Player: A Secret Baby Sports Romance(7)

By: Aubrey Irons

“Where are we going?”

Austin grins and raises a brow at me. “You like ice-cream?”

“Huh?” I scowl at him, feeling my pulse racing almost as fast as the car at the very experience of letting go like this - of literally letting myself get driven away by a strange and gorgeous man from the scene of a crime.

“Great, I know a good spot.”

“Hang on, where-” I gasp as he yanks the car around the next corner and takes us roaring towards the freeway.



This is a weird fucking morning.

I leave tire marks as I peel the Aston Martin Vanquish out of the hotel turnaround, grinning as she shrieks and clutches at the door-handle before scrambling for her seatbelt. I’ve always been a muscle car guy from when I was growing up, but you try getting a check for forty million bucks and not spending it on the most ludicrous, most cutting edge sports car you can find.

But like I said, it’s been a weird fucking morning. I spent half the night before camped out in my hotel room - the room I got when it was clear I was in no shape to drive home - mulling over the cluster-fuck of media attention, of prying eyes, and of Derek’s new rules that have become my life here in the spotlight. Half the night plowing through half a bottle of whiskey wishing I was as invisible as I’d been before becoming the fucking darling of the media zoo.

Well, no, scratch that. I hadn’t wished to be invisible, just maybe slightly less visible than I was now. College-level visible would be nice right now.

Half the night buried in the minibar of my room, thinking of how hard I’ve worked to get to where I am, and knowing damn well how fucking stupid it would be to throw that away for a hummer from the junior commissioner’s daughter and a pending DUI.

Derek’s idea is fucking ludicrous, but it honestly might save my ass. Also my career’s ass, and my bank account’s ass.

Except Derek’s idea involves a portfolio full of…what, ‘professional fake wives?’ Jesus Christ, that’s a hard no. Going through a damn resume and picking some girl based off what I can’t even imagine are criteria for a job like fake wife sounds depressing as shit. It’s medieval is what it is.

Yeah, I’m willing to humor the idea of Derek’s plan, but I’m doing it my way. And my way does not involve resumes and headshots and fucking references.

Oh, and the other half the night? I smirk to myself. Well shit, the other half the night I’d spent thinking about the crazy girl in the little black dress who’d rocked my damn world with that kiss. I’d been up ‘til fucking dawn thinking of those honeyed lips tasting vaguely of gin and the promise of something wild. Those big blue eyes - the ones that looked right through me and didn’t seem to give a fuck who I was, or what news headlines I’d commanded that day.

Okay, in fairness, it was more her somehow having no fucking idea who I was than the ridiculous notion of “looking through who I was”, but who’s counting.

Like I said, it’s been a weird fucking morning.

“Ice cream?”

I shrug at the disheveled girl in the passenger seat - disheveled, I might add, in the most alluring way freaking possible.

“Yeah, ice cream. It’s this frozen dairy thing you eat out of a-”

“Yeah, no, I know what ice cream is.”

I grin at her. “Well good, we’re on the same page.”

She gives me a look, arching a brow at me.

“What’s wrong with ice cream?”

“Nothing, it’s just-”

“Awesome? It’s just awesome?”

“It’s ten in the morning.”

I shrug. “We could go get a beer instead.”

Natalie’s face scrunches up as she grimaces. “Ugh, hard pass.”

“Ice cream it is, then.”

She rolls her eyes and turns to look out the side window, and I shake my head again at the idea that she doesn’t even know who I am. I was willing to chalk it up to her being drunk, or me being out of place in that bar last night, but as the morning played out to this very moment, it’s becoming more and more obvious that I was right the first time.

She legitimately has no idea who I am, and shit is that refreshing.

We drive in silence before I pull up to the road side ice cream spot out by the beach. Natalie gives me a strange look, but still doesn’t say anything when I pull on a baseball hat and big sunglasses before stepping from the car.

I grab a cone - her, a cup - and head over to this little picnic table way off to the side away from everyone. For the fourth time that morning, I catch myself staring at her. Damn is she gorgeous. She’s got this broken Cinderella look going on, and not just because of the party dress, half-wet hair, and those heels she’s still carrying around instead of wearing. She’s got class, and poise, however hungover she is, that much is obvious. This girl comes from somewhere and something important.

