FIVE STARS FOR Bad Business
March 27, 2018
Contemporary Sports Romance
✔️ Star Quarterback
✔️ Team Owner’s Daughter
This player’s got a lot to learn if he wants to score . . . with the boss’s daughter.
Stone: Football is more than a game to me. It’s my calling. Becoming the Dallas Wranglers’ starting quarterback before I retire is a dream come true, but with a few wins under my belt, suddenly everyone wants a piece of me. And even though being in the spotlight has its perks—beautiful women, star treatment, more beautiful women—what really gets me sweating is the watchful gaze of my sexy-as-hell PR coach, Savannah Andrews. The catch? Her father is kind of my boss. . . .
Savannah: In my family, football is big business. When your dad owns an NFL franchise, you learn a thing or two about schmoozing, and from what I can tell, it’s not a skill in Jason Stone’s playbook. Sure, the veteran quarterback is literally larger than life. With broad shoulders, muscles on muscles, and a mouth made for kissing, he may be one of the hottest men in the league—and I should know. I’ve turned down enough players to start my own all-star team. But those guys just wanted to get close to my father. Meanwhile, Stone is getting temptingly close . . . to me.
“GOOD MORNING, MR. Pierce,” Phoenix’s doorman, George, greeted, holding the glass door open to allow him to enter when he strolled up to the building.
Strolled. Right. Because that was what he was doing.
Waving him off briefly, Phoenix stopped inside the lobby to catch his breath. Folding himself over, he pressed his hands to his knees and sucked in oxygen as though the world were in short supply. His lungs happened to feel as though it really was.
These days, his hour-long morning runs were getting the best of him. During the particularly brutal form of hell that he’d put himself through today, Phoenix had finally convinced himself that this was another kind of self-punishment that he was allowing to get out of hand.
Not that he planned to do anything about that — he had merely accepted it.
“Good morning, George,” Phoenix replied when he could form words and not sound like a vacuum hose stuck to a pillow.
George smiled down at him. “I didn’t realize you were back in town, Mr. Pierce. Will you be here for a while?”
“Nope,” he answered, the only word he could shove past his constricted lungs. Forcing his tired muscles to return him to his full height, he slapped the air fleetingly, an exhausted form of a wave, and headed toward the elevators that would take him to the penthouse.
“Good morning, Mr. Pierce,” Roy, the elderly man who prided himself on manning the front desk, said cheerfully as he punched the up arrow on the wall to call the elevator. “The other elevator’s on the fritz again. We’ve called a repairman, so hopefully it’ll be back to normal in a bit.”
Phoenix nodded in Roy’s direction, still trying to preserve what oxygen he did have. He didn’t really care about the status of the elevators, but he wasn’t going to tell Roy that.
Instead, he walked in a circle on the gray travertine floor, hands on his hips, chest still rising and falling rapidly, trying to keep his muscles from locking up as he watched the numbers above the elevator doors, waiting for the next car to arrive. It had momentarily paused at seventeen and was down to two before he stopped pacing and stood stone still, hoping like hell his quads weren’t going to do some sort of new trick and refuse to stretch enough to walk.
Phoenix dropped his gaze to the floor, allowing his hood to cover most of his face, not wanting to make eye contact with whomever was coming off the elevator. Today was not the day for a complete stranger to want to engage him in a conversation about hockey, something he found himself doing more and more often these days.
When the doors opened, the first thing he saw was a pair of running shoes. They were too small to belong to a man, so he allowed his gaze to travel north slowly.
A pair of trim, jean-clad legs came into view. And as he continued his path upward, moving on to admire the small, curvy hips attached to the impressive legs, he found himself skipping over the oversized sweatshirt until he met a pair of crystal-blue eyes staring back at him. From this distance, those eyes seemed to glow — a brilliant turquoise, so clear, so pure that the color was probably only rivaled by that of the waters of the Caribbean.
“Excuse me,” the succulent mouth attached to the beautiful face that held the bright blue eyes said.
Those words had Phoenix’s gaze sliding back down to her lips. Perfect pink lips that he noticed were not forming a smile.
Phoenix nodded his head — a nonverbal form of an apology — knowing there was no sense trying to force the words out through his abused lungs. Although now they were oxygen deficient because this woman had taken his breath away, not because he’d run nine miles.
