Jase Blackwell, starting tight end for the Dallas Cowboys, is a pro when it comes to football—and to women. Never one to shy away from a challenge, “Billion Dollar Blackwell” is finally able to get the cute waitress he’s always had his eye on out for a little fun. But when their steamy encounters inspire Jase to play better than he ever has before, he has to wonder if this exciting woman is more than just a good luck charm…
Avery Lockhart doesn’t understand why a pro football player would want to go out with her. Incredibly wealthy and undeniably sexy, Jase Blackwell is everything she thinks she’s not. Getting a little closer to this enigmatic billionaire, however, proves too much for Avery to resist. But as their passion heats up, so does Jase’s game play, and soon, the rumors start to fly. Is Avery only being kept around to ease Jace’s pre-game superstitions? Or, like she believes, does their connection run deeper…?
Feed your e-reader at these retailers:
“How’s the groin, Jason? You gonna be one hundred percent for Sunday, son?”
Steve McNealy, the offensive coordinator, always talked to Jase like he was still in Pee-Wee football instead of a twenty-seven-year-old man with a college career and four years of pro ball under his belt. Though, in relation to the years with the NFL that Steve could claim, Jase guessed he was sort of a pup.
“I’m good to go, Coach. I’ll be tearin’ it up next week.”
Steve gave him a pat on the shoulder. “That’s good, son. Glad to hear it.”
It had been one bitch of a week: ice, physical therapy, and more ice. He was surprised his dick hadn’t sustained frostbite by now. And with the playoffs just around the corner, Jase couldn’t afford to show any signs of weakness. Especially when Malcolm Willis, second-round draft pick and hotshot prospect out of Stanford was waiting in the wings to take his place on the field.
He had a hard enough time maintaining his position on the team without the added pressure, thank you very much.
Tonight’s party was a kickoff for the post-season. One of many get-togethers aimed at boosting morale and ensuring that they’d be an even more cohesive team in the playoffs. Truth be told, Jase didn’t see these functions as anything more than an excuse to get shitfaced and blow off some steam away from the prying eyes of the press. And from the looks of some of the women parading around, someone had dug deep to provide more than alcohol for tonight’s entertainment.
“Hey, man. ’Sup? You feelin’ all right?”
If one more person asked him how the fuck he was feeling, he was going to go off. “Yup. Right as rain.” Jase turned toward Carson Rader, the starting quarterback and gave him a nudge with his shoulder. “You’re not getting rid of me yet, dude.”
“Nah, man, you got it wrong. I’d throw a first-class bitch fit if McNealy put anyone else on my line. Especially that little shit, Willis. His ego’s still too big to be on my field.”
“That’s because there’s no room,” Jase said with a laugh. “Your ego’s already too big for the field.”
“Truth.” Carson flashed him the million-dollar grin that had earned him the title of Prince Charming and grabbed a glass of champagne from a tray as the waitress walked by. “I’m not about sharing the spotlight.”
It was spoken in good humor, but as the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL, Carson Rader knew his worth and wasn’t afraid to own his ego. Thanks to him, the Cowboys might be getting a bid to the Super Bowl this year. Jase wanted that ring so damned badly he could practically taste the gold on the tip of his tongue and he’d ride the wave of Carson’s ego all the way to the playoffs. “You can have all the spotlight you want, buddy.”
Carson wasn’t the only guy in the league with a nickname. Being known as Billion Dollar Blackwell wasn’t exactly an honor and it sure as shit didn’t have anything to do with Jase’s paycheck or his talent. Rather, he’d earned the nickname after an ESPN anchor commented that the Cowboys had drafted him not because of his talent, but because he had the money to buy a spot on the team. It hadn’t helped that his brother Ryder owned one of the most expensive boxes in Cowboys Stadium.
