A city and a sport with something to prove—Meet the men who take that challenge.
The Black Jack Gentlemen—Detroit’s expansion soccer team.
The newest series by Liz Crowe
Book 1: Man On (August 2013)
Book 2: Red Card (August 2013)
Book 3: Shut Out (September 2013)
And Coming Soon…
Book 4: Set Piece
Book 5: Hat Trick
Free will makes us human.
Choice makes us individuals.
Love makes us unique.
Love makes us unique.
Metin Sevim has it all. At the pinnacle of international soccer playing success, he has managed to craft a perfect world for himself along the way.
When fate strips him of free will and the ability to choose his own path, he retreats from everyone and everything, destroying his hard-won career in the process.
Dragged back from the brink by his desperate family, Metin reluctantly agrees to coach the Black Jack Gentlemen Detroit soccer team but remains debilitated by memories and loss. When a surprising friendship emerges, it renews his passion for life, providing much needed solace… and extreme complications.
A saga of family dynamics and gender politics that cuts across cultures and circumstance, Red Card illustrates the human capacity for forgiveness through the life of one man as he attempts to rebuild his shattered existence.
About the Author:
Microbrewery owner, best-selling author, beer blogger and journalist, mom of three, and soccer fan, Liz lives in the great Midwest, in a major college town. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse. While working as a successful Realtor, Liz made the leap into writing novels about the same time she agreed to take on marketing and sales for the Wolverine State Brewing Company.
Most days find her sweating inventory and sales figures for the brewery, unless she’s writing, editing or sweating promotional efforts for her latest publications.
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?”). More recently she is garnering even more fans across genres with her latest novels, which are more “character-driven fiction,” while remaining very much “real life.”
If you are in the Ann Arbor area, be sure and stop into the Wolverine State Brewing Co. Tap Room—but don’t ask her for anything “like” a Bud Light, or risk serious injury.
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Black Jack Gentlemen
The Newest Series by Liz Crowe
A word from the Author:
Beautiful men in a Beautiful Game
by Liz Crowe
There is a fair bit of furor about gays and lesbians in professional sports. But most of them remain secret, not eager to encourage the negative attention such an admission would engender.
Many of them have spent their entire lives to play at the levels they have achieved, pushing their bodies beyond what most of us can imagine. Sacrificing social lives, vacations and a lot of money in the quest for athletic success. To risk that, just in the name of being “out” for most of them, is simply not worth it.
When I was contemplating an opening novel for my Black Jack Gentlemen series, it felt very natural that I lead with such a story. The extreme pressure professional athletes are under, especially in (American) emerging sports like soccer, can lead to emotional and physical breakdowns. Sometimes, all players have are their teammates—the only other people in their universe who understand what they’re going through. Many times they have spouses or other family members to lean on, but when I contemplate how many men and women suffer in silence, having to deny their true selves for the sake of their sport it saddens me that we, as a culture, seem to hold pro athletes to an even higher standard of behavior, at least sexually speaking.
Homophobia is rampant in most levels of society. But the vitriol among the ranks of professional athletes is especially strong. Recently, a semi-pro basketball player came out, and made a small blip on the radar. But any research into soccer in Europe and Africa will show that the institutionalized prejudice against gay men runs so deeply it is a wonder that any man would feel comfortable coming out in that environment.
There are notable exceptions. Robbie Rogers just joined the Major League Soccer (American) soccer team the LA Galaxy as the “first openly gay pro soccer player” back in May. His press mirrors the level that I describe for Nicolas Garza, the Spanish player who leads the Black Jacks. I read a lot about him, as I developed the relationship between my two main characters in “Man On,” Nicco and Parker Rollings. More and more European players are pondering their sexual status, going so far as to “remain anonymous” but state that they are “considering coming out” to the media.
It is better than it was. But it definitely not a healthy situation for men and women who, just because they love individuals of their same gender, feel compelled to either hide their true selves or give up the game in order to claim their long-term lovers in public.
