Read Seasoned Veteran Online

Authors: Roz Lee

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Sports, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Short Stories, #Holidays, #holiday novella, #baseball romance, #Christmas story, #erotic romance, #contemporary romance

Seasoned Veteran

BOOK: Seasoned Veteran
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Seasoned Veteran

 

By

Roz Lee

 

eBooks are not transferable. Please do not sell, share or reproduce in any way as it is an infringement on the copyright of this work.

This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental and the product of the authors imagination or have been used fictitiously.

Copyright © 2013 by Roz Lee

All Rights Reserved

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the copyright holder.

http://www.rozlee.net

ISBN: 978-0-9911687-0-5

 

Chapter One

Present Day - One week before Thanksgiving

Jake paused with his hand on the doorknob. Listening, he tried to pick out her voice, but the wooden blinds shading the glass-walled conference room muted the conversation inside. His heartbeat rivaled the stomping feet of the Mustangs’ Thundering Herd rally—threatening to stampede right out of his chest.

Calm down. What’s the worst she can do?

No. Don’t go there. That way be dragons.

Think positive thoughts.

She’s going to be happy to see you.

He forced to mind an image of Siobhan Flannery smiling up at him, her long, sable hair spread across his pillow, her features soft from her orgasm. It was an old image from weeks ago.

Before
he’d fucked up.
Before
he’d walked away.
Before
he’d broken her heart. He hadn’t stuck around to confirm the broken heart, but it hadn’t been necessary. The pain had clouded her eyes when he callously ended their relationship the night the Mustangs lost their final playoff game.

She had every reason to hate him. Hell, he hated himself for what he’d done. It hadn’t taken him long to figure out how big a mistake he’d made, but once he’d come to his senses, it had taken weeks to get back in her life in a way she couldn’t ignore. Thank God, she’d decided to stay in Dallas through the holidays. If she’d gone home to D.C., he would have been on his own in figuring out how to get her attention.

He owed Bentley Randolph and his fiancée big time for setting today up for him. They’d both made their excuses to the planning committee for the Crystal Ball, an annual costume event, softening the last minute blow by naming two good friends as their replacements. He’d never organized anything bigger than a poker night with his buddies, but he was willing to learn. He’d do anything for a second chance with Siobhan, even if it meant putting on Dallas’ biggest charity event of the year all by himself.

A round of laughter inside the conference room reminded him he wasn’t going to have to do this alone. According to Ashley, most of the work had already been done. All he needed to do was follow up on the things Bentley had been responsible for, most of which she’d actually taken care of herself Which meant Siobhan had inherited a double dose of problems.

Time to man up. Face the music. Beg. Grovel. All of the above.

Taking a cleansing breath then letting it out, he turned the knob.

Siobhan laughed along with the others seated around the large, oval conference table, though it almost hurt to do so. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d thought something was humorous.

Yes, you do.

Before.

When you were alive.

Technically, she was alive, but to say she was living wouldn’t be accurate.
Existing
. Her body functioned on a basic level. She breathed, she ate—though she’d lost weight—she slept, often taking long naps in the afternoon when fatigue weighed heavy on her shoulders. Life had lost its sparkle.

Before, she’d seen the potential for happiness in everyone. She’d firmly believed there was a special someone out there for everybody. She’d believed in happily ever after. She’d made her living on happily ever afters.

Looking at the smiling faces ringing the table, she forced her lips to curve upward. They were a nice enough bunch, she supposed. They’d put months of work into the charity event taking place in a few weeks only to be saddled with her, a last minute stand-in for Ashley. The other woman had found herself in over her head, trying to keep up with her responsibility to the committee while planning her own wedding for the week after Christmas.

Add the stress of bringing on Siobhan’s brother, Sean, as the new anchor for one of the syndicated television sports-talk shows Ashley was in charge of, and the woman had hit the proverbial brick wall.

Enter Siobhan, a broken woman who hadn’t been out in public in weeks, who admittedly had nothing to do since she’d mostly given up on her career as a romance novelist. Not writing a single word since her break-up with Jake didn’t constitute a forfeit of her career, but it didn’t bode well either.

