#GuestBlog “Behind the Scenes: A Deceptive Match (A Wrestling Romance)” by Kelli A. Wilkins

This “Behind the Scenes” blog is part of a series examining my romance novels. In each blog, I’ll talk about why I wrote the book, share my thoughts on the plot and/or characters, and reveal what I loved most (or least) about writing the book. Warning: Blogs may contain spoilers.

A Deceptive Match is my contemporary romance set in the world of professional wrestling. Watching wrestling has been a tradition in my family for generations (all the way back to my great-grandmother), so I wasn’t entirely surprised when I got the idea to write a wrestling romance. Nowadays, wrestling is more popular than ever, and I’m glad it’s getting the attention it deserves.

A Deceptive Match cover

I took my knowledge of the wrestling world (the good, the bad, and the controversial) and used it as the base for the story. As I considered various plots, I decided the premise would be: a reporter spends a month on the road with wrestlers and writes an in-depth story on the business. The catch? The reporter is a woman named Danni (short for Danielle) and she’s matched up with an uncooperative wrestler named Vinnie Valentine.

Vinnie is forced into this arrangement by his greedy, manipulative boss, Nick August. Vinnie is recovering from a knee injury and is at a crossroads in his career. Nick isn’t subtle about taking away Vin’s championship belt (and his livelihood) if the magazine story doesn’t go well.

And so begins a long and hot summer where Danni and Vin are on the road together, traveling from hotel to hotel and arena to arena. If you’ve ever spent time in a car with someone you don’t get along with, you can imagine the conflict between these two characters! Things get off to a bad start, and Vin isn’t thrilled to play “babysitter” to a woman reporter because he knows it will ruin his reputation with the other wrestlers.

Danni is out of her element and forced to adapt to a world she knows nothing about. Her own insecurities and worries make the situation even worse and she inadvertently causes lots of trouble for Vin. As the book progresses, Danni gets a first-hand look at how the wrestling industry works, from what goes on backstage to how the wrestlers interact with each other, the fans, and their egotistical boss.

And this wouldn’t be a romance without some heat, right? Although Danni calls Vin an arrogant caveman, she finds him attractive. Despite his best intentions, Vin finds himself drawn to Danni, but he is hesitant to get involved with her. They’re both carrying lots of baggage from bad past relationships and fight the desire they feel for each other.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot or share too many spoilers, but over the course of the summer Vin and Danni open up to each other and realize they have more in common than they once thought. Danni comes to Vin’s rescue on a few occasions and even finds herself in the center of a wrestling storyline. Vin uses his charm and humor to break through Danni’s aloof exterior, and they begin a very heated and passionate affair.

I know wrestling isn’t a “traditional” sport like baseball or football, and when I wrote the book I realized that romance readers might not understand—or even like—wrestling. So I used my knowledge of the wrestling world as way to show Danni (and readers) “the ropes” of the business.

Since Danni’s a reporter, she asks a lot of questions, and Vin gives her easy-to-understand answers. These details help readers who know nothing about wrestling follow along with the terminology and let them visualize the action as it takes place in the ring.

A Deceptive Match also introduces readers to Vin’s best friend, Everett Kinkade. Ev is Vin’s former tag team partner, and he appears as a prominent secondary character. Ev offers advice to Vin and Danni and plays counselor (and matchmaker) when the need arises.

Ev has the reputation of a ladies’ man and he’s the hunky wrestling heartthrob all women dream about—but he’s hiding a big secret. I fell in love with Ev while writing the book and decided he needed his own story, so I wrote A Secret Match. (I’ll talk about the book in another blog.) A Secret Match is not a sequel to A Deceptive Match per se, but it features the same wrestling world and has lots of crossover characters, including Vin and Danni.

A Deceptive Match is one of my favorite books. I loved creating the conflict between Vin and Danni and showing how hurt and vulnerable each of them are. And I had fun writing the wrestling scenes! A reader told me you “could see the action taking place on the page and feel the excitement and adrenaline.” Those are great compliments—especially from a non-wrestling fan.

A Deceptive Match received great reviews and I’m happy that readers love the book. It’s got everything a good wrestling storyline needs: heroes, heels, action, drama, humor, betrayal, suspense—and in this case—hot love scenes. I hope you’ll check it out and fall for Danni and Vin as hard as I did.

A Deceptive Match

Falling for the wrestler she had been assigned to interview wasn’t part of Danni’s plan, until Vinnie Valentine pinned her heart in a flash.


Disgruntled with her job as the office assistant for a national sports magazine, Danni Stone impersonates a reporter to prove herself to her boss. Her assignment? Spend thirty days on the road with Vinnie Valentine, a sexy professional wrestler.

Life isn’t going well for the Heavyweight Champ. Vinnie is struggling with a manipulative boss, prepping for the most important match of his career, and feuding with his arch-enemy, Thorn. The last thing he needs is a nosy reporter following him around—even if she is hot.

