Jock: A Secret Baby Sports RomanceBy: Aubrey Irons
“Hey girl, you work at a sandwich shop?”
I turn and drag my eyes up the bare, muscled torso of the man standing behind me in the middle of the locker room. He’s wearing the exact smug, egotistical grin I’d expect to see on a million-dollar football player after an eye-rolling start to a line like that.
“Because I’m giving you a foot-long, right?”
I sigh loudly, glancing down at the front of his towel before looking back up and holding his eye.
“Aww, poor baby,” I coo. “Is that what you think a foot is?” I shake my head sympathetically. “I guess it’s no wonder your rushing yards were so abysmal last season.”
The smug grin drops from his face as he suddenly glares at me.
I smile right back.
“I’m looking for Holden Cade.”
He clears his throat and puffs his chest out, as if the macho move is a magical fix for my bruise to his ego.
“Called it,” he grins.
That smug look comes back as he places one hand on the tile wall behind me and leans in close. My eyes dart quickly over the swatch of terrible tattoos covering his torso, lingering for a second at the cursive “Trisha” inked over his heart.
“Groupie chicks like you are always sneaking into the locker rooms like this lookin’ for the big-shot QB.” He wags his eyebrows at me. “Tryin’ to live out a little Friday Night Lights fantasy, babe?”
I roll my eyes.
“Yeah, you got me,” I say flatly, my eyes darting past the doofus in front of me to see if I can spot the man I actually came here for.
“You know, I got a better idea.” He winks at me. “What say you skip Holden, and me and you go out on an ATE,” he stresses the last word with a big, eager grin on his face.
“And then later, I can give you-”
“The D, right? You’re going to give me the D later?”
He frowns as I steal his thunder of a line.
“Heard that one before, tiger.”
He clears his throat again, like he’s digging deep for one last attempt at smooth talking the pants off of me.
“You know,” he grins, this time moving almost right against me.
“Us halfbacks know how to take it deep, baby,” the almost naked, athletically perfect man purrs into my ear.
I snort out a laugh, shaking my head.
“Oh, now I wouldn’t exactly go bragging about that, given your playoffs performance.”
He suddenly scowls at me as he pulls away.
“You know who the fuck I am?”
I smile sweetly.
“You’re Jackson Collins. You went All-American at U-Pitt, but some might say it was your peak since you’ve been banking that for the last seven years in the pros. You ran a thoroughly underwhelming last two seasons, and the talk around the campfire is that you just don’t have it anymore.”
He blinks and I keep going.
“You favor your left knee entirely too often, and it’s becoming both predictable and a problem. You have a tendency to undershoot conversions, and my guess is that the shoulder surgery you had three years ago is starting to bother you.”
I stop, crossing my arms across my chest and raising a brow at him.
“Oh, and I know you didn’t ask, but it’s my professional opinion that you are wildly overpaid. So, you know, milk that for all it’s worth before you blow that knee in a season or two and go into forced retirement.”
The cocky, self-aggrandizing smugness is gone from his face, replaced with a stunned look and an open mouth.
“Feel like telling me where Holden Cade is? Cause I can keep going if you want.”
Jackson scowls as he tightens the towel around his waist.
“He’s in the PT room; out back.”
“Thanks,” I say sweetly, tipping my hat and letting the Texas twang out that I usually keep held back.
I reach up and pat him on the cheek.
“Good luck with that shoulder, kiddo. And say hi to Trisha for me.”
“We’re divorced,” he mutters lamely.
I turn on my booted heel and walk calmly towards the physical therapy room.
“Bitch,” I hear him mutter, but it only makes me grin even wider.
I march past the array of other half-naked or in some cases entirely naked male athletes, tuning out the cat-calls, ignoring the, uh, appendages, and really just doing what I do best.
Owning the situation.
And that’s why I’m here in the locker room of the Denver Rattlesnakes - to own it and win.
I’m also here to see if the rumors are true concerning one of the biggest, hottest, and most talked-about quarterbacks in recent pro football history.