In Man On, I deal head on with two men who come to their relationships from very different perspectives. Nicco Garza is a known bi-sexual, having been “outed” by his ex-wife in Spain when she catches him in a relationship with a man. He is forced out of his high level Spanish league and flees to American shores to form the basis of the inaugural Black Jacks team, pissed off and with something prove—not something that works out very well for him at first. His acting out only depresses him more. Until he lays eye on Parker Rollings, a young man, fresh from a college NCAA championship who is also escaping a proscribed life.
Parker’s parents expect him to leave soccer behind, attend the medical school he’s been accepted to, and to marry his college sweetheart. But when the temporary coach of the Black Jacks approaches him, after he’s been courted and had to reject teams at a much higher level that the lowly Detroit expansion team, he snaps. And makes a leap into a life that he wants, badly, that of pro soccer player. But one that he believes eliminates the possibility of admitting his own homosexuality to anyone, much less himself.
The two men dance around their attraction, end up leading the Black Jacks to a first season near undefeated season, then meet, accidentally at a resort in the off season. Their connection is intense, emotional, sexy and for Parker eye-opening. But it does not go easily from there. They are still in deep denial about what matters—soccer, or their love for each other.
It’s a novel not only of love between two men, but just as importantly, about the politics of gays in sports. And how clubs and teams must come to terms with how to “handle” the men and women who are their highly paid employees but who must be allowed to live their lives they way they want.
Excerpts from the first 3 books and in the series:
Man On (Black Jack Gentlemen: Book One)
Parker Rollings is a college soccer superstar, but his parents’ plans for their only son do not include professional athletics. When the Black Jacks approach him to finalize their roster, Parker leaps at the chance to keep playing, leaving behind medical school, stability and his first and only college sweetheart.
Nicco and Parker face off as bitter rivals for a coveted starting spot at midfield and are forced to channel their negative energy into something positive for the sake of the group—and themselves.
All eyes are on the fledgling team in its debut season. It’s crucial that the Black Jacks prove all the doubters wrong. They must make a good showing in the league and with new fans. But player drama, club dynamics, and misplaced priorities may tear it apart before it even begins.
His fingertips grazed a small card in his pocket making him wince at the memory of his first encounter with the team psychologist. He’d set it up one morning after booting Terry out the door, along with a couple of girls he’d convinced to come by for some playtime. His head had been pounding, not so much from a hangover but shame.
When he had flipped through his expensive-looking orientation packet the words “team psychologist” had leapt out at him as if connected to a hand that gripped him by the short hairs. Not a new thing, all teams had one. But, sick of his bizarre need for constant physical contact—for fucking, he’d corrected, tired of even glossing over it in his own stupid head—he had been desperate for someone to simply listen. So, he made the call. And in the meantime, had enjoyed the workouts with the trainers, the few times he’d scrimmaged around with some of the other players. They’d all been contracted but not obligated to do anything for a month but “acclimate to their new surroundings.”
Part of that acclimation came with the requisite social networking and attendance at a some high visibility fundraisers—which is where Nicco had hooked up with Terrance who’d been attending as personal assistant to some politician. He’d also been encouraged to look around for a place to live with the assistance of an eager young real estate agent, an adorable, sexy, woman whose name he had forgotten within minutes of banging her brains out in an empty mini-mansion. Par for his course, really. But behavior that made him angrier than ever.
His first session with the psychologist, an earnest, nerdy-looking guy with square glasses and a cleft chin, had been brutal. But Nicco had deflected, and to his credit, the shrink had let him front, and show off like a dumb ass for a full hour.
Then, just as he was getting up to leave, convinced the whole thing had been a total waste, the guy looked up at him, pinning him with eyes so sharp and clear they made Nicco gasp in spite of himself. “Nicco,” he’d said. “When you’re ready to face up to your addiction, I’m here to listen. I know you have a problem with sex. You know you have a problem with sex. I’m glad you made this appointment. Next time, let’s make it more useful, shall we? And for your information, I did not support the concept of putting you out there as poster boy for gay rights or gay athletes.”
