Want to know a secret? Falling for You is a surprise pregnancy romance. I don't advertise it. It's one of those feel-good twists in a book that I adore and I thought you would too. So there, now you know something no one else does.
Enjoy this excerpt. Warning...it gets steamy...
I pulled open the wooden door to the Horse You Came In On Saloon for Reid and Dylan’s engagement party. They’d gotten engaged around Christmas but waited to hold the party for their friends until after the playoffs. I hadn’t planned on attending, but Reid insisted.
Stepping inside, I let my eyes adjust to the dim lighting. A motorcycle hung over the lit fireplace. Sports highlights played on TVs mounted above the bar. The saddle-shaped barstools were empty because the saloon had been reserved for the party. Reid stood at the head of a long table where everyone was gathered, one arm around his fiancée, the other raised a champagne glass in a toast.
Not wanting to disturb the big moment, I slid into the only available empty chair next to Reid’s teammate, Jonah Templeton.
I smiled at him before turning my attention to Reid. Dylan looked up at him, a large smile on her face, her eyes full of love.
“Thank you all for coming here tonight to celebrate our engagement. Not only do I love Dylan with all of my heart, but she pushed me to be a better person.”
In the past, Reid avoided publicity outside of postgame press conferences. He’d hid a speech impediment for years before Dylan met him on a blind date and asked him to work with her law firm partner, Hadley’s charity, Kids Speak. The organization brought speech therapists into schools to help kids. Over the years, I’d encouraged Reid to be up front about his speech issues, but it was Dylan who convinced him.
“Tonight wouldn’t have been possible without Callie’s help.” He tipped his head toward me.
I flushed, not wanting to be the center of attention in front of his teammates and friends.
“Thank you for coming out tonight.” Reid drank his champagne.
Silverware clinked on glasses around the room.
Dylan’s cheeks flushed pink as Reid kissed her.
Cheers erupted around the room. Several of Reid’s friends clapped him on his back while Dylan hugged her friends. I was so happy for them.
Jonah leaned over, his jaw sporting days-old scruff. “You’re late.”
Dark circles ringed his eyes. I wondered if he was sleeping okay. He wore a Baltimore team polo shirt and khaki shorts. He’d taken a hard tackle in the last playoff game, tearing his ACL and MCL. His return was questionable.
“I didn’t want to come. Reid insisted.” As Reid’s personal assistant, I didn’t think it was necessary for me to attend. I felt out of place among his teammates, their girlfriends, and their wives.
“You’re his friend.” Jonah’s voice was low.
I could barely hear him over the conversation carrying on around us.
“I’m his employee.” I helped him when he needed me. He was a conscientious boss, willing to work around my class schedule.
“He doesn’t see you as just an employee.” Jonah’s gaze was locked on mine.
His focus was unnerving. He was always the life of the locker room, cracking jokes and quick to help a teammate, but he’d never singled me out before.
Conversation carried on around the table, but it was like we were alone—in our own bubble. I took a drink of the water the waitress poured for me. “What do you mean?”
“He said you were off-limits.”
I choked on the water, coughing, and clearing my throat until I could breathe again. Was he saying Reid told his teammates not to date me? I’d never considered the possibility.
“Are you okay?” Jonah leaned over, his large hand spread across my back. His touch was solid, comforting.
I wiped my mouth with a napkin. “I’m okay now. What did you say?”
Removing his hand, he settled back into his chair. “He said you were off-limits.”
“Why would he say that to you?”
“You know.” Jonah tipped his bottle back, taking a long swig. He wiped off the moisture on his mouth with the back of his hand.
I wondered if he was drunk.
“No. I don’t know.” I wanted to ask if he should be drinking if he was on pain medication, but I was more curious about what he was going to say next.
“You’re gorgeous.” He flipped a hand at me in a way that made me think he’d had more than a few drinks. “You know you are.”
Glancing at the table, there were several empty shot glasses. Were they his? “Thanks.”
I glanced at Reid, but he was laughing with some of his teammates.
“He warned us off you,” he repeated as if that explained everything.
I shifted in my chair. “I didn’t know anyone was interested.”
I’d kept my distance from the players because I liked my job. It paid well, and Reid was a great boss.
Dylan stopped by our table. “Callie. You made it.”
I stood, thankful for the disruption, allowing Dylan to pull me into a hug. Reid stood next to her.
“Congratulations,” I said to them when I pulled back.
