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Unexpected Rush (Play-By-Play #11)

Jaci Burton

  Copyright © 2016 Jaci Burton

  Excerpt from Don’t Let Go copyright © 2016 Jaci Burton

  Cover photograph © Claudio Marinesco

  Author photograph © Steve Ervin

  The right of Jaci Burton to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

  Published by arrangement with Berkley,

  A member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,

  A Penguin Random House Company.

  First published in this Ebook edition in 2016



  Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, with prior permission in writing of the publishers or, in the case of reprographic production, in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency.

  All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

  Cataloguing in Publication Data is available from the British Library

  eISBN 978 1 4722 2823 9


  An Hachette UK Company

  Carmelite House

  50 Victoria Embankment

  London EC4Y 0DZ

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  About the Author

  Praise for Jaci Burton

  Also by Jaci Burton

  About the Book


  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-One

  Chapter Thirty-Two

  Chapter Thirty-Three

  Chapter Thirty-Four

  Chapter Thirty-Five

  Chapter Thirty-Six

  Chapter Thirty-Seven

  Chapter Thirty-Eight

  Chapter Thirty-Nine

  Bonus excerpt of Don’t Let Go

  Have you followed Jaci Burton’s Play-By-Play?

  Visit a town called Hope

  Find out more about Headline Eternal

  About the Author

  Jaci Burton is a New York Times bestselling author who lives in Oklahoma with her husband and dogs. She has three grown children, who are all scattered around the country having lives of their own. A lover of sports, Jaci can often tell what season it is by what sport is being played. She watches entirely too much television, including an unhealthy amount of reality TV. When she isn’t on deadline, Jaci can be found at her local casino, trying to become a millionaire (so far, no luck). She’s a total romantic and loves a story with a happily ever after, which you’ll find in all her books.

  Find the latest news on Jaci’s books at, and connect with her online at or via Twitter @jaciburton.

  Praise for Jaci Burton:

  ‘A wild ride’ Lora Leigh, No. 1 New York Times bestselling author

  ‘It’s the perfect combination of heat and romance that makes this series a must-read’ Heroes and Heartbreakers

  ‘Plenty of emotion and conflict in a memorable relationship-driven story’ USA Today

  ‘Strong characters, an exhilarating plot, and scorching sex . . . You’ll be drawn so fully into her characters’ world that you won’t want to return to your own’ Romantic Times

  ‘A beautiful romance that is smooth as silk . . . leaves us begging for more’ Joyfully Reviewed

  ‘A strong plot, complex characters, sexy athletes, and non-stop passion make this book a must-read’ Fresh Fiction

  ‘Hot, hot, hot! . . . Romance at its best! Highly recommended!’ Coffee Table Reviews

  ‘Ms Burton has a way of writing intense scenes that are both sensual and raw . . . Plenty of romance, sexy men, hot steamy loving and humor’ Smexy Books

  ‘A wonderful contemporary erotic romance that I recommend!’ The Romance Dish

  ‘Spy the name Jaci Burton on the spine of a novel, and you’re guaranteed not just a sexy, get-the-body-humming read, but also one that melds the sensual with the all-important building of intimacy and relational dynamics between partners’ Romance: B(u)y the Book

  ‘The characters are incredible. They are human and complex and real and perfect’ Night Owl Reviews

  ‘One of the strongest sports romance series available’ Dear Author

  ‘As usual, Jaci Burton delivers flawed but endearing characters, a strong romance and an engaging plot all wrapped up in one sexy package’ Romance Novel News

  By Jaci Burton

  Play-by-Play Series

  The Perfect Play

  Changing The Game

  Taking A Shot

  Playing To Win

  Thrown By A Curve

  One Sweet Ride

  Holiday Games (e-novella)

  Melting The Ice

  Straddling The Line

  Holiday On Ice (e-novella)

  Quarterback Draw

  All Wound Up

  Unexpected Rush

  Hope Series

  Hope Smoulders (e-novella)

  Hope Flames

  Hope Ignites

  Hope Burns

  Love After All

  Make Me Stay

  Don’t Let Go

  About the Book

  This player has all the right moves . . . to break all the rules.

  It seems as though Barrett Cassidy’s dreams are coming true – he’s playing defence for the Tampa Hawks and he may have found his ideal woman. Harmony Evans is smart, gorgeous and hard to resist. If only she wasn’t his best friend’s sister . . .

  Harmony has always gone after what she wants with single-minded determination. She never expected her youthful crush on Barrett to develop into something deeper, and she’s not about to let some ridiculous guy code – or her brother – stand in her way. With chemistry this combustible, lines are easily crossed. But when Barrett and Harmony’s secret gets out, it just might be game over . . .