Born and raised in Denver, and everyone’s favorite hometown wild-child. Recklessly cocky on and off the field, and known just as well if not more so for his hard-partying and endless stream of high-profile sexual antics than his football skills. Honestly, if he weren’t so damn good at what he does, he’d just be another arrogant jock shaking his tail-feathers for the camera.
Except, he is so damn good.
Well, when he is, that is. Because Holden’s endless summer is finally catching up with him.
A shitty end-of-season performance leading to the Rattlesnakes first championship loss in five years was bad enough. But after he garnered enough bad partying press during the off season to start raising some eyebrows in the Rattlesnakes’ upper management, the rumor mill has it that the hometown hero might be looking to bail.
Loose lips sink ships, as they say, and I’m here for the kill.
I pause outside the PT room door, removing the token cowboy hat I wear to every scouting meeting and running a hand through my auburn hair. The hat is my lucky charm of sorts when I’m on the beat like this, chasing down possible recruitment or trade leads - a little bit of Texas that I carry with me.
I take a deep breath, focusing and centering myself before I slip the hat back on, twist the knob, and step into the physical therapy room to go toe-to-toe with Holden Cade.
I roll my eyes at myself for taking the word of a world-class tool like Jackson Collins. I start to turn to head back into the locker room when I gasp at the feel of warm, muscled, bare skin at my back.
I can feel my heart skip a beat and my whole body freeze at the sound of the deep, honeyed voice I’ve only heard on interviews. The voice of the big-sky boy with the golden arm.
The cocky asshole jock I have to recruit.
The voice is like tobacco in my ear, and the hand that follows like warm heat as it traces up my bare arm.
Suddenly, the hand drops from my arm and comes swatting firmly across my denim-covered ass, and I gasp out loud.
“Now with an ass like that, how exactly have we not been introduced?”
I swallow the heat that comes to my face as I start to turn towards him.
“Oh so you know me, huh?” he chuckles into my ear.
I turn and start to open my mouth, but suddenly the heat of the room and the masculine smell of him come crashing into my senses like some sort of perfect storm.
I swallow quickly as my breath catches in my throat.
He’s gorgeous. I mean I knew that, but he’s also standing there in just a towel, sweat glistening across the tattooed, hard-chiseled muscles of his chest and abs. My eyes dart to that sandy blonde hair, the chiseled chin and carved cheekbones, the perfectly formed lips, and those piercing, icy-blue eyes like a Colorado mountain stream.
Well, at least that’s the way the Colorado beer company described them in that commercial.
…They’re basically right.
“Listen, sweetheart,” he growls. “I’m all dirty right now from the gym, but what say you and me go hop in the shower and you can wash behind my ears, yeah?”
He doesn’t know who I am.
I mean, of course he doesn’t. He doesn’t know who I am or what I’m doing here, or that I’m his ticket to a new team.
He doesn’t know that I know he’s looking for a new team.
Hell, he probably thinks I’m some sort of football-bunny groupie like Jackson did.
He chuckles as he leans close, flashing that panty-melting grin at me as he hooks his thumbs into the already dangerously loose towel around his grooved hips.
“I’ve got this big important meeting with this really big-deal scout in a sec here, sugar.” His hand moves to my waist, sliding over my hip. “But why don’t you go warm up the water for me and I’ll join you aft-”
The door to the PT room suddenly starts to open as the sound of voices floods into the outside room. A portly man in a t-shirt and sport coat looks up at me and smiles as he steps through the door.
“Ahh, Ms. Jacobs!”
I can feel Holden freeze before suddenly and quickly dropping his hand from my waist.
I turn back to him, and I’m grinning as his eyes go wide - staring at me with this sort of half-shocked, half amused look on his face.
I smile widely as I put a hand out, my eyes locking on him. The power is reversed now. Or, I want to tell myself that as I gloat at him.
Except he’s not really that embarrassed, or shy, or uncomfortable.
In fact, he almost looks amused.
“You’re LJ Jacobs?”
“London works, too,” I smile, arching a brow at his bemused expression.
The portly man in the sport coat who I now recognize as Holden Cade’s agent frowns before turning to me.