Phoenix couldn’t look away as she moved around him, giving him a wide berth, those striking blue eyes tracking his every move as though he might jump on her at the first possible chance.
Oh, jumping on her was definitely on his mind, but not in the way she was probably imagining. Phoenix was suddenly thinking about naked acrobatics, actually. Some slick, sweaty sex that resulted in those blue eyes piercing his as he made her come a hundred different ways, in a thousand different positions.
He realized he was still staring at her, watching the gentle sway of her sweet, heart-shaped ass encased in lucky fucking denim. He wanted to be her fucking jeans at that moment.
The elevator dinged, and Phoenix turned back to see the doors were beginning to close. He shoved his arm in to stop them, waving Roy off, not wanting to wait another five minutes for the damn thing to return. As he backed into the car, he watched the sexy blonde smile at George as they engaged in a short conversation.
He wanted to be George.
Okay, no. He did not fucking want to be George.
But Phoenix did have every intention of talking to George a little later. After all, he wanted to know who those blue eyes belonged to. Apparently the doorman knew her well enough to earn a sweet smile before the woman moved closer to the door.
When she stepped out onto the street and out of his line of sight, Phoenix punched in a code that would take him to the penthouse. As the elevator doors closed, effectively blocking any opportunity of seeing the woman who was responsible for kicking his heart rate back up into dangerous territory, he gave in to his exhaustion and allowed the wall to hold him up.
Jesus Christ, he was acting like a fucking teenage boy. He really needed to get a grip.
The elevator ride to the top floor was as painful as waiting for the damn thing on the first floor, and by the time the doors slid open, Phoenix was desperate to get out of the steel box. He stepped into the lavish entry that smelled oddly of cinnamon for reasons unbeknownst to him, and after crossing the vast space that separated his door from the elevator, he punched in another code to gain entry to his condo.
Nudging the door open a fraction of an inch, he glanced back over his shoulder, trying to locate the source of the smell. It had to be his mother’s doing — that was the only logical explanation — but for the life of him, Phoenix had no idea what the hell it could be. The only thing he noticed — with the exception of all the Christmas decorations having finally been taken down — was a bowl of pinecones resting on the antique table that sat between the two sets of elevator doors.
Did pinecones smell like cinnamon? Surely not.
Realizing he truly didn’t give a shit, Phoenix grabbed the knob and pushed open the front door to his condo.
When he stepped inside, he was breathing regularly and his heart was no longer trying to crack through a rib. He grabbed the stack of mail that was sitting on the table inside the door, the same place his bodyguard/public relations spokesman/assistant, Tarik Marx, put it every day.
The guy had too many fucking job titles, that was all there was to it.
As usual, Phoenix took a moment to flip through the envelopes, not finding any of them especially appealing. Tossing them back on the table, he glanced in the mirror hanging on the wall in front of him.
Damn. No wonder the blue-eyed woman had given him a wide berth as she’d come off the elevator. The black hoodie he wore covered most of his head, and the little bit of his face that was visible looked downright lethal. His black hair fell across his forehead, his green eyes glittered, probably from the pain and suffering of having pushed himself to his limits that morning. Hell, even his nose looked a little more crooked than normal. Scrubbing his hands over his jaw, he realized he needed to shave.
Hopefully, he’d had the decency to smile when she had been standing there, allowing him to eye fuck her first thing in the morning. Knowing him, he hadn’t. He didn’t smile much these days, mainly because it took too much fucking effort.
“Phoenix, is that you?”
“If it’s not, then I may have to question who you let in here, Mother,” Phoenix replied, snatching the mail up once more and flipping through it again. Anything to look busy.
His mother made it her job to visit him every morning. She had her own condo in the same building, yet she arrived at some point after Phoenix left for his daily run, and she stuck around for a short time after he got back, longer if he didn’t appear to have anything to do. Not that he didn’t love his mother, but despite what she thought, he really was busy.
“Don’t you get smart with me, young man.”
Smiling to himself, Phoenix didn’t respond.
His mother must’ve known he had no retort, because she added, “Tarik should be here any minute.”
“Yes, he should. And your point?” he asked, keeping his eyes on the envelopes and making his way through the vast, open area that served as a living room, dining room, and den.
