The perfect play, p.3
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       The Perfect Play, p.3

         Part #1 of Play by Play series by Jaci Burton
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Page 3

  Author: Jaci Burton

  “You don’t have to rub my feet. ”

  “I saw you wince when you kicked your shoes off. And heard you sigh. ”

  “It’s been a long night on very high heels,” she said with a laugh. “I freely admit I’m more of a blue jeans and flats kind of girl. ”

  He cocked his head to the side. “I could definitely see you that way. I’m more of the same way myself. ”

  “Blue jeans and flats?”

  He laughed. “Uh, no. But this tux is killing me. ” He loosened the bow tie and unbuttoned the top two buttons, then shrugged out of his jacket. “That’s a little better. ”

  “If you’re going to start stripping, maybe you should head on home,” she teased.

  “Why? Never seen a man naked before?”

  She choked out a laugh. “No, that’s not it. But I don’t think this oversized mausoleum of a ballroom is going to offer you the privacy to take off everything you want to take off. ”

  “And how do you know how much I want to take off?”

  She dropped her chin to her chest and shook her head. “I’m digging the hole deeper and deeper, aren’t I?”

  “Is there someplace you have to be right now?”

  Her head shot up, her gaze meeting his. “No. Why?”

  “Come with me. ” He laid her feet on the ground, bent over and retrieved her shoes, then grabbed his coat and slung it over his arm.

  Tara followed him out of the ballroom. “Where are we going? And shouldn’t I put my shoes on?”

  “Nah. We’re not leaving the hotel. ” He pushed the elevator button.

  “You have a room here?”

  “Everyone does. The team didn’t want the guys driving tonight after the party. You know, in case there was overindulgence of all that great alcohol you provided. ”

  She stepped in while he held the door open for her. “I don’t recall seeing you drink anything but water. ”

  He shrugged and pushed the button. “Not much of a drinker at events like this. Too much of an opportunity to make a total ass of yourself in public. And the media loves getting shots of players partying a little too hard. ”

  She turned to him. “You prefer to do it in private, then?”

  “Ha-ha. ” The elevator doors opened, and he led the way down the hall, retrieving the key card from his pocket. “I prefer not to do it at all. Got all that out of my system when I was younger. ”

  He opened the door for her and held it while she walked in. Since they held the party at one of San Francisco’s premier hotels, the room was nice. Really nice. A suite, actually, with an outer room and a hallway that must lead to the bedroom. Tara walked to the window and stared at the killer view of the city skyline, rubbing her arms as she did.

  “Cold?”

  She half turned to face him. “A little. ”

  He put his jacket over her. “Slip into this. I’ll adjust the temp in here. ”

  She slid her arms into his jacket, which was miles too big for her but instantly warmed her. His scent surrounded her again as she pulled his jacket around her. She turned to face him. “Thank you. ”

  “You’re welcome. ” His fingers lingered over the lapels of his jacket, his knuckles resting on the swells of her breasts. Even though the fabric separated his hands from her skin, she still felt the pressure of his hands there, and that warmed her more than his jacket ever could. Her heart kicked up a fast beat, and she became aware that she was in his room—alone. She didn’t do this, didn’t blindly follow men she didn’t know to their rooms. And she wasn’t easily captivated by fame, so who he was meant nothing to her.

  Where had her common sense gone?

  MICK HAD BEEN WITH PLENTY OF WOMEN IN HIS LIFETIME. From college to the pros, women had gravitated to him like he was an irresistible magnet. And he’d never been one to turn down a beautiful woman who wanted to crawl into bed with him.

  So he’d never had to pursue a woman. Until tonight, until he’d seen Tara leaning against the wall of the ballroom, not participating, just watching, the sparkles on her champagne-colored dress lifting the light from the chandeliers and all the candles shining around her as if she were the main event in the ballroom.

  She’d captivated him from the first moment he’d seen her in the locker room area today. He’d hated missing the opportunity to meet her then, and finding her at the ballroom tonight had seemed like it was meant to be.

  She’d been polite but hadn’t fallen all over him when he’d introduced himself. And oh man, had he liked that. A lot. Surprisingly, a lot. Especially when she’d walked away from him. Women tended to latch onto him like he was the Holy Grail, and once they did, they never let go. That, he didn’t like. But Tara actually seemed more interested in doing her job than in being with him. It was damned refreshing.

  So he’d stood back and watched. She was good at her work. Efficient. He’d noticed she had a couple assistants working with her, and she treated them like equals. No browbeating, no talking down to them like they were ants under her feet. But when she gave instructions, people moved and moved fast. And she seemed more than willing to get in there to do whatever needed to be handled to get the job done. She’d opened bottles of wine with efficiency, folded table napkins, directed a new waitress on what tables were hers, and calmed down a very agitated bartender with quiet words and more patience than Mick could have ever come up with.

  He liked to watch her move in her high heels, her swishing skirt giving him glimpses of what must be spectacular thighs. She was slender, but not too much. She looked like she actually ate three meals a day, unlike a lot of the women he’d been forced to spend time with. She curved in all the right places, and he was fascinated by her neck, which was nicely visible, since her blonde hair was pulled up in a fancy hairstyle that didn’t suit her at all. He’d bet she usually wore her hair down or in a ponytail or in one of those messy hair clip things. She didn’t seem the type of woman who messed with her hair so that it had to be perfect. She had full lips and a narrow face and the prettiest brown eyes he’d ever seen.

