Book 9 in the Play-by-Play Series
February 3, 2015
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Book 9 in the Play-by-Play Series
Playing For Keeps
Grant Cassidy knows how to be a football star—flash that dazzling smile, throw the winning pass, get the girl. But while the hot quarterback loves the game and the lifestyle, no woman has come close to catching his heart. Then he matches wits with a smart, gorgeous model, and Grant finds himself wanting more than a fling.
Supermodel Katrina Koslova might live in a world of glitz and camera flashes, but she works hard to provide for the family that relies on her. She doesn’t have time for fun—much less a boyfriend—but Grant seems determined to be the exception to Katrina’s rule.
Their explosive chemistry is undeniable, but Katrina’s afraid to let go and rely on anyone but herself. Grant intends to ease her fears and prove he’s a man of style and substance.
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If there was one thing Grant Cassidy hated more than anything, it was PR. Doing commercial shoots was a necessary evil, and some he disliked more than others.
But right now he was in board shorts and bare feet, standing on a beach in Barbados, about to do a shoot for the annual swimsuit edition of a pretty damned famous sports magazine. There were about two dozen barely clad, tanned and gorgeous models who were going to take part in the shoot along with several athletes.
All in all? Not a bad gig.
“This I could get used to.”
Grant grinned as one of his best friends, Trevor Shay, stood next to him.
“Don’t get too used to it. Your girlfriend will kick your ass if you get too close to any of these models.”
Trevor crossed his arms. “Yeah. I really wish Haven could be here in Barbados with me. But she’s in school right now and couldn’t make it. She did tell me to behave myself. Like that was even necessary. Trust me, none of these women are as beautiful as mine.”
Grant laughed. “You’re blinded by love, my man.”
“It’s true. I am. And perfectly happy to go back to my bungalow at night all by myself. How about you? You like dating models. Got one scoped out yet?”
He had dated models in the past. They were beautiful and fun. “I wasn’t exactly looking.”
“It’s still early in the day. I have high hopes for you.” Trevor slapped him on the back as the assistant director motioned for him. “Hey, I’m up. I’ll catch you at the bar later.”
Grant stayed close and watched as Trevor was put into a shot on a hammock with a beautiful, dark-skinned model. The model straddled Trevor, who Grant had to admit handled the whole thing professionally. As soon as it was over, Trevor shook the woman’s hand and wandered off in the direction of the pool.
“You’ll be up next, Grant,” the assistant said. “We’re pairing you up with Katrina Korsova.”
“Sure.” He knew who she was. Korsova was a big deal in the modeling world, one of those supermodels whose face and body was plastered all over billboards, in magazines and on television. She was a beauty. He was lucky to be doing the shoot with her. It would advance his profile, and he was all about exposure.
If he had to be here doing this shoot for the sports magazine, at least he was being paired up with one of the best in the business.
Once they readied the shot on the beach, he was called over and set up on his marks. He stood in the water up to his ankles. They’d already primped his hair, his face, and his skin. It all felt weird to him, but he’d done photo shoots before. They told him it was to combat shine and to make sure his hair would be gelled appropriately enough so it would behave.
Whatever. He was paid to do what he was told, just like in football. So he stood where they told him to stand.
“We’re ready for you, Katrina,” he heard the assistant say.
The models were clustered in shaded cabanas before the shoot, so he’d only caught glimpses of them on and off.
Katrina stepped out, a gorgeous woman with long hair the color of midnight, wearing a swimsuit bottom that barely clung to her hips. It was more like two tiny pieces of cloth tied together with scraps. There wasn’t much to the top, either. Just a couple of triangles that hardly covered her generous breasts.
She was curved in all the right places, and after she bent over so they could spray her hair wet, she straightened, flipped her hair back, then gave him a look.
Wow. Those eyes. They were so deep blue they were almost violet. Maybe they were violet. He had no idea, because he’d been struck dumb as she approached him.