Thrown together in close quarters, Danni can’t help falling for Vinnie, and she unwittingly becomes a key player in his title match. Their mutual attraction grows, and late one night, they give in to the lustful feelings they’ve been fighting.

As their relationship deepens, Danni considers telling Vinnie her secret. But before she can confess the truth, Vinnie discovers she isn’t the reporter she claims to be. Her lie threatens to ruin everything between them. Will their relationship be destroyed by her deception or will their love win out?

A Deceptive Match cover

Order A Deceptive Match here:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01F18X3XQ

All Other platforms: https://www.books2read.com/u/3RB96j

Read reviews here: https://www.kelliwilkins.com/a-deceptive-match

Don’t miss the follow-up book, A Secret Match:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01FERW65A

All other platforms: https://books2read.com/u/md6rZb

Read reviews here: https://www.kelliwilkins.com/a-secret-match

I hope you enjoyed this “Behind the Scenes” look at the making of this spicy romance. I welcome questions and comments from readers and other authors. Contact me via the form on my site or on social media.

Happy Reading,

Kelli A. Wilkins

 ~~~

Kelli A Wilkins

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 20 romance novels, 7 non-fiction books, and 3 horror ebooks. Her romances span many genres and settings, and she likes to scare readers with her horror stories.

Kelli released Journaling Every Week: 52 Topics to Get You Writing in early 2021. This fun and innovative guide to journaling is filled with hundreds of thought-provoking prompts designed to get you writing about your feelings and emotions.

In 2020 Kelli published Love, Lies & Redemption, a western romance set in 1877 Nebraska. This novel blends a sensual love story with mystery and danger.

Kelli posts on her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKelliWilkins and Twitter: www.Twitter.com/KWilkinsauthor.

Visit her website/blog www.KelliWilkins.com for a full title list and to find all her social media links.

~~~

#ReleaseBlitz “More Anxious (Love Sick Series)” by Sydney Aaliyah Michelle

Title: More Anxious

Series: Love Sick Series Book 2
Author: Sydney Aaliyah Michelle
Genre: BWWM Sports Romance, Contemporary Romance
Release Date: May 24, 2021


She’s coming into the light, but at what cost. They say love conquers all, but is it worth her mental health or worse, her life for a chance at a happily ever after?

After sharing her story, Leah Jones is more exposed than ever. Her career is taking off and everyone wants a piece of her. Her inner circle is pressuring her to move forward. They believe her anxiety is lessening, but Leah is getting better at hiding it.

Her boyfriend, football superstar Ryan Ware is pushing for them to move in together, but Leah isn’t ready to recalibrate her life. She’s struggling, and no one seems to notice until super fan, Erin Reynolds, maneuvers her way into Leah’s life.

Leah hires Erin to be her assistant but giving up control proves harder than she thought. Especially when Erin reveals her true motives.

Will Leah’s anxiety hold her back? Is she willing to risk losing the man she loves or will she step out and protect what she’s worked so hard for?

More Anxious is the steamy second book in the Love Sick romance series. A modern-day spin on the classic story All About Eve. If you like drama with a twist, alluring passion, and characters who fight for what they believe in, Sydney Aaliyah Michelle’s More Anxious will take you on a ride.

My head remained in a fog the whole rest of the day. I prepared dinner for tonight. I finished with an hour to spare and still no word from him. I crawled into bed and buried myself under the covers.

He hated me.

I hated me, too.

I drifted back to sleep some time later.

A soft knock woke me. I bolted upright.

I wiped my eyes to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

Ryan stood next to the sliding bay doors. He leaned against the doors with his arms crossed over his chest.

I blinked.

“Hey, little one.” He licked his lips. “You still mad at me?”

I shook my head and wiped my eyes.

“I missed you today,” he said. 

I whimpered, pushed the covers off me, and stood up in the center of the bed. I traversed it in a few steps before launching myself into Ryan’s arms. He caught me and stumbled backward.

I settled in his arms. He perched us on the side of the couch while I attacked him with my lips. I kissed him all over his face.

“Hey,” he said between kisses. “Slow down.” He leaned back.

I grabbed the back of his neck and pulled him toward me as I continued my assault.

Ryan opened his mouth to protest. I silenced him with my tongue and licked his lips. Too tempting to ignore, I bit him.

“Ouch.” His hand touched his lips.

“Sorry.” I licked his bottom lip and sucked on it. Ryan’s lips were like a pacifier to me. I wrapped my arms around his neck and straddled him. “I’m so sorry. About last night and today.”

Ryan stood up and walked toward the bed. He laid me down and pulled my arms from around his neck.

“No, come here.” I reached for him, but he ducked out of grasp and pushed my shirt up and laid tiny kisses down my stomach.

