Player: A Secret Baby Sports Romance(4)

By: Aubrey Irons

He blinks quickly, the smile falling from his face. “Oh, uh-”

I try and spot the bartender to signal a mayday, but he’s busy at the far end of the bar, pouring a shot for two guys down there with their backs to me.


With zero food in my stomach, the two nips of gin from earlier are making me dizzy and slightly fuzzy. The huge martini in front of me that I’m already halfway through isn’t exactly helping in that department.

But that was the entire point of coming here - numbness, solitude, escape. I just want to disappear - to get lost in my own booze-soaked escape, which is why a dim hotel bar on an empty Wednesday night seemed like a great idea, until this idiot plunked down next to me.

My eyes search again for help, but the bartender is still occupied with the same guys at the end. The larger, broad-shouldered guy with the dark hair and his back to me, and the smaller guy with glasses.

“Look,” I snap, turning back to the guy leaning against the bar next to me, the last of the social niceties my mother would approve of dropping like a curtain.

“I’m not looking for conversation, okay? Please leave me alone.”

“Aww, c’mon gorgeous, why don’t you let me buy you a-”

“I said no, alright?” My voice raises a notch.

“Oh like you weren’t looking for a free drink wearing that hot little number,” he says with a smirk, his eyes dropping languidly to the front of my dress, making me sorely regret my decision to even come here.

I should’ve worn sweatpants.

Hell, I should have had room service bring me martinis to my room all night until I couldn’t operate the phone anymore.

“Look, I don’t think you’re hearing what I’m saying-”

“Oh I heard what you said, honey.” His arm suddenly slides across the bar in front of me as he gets right in my face, making me shrink into my barstool. “But I think you should give me a shot.”

I cringe, swallowing the lump in my throat and my body going tense as his other hand slides across my bare shoulder. And I’m trying to find my voice, when suddenly his hand is wrenched away from me.

“Is there a problem here?”

The Texas-twanged voice behind me is deep and honeyed, like leather and polished wood. I quickly turn at the sound of it, and as my eyes travel up the broad chest to the mouth those words came out of, I feel my pulse skip a beat.

Holy crap.

Those very perfect, very gorgeous lips above a squared and chiseled jaw covered in a faint stubble. The man is gorgeous, in a ruggedly boyish way. His hazel eyes pierce right into me as the faintest hint of a smile - something just this side of arrogant - teases those perfect lips.

He’s wearing dark jeans and a white t-shirt, pulled tight across his thick chest and broad shoulders, and even if part of me - the part that channels my mother - wants to raise a brow at how casually he’s dressed for a place like this, I bite my tongue. He’s effortlessly handsome - an easy sort of cool like a young Brando or Paul Newman.

My eyes drop to the inked lines of tattoos swirling down his powerful looking arms. The sleeve-tattoo crowd of LA tend to be scrawny hipster types, while the buff, arrogant types are usually all clean cut.

And here he is not conforming to either one.


“Hey pal,” the scummy guy butts forward, boldly shoving a finger at the much bigger guy’s chest. “Move the fuck along.”

Texas’s eyes pull from mine momentarily, and his face darkens as he narrows them at the smaller man. “I asked if there was a problem here.”

The smaller guy snorts. “Not ’til you got here and tried to run your lame game on-”

“On my wife?”

The guy stops, and I jerk my eyes back to the Texan.


“Huh?” The drunk guy’s face scrunches up as he frowns up into my savior’s face, who smiles thinly at him.

“My wife.”

Yeah, wait, what?

The smaller, drunk guy swallows quickly, his eyes dropping to the muscled arm slung across my shoulders as if suddenly actually noticing the size difference between himself and “my husband”.

“Uh, look, pal, I didn’t-” He suddenly peers closer at the man standing besides me. “Hang on, aren’t you-”

“Going to let you walk away if you do it right the fuck now?” The man’s voice is somehow both easy and hard - like he’s smiling with a knife in his hand.

The smaller man swallows quickly. “Shit, Taylor, man. I didn’t know-”

“Walk away.”

The other man nods quickly. “Yeah- yeah of course man.” He flashes a quick smile, that piece of food still stuck between his teeth as he gives a final, awkward nod and scurries away.

