It’s time for a #ThrowbackThursday read. All month, I’m featuring quarterbacks and goalposts! Read an excerpt from Numbers Game, the football romance I co-wrote with Liz Crowe. Join my reader group on Facebook for more football fun and Amazon gift card giveaways!

Former professional football player and coach Duncan “Hatch” Hatcher fumbled his career and marriage. Now divorced and ready to tackle his future, he has an opportunity to redeem himself as coach of his college alma mater’s football team. But how can he can turn the team’s losing streak around and keep the secret of his downfall buried when the school agrees to a documentary that will allow a lovely journalist to dig her way into his past…and into his heart?

Olivia Grant’s ex-husband almost wrecked her journalism career while he definitely did a number on her self-esteem. The documentary on Duncan Hatcher is the perfect way to rebuild both. As a freshman in college, she’d had a crush on the senior football hero, but he hadn’t known she existed. She never expects the sparks that fly between them as they work on the project nor the struggles they must face if they both want to win.


Olivia Grant took a deep breath and let it out, hoping to steady her sudden attack of the jitters.

Okay, Olivia, this is make it or break it. Don’t blow your big chance.

Because, after all, how many chances did someone get?

Starting over when she was almost forty wasn’t the easiest thing in life, especially after Daniel. She’d been lucky to get the job with the local network television station. It had taken all the remnants of her nearly-destroyed self-confidence to apply for it. It had taken another dose to approach the brass about this project.

She had one goal—to revive her career and her reputation. Nothing else was important and she wouldn’t allow anything to get in the way. But what if she couldn’t pull it off? If she blew this, where would she turn next?

That made today’s appointment even more important. The moment she heard that Duncan “Hatch” Hatcher, sexy football hero of local Lakeview University and pro football, was returning to Lakeview University to revive their flagging football program, the idea for the documentary popped into her head. This wasn’t the first documentary she’d produced, but it was for sure the most important. She couldn’t afford an attack of nerves right now. If she failed, Daniel would be proven right, and she refused to let that happen.

I’m calm. I’m calm.

But when she looked in the mirror, the lie was all over her face.

Go ahead and tell yourself that all you want. You can’t get away from the fact your nerves are doing a jitterbug.

Well, maybe because I’m getting past my sell-by date, and if this doesn’t revive my career, it might kill it. I’m certainly not the twenty-something, hotshot female sports reporter whose career is on the rise.

A career nearly destroyed by the biggest bastard in the world.

Both her ill-fated marriage to Daniel Forrest and the subsequent messy divorce had derailed her career. With his insufferable ego and his conviction that he could do anything to anyone and get away with it, he’d done his best to obliterate all she’d done as a serious sports journalist. His arrogant obsession with controlling everything about her, from the way she walked and talked to her on-air content and how she presented it, made her life a nightmare. He just about killed her career that first time around. Thank god she’d found the strength to leave at last.

If she’d never married him, who knew where she’d be by now?

One of the first things she’d done after the divorce was legally take back her own last name.

“Good riddance,” Daniel had snapped when he called her about it. “I don’t need people associating us together anymore.”

Then why don’t you leave me alone, she’d wanted to ask.

Yeah. So. Time to focus.

Hatch might be the hottest guy on earth, but she had no time for that. None. Zero. Zip.

So just shut up, Olivia, and get on with it.

Yes, get on with it. She wasn’t getting anywhere staring in the mirror, talking to herself.

Ding ding ding!

Her cell phone buzzed across the top of her dresser, vibrating with the ring of an incoming call. She looked at the readout. Of course, Lee Ann would be calling right now. Right this very minute. But no way could she ignore the call. The woman had been there through every step of the nasty divorce, the collapse of Olivia’s career, and the painful process of rebuilding it. Olivia was sure, without Lee Ann, she’d never have gotten her life together again.

Sighing, she pressed Accept.

“I’m put together and getting ready to wow him,” she said, skipping a greeting. “All is good.”

“Just making sure. You can do this, Liv. Don’t let that bastard’s attitude take this away from you.”