I pulled my T-shirt up over my head. Ryan ran a hand between my legs as his lips continued to taste my flesh. He worked back up to my breast, taking each nipple in his mouth and sucking hard. I arched my back to bring him closer. He snaked a finger inside the seam of my panties and ran it along it. I writhed beneath his touch. My brain latched on the sensation. It was exciting and exhilarating. Ryan’s touch made it all better.

I tilted my hips. Ryan pushed two fingers inside of me, only to the knuckles. His arms rested on my torso, holding me in place.

“What are you doing?” I gasped as he flicked my clit and then his fingers returned to tease my entrance.

“Manipulating you with sex.” He pressed his strong fingers into my center. His thick middle finger rubbed my clit.

“We need to talk about . . .” I squeaked out as he increased the pressure. I looked up at him.

“Not today.”

Sydney Aaliyah Michelle is a Contemporary Romance writer, a voracious reader, tattoo lover, and movie fanatic who hails from Texas.
After surviving 5 1/2 years living in China, she had the courage to finally pursue her passion and become a writer.
She identifies the sci-fi action flick “The Matrix” as the best representation of her life in the past. She is now blessed to be awake and doing what she loves.
She can recite the entire script from the 80’s teen comedy/drama “The Breakfast Club” and loves any and everything associated with the Avengers Movie, especially Tony Stark.
When it comes to books, Sydney reads different genres, but some of her favorite writers are Stephen King, Xyla Turner, J.A Huss, Kaia Bennett, & Emily Bronte. Under the Dome, The Great Gatsby & Wuthering Heights are her favorite books.
HOSTED BY:

#BlogTour “HOOPLA (Detroit Sports Network, #3)” by Liz Crowe

Title: HOOPLA, Detroit Sports Network Book 3
Author: Liz Crowe
Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance
Release Date: January 13, 2021
Cover Designer: Jay Aheer, Evernight Publishing

 

The last thing LeeAnn Thompson wanted to do was interview Detroit’s hot new basketball phenom. She didn’t like wasting time on cocky, flirty, annoying athletes and this one promised to be more of the same. But when she has to cover for one of her employees at DSN, she meets him, and falls hard, although she knows better than to take her sudden obsession with Jax Hoople seriously. He’s too young for her, for starters. And she has her own goals, none of which include a relationship–although getting laid might be nice.

Jax is a Michigan boy through and through. When he demands that his agent get him a spot on the flailing Detroit pro basketball team so he doesn’t have to leave the grandparents who raised him behind, the sports world is shocked. His intro to the team is tough, and he’s not settling in well when a lovely, red-headed goddess walks into his life via a “quick interview” after team practice.

He’s determined to push past her emotional barriers and be more than a boy toy. She’s determined to hook up, then toss him aside. What ultimately happens surprises them both.

AMAZON | iBOOKS | NOOK | KOBO | SMASHWORDS

Tweet: #BlogTour HOOPLA (Detroit Sports Network Book 3) by Liz Crowe @beerwencha2 ‎ purchase your copy on your favourite platform https://ctt.ec/hpLeE+ #BAPpr #sportsromance #contemporaryromance

Amazon best-selling author, mom of three, Realtor, beer blogger, brewery marketing expert, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville currently living in Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse.

Her early forays into the publishing world led to a groundbreaking fiction subgenre, “Romance for Real Life,” which has gained thousands of fans and followers interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”).

With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.

AMAZON | NOOK | KOBO | SMASHWORDS

AMAZON | iBOOKS | NOOK | KOBO | SMASHWORDS

#Featured “Heart of Stone: Emery & Jackson Book 1” by Chiquita Dennie

Heart of Stone 1 cover

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Emery Stone has a secret. If all goes as planned after she leaves her cheating ex-boyfriend, she can make sure no one ever finds out. Determined to keep love at bay, she’s resigned herself to a life of no strings attached, but just as she settles on her new loveless path, her heart is put to the test – again.

Jackson Pierce is all for a good time with a gorgeous woman, but Emery isn’t like other women. For the first time in a long time, he’s found someone he can’t stop thinking about and can’t wait to get to know better. The only problem is she’s built walls around her heart and no amount of promises or long, lust-filled nights will convince her to let him get closer.

As Emery and Jackson try to find a balance between what they want and what they need, they find themselves up against people from their past and forced to face the truth, no matter what the cost.

Is their relationship strong enough to survive the obstacles life places in front of them?

Standalone novel in the Heart of Stone series between 3 best friends searching for love, happiness and healing. HEA, Steamy Romance.

Order of series
Heart of Stone Book 1 (Emery and Jackson)

Heart of Stone Book 1.5 (Emery and Jackson) Valentine’s Day Short

Heart of Stone Book 2 (Jordan and Damon)

Heart of Stone Book 3 (Angela and Brent)

Heart of Stone Short 3.5 Bottoms Up Jessica and Joseph

Heart of Stone Book 4 (Jessica and Joseph)

FREE at time of posting!

