It’s finally here – release day for my debut novel, The Striker’s Chance! I’m so excited to share these characters with the world, and I hope readers will love them as much as I do. Holly Taylor, a sports publicist, has a love-hate relationship with her bad-boy client, Kepler de Klerk, who’s recently fallen from the giddy heights of European soccer to join a fledgling American team. Their burgeoning romance is complicated by their mutually strong, stubborn personalities, and this excerpt – which follows an incident wherein Kepler loses his temper with a prying journalist in a packed press room – illustrates that constant push-and-pull.
He flipped on the light to reveal a long, narrow room crammed with everything from soccer balls to spare goal netting to small orange cones for sprinting drills. It was dry and cool, and the smell of new leather pervaded the air.
“I know, I know,” Kepler began, with what sounded like genuine remorse, as he perched on the edge of a table. “I’ve ruined everything. Go on, let me have it. No one can hear you yelling in here.”
“I’m not going to yell at you.” Holly was astonished to find that she didn’t even want to. “Evan is a first-degree asshole and deserves a lot more than what you did.”
His brow furrowed in confusion. “You’re not pissed off?”
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s a PR disaster. There are several hundred ways you could have handled that better, and I’m going to have to call in every favor I’ve got in order to clean this up.” Her smile was slow and reluctant, but she couldn’t stop it. “That said,I appreciate you sticking up for me. I guess it’s not very ladylike to wish ill on someone, but Evan is the lowest of the low, and I loved seeing him so terrified.”
A sly smile crept across his face. “Did he really look scared?”
“Petrified would be the word. And why not? He’s seen you take down some of the toughest players in the sport. Who wouldn’t be frightened if Killer de Klerk got in their face?”
Kepler wrinkled his nose. “I’ve always hated that name. I’m not a naturally aggressive player at all.”
“I beg to differ,” Holly countered playfully. She realized she was flirting, and although an alarm bell was ringing somewhere deep in her brain, she couldn’t stop herself. “I’ve watched a lot of footage of your games—you definitely tend to be on the giving end of the tackle more often than the receiving.”
He put his hands on her hips and drew her in between his knees, so the edge of the table bumped against her legs. She stuck out her hands to steady herself and they landed on his thighs, which were as hard as boulders. He circled his thumbs on the points of her hipbones, and her face flushed as a matching heat began to simmer between her legs.
“Did you like what you saw?” he asked.
Holly eased her hands under the hem of his sky-blue shorts and found another pair of tight, black compression shorts underneath. She traced the edges with her fingertips. “What are these for?”
“To keep my hamstrings warm,” he explained, his voice soft and husky as his hands made slow, subtle progress over the curve of her rear. “And to stop me from flashing a stadium of twenty thousand people.”
“Now that might improve ticket sales.” She slid her hands deeper between the two layers of cloth, relishing the muscular lines of his thighs. “What other secrets do you have under your uniform?”
His hands cupped her behind, and when he tugged her in more tightly Holly discovered that those compression shorts were no match for the strength of his arousal.
“I’d be more than happy to show you,” he offered as her palms came to rest on either side of his narrow haunches. He gazed up at her with a coy smile on his sensuous lips, his eyes smoldering with desire.
A shoe squeaked on the linoleum floor on the other side of the equipment room door, and her heart seized in a moment of panic at the thought of someone bursting in to find them. The moment was gone. She withdrew her hands and placed them squarely on Kepler’s chest to keep him from pulling her any closer.
“We’re not doing this.”
“Doing what?” he asked playfully, but she shook her head. His smile faded and he dropped his hands. She took a decisive step backward. “You’re going to spend all night killing Evan’s story,” he said, rising. “And tomorrow morning you’ll hate me again.”
“Kepler, I never hated you,” Holly admonished, but he was yanking his shorts back into place and starting toward the door. He raised the bolt, pulled open the door and gestured into the hall.
Landing the PR contract for North Carolina’s new soccer team could take Holly Taylor’s career to the next level. Her task? Make Kepler “Killer” de Klerk, an athlete with a party-hard reputation, a star. But revamping the sexy footballer’s image while battling her unwanted attraction to him is easier said than done.
The car accident that derailed Kepler’s European career also gave him some much-needed perspective. He’s ready to give up on fame and focus on the game he loves. The last thing he needs is a headstrong brunette pushing him back into the spotlight, even if butting heads with her is the most fun he’s had in ages.
The more time Holly spends with Kepler, the more she sees how different he is from his tabloid persona. But when she’s offered her dream job for a price, she finds herself torn between the career she’s spent years building and the man she doesn’t want to give up.