The man had removed his glasses, staring Nicco down as if he could see into his very soul. “I am gay. I have been with the same partner, a man I love dearly for six years. I understand, on a certain level, what you’re dealing with. So,” he’d put the glasses back on and glanced down at his tablet computer. “When will I see you next?”
Now, Nicco pulled the card from his pocket and stared at the therapist’s name and phone number. Then ripped it into small pieces as the rest of the new team filed into the room. He noted two German players he’d had run-ins with in World Cup play, a South African player who must have cost the casino owners a pretty penny, at least three Brits, a Welsh guy or maybe Irish, and two South Americans whose dark, intense good looks made him shiver with memory.
A handful of fresh-faced young Americans interspersed in the group made him feel old. And that pissed him off. What was Inez thinking anyway? There were two per position in the room, two strong players for each spot—except his. He sipped his water bottle and glared at the Germans. Nervous tension gnawed at his gut but he kept his face calm. Finally when their temporary coach showed up and flipped the blinds closed, he relaxed.
So everyone in the room has to fight for their spot except me? That works. He dropped his feet to the floor at Rafe’s pointed glance and propped his elbows on the table prepared to ignore the forthcoming pep talk.
He’d already made plans for the night and wanted to rest up before hand. This goofy welcome pep talk would be as good a time as any. Letting his thoughts wander to the nightclub catering to gay men and promising full discretion, he made himself stop obsessing over the failed therapy session.
The door clicked open and all eyes landed on the tall, blond man who walked in, backpack on his shoulder, dressed to play. Nicco’s scalp tingled at the sight of him—strong torso, long legs, firm jaw covered with several days’ worth of fuzz. Good Christ but he was a perfect specimen. Nicco kept his casual stance but startled when the kid’s bright blue eyes and huge white smile landed on him.
He resisted the urge to smile back. Something about the man made Nicco distinctly uncomfortable but horny at the same time. He suddenly wished he’d held onto the shrink’s business card.
“And Parker will be working with you, Nicco.”
Nicco sat up, knocking his water to the floor as Rafe’s words got his immediate attention. What the fuck? He stared at the polite hand the kid stuck in his face then over at Rafe. His throat closed up between the proximity of the impossibly handsome man and realization of the fact that the vision of masculine perfection he’d lusted after for the last few seconds wanted to take his spot on the field.
Oh hell no. He leaned back again and ignored his brain that clamored for him to be nice, to take the kid’s hand. To smile and act like an adult.
Instead, he smirked, ignored him, and turned to face their coach as if suddenly fascinated by what the guy had to say. Parker stood a minute, and Nicco watched his face turn red before he sat in the one empty chair nearest the door.
Rafe passed out new phones, instructed them that they were obliged to “tweet” and “post profile updates” on Facebook at least three times a day. All shit that Nicco already knew. Rafe’s hot young lady assistant issued key cards to the ones who’d just arrived, including the kid Nicco studiously ignored but whose very presence was making the front of his jeans uncomfortable.
He shifted in his seat, trying to get control of himself, a bizarre combination of anger and lust spinning around his brain. The room rose, and Nicco joined them making their way out into the hallway.
A gaggle of kids and parents awaited them, and the team spent about an hour signing soccer balls, slips of paper, jerseys, getting photos for camera phones. Nicco joined in to prove his ability to schmooze like a pro. At one point he caught sight of his new young coach with his arm around a tall, attractive, pregnant woman with coal black hair. Rafe caught his eye and beckoned him over.
“Nicolas Garza, this is Maureen, my wife and her son, Adam.” A dark-skinned teenager next to the stunning woman stuck out a hand. Nicco took it, noting the kid’s own club kit and backpack. He took Maureen’s hand, kissed it, and eyeballed Rafe.