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Apple

Google

Kobo

~~~

#Featured “The Love Trip: Two Contemporary Romance Novellas” by Roxanne Rhaman

cover

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Whenever You’re Ready tells the story of Dyana Jackson, who never thought the impromptu performance at her brother’s wedding would turn into an opportunity to sing professionally. And she never thought accepting would cause problems within her marriage. Somehow, she has to decide between living out her long-buried dream, or giving into the demands of those she loves most.

It’s What We Do features Layla Blue, who has always had one goal. Use her gymnastic skills to earn a college scholarship. But somehow, she finds herself a member of her new school’s cheer-leading team. And dating the quarterback. Will she thrive in her new situation, or will the longing for her old life ruin what she’s found?

KINDLE UNLIMITED

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon CA

Amazon AU

~~~

#CoverReveal “HOOPLA (Detroit Sports Network, #3)” by Liz Crowe

Title: HOOPLA, Detroit Sports Network Book 3
Author: Liz Crowe
Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance
Release Date: January 13, 2021
Cover Designer: Jay Aheer, Evernight Publishing

 

The last thing LeeAnn Thompson wanted to do was interview Detroit’s hot new basketball phenom. She didn’t like wasting time on cocky, flirty, annoying athletes and this one promised to be more of the same. But when she has to cover for one of her employees at DSN, she meets him, and falls hard, although she knows better than to take her sudden obsession with Jax Hoople seriously. He’s too young for her, for starters. And she has her own goals, none of which include a relationship–although getting laid might be nice.

Jax is a Michigan boy through and through. When he demands that his agent get him a spot on the flailing Detroit pro basketball team so he doesn’t have to leave the grandparents who raised him behind, the sports world is shocked. His intro to the team is tough, and he’s not settling in well when a lovely, red-headed goddess walks into his life via a “quick interview” after team practice.

He’s determined to push past her emotional barriers and be more than a boy toy. She’s determined to hook up, then toss him aside. What ultimately happens surprises them both.

AMAZON | iBOOKS | NOOK | KOBO | SMASHWORDS

Tweet: #CoverReveal (Detroit Sports Network Book 3) by Liz Crowe @beerwencha2 ‎ #PreOrder your copy on your favourite platform https://ctt.ec/kH1eL+ #BAPpr #sportsromance #contemporaryromance

Amazon best-selling author, mom of three, Realtor, beer blogger, brewery marketing expert, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville currently living in Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse.

Her early forays into the publishing world led to a groundbreaking fiction subgenre, “Romance for Real Life,” which has gained thousands of fans and followers interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”).

With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.

AMAZON | NOOK | KOBO | SMASHWORDS

AMAZON | iBOOKS | NOOK | KOBO | SMASHWORDS

#CoverReveal “My Only Reason (A Love is Love Book, Book 1)” by Leigh Lennon

Title: My Only Reason Author: Leigh Lennon Genre: MM Romance Release Date: October 15, 2020 Hosted by: Buoni Amici Press, LLC.

Ryder

It’s a cliche’ really, falling in love with my best friend, my very straight best friend. And to add more complications, I’m a football player, about to be drafted. We’re manly men. We aren’t supposed to be gay. But I am and I love the one person I’ll never have. Until fate forces us together six years later. It’ll be both a fantasy and hell on earth, playing along Crush—the only man who will ever truly own my heart.

Crush

He dropped a bomb on me. Then he left, never looking back. Our friendship—ruined until he lands back in my life. His presence is just as big as ever. I never forgot him, or what that one kiss so many years ago still does to my body. He’s here, but is he willing to stay.

Pre Order Your Copy Today!!

AMAZON

Tweet: Check Out the #CoverReveal for My Only Reason By @4leighlennon HERE>> https://ctt.ec/9z356+ #BAPpr #MMRomance #LeighLennon

Leigh Lennon is a mother, veteran and a wife of a cancer survivor. Originally with a degree in education, she started writing as an outlet that has led to a deep passion. She lugs her computer with her as she crafts her next story. Her imaginary friends become real on her pages as she creates a world for them. She loves pretty nails, spikey hair and large earrings. Leigh can be found drinking coffee or wine, depending on the time of the day.

 

#ReleaseBlitz “False Start” by Leigh Lennon

Title: False Start (With me in Seattle Universe) Author: Leigh Lennon Genre: Sports Romance Release Date: September 14, 2020 Hosted by: Buoni Amici Press, LLC.

Leela

He’s a train wreck, a bully, and a menace to society, yet I’m tasked to make this jerk look good. As the lead reporter, assigned to this puff piece, he hasn’t made it easy with all the drunken brawls and arrests. I’m told to do my job—to be objective, but how can I achieve this when we have a past he doesn’t seem to remember.