She heard the concern in Lee Ann’s voice. Her best friend had been her strength and support through some seriously tough times. She was the only one who knew all the nasty details of Daniel Forrest’s campaign to ruin her and prevent her from ever succeeding again. Lies, lies, and more lies. But people paid attention to a man in the industry with his position and money. Without Lee Ann, she’d probably be writing cut lines for some small county newspaper’s practically defunct website.

“You can rest assured I’m set to go.” She checked her watch. “And I’d better head out or I’ll be late.”

“I saw those clips of your subject on television. He’s still a damn fine-looking specimen,” Lee Ann teased. “Plus—bonus—I hear he’s divorced now.” She paused. “Like you.”

Olivia gritted her teeth. “His looks are only important in the way he photographs. This is business, not pleasure. And important business at that. If I drop the ball here, I’m done. You know that. And Daniel will have won again.”

Lee Ann sighed. “If you say so. Anyway, I just wanted to tell you good luck, and I want lots of details. Oh.” She laughed softly. “And text me a shot of Hatch if you can. I’m not too old to appreciate hot male flesh.”

“Uh huh. I’m hanging up now. Call you later.”

She really needed this to go well today. She was getting herself back on track but was acutely aware there wouldn’t be many more chances like this. No blowing this one.

She took one last, quick look at herself, turning to catch a rear view. Okay, good to go. Slacks and a classy sweater, not too casual for her and not too dressy for her meeting. New, shorter haircut that had her dark blonde curls falling smoothly into place. Just a touch of makeup.

Not bad, Olivia Grant.

Thank heaven, at thirty-seven, she still had the complexion of a younger woman.

It was all about age. There’d always be someone younger, more energetic, more determined. But she had experience and knowledge, and she wasn’t bad-looking. If only she was more petite or her butt was—

Oh, shut up, Olivia. You’re not auditioning for a centerfold. As long as you brush your teeth and comb your hair, you’ll be fine.

After all, hadn’t she been eating healthy and exercising regularly for her entire natural life?

Damn those male sportscasters and reporters who rode their careers well into their sixties while women seemed to have a short shelf life.

Okay. Enough.

Purse, keys, phone, messenger bag. Check, check, check, check. Then she was in her car and headed out to the highway.

“I’ll be happy to meet with you,” Coach Duncan “Hatch” Hatcher had said when she called him. “As long as you’re prepared. I didn’t get here in time for early spring practice, so this next month before the first game will be intense. I have a lot of work to do shaping the team. My time will be limited, but I promise I’ll give you what I can. Scott and I both think this will be great for Lakeview.”

She’d make it work. She had to.

The hero had come home, back to work his magic with the school where he got started. He was a legend in both college and professional football, a fact enhanced by his incredible good looks. Looks that had only gotten better with age. A newly crowned king couldn’t have been given a better reception. Or had heavier expectations draped over his broad shoulders.

Sort of like where she was.

At forty-two, he was stepping into an awfully bright spotlight, and she wanted to help him maximize the opportunity by telling his story. Not to mention establishing herself again as a legit producer.

Just don’t screw this up.

She’d been repeating this mantra silently for the past week, ever since she got the go ahead for the project. Channel Five would run the finished video in primetime with the agreement that, if a major sports network was flashed out by it, they’d pick it up.

She’d done her homework. She was prepped. She’d watched old videos of games he both played and coached and surfed through every article on him that she could find. She thought it odd there was a noticeable lack of information about his marriage except for the wedding and nothing about the divorce. That tickled her curiosity, but she’d vowed to stay away from personal stuff. She was still recovering from the unwanted publicity surrounding hers. She wasn’t about to do anything to cause Hatch to back out of this.

Otherwise, she was as ready as she could possibly be, so there was no reason for her attack of nerves. Damn Daniel Forrest anyway for making her doubt herself and feel so conflicted. It took every bit of willpower not to pull to the side of the road and throw up, or scream. Or both.