“Well done, young Rafe. What a vision. How did a loser like yourself rate such beauty?”
Maureen frowned but her eyes sparkled. “Spare me, Nicco. I’ve heard all about you.”
“I have no doubt of that lovely lady.” He gave a short bow. “But may I also say, congratulations on the coming joy.”
She smiled at him, and he mirrored her liking her already. He valued women who took no shit from him. He winked at Rafe and made his way back into the teeming throng after nodding at the woman’s son who didn’t look that much younger than his mother’s new husband. But when he turned he immediately locked gazes with the blond American usurper and his throat closed up. The man stared at him wide-eyed and innocent, and Nicco had to grip the back of a chair to keep from saying something utterly stupid.
He’d wager his left nut that young Parker had never been with a man, but the sheer sexual energy that poured off him was intoxicating. His fresh, clean good looks spoke of a typical American, upper class upbringing, expensive soccer clubs and college scholarships. Shit that Nicco usually despised and denigrated.
He broke the eye contact and set his jaw. The kid had another think coming if he honestly believed he’d be taking Nicolas Garza’s place on the team. Pure and simple, no matter how fevered his sudden fantasy over popping the kid’s cherry. He ran a hand down his face and swallowed hard. Things had certainly gotten complicated and then some. But he knew that he had a focus now—keeping his starting spot ahead of the delectable Parker.
Red Card (Black Jack Gentlemen: Book Two)
Metin studied the attractive woman sitting across from him at the huge kitchen island. Musing that she probably would just as soon pour him a lovely glass of cyanide as sit and drink red wine with him, he smiled, trying not to overreact to her unsubtle hostility.
“So,” she said, sipping and staring at him. “How is Graciella?”
He forced an ever-wider smile. “Fine, I am assuming. She is on a photo shoot in Italy for a month. I haven’t talked to her in…a while.” He lifted the glass to his lips, not breaking eye contact.
Melanie Matthews Miller could be a model herself. Something he was sure she’d heard plenty of times. Her dark brown hair was thick, curly, barely contained by a headband. Dark eyes shone in her angular, handsome face. He noticed that her hand shook when she put her glass on the granite surface. Unable to resist, he reached for it. She yanked it back as if he’d touched a lit match to her flesh. “Your mother must have been a stunning woman.” He said, softly, as if to a cornered, frightened animal.
“Yeah. She was,” Mel polished off her first glass. Metin poured her some more. “Spare me the lecture. I’m not an alcoholic.”
He looked up, shocked. “I wouldn’t think of calling you that.”
“Sure you would. I see it in your eyes.”
“The only thing in my eyes right now is terror.”
She scoffed, left the newly refilled glass on the counter and propped her chin on her hands. The defeated slump of her shoulders made the natural caretaker in him want to soothe. But he knew better than to comfort her, at least at that moment. He took another drink of his wine, and the silence took on a life of its own. Clearing his throat, he put his glass down, deciding if anyone could take him being straightforward, it was this woman.
“I love your sister,” he said.
Mel just stared at him, her face betraying nothing. “No you don’t. You’re just a collector of women. And Alicia is something new and exotic to you. Get over yourself.” Her hard voice fit her. It was as if she had sharp edges he would wound himself on if he were not careful. Her face was nearly perfect—high cheekbones, large expressive eyes. In a different situation, she would be his type. “I won’t let you hurt her, soccer boy. We clear on that?”
He nodded, believing silence was the better part of valor at the moment. “Tell me about him,” he finally said, unable to stop himself. “This man. Your… husband. Who hurt you and made you into this….”
“Bitch?” Her laughter hurt his ears.