“You need someone who fits the part…someone classy, someone with poise.”

Derek’s words from our ridiculous conversation rattle through my mind as I watch Natalie eating her ice cream with a plastic spoon, licking at it daintily - furtively. It’s almost hot, in this weird sexy way, but also fucking hilarious to watch.

“You’ve done this before, right?”

She frowns. “What, eat ice cream? Yeah, of course.”

“You sure about that?”

She stops, licking strawberry from her pink lips before narrowing her eyes at me.

“Look, why do you keep stepping in?”

I snort. “Hey, eat it however your little heart desires, princess.”

“No, I mean, why do you keep stepping in and trying to save me?”

I frown at the word “keep”, like this is some routine thing I’m doing to the point of annoying her.

“Well, last night I was watching a douche get handsy with a cute, drunk looking girl at a bar.”

She blushes.

“And today, because why not. You looked like you were getting shafted, so I ‘stepped in.’”

She raises a brow at me, like she’s trying to figure me out. “You paid twelve-hundred dollars for my hotel room.”

“I did.”

She frowns. “What are you, a finance guy or something? Investor?”

I laugh and shake my head, turning to look out at the Pacific crashing down on the beach before glancing down at my inked arms. “Do I look like a finance guy?”

“Are you in the movies or something?”

I laugh again, taking a big lick of my mint chocolate chip and chuckling.

This is amazing.

Somehow, I’ve found the one and only hot girl in LA who has zero interest in sports, or the guys who play them. Somehow, I’ve found a girl who looks this good, and isn’t running some creepy game of trying to get a sport-star millionaire to knock her up.

I haven’t talked to someone in years who didn’t know who I was, or wasn’t trying to get something from me because of it, and it’s refreshing.

I ignore her sleuthing. “So, you want to tell me what this morning was?”

“None of your business?” She tosses back easily.

“Oh I think its worth about twelve-hundred bucks, actually.”

She grins, rolling her eyes. “Fine.” She takes a deep breath and blows the air out messily through her soft lips. “My shitbag of a fiancé cheated on me, I left, and then he cut off my only credit card. How about that?”

Well, damn.

“Yeah, no, that wins.”

Natalie makes a face. “Great, what do I win?”

“A twelve-hundred dollar hotel room and a cup of strawberry ice cream.”

She burst out laughing, and I grin at the change it has on her face. She’s glowing instead of glum, and those piercing blue eyes shine as the laughter trickles from her lips.

This is fun. Of course, she’s gorgeous, which certainly doesn’t hurt, but there’s something about this girl that makes me let go a little - something that makes me drop my usual guard. And any other girl in this situation would look like the walking definition of a walk of shame. Except somehow, she looks totally classy and utterly at ease sitting on the boardwalk eating ice cream in her cocktail dress from the night before.

Barefoot, hair messed up, and smudged eyeliner, and this girl somehow looks downright fucking elegant.

Elegant, classy, cultured.

I cough, clearing my head as I stare at her, trying to push Derek’s voice out of my head. “So, what are you going to do now?”

The smile drops from her perfect lips, and the glow that was at least momentarily there starts to fade.

Nice move, ass.

Natalie shrugs. “Truthfully? I’ve got no idea.” She snorts. “I’m flat broke and out a fiancé, so back to the drawing board I guess.”

I frown. “Don’t you have a job or something?”


I arch a brow. “And how’d you manage that?”

She rolls her eyes. “By being from the world I come from.”

I laugh. “And what world is that?”

“Snooty, rich, and closed-off?”

You need someone wholesome, someone cultured - someone unknown and outside the public spotlight.

Technically it’s Derek’s idea from last night. But the idea that hits me like a damn lighting-bolt right there on the boardwalk is doing it my way.

Because right there, like a perfect pass, a hole in the defense, or a play you can read a mile away, the solution to it all presents itself. She needs money, and I need someone like her. No, scratch that. Not someone like her, someone fucking exactly like her.

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