Jase was firmly of the belief that money didn’t solve everything. In his case, his family’s money had done him more harm than good. His reputation, his value as a player had taken a hit and it meant that he had to work three times harder than the hardest-working player just to prove himself. Those were the breaks though, and if he’d let that sort of shit get under his skin, he would have quit his freshman year of college.
A companionable silence settled, each of them taking in the sights. Carson didn’t make eye contact, just sipped from his glass. “But really, Jase. How are you feeling?”
He never could get anything over on Carson. Jase stretched his neck from side to side in an effort to banish some of the tension pulling his shoulders tight. “I’m feeling like if I don’t get my shit together, I’m going to be riding the bench for the duration. I’m sore, my game is shit, and I’m stressed the hell out.” He gave a rueful laugh. “That about cover it for you?”
Carson didn’t seem in the least bit fazed. At least one of them was keeping a level head. Jase could feel his place on the field slipping through his fingers. He needed something—anything—to pull him out of the damned slump he’d been in for the past few months.
“You need something to take the edge off, that’s all,” Carson replied. “There’s plenty of talent here tonight.” He gave Jase a pointed look. “Fuck this shit out of your system, blow off some steam. A piece of ass will do wonders for your attitude.”
A lot of guys used sex to take the edge off during the playoffs. They called them “good-luck fucks” or “playoff poontang.” Crude, sure. But athletes were superstitious creatures by nature and more players than not swore by the power of some good ol’-fashioned sex magic for luck.
“I don’t want the typical ‘talent.’” Jase was a red-blooded American man, but even he had standards. He could have dragged any number of the women here tonight into the bathroom and gone to town. But pounding into some honey up against a bathroom wall wasn’t going to get his mojo back.
“Just get it done, Jase.” Carson spoke as though he needed to get in to have his teeth cleaned or car serviced or some shit. “I need you on the field to keep my ass from getting sacked. You do that, and I’ll keep putting the ball in your hands, brother. You’re the best tight end on the field, Jase, and I don’t give a flying fuck what anyone has to say about it.”
Jase thought about making a joke about Carson’s balls, but thought better of it. He never could out-snark Prince Charming. Another server passed with a tray of drinks and Jase snatched one up in his palm. He loved Carson like the pain-in-the-ass brother he never wanted, and it meant a lot that he wanted him on the field, but Jase would never give him the satisfaction of knowing it. Dude’s ego was too big as it was.
The sound of shattering glass and metal clanging on the marble floor interrupted any further conversation and Jase turned with the collective body of players and guests toward the source of the commotion.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!”
Jase rose up on his tiptoes and scanned the crowd until his gaze landed on the woman frantically scooping up bits of broken glass with a dripping wet rag. One of the girls for hire looked like she’d taken a champagne bath—probably not the first time—and was spluttering and glaring daggers down on the flustered waitress. “You ruined my dress, you stupid little skank!”
Jase had been an underdog for most of his life, so watching as someone was bullied dug under his skin like a chigger, irritating him past the point of reason. The waitress obviously felt bad; her face was as red as the Texas state flag and she was stuttering out apology after apology as she tried without success to clean the floor with the soaking wet rag.
“She’s the one,” Carson asserted as though he’d found a ruby in a sack of rocks. “If you hook up with her, I guarantee you’ll be right as rain for the playoffs.”
Jase hiked a casual shoulder. It was the only part of his body that hadn’t gone rigid. Christ, even his gut was coiled up tight as a fist. “Could be.” Short, coffee-brown hair brushed her chin as she brushed the locks behind her ear. Her cheeks were flushed with embarrassment, but it just as easily could have been passion. She licked her full lips, biting down on the bottom one as though using the pain to distract her from the moment. And her eyes… bright emerald gems that shone from behind dark lashes. Like a full-body tackle, the sight of her stole the air from his lungs. “There’s a lot of tail walking around tonight, though.” He didn’t want to seem too anxious but there was something about her that damned near had him bouncing with excitement.
“Yeah.” Carson snorted. “But you said yourself, you don’t want typical. She’s far from it if you ask me.”