“Hey!” He turns a few steps away, raising his drink in the air as if the guy that just sent him packing is an old buddy. “Hey, lookin’ forward to an awesome year, dude!”

I am thoroughly, thoroughly confused, and I’m still blinking at the man with his muscled, tattooed arm draped languidly across my shoulders when he turns back to me. He grins at me, and I can instantly feel every drop of booze slamming through my system on overdrive, my head spinning as those perfect lips pull into a grin, and those perfect eyes twinkle at me.

“You okay?”

I blink, refocusing on him instead of drowning in those eyes like I just was. “Uh, yeah, yeah, I’m-”

Lost in that look? Tongue-tied like some sort of schoolgirl?

Drunker than I think I am?

I blink again, forcing myself to focus. “Your wife, huh?”

He grins, that cocky, utterly confident smirk I saw earlier. “I think I saw that in a movie. Hey, it worked, didn’t it?”

“It did,” I bite my lip as I smile back at him.

God he’s attractive.

“So, thanks for that.”

There’s a cough behind him, and we both turn to see his friend with the glasses standing there. “So, I guess we’re done for the night?” the man says flatly.

My Texas-drawled savior nods and shrugs casually. “I think we are, Derek.”

There’s a note of thinly veiled sarcasm in his voice, and Derek’s eyes dart meaningfully to me before narrowing at my stranger. “Try and at least give half a shit about what I just said, Austin.”

“Loud and clear.”

Derek gives me a thin smile before he shakes his head and walks away.

Austin - my stupidly attractive savior has a name apparently - turns back, that cocky grin on his face. “So.”

He winks at me, half a smile cocked across his jaw. “So…did you want a selfie or something?”

I frown quizzically. “Uh, no, I’m good.”

The corners of his lips pull up in a grin. “You don’t want an autograph or something like that?”

“I-” I raise an eyebrow at him. “I’m sorry, is this like a game or something?”

His brow furrows as he peers at me again, almost curiously. “No, I mean…” he grins suddenly and shakes his head. “You’re not really a TV person, are you?”

“Who the heck watches TV anymore? Ever heard of Netflix?” The sass comes out of me with zero filter as I reach for my martini and do my best impression of a movie-star sip, hoping to hell it looks smooth and sexy instead of sloppy and drunk.

He laughs, the sound easy and warm. “Fair enough.”

I can feel my pulse racing through my veins like I’ve just run up and down a flight of stairs as I lose myself again in those hazel eyes. I’m lightheaded - dizzy from the gin and the total lack of food, not to mention the bomb dropped on me barely two hours ago in Vince’s office.

I cringe at the thought - right, when I left the man I was silly enough to think I was going to marry.

And suddenly, all of it comes rushing back - opening the door to his office and seeing them like that, my stomach dropping through the floor, the “Daddy’s Girl” tattoo on her thigh.

I stand quickly and abruptly, and suddenly grab onto the back of my chair as I wobble on my heels.

And then his hand is there, light but firm on the small of my back as he steps forward to steady me. “Whoa, easy there, princess.”

I smile, my booze-flushed face going even redder. “Thanks, I’m- I’m fine, I just need to go lie down in my room for a while.”

Well, there goes my bid for “smooth and sexy” over “drunk and sloppy.”

I sigh heavily as I shrug. “I’ve- it’s been a weird freaking day.”

He grins and chuckles. “Sounds like we’ve had the same day.”

“Believe me, we haven’t.”

I go to take a step, but suddenly stumble again as my heel catches on the edge of the carpet. I lurch forward, my hands catching on his bare, inked forearm.

“Whoa, hang on, let me get you there in one piece.” My eyes dart quickly to him, the heat hot in my cheeks, and he quickly frowns and shakes his head. “I just mean to the elevator, princess.”

My cheeks blush again as I quickly look away.

Of course that’s what he meant.

“Yeah, thanks, that’d be great.”

His arm goes around my waist, his hand holding me firmly by the hip against his side as he slowly walks me across the bar to the hotel lobby. I can feel the heat of his body blooming through my skin like a hot flush, sending shivers down my back, making me dizzy, and making me bite my lip as he floats me towards the elevators.

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