The perfect play, p.6
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       The Perfect Play, p.6

         Part #1 of Play by Play series by Jaci Burton
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Page 6

  Author: Jaci Burton

  THREE

  MICK ROLLED OVER, CURSING THE BRIGHT SUNLIGHT that poured into his room. He dragged the covers over his head, but the pounding wouldn’t stop.

  It couldn’t be a hangover. He knew better. He cracked one eye open and listened.

  Someone was at the door.

  Oh, yeah. Hotel room. He threw the covers off, expecting to find Tara in bed with him.

  But she wasn’t. As he rounded the corner to the bathroom, he noticed she wasn’t there either.

  “Housekeeping. ” The pounding intensified.

  “I’m not dressed. Come back later. ”

  “Checkout was an hour ago, sir,” the person outside the door said with an obvious sigh of frustration that Mick had no trouble understanding.

  Mick dragged his fingers through his hair. “Oh. Sorry. I’ll be out shortly. ”

  He went to the bathroom and took a fast shower, then packed up his things, trying not to think about the woman he’d shared a bed with last night. He wasn’t one to worry about women he slept with, since he was usually the one to get them out of his room before he went to sleep. The last thing he wanted was to face the morning after and the possibility that a woman would want a next day with him. He didn’t do next days or next dates or next anythings with women.

  But with Tara, it had been different. He was disappointed as hell to find her gone when he woke up.

  Where the hell was she? The last thing he remembered was passing out with her curled up next to him. It had to have been near dawn when they finally fell asleep, because he remembered them laughing about the sky outside lightening by the time they’d finally gotten their fill of each other.

  Not that he had been even close to getting his fill. Exhaustion had finally set in, but Mick hadn’t come close to getting enough of Tara.

  He wanted a next day with her. And he had no idea how to reach her, didn’t get her number. But he knew how to find out.

  After he checked out and climbed into his car, he pulled out his phone and dialed Elizabeth’s number. If anyone could find someone, it was his agent.

  “Shouldn’t you be working out with your trainer or in bed with some hot woman? And if you are in bed with some hot model or actress, let me know when and where so I can send a photographer to get a pic, ’kay?”

  He laughed. “No. I need you to find a woman for me. ”

  “I’m appalled you think of me as your pimp, Mick. It’s sort of true, but I’m appalled. Who is she?”

  “Tara Lincoln. She was the event organizer for last night’s team party. ”

  “Why do you want to find her?”

  “None of your business. Just get me her info. ”

  “Planning a little soiree of your own?”

  Mick snickered. “Yeah, you know me. Just a wild party guy. ”

  “Please. If you were, my job would be a lot easier. I’ll get her info and get back to you. ”

  Mick clicked off and headed home to his condo in the East Bay. He pulled into the garage, closed the door, and grabbed his overnight bag. His cell vibrated before he got to the kitchen.

  “That was fast,” he said, grabbing for the orange juice and hitting the speaker on his cell.

  He knew Liz was grinning. “I’m just that good, Mick. Tara Lincoln, owner of The Right Touch. The business is located in Concord. Grab a pen and I’ll give you her phone number and address. This is her business address and office phone number. If you want her personal info, it might take me all of an hour. ”

  “You scare me, Liz. ” He grabbed a pen and the pad of paper on the kitchen counter. “The business information is good enough. I don’t need you digging up her ancestry. ”

  “I might if you’re thinking of dating this woman. I’d need to know more about her. ”

  “Not even my mother knows as much about the women I date as you do. ”

  “Your mother isn’t as invested in your career as I am. One misstep and you’re fucked. ”

  “And all that money you make off me goes down the tubes. ”

  “I’m crushed, Mick. You know how much I adore you. ”

  Mick shook his head and smiled. Where would he be without Elizabeth Darnell in his life? A hot redhead who looked more like one of those fashion models he dated, no one looking at her would think she was a sports agent with the killer instinct of a hungry shark. She was the main reason he and his brother were multimillionaires. “Yeah, yeah. I’m touched by your sincerity. Just give me what you’ve got. ”

  After he hung up with Liz, he changed and took a run in the park first, needing to clear his head and draw some oxygen into his lungs. It was mid-June and warm in the East Bay, especially since he’d gotten a late start. He was usually up at dawn and running early. Now it was afternoon, and the sun beat down on him as he rounded the turn on the jogging trail, ignoring the sweat that streamed down his back, concentrating only on his breathing and his time.

  Thirty years old was getting up there in years for an NFL athlete. But he was far from being done with this sport he loved. He was in great shape physically, and he intended to stay that way. He was nowhere near ready to retire yet.

  After five miles he took it down to a walk and headed back to his condo. An hour later he’d showered and was in his car again, this time heading into Concord to the address of Tara’s business. It was Saturday, so chances were she might not even be there. They might not be open. Then again, he could get a feel for her place, if nothing else.

  Yeah, and you have no idea what the fuck you’re doing. You could have just called, moron.

  He didn’t chase after women, ever. It wasn’t ego talking, it was just that Liz threw women at him all the time. And the ones Liz didn’t toss his way came to him on their own. He usually had to fend them off, so he’d never had to go after any. This was new territory for him.