Jase could agree with Carson on that point. “She looks like she could use some help.”
Carson chuckled. “And you’re just the man to give her a hand.”
He pushed his way through the crowd, shaking his head at the fools who didn’t have the good sense to turn away from the scene as the girl continued to mop up her mess. Didn’t they know they were just helping to turn a simple mistake into a spectacle? His wide strides and sweeping arms cleared the crowd and he crossed the fifty or so feet between them in a couple of seconds.
“You might want to wring that rag out before you go to mopping stuff up again,” he said with a smile. “Here, let me help you.”
Avery Lockhart looked up from the pool of champagne she was currently stranded in, jaw slack and eyes wide. As if she wasn’t already mortified to the point of speechlessness, now she was face-to-face with the one and only Billion Dollar Blackwell. Holy cats, he was even better looking up close than he was from a distance.
“No!” You’d think that champagne was acid the way she screeched at him, but if he got down on all fours to help her sweep up broken glass, she’d die of embarrassment for sure. His slacks looked like they cost more than her entire wardrobe. “R-really, please, I can clean this up. I’m the one who made the mess, and you’re going to ruin your pants.”
Oh sweet Jesus, she wished that people would stop staring at her. The hussy sporting the dress that looked like it came from the Jenna Jameson private wardrobe collection was still fuming, her talon-like acrylic nails tapping a quick staccato on the sequined waistline of her dress. If she could, Avery would have melted right into the marble floor tiles and disappeared.
“I’ve got other pants at home. And you know, there’s this thing called a washing machine. It’s revolutionary. You just throw dirty clothes inside, turn it on, and in an hour? Clean clothes!”
Avery paused, her stomach somersaulting through her rib cage. She resisted the urge to smile at his attempt at levity while she swallowed down a groan. The sound of his voice, as dark and rich as grade-A Belgian chocolate, did something wonderful and terrifying to her insides all at the same time. This was torture. Pure, unmitigated, hellish abuse. “Um…” Say something, Avery. Anything would be good. Her mind drew a blank, her vision filled with Jason Blackwell in all of his glory. Christ Almighty he was good looking. “Seriously, I’ve got this. This is your party. Go enjoy yourself.”
She wanted to look away. She really did. But he was like the sun, holding her in orbit with his magnificence. And likewise, everyone else within a twenty-foot radius. Avery’s gaze shifted and her cheeks flushed with renewed heat. It was easy to forget there wasn’t a crowd watching her every move when she stared into his gorgeous whiskey-brown eyes.
But the annoyed and somewhat breathy tone of Porn Star Barbie’s words was enough to break the spell. “Oh, god, I’m absolutely dripping wet.”
Avery hid a smirk. Probably not the first time she’d ever said that in front of an audience. Her gaze met Jason’s and she could have sworn they were having a moment. His eyes crinkled at the corners and his lips twitched as though suppressing a smile. It shouldn’t be funny. Really, Avery was mortified. So why did she suddenly feel like laughing?
“Can someone please get this lovely lady a towel or something?” Jason seemed oblivious to the expression of smug pleasure that blossomed on the Barbie’s face. “And as for the rest of you yahoos, go find something worth staring at. I thought this was a party!”
Nervous laughter followed and the crowd quickly dispersed. Avery had a feeling that Jason Blackwell was used to people doing as he said. Especially when it came to women. As she continued to sweep the shards of glass into a manageable pile, Avery caught sight of someone coming from the kitchen with a large, fluffy towel. Thank god. She was afraid she was going to have to mop up the champagne with her own shirt.
“Here you go, sweetie.”
The towel that Avery thought had been brought for her was draped over the Barbie doll’s shoulders by one of the waitstaff. Lovely. Could this night get any worse? Wait. She probably didn’t want an answer to that.
“Jase, could you show me to the bathroom?” Barbie cooed. “I want to rinse some of the sticky off me.”