  But what he’d liked best about tonight was talking to her. She was a real person, not interested in furthering her career by being seen on his arm, but an actual, honest-to-God real woman. Funny and warm, with her own career. She hadn’t once searched out the media so they could take pictures of Mick and her. In fact, she’d done her best to avoid having the media see the two of them together.

  It felt good to just be in this room with her. He wasn’t in any hurry, had no place to be for the rest of the weekend. It had been a long time since he’d really wanted to be with a woman—hell, had he ever really wanted to be in the company of a particular woman? He couldn’t think of any. As a release, yeah. To kill time, definitely. Someone thrust on his arm by Elizabeth for PR—all the damn time. But no woman had captured him enough for him to really want to be with her. They’d all been in and out of his life like some damn revolving door. Faces and names all blurred together, and he couldn’t remember a single one of them other than he’d met them and fucked some of them. He’d forgotten them as easily as they’d forgotten him.

  Now Tara, he’d definitely remember.

  There was something about her that made him want to do more than just fuck her.

  Except right now he really wanted to kiss her and touch her and get her naked so he could explore the rest of her skin and see if it was as soft as the parts he’d already touched.

  Easy, man. Not too fast. He didn’t want to scare her away. She wasn’t like any other woman he’d ever met. And for the first time in his life, he didn’t want to run the clock down too fast. He wanted this night to go into overtime.

  MICK HADN’T SAID MUCH FOR THE PAST FEW MINUTES, just seemed content to stare out the window with her. Tara waited for discomfort to set in, but it hadn’t. There was something special about him, something she’d noticed from the start, and it had nothing
to do with his career and everything to do with who he was as a man. She liked Mick, liked him more than she had any other man in a very long time. Since she had the entire weekend to herself, why not indulge?

  “Would you like some champagne?” He motioned to the bucket sitting on ice. “They delivered it earlier. I think we all got one as a thanks from the owners. ”

  “I’d love a glass. ”

  He popped the top and poured some into a glass, handed it to her. She took a sip, the bubbles tickling her nose. “It’s very good. Aren’t you going to have any?”

  “I’m more of a beer kind of guy. ”

  She laughed. “Me, too. ”

  “Yeah? You’re dressed like a champagne kind of woman. Your sparkly dress even matches. ”

  She looked down at her cocktail dress. Admittedly, she loved it. Tiny straps hung on her shoulders, the bodice dipped across the swell of her breasts, hugging them tight. It fit her well and was her favorite. “Only when I work events like this. Believe me, there’s no champagne stocked in my refrigerator at home. Only beer and soda. ”

  “Chips and hot dogs?”

  She laughed. “Two of my favorites. I’m sorry to say the elegance only comes out as part of my job. You’ll typically find me barefoot, wearing jeans, with my hair up in a ponytail. ”

  He examined her near-perfect updo. “So that doo-dah hairstyle isn’t the norm for you?”

  “Hardly. It’ll be hell getting all these pins out. ”

  “Want me to help?”

  Heat swirled around her. “And shatter my Cinderella image? I don’t think so. ”

  “Okay, Cinderella. Your secret is safe with me. ”

  She sipped her champagne and tried not to openly stare at him, but it was damned difficult, considering it was just the two of them in this room with the lovely view of the city. She stared out the window, still wondering what the hell she was doing here with Mick Riley.

  He came up behind her. “You’re a beautiful woman, Tara. ”

  She turned to face him, wishing he knew the real her. But he never would, because the real Tara was light-years away from his world. “I usually don’t follow strange men up to their hotel rooms. ”

  He smiled down at her. “You don’t? Damn, and I thought I’d found a sure thing in you. ”

  Everything he said either made her laugh or made her hot. Why hadn’t some woman grabbed him by the hair and dragged him back to her cave by now? There had to be some chink in this knight’s armor. “Sorry. You should have gone for one of the actresses or models. ”

  “Not interested in them. They have agendas. ”

  “What makes you think I don’t?”

  “Because I came to you. You didn’t come to me. ”

  “Maybe that’s part of my evil plan. ”

  “Honey, I don’t think there’s a damn thing evil about you. ”

  “I’m hardly innocent, Mick. ”

  He took her glass and set it on the table, then grasped the lapels of the jacket and pulled her closer. “Is that right?”

  Liquid heat rushed through her veins, opening her up to desires and emotions she hadn’t felt in far too long. She normally closed herself off to men. Too busy. Too many other priorities. Right now there was no other priority but the feel of him against her. She leaned into him and tilted her head back, giving him the green light. “That’s right. ”

  He shifted his fingers, and the fire he’d stoked began to burn even brighter. There was a sizzle of magic between them. She’d be a fool to walk away from that, even if it was only for one night. And that’s all it could ever be—just one night—so why not go for it when she had the chance? Who knew when something this good would come along again? With the way her life was structured, probably never. And she’d have this one hot night to look back on and remember forever.

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