Dylan smiled wide. “Thank you for organizing everything! I’m so glad we were finally able to get everyone together.”
It wasn’t the fancy party Dylan usually planned for Kids Speak’s nonprofit galas, but it was the low-key event Reid requested.
“You deserved a celebration.”
Dylan smiled at me before her gaze landed on Jonah, turning concerned.
“Do you have a minute to talk?” Reid asked me.
“Hey, Jonah, how are you feeling?” Dylan asked him, slipping into the seat I’d vacated.
I followed Reid away from the table. “Of course. What do you need?”
“I have a proposition for you.”
“Oh?” I wondered if Reid would let me go after I graduated. He’d hired me to deal with Baltimore’s PR team, the fans, and anyone who wanted to talk to him. Now that he was dating Dylan, he didn’t need me anymore. The problem was I didn’t have anything lined up in my field.
“I don’t know what you have planned now that you’ve graduated, but I need a manager at Rebel Sports.”
Rebel Sports was the athletic complex Reid and his teammates, Jonah and Chase, built to accommodate more youth sports programs in the community.
“Absolutely. I can draft an ad, help you interview possible candidates, and narrow down your choices.” I reached into my purse to start a to-do list on my phone.
“Callie.” Something in Reid’s voice made me pause my search, looking up at him.
“I want you.” His tone was serious.
“I’m sorry?” I shifted the strap of my purse on my shoulder.
“I want you to be the manager.”
My heart sped up. “But—I don’t—” I don’t have any experience. That probably wasn’t the best thing to tell your employer who was offering you an amazing promotion. “I don’t know what to say.”
I looked over at Jonah who was watching our exchange with interest over Dylan’s shoulder.
“Say yes,” Reid pleaded. “I need you.”
I couldn’t pass it up. “It’s an amazing opportunity. I’d be crazy to say no.”
“That’s what I was hoping you’d say.” Reid grinned.
“That’s it? I’m hired. Just like that?” It wasn’t on a probationary basis or until he could find someone more qualified?
He lowered his voice. “I need someone I can trust. In season, I’m not going to have time to field questions or deal with employees.”
“Thanks. I’m flattered you’re trusting me with such a huge responsibility.” I’d only ever been his personal assistant. It wasn’t exactly on the same career path as a manager.
Reid’s hand closed over my shoulder. “You can handle it.”
“Do Jonah and Chase have any say in the matter?” I wondered if they agreed.
“They’re silent investors. They won’t be involved in the day-to-day operations.”
“Okay.” I couldn’t believe this was happening. Majoring in sports management, this was my dream job. I hadn’t expected to be offered a management position straight out of college. When I saw Reid’s advertisement in the university’s student center my sophomore year for a part-time personal assistant, I thought it was a way to make money and be near the sport I loved—football.
A smile spread over his face as he shook my hand. “Welcome on board.”
I smiled to cover my uncertainty. Could I handle such an important job straight out of school?
Reid walked away, grabbing Dylan’s hand to continue mingling with the guests.
I returned to my seat, still a little stunned by the job offer.
Jonah’s legs were spread wide. He looked rougher, more rugged than usual. Even with his injured leg propped on a chair, he was sexy.
He cocked his head. “You take the job?”
I sat, surprised by his question. “You knew he was going to offer me the manager position?”
“I did.” His words were clipped.
I studied his face. “You don’t approve.”
“You just graduated. You don’t have any experience running a business.”
Even though I’d had the same thoughts, irritation shot through me. I was already planning lists in my head, plans for the sports complex, things to do, things that needed to be done. My stomach sank as I realized I’d need to move or commute all the way from Baltimore.
“What are you worried about?” Jonah shifted his elbows to his thighs.
“Rebel Sports is forty-five minutes south from here. My grandfather lives thirty minutes north of the city. I’m not sure it makes sense to move, but I’ll have a commute.” My mind was whirring with the possibilities. I’d applied for the MBA program at the University of Baltimore for the fall. Could I handle all of it?
Jonah’s face softened. “Your grandfather, is that Frank? The man Reid visits in the nursing home.”
I relaxed thinking of my grandfather, the one who took me in after my parents died in a car crash. “Yeah. They’re close.”
“You’re close to Reid.” His muscles tensed as if the answer mattered to him on some level.
Was he trying to figure out whether we’d ever dated? It had to be the alcohol talking because he’d never expressed any interest in me before. “He’s a great boss.”