Avery rolled her eyes. Seriously? One more crack like that and she was going to lose her cool. She refused to meet Blackwell’s gaze this time. They weren’t sharing a “moment” or anything else. She was the hired help and he was the football star. Fraternization wasn’t only far-fetched, it was flat-out impossible.
Jase. It was obvious that Barbie was on a nickname basis with him. Avery tried not to think of how cute it was or how the name suited him so much better than Jason. And likewise, she kept her eyes drilled to the mess in front of her as he pushed up from the floor to escort little miss wet ‘n’ sticky to the bathroom. Gag. Avery was willing to bet that she looked just like a Barbie without her clothes, too. Hard plastic parts and not an inch of her the body that god and her mama gave her. Just the way guys like Jason Blackwell liked their women, no doubt.
“I hate to break it to you, but you’re not making any progress.”
Avery’s heart stuttered in her chest as she looked up the length of Jason’s considerable frame. Dang. They really did grow ’em bigger in Texas. “Shouldn’t you be in the bathroom helping my unfortunate victim to disrobe?”
He squatted down beside her and was still a good foot and a half taller. He had to be pushing six and a half feet if he was an inch, and carrying at least two hundred and fifty pounds of muscle around on his large frame. Close your mouth and stop staring, you idiot! Jason Blackwell was a tower of masculine perfection.
“There were more than a few able bodies ready and willing to help your victim out of her dress,” Jason remarked with a mischievous glint in his eyes. “I left them to it so I could bring you this.”
He pulled a stack of white kitchen towels from behind his back and Avery almost squealed with delight. The rest of the waitstaff had treated her as though she were all but invisible, leaving her to flounder in a pool of champagne and a pile of broken glass as if her clumsiness was a communicable disease. She’d been just about to go on a quest for a mop and bucket before Jason showed up with the towels. “Would it be cheesy to say that you are officially my hero?”
“Hell no,” Jason replied. “In fact, I demand official hero status from here on out. But I do think you owe me a reward for my gallantry.”
“A reward, huh?” Avery wasn’t sure what he was angling for, but she sure as hell wasn’t going to pull up her skirt as a thank you. “Don’t heroes usually perform good deeds out of the kindness of their hearts?”
He flashed her a wicked grin and Avery was pretty sure that if she wasn’t already on her knees, that smile would have gotten the job done. “What’s your name?”
“Avery,” she remarked.
Aaaand enter the jokes, teasing, and comments that she had a boy’s name. She’d heard them all. “I take it your parents hadn’t planned on you being anything but an Avery, am I right?”
Stunned silence followed. Wow. Not even a single wisecrack. “Um, yeah. That’s pretty much it. My dad was planning on naming me after my great-grandpa. When I wasn’t a boy like they’d thought, he slapped my name on the birth certificate before my mom had a say.”
“Avery. I like it. I’m Jase Blackwell, by the way. Also known as the hero of the night.” He motioned to the stack of towels. “How about you let me take you to dinner tomorrow night? I’ll even help you mop up the champagne.”
“Yeah, that’s probably not a good idea. I mean, you’re—and I’m—” How could she possibly explain to him why a date was the worst idea ever? She took the towels out of his hands and averted her gaze. “It probably wouldn’t work.”
“You’re gonna shoot me down, just like that? You wouldn’t believe what I had to do for those towels.”
His nonplussed expression only solidified why it wasn’t a good idea for Avery to go out with him. Guys like Jase Blackwell got what they wanted when they wanted it. And the girls they dated were equally self-confident and just as gorgeous. Avery wasn’t exactly arm candy material. She wouldn’t last a second on a date with Jase before he realized what a monumental mistake it was. Ultimately, she was doing them both a favor by turning him down.
“You don’t have to do me any favors, really. This isn’t the first time and it sure as hell won’t be the last time I make a fool of myself in public. You don’t have to feel obligated to help me. I can wrap this up all by myself. Thanks for the towels, Jase. You’d better get back to the party.”