  Want more sexy sporting romance? Don’t miss the rest of this steamy series which began with The Perfect Play. And check out Jaci’s gorgeously romantic Hope series, beginning with Hope Flames.

  To my husband, Charlie,

  for his never-ending patience, his understanding of my weird moods and his acceptance of pizza as a staple when I’m on deadline.

  Love always and forever, babe.


  “Men suck.”

  Harmony Evans tossed her purse on the kitchen table of her mother’s house and pulled up a chair next to her best friend, Alyssa. It was Thursday night—family dinner night at Mama�
��s house. Everyone was coming over, as it always was at Mama’s. Right now she’d prefer to be sitting in the corner of a dark bar, nursing a dirty martini. She was going to have to settle for sweet tea because, short of death, you did not miss Thursday-night dinner at Mama’s.

  She’d already come in and kissed her mother, who was holding court in the living room with Harmony’s brother, Drake, and several of his friends, giving her time to catch up with Alyssa.

  Alyssa laid her hand over Harmony’s and cast a look of concern. “Oh, no. Is it Levon?”

  Harmony wrinkled her nose, preferring never to hear the name of her now ex boyfriend again. “Yes.”

  “Did you dump him?”

  “I did not break up with him. He gave me the classic ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ speech. He’s doing so much international travel with the law firm, and he just can’t devote enough time to the relationship, so it wouldn’t be fair to lead me on when he knows he can’t commit. He went on with more excuses but it was all blah blah blah after that.” She waved her hand back and forth.

  Alyssa’s gaze narrowed. “What a prick. Why is it so damn hard to find a man of value, one who will respect a woman and give her honesty?”

  “I have no idea.” Harmony pulled one of the empty glasses forward and poured from the pitcher that sat in the middle of the table, already filled with tea and ice and loaded with so much sugar she’d likely be awake all night. At this point, she didn’t care. She’d work it off in a gym session tomorrow. “All I know is I’m glad to be rid of him. It was bad enough his bathroom counter had more product on it than mine did.”

  Alyssa laughed. “It’s for the best, Harmony. What does a man need on his counter besides a toothbrush, soap, deodorant and a razor?”

  “According to Levon, there was stuff for his beard, trimming devices, facial scrub, moisturizer—separate ones for his face and his body. An entire manicure set for his nails, to use when he wasn’t off getting mani-pedis of course.”

  “Of course,” Alyssa said, then giggled.

  “Oh, and the scents. Let’s not forget his entire rack of colognes.”

  Alyssa nodded. “The man did reek, honey.”

  “I think he owned more perfume than I do.”

  “Never a good sign. See? You dodged a bullet.”

  “I did.”

  Alyssa lifted her glass. “Let’s toast to that.”

  They clinked glasses. “To men we’re lucky to have not ended up with,” Harmony said.

  “What are we toasting to?”

  Harmony looked up to find Barrett Cassidy standing at the kitchen table. He was her brother Drake’s best friend and teammate, and since the guys both played for the Tampa Hawks football team, and Barrett also lived in Tampa, it meant she’d often see Barrett at Mama’s house for dinner. Along with several other members of the Hawks football team.

  One of the nicest things about living in Tampa, as a matter of fact. She’d often thought it fortuitous that her brother had been drafted by the hometown team. It had kept him close to home all these years, and of course, one couldn’t complain about the awesome eye candy her brother brought home now and then.

  Especially Barrett. Most especially Barrett.

  “We’re toasting the end of Harmony’s relationship with a man who was absolutely not right for her,” Alyssa said.

  Barrett arched a brow, then gave Harmony a sympathetic look. “Really. Sorry about that.”

  Harmony shrugged. “Nothing to be sorry about. Alyssa’s right. He wasn’t the man for me.”

  “Then I guess I’m . . . happy for you?”

  She could tell this was uncomfortable for him. “Come on. Sit down and have a glass of iced tea with us.”

  “I’m not sure I want to wade into these waters. Breakups are not my territory.”

  “Oh, come on, Barrett. Surely you’ve dumped a woman before,” Harmony said, pouring him a glass. When he didn’t answer, she added, “Or you’ve been dumped.”

  He pulled out a chair and sat. She’d never realized before how utterly . . . big he was. He’d always kept his distance from her, preferring to hang with Drake, so this was the closest she’d ever been to him. Both he and Drake played defense for the Hawks. Like her brother, Barrett was absolutely pure muscle. But she never paid attention to Drake. Barrett, though? Oh, yes. Just watching the way his muscles flexed as he moved was like watching liquid art. She could stare at his arms for hours, but she tried not to ogle. Too much, anyway.

  “I’ve been dumped before, sure,” Barrett said. “And maybe I’ve broken up with a woman or two.”

  Alyssa leaned close to Harmony. “He’s downplaying being the one who dumped the woman.”

  “I heard that, Alyssa.”

