Hailey Tate thought she was worth more than a straight flush.
When camera-shy author Hailey Tate’s agent loses a bet and brokers a deal, it leaves Hailey in the last place she wants to be: backed into the corner of Publicity and Paparazzi. Now, thanks to her girl-next-door image and role as pretend girlfriend to a womanizing shortstop, she’s getting the attention she always managed to avoid.
Connor Ryan is not only America’s Sexiest Athlete, he’s also the current Bad Boy of Baseball. But when he goes a base too far, management wants to bench him…permanently. One thing he never counted on? Falling for his sweet, fake girlfriend. He’s the guy who can catch anything and now she’s next on his list.
I may have been running late, but at least I was extremely caffeinated. That was the key to dealing with my agent—large doses of caffeine and possibly some type of defensive gear.
If I could wear body armor I would. But I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t let me on the downtown train in that.
Catherine Sutter was, to state it simply, a force of nature. And I was a leaf on the wind.
It wasn’