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Being the only woman working for a professional baseball team isn’t easy. As the San Diego Shock’s newest athletic trainer, Allie knows all about long hours, endless travel, and warding off players’ advances. Given she’s already the subject of a handful of rumors about how “lucky” she was to have earned such a coveted position, she can’t so much as flutter an eyelash a player’s way if she wants to be taken seriously.
But number eleven is doing more than fluttering eyelashes Allie’s way. Far more. Luke Archer is at the top of his game and doesn’t let the fear of striking out keep him from swinging. This is a motto he applies both on and off the field, but Allie appears immune, seeming to view Luke as nothing more than caution tape on legs.
He’s a player, and in Allie’s experience, they’re all the same. She won’t risk her job or her heart to another one, no matter how different this one claims to be. But as Allie gets to know him, she discovers the number eleven the public thinks they know is very different from the real Luke Archer. He seems too good to be true.
And maybe he is.
Allie will have to confront the stories attached to a player of Luke Archer’s stature and decide who she’ll put her faith in—The man she’s falling for? Or the rumors?
“Shouldn’t you buy me dinner first or something?” Archer smirked at me when he lifted up onto his elbows as I tugged his sweats down his legs.
“Tell you what,” I replied after I gave one last pull, freeing the dark gray sweats from him. After handing him a towel, I waited for him to drape it over his lap. Instead he curled it up and tossed it across the hotel room. “How about I draw you a nice, soothing, relaxing bath? Full of ice.”
As I came around the side of his bed, it took all of my concentration to focus on the compress I needed to unwrap instead of what was resting just a little higher. At least he had underwear on, but it wasn’t like they provided much coverage. Especially when what was tucked inside them looked about ready to burst free.
And dammit. I’d looked. From the way I could feel him watching me, he knew I’d looked too.
“Another ice bath. Sounds perfect. Since my balls aren’t already blue enough.” Archer spread his legs open farther as I reached down to unwind the compress circling his upper right thigh.
“Yeah, well, that’s what you get for not listening to the recommendation of your athletic trainer to take it easy.” I unwound the bandage slowly, not wanting to further inflame the area. “Every three hours, we’ll alternate fifteen minutes of ice and heat.”
“Yay.” He cleared his throat when my fingers brushed his inner thigh as I unwound the last of the compress Shepherd had wrapped back in the locker room after his first ice bath. “Since you got to decide on the ice option, how about I decide on the heat option?”
From the low notes in his voice, I knew exactly what he meant. “The plan is to calm the tear. Not further aggravate it.”
“Okay. I can work with that.” When I exhaled, he added, “I’ve got ideas.”
“Ideas that involve what you have in mind and not using your groin muscles?” My gaze wandered back to that part of his anatomy. Right before moving onto a different part of it. Holy shit. Something about knowing he wanted me and wasn’t concerned with hiding that desire made me dizzy. “Good luck with that.”
Archer watched me as I disappeared into the bathroom to turn off the water filling the tub. “Never underestimate the ingenuity of a desperate man.”
After testing the temperature of the bath, I grabbed one more bag of ice and dumped it in. I’d arranged to have four new bags arrive every few hours through the night so I could mitigate the damage Archer’s pulled groin muscle would have on his season.
The team doctor had done an exam in the locker room and assured Coach Beckett that with aggressive care these first twenty-four hours, Archer should be able to play the game in New Orleans three days from now.
From my own exam, I knew the doctor was giving Coach a serious case of lip service. The only way Archer would be able to play the Shock’s next game was if we injected him with every illegal substance in this sport and on the market in general. It was a class two pull—no amount of walking off would fix this in a couple days’ time.
“Are you hungry, Doc?” Archer called from the other room.
“That depends on the context of that question.”
His laugh carried into the bathroom. “You know me too well. However, in this instance, I’m referring to hunger as in for food. The room service type specifically. I can order something for us so we can eat once you’re done cryogenically freezing my gonads.”
Wandering back into his room, I dried off my hands with a towel. “Hey, this isn’t my fault—I warned you to take it easy.”
I ceremoniously waved my arms toward the bathroom, feeling nervous. I’d given so many ice baths I could have filled an entire ocean with them, but this one was different. It was for Luke Archer. In his hotel room instead of the locker room. Plus, back there, the entire coaching and medical staff had been present, pow-wowing a plan of treatment. No one else was here now though.
Just me. Just him. And a locked door.
“Dinner?” Archer waved the room service menu at me.
“I’ll order it for us. We need to get you in the tub before you get any more swollen.”
Archer’s gaze swept down his body, landing on the very part of him I was trying not to inspect. “I can think of something to help with the ‘swelling.’”
Crossing my arms, I gave him an unfazed look. “I’m here to see to your leg. Not your dick.”
“I think that by taking care of one, you’ll be taking care of the other.”
“True. Ice baths are up to the task of tending to torn muscles and swollen dicks. So let’s get started.”
Archer lay stretched out in bed for another minute, calling my bluff, but when I made no move to throw myself at him, he sighed. “The ice bath it is.”
Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USATODAY bestselling author of contemporary and young adult romance, including the Crash and Lost & Found series. Her books have been published by HarperTeen and Simon & Schuster in both domestic and foreign markets, while she continues to self-publish additional titles. She is working on a new YA series with Crown Books (a division of Random House) as well. She loves romance, from the sweet to the steamy, and writes stories about characters in search of their happily even after. She grew up surrounded by books and plans on writing until the day she dies, even if it’s just for her own personal enjoyment. She still buys paperbacks because she’s all nostalgic like that, but her kindle never goes neglected for too long. When not writing, she spends her time with her husband and daughter, and whatever time’s left over she’s forced to fit too many hobbies into too little time.
Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency.