couldn’t stop himself from doing. He felt, at times, as if he were part of a train wreck.
He walked along the end zone as the phone rang, watching his team—his former team—practice. He loved the grunts, the whistles, the plays called, the sweat, the running, everything about the game. And he’d loved this team.
Two rings and no answer. Dammit, he didn’t want to leave another message, because he knew he was starting to sound pathetic. Three rings…
“Hey, Jake, wait up!” Glen Chalmer, the team physician who’d benched him, was jogging his way. Lean, middle aged, average, he was a man who wouldn’t stick out in any crowd—but he was also a dick, considering he overlooked injuries all the time, all except Jake’s. For some reason, Glen had it in for him. It had to be that.
Four rings. “Hi, this is Jill. I can’t take your call. Leave a message and I’ll call you back.”
He held up his hand and gave Glen his back. “Hey, Jill, this Jake…” Crap, did his voice sound weak and pathetic? Of course she knew it was him. She was probably screening this call just like all the others he had made. “I know I said I’d give you some space, but I wanted to let you know I’m leaving tonight—for Arizona…Phoenix,” he said for emphasis, as if she didn’t have a clue where he was going or had missed all the other messages he’d left.
He took the phone and smacked it against his forehead a couple times, then noticed the doc frowning. Maybe Glen had picked up on how desperate he was sounding. “I hoped you’d call me back before now. It’s been…how long?” Twenty-six days and counting, and it was almost the end of the season. “I’d still love for you to come with me. So…call me.” He made himself hit the “End call” button and pocket his cell phone as he jammed his fingers through his thick, dark hair. He could feel the ends, longer than they should be, but he’d let it grow, stopped shaving. Stopped caring, really.
“Glen,” he bit out. He knew he sounded like a prick, but he didn’t care. Glen was the last person to whom he wanted to extend any bit of civility. He crossed his arms over his wide chest, his navy hoodie pulling against his back. He took a breath, puffing out his chest, letting Glen sweat just a bit at the sight of the big hulk of a guy staring back at him, a pissed-off hulk of a guy. Jake was big enough, strong enough, built enough that he could use it to make a man nervous when he wanted. And right now, he just didn’t give a shit about playing nice.
“Just wanted to see how you’re doing, how that last checkup went for you with the ortho specialist I sent you to,” Glen said.
See how he was doing, his ass. Jake started to say something, then glanced up and away for a second. “Fine,” he said. “Take care, Glen. Got to go.”
He started to turn away when the man reached out and touched his arm. Seriously. Jake’s gaze went right there, to that light, slender hand on his bulging right bicep. He just stared at it with loathing, as if Glen had any hope in hell of holding him back.
Instead of using his words, as he knew Logan, his big brother, would have warned him—damn him, too, for being in his head—he reached down and lifted Glen’s hand from his arm and took a step back.
Glen must have known that Jake wasn’t in a mood to be messed with, as he raised his hands in the air in surrender. “Sorry, I can see you’re still a little upset. I’m sorry, Jake, but this is the business, and as the team physician, it’s up to me to make sure you’re okay. We’re a team here. Everyone gets injured, some worse than others. It just happened that your injuries were back to back. You pushed yourself too hard, didn’t let up. Listen, if you continue to push yourself, that knee injury won’t heal. Stick with your physio.”
The way he rattled it off, Jake wasn’t interested. In fact, he started away again, one step, two steps across the turf.
“Jake,” Glen called out.
He glanced over his shoulder at the team physician, who was wearing the same light khaki pants he always wore, the dark blue and white team jacket, the light green lettering with the Seahawks logo on the front. He wore it like he owned it as his hands rested on his hips.
“Your first stop tomorrow morning is at nine a.m. with the Cardinals’ physician. He’s expecting you. Don’t be late.”
Jake hesitated a second, giving his head a shake, then walked out of the stadium, feeling Glen’s eyes burning into him the entire time.
He hated red. The color unsettled him. It was one of those things he hadn’t given much thought to until it was shoved right in his face, firing him up much like a red blanket did a feisty bull. Everywhere he looked, there it was, that deep blood-red color. Red jerseys, red shorts, the banners, the seats…even the cheerleaders’ pompoms were red. Add to that the Arizona heat, a dry climate far different than the one he was used to. He never thought he’d say it in a million years, but he missed the rain, the clouds, the green, the ocean. He was homesick for Seattle even though he’d grown up in rural Idaho, with deep snow and long, cold winters, mountains all around them. Seattle had been his home, the first one of his adult life since getting drafted as a first-round pick for the Seahawks. He’d been the favorite then, but oh, how things changed.
His gym bag tossed over his shoulder, Jake watched the team training on the field from the sidelines. He chewed a piece of gum as he took in the team, the Cardinals, running and tackling, then the whistle blowing and the coaching staff yelling. He spotted Jeger, a wide receiver, running a pass. The man was fast and had been with the team a long time, but the play he had called out at the line last year, when he’d fumbled the ball and cost them the season, would forever be his legacy. It was the type of screw-up every player prayed would never happen.
“So you made it.” Bucky Phillips rested his hand on his shoulder. Jake had forgotten how tall the man was, this man he had never understood. He was in good shape and stood eye to eye with Jake, and he wore dark glasses and his trademark Cardinals cap, his sandy hair sticking out at the sides. His arms were tanned in his white golf shirt, blue jeans. His smile revealed white teeth, but Jake knew all too well that with men like Bucky, a smile only hid what they were really thinking.