Cruising through the campus was good medicine for her. So many memories of her years as a student athlete here came dancing back to remind her how much fun she’d had. Students were everywhere, their energy electrifying the air. Olivia loved the excitement and vitality of campus life. How fitting that this would be the place where she began the next phase of her life.

She drove slowly around to the far side of campus where the field was located, pulled into the parking area, and eased into an empty slot. The stadium was brand new since she’d been a student here. A billboard with a field of red and a black jaguar leaping across the words Jaguar Nation crowned the structure. And now the most vaunted Jaguar had come home.

She sat a moment, waiting for her nerves to settle. Then, taking a deep breath and letting it out nice and slow, she climbed out of her SUV, grabbed her messenger bag, and slipped the strap over her head. Go time.

As she crossed the pavement, the sound of a whistle blowing and of voices shouting filled the fresh spring air. At the gate used by media and other authorized visitors, she flashed her credentials at the guard and stepped out onto the rich turf of Jaguar Stadium. Big Red, as it was called, after one of the school colors. When she found herself on the sidelines, nervous excitement sizzled through her veins.

Spring practice was in full-out mode. She could sense the energy pulsing from the field. Hatch and several of his coaches stood on the sidelines, watching in silence. He had his whistle clamped between his teeth, something she’d seen in pictures of him at games he’d coached.

As she headed toward him, the shrill sound of that whistle pierced the air, followed by shouts of, “Do it again. And do it right this time. Remember the diagrams,” from various assistants.

Some of the assistant coaches glanced at her as she eased her way along the sidelines, but she just smiled and nodded. She’d cleared this with Scott Durbin, the athletic director, just as she told Hatch she would, so she moved with confidence. She found a spot where she had a good view but didn’t get in anyone’s way and just took a moment to watch the man himself.

Okay, it was official. He was still a damn fine specimen, as Lee Ann had reminded her earlier. Age had only improved his model-worthy looks, and maturity gave him a new, rich kind of sexiness. His trademark khakis showcased long legs and a really nice ass—Yes, ass, Olivia. You’re old enough to use that word.—while his black Jaguars T-shirt outlined broad shoulders and set off the musculature of his arms. Quarterback arms, still in shape after all this time. A black Jaguars cap sat atop his neatly trimmed dark brown hair. He’d look fantastic in the documentary.

A faint zing rippled through her, one she hadn’t felt in forever. Damn it, why did her libido choose this minute to show up after being in cold storage for so long? The thing she really couldn’t afford was some kind of physical attraction to her subject. Discipline, she reminded herself. Hold it together, girl. There is way too much at stake.

At that moment, Hatch blew his whistle and motioned to the players on the field. They jogged over to where he stood. Both the quarterbacks coach and the offensive line coach joined him so Olivia dug her small camera out of her messenger bag and shot some pictures. Everyone else might use cell phones today, but she still liked the feel and the quality of a real camera. At the television station, the younger staff members thought it was cute to tease her about being a dinosaur. Well, this dinosaur still had teeth and she planned to use them.

As Hatch and his coaches talked with the team, she walked slowly along the sidelines, snapping shot after shot while keeping out of everyone’s way. She’d take a lot more before she sat down with her cameraman to plot out the actual video. These would give her a good sense of the team dynamics and help her formulate the message she wanted to send.

At one point, Hatch turned around to take something from the student behind him and spotted her standing there. He smiled, and a feeling hit her like warm sunshine, spreading through her body.

When he turned his attention back to practice, Olivia, fascinated, watched him interact with the players, kept snapping away with her camera. She wasn’t aware how much time had passed as Hatch worked his magic with the players. Then suddenly, he was high-fiving all of them, shaking hands with the coaches, and they all jogged off the field into the locker room. All except Hatch, who headed straight for her, smiling.

“Hello,” he said, his voice rough, as if he’d been asleep. He stuck out his hand as he approached her. “Olivia Grant, right? I’m not sure why anyone wants to do a documentary about me, but if it will help the school and the team, I’m all for it. Why don’t you come on into my office? You can tell me exactly what you’re looking for in the visuals and how much of my time you think you’ll need.”

