The perfect play, p.8
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       The Perfect Play, p.8

         Part #1 of Play by Play series by Jaci Burton
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Page 8

  Author: Jaci Burton

  She shrugged, took a sip of wine. “I like football. ”

  “Do you like it in the way of, ‘Hey, I know it’s on Sunday and Monday and Thursday,’ or do you like it like you can’t live without it and you know everything there is to know about the game?”

  She laughed. “I know a hell of a lot about football. Why, are you going to quiz me?”

  “Greatest quarterback of all time?”

  “I think that’s a subjective question. ”

  “Give me your subjective answer, then. ”

  “Joe Montana. ”

  “You just say that because you live here. ”

  “No, I say that because he’s the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. Four Super Bowl titles, three Super Bowl MVP Awards, and I dare you to match any quarterback, past or present, to his pass rating, not to mention his cool factor in clutch situations. ”

  “He wasn’t even a first-round draft pick. And what about Johnny Unitas or Terry Bradshaw, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning?”

  She narrowed her gaze at him. Was he serious? “You’re saying that you think those quarterbacks are better than Joe Montana?”

  He paused. “I didn’t say that. ”

  “Aha! You agree with me, don’t you?”

  His lips lifted. “Actually, I do. And not just because he and I played in the same city. Nobody played the game better than Joe. ”

  She nodded. “Exactly. He was a master at come-from-behind victories. And nothing could match his ninety-two-yard drive in the final minutes of Super Bowl Twenty-three for the win against the Bengals. Best. Game. Ever. ”

  His lips lifted. “So you might know something about football. ”

  “Told you. ”

  He grinned. “I’m glad. Most of the women draped over my arm couldn’t tell the difference between a run and a pass, let alone a draw play from a sweep. They can tell you which actor was the biggest box office draw last weekend or who the top hot designer is. But football? Forget it. ”

  “Then why do you date them?” She waved her hand. “Never mind, I already know. Your agent. ”

  “Elizabeth knows what she’s doing. ”

  “Your pimp, you mean. ”

  “She’s very good at her job and only has my best interests in mind. ”

  Tara leaned back, wineglass in hand, and regarded him. “If you say so. But I would think your agent, who has your best interests in mind, would let you choose your own women. ”

  The waiter delivered their food. Tara dug in and started eating. It took her a while to realize Mick hadn’t said anything, so she cast glances at him above her lashes, but he seemed content enough. Had she said something to offend him? Not that she cared—much.

  When he was finished, he pushed his plate aside, took a long gulp of water, and said, “I’m trying to choose my own woman. But she’s being damned difficult about letting me. ”

  Tara blinked, then emptied her wineglass in two giant gulps.

  No man had ever pursued her like this. No famous, gorgeous, could-have-any-woman-he-wants-so-why-does-he-want-me man had ever given her the time of day. She had no idea what to do about Mick Riley. He was utterly and completely out of her league, and couldn’t have come into her life at a worse time.

  Then again, was there ever a good time?

  Probably not. But this time was definitely not a good time. No matter how much her toes curled at the thought of being sought after by a man like Mick, she had Nathan to think about. This was not a good time.

  And she knew just how to shut him down and get him to run like hell from the restaurant faster than he could run a hundred-yard dash. She hated bringing it up, but there was no choice now.

  “I have a fourteen-year-old son, Mick. ”

  ***

  MICK STARED ACROSS THE TABLE AT TARA. A KID, HUH? He hadn’t expected that. She didn’t look old enough to have a fourteen-year-old son. “You must have had him when you were pretty young. ”

  “I was sixteen. ”

  “That explains it. ”

  “Explains what?”

  “You don’t look old enough to have a teenager. ”

  “Trust me, I’m old enough. ” She laid her napkin on the table. “You’d probably like to leave now. ”

  Oh, now he understood. “You think I want to cut and run because you told me you have a kid. ”

  “I’m not exactly the kind of woman who’s in your dating pool. ”

  “No, you’re not. ”

  She stood. So did he, coming around to her side of the table.

  “Thanks for dinner. ”

  “Sit down. ” He took her shoulders and gently pressed her back in the chair, then kneeled in front of her. “If that was your version of a Hail Mary pass to finish things with me, sorry—I happen to like kids. ”

  She stared down at him, a confused look on her face. “The women you date are young and single, and I’m sure they don’t have teenagers. ”

  He shrugged. “I don’t have any idea what they have at home. Most of them have those annoying little yippy dogs. ”

  Tara laughed. “I don’t have any dogs, though Nathan would love one. A big one, like a Lab or a retriever or a German shepherd. ”

  “Smart kid. Nathan, huh?”

  “Yes. ”

  Mick returned to his chair now that he was fairly sure Tara wasn’t going to bolt. “Tell me about him. ”

  “He’s fourteen—almost fifteen, really. His birthday is next month. He just finished up his freshman year in high school, and he’s cocky as hell. He—you really don’t want to hear about my kid, do you?”

  “Why wouldn’t I? I told you, I like kids. ”

  “You have any of your own?”

