Straddling the line, p.1
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       Straddling the Line, p.1

         Part #8 of Play by Play series by Jaci Burton
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Straddling the Line


  Copyright (c) 2014 Jaci Burton

  Excerpt from Hope Burns copyright (c) 2014 by Jaci Burton Cover photo (c) Claudio Marinesco

  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.

  First published in this Ebook edition in 2014

  by HEADLINE ETERNAL

  An imprint of HEADLINE PUBLISHING GROUP

  Published by arrangement with Berkley,

  a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

  A Penguin Random House Company.

  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 1556 7

  HEADLINE PUBLISHING GROUP

  An Hachette UK Company

  338 Euston Road

  London NW1 3BH

  www.headlineeternal.com

  www.headline.co.uk

  www.hachette.co.uk

  Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  About the Author

  Praise for Jaci Burton

  By Jaci Burton

  About the Book

  Dedication

  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

  Dear Readers

  Excerpt from HOPE BURNS

  Have you followed Jaci Burton's Play-by-Play?

  Find out more about Headline Eternal

  About the Author

  Jaci Burton is a USA Today and 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 www.jaciburton.com, and connect with her online via Twitter @jaciburton or through www.facebook.com/AuthorJaciBurton.

  Praise for Jaci Burton:

  '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 nonstop passion make this book a must read' Fresh Fiction

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

  '[She] 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 Romance Reviews

  '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

  'A compulsively readable sexy story' Book Lovers Inc.

  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

  Quarterback Draw

  Hope Series

  Hope Flames

  Hope Smoulders (e-novella)

  Hope Ignites

  Hope Burns

  The sparks are flying . . . and the game is on.

  Trevor Shay has it all - a successful sports career, and any woman he wants. But when he finds out his college mentor's daughter is in trouble, he drops everything to help her.

  Haven Briscoe has landed a dream job as a sportscaster. But she hasn't been able to move past the recent death of her beloved father, and it's affecting her career. An assignment following the daily life of superstar Trevor Shay might be just the inspiration she needs . . .

  As they grow closer, Haven stumbles on to Trevor's most closely guarded secret. Can he trust her with a revelation that could blow his professional and personal world apart?

  For my dad, who taught me a love of sports at a very early age, and for my mom, who was always there when I needed her, and taught me what unconditional love was all about.

  I miss you both.

  ONE

  "HAVEN'S IN TROUBLE."

  Those were words Trevor Shay never wanted to hear, especially not less than a year after the death of Haven's dad, Bill.

  Bill Briscoe had been more than just a dorm parent back in Trevor's college days. He and his wife, Ginger, had been like substitute parents, especially to Trevor, who'd needed guidance more than the rest of them.

  And now he sat in Ginger's living room, in a house he'd once thought of as his second home.

  Trevor had always counted on Ginger's confidence, that smile and optimism that had assured him everything was going to be all right.

  Now she just looked worried.

  He picked up her hand. "What's wrong?"

  "She hasn't been herself since Bill died. You know Haven. She's always been upbeat, and she'd come to grips with the eventuality of Bill's death." Ginger took a deep breath. "As we all did."

  Trevor squeezed her hand.

  "It wasn't like we didn't know it was coming. Bill prepared us all for it, made sure we were ready. Never thinking of himself."

  He saw the tears welling in her eyes and wished he could take them away.

  "I know, Miss Ginger. I know. I miss him, too."

  She grabbed a tissue. "He'd kick my butt if he saw me cryin' over him. But Haven, she has a great life and an amazing future. She got a job with the network as a sports journalist."

  Trevor smiled. "I heard about that."

  "It's an amazing opportunity for her. One she should be seizing. I told her that her father would be so proud of her."

  "He would."

  "Instead, what is she doing? She's thinking about quitting the job and coming back here to live with me."

  Trevor leaned back and frowned. "Coming back here? Why?"

  "I don't know. She said something about getting a job at the local TV station instead."

  "Is that what she really wants?"

  "I don't think so." Ginger leaned forward. "Trevor, I don't know what to do. She hasn't even given this new job a shot. I think she's scared, and without her dad, she feels alone for the first time in her life."

  "She's not alone, Miss Ginger. She has you."

