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C3 Chapter 3

Delilah

“Did you not hear a word I just said?” I shouted at Indie. We were in her car, driving to the Baxter Bowl, a charity event held every year in honor of former player Marcus Baxter. Marcus was a field-goal kicker for the New York Steel who’d been killed by a drunk driver six years ago. The team and league had been sponsoring the charity event ever since. WMBC had purchased three tables this year. It was my first invite, but Indie, as VP of Marketing, had been attending for years.

“I heard you. He’s a jerk. He showed you his dick. He embarrassed you.”

“And yet you ask me if I dreamt about him last night?”

“Did you?”

“No!” Maybe.

She shrugged. “I would have.”

“The guy is arrogant and crass.”

“Sounds like he’s your type.”

She has a point. My dating history wasn’t the greatest. I tended to be attracted to the wrong type of guy. “Not anymore. After this cleanse is over, I’m only dating men who are nice, well mannered and dependable.”

“I’ll introduce you to my father’s best friend, Hughey.”

“Very funny.”

“What? He’s very nice. I swear. I’m pretty sure that’s why his wife divorced him and married her forty-five-year-old ballroom dance instructor. He was too boring...I mean nice.”

“I’ll keep Hughey in mind.”

“So what are you going to do next week if he does it again?”

“Ignore it and continue with the interview. I expected him to be a dick. I didn’t expect him to show me his dick. He caught me off guard. I’ll be ready for him next time.”

“I’m ready for him right now. If I was wearing panties, they might be a little wet thinking about that body. Do you think he’ll be there tonight?”

“I hope not.” A minuscule, dark, masochistic part of my brain looked forward to seeing him. Although there was no way in hell I’d ever admit it.

My table at the Baxter Bowl was filled with an interesting mix of people from WMBC and New York Steel management, including the station owner’s charming grandson, Michael Langley, who was also head of broadcasting operations—technically that made him Mr. CUM’s boss’s boss. We’d been talking for almost an hour, and I was surprised to find we had so much in common. We’d both attended Stanford, although he was a few years my senior. Both of our dads had been professional quarterbacks when they were young, and we both rose at the crack of dawn. The Langley family was legendary in New York sports. Michael’s grandfather not only owned WMBC, but was also the majority owner of the New York Steel.

When they’d finished clearing our dinner plates, Michael leaned into me. “Want to dance?”

“Sure. I’d love to.”

Out on the dance floor, he led me through one slow dance. He had a firm hand and definitely knew how to lead. And he was pretty easy on the eyes, too. Matt Damon in glasses. Well groomed, intelligent, and handsome—my night could be worse.

“I like your hair up.” Sweet too.

It had taken the stylist almost two hours to tame my unruly mass of dark curls enough to pin it all on top of my head. A few tendrils had already escaped.

“Thank you. You don’t smoke, do you? Because I’m pretty sure if I go anywhere near a cigarette, I might catch fire with the amount of spray the stylist had to put in to get it to stay.”

Michael smiled. “No worries. I’m smoke-free.”

Why isn’t this the type of guy I usually dated? Following in his father’s footsteps, Michael had played college football before a torn ACL ended his career before it even started. With his knowledge of the game and all-American good looks, his transition to sportscaster came easily. Although moving up the chain of command had taken him more behind the scenes the last few years. “Do you have any interviews planned this season? I’d love to watch you filming and learn. Your interviews always came across as if you were having a casual talk in the living room, rather than sitting on a set in front of cameras.”

“Thank you. I actually don’t have any on the calendar as of now, but you just gave me a reason to change that.”

A new song had just started, and I was enjoying his company when a voice behind me said, “Can I cut in?”

My head whipped around, even though I had no doubt whom the gravelly voice belonged to.

Michael was gracious. “I hate to share. But I suppose I have been hogging the most beautiful woman at the event.” He let go of my hand and stepped back with a gentlemanly nod. “Thank you for the dance, Delilah.”

Again Brody Easton had caught me off guard. Before I knew it, I was dancing with the arrogant jerk. He wrapped his arms around me and pulled my body tight against his. Way tighter than Michael had held me.

“Good to see you again, Lois Lane.”

The man had balls; I had to give him that. I looked him straight in the eyes. “Nice to see you with clothes on, Easton.”

“Do you prefer me without?”

“I prefer you on the other side of the room.”

He chuckled. It was a hearty laugh. “That’s what happens sometimes when you decide you want to hang out in the men’s locker room.”

I tried to pull back, but he tightened his grip and held me in place. I craned my neck. “Let go of me.”

“No.”

“No?”

“That’s right. No.”

“I can scream at the top of my lungs.”

“I’d like to hear you scream.” His tone made it clear he meant he wanted me underneath him while I was doing the screaming.

“You’re an asshole. You know that?”

“I do. You asked me that yesterday. For a reporter, you should really try changing up your questions more frequently.”

My eyes bulged.

Easton shifted his hand down to the small of my back before twirling us around the dance floor. Figures the prick can dance.

“Are you seeing anyone?”

“You can’t be serious?”

He ignored my comment. “Would you like to have dinner tonight?”

“We just ate.”

“Dessert at my place, then?”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Did you hit your head at the game yesterday?”

“On a diet, huh?”

“Yeah. That’s it. I don’t want to go to your place for dessert because I’m on a diet.”

“Well, that’s just a shame.” Easton smiled. He was actually pretty quick-witted and funny, but he was still an asshole. The song ended, and the band asked everyone to take a seat while the winners of the silent auction were announced.