“Shall we move to an office, Ms. Jacobs?”
He nods before turning and stepping through another door.
I start to follow, but I just can’t resist turning back over my shoulder and winking at the gorgeous man in a towel still standing there looking half-confused.
“Enjoy your shower,” I say sassily under my breath. “Better make it a cold one.”
I flash him a smile, hoping to see him at least react to that little barb as I turn to follow his agent.
But Holden just grins.
This is LJ Jacobs?
No fucking way. LJ Jacobs, the talent scout with the golden eye, whose father Archie Jacobs is the owner of the Houston Bulls. LJ Jacobs the notorious whiskey drinker, shit talker, hardline negotiator.
The LJ Jacobs in my head is a middle-aged balding guy with a paunch. The LJ Jacobs in my head wears suspenders, dabs his forehead with a sweaty handkerchief, and smells like old cigars.
The chick standing in front of me is none of those things.
“London Jacobs, Holden Cade,” Randy says, making the obvious introductions.
“So, let’s get down to business, shall we?”
London smirks again, eyeing me like maybe I should put a shirt on, and I wonder how the hell I didn’t know she was a chick.
I’m definitely not putting a shirt on now. I’m having too much fun watching her try not to stare at my abs.
“We weren’t expecting you until a little later,” Randy frowns, pulling at the cuffs of his jacket in that way he does when he gets flustered by something. Which is often, since dealing with me is his job.
“This is just a trainer’s office, but I can try and find a free conference room for-”
“Don’t bother,” London says.
She flashes a smile at him, and he smiles back like she didn’t just totally cut him off.
Shit, she’s good at this.
London turns back to me, crossing one arm across her chest and letting the fingers of her other hand trace over the soft line of her jaw as she gives me a good, long up-and-down.
We can both play that game. She’s ogleable as hell, auburn-haired, and pixie-small. Tight curves in all the right places, and oozing sex appeal even in jeans, a blouse, and stiletto boots straight off of Fifth Avenue.
And of course, the cowboy hat, perched on her head at just the right angle to cast a little shadow across that smirk.
Well, shit. No wonder my cock is jumping.
She smiles this tight, smug grin at me, like she’s gotten me off my game or something by surprising me like this, but not today.
I grin right back, crossing my arms over my chest and doing fuck-all to adjust my towel over my growing bulge.
Fuck it. I don’t care what reputation “LJ Jacobs” has - I don’t get thrown off by chicks. Besides, I might not know much about negotiating, but I’m betting “cocky with a semi” is as good a tactic as any.
I march into the office right after them, towel-clad in all my glory.
“So, why do you want to leave the Rattlesnakes?” she asks.
“I don’t,” I say, glaring over her shoulder at Randy.
No one is supposed to know that except him. Hell, I haven’t even mentioned it to some of my closest teammates, let alone the management and coaches.
London raises one eyebrow.
“You don’t?” she says.
“Nope,” I say, grinning like an asshole and lying through my teeth. “Not sure where you heard that, but I’m pretty damn happy here.”
Randy sighs loudly.
Dammit, Randy, I think.
We’ve had this talk before. He wants me to stay here in Denver, but there’s not a fucking chance.
There comes a point where home stops feeling like home - when the place you’re supposed to be becomes the place you can’t wait to leave. That’s me, right now with this town, and by proxy, this team.
That’s pretty much the way it’s been since the accident.
London smiles thinly.
“Well then,” she says crisply. “I guess we’re done here,” she nods at me. “Good day, Mr. Cade.”
This is stupid. We both know I do want to leave, or else why the fuck would she be here. But again, there’s something about the famous LJ Jacobs showing up in my locker room and being her that’s throwing me. I feel like I got fooled. Like someone pulled a fast one on me.
Stop acting like a damn kid, I think.
London turns to leave, her hand on the door.
“Goddamn it, Holden,” Randy swears under his breath.
He glares at me and I roll my eyes.
“Alright alright. Settle down, sugar,” I say to London.
Her eyes flare like blue fire for a second at the word, like she wants to slap me or cut me down for saying it. But she holsters that gun.