Authors: Jennifer Watts
Tags: #Sports, #Contemporary, #Romance, #Fiction
On His Turf
Copyright © 2015 Jennifer Watts
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval systems without prior written permission of the author except where permitted by law.
Ebook formatting by
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
For the keeper of my heart, Thorsten.
“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this,” I say while glaring at my colleague out of the corner of my eye.
“Hmm…let’s see a cloudless blue sky, vibrant green grass and men in shorts without an ounce of fat on their bodies. I know, I’m a terrible person,” Leigh responds flatly but I tune her out as I study the field in front of us. It is a bright and sunny June day at Texas Memorial Stadium which is in stark contrast to my mood that’s growing darker by the minute.
“My feet are killing me,” I huff, hiking my purse strap up my shoulder. “Why don’t we have chairs?”
“You’re a reporter; surely you recognize the press area?” she answers sarcastically as she shakes out her dark red curls.
“No, I’m the lowly ‘Assistant to the Features Editor’. The same lowly Assistant who’s been on her damn feet all day and who could really use a chair right now,” I whine.
“Tom needs a couple of good shots for the sports page and I have to interview ‘golden boy’ over there after the game so keep your panties on girl.”
Leigh points to the opposite end of the field where the goalkeeper is squatting with his hands on his hips watching the play. The home team has been killing their opponents so he hasn’t had much to do except stand there and look pretty which he happens to be doing a very good job of. I’ve heard of him before - obviously - every woman in Austin with a pulse has heard of Shane Mitchell. He is the Texas-born and bred hometown boy with a golden touch and the looks to match. I quickly thumb through the program to his player page and scan his stats before my eyes travel back over to him. At six-foot-one and two hundred pounds he seems sturdier than most of the other players on the field with calves so muscular that they look like they could cut through glass.
As I take in his close-cropped sandy-blond hair that’s spiked up at the front and the strong, set line of his jaw I start to feel a little tingle down low in my belly. Even from this distance I can see what all of the fuss is about. I continue to stare and he glances over at the sideline and catches me watching. His eyes hold mine and the look he gives me is so intense that I can’t help but imagine how those gloved hands would feel running all over my body. I wet my lips and refuse to look away and he winks in response. And just like that I’m reminded why I don’t date athletes - or jerks - or athletes with reputations for being complete jerks.
Leigh is muttering sentence fragments that I can only assume are about the game into her hand-held recorder while Tom the photographer snaps away. He looks bored out of his mind so I give him a sympathetic smile. Tom is a short little man with thinning hair and a weathered face who has been shooting for the paper for more than twenty years so it’s no surprise that the game isn’t holding his interest. Leigh on the other hand is watching with rapt attention. She’s been on the sports desk for the last seven years while I have been one floor down in the Features Department for the last three trying to work my way up the ranks. My degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin didn’t come cheap and at twenty-six years old I definitely thought I would be closer to my goal of being a reporter than I currently am.
“If I’m going to be forced to watch soccer then I need a drink,” I say matter-of-factly as I reach forward to grab one of the clear plastic cups from the passing vendor’s tray.
“Hey!” He starts to protest as I lift the beer to my lips but quickly shuts his mouth when I wave a twenty dollar bill in front of his face.
“Sorry,” I mumble a half-assed apology as I hand over the money.
“You’re not supposed to be drinking that down here,” Leigh clicks her tongue.
“Then why is he down here?” I nod to the vendor adding; “besides I’m thirsty.”
“I don’t know how you can drink that stuff anyway…ugh,” she says, turning up her delicate nose.
“I love beer,” I sigh. “It’s my ass that wishes I didn’t,” I mutter before taking a huge sip from the cup. The ice cold liquid is the perfect relief from the late afternoon heat and I release a happy sigh.
“Oh please! You look like that Victoria’s Secret model Adrianna Lima but only with lighter hair, Caramel.” Leigh interrupts my self-effacing thoughts by using the nickname she coined for me. It’s one she blessed me with when I first started at the paper because she said that my hair is almost the exact color of a caramel chew.
“Not even close but thanks for the ego boost,” I snort.
“You’re right,” she concedes. “I actually think your cup size is bigger, Caramel,” she teases and her eyes twinkle mischievously. I respond by elbowing her in the ribs but secretly I love the nickname she’s given me since my hair is my favorite feature. It’s long and wavy and somewhere halfway between blond and brown. It can be hard to tame though and it is so thick a blind date once told me it’s the kind of hair a man can ‘really grab a hold of’ - suffice it to say there was no second date. And I’ll take the name Caramel any day over my Christian name Carmelina - the one my father gave me on the day I was born right before he high-tailed it back to Mexico for good. And even thought I have never met him face to face he for some reason sends a birthday card every year filled with pictures of him and his new family.