“No, that is not what—”
“Yes, it was. It’s okay. I’m getting use to it now. Scott was the guy who swept me off my feet, knocked me up, installed me in a house while he went to work at the bank. I caught him fucking his secretary one day, right in that very house, when I was supposed to be volunteering at Zach’s school.” She gripped her glass, gazing into the middle distance. “I left. Came home to my father’s house with my son. Told him we were through. And started going out, to clubs, bars… you name it. I was a total slut. As I’m sure you will confirm, being the traditionalist that you are. Men can stick their dicks in however many women they want and they are super studs. I go out a few nights, let a few strange men do that to me, and I’m a whore.”
He gulped, forcing away that very reaction, reminding himself that this woman’s life was absolutely none of his business. She glared at him, holding the stem of her wine glass in a death grip. “And then, bam, I was pregnant again. And Scott said he’d take me back, wanted me back, needed me back. Blah blah. Whatever.”
“Oh, um, Tanner is not…”
“No, Metin. I don’t know who Tanner’s father is. How about that for your traditional principals? Shocked enough by me yet?” Her eyes darkened.
He sat up straighter his ire rising at her seeming need to prove how bad she was for some reason. “I don’t shock that easily.”
“Sure you do.” She got up to pace. Her wild, curly hair kept escaping from the headband and haloed her flushed face. In an instant, he saw what appeal she did hold, when she was not being so bitter.
He glanced around. The giant house was freezing, empty, positively cavernous. He couldn’t fathom it. His family was huge, loud, and annoying, but that was a whole hell of a lot better than this empty, echoing space filled with nothing but unhappy people.
“Mom!” An older boy stomped into the kitchen from the laundry room, slamming the garage door behind him. “I thought you were… oh, hello there.”
Metin stood and held out his hand. “Hi. I’m….”
“I know who you are. My mom and aunt have been doing nothing but argue about you lately.”
“Oh, well.” Metin ran a hand through his hair, watching the boy’s body language around his mother. “Sorry, I guess.”
“Nah, it’s cool. They don’t need much excuse to fight.” He dropped his soccer bag to the floor of the kitchen. Metin fought his inner neat freak. His mother never tolerated his soccer kit anywhere but out in their garage. And a cuff to the head was all it took for him to remember it. He and his three brothers had all played, which made for a pretty smelly garage.
“Mom, where’s dinner.”
“Order out,” she said, her voice low and distant.
“Whatever, I’m going out anyway.”
Metin stared as they did their non-communication dance for a few more minutes then got up before the urge to smack the smartass kid upside the head got too strong.
“Sorry, Metin.” Mel’s voice was soft. “We’re hardly the exemplary family. I have no business being mad at you for judging us.”
“I am not judging…. Oh, thank god,” he said when Alicia strode in, her gorgeous face dusted with makeup, amazing curves draped in a silky black dress. “You are beautiful.”
“Thanks.” She blushed, which he loved. “You guys getting along okay? Zach, are you being your usual teenager jerkish self?”
“Sure thing, Auntie.” The kid grabbed a few cookies from the jar and walked out without another word to his own mother.
Metin shook his head.
“Okay, stud. Let’s go to dinner. Or whatever.” She shot a worried glance at her sister, but the other woman kept her back to them. By the time Metin realized Melanie shoulders shook from crying, Alicia was pulling him out of the room.
Shut Out (The Black Gentlemen: Book Three)
A man on the run from the only life he’s ever known, Brody Vaughn is poised to accept the Black Jack Gentleman’s newly vacant goalkeeper’s position. It’s a desperate move, but one he must take to regain his emotional equilibrium. Reeling from his Mistress’s rejection and on the ragged edge of a total breakdown, he arrives in Detroit. Numb with thinly veiled grief, he walks into the club’s front office completely unaware that an encounter with true destiny awaits him.
Sophie Harrison has seen it all--as Domme, sub, and victim. Now that her complicated circumstances have landed her as legal counsel for the expansion Black Jacks team, she holds herself aloof in body and spirit. Nothing and no one gets past her fiercely guarded walls. Until the day she looks up to greet the new goalie standing in her doorway, his raw combination of vulnerability and strength making her breathless.