  “I meant for you to hear me, Barrett. You’re just trying to be the good guy right now because we’re roasting the not so good guys.”

  Barrett narrowed his gaze. “I told you I shouldn’t be sitting here. If you both want to bad-mouth my species—which you have a right to, since some asshole broke up with you, Harmony—then I should leave. Also, I’d suggest something stronger than iced tea. It helps.”

  So maybe he had been dumped before. It sounded like he knew how to get through it.

  “It’s okay, Barrett,” Harmony said. “Me getting dumped is definitely not your fault. I’m not as broken up about it as I should be, all things considered. So you’re safe here.”

  Besides, looking at Barrett could definitely make her forget all about Levon and his prissy bathroom counter. She wondered how many items Barrett kept on his bathroom counter? She’d just bet not many.

  She turned her chair toward him, determined to find out. “Actually, I have a ridiculous question for you, Barrett.”

  He turned his gorgeous blue eyes on her and smiled. “Shoot.”

  “How many items currently reside on your bathroom counter?”

  Barrett cocked a brow. “Huh?”

  Alyssa laughed. “Very good question.”

  “I don’t get it,” Barrett said.

  “We’re conducting a poll about men and their bathrooms,” Alyssa said. “Indulge us.”

  Barrett finally shrugged. “Okay, fine. Uh . . . soap, of course. Toothpaste and toothbrush. Deodorant. Maybe a comb?”

  Harmony smiled when Barrett struggled to come up with anything else. She knew he was an absolute male of the not-so-fussy-about-his-grooming variety.

  He finally cast her a helpless look. “I don’t know. I’ve got nothin’ else. Did I fail?”

  “Oh, no,” Harmony said. “You most definitely passed.”

  “You should go out with Barrett,” Alyssa suggested, nudging Harmony. “He’s a nice guy, and he obviously doesn’t keep thirty-seven things on his bathroom counter.”

  Barrett laughed. “Yeah, and Drake would kill us both. Well, he’d definitely kill me.”

  The idea of it appealed, though. She’d had such a crush on Barrett when Drake had first introduced them all those years ago. And now? Hmm. Yeah, definitely appealing.

  “What my brother doesn’t know won’t hurt him—or you. What do you say, Barrett? Care to take me out?”

  Barrett was at a loss for words. Harmony was his best friend’s little sister.

  Only she wasn’t so little anymore.

  He and Drake had been friends since sophomore year of college and had bonded then. They’d celebrated when they’d both been drafted by Tampa. Both of them played defense, they’d been roommates in college, and they’d become friends. It had been that way ever since.

  He’d been coming to Drake’s mom’s house ever since college. Harmony had been just getting out of high school back then. She’d only been a kid. Now she was a woman, with a career of her own, and she’d just been dumped by some guy obviously too stupid to know what a treasure he’d had.

  She was beautiful, with dark brown skin, straight dark hair that teased her perfect shoulders and those amazing amber eyes. She had the kind of body any man would want to get his hands on, cu
rves in all the right places, and that sweet, kissable mouth . . .

  And he had no business thinking about Harmony at all because there was a code—no messing with your best friend’s sister.

  Absolutely not. No. Wasn’t going to happen.

  He pushed back his chair and stood, looking down at Harmony as if she was Eve in the garden and she’d just offered him the forbidden apple. “I know the rule, Harmony, and so do you. I think I’ll go check out what your mom made for dinner tonight.”

  He might be tempted, but there was too much at stake. He was going to step away from the sweet fruit laid out in front of him before he decided to do something really stupid and take a taste.

  Because going down that road would spell nothing but doom.


  After Barrett walked away, Harmony stared at his retreating form, confused as hell by what he’d just said.

  “What was that all about?” Alyssa asked, pulling Harmony’s gaze away from Barrett’s fine ass.

  “I have no idea.” She pushed back from the table. “But I’m going to find out.”

  Mama’s house was much bigger than the one they’d grown up in. First thing Drake had done when he’d gotten his initial pro paycheck was buy their mother a new house. She’d objected, saying she liked her old one just fine, but Drake had insisted her old house was crumbling down around her. He hadn’t felt right about her staying in it, and she had finally relented.

  Mama was a proud woman. She didn’t need anyone to take care of her. And for years, she’d been the one taking care of both Drake and Harmony. But their old house had been a wreck, so Harmony had been so glad Mama agreed to the new one.

  There was a crowd around her brother and Barrett right now, and the last thing she wanted was to nudge herself in the middle of Barrett and Drake. Drake was overprotective and had been since their dad died when Harmony and Drake were young. Mama had raised them alone, but Drake, being two years older, had put himself in some sort of parental role, which had been ridiculous at the time, but after Dad passed, Harmony had felt lost and leaned on Drake for support. He’d been her closest ally and her best friend.