Jonah fell silent, taking another sip of his beer, his Adam’s apple working up and down. I moved my gaze away from the sexy image.
Determined to get his focus off of me, I changed the subject, “How are you doing with everything?”
His face tightened. “In pain from PT. Tired of the restrictions.”
“It’ll get better.” I leaned over, patting his good leg; the warmth seeped through his shorts, sending tingles through my arm. My gaze lifted to his wondering if he’d felt it too.
“I hope so.”
I moved my hand away. I’d never touched Reid like that. Why was I touching Jonah? Why was my heart racing?
“No one asks how I’m doing. They ask me if I’ll play again, not when.”
“I’m sorry. What about your family?”
“They were here for the surgery, but I sent them home. They were driving me crazy.”
“Your parents came?” I couldn’t remember what his family situation was but having a hovering one sounded pretty good.
“My mom and my sister. My dad stayed in West Virginia to work.”
“That’s nice they were able to come.” I got that familiar pang in my heart whenever anyone talked about their parents.
“What about you? You have family in the area?” His expression was thoughtful as if he was sifting through his memories trying to remember if he’d heard something before.
“It’s just my grandfather and me.”
“That’s why you’re so worried about living close to him.” The deep, steady drawl of Jonah’s words soothed me.
“Yeah. I visit as often as I can and pick up whatever he needs. I’m all he has.” The words I’d left unsaid ran on repeat through my head. He was all I had.
I waited for the inevitable question, what happened to your parents? But it didn’t come. Either he remembered someone else talking about it, or he had the good grace not to pry. Either way, I appreciated it.
As the evening wore on, Jonah ordered more beer and appetizers, offering them to me.
I drank one beer, refusing any more. I went a little wild when my parents died, but after my grandfather helped me pull myself together, I was careful not to drink too much.
Even if I was walking home or could get a car, I didn’t like that out-of-control feeling it gave me.
Jonah had no such issues. With each glass, he loosened up even more, eventually throwing an arm around the back of my chair.
“Don’t judge. It helps with all of this.” He gestured down at his injured leg.
“I get that.” I bit my lip, wanting to say more like it wouldn’t help him get better or heal any faster.
Reid stood in front of us, holding Dylan’s hand. “We’re going to head out.”
I looked around, realizing only a few people were still around, and they’d moved to the bar area. “Do you need me to do anything?”
I rose, but Reid held up a hand to stop me. “The bar staff will handle it.”
Dylan hugged me. “Thanks for organizing everything.”
Reid’s gaze shifted from Jonah to me. “Do you need a ride?”
“I’m good to drive. Thanks though.”
Reid nodded at Jonah, opening his mouth as if he was going to say something when Dylan tugged on his hand. “Come on.”
An uncomfortable silence fell between us. I should have said it was time for me to leave too. With Reid and Dylan gone, there was no need for me to stay. Instead, I felt rooted to my chair, my gaze on the sports highlights on the TV. I felt some obligation to Reid, the team, or maybe it was to Jonah to make sure he was okay.
“You like hockey?” Jonah nodded toward the ice hockey game on TV.
“No. Just football. It was something my grandfather and I did together. We watched games on Sundays, and he’d teach me everything about the sport―the plays, the positions, the players.” It was time I cherished with him. Looking back, I probably latched on to any way for me to bond with him. Yet the memories were good ones.
“That’s rare for a girl.” His tone was appreciative.
I smiled to cover the melancholy that thinking about life after my parents brought. “Lena said there’s a ton of die-hard female fans.”
Lena was the head of PR for the team.
“That’s true, but I haven’t dated many women who knew anything about football. Sure, they say they like it, but it’s pretty obvious when they don’t know anything about it.” His expression was bitter.
I knew the kind of women the younger players attracted. They weren’t interested in much besides bragging rights and money.
“They want to pretend they have something in common with you.”
His nose crinkled. “It would be nice to be wanted for me, not my job. Especially since I might not have it much longer.”
My heart clenched at his vulnerable admission. I knew he wouldn’t want me to acknowledge his slip, so I leaned over to slap his stomach playfully but lost my balance, falling heavily against his chest. His arm banded around my back. His breath whispered over the strands of my hair, sending shivers down my spine. “Easy, tiger. These abs are hard as steel. You might hurt yourself.”
Laughing at the return of the old teasing Jonah, I placed a palm on his hard chest, pushing myself up. The heat of his body singed my skin. “Oh yeah?”
