Trending on social media is her nightmare.
Beth Evans, former Olympic golden girl, known for a national scandal and daughter of a rising political star, is more than happy to stay out of the spotlight, living life as a normal single mom in a small Jersey town. The last thing Beth needs is Twitter’s favorite bad boy–Marc Demoda–walking into her life to stir things up.
Marc lives for the three b’s; baseball, bars, and ball bunnies, until the unthinkable happened. An accident destroys his shoulder and his career, leaving him desperate to get back in the game. Too bad no one hires notorious bad boys to coach. With his reputation on life support, Marc finds his saving grace might be the feisty blonde he can’t get out of his head.
When pictures of Beth and Marc’s chance encounter blow up on Twitter, they strike a deal to avoid further scandals and fix their image. But even in the harsh public spotlight, their fake relationship begins to feel real. Beth’s growing feelings for Marc have her questioning if she can permanently handle the limelight, just as Marc wonders if Beth might mean more than the game.
Marc walked down the ramp over the dunes in front of his house with his water bottle, cooling off after his evening workout. He took a selfie and sent it to Austin, telling him to post it with a comment about keeping in shape. For fuck’s sake, he wouldn’t let anyone think he was getting fat. He pulled his shirt back on and leaned against the railing overlooking the Jersey coastline.
Who knew getting good media was so hard? When he’d been pitching, even bad press wasn’t that bad. He’d been patient with being called a drunk, a drug addict, a hothead, even a whorish disease-infested sleaze bag, but he drew the line at fat.
His eyes scanned the beach while he sucked in a breath of salt air. He sank into one of the two chairs he’d placed on the wooden planks, watching the runners who dotted the sand this time of night. Nothing caught his eye until he landed on slender, toned legs in a pair of tight Sideline shorts. The woman reached down to tie her shoelace, allowing him to catch a glimpse of her heart-shaped ass.
He swallowed, feeling relieved. For days he’d tried to drudge up interest in the women he met in bars and clubs, but he couldn’t. It had been years since he spent so many consecutive nights alone.
Seeing this woman, watching her bend down, Marc found himself interested. He smiled as he brought the water bottle up to his lips, but it stopped halfway to his mouth when the woman turned around, and he realized it was Beth. Shit. How had he not known this was the same woman he’d spent days uselessly trying to forget? He shook his head in frustration.
Ever since that night, when he’d been close to placing his lips on Beth’s, he’d spent most of his waking hours thinking about her. He couldn’t believe how badly he’d messed up by asking her to go out with him. He winced.
But he’d have to think about what that meant later if he wanted to catch up with her now. Marc left the bottle sitting on the chair’s arm and took off down the ramp towards the water.
“Beth,” Marc called, but she didn’t hear him. When he got closer and she still didn’t answer, it became clear she was ignoring him. No one ever ignored him–especially not women. Marc picked up his pace, putting himself in her path, forcing Beth to acknowledge him. Her eyes tracked over him, and his stomach tightened before she glanced away.
“Marc,” she replied coolly. Her tone clearly showed her annoyance. He’d have to try harder.
“It’s beautiful this time of night,” he said awkwardly.
That was the best he could do?
He shook his head as he moved in step beside her, slowing his long legs to match her shorter strides.
“I usually enjoy it alone.” Her eyes took in anything and everything apart from him.
“Lucky you; now, you don’t have to,” he joked sending her a smile—knowing full well by her body language that she didn’t see it as lucky.
She didn’t even crack a grin back.
“I realize I owe you an apology.” Her glare turned softer as, at last, she snuck a glance at him, so he continued. “Beautiful women make men nervous and we say stupid things.”
“It’s been two weeks, and that’s the best you got?” She shook her head and tried to speed up, but he easily matched her pace.
“I was trying to ask you out for a drink or dinner or something, and it came across like I was trying to get you into bed. That’s not what I meant.” Those words felt strange coming out of his mouth. They were true now, but for most of his life that statement would have been a lie.
“You think I don’t know Marc Demoda’s reputation?” Beth rolled her eyes, but Marc almost missed his footing.
“You know who I am?” He made a poor attempt to keep the shock out of his voice.
“Of course.” Beth stopped suddenly and turned in the opposite direction. “This is where I head back. Enjoy the rest of your run.”
Marc stood frozen after her apparent dismissal.
In hindsight, it was obviously she knew who he was. His father had called her a VIP client, and his sister spoke about Beth as if Glory knew her. On top of that, repeatedly Beth called him Marc without him having to introduce himself. But he’d assumed as soon as she discovered who he was, she would be falling over him like every other woman he met. She was so different.
“Beth,” he called, taking off down the beach after her. She seemed not to hear him, or maybe she was ignoring him again, but that didn’t stop him. “Did Steve know too?” He slowed down and matched her stride again.
“He didn’t care either?” Damn, kids were always impressed with him. She shot him a look that said, Are you kidding me?
“You’re definitely not going to be his pick for a teammate anytime soon.”
“I had an off night.” He couldn’t even blame it on his bad arm; it was her fault. “Normally I’m more impressive.”
“Marc, you flooded my kitchen and played bad baseball. That’s the extent of my impressive experience with you.”
“Then give me a chance to do better.”
“I’ve told you I’m not interested,” Beth sighed.
Couldn’t she spend some time getting to know him before she decided he wasn’t worth her time?
“Well, I am,” he huffed. Wow, that was his comeback? Maybe even given a chance, he wouldn’t impress her.
“Why, Marc?” Beth stopped running and looked at him.
It was a good question, and one that he damn well wished he could answer, but he didn’t know. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. His eyes slid over her sweatshirt and then lingered on her hips. He reached for curl that had fallen out of her ponytail and tucked it behind her ear.
“I can think of a few reasons,” he said, his voice low and throaty. Without consciously deciding to, he’d fallen back into seduction mode.
Instead of backing away, Beth let her hand run down his arm before grabbing his wrist and pulling him closer, so almost no space existed between them. She stood up on her toes and let her mouth move to within a centimeter of his ear. His gut clenched as a jolt shot down his body and he licked his lips in anticipation of what she’d do. He finally had her.