Kier

She’s sexy, mouthy, and judgmental. I’m in her domain now, and way out of my league. If anyone can portray the changed man I’ve become, it’s her. But, there’s something almost too familiar about her as our chemistry with one another continues to grow. I’m the best on the field, and in my game, now it’s time to prove I’m the best for her too.

**False Start is part of Kristen Proby’s With Me in Seattle Universe

Kindle Unlimited

AMAZON

Tweet: False Start By @4leighlennon is #Live #BuyNow @Amazon https://ctt.ec/cQgd2+ #KindleUnlimited #BAPpr #SportsRomance #LeighLennon #WithMeInSeattleUniverse

Leigh Lennon is a mother, veteran and a wife of a cancer survivor. Originally with a degree in education, she started writing as an outlet that has led to a deep passion. She lugs her computer with her as she crafts her next story. Her imaginary friends become real on her pages as she creates a world for them. She loves pretty nails, spikey hair and large earrings. Leigh can be found drinking coffee or wine, depending on the time of the day.

 

#ReleaseBlitz “Touchdown” by Maria Macdonald

Touchdown by Maria Macdonald.

Touchdown is part of Kristen Proby’s With Me in Seattle Universe

and part of a series of Novellas being published under Kristen’s Lady Boss Press.

AVAILABLE NOW!

Buy Links – mybook.to/Touch-Down

Genre: Contemporary Romance

 

#Touchdown #MariaMacdonald #NewRelease #ContemporaryRomance #BareNakedWords #Novella

 

Synopsis

Touchdown is part of Kristen Proby’s With Me in Seattle Universe.

For a short, skinny, poor girl, I’m scrappy, focused, and not in the habit of falling over myself for a guy. Until Solomon ‘The Boss’ Lee comes along. Not even throwing food on his crotch has stopped him from pursuing me. And while I’ve told him I’m not like the other women he’s dated, he doesn’t seem to care. ~

From the moment Jasmine threw food on my dick, I knew I was gone for her. I had to have her. Though making her mine may be the most difficult stance I’ve ever had to take. The thing is, I don’t want the points with anyone else. I want the touchdown with her.

Available Now – mybook.to/Touch-Down

Meet the Author

 

Maria Macdonald is an author who writes sometimes, but mostly procrastinates.

She’s a serial Netflix watcher, an avid reader and occasionally she’ll release a book.

She likes tea, and chocolate – often eating too much!

She writes Paranormal YA, romantic suspense, Coming of Age, MM, New Adult & contemporary romance.

Originally from London, she now lives in South West England.

 

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/authormariamacdonald

Reader Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/mariasmisfits/

Twitter – @MMacdonaldBooks

Instagram – @mariamacdonaldbooks

Goodreads – http://bit.ly/1zz3GgV

BookBub – https://www.bookbub.com/authors/maria-macdonald

Amazon – http://tinyurl.com/q8l4ww3

Pinterest – mariamacdonald7

AND –

I have a newsletter. – http://eepurl.com/brF0j5

#ReleaseBlitz “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” by Shanna Swenson

tour banner

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Gods of the Gridiron, Book 1

Sports Romance, Contemporary Romance

Release Date: August 28, 2020

 

photo add-to-goodreads-button_zpsc7b3c634.png

 

They don’t call him Ares for no reason!

Travis Redmond, the ram of a running back for the Atlanta Gladiators, may be a lot of things—hot-headed, arrogant, rash—but a cheater isn’t one of them. Until cheating is the only option he has to save his brother, Tucker, from the clutches of a dangerous criminal mastermind.

When his impulsive actions get him an UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT penalty and he ends up suspended and back in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas, the last person he expected to see again was Skyla Larson, his former classmate from Brevidge High.

Skyla isn’t the shy girl he remembers from Biology. She’s changed after a decade and man, is she scorching hot now… and with the sass to go along with it too! Sly little Sky’s got a few secrets of her own, including a particular person she’s investigating as Atlanta’s assistant district attorney.

Their reunion and bar-side banter are short-lived though as these two suddenly find themselves running for their lives…and falling in love on top of that!

Love has poor timing, especially when they have everything to lose including their hearts… The “god of war” may have found something worth fighting for—the mighty Aphrodite of his.