Was I flirting? Why was my voice so high-pitched? Why did I sound so out of breath? I shifted back to my seat; my skin prickled from the chill of the air now that I wasn’t touching him.
“I can’t do leg work, so I do extra upper body and ab exercises.” His grin was lazy and slow, one I’d seen him use on women at bars before. Even though I knew it was an act he put on to pick up women and not a glimpse into him, it still made me feel warm and tingly all over. I’d known he was handsome and charming, but I’d placed him in the playboy category, never taking him seriously.
“It’s not like you were slacking before.” My voice was slightly breathy, and I couldn’t blame it on the alcohol. Other than my warm cheeks, I didn’t feel out of control. Just slightly buzzed from having Jonah’s focus on me.
There was no mistaking his broad shoulders and bulging biceps. The guys kept themselves in top shape, and it showed.
With one hand on the bottle of beer, the other one slid lower, resting over his stomach. I wanted to squeeze my eyes against the vision of him unzipping his jeans to fist his cock.
There were beads of sweat on my forehead and my neck prickled with awareness. I wanted to ask him if he was warm, but I was sure it was just me. I swallowed some water, hoping it would cool me off.
A slow smile spread over his face, bordering on cocky.
I was falling under Jonah’s spell, and it didn’t feel manufactured, not when I remembered the vulnerability on his face when he talked about his injury and his fears for the future.
This thing between us felt different, heightened because I knew he wouldn’t act this way if he were sober. Reid had warned him away from me. Jonah probably wouldn’t jeopardize his relationship with his teammate and co-captain. Spending time together when it was forbidden felt a little naughty.
“Why are you still here?” Jonah asked.
“I don’t know.” I could have said I was worried about him, but he wouldn’t like that. I could have said I liked spending time with him, but that would be admitting too much. I didn’t want to be another one of those women desperate for his attention.
He shifted his arm from the back of my chair to my shoulders, leaning in close. All I could hear was a roaring in my ears, the blood pumping through my veins. His scent, leather and soap, surrounded me. He was so big everywhere. I felt protected, safe with him.
Any mention of me being off-limits dissipated. I couldn’t remember why being with Jonah was bad when it felt so good. His lips brushed my neck and ear, my skin tingled with awareness. His hand tangled in my hair, tugging so my face turned to his. There was a second I could have said no, but refusing him never entered my mind. When he turned his attention on me rather than football, he was potent. His lips touched mine lightly, pleading for entry. My lips parted. He shifted closer, tightening his arm around me as his tongue moved with more confidence.
Tingles ran down my spine. My skin heated with every pass of his tongue and the tightening of his fingers in my hair. I wanted more. More of Jonah, his heat, his strength. What would it be like to be with him? It would be so much better than the guys I’d wasted my time on in high school and college. He was all man.
Yet I couldn’t help but wonder if I was merely a distraction for him or a way to sabotage his friendship with Reid.
When his fingers tightened in my hair, I couldn’t care less about the whys. I wanted him. I wanted to straddle his thighs and grind on his cock. I wanted to ask if he wanted to get out of here. I hadn’t felt this wild or out of control since my parents died.
With a groan, he pulled back, running a hand through his hair; his expression was filled with regret. “You’re my teammate’s assistant. You’re like his little sister. I can’t go there.”
I cringed at his reference to me as a little sister. I’d never been that. It made me feel small.
The sense of loss was acute. He’d unraveled himself from me so easily. Like what just happened meant nothing. He was used to bar hookups. How could I have fallen into his arms and under his charm so easily?
I couldn’t believe I’d acted so carelessly. Getting involved with a player would jeopardize my job, but, in the moment, I hadn’t cared. I was reckless.
He got up so quickly his chair rocked back once before settling. “I’m sorry.”
He walked out. A couple of his teammates sat at the bar talking to the bartender. No one noticed my world had just shifted.
I’d touched my fingers to my lips, wondering if I’d ever feel the same again. Kissing Jonah felt different than the guys I’d experimented with after my parents died.
I stopped being reckless years ago. No matter how soft Jonah’s lips felt, how scratchy his scruff, or how good his arms felt around me, I didn’t need him in my life. He’d destroy what I’d worked so hard for―my relationship with Reid, my job, and my reputation.
The things he took for granted—money, safety, security—were precarious for me. I wasn’t willing to risk it for him.
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