She nodded, his welcoming attitude relaxing her slightly, taking the edge off her nerves. This might go well after all.

“As I said when I called, the A.D. assured me he’d spoken to you about clearing some time for me. And that I’d be able to come to the practices.”

“He did.” They came to an open door with the words Coach Hatcher on it. “Let’s go in and sit down.”

Olivia looked around, taking in the space where he spent so much of his time. There were pictures on the wall of him scoring his final winning touchdown for Lakeview his senior year, the game that sent the team to its first of several post-season bowl games. Of him with his coach and the president of the university. Others cataloguing his career in pro football, both as player and coach. The newest was one of him with this team, taken the day he was introduced to them.

“I’m sorry I don’t have more time today,” he told her, “but I’ll give you what I can. Then, if you can let me know what you’re looking for from me, we can work out a schedule.”

She nodded. “Understood. I’m grateful for any time you can make available. A lot of this will be video of the team interspersed with clips of my interviews with you. Will that work?”

He grinned. “We’ll make it work. Have a seat and fire away.”

“Is it okay if I record this? My memory isn’t what it used to be.”

Good going, Olivia. Make yourself sound old and decrepit.

“Sure. No problem.”

She opened the recording app on her phone and placed it on his desk. Here came Chapter One in her campaign to redeem herself both personally and professionally. She’d better not blow it.

“My first question is more to satisfy my own curiosity. How old were you when you started calling yourself Hatch?”

He chuckled. “Ever since I discovered I’d been named after my two grandfathers—Duncan and Jerome—and decided they made me sound too old.”

“I’m sure a lot of people have asked you this. What made you choose to come back to Lakeview rather than accept one of the other, more lucrative offers you had?”

He was silent for a long moment, staring at all the pictures before he answered her.

“Lakeview’s had some tough years recently. The shine is off the apple, so to speak, compared with how it was ten years ago. Scott, along with the president of the athletic association and two major donors, convinced me I could be the one to bring it back. I’m definitely going to give it my best shot. I guess you could say it’s an emotional thing.”

“How do you feel about this team? You arrived after signing season, none of the players, including the newest ones, are your recruits.”

He rubbed his jaw, pausing, as if carefully choosing his words. “I’ve been able to assess the team in practice, and we have a lot of young talent out there to work with. Luckily, they’re enthusiastic and feel they have something to prove. Feel free to come to as many practices as you like. I’ll set it up with security.”

“Thank you. I appreciate that.” She checked off a few more questions before turning off the recorder. “That’s it for the moment. I have more, but you said that you have limited time today. I’m sure there’ll be additional questions as we go along. If you can give me some idea of when you’d be available, I can put together a schedule for you.”

He flashed her that amazing grin once more. “I can work with that. Now, how about telling me the way you see this documentary laying out.”

“I want a double hook. I think it will capture a wider audience and really spike people’s interest.”

He raised one eyebrow, a gesture that gave her an utterly inappropriate thrill. “Like what?”

“The desire of the university to restore its football program to its former glory paired with the journey of Duncan Hatcher from player to coach and what that journey has meant. Personally as well as professionally.”

Again, he was silent for a long moment. Then he picked up a pen from the desk surface and began flipping it back and forth between his fingers. The muscles in her stomach tensed as she got the feeling there was something hidden beneath the surface here. Something that would screw things up. Oh, please, no.

“Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I’d like for you to leave my personal life out of this as much as possible. I still believe the constant lack of privacy and the pressures of my…situation played a big part in breaking up my marriage.”

Olivia studied his face. There was something closed off about his expression when he referenced his ex-wife. She had a feeling there was a lot more to the story than privacy issues and pressure, but she wasn’t here to get into that aspect of things. And if she didn’t respect his boundaries, he’d kill the documentary in a hot minute.

Still, her reporter’s nose was twitching, and she made a mental note to do some research on his personal life, even if just for herself.