He’d been around plenty of beautiful women before, but Katrina was . . . wow. Photos of her didn’t do justice to what a knockout she really was.
“Grant Cassidy, this is Katrina Korsova.”
She gave him a quick nod, then turned to the director, obviously all business and not as thunderstruck by him as he had been by her.
He was going to try not to be offended by that. Then again, she likely worked around good-looking male models all the time. He was no big deal, at least not in the modeling world.
“I want your arm around his, Katrina,” the director said. “Katrina, your right breast against his chest, with you facing him. Let’s see some heat here.”
It was as if they were on a movie set and the director had said “action.” Where she had previously ignored him as if he didn’t exist, now Katrina moved into him, her body warm and pliant as she slid her hand into his hair and tilted her head back. Their hips touched, their thighs made contact, and then she made eye contact with him.
He’d never felt that pow of instant connection before, but he sure as hell felt it now. It was as if lightning had struck the center of his universe, and every part of him felt it.
Katrina blinked a few times, then frowned.
“The angle. Give me a second,” she said. He’d expected some type of Russian accent, but there was none, just the smoky hot darkness of her voice spilling from her lips. It was like drinking whiskey on a cold night. The sound of her voice heated him from the inside out. He’d never been slammed so hard like this before.
Katrina adjusted, her fingers tangling in his hair, giving him a bit of a tug.
His lips curved. “So, you like that?” he asked.
“Just a job,” she responded, then gave him a smoldering look, tilted her head toward him, and jutted her hips out enough to hit him right in the crotch.
Goddammit. She’d done that on purpose.
He could do it as well. He raised his hand and laid it above her hip, knowing he couldn’t obscure the swimwear. After all, that’s what they were advertising. His fingers bit into her skin, enough that he caught the flash of awareness in her eyes.
“Yes, that’s perfect,” the director said. “Hold it there.”
Grant heard the click of the camera several times.
“Now move. Get into each other. Lean in, touch. Be mindful of your angles, Katrina. And Grant, follow her lead.”
“Yes, Grant,” Katrina said, shifting a little, then picking up his hand and placing it on her butt. “Follow my lead.”
It wasn’t like he hadn’t had to pose for a photo session before. He wasn’t a rookie here. He knew what he was doing, how to move and react to the camera, and when to be still.
Katrina might be the pro here, but he could play the game, too. He cupped her butt, making sure he didn’t squeeze, He slid his fingers lightly over her skin, tucking his fingertips slightly inside the edge of her suit.
He heard each breath she took, saw the smoldering look in her eyes, and his body reacted.
So did hers, as her nipples pebbled, brushing against his chest.
His lips curved.
Just a job his ass.
He moved with every few clicks of the camera, turned his head, shifted his body against hers, making sure their clothes remained the focus while keeping his gaze intently on hers. When he drew a strand of her hair between his fingers, letting his knuckles brush the swell of her breasts, he heard her sharp intake of breath.
“Just a job, right?” he asked, turning her around so her back was to him. That way he could skim his hand down her arm, letting his fingers rest at her hip.
“This is perfect,” the director said. “Keep doing what you’re doing.”
He listened to the sound of Katrina’s breaths, got comfortable with her ass nestled into his crotch.
They fit damned perfect together. She was tall—taller than the average woman. He didn’t have to crouch down to fit her to him. She had long legs. Really nice legs, too. He’d noticed—everything about her.
“Okay, let’s break for a few,” the director said. “You both need an outfit change. Then we’ll resume.”
Before he had a chance to say anything, Katrina pushed off and walked away, heading into the cabana. Her assistant, or whoever, handed her a bottle of water, and she disappeared without a word to him.
Friendly, wasn’t she?
He wandered off at the direction of the staff to change his board shorts and to have his hair and makeup adjusted. When he came back out, Katrina was in a short robe.
He was called out toward a tree facing the sun.
“Ready for you, Katrina,” the director said.