Ever since Jake ended their
affair
—she refused to call it a relationship because the term indicated a level of commitment their time together had never reached at least on Jake’s part—the only story ideas that came to mind had a decidedly dark tint to them. None had a happy ending, which, of course, was the definition of a romance novel.

In truth, she should be grateful to Ashley for dropping the Crystal Ball committee in her lap. Hiding out from the world, watching taped reruns of reality TV shows about dysfunctional families in order to make her own situation seem better by comparison, hadn’t been working for her. No matter how pathetic the on-screen families appeared, she knew in her heart, her story was worse. Everyone had warned her about the Mustangs’ batting coach, but she’d been too dazzled by him to see what they were saying was true. She’d believed from the very beginning of their association she was the exception. He wouldn’t leave
her
when the season was over. He loved her, he just wasn’t ready to admit it yet.

When, the Mustangs’ season ended on a loss to the Claim Jumpers, Jake told her it was over before the stadium lights had gone out.

She sighed, letting her gaze fall on the thick binder on the table in front of her. Between the shiny blue covers lurked details on everything Ashley had been in charge of. Siobhan had looked the contents over before coming, finding it mostly in order. All she needed to do was follow up with the vendors Ashley had talked to, make sure everything was on track for the early December event, then she would be done.

The job was easy enough. It was the other part that bothered her. She’d have to go out in public and face each day with a purpose—something she hadn’t done since that fateful night.

The meeting should have commenced a few minutes ago, but even though no one had mentioned it, she’d gotten the impression they were waiting on someone else to arrive.

The door opened. The chairperson, Mr. Whitaker, stood as did the hair on the back of her neck.

“There he is,” he said.

She didn’t need him to say more. Every cell in her body tingled with awareness. Keeping her head down, she snuck a peek through her eyelashes at his long legs encased in expensive trousers held up with a thin leather belt around a trim waist.

Murmurs went around the table regarding the impeccably dressed newcomer. She swallowed hard, willing the floor to open up like in some James Bond movie. Dropping into a tank of hungry sharks sounded better than staying where she was. Anywhere was better than being in the same room with Jake Tulleson.

Cursing her insane need to feast on the perfection of his body, she allowed her gaze to creep higher until it reached his face. He was looking straight at her! Their gazes locked.

What is he doing here? Is he looking for me?

Her stupid heart tripped all over itself as the fantasy took root. A clip from one of her favorite old movies flashed across her brain—Richard Gere in a white officer’s uniform striding purposely across the factory floor, intent on sweeping his true love off to her happily ever after. Siobhan almost came out of her chair, ready to fling herself into Jake’s arms, before common sense overruled. He wasn’t the dashing, romantic hero. This was real life. The bastard who’d just arrived had made it perfectly clear the last time she saw him that he didn’t do happily ever after, at least not the shared kind.

Her heart took a swan dive straight to her toes where it flopped around like a fish on dry land.

She blinked, breaking the invisible connection between them. Jake turned his attention to Mr. Whitaker who was babbling about their other new committee member.

“Ladies. Gentlemen,” Mr. Whitaker said. “Allow me to introduce Jake Tulleson, who after an illustrious career behind home plate for the Jetsetters, took to coaching. For the last five years, he’s been the batting coach for the Mustangs.”

The two men shook hands. “Welcome, Jake. We understand why Bentley had to relinquish his duties. He has a lot on his plate with his upcoming nuptials.” The comical face he put on for the gathering was received with a hearty round of laughter. He turned back to the new recruit. “How could we be put out when he sent us such a splendid replacement?”

“Thanks, Mr. Whitaker.” Jake scanned the assembled group. “I’m happy to be here. Bentley filled me in on the tasks assigned to him. I’m confident I can see them to completion—with your help, of course.”

The committee leader motioned with his hand. “If you’ll have a seat, we’ll get this meeting underway, so we can all go on about our business.”

It was like being in a 3-D horror movie. She was trapped in her seat by the creature advancing on her—only this monster was real, shaking hands, smiling and greeting every single committee member as he made his way to the one empty spot at the table. The one next to her.