Two people, horribly scarred by the excesses of the BDSM lifestyle and hiding from their true selves, meet across a desk over a simple contract. All bets are off.
Sophie kept her chair turned from the office door, unwilling to even acknowledge the next soccer player awaiting her wise words. Sweaty and exhausted, she had a bitch of an afternoon low caffeine headache. And talking these over-paid, over-sexed, full of themselves prima donnas through their final contracts and benefits packages. However, as head of legal for the team in its third year, she had a new crop of new players to orient—ten to be exact. And had managed to do so for the last week.
But if one more of them waltzed in here reeking of sweat and eyeballing her as if she were the last crumb on the cookie tray, their flirty high beams blazing, as if she would ever be interested in any of their little boy bullshit... so help her. For the thousandth time, she questioned her sanity, taking on this utter crapshoot of a project.
Oh, right. She shut her eyes a moment, closing off the memories. Shutting down her natural reaction to pore over them, poke at them, rip off the scab that had more or less healed over them in an attempt to start over.
"Hey," a deep, syrupy-sounding voice intoned, sending a strange tremor straight down her spine. "Um, am I in the right place?" It hit her ears as: “’m ah in the raht playce?”
She swiveled around and shoved her glasses up her nose to get a good look at the next one standing in her doorway. Her gaze slid from his jet-black hair, along the strong lines of his stubbled jaw, across his t-shirt clad shoulders. The Black Jack Gentlemen wore grey when they practiced, in uniforms provided by a famous shoe company she didn’t recognize with a company logo emblazoned across the back. And said shirt clung to his sculptured torso in a way that really ought to be outlawed. All the while, Mr. Southern Accent stood stock still, as if used to being so frankly appraised.
A drop of sweat formed at her temple. He cleared his throat so she jerked her gaze back up to a set of the darkest eyes she had ever encountered. He smiled—a sweet, lopsided thing that imprinted itself on her retinas in a wholly annoying way. She tried not to swallow her own tongue.
"Hey… uh… I'm Brody. Brody Vaughn." He ran a hand through his hair and she sensed his nervousness as if there were a neon sign over his head. Adorable. Her radar pinged like mad. But she forced it to shut the hell up. She had no business thinking about these…these kids in any way other than purely professional.
So far they had all been the exact same breed of cocky asshole, alternating eye-fucking her and extreme boredom in response to her monotonous drone of legal-ese. Sexy Southern Accent—Brody, she muttered under her breath—put his hand out, as if to shake hers. His face reddened charmingly when she raised an eyebrow at his outstretched palm—the same one he’d just dragged through his sweat soaked hair
She smiled, rising slowly to her feet, needing to be at his eye level. His eyes widened as he dropped, as if boneless, into the chair opposite hers without a word. Sophie took a long, calming breath, forcing her brain to focus in ways she had learned, practiced, utilized for years in her time as a professional Dominatrix—a woman who took money in exchange for bringing pain and raw, rough sex to the men who requested her services.
As she shut the door, keeping her back to the boy... to… Brody… her pulse kept racing, and her heart continued its disconcerting rhythm, no matter what tricks she employed—which pissed her off. And that finally, calmed her enough to face him.
“Hello Mr. Vaughn, I’m Sophie Harrison, legal counsel for the Black Jack Gentlemen. I’ll be explaining the terms of the contract you or your agent negotiated with our organization.” She kept talking, using words she’d said a hundred times already. But her own voice echoed around in her head. She purposely kept her eyes on the paper in front of her, glasses sliding down her nose. Ignoring the raw, visceral reaction her finely tuned body and brain were having to the man across from her—Brody, a twenty-five year old man, she saw on his employee fact sheet.
No, he is a boy, and you do not play with boys, not anymore.