She dropped the robe, and Grant blinked. Katrina wore only a thong bottom. She stood still while they arranged her hair to partially cover her breasts.
And what fantastic breasts they were, too. He decided to look elsewhere, like out on the water, until she showed up in front of him. In this game they were playing, it was best for him not to show a physical reaction.
“Katrina, you against the tree. Grant, you plant one hand above her head to start, lean into her body.”
Some of the assistants positioned them while Grant and Katrina made eye contact.
She met his gaze with a cool one of her own, a challenge to him, as if she’d done this a million times, as if rubbing her breasts against his chest wasn’t a big deal. To her, it probably wasn’t. She wanted to know if he’d react.
To him, he had a gorgeous, half-naked woman pressed up against him, and his dick was trying very hard to respond to that, while he was trying equally as hard to convince his dick nothing was going to happen out here on the beach with twenty other people watching.
“Ready?” the director asked.
Katrina tilted her head back toward the sun. “Yes.”
Grant gave a quick nod, hoping like hell this wouldn’t take long, especially since every time Katrina moved, she rubbed her breasts against his chest. And because she was topless, they had to take special care that no nipple was visible. They took every shot carefully, stopping to rearrange her hair or strategically place his arm or hand.
It was interminable. Katrina was patient through every shot, but to Grant, it was like a goddamned eternity.
“Is it always like this?” Grant asked Katrina during one of the many breaks.
Clearly comfortable standing around having her hair and makeup retouched, Katrina cocked her head to the side. “Like what?”
“Hours of this. Click and change positions. Click and redo the hair. Click and clothing changes.”
“Oh. Yes. Always like this. Why? Are you bored?”
His lips curved and he took a glance downward where her hair barely covered her generous breasts. “Hardly.”
She rolled her eyes. “I doubt these are the first set of breasts you’ve seen. Not from what I’ve read about you.”
“And here I thought you had no idea who I was.”
“Oh, I know who you are, Grant. You’ve dated a few of my friends.”
He wondered which ones. None of them were on location with him, and he’d always remained friends with the women he dated, so he doubted they had anything bad to say about him. “Is that right. And did you get a full report?”
“So that means you’ll have dinner with me tonight.”
She laughed, and he liked the sound of it.
“I don’t think so.”
He wasn’t insulted, and he liked her confidence. They finished the shoot for the day since, according to the director, the light was leaving them. Katrina grabbed her robe and wandered off, and Grant went back to his bungalow to shower off the makeup and hair gunk. He checked his phone and answered a few e-mails and text messages.
Trevor had sent him a text stating he was going to set up a face-to-face call with Haven, so he was staying in his room.
That meant Grant was on his own tonight, which was fine with him. He returned a few calls, one to his agent, Liz Riley. She talked to him about finalizing his contract since the season would be starting soon. He told her he’d come in and see her as soon as he got back to town.
Football season was gearing up, and he was due to the practice facility in St. Louis in two weeks.
He was ready. He’d been in training and was in shape, and was more than ready for the season to start. This was a nice mini vacation prior to getting back to work, though. Soon enough he’d have his head in the game, and it would be all he thought about.
After getting dressed in a pair of shorts and a sleeveless shirt, he made his way to the main bar at the hotel and ordered a beer. He grabbed a seat at one of the tables outside, content to sip his beer and people watch, one of his favorite pasttimes.
He saw a few of the models come outside. They sat at a table not too far from where he was, all of them talking and laughing.
They were all beautiful women. Tall and slender, with great hair, pretty smiles, and amazing bodies. But he found himself searching for only one woman.
He had no idea why, when she’d clearly blown him off. She was probably out on a date tonight with some hot male model. He’d seen a few of those guys today as well.
But then he caught sight of Katrina coming through the bar. She was by herself, carrying a tote bag. She stopped to talk to the bartender, who nodded. Then she walked past Grant without saying a word, and pulled up a chair at a table by herself.
Not with the other models, who seemingly ignored her as much as she was ignoring them.