“What about your parents or either of your siblings? Are they off limits, also? Your brother is a well-known coach, and your sister is married to—”

“Minimal exposure for them, and I get to approve whatever it is before you air anything.” His face was flushed. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt you or be rude. But it’s something I’m firm on, okay?”

She cleared her throat. “That’s not a problem. I’m not here to produce an exposé, only a story that will garner interest for the football program and show how an icon can make a big difference.”

At that he laughed, again treating her to that slight tremor of something she shouldn’t feel. “I don’t know if I’d call myself an icon, but if I can do anything to promote this team, I’m all for it.”

“You said you only had a little time today, but I prepared a list of questions. I can go over them with you and then email them to you if you like.”

“Sure. Let’s have it.”

Olivia reached into her messenger bag, pulled out her tablet, and opened the document with her notes. She explained how she had outlined the script and what visuals she’d need to best carry the message. And the kind of questions she’d be asking him.

Hatch nodded as she spoke, making notes on his own tablet. “Why don’t you email them to me anyway? Maybe I’ll think of something else to add.” He wrote something on the back of a business card and handed it to her. “Use my personal email and my number.”

Her eyes widened as she took the card from him. “Your personal number?”

He shrugged. “I like to think I’m a good judge of people. My senses tell me I can trust you.”

“Thank you. I promise not to betray that trust.” She leaned back in her chair. “I’d like to come to as many practices as possible, and of course, the games will be an important component.”

He pulled over a scratch pad and wrote something on it. “I’ll have the department office get you the credentials you’ll need to be a sideline reporter for the games. I watched you today. You’re savvy enough to know how to stay out of the way and still get what you need.”

“Thank you. I appreciate it.”

She had to tamp down the thrill of excitement that tickled her yet again.

“When do you plan to release this?”

“I’m hoping to have it ready to go at the end of the regular season, before the bowl games, since I’m sure the Jaguars will get a great invite this season. We can always add that bit after the fact.”

Hatch nodded. “Scott says the video is self-funded. Is that right?”

Olivia nodded. “That’s correct. It will run on Channel Five, but I also plan on shopping it to major sports networks.”

He grinned. “Looking for a foot in the door, right?”

“I am.” She lifted her chin and stiffened her back. “I hope you aren’t one of those men who think women can’t produce good sports material.”

He smiled, then laughed, surprising her. “My mother and my sister would tan my hide if they thought I felt that way. No, I’ve seen damn good video and some excellent reporting by women in the industry. I just want to know where you’re going with this. It will help me make sure you get what you’re looking for.”

“Thank you. And thanks for making time for me tomorrow. I know your schedule’s very tight right now.”

“Then you’ll understand if I have to cut out any time.”

She nodded. “I will.”

“So.” He leaned back in his chair. “Tomorrow?”

“Sure. Thanks for making the time.”

“You’re welcome.” He paused and seemed to be studying her through narrowed eyes. “Listen. They’ve got me doing a bunch of charity events that you might want to get some shots of. I’m sure the folks sponsoring them wouldn’t mind. The first one is a 10k race on Sunday.”

Olivia swallowed her smile.

“Actually, I’m running in it myself, although I’m sure I won’t be anywhere close to your time.”

His eyes lit up. “Yeah? You are? I bet you’ll do better than you think.”

“We’ll see. But I can have my cameraman there to get some action shots. And Hatch? Thanks again for agreeing to do this.”

An undecipherable expression flitted across his face, there one minute and gone the next. “I’m totally on board. Scott and I agree it will be a great way to give the program a shot in the arm. Let people know things are moving forward here. Help the program.”

He rose, signaling their meeting was over. “See you then.”

She gathered her messenger bag, practically dancing her way out of the office. She felt like pumping her fist and shouting, Yes! Yes! Yes! Take that, Daniel.

Her good mood lasted until she reached her car and found Bert Hoekstra leaning against it, hands shoved into his pants pockets. He had been a thorn in her side almost from the first day she’d begun reporting sports on television. The freelance reporter had a well-deserved reputation for being a slimeball and muckraker who was now denied access to almost every team in the Division I College Sports. He wasn’t interested in anything except digging up the deepest secrets of players and sports personnel, and his enemies would fill Jaguar Stadium.