I suppose I have him to thank for my permanent tan since my mother is of Scandinavian descent with pale hair and even paler eyes. I am the result of their experiment and despite my olive skin tone my eyes are so light blue that most days they almost appear clear. I have also been blessed or cursed depending on how you look at it with a full chest, round hips and a little more junk in the trunk then I’d like to have while standing at five foot four. But my waist is small and the rest of me stays pretty lean as long as I turn up the treadmill at least twice a week and turn down the beer once in a while. But that can be hard to do when you love the stuff as much as I do. I sigh heavily and take another frothy sip from the plastic cup. The play is still down at the away team’s end and when I look over I see that Shane Mitchell is staring at me again with a cocky smile playing on his lips.
“Seriously from the way you keep sighing you’d think I was torturing you. Look, I got your out of the office early on a Friday under the guise of you ‘shadowing’ me and now you’re drinking beer and watching hot men run around so just say thank you already. Besides don’t your people love soccer?” Leigh raises an eyebrow at me and I shake my head.
“If by ‘my people’ you mean poor white trash from East Riverside then no, we don’t love soccer,” I reply snidely.
“You are anything but trash, girl. Now turn that frown upside down!” She gives an exaggerated cheer and I roll my eyes and turn back to the field just in time to see Shane dive for the ball. He moves so effortlessly with his thick thighs braced and ready. He easily saves the ball and kicks it back up the field to the hooting and hollering of the crowd. The stands look almost full which means there’s close to fifty thousand people here. I even hear a few girls shout ‘I love you’ which causes him to flash a smile so dazzling that Leigh actually swoons beside me. His cocky smile reveals all white teeth set against tanned skin and I snort and shake my head because guys like him know exactly how hot they are and they exploit it every chance they get.
“Just look at him,” Leigh says dreamily, as if she were a teenage girl and not a thirty-five year old self-professed cougar. I only say that because she’s always on the prowl and she makes no secret that she likes younger men. Leigh is originally from Seattle and she once told me that she hit the ‘mother lode’ in coming to Texas with all the cute accents and tight, young cowboy asses. Despite her barbed tongue I’ve never really found Leigh crude - more like funny and direct - both of which are only enhanced by her tall willowy frame, flawless face and crimson hair.
“It’s a shame that most of these guys make less than one hundred thousand a year. ‘Golden boy’ over there is a designated player and I think he’s the highest paid on the team but he still only makes like a quarter of a million,” she says critically.
“That’s a hell of a lot more than I make,” I say, quirking an eyebrow at her.
“As much as I do love soccer I think I should set my sights on one of the higher yield sports like football or hockey,” she adds thoughtfully.
“What about golf?” I tease. “Or baseball - that’s where the real money is.”
“Baseball huh?” she says thoughtfully, completely missing my sarcasm. “Maybe we should take a road trip to Houston.”
I choose to ignore her last comment and I focus my attention back on the game. Our team has lost possession of the ball and the away team takes a shot on the net. The ball goes high and Shane jumps up to catch it but fumbles and it sails over the top of the net. I don’t know what possesses me but I shout out a loud “boo” from where I’m standing on the sidelines. Shane’s eyes cut to me and his eyes narrow like he can’t actually believe I just did that. I can’t actually believe I did it either but I figure it must be the beer or my aching feet. I watch as he retrieves the ball and prepares to kick it up the field. I giggle, starting to think that this is kind of fun and I’m about to open my mouth to boo again when the ball comes spinning towards me and knocks my half-empty beer all over my white button-down shirt.
I let out a shriek and drop the plastic cup to the ground then look down at my drenched shirt. My white lace bra can clearly be seen beneath my blouse and I have nothing to dry myself off with.
“Serves you right,” Leigh says on a shrug and I give her a death glare. The handful of others in the press area are laughing including the photographer Tom - traitor. When my eyes cut back to the field I am mortified to see that Shane Mitchell is wearing a smirk of his own. I can’t believe he kicked the ball at me. Asshole.
“I’m getting out of here,” I say while wringing out the bottom of my shirt.
“No way, jose.” Leigh grabs my arm to stop my retreat. “You are my ride and I still need to get a few words from golden boy after the game.”
“But it’s not even half-time yet!” I squeal.
“You’ll live,” she chuckles.
I stomp away from her to find myself an empty seat in the stands above so I can at least rest my feet while suffering through another forty-five minutes of this mindless torture with a wet chest. Despite the hot sun the thick cotton material I’m wearing isn’t drying all that quickly so I’m forced to keep my arms wrapped around my body so I don’t flash my seatmates my boobs. Although the guy beside me with a red painted face wearing an Austin United jersey keeps sending me smiles that suggest he probably wouldn’t mind all that much if I did.
As I settle in to watch the remaining play I realize that I know next to nothing about Major League Soccer other than the fact that I have absolutely no interest in learning about it. The way I see it professional soccer should be left to the professionals in Europe and we Americans can have our touchdowns and tailgate parties. I make it through the rest of the game and when the whistle finally blows I head back down to the press area to find Leigh.