She pulled out a book and a pair of glasses, and one of the waitresses brought her a tall glass of what looked like iced tea with lemon. She opened the book and started to read, oblivious to everything—and everyone—around her.
Huh. Not at all what he’d expected.
He watched her for a while, waiting to see if she was meeting someone. After about thirty minutes, he realized no one was going to show up. He stood, grabbed his beer and went over to her table and pulled out a chair to take a seat.
She lifted her gaze from her book and settled it on him. She didn’t offer a smile.
“Did you get lost on your way to some other table?” she asked.
“No. But you were alone.”
“Precisely. On purpose.”
She waited, as if she expected him to leave. He didn’t take a brush-off all that easily. “I thought you might want some company.”
“You thought wrong.”
“Does that icy-cold stare work on all men?”
“Why aren’t you with your friends over there?”
She took a quick glance at the other table, then back to him. “Do you think models travel in herds?”
She had a sharp wit. He liked that about her. “Sorry. I guess not. What are you drinking?”
He signaled for the waitress, then held up two fingers and motioned to their drinks. She nodded and wandered back inside.
“Really, Grant. I’m fine. And I’d like to be alone.”
“No one wants to be alone.”
“Okay, fine. I don’t want to be alone. I figured we’d have dinner together.”
With a sigh, she set down her book and took off her glasses. “Just because we worked together today doesn’t mean we have anything in common, or that we shared a moment or anything.”
She paused for a few seconds, and he held her gaze. Damn, there was something about her eyes. He liked women just fine, and always had a good time with them. He’d had a few relationships that had lasted a while and had ended amicably. But not one woman had ever shocked him with the same spark he’d felt with Katrina today.
He wanted to explore that, see if he could push through her frosty exterior.
“I’m reading a book.”
“So you said. It’s a good one. I’ve read it before.”
She frowned. “You didn’t even look at it.”
“I saw it when I sat down.”
She crossed her arms. “Okay, fine. What’s it about?”
“There’s this guy, and he works for the CIA. But he’s a double agent, working both sides. You don’t know throughout the book if he’s a good guy or bad guy, or if the other CIA agent he hooks up with in Seoul is on his side, or out to kill him. So when they both show up on the train—”
She held up her hand. “Stop. I haven’t gotten to that part yet. Fine, I get it. You’ve read it.”
“You thought I was bullshitting you.”
“You wouldn’t be the first.”
The waitress brought their drinks. “Thanks,” Grant said. “Can we see some menus?”
“I don’t want to see a menu,” she said to the waitress, who walked away anyway. She turned her attention back on Grant. “I don’t want you to sit here with me. Honestly, are you always this rude?”
“Not always. You bring out the best in me.”
She rolled her eyes.
“So tell me why that book.”
“I like suspense and crime fiction.”
“You don’t strike me as the type.”
Her brows lifted. “Type? Why? Did you expect I’d be thumbing through a fashion magazine? Or perhaps you thought I didn’t know how to read, so I would just look at the pictures. Do you expect all models to be dumb?”
Man, was she ever sensitive. “That would be stereotyping, and I’d be the last person to do that. And no. You looked like the type to read books on . . . I don’t know. Psychology or something.”
She laughed. “Why?”
He picked up her dark glasses. “You look so smart wearing these.”
“I am smart. With or without the glasses.”
He could tell he was digging the hole even deeper with every word he said. “Sorry. I’m not getting this out right. I’ve dated a few models.”
“So I’ve heard.”
He sighed. “A lot of them have different interests. One was a certified scuba diver, so I learned to dive when I was dating her. One was a hiker and a climber. I did some heinous climbs with her.”
“You dated Elesia?” she asked.
She wrinkled her nose. “She’s a pit viper.”
He laughed. “I’m not even going to comment.”
“You have interesting taste in women.”
“I like women who intrigue me and challenge me. Not just a pretty face.”
“Good to know the modeling world isn’t growing old and moldy with no men to date as long as you’re around. After all, where would we be without our sports stars to take care of us?”
