The Game of Love


Christina St. James is ready for normal. After walking away from her pro tennis career and a toxic relationship with a star hockey player, she’s starting a new life as a teacher and tennis coach in a small town. Now all she needs is an average guy to share it with.

Brett Wallace is no average guy. Forced to retire from the NFL after an injury—and suddenly single after being dumped by his status-conscious wife—he’s returned to his hometown to coach the varsity football team. Wary of women interested only in his celebrity, Brett finds Chris’s indifference to his former career refreshing.

The last thing Chris needs is to get involved with another pro athlete, but she can’t deny the sparks that fly between them. So she agrees to a purely physical, no-strings attached affair. But the rules of the game change when she falls for him…


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His fingers thumped the beat as classic Jay-Z blared on the steering wheel. At a stoplight, he leaned forward to unstick his back from the leather seat. No matter how much cold air his AC blasted, his back was still plastered to the seat within seconds.

The long stretch of empty road that led away from the school gave him the chance to think about his meeting with Jared. He’d stopped by to drop off a copy of the same proposal for the scoreboard that he’d turned in the year before. The needs were the same, the money was the same, no need to draft a new one.

He’d spent an hour with his best friend, shooting the shit and eating the lunch Katie had packed. God bless the woman for always assuming Jared could eat enough for five men. Nothing out of the usual, until Jared came out of nowhere with his bullshit request.

“Give Chris a chance, my ass.” He made a left turn. Why did it matter if they got along? He wasn’t the one who came into the meeting two nights ago with her fists cocked, ready to start swinging. The Amazon had somehow made up her mind that he was personally responsible for every injustice made against women in the last fifty years.

Impressive, really, given he was only thirty-four.

He rolled shoulders tense from lack of sleep. But really, how he was supposed to sleep when every time he closed his eyes that same fantasy-football-turned-wet-dream scenario popped into his mind?

Jared had asked him to play nice and make her feel welcome. He’d pointed out she was probably nervous and didn’t mean to come off like she was attacking him personally.

Brett had rolled his eyes behind his sandwich.

He would do his part on the Welcome-To-Northeastern-High committee. Not that she’d appreciate it. His last attempt at a helpful hint had ended with him flat on his ass in the parking lot.

She did have spunk, he had to give it to her. And a fine pair of legs. And perky breasts that filled out her sports bra to perfection.

Wait. What?

As if he’d summoned her, there was the subject of his thoughts—and dreams.

The heels of her running shoes kicked up in practiced rhythm, leaving a little cloud of dust in their wake. She wore baggy sweatpants, the cuffs pushed up over her calves and the waistband rolled a few times, and a dark sports bra. Her midriff was bare, and as he pulled closer he could see the sheen of sweat on her skin. Her hair was pulled back again in a ponytail and some stretchy elastic band wrapped around the crown of her head. As he passed her by, he didn’t feel an ounce of guilt for checking out her lightly bouncing breasts in his rearview mirror.

But Jared’s words had him slowing down. A quick glance showed no cars coming either direction. He edged to the side, rolled down his passenger window and waited.

“Hey! How’s it going?”

She glanced at him, her eyes growing wide. Then they narrowed, and she kept jogging like he hadn’t said a word.

Apparently he wasn’t forgiven for whatever heinous crime he’d committed…like having a penis. “So, do you come this way often?”

The look she shot him before turning her eyes back to the road said, You are one small step above roadkill.

All right, fine. Time to drive off. He’d done his best, she wasn’t receptive. He’d tried to play nice, she wasn’t having it. He could speed away with a clean conscience.

So why was he still trailing after her like a puppy? Damned if he knew, but if his foot wanted to hover over the brake, he’d better come up with something useful to say or he was going to look like a stalker.

“Do you need a ride?”

She stopped without warning, and he slammed on the brakes. Her body was folded in half, hands on her knees, while her back arched with every breath. When she looked up, her face was flushed. Just like in those X-rated fantasies she’d been starring in. Her whole body would heat as they rolled around on top of the—

“What did you say?”

Shit. Thank God she couldn’t see the woody growing in his lap. “I asked if you needed a ride somewhere.”

With her breathing more under control she looked down at her body, glanced at the road ahead of her, then back at him. She cocked her head to one side, studying him like he was a fly on a corkboard. “I can’t tell if you’re serious or not.”

“Of course I’m serious.” She stood motionless, her head still cocked to the side like an inquisitive border collie. “I’ve got the AC full blast. Feels good in here.” Flashing her his best Trust me, I’m a good guysmile, he hoped that would be enough to convince her he didn’t do this all the time.

When she arched one brow, he realized she must have misinterpreted his grin. Maybe she thought it meant I eat small children for breakfast.

“I’m running.” She gestured toward the open road in front of them.

Wow, she really did think he was an idiot. “I noticed that. And I’m offering to take you where you’re going.”

She shook her head, then spoke very slowly, like he was a kid who ate paste. “I’m running for exercise. Having someone drive me would defeat the purpose.”

Oh. Shit. Maybe he was an idiot. He glanced at the steering wheel, trying to figure out what to say next. When he was sure he had come up with a fail-proof conversation starter, he looked back, and only saw landscape.

She’d taken off again and was almost fifty yards ahead.

Just go. She’s kicked your self-esteem enough to last a year. Move on, she’s not interested in making friends.

And yet, his subconscious thought significant damage hadn’t been done yet. He found himself rolling up to try once more.

“I’m sorry we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot somehow,” he called as he kept pace. “Maybe you’d want to meet up for coffee sometime?” Yeah, chicks liked coffee. Simple cup, apologize again, maybe offer a few tidbits about the town…wait. Would she think it was a date? Oh, fuck.

Before he could figure out how to politely retract his invitation, she stopped once more, and his brake pads got a workout. Her hands went to her hips and she chuckled. “Does that work? Seriously?”

“Does what work?” The open window was sucking all the cool air from his car. That must be why he was feeling a choking sensation. Yup, that was it.

“That pathetic excuse for a pick-up line? Meeting up for coffee?” She used little air quotes when she said the word coffee, as if coffee was really code for “all night fuck-fest.” Which, now that he thought about it, wasn’t a horrible idea…

He caught the stare she was giving him.

Oh, boy. Yeah, horrible idea. If looks could castrate, he’d be neutered.

“Let me get this out in the open.” She used what he assumed was her teacher voice. “I see no need for the two of us to deal with each other any more than necessary. Let’s aim for being civil, and that’s it.”

Having said her piece, she took off. It wasn’t a hardship to watch her tight bottom swing as she turned into a neighborhood of new townhouses. But, with her in an outfit that left so little to the imagination, he had to wonder where she stored the pitchfork.


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