I`m so happy to have the lovely Jami Davenport here today. Jami is one of my fellow Seduced by the Game authors, and she`s here to share some great news about her newest sports romance, Time of Possession.
The clock’s ticking down, and Estelle Harris and Lumberjacks quarterback Brett Gunnels are about to enter crunch time.
Supposedly undersized for the NFL, Brett Gunnels went off to do a stint in the US Army right out of high school. Returning damaged yet stronger and more determined than ever to prove himself, he was picked last in the draft. Mr. Irrelevant, they called him. The last few years as a backup quarterback have given him no opportunity to compete for the starting job. That’s why he has a chip on his shoulder the size of Puget Sound.
Estelle Harris is engaged to a man she doesn't love, working a job she hates, and fooling everyone including herself in the process. Her love of animals is the only thing that gives her purpose—a love she shares the Lumberjacks’ reclusive quarterback. And then their mutual friendship turns a hot, dark, forbidden corner and there's no going back.
True love is like football. It’s not always how long you have the ball. It’s what you do when you get it.
An advocate of happy endings, Jami Davenport writes sexy romantic comedy, sports hero romances, and equestrian fiction. Jami lives on a small farm near Puget Sound with her Green Beret-turned-plumber husband, a Newfoundland cross with a tennis ball fetish, a prince disguised as an orange tabby cat, and an opinionated Hanoverian mare.
Jami works in IT for her day job and is a former high school business teacher and dressage rider. In her spare time, she maintains her small farm and socializes whenever the opportunity presents itself. An avid boater, Jami has spent countless hours in the San Juan Islands, a common setting in her books. In her opinion, it is the most beautiful place on earth.
HTML: a Rafflecopter giveaway
Chapter 1—Mr. Irrelevant
Brett Gunnels had fostered an intimate relationship with his clipboard over the past several football seasons.
After all, as the backup quarterback, he played his game on that clipboard, not out on the football field. Every Sunday during the season he stood on the sidelines making endless notes. One day he’d get his chance, a chance to prove that Mr. Irrelevant—the title bestowed on the last player picked each year in the NFL draft—was anything but.
Today, like any game day, Brett roamed the sidelines, clipboard in hand. Every once in a while, he stopped, cupped his hands to his mouth, and called out warnings or advice to the Seattle Lumberjacks’ starting quarterback. Not that Tyler Harris heard him or would listen even if he did. Harris did his own thing, and to hell with anyone else, even his teammates and coaches.
A couple penalties set the Jacks back to San Francisco’s forty yard line, and the offense was looking at third and twenty-five with fifteen seconds on the clock.
Harris took the ball from center and stepped back, staying in the pocket with the coolness and finesse of the elite quarterback he was. A second later, the pocket collapsed around him and he scrambled, running for his life while looking for an open receiver. Every one of them was covered.
Harris never saw the streak of pure muscle and brawn coming from his blindside. Brett cringed as the linebacker slammed into Harris with a vicious hit, falling on him in the process. Harris was known for his toughness, but from Brett’s point of view, knees didn’t bend like that.
As the offense returned to the huddle, a couple of them looked toward Harris, as if expecting him to bounce to his feet. He always did. But not this time.
Sprawled on his back, the two-time championship quarterback didn’t move. Not even an eyelash.
A hush came over the crowd, eerie in its silence, while a cold wind of fear blew through the stadium. Harris’s cousin and the Jacks’ top wide receiver, Derek Ramsey, knelt beside the immobile quarterback, as the coaches and trainers hurried onto the field. The offensive line huddled nearby, pretending not to stare but doing so anyway, worry etched on the big guys’ beefy faces.
Brett might not like Harris much—not many guys did—but his grudging respect for the guy’s talent and work ethic overrode any personal issues he might have. Besides, no one wanted to see a teammate laid out on the field like that, or anyone else for that matter.
An icy shiver radiated up Brett’s spine as his brain transported him to another time where sand stretched as far as the eye could see, another body down and not moving. Nothing. Just like Harris was now.
A cold sweat trickled down Brett’s forehead, and he dropped his clipboard and scrubbed his face with his hands, forcing those memories back into the compartment where he kept them tightly locked up.