He’d certainly done a number on her about her divorce and how it affected her job. She couldn’t let him screw this up, even though his influence was mostly limited to his podcast and the accompanying, always negative, twitter feed, both his and those of his rabid minions.

“I think you’re standing in my way,” she told him. “Move.”

“Now, is that any way to talk to a fellow reporter?” Even his smile seemed slimy. “You seem to have everyone’s ear here. I thought maybe you could get me into one of the practices and possibly a game.”

“Sorry. I’m not in charge of credentials.”

She punched the button to unlock her car and yanked the door open, forcing him to move. She thought of a million things she’d love to say to him, none of which would do her any good. Instead, she cranked the engine and backed out of her space, pulling out of the parking lot with a little more force than necessary. When she looked in her rearview mirror, Bert still stood there, watching her.

With a deliberate effort, she focused on mentally reviewing today’s meeting with Hatch and the documentary. This was her ticket to re-establish herself and, hopefully, open some important doors. No way was she letting a jerk like Bert Hoekstra screw it up. Or that asshole, Daniel. He’d done enough to ruin her life already.

But a nauseating thought hit her as she left campus. Could Hoekstra be working with Daniel on this to once again destroy her career? She drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. She was not going to let him ruin her life. Not again.


Hatch sat down at his desk again, eyes focused on the doorway, brain still processing the meeting with Olivia Grant. The sensation gave him a bizarre, full-body shiver. Something he’d been missing these last few years, in the relentless spotlight of pro football and the fallout disaster of his divorce.

When Scott Durbin set up this arrangement, he hadn’t bothered to warn him how gorgeous Olivia Grant was. He wouldn’t have refused to help with the project, but at least he’d have been prepared. He had one thing on his mind these days—rebuilding his career as a football giant and, this time, without the stupid mistakes that had nearly destroyed him. But at this moment, he felt sideswiped by her. Overwhelmed, maybe, was a better word. And he needed to maintain his focus on the task at hand.

He was damn lucky to have this chance. His addiction to gambling that started with friendly poker games had grown until he could never resist the lure of anything to do with numbers and odds. And the lure of online gaming only made it a hundred times worse. He was lucky he had a fat salary, or he’d have ended up broke. But it had cost him his marriage and his job as a pro coach. He was grateful that everyone had agreed to keep a lid on the real story as long as he agreed to walk away from the job—not to mention his marriage—and deal with his addiction.

Lakeview was his best—okay, his only—shot to rebuild his life, which at forty-two wasn’t the easiest thing in the world. He was grateful he was in a profession where his age was considered a virtue since it implied experience. He’d do well to remember that the only numbers he could focus on from here on out were those used to call the different plays. He also had to make sure Olivia Grant never uncovered the truth about how he’d derailed his entire life. If that happened, he’d have to find a hole to crawl into.

He thought about his first day back on campus when he stood in the center of the football field emblazoned with the red and white artsy rendering of a jaguar. He’d completed a full, three-hundred-sixty-five degree turn, taking in the seating, expanded in recent years thanks to booster enthusiasm during a spate of victorious years about a decade after he graduated. Those, however, had been followed by a longer streak of ignominious defeats.

He could still recall the smells, the sights, the sound, and the bone-shattering cold of one particular game day. He smiled and picked up the football he always kept on his desk, hit with the long-embedded muscle memory of throwing. He gripped it, pressing his fingertips into the laces the way he had for so many years. He didn’t throw much anymore due to his doctor’s nagging about his shoulder. But he held onto it now, knowing that the feel of it was always good for helping him focus.

He thought about the end zone, recalling it as his ultimate goal for so damn many years of his life. A goal he’d been so focused on it had dominated and ruined his marriage. He was pretty sure he and Alex could have worked through the gambling thing if he had been a better husband to her and less consumed with success on the field.