Purchase Link

KINDLE UNLIMITED

Amazon

~~~

Excerpt

PROLOGUE

 

Travis Redmond sat at the bar, beer in hand, feeling like the biggest loser in the NFL. He’d gotten formally suspended this time after he’d pulled his helmet off and gone nose to nose with a player on the field, during a game, in front of eighty-thousand plus fans.

Yeah, he’d been wrong. Yeah, he’d been angry. Yeah, he’d been throwing the game…intentionally. And Pollux Reed had called him out for it. But dammit, he had no idea what Travis was going through and why he’d done what he had. He was tired of the talk behind his back and when Reed had mumbled that bullshit under his breath, Trav had seen red and went at him before he could even think.

He’d only been playing for the Gladiators for a month now and he was being scrutinized, his motives questioned—like they’d been before he’d gotten traded from the Stallions. But no one understood what was happening, what a shit-show his little brother had gotten the two of them into. There were some dark and shady men at the center of this whole scandal, and if Travis didn’t play his cards right, Tucker’s life was at stake. He had to do what they said, had to subtly throw the games, had to keep the facade going. The alternative was unthinkable.

For now, Travis was simply biding his time and looked back over to Hank, the bartender of Gunslingers, the current bar he was in, here in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas. He’d needed a break from all the heat he was in, back in Atlanta, using the excuse to come out and visit his family and catch up with his former teammates. 

Tonight, Trav was meeting up with a friend he used to play with on the Stallions—his former QB, Judd Gilbert. He’d be heading back to Georgia in a couple days’ time.

Travis checked his phone again, all too aware of the eyes that kept coming back to him. He was as inconspicuous as a famous football player and record-breaking running back could be in his backwards ball cap and shades, despite that it was so dark in the place that he could barely see. The tight Nike t-shirt and jeans probably didn’t help. Judd hadn’t texted him back, although Travis had been at the bar for about twenty minutes now, waiting.

“Is it true? Were you throwing that game like they said?” Hank asked, leaning over the half-empty bar top, polishing a beer stein.

“What the fuck do you think?” Trav grumbled and looked around. “You know me. You know I ain’t like that!” It hurt that people had no more faith in him than they did…even if it were true.

“I know, but it sure don’t seem that way. You shouldn’t have fumbled that ball, Trav.”

“What do you do for a living?” When Hank paused, Trav buried the hatchet. “You pour fucking liquor into glasses. Why don’t you do that and stop telling me how to do my job? When you bust your ass on that field every Sunday, then we can talk. Until then, shut the hell up.” Travis looked away, his heart hurting at the acid dripping from his lips. He had to make this seem legit though or Tucker was a dead man. They’d warned him and warned him and warned him. And Tucker was in their grasp now. They could put a bullet through his head in the blink of an eye if Travis acted suspiciously. They’d already sent him a pinky toe in the mail. He assumed it was his brother’s but couldn’t verify it for a fact. They could be bluffing, but he knew them too well; they hadn’t bluffed prior to now.

Travis pulled his shades off and looked around, narrowing his eyes at the onlookers, almost growling like a cornered dog. Yeah, it’s me fuckers, Travis fuckin’ Redmond! In the flesh, he wanted to shout but took another sip of beer instead, back home and up to no good, he thought to himself.

Just then his phone beeped and he checked it, seeing a text from Judd.

Judd: Hey, man. Sorry, I’m gonna have to bail tonight. Jerica is running a fever and Gemma thinks we should take her to urgent care. FML. I really hate this. I’ll call you tomorrow. Maybe we can do lunch before you head out on Thursday?

Well, shit! Trav was on his own tonight…in a bar he didn’t even wanna be in. His night just kept getting better and better.

Travis texted back with: No worries, man. Hope she’s alright. Talk tomorrow.

He replaced his phone in his back pocket and looked at the opening door, seeing that it was raining out now as an impeccably dressed redhead with a giant umbrella stomped in, huffing.

Trav’s eyes narrowed as he tried to place her. That face, mouth, and skin tone… He could swear he’d seen them before. When she looked up, her blue eyes grazed him robotically before zeroing in on the bartender.

“Excuse me, do you have a phone I could use?” she asked and got a scoff from Hank.

“Payphone’s in the back, lady.”

She sighed heavily and closed the dripping umbrella, swiping her black heels on the giant rug at the entrance of the door. She was clad in a striped, heather-gray pant suit with a cream silk top. She rifled through the big leather bag on her shoulder before tucking her unruly, long curly hair behind her ears. He heard her grumble, “Fuck,” as she pulled out a wallet and runaway coins began to bounce onto the floor with little pings here and there.

Travis understood; his day was just as shitty.

He decided then to move off his seat and assist her. He stepped forward and bent down to retrieve the three quarters, five nickels, and four dimes that had fallen out of her wallet. As her sapphire blue eyes fell to his, the woman’s jaw literally dropped as she recognized him.

