(Click here to go to Episode 1)
Six months, four days, and twelve hours later. . .
“I need your help, Leo.”
Jeffry Thomas was a genius so if he needed my help it could only mean one thing.
“What’s her name?”
He waved me off. “Names don’t matter. Moves matter. More importantly right now, words matter. How do I start a conversation with a woman?”
Jeffry, I should note, was terrible with women. He’s a nice guy just . . . clueless. All that brainpower was reserved for advanced calculations and projections. Absolutely none of it was allotted for social interaction. Specifically, of the female nature.
Despite this setback, Jeffry had found not one, but two lovely women to date in his thirty years on this planet. A shock to everyone, himself included.
To be fair he was typically so consumed with his work he rarely had time to devote to such frivolous things as relationships.
“How did you meet this woman?”
He fell onto the couch. In front of him a pizza box stood open and half empty. Beside it was a two-liter of soda, also half empty. Jeffry was also not the healthiest person.
“Jeffry . . . ”
“Not like that,” he sighed. “We work in the same building. I see her in the cafeteria or at the food truck. Sometimes on the lawn where most of us eat.”
Ah . . . Admiration from afar. Now that was much more like the man I knew. “The next time you’re in line at the food truck make a comment about the weather. If she engages you in the slightest, ask her what her favorite dish is.”
Honestly, it wasn’t that hard.
I rolled my eyes. “Ask if she’d like to sit with you. Smile. Be friendly but not creepy. Pretend she’s me.”
He grimaced. “Speaking of you. How long is this dry spell going to last? It’s like you’ve been replaced by a pod person.”
Luckily football was on. Otherwise I’d be forced to actually have this conversation instead of brushing it off. “I’m just taking a break. It takes a lot to be as talented and giving as I am. Occasionally I need some time off to focus on myself.”
And spend a lot of hours in the shower reliving my one and only night with Esme Brown.
I occasionally met up with my dates more than once. It really just depended on their personality and what they were looking for. Who was I to turn down a few weeks of sex with a willing partner?
But Esme was clear. She needed me for one night. I was not to call, email, or text. As far as she was concerned I didn’t exist.
If only it worked both ways.
A night with Esme was like spending a night in paradise, only to be kicked out at dawn. I’d tasted the fruit, sampled the drugs. I wanted more but couldn’t have it.
And that, I was quite sure, only made me want her more.
“I have no memory of you ever needing six months to sort yourself out, Leo. Seriously. What the fuck is going on? Did you meet someone?”
“No,” I said flatly but fuck. If Jeffry, human robot, could tell, then everyone else probably could too.
“Who is she? Was she one of your dates or someone who has no idea what kind of friendly services you offer?”
I shot him a look I hoped would shut him the hell up.
No such luck, unfortunately.
“I’m betting she has no idea, which is why you’ve gone dry. You’re trying to be a normal guy.”
“Weren’t we discussing your ineptitude with women?”
“But you having a weakness with women is the biggest news of the century. It’s like your kryptonite.” He slammed the pizza box closed. “Whoever she is, she must be something else.”
I’d agree but I was starting believe I made her up. No one could be that incredible. She had to be a figment of my overactive imagination.
Dante Emerson slid a folded piece of paper across the conference table like we were in some sort of movie-style negotiation. I wanted to roll my eyes. I wanted to smack the twenty-year-old basketball phenom upside the head.
But instead I kept on my poker face and took up the piece of paper.
He shrugged, looking smug. He had a certain right to his smugness, unfortunately. “What I want.”
I knew before I glanced at the chicken scratch it was ridiculous. “No one is giving you a yacht, Dante.”
“Never know until you ask.”
“Yes I do. I’ve been doing this for a long time. No one is going to seriously consider this.”
There were some days being an agent was the most thrilling career I could imagine. The million-dollar negotiations hanging by a thread, the tempers, the dreams. But there were other days I spent doing nothing but managing drama and personalities.
Those days I’d like to ignore entirely. Ferraris and mistresses sound exciting when you’re floating on an attention high. They are less exciting when I have to spend my afternoon rearranging seating so wives and mistresses don’t accidentally wind up in the same room.
Being a glorified babysitter was not included in the brochure and yet it was a significant part of my job.
“I’ll sign with whichever team gets me a yacht,” Dante said with a grin.
“No, you’ll sign with whoever gives you the best deal. You can buy a yacht with your own money.”
“That’s not exciting, Leo. That doesn’t make headlines. It doesn’t make viral social media.”