“You don’t give a rip about anything but that damn game,” his ex-wife used to say, half-kidding at first…until she wasn’t. “If it doesn’t involve turf, pads, helmets, X’s and O’s, you don’t want to hear about it.”

He’d wanted to remind her this was the man she’d married, but in the aftermath of the divorce, he realized what a selfish bastard he’d been. It was sort of hard not to care, given that it had been his one and only mission for so many years. To start at a Division One school. To play professionally. To coach a pro team—albeit for a fairly brief, super shiny, moment. His shoulders slumped at the ghostly memory of her angry voice.

She’d been right, of course. His priorities had been skewed in favor of his career success, at the sacrifice of other parts of his life. He was self-aware enough to understand and accept that.

Of course, that other reason for the failure of his marriage and the brevity of his seemingly stellar career as a coach was one he was grateful had never leaked. One he’d managed to keep so secret, sometimes even he forgot about it. Until he’d open up his laptop and read the daily mantra he had plastered on the opening screen.

“One bet might as well be one hundred.”

He shook his head. Let it go, Hatcher. You have way too much work to do and an image to re-establish to be mooning around out here.

His saving grace was his love for this damn game. He’d made it his job to understand football the way an engineer builds a bridge or a car. This job at Lakeview would be tough. It was major change without a doubt, but after the year he’d just had, he was more than ready.

“So, Coach, how did it go?”

He looked up to see Scott Durbin, his new boss, standing in the doorway. “Hey, Scott. I think it went well.”

“You ready for this craziness?”

He grinned. “Born that way.”

He wasn’t sure he meant it. But it sounded good. He was nervous as hell, truth be told. After a solid two weeks of media hype, press conferences, podcasts, photo ops, grip and grins, random fundraisers, and all the usual hullabaloo that went along with being the newly named, returning hero-style head coach of his alma mater, he was ready to coach some damn ball. Bring on the x’s and o’s.

Which was one reason for his rare case of nerves. When he’d been a coach in the pros before everything had gone to hell in a handbasket, he hadn’t felt this level of power over the lives of so many young men—kids, really, all of them. It was a heady, terrifying sensation. But he’d made it clear to each and every one of them what he would do for them, as long as they held up their end of the bargain.

“Well, guess I’d better let you get to it then,” Scott said.

He winced at the memory of how goofy he must have sounded to the lovely woman he was going to be having a fair bit of contact with this season. Olivia Grant was, without a doubt, beautiful, not to mention sexy as hell. She was a natural reporter, putting him at ease, even in the face of his high-school-ish reaction to her at first. But dear Lord, the crap he’d said? That shit about her being “better than she thought” at the race? And “looking for a foot in the door”? He’d sounded about as slick as the grandpas he’d been named for.

He groaned and pressed his forehead to the leather blotter on his new desk. After his divorce, he’d made a point not to notice women, something that was a bit of a self-imposed penalty. But there was no not noticing Olivia. Her soft, dark blonde hair that kept dropping over one of her deep green eyes as she’d look down at her notes, then back up at him. That smile, and those full, barely lip-sticked lips. And there was no denying she had a body that would be hard to shake out of his brain. Scott had told him she used to play soccer here, a few years behind him as an undergrad. How he’d not known her… Granted, he hadn’t been a big partier then, kept mostly to himself and his close group of friends and, as always, focused on the game.

But damn. He’d missed out on something then, without a doubt. He felt his face flush red and his entire body begin to react in ways that didn’t really serve him well as a fully grown man, with plenty of experience under his belt, so to speak.

Thankfully, she’d left before he could embarrass himself any more.

Home. Shower. Beer. Stare at a string of old movies on the giant television screen. Anything to get the lovely Olivia Grant and all her many attributes out of his head. She was, after all, the media. And everyone knew how he felt about the media.

It was get a grip time—on all parts of himself.

This was his chance at redemption. The opportunity was a godsend, considering the sorry state he’d left his life in on the west coast, and he didn’t intend to do anything to screw it up. He couldn’t afford to get distracted by a single thing. But how the hell was he going to do that when Olivia Grant might prove to be the biggest distraction of all?

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