She compressed her lips together, pretending to find a non-existent problem with the stack of legal documents pertaining to his agreement. To his credit, he stayed silent and very, very still, in a way that intrigued her.
Finally, she met his eyes once more and blinked—then frowned. “So, another goalkeeper?” she said, fully aware how it would needle the average, ego-driven high-level athlete. A glimpse at his salary indicated his golden child status. The keeper that the club had managed to sign, thanks to the aggressive recruiting activity by their new assistant coach.
She tried out a casual smirk but discarded it. And the way he just sat, glaring at her as if memorizing her, or hoping to intimidate her brought a hot flush to her cheeks. God damn it. She straightened her back, sucked in her gut and forced her thoughts to her next real workout—the kind she preferred, that involved tight leather, her favorite bull whip, and a willing submissive.
“You okay there… Miz Harrison?” His voice slithered around in her brain, nestling in nice and low, gripping the base of her skull in a way that made her want to jump up and run out of the room. Asshole. She glared at him.
“Of course. I’m fine.” She shoved her glasses back up nose and slapped the contracts down in front of him, probably a little too hard, but fuck it. She needed Mr. Brody Vaughn the hell out of her office. She tried to keep her face neutral, not snarl or growl or snap the poor kid’s head off.
He shifted in his seat, cleared his throat, and glanced down at the papers she had pinned under her manicured hand. Which gave her a well-needed rush of control over the situation. Her spine tingled in a familiar way but she channeled it—the distinct, loose, fluid feeling of impending need that she recognized.
“Now, let’s go through this…” She brought her focus back to the contracts. His hand covered hers. Surprised, she flinched, and a strange, embarrassing sound emerged from her throat.
“I think you need a drink of water. You seem a little… done in,” he claimed, his deep drawl coating her brain like the sweetest honey infused bourbon. She snatched her water bottle, gulped some, set the thing down and took a breath. Within thirty minutes she had laid out the terms of the contract, including his non-disclosure and good-behavior clauses, the health insurance guarantees, all of it. He had asked few questions, his voice soft, musical and soothing in a way that somehow had the opposite effect on her nerves. She gritted her teeth against the urge to stand up, lock the door and yank the kid’s sweaty clothes off. Jesus, help me. Get him out of here.
He stood quickly, startling her. “Well, if that’s it.” He leaned back, studying her.
She got to her feet, unwilling to let him stand above her for some reason, and noted how his chocolate brown eyes darkened at the sight of her facing him.
“Yes. That will definitely be it.” She lifted her chin and willed her damn knees to stop shaking. She would have little reason to ever see him again, unless he landed in trouble and she had to handle a public relations problem on his behalf.
His physical presence, not that different than all the others who’d paraded through here in the last few days, compelled her in ways she refused to acknowledge. At nearly six foot eight, with broad shoulders, a narrow waist, long, strong legs....he cleared his throats. She blinked, and the traitorous flush crept up her neck to her face again. His angular features at that moment were set, and bored, and slightly amused at her obvious discomfort. She narrowed her eyes. Why hadn’t she noticed it before? Her pulse fluttered as she put a hand to her throat.
As if reading her mind, Brody Vaughn lifted his chin slightly, and she got a good long look at it—the inky black chain imprinted on his neck. A dark circular pattern of interlocking, heavy loops encircled the flesh at his throat. He smiled again, slow moving, like his drawl, and he touched it, once, then turned, giving her a breath taking rear view that included the sight of the chain continuing around the back of his neck. The man wore a collar, a permanent one, inked right on his skin. But the vibes he threw her proclaimed one thing loud and clear—the person who’d bestowed the collar no longer had a say about him at all.
Her mind swooped, whirled, and doubled back on itself, picturing him—Brody the man—at her knees, bound, and waiting her command. She shivered and jumped when her assistant appeared at the door. He’d left. Taking his mysterious aura of vulnerability and strength, and raw sexy need, with him.