“I’d say it was nice seeing you again, but I don’t lie.”

Easton grinned. He seemed to like my insults. But before I could walk away, he grabbed my hand. “Hey. Be careful with Langley. Met him a few times when he was a field reporter. Guy’s a jerk.”

“Isn’t that ironic coming from you?”

“I am who you see. That guy isn’t.”

For the rest of the night, I mostly enjoyed myself. Indie introduced me to a load of people I’d never met before, and my conversation with Michael headed from friendly to flirting. A few times, as Michael and I were sitting at the table talking, I looked up to find Easton’s eyes on me. The smile that had been on his face was gone, and he looked almost pissed. It made me lean into Michael even closer.

Outside, I waited at the valet stand for Indie’s car while she said goodbye to some people from corporate sales. Michael joined me just as his silver Porsche Spyder pulled up.

“Nice car.”

“Thanks. I’d love to give you a ride sometime . . . maybe on the way to dinner one night?”

“I’d like that. But my schedule is a little crazy the next few weeks.” Twenty-eight days left on my cleanse.

“When things calm down, then?” He handed me his cell, and as I was programming in my number, he leaned in. “You smell incredible. I’ve been meaning to tell you that all night.”

“Thank you. It’s Rose de Chloe. I just bought it and wasn’t sure if it was too floral.”

“It’s perfect.” Instead of taking his phone back from my hand, Michael wrapped his fingers around mine and pulled me in for a hug goodbye. When I looked up, Brody Easton was staring at us. He appeared more than a little angry. So I made Michael’s hug last extra-long.

The next week, the Steel was scheduled to play home again, so there was no midweek game traveling. But I was out of town covering the Basketball Hall of Fame inductions. I drove four hours back home late Saturday night to make sure I was at the stadium in time for kickoff the next morning. I watched the game from the sidelines, assisting the play-by-play field broadcaster. After the Steel won again, I headed to the locker room. I didn’t dilly-dally this time. Instead, I got right in line to enter when security opened the big blue door.

“What’s up, Dam?” Henry held out his hand for me to slap.

“Hi, Hi. I brought you something.” I reached into my bag and took out a signed print of Rochelle Teavers, the WNBA’s season-high shooter. “I heard some of the reporters say your daughter broke her ankle playing basketball. I covered the Hall of Fame induction this week, and Rochelle was there.” My eyes pointed to the glossy photo. “Hope I had her spell Larissa right.”

Henry patted his chest and pulled his glasses from the lapel of his uniform. “Well, look at that. This is going to make her old man cool for a change. Thank you very much, Delilah Dam.”

“No problem.”

I was one of the first few inside the locker room. Another reporter was already setting up to interview Easton, but I intended to get it over with as fast as I could. I walked over with Nick in tow. Brody was talking about his knee, but the minute he noticed me a smile spread across his face. Shit. He’s wearing a towel again. I was overly prepared for the interview and knew how I’d handle the cocky quarterback if he started to play games again. But that damn smile made me nervous.

When it was my turn, I stepped up with a no-bullshit attitude. “How are we going to play this today, Easton?”

“Did you think of me this week while you were in Boston?”

I lifted one brow. “Keeping tabs on me, are you?”

“Admit you thought of me, and I’ll make it easy for you today.”

“I’m ready for you and your exhibitionist display. You don’t have to go easy. Make it as hard as you can.” I motioned to Nick to start rolling.

Easton beamed and promptly dropped his towel.

We went live. “So. Congrats on another big win this week. And on your rushing touchdown.”

“Thank you.”

I held his eyes for a few seconds, then deliberately dropped my gaze—right to his manhood. “It was a short run. What, about four inches?”

“Oh no. It was definitely more than four inches. I’d say at least twelve inches.”

“I believe the official stat is four inches. Men and their fish stories,” I chided.

Easton’s smirk got a little less smirky. And it was laced with indignation. I was happy. Clearly, he wasn’t. “Tell me, what did you change in the second half? Before halftime, it looked like you were having trouble with your passing game. Wren Jacobs even swatted two of your attempts to pass the ball to Daryl Breezy. Were you just having trouble getting it up?”

Easton’s eyes narrowed. “No. I wasn’t having trouble getting it up. I just needed better protection. Coach made some changes at halftime, which plugged up the gaps we were showing in our offensive line. Once the protection was there, I was able to slide ‘em right in.” Just as I had done, Easton held my gaze for a few seconds, then looked down, taking my eyes with him. My controlled interview went to hell the second I realized he was getting aroused.

When I looked back up, he was smiling like a Cheshire cat. Then he took control of my interview again. “Bruce Harness did an outstanding job today. That punt block at the start of the second half changed the momentum.”

“That block made him break into the top ten of career punt block leaders,” I responded.

Easton’s smirk disappeared. He looked surprised I knew the statistics for punt blocks off the top of my head.

“That’s right. Five more and he could clinch the record for all-time best punt blocker.”

“Six more,” I corrected him.

“Five.”

“Six.”

“Five.”

“Herman Weaver, nineteen seventy to nineteen eighty. Started with Detroit, ended with the Seahawks. Fourteen blocked punts. Harness has eight. He needs six more to break the record.” Easton opened his mouth to speak, then shut it again. I’d regained control of my interview. “One last question?” I turned and saw the line of impatient reporters behind me. “Is your knee ready to face the first-place Chargers next week out in California?”

“Will you be there to cover it?”

“I will.”

“Then you can count on me being ready.”

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