  He found the center where her business was located, parked, and went to the big window where THE RIGHT TOUCH was etched in white scrolled letters. There were lights on and a few people inside. He didn’t see Tara right away, so he stepped through the door.

  Definitely a woman’s kind of place. Lots of fabric and paper thingies spread on tables and tacked to the walls. Some looked like invitations. And there were champagne glasses and giant books loaded with . . . stuff.

  “May I help you?”

  He turned and smiled down at a petite redhead with tortoise-shell glasses perched on the bridge of her nose. “I’m looking for Tara. ”

  The redhead’s eyes widened and she took a step back, obviously recognizing him. “Oh. Sure. She’s in the back. I’ll get her for you. ”

  The redhead walked away, and Mick decided to wander around Tara’s place, though with all the breakable gizmos in here and as big as he was, the “bull in a china shop” saying definitely applied. Maybe he should just stay put.

  “Mick. ”

  He turned and smiled at Tara. “Hey. ”

  She wore a skinny black skirt that went to her knees and a yellow sleeveless blouse that looked feminine and silky, and he wanted to pull her into his arms and kiss her. But she wasn’t smiling and didn’t look happy to see him.

  “What are you doing here? How did you find me?”

  “My agent found you. You left without waking me this morning. ”

  Tara looked around the shop, and it was then that Mick saw three women staring at them and whispering to each other. He heard his name mentioned.

  He loved female football fans. He dazzled them with a big smile. “Hi, ladies. ”

  Tara dragged him by the arm. “Come into my office. ”

  He followed her, winking at the three women who gaped at him as he walked by.

  Tara’s office was a tiny little room in the back of her shop. He felt like a giant standing in this small space.

  Her desk was clean and tidy, with a laptop in the center and neat piles on each end.
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  She shut the door and went around to the desk, clearly using the furniture as a defense. “Why are you here?”

  He arched a brow. “Isn’t it obvious? I wanted to see you again. ”

  “Oh. ” Her lips lifted for a second, then she frowned. “That’s not a good idea. ”

  He crossed his arms over his chest. “Why isn’t it a good idea?”

  “Um, you and me . . . well, let’s just say I’m very busy with my career. ”

  “So the sex was bad?”

  Her eyes widened. “Oh my God, no. It was wonderful. ” She came around her desk and laid her hand on his arm. “Mick, I had a great time last night. Surely you know that. ”

  “I had a great time, too. I want to see you again. ”

  She shook her head. “I can’t. ”

  “Why not?” Then it hit him. “Oh, shit. You’re married. ” He did not do married women. Ever.

  “No! Of course I’m not married. What kind of woman do you think I am?”

  “I have no idea. That’s what I want to find out. Let’s go to dinner tonight. ”

  “I can’t. Please, let’s just leave it at one great night together. ”

  “So you had fun last night. ”

  “Yes. ”

  “With me. You enjoyed being with me. ”

  “I did. ”

  “But you don’t want to see me again. Ever. ”

  She rubbed the side of her head. “I know, it doesn’t make sense. But I just can’t. ” She looked at the clock. “I’m sorry, but I have an appointment. I really have to go. ”

  “Okay. ” He didn’t need to have a shoe shoved up his ass to know he was getting the brush-off. Feeling like a moron, he turned and headed for the door. “See you later. ”

  She looked as miserable as he felt. He didn’t get it.

  “Good-bye, Mick. ”

  He heard the regret in her voice and stopped, turned, and marched over to her, pulled her into his arms and kissed her, covering her gasp with his lips. It took her all of point two seconds to respond, leaning into him, wrapping her arms around him, and making all kinds of moaning noises.

  Mick slid an arm around her waist and pulled her against him, deepening the kiss, sliding his tongue inside, tasting the sweetness of her. It was Tara who broke the kiss, who stepped back, her eyes glassy with passion, her nipples peaking through her blouse.

  Yeah, she felt it, too. Whatever was between them wasn’t one-sided. And her brush-off wasn’t because she didn’t want to be with him.

  “See you later,” he said, and walked out the door, leaving her standing there heaving deep gulps of air.

  She had a great time, he had a great time, but she didn’t want to see him again? Something was wrong. And he was going to find out what it was.

  He might have lost that down, but Mick always got up for the next play.

  DAMN.

  It took Tara a full ten minutes to pull her act together before she could walk out of her office. By then her client had arrived, and she spent the next hour going through the motions of showing the prospective client everything there was to know about her company and the services they offered.

  Or at least she thought that’s what she’d done. She had no recollection of that client meeting. For all she knew, she might have recited the Burger King menu to the poor woman. Then again, the client signed an agreement for services, so she must have done something right.

  “Tara, do you have any idea who that was?”

  “Mrs. Stenson?”

  Maggie, her assistant, rolled her eyes. “No. That hot dude who rolled in here before Mrs. Stenson did. ”

  “Oh. You mean Mick. ”

  Maggie looked stunned. “You’re on a first-name basis with Mick Riley, quarterback of the San Francisco Sabers. Just what exactly happened at the party last night?”

  “I don’t want to talk about it. ” Tara headed back to her office, but Maggie’s heels clipped on the tile floor, along with those of Tara’s other two employees, Ellen and Karie.