This wasn’t a war zone—well, not exactly—and his teammate was known for his dramatics. He was probably taking a two-minute siesta at the expense of everyone’s nerves. Any second, he’d hop to his feet and chastise them for being such pansy-asses.
Only Harris didn’t move. Brett couldn’t stay on the sidelines and do nothing. He ran onto the field to join his teammates standing in concerned clusters. Harris’s chalky face looked like death. Brett swallowed back the fear and bolstered his courage. He’d be okay. He had to be. He was too mean and too tough to be seriously injured.
After several tense minutes, Harris sat up and shook his head. The team breathed a collective sigh of relief. Groggily, he accepted assistance to his feet, only to have his knee buckle. He went down again, clutching his leg, pain carved into his usually stoic face as he rolled back and forth on the turf. A few seconds later, two linemen helped him onto a cart, and they zipped him off the field and down the tunnel.
Only then did Brett realize the coach was yelling at him.
“Gun, get your helmet on and get your ass out there on that field.”
Standing on the fifty yard line, the guys in the huddle gawked at him, waiting for him to assume control. Frantic, he looked for his helmet but couldn’t find it. Zach Murphy, their All-Pro linebacker, shoved it in his hands. Strapping it on as he ran, Brett got to the huddle, only to find the mic in his helmet wasn’t working. After tapping on the helmet a few times, he took several deep breaths and squelched the growing panic inside him. He could do this. He would do this. He had to do this. The team was counting on him.
Brett turned to the guys gathered around him, his gaze determined. He knew exactly what play to call in this situation, having rehearsed it over and over in his mind and on the practice field. He called for a quick out-pass to Derek, hoping to catch the defense expecting a run because of the quarterback change. He took the snap from center, pedaled backwards, and tossed an easy lob to Derek, who collided with a defensive end as they both went for the ball. The end batted the ball into the air, and a San Francisco linebacker in the right place at the right time scooped it up before it hit the ground and ran it back for a touchdown.
At first his stunned teammates stared at the end zone as if they couldn’t believe their bad luck. Then one by one, guys patted him on the back amid murmurs of “good try,” “tough break,” and “we did the best we could.” Regardless, Brett blamed himself because that’s what a good quarterback did. A great one carried the whole team on his shoulders and found a way to win. Just not today.
The woman of Brett’s dreams stood in the open doorway wearing a black sweater covered in dog hair.
Forget that she was as tall—or taller—than him. Forget that her brother happened to be a premier asshole and the Seattle Lumberjacks’ starting quarterback, well, at least until he’d torn his ACL yesterday.
Forget that she wore a diamond on her ring finger that would have choked Hoss Price, the team’s mammoth starting center.
Forget all that. Standing there on the porch, Brett Gunnels fell in love at first sight—or definitely in lust. He didn’t know if it was her brilliant sky-blue eyes, her beautiful face, the dog hair, or a combination of all three. He only knew that he was hooked with just one glance.
“Come on in.” Estelle Harris smiled at him, a kind, warm smile, a smile that cast light into all those dark corners he swore would never see the light of day again. His heart kicked into overdrive and slammed against his rib cage, while his lungs forgot breathing was their purpose.
She turned and ushered him into her house. Brett stared after her, his body motionless and temporarily rendered out of service like a city bus at the end of its nightly run.
She glanced over her shoulder, and her curious expression rebooted his brain.
He lurched forward and stumbled on the threshold but recovered nicely and stepped into the modest entryway, his pride in tatters. Her amused grin spread heat through his body faster than a California wildfire in high winds.
God, she was stunning, and way out of his league in so many ways.
“I hope you’re Brett, and I didn’t just let a Ted Bundy copycat into my house.” Her sweet laughter wrapped around him like a warm blanket on a cold winter night.
Brett shook his head, appalled she might be serious. “Yes, I’m Brett. And you are Tyler’s sister Estelle?” He cringed at the stiff formality in his voice. Again that smile, like Mona Lisa. Only Mona Lisa had nothing over this woman.
“Everyone calls me Estie.”