Jake pulled the chair out. His fingers gripped the edge of the table to pull himself forward. Her gaze landed on his hands, hands that knew her body better than any others on earth, including her own

“Jake,” Mr. Whitaker said. “Bentley mentioned you and Ms. Flannery are acquainted, which will surely make your tasks easier, as your predecessors were working together on a number of projects.”

She was going to kill Ashley for leaving out that crucial bit of information. This entire thing smelled of a setup.

“Yes.” He turned to her. “We’re well acquainted.” He had the audacity to smile at her as if he hadn’t stomped all over her heart a few weeks ago. “It’s good to see you again.”

She nodded. “Jake.”

Folding her trembling hands in her lap, she focused on the two-inch thick binder Ashley had passed on to her compared to the non-existent one Jake had brought. If her heart could have sunk any further, it would have, but it still flopped around at her feet, no doubt gasping its last breath as reality dawned.

Like the too-stupid-to-live character in the horror movie, she remained in her seat and allowed Jake to drop his net over her. “Don’t worry about us. We’ll work together just fine,” he told the group. “We’re going to be stuck together like glue until this thing is over, to make sure nothing is left undone.”

She didn’t hear much after Jake’s declaration. The meeting continued on around her. When it came to things she, and apparently Jake, were in charge of, he charmed them with promises to get up to speed quickly, saying they would report back at the meeting next week, if that was all right with the committee.

Just like that, she was snared in his net. He’d obviously gone to the trouble of setting this up, because she sure as hell hadn’t done it. But for the life of her, she couldn’t imagine why.

At the close of the meeting, Siobhan stayed in her seat while Jake stood to shake hands with every committee member as they filed out. Closing the door behind the last one, he remained there, his back pressed to the wood, his hands stuck in the pockets of his dress slacks. He looked like a model in an advertisement for erectile dysfunction medication—too young to need the product but old enough men who did need it would see him and think, “Product X will make me look like him, then I’ll get any woman I want!”

Her heart still lay on the floor, too weak to resist if he chose to stomp on it again.

“You look beautiful today.”

“Shut up, Jake! You don’t have any right to say things like that to me anymore.” As she got to her feet, she clutched her new binder to her breasts as if it were armor. “Not after the way you ended things.”

“I’m sorry. I know I was an ass, but I’ve come to my senses. I love you.”

Oh no. No. No. No.
She shook her head. “No you don’t. If you did, you wouldn’t have left.”

“I think I fell in love with you the night we met. I know I felt something when I sank my cock in your hot pussy. I remember because the feeling scared the living daylights out of me. I spent the rest of the time we were together telling myself you were just another good fu….”

A red haze glazed over her eyes. She understood how a person could commit murder. If she had anything sharper than a ballpoint pen, she’d be tempted to skewer him with it. She tightened her grasp on her notebook, flattening her breasts with it until she felt the physical pain. That was so much easier to deal with than the ache in her heart. She tapped her toe, unable to squelch her anger entirely. “Go ahead. Finish what you were going to say. Don’t leave me hanging. I was just another good…what?”

He pulled his hands from his pockets, fisting them on his hips as he straightened away from the door. “Fuck, Siobhan! I told myself you were just another good fuck. I knew it wasn’t the truth, but I wasn’t ready to admit you meant more to me.”

“You son-of-a-bitch.” She advanced on him. Whatever love she’d harbored for him since he’d cut her out of his life shattered the minute he confessed to using her for months. “I don’t know what hole you crawled into when you left here last month, but you can go back to it. I loved you, Jake, but I was nothing more than a good fuck to you. Well, go fuck yourself.”

With as much dignity as she could muster, she stormed past him into the corridor. Spying the stairwell door at the end of the hall, she stumbled in that direction, managing to descend a couple of flights before her legs gave out. Squeezing her eyes shut, she willed herself not to cry.

Never again. He’s not worth it.

She’d all ready spent too many hours dehydrating herself over Jake Tulleson. “Go to hell, you bastard.” Fumbling in her purse, she found a tissue to dab at the corners of her eyes. She blew her nose into the thin, soggy square. “You told him.”

Her voice echoed off the bare concrete walls, making her sound bolder than she actually was. “Why did you come back to torment me?” she asked the ringing silence. “Wasn’t breaking me in half once enough for you?”

BOOK: Seasoned Veteran
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