  "I know that. And believe me, I don't feel slighted in the least. I know Haven loves me. I also know she's worried about me being here all alone. I don't want her to make a mistake and screw up the best job she might ever have because of me, and because of her fear."

  She paused, took a breath. "I was hoping you could offer me some advice, tell me what I could say to her to make her stay in her job."

  Trevor thought about it a minute. "Let me see what I can do about that."

  "Thank you. I know you're big in the sports world, and I don't know if there's anything you can do for her, but gosh, I'd sure appreciate anything. Anything at all."

  An idea formed in his head. He had the pull. He could get this done. And he'd do anything for Ginger, and to honor Bill's memory. Haven needed help, and he sure as hell was in a position to help her.

  He spent the day with Ginger, and honestly, it was great to see her again, to while away the hours talking about Bill, reminiscing about college life. Besides, she fixed him lunch, and he loved her home-cooked meals. Hours later as he sat on the plane on his way back to St. Louis for a game, Trevor already had the plan formulated. The media were constantly hounding him for a feature story on his life and career. After all, it wasn't too many athletes who played multiple sports. At least not too many who played them well. He'd been closed off to the idea of it for a lot of reasons.

  He leaned back in his seat and smiled.

  Now it was Haven's turn to shine. And he was just the person to make it happen.

  HAVEN TRIED TO MUSTER UP ENOUGH SALIVA TO SWALLOW as she pressed the button to return the phone call she'd missed from her boss.

  She knew what was on the other end of that phone call.

  Her ass was going to be fired, less than six weeks after she'd gotten the job of a lifetime.

  It would have been much better if she could have resigned. It would have looked better on her resume, but then again, what did she care? Her career in journalism was over anyway, right?

  Never quit. Whatever you do, Haven, never give up on anything until you're sure you've given it everything you have.

  Her father's words rang in her ears, guilt squeezing her stomach until nausea caused her fingers to pause on the call button of her phone.

  It was too late to beg to keep her job. She'd already passed up multiple travel assignments, content to do the local ones, then sit in her apartment in New York, dwelling on how much she missed home, her mom.

  Her dad.

  This wasn't the right career for her. She'd made a mistake accepting this job. She wasn't cut out for the rigors of sports news--the travel, the insane schedule, the arrogant athletes.

  What was she thinking? Her father hadn't even been gone a year yet.

  She couldn't do it.

  Be brave, Haven. You can do anything, be anything you want to be. Just be happy.

  Tears pricked her eyes and she swiped them away as every conversation they'd had those last few weeks replayed in a reel over and over in her head.

  Be happy.

  She didn't know how to be happy without hearing her father's laugh, seeing his smiling face, being able to pick up the phone and talk to him every day.

  Who was she going to go to when she needed advice?

  She loved her mother, and in the ways of relationships and men and things like that, she had always gone to her mom.

  But her dad--he'd been her buddy. She'd learned about sports from her father, had sat next to him and watched football, baseball, hockey, and every sport imaginable. He'd taught her balls and strikes in baseball and the difference between a post pattern and a shovel pass in football. They'd driven up to St. Louis together and taken in all the professional sports. She'd never been more content than to sit next to her dad and watch games with him.

  She'd learned to love sports because of her dad.

  She'd gone after this job because of him.

  And now she was going to be fired because she hadn't had the energy after his death to do this job she'd wanted for years. For that, she only had herself to blame.

  "I'm sorry, Dad," she said, then pushed the call button on her phone. It rang. She was hoping for voice mail.

  "Haven. I've been waiting for you to call."

  She cringed as the loud and very no-nonsense voice of her boss, Chandler Adams, came on the line.

  "Hi, Chandler. Sorry. I got tied up."

  "Well, untie yourself. I have a job for you."

  "A . . . job?" He wasn't firing her?

  "Yeah. You know Trevor Shay, right?"

  "Trevor . . . yes, I know him."

  "Great. We're going to do his bio. A whole feature on the life of Trevor Shay. Personal and professional. We've been after him for years to do this, and he kept putting us off, until now. He's finally agreed to let us do the feature, and he's asked for you."

  "For me?"

  "Yeah. Says you two go way back to college."

  "Uh . . . yes. I knew him in college."