“Now who’s stereotyping? I’ve also dated a school teacher, an accountant, a microbiologist, and a landscape architect.”
She took a sip of her tea. “It’s nice you’re spreading it around.”
He couldn’t help but laugh. “So tell me what interests you, Katrina?”
Katrina didn’t want to like Grant Cassidy. She didn’t want him sitting at her table, yet there he was, drinking his beer and looking absolutely gorgeous.
She’d wanted to be alone, and she thought about spending the evening in her room, so she could read. But it was too beautiful here, and the beach and sea air beckoned, so she’d put on a pair of shorts and a tank top to come sit beachside for dinner.
Obviously a huge mistake, because no matter how hard she tried to insult the man, he simply wouldn’t leave.
And no matter how hard she tried to deny the chemistry she felt during their photo shoot today, she couldn’t.
She posed with male models all the time. Sometimes fully naked. She’d never felt anything. It was her job. She knew it, and so did the guys. But making eye contact with Grant Cassidy today, there’d been some kind of . . . she didn’t even know how to describe it. A zing somewhere in the vicinity of her lower belly. A low warming that had spread when he’d laid his hands on her.
Even now, hours later, she could still feel his touch, the way he’d looked at her. She’d wanted . . . more. And if there was one thing Katrina never wanted from a man, it was more of anything. She was too focused on her career to spend any time at all thinking of men. Work was everything to her, and men were a distraction.
Like now. He sat across the table from her, all big and tan and smiling at her like he had exactly what she wanted.
Only she didn’t want it. She wanted no part of anything he might have to offer.
She couldn’t want it. Still, she couldn’t help herself.
“I’m surprised you read that book,” she said.
“Now who’s stereotyping? You think I’m a dumb jock, that all I read is sports magazines.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“I actually have a degree in accounting. And yes, I did graduate before I went out for the draft.”
She studied him. “Accounting. I don’t see it.”
“I was going to go for a law degree, but I like numbers better. I minored in finance. I wanted to make sure I could oversee my earnings with knowledge. I’ve seen too many football players blow it all or not know where their money is going, and a few years after they retire, the money is gone.”
He was smart, too. She liked that.
She leaned back and looked at him. “Do you have an investment portfolio?”
“As a matter of fact, I do. With the high income a successful model commands, I imagine you do as well.”
“I do. And I know exactly where my money is going.”
“See? I knew you were a smart woman, Katrina. Smart and beautiful—a lethal combination.”
She couldn’t help but appreciate that he mentioned the smart part before the beautiful part. Too many men never paid attention to the fact she had a brain. All they saw was her face and body and never even wanted to have a conversation with her. Which was why she didn’t date. She didn’t have time for men who were that superficial.
Grant seemed . . . different. Yes, there’d been that spark of chemistry at the photo shoot today, but so far all he’d done was talk to her. He hadn’t sat down to ogle her or hit on her. It was kind of refreshing.
Not that she had any interest in dating him, but when was the last time she’d spent time talking with a man she wasn’t connected to in the industry? She wasn’t going to bed with him, but there was no harm in sharing conversation and having a meal with him, was there?
“Okay, fine. Let’s see what’s on the menu for dinner.”
End of Excerpt
February 3, 2015
Book 9 in the Play-by-Play Series
Book 1: The Perfect Play
Book 2: Changing the Game
Book 3: Taking a Shot
Book 4: Playing to Win
Book 5: Thrown by a Curve
Book 6: One Sweet Ride
Book 6.5: Holiday Games
Book 7: Melting the Ice
Book 8: Straddling the Line
Book 8.5: Holiday on Ice
Book 9: Quarterback Draw
Book 10: All Wound Up
Book 10.5: Hot Holiday Nights
Book 11: Unexpected Rush
Book 12: Rules of Contact
Book 13: The Final Score
Book 14: Shot On Gold
Anthology: Mistletoe Games