He was used to this. Being a professional athlete got a man all kinds of attention; some wanted and others not so much. He wasn’t sure of the attention here but hoped she didn’t draw too much his way. The heat of the chaos he’d already generated himself was creating steam around him and he wanted to hug a wall at this point.

The shock on her face quickly turned to scorn. Great! She not only recognizes me, she hates me. No scoring for me tonight.

“Here, you dropped this,” his voice plunged in annoyance as he thrust the fist full of change forward.

“Keep it! No one asked for your two cents anyway.”

Ouch! Feisty. Well, she was a redhead after all.

“It’s actually $1.40 to be exact,” he smarted.

“Hmm, you could probably use it more than I could right now, Mr. Redmond.”

He rolled his eyes. Maybe she was a jaded fan or the wife of an opposing player. Either way, he wasn’t taking her money, to hell with her.

He slammed it on the bar top because his temper was the shortest thing on him. “You’ll need it for the fucking payphone,” he grated out even as she turned her back to him and walked in the direction of the phone and bathrooms. “Ungrateful bitch,” he mumbled under his breath.

Travis sat back down at the bar and continued to nipple his beer, looking up at the television that hung on the back wall. It was set to SportsCenter, so he kept his eyes locked on it, listening to the play by play of past Sunday’s games. The sportscasters began arguing predictions of the coming games, evaluating the players and their stats, and then started to debate Travis’s future with the Gladiators. Again, anger seized him. What the hell did they know? His head coach, Greg Cavanaugh, and the owner of his team, Jerry Taylor, hadn’t talked about cutting him. He was only suspended for two weeks, and it’d been for taunting, not throwing the games.

Travis sighed and leaned back on the bar stool. His guilt might be enough to kill him; the team didn’t deserve to be done the way they were, nor his teammates. Travis wished things could be different, but there was nothing he could do. He couldn’t go to the cops, he couldn’t discuss it—with anyone—and he couldn’t allow them to fire him. He had to keep this up. Had to continue to keep his brother alive.

“Can I have a water please?” Joy! The stuck-up lady was back.

“Does this look like a Waffle House?” Hank snorted.

“C’mon, I’ll pay for a soda. I—”

“Give her a damn water, Hank, and quit bein’ a dick,” Travis scolded with yet another scowl, getting one in answer. Hank huffed but did as he was told. “You’re grumpy tonight and it’s showing.”

“Yeah, and with no damn help from you. You’re supposed to be the town hero, Travis. You’re really disappointin’ us lately.”

Yeah, that makes two of us, buddy, he thought but spoke instead to the mysterious redhead who’d sat down two stools from him. “You sure you don’t need somethin’ stronger?”

“I don’t drink.”

“Figures,” he mumbled and sipped his beer again.

“Yeah, well maybe if you didn’t drink so much, you could keep your damn hands on the football.” The redhead smirked, and Travis frowned over at her. Who did she think she was, talking to him like that? What Hell had she come from to torture him like everyone else was tonight?

“Like you’d even fuckin’ know,” he retorted back. She probably didn’t even watch football, he bet. She just went along with what the man who’d put that big rock on her finger told her to do.

Travis rolled his eyes and looked back at the TV, getting nothing else out of her for a minute. As soon as this beer was done, he was saying, “Fuck off” to all of ‘em and getting the hell out of Dodge while the gettin’ was good.

The redhead rifled through her giant bag once more and sighed at the cell phone in her hands, drawing Travis’s attention again.

“Fuck,” she mumbled under her breath and threw it back into her purse.

Trav’s brows went up in question, but she looked away quickly, as if his stare was abhorrent. She’d be pretty if she would stop being such a cunt. There was something about her though that, again, made him feel as if he knew who she was.

“You from around here?” he finally asked, curiosity getting the best of him, and moved lithely onto the stool beside her. He was curious by nature; he couldn’t help himself.

“Yes, unfortunately I am,” she responded, running a hand through her mane of red hair.

“Unfortunately?” he sassed. “What? You too good to come from ol’ San Antonio?”

“No,” she smarted back and rounded on him. “But I certainly wasn’t hoping to run into you again.”

Again? When the hell had he run into her in the first place? He hadn’t slept with her, had he? If he had, he was certain he would’ve remembered a set of tits and a pair of legs like hers.

He grinned. “I don’t reckon I know you, darlin’.”

“Oh, yes, you do,” she retorted hotly and took a sip of her water. “You just don’t recognize me. I mean, it’s been almost ten years since we graduated.”

Holy shit! He’d gone to high school with her? Who was she?

He looked her over and tried to rack his brain. High cheekbones, great tits, curvy hips, porcelain skin… Nope, he was drawing a blank. But then again, he’d been hit one too many times in the head since high school.

“Got a name, Fireball?”

“Yes, Travis Redmond, I do. Too bad you don’t remember it.” She huffed, and he couldn’t help but laugh at this woman’s audacity. He was certain he would’ve remembered a sexy, feisty redhead; this lady was unforgettable.