Dante may be twenty but he was also very smart. “I understand your desire to make this deal as headline-worthy as possible. Please let me do my job. I’m very good at it.”
And Bancroft Sports benefited from it year-in and year-out which was why I now had a corner office with a view, free reign to do what I needed to do, and our president’s ear.
That same president who was standing outside the conference room with a scowl.
Perhaps I needed to check my own ego.
“We’ll meet Monday, Dante. By then we’ll know everything.”
“All right, Mr. Hancock.” He stood and shook my hand. “But think about the yacht. It would be great. I promise.”
I would not be getting him a yacht. “Have a good afternoon.” I showed him out.
Marie Bancroft Hamilton was not only the president of the company but also one of our best agents. Her father founded the company, grooming her to take his place, which she did five years ago. And while her client list was now reserved for only a few special athletes, she was still damn good at her job.
“What have I done to earn that scowl?”
“Office. Now.” She turned and stormed back to her corner office. The one opposite mine. Hers was bigger and had a slightly better view of Tampa Bay.
I followed her inside, closed the door, sat in the fine leather chair opposite hers, and waited.
She didn’t say anything. Oh no, she simply twitched and scowled. Whatever this was about, it was bad.
Finally, “The Renegades have been sold.”
My jaw hit the floor. “I didn’t know they were for sale.”
By the look in her eyes, Marie knew it was possible. “There were rumors the Butlers were considering leaving the entire industry behind after Sam died. His wife always hated football and his sons are in completely different industries. Apparently a quiet deal was struck and the commission approved it last night.”
It was quick, unusual, potentially shady, but not necessarily wrong. “Who is the new owner?” Our clients were all over the country but a large percentage were based here in Florida, the sunshine state where sports could be played year round. Our local professional football team was a significant presence in our lives since there were in our backyard.
“Edmund Brown,” she gritted out.
“I have no idea who Edmund Brown is.” Which made this deal even weirder.
The twitching was back. “Edmund was a silent partner in the old Nashville franchise. The one that never should have existed.”
Twenty years ago Nashville was awarded an expansion team under strange circumstances. The team disbanded three years later under equally strange rumors of corruption, collusion, and doping. It was an ugly time in professional sports that was swept under the rug as a bad mistake. No one ever brought up Nashville.
“Really? How is this even possible?” I’d thought the owners were banned from future ownership. Perhaps my recounting of the Nashville experiment was wrong.
“It was twenty year ban, not a lifetime ban.”
And their twenty years was up. “Son of a bitch.”
“Son of a bitch. And now that bastard is in our town.”
She was terribly angry about this. “Do you happen to know Edmund Brown?”
She twitched again. “Yes. He and my father knew each other. I went to school with his son, knew his daughter loosely. She’s younger than me.”
Ah, so there was a personal reason for this anger. “How does this affect our clients?” I had a running back with the Renegades and Marie represented their quarterback. We also represented at least five other athletes on the team as an agency.
“I haven’t heard anything yet but I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried to pull some bullshit. The salary cap was killing them last year. I don’t trust him and I wanted to catch you up as soon as possible. We need to keep a hard line.”
For the first time she relaxed a little. “Good. How’s Dante?”
I smiled. “He wants a yacht. Says it will be good for viral content.”
Marie chuckled. “I like that kid. He’s a handful but he’s fun.”
Only because she wasn’t the one negotiating on his behalf.
“Will there be anything else?”
Her grin became downright playful. “I hear you’ve been off the market recently. Who’s the lady?”
Yep, as I feared, everyone knew. “Somebody’s been working me too hard to have a social life.”
“Bullshit. You managed to keep up with your dates no matter what until now. I know when a guy’s had his world turned upside down and you, Mr. Hancock, have had yours upended by a Mack truck.”
I made for the door before I got sucked into another delightful conversation about my life. “How would you know?”
A cackle filled the air. “Because I’ve been the woman, Leo.”
Thank you for reading episode 2 of Reckless Kiss! New episodes will release in my newsletter every Tuesday. If you enjoy this story please check out my free book Tease. It has a very similar style, level of heat, and types of characters and I think you’ll really enjoy it.
Some characters from my previous books will be appearing in this serial. If you haven’t already, check out When Lighting Strikes, to read Marie Bancroft Hamilton’s story, 5 Dirty Sins, and Summer Heat to meet more of the Bancroft Sports gang. (But you absolutely do not need to in order to enjoy Reckless Kiss. This book is 100% it’s own story!)