His condo consisted of the entire thirty-sixth floor. Roughly five thousand square feet overlooking downtown Austin in a building he personally owned that housed three hundred and forty additional condominiums. It should’ve been enough space to keep him from having to run into someone every time he walked through the door, especially since he lived alone, but that never seemed to be the case.
With one eye still on his mail, Phoenix stepped into the commercial-grade kitchen, feeling his mother’s eyes track him as he stopped in front of the refrigerator.
Sometimes Phoenix wished Tarik didn’t feel the need to go down to the gym every morning while Phoenix went for his morning run. If the guy would come to work first thing, Phoenix would be spared this awkward daily confrontation with his mother. Most of the time, Phoenix was back before Tarik arrived, which meant he was left dealing with his mother alone.
Tossing the less-than-interesting envelopes onto the black granite counter for Tarik to deal with later, Phoenix flipped the hood off his head, opened the refrigerator, and grabbed two single bottles of orange juice. He had learned long ago that drinking out of the carton — although he was the only one drinking from it — was a surefire way to get his mother to ride his ass first thing in the morning.
Tarik’s solution: individual bottles.
Phoenix couldn’t argue with the man’s logic. Wasn’t the first time he’d thought Tarik was a genius, either.
As he tipped the first bottle to his lips, Phoenix glanced at his mother. As always, Ellen Pierce was dressed in one of her beloved black silk pantsuits, her short ebony hair, severely cut and board straight, resting on her shoulders. While Phoenix watched her, those observant green eyes, so similar to his own, raked over his face.
“Are you here to stay for a while?” Ellen asked.
Phoenix shook his head. “On the road this week.”
His mother didn’t respond immediately, simply watched him carefully. Studying him silently.
She was always trying to figure him out. He’d informed her on more than one occasion that it wasn’t worth the time or effort. Half the time, he couldn’t predict what he would do or say next; no sense in someone else trying to do the same.
In his defense, Phoenix was only unpredictable as long as it didn’t have to do with business. When it came to his companies, he was as straightforward as he was shrewd and single-minded. At twenty-nine, he’d built an empire that couldn’t be rivaled by many, and he didn’t make any apologies for it, either. It hadn’t come easy, but it had helped that his father — God rest his soul — had taught him everything he knew before he’d died nine months ago. A fresh wave of grief passed through him as he thought about his father. God, he missed him more with each day that passed.
But he’d had little time to grieve for the man who’d been his mentor and role model. After Sidney Pierce had suffered a heart attack that’d taken his life and stolen the person Phoenix had been closest to in the world, he’d been hard-pressed to move forward, to keep things going in the right direction, to prove to himself — as much as to his father — that he was worthy.
Now that Phoenix was the owner of the Austin Arrows, one of the youngest teams in the NHL, as well as Pierce Industries, a multi-million-dollar venture capitalist firm, he didn’t have nearly as much time for erratic, impulsive behavior as he’d once had.
As he figured it, either the job was getting to him or he was getting old.
He refused to believe the latter.
Twisting the lid off the second bottle of juice, Phoenix said, “We’ll have dinner next weekend. Will that work?”
The smile that formed on his mother’s ageless features brightened her entire face. “I’d like that.”
Draining the second bottle of juice, Phoenix tossed both bottles and the lids into the recycle bin, knowing Tarik would have his ass if he didn’t. Sometimes he threw them in the trash solely to listen to him bitch and moan.
It was the little things that got Phoenix going in the morning.
“I’ve got to shower,” he informed his mother. “Then I’ve got a meeting at the office.”
Ellen nodded. She of all people knew he wasn’t much of a morning person, and standing around waiting for him to spark a conversation before he’d had his first cup of coffee was like waiting for him to find any interest in a woman for more than one night.
It just didn’t happen.
Leaving his mother in the living room, Phoenix escaped to his bedroom, locking the door behind him.
Publication Date: March 27, 2018
Publisher: Penguin-Random House / LoveSwept
Cover Design : Penguin-Random House / LoveSwept
Cover Image Copyright © Penguin-Random House / LoveSwept
Publication Date: N/A
Cover Design :
Cover Image Copyright ©
Publication Date: 2018
Narrators: Rock Engle, Kasha Kensington