  “No. I’d like to someday. And in case you’re wondering, no, I haven’t fathered any that I’m paying child support for. I’m very careful with women. ”

  “I didn’t ask. ”

  “But you thought it. ”

  “Okay, I did think that, you being a superstud with women and all. ”

  He snorted. “Yeah, right. I don’t believe in getting a woman pregnant and leaving her. Not my style and not the way I was brought up. ”

  “Well, aren’t you just a saint. ”

  He leveled his gaze at her, wanting her to know just what he was. And what he wasn’t. “I never said I was a saint, Tara. Just that I’m responsible. ”

  She looked down at her lap. “Sorry. I’m being a bitch. ”

  “No, you’re not. I handled this badly. I’m pushy, I know. I backed you into a corner. ”

  She lifted her gaze to his. “No, you didn’t. If you want to date me, or whatever it is you want to do with me, then you needed to know about Nathan. I’m not trying to hide him. I’m not ashamed of him. It’s just that most men don’t want the baggage. And we haven’t really even dated, so I understand if you want to head out. ”

  What kind of assholes did she go out with? “You must pick some real losers if they bail as soon as they find out you have a kid. ”

  Her lips curled. “You haven’t met Nathan. He’s . . . challenging. ”

  Mick laughed. “He’s a boy. And a teenager. We’re all challenging at that age. I was. ”

  She studied him. “I can only imagine. ”

  “I need to keep you away from my mother. She has stories about me and my brother that will send you running away screaming. We kept her busy when we were kids. ”

  There was a look on her face that Mick didn’t understand. Kind of a sadness that didn’t make sense when he mentioned his mother and his brother. “Hey, we were good kids. Honest. ”

  “I’m sure you were. Anyway, thank you for dinner. I really need to get home. ”

  “What’s wrong?”

  “Nothing. ” She plastered on a smile, but there was no light in her eyes. “I had a great time tonight, but I have some paperwork to do. ”

&nb
sp; He knew an end around when he saw one. Mick signaled for the waiter. “Put it on my account, Tim. ”

  The waiter nodded, and Mick led Tara outside, but not to her car, to his instead.

  “Where are we going?”

  “For a ride. I’ll bring you back to your car. I’d like to spend a little more time with you. ”

  He opened the door on the passenger side and held her hand while she climbed in, admiring the way she hiked up her skirt to climb in. She turned to him. “Somehow you struck me as a sports car kind of guy, not an SUV. ”

  “I’m too big for sports cars, and the SUV has enough room for all my gear. ”

  He went around and got in, started the car up, and drove away from the restaurant, taking a drive up into the hills. Typical for summer, the fog had rolled in, so there wasn’t going to be much to see while they drove. He let her settle and drove to the top of one of his favorite hills, where it was clear and on top of the fog.

  “It’s like a sea of white,” Tara said as he put the car in park. The lights from his car cast out over the fog.

  “It’s better in the daytime when the fog first starts rolling in. But I still like it up here. It’s quiet. Good place for thinking and for being alone. ”

  “And for parking?” She slanted him a quizzical look.

  “Well, we are parked, but I didn’t bring you up here for that. ”

  She unbuckled her seat belt and turned to face him. “I kind of like the idea. ”

  “Of what? Making out in my car?”

  “We could start with that, and see where it goes. ”

  “I think you’re using sex to avoid having an honest conversation. ”

  She paused. “Isn’t that a woman’s line?”

  They looked at each other, and both of them laughed. Tara kicked her heels off and crawled over the console. Mick had to admit he liked watching her maneuver in that tight skirt as she straddled him. He pushed the button and slid the seat back as far as it would go, giving her room. She settled over his lap and laid her hands on his chest. “So we’re having a role reversal. Does this mean I get to seduce you?”

  He’d lost all train of thought since all the blood in his head had rushed to his dick. “Honey, you’re sitting on my cock. I’m pretty sure you can do whatever you want with me. ”

  She smoothed her palms over his chest, then leaned back, letting her hands travel down his stomach toward where his brains currently resided. His dick twitched, and he rocked upward against her. “Do you really want to do it here?”

  She lifted a half-lidded gaze to his. “I really want to do it here. Oh. Provided you have protection. I didn’t even think about that. I mean, I usually don’t run around having sex in cars. ”

  He opened the center console and pulled out a condom.

  She grinned. “Ever prepared, aren’t you?”

  “I try to be. ”

  She took the condom from his hand and laid it down, then leaned over him and pressed her lips to his. Any conversation he’d wanted to have with her drifted away with the first taste of her mouth. He caught the scent of wine on her lips, but it was her flavor he was mainly interested in. More intoxicating than any alcohol, she drifted into his senses until he was lost. He dove his hand under her blouse so he could feel her skin.

  She moaned against his lips when his hands moved up her back and found her bra. With practiced skill he undid the clasp, then traveled around to the front to slide his hand under the cup, finding her nipple.

  Her breasts were small, but her nipples were sensitive, and he could tell she liked when he touched them, because her breath caught when he slid the pad of his thumb over one. The swell of her nipple against his thumb made his cock jerk against his zipper.

  Tara drew back, her eyes already gone in that sexy way that seemed to turn them to amber glass.

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