“You’re gonna make me work for it… Ok, fine. Maybe it’ll be fun.” His grin was like the cat that ate the canary for a moment before he spied her engagement ring again. Damn! She was engaged, he’d forgotten. Too bad too, because he could’ve had loads of fun with this sassy, little ginger. Each one he’d ever taken to bed had truly been straight fire and tonight, he needed that kind of fire to forget all his problems.

“Oh, I—” she stammered as she went to remove the ring from her finger. “I—I’m not—”

“Sure. And I’m not one of the NFL’s leading running backs.”

“No. Actually. He—he, uh—”

“Sure, he did.” Travis went to turn, annoyed by the woman’s sudden separation from her fiancé on his account.

“He was fucking his secretary. I just found out yesterday. It’s one of the reasons I’m here. Along with work. I needed to get away.” She blushed, her face as red as her hair. Tears hit her blue eyes. “The affair is big news now. The media got wind of it this morning,” she mumbled, looking down. 

“Bummer.” He understood how the media took a story and ran with it. “So, your fiancé a politician or somethin’?”

“He’s the mayor of Atlanta.”

“No shit!” She lived in Atlanta too? “Wait, ain’t he a bit old for you?” The mayor was, indeed, an old dude.

She shrugged. “I guess it doesn’t matter much anymore, does it?” She smirked sarcastically, and Travis’s eyes fell over her face.

She had a light dusting of freckles, which her foundation covered, rosy cheeks, an aquiline nose, and no-nonsense blue eyes. And in that moment, she looked as run-down as he did. He took pity on her and felt bad for calling her a bitch behind her back.

“Hank, get us two shots. Make ‘em lemon drops.”

“No,” the pretty woman protested, shaking her head. “I can’t. Really.

“Oh, c’mon. Have a drink with your old classmate. We’re celebrating a reunion. Just a round or two. It won’t hurt ya. Besides, there ain’t enough liquor in those things to even get you good and buzzed.”

She cocked her head, trying to get him to understand, but he persisted.

“Just one. Maybe two. I swear, I’ll get you home in one piece.”

“Oh, I know exactly what you’ll try to do, if you’re anything like what you were back in high school. But my car needs a tow and the wrecker’s gonna be a while, so I’ll have one, maybe two with you. But I am not going home with you, Travis.”

“Deal!” Travis grinned and motioned for Hank to get the shots. “But I gotta ask? Have we slept together before?”

She shook her head dramatically. “I’d never sleep with you. Not in a million years.”

“Right, but you’ll sleep with the damn, old-ass, bald guy you were engaged to,” Travis snorted. The woman didn’t confirm nor deny the accusation but she sure as hell was gonna marry the asshole, so there was that.

“So, you gonna tell me your damn name so I can get reacquainted with you or continue to keep me guessing?”

She laughed, like genuinely laughed, and Travis was taken by how beautiful she was as her face lit up.

Wow! How had he forgotten a woman who looked like that?

“Skyla.”

“Skyla?” Travis was combing through every neuron to try and remember this lady, but he couldn’t place her to save his life.

“I wore glasses, had braces, was overweight,” she elaborated. “Skyla Larson from Bio.” 

“You’re fuckin’ kidding me!”

Travis was literally dumbfounded as he recalled the chubby, strawberry blonde he’d had Biology with. The girl he remembered was shy, practically mute, and tripped over her own two feet constantly.

“No way! You are not.”

“Am too.” Skyla’s brow rose.

Travis’s eyes roved over her. She’d honed that fleshy pubescent body into a slender masterpiece, taken those ugly-ass glasses and braces off, and now she was fine AF, and he told her so. “Damn! You’re smokin’ fuckin’ hot now, Skyla. What’d you discover? P90X.”

She rolled her eyes but gave him a smile. “Thanks, Travis. That means a lot coming from you. But not only did I discover P90X and clean-eating, I also grew the fuck up… unlike some of my classmates.”

Travis laughed. Damn, this was entertaining and got his mind off the fear that his life had become since his brother had come to him six months ago, pleading for five million dollars and protection. “You grew up alright.” Travis’s eyes focused on her big breasts, and he remembered that she did have those in high school—Braces, buck teeth, and big tits. It was starting to come back to him now. “You were never sarcastic though, and I can’t say I like that about you.”

“Good thing I don’t give a shit what you like.”

“Burn, baby.” He smirked. “Is the rest of you as scalding hot as that tongue of yours?” He gave her a crooked grin.

“Wouldn’t you like to find out?” she asked and thanked Hank for the shots he placed before them.

“Yes! I would indeed,” Travis answered and raised his shot after Sky grabbed hers. “Here’s to reconnections.”

~~~

 About the Author

Shanna Swenson is an award-winning finalist in the Fiction: Romance category of the 2020 International Book Awards for her books Abundance and Return to Abundance. She’s known for writing endearing adult romance novels that showcase the healing power of true love in the face of tragedy.

She’s a dreamer turned author who does cardiac ultrasounds by day and creates fictional worlds every spare chance she can. Shanna started writing at the age of fourteen and has always loved dynamic characters. She’s fascinated by the unknown, is a Cancer with a capital “C”, and has an eclectic taste in music, movies, and books.

When she’s not writing or reading, she’s working out, taking photographs, or hanging out with her own “knight in shining armor.”

You can find her on BookBub, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

 

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