  "Then it's a damn good thing we hired you, Haven. Pack a bag. You'll meet him at his place in St. Louis to get everything set up. Narrative and background first, and then we'll get camera work involved later."

  Was she in some alternate universe? She hadn't been fired. In fact, she'd just been assigned to interview one of the biggest stars in the sports world right now.

  "Okay. Sure. Thanks, Chandler."

  "No, problem. I'll e-mail you the specs on what we're looking for from you on this, Haven. This assignment's going to take a while, so clear your calendar."

  "Consider it done."

  When she hung up, she sat back and stared out the window of her very tiny apartment, stunned that she hadn't been kicked out the door. She'd been mentally prepared, and as she stared at the boxes in her apartment, already half packed, she realized she'd been set in her mind that she was going to head back to Oklahoma to be near her mother, her roots.

  Where memories of her dad were.

  Now she had to change her focus.

  Why had she agreed to do this interview? This job wasn't what she wanted to do anymore.

  Was it?

  She sat on the bed.

  Follow your dreams, Haven.

  She still heard her dad's voice so clearly in her head. Maybe he was trying to tell her something. She didn't know if this was her dream anymore, but she'd agreed to take this job.

  With Trevor Shay, of all people. She hadn't seen Trevor since her dad's funeral. She wondered how he'd react knowing it was her doing this assignment.

  He'd probably ignore her, just like he had in college.

  No, wait. He'd specifically asked for her. He'd agreed to the interviews, so this time, she wouldn't allow him to pretend she didn't exist.

  She got up and went to her closet to grab her suitcase.

  Her and Trevor Shay. God, she'd had such a crush on him in college, back when she was tutoring him. All those nights they spent shoulder to shoulder, when she'd done her best to try to persuade him to focus on his books, when all she'd really wanted was for him to notice her as a woman.

  He'd been more interested in trying to finagle a way to get her to do his homework.

  Now she was going to be in the driver's seat.

  She stared out over the boxes, debating whether to unpack them.

  She'd leave them, see how this assignment went. If it didn't work out, if it didn't light the fire under her after a few days, she'd call Chandler and tell him she was out.

  But she'd give it a try. For her dad.

  TWO

  AFTER HER FLIGHT, HAVEN SAT IN THE BACK OF A TAXI bound for Trevor's place outside St. Louis, equal parts nervous and excited. The rules Trevor had set down for this expose were a little unorthodox, but whatever. If the network had agreed to it, she could live with it. For any other athlete, she'd have said hell no. But she'd known Trevor a long time. She knew how he felt about his privacy, and she knew he liked to call the shots.

  She'd be staying on the grounds of his house here in St. Louis, at least while they were here. But when the camera crews showed up, they'd have to stay in a hotel. Trevor had to approve the filming segments, and he wanted some one-on-one time with Haven to discuss the parameters, especially as it related to his background.

  She smiled as she took in the view of the St. Louis Gateway Arch as the car breezed along the highway. She'd seen the view of the stadium from the plane, and it reminded her of her dad bringing her up to see a Rivers baseball game. She and her mom had been so excited that summer they'd come up for a weekend of sightseeing and baseball. She'd been twelve, and they'd gone to Forest Park to visit the zoo, and then that night had gone to see the Rivers play baseball. They'd stayed in a hotel downtown near the stadium and had even gone out to dinner.

  For a twelve-year-old, it had been an exciting time. The city had been lit up, and they'd even walked down along the riverfront before the game. It had been a perfect summer weekend, her first of many here. Haven had loved St. Louis. She was happy to be back here again, and surprised at how excited she was to get started on this assignment.

  Now the car took them out of the city, away from the stadium and toward the county.

  Not at all what she expected. For some reason she thought Trevor would live in a condo in the city near the stadium, not in a gated community with tall, tree-lined streets.

  Her jaw dropped when the car pulled up the long drive to what had to be Trevor's house.

  This had to be wrong. It was like a freakin' mansion, not at all where she expected him to live. The entire drive was thick with trees, the house a massive, gorgeous, two-story Colonial. The car stopped out front and the driver opened the door for her.

  Trevor came out the front door wearing casual sweats and a sleeveless shirt, a big smile on his face.

 
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