“Estie then.” His own smile rushed to his lips and refused to cease and desist. He probably looked like a half-witted, grinning fool. He held out his hand. She took his in her soft one with a firm grip of long, sexy fingers. He stared at their joined hands, hers with the cotton candy pink fingernails and his with its bumps and scars. Her hand was so soft, so feminine, so perfect.
Estie cleared her throat. Finally, she slid her hand from his grasp, giving him an odd look. He’d been hanging on too tight and too long. The heat rose to his cheeks and ears to rival the heat in the rest of his body. Way to go, Gun. Make an idiot of yourself with the first woman who’s interested you in eons.
Estie walked across the room like an angel gliding through clouds and stopped in front of a bird cage. She pointed at the large parrot inside who had cocked his head and was watching them both. “And the name of your foul-mouthed friend here? Lavender was in such a hurry to fly to San Fran to be with Tyler, she never told me this guy’s name.”
Estie laughed again, and her voice took on this breathless quality as if he affected her as much as she affected him. Her deep blue eyes—so much like her brother’s, but he wouldn’t hold that against her—mesmerized him. All that romantic shit he’d heard over the years from his sisters hit him like a speeding car on the freeway. His brain did a free-fall into a self-induced coma, his feet became one with the floor, and his heart pounded louder than a series of bombs dropping on an enemy target.
“The parrot? What is his name?” Estie frowned as she repeated her question and her neatly plucked brow furrowed. Brett blinked several times in an attempt to signal his brain to snap out of it.
Obviously tired of waiting for his dumbshit owner to get a grip, the African Gray took matters into his own wings, “Bongo, pretty lady. Bongo. Bongo wants to see you naked.”
Her eyes grew big, and she stared at the parrot with her gorgeously sinful mouth hanging open. To her credit, she recovered quickly and peered inside the cage, a smile once again tugging the corners of those pink lips. “You’re a little devil, Bongo. I’ve been asking you your name all evening.”
“Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you.” Bongo rang a little bell attached to his perch for emphasis.
This time Estie laughed, an amused tinkling laugh. “Did you say you left him with my brother?”
Brett nodded. “You can tell, huh?” Tyler Harris was known for his fondness of the F-word, a bad habit he’d passed on to the bird, or more likely trained into the bird.
“Absolutely.” Again the Mona Lisa smile. Damn, he was going to have to get a print of that painting and hang it in his bedroom, but then he’d never get any sleep.
“I can’t leave him alone, especially not for a few days; he gets lonely and destructive. I used to put him in animal daycare, but they kicked him out for bad behavior and worse language. Then I left him with a neighbor kid to babysit. His mother had a fit when Bongo told her husband that she was messing around with the college student next door.”
“I have no idea,” he chuckled.
“So you put it back on my brother to provide babysitting since he taught the little guy some naughty words.”
“Something like that. Lavender loves animals, and she didn’t mind. I really appreciate you stepping in to help me out.”
“It’s all for the animals.” She walked into the living room, tastefully furnished with overstuffed furniture covered with neatly folded blankets, most likely for her furry children. Oh, lord, a woman after his own heart, with the comfort of her animals coming first. Despite the animal comforts, nothing was out of place, nothing like his messy house, nor did it smell like animals lived there. In fact, it smelled wonderful, like a combination of spring blossoms and a mountain meadow. The hardwood floors gleamed, not one fluffy cloud of dust and cat hair anywhere, and he was pretty sure she had a cat based on the pictures on her mantle.
Brett followed her, his eyes dropping to her blue-jeans-clad ass, a really, really nice ass, and those long take-me-to-heaven legs. Any guy in his right mind would fantasize about those legs.
Brett tugged on his collar and wiped his brow. He cleared his throat and swallowed. He was hooked, but judging by that impressive diamond ring, so was she. Leave it to him to fall for an unattainable woman—wouldn’t be the first time. As the Jacks’ backup quarterback, women looked right past him to the starters. It was the story of his life, and he was used to it. Not that he’d grown complacent, but being pissed about the hand life dealt you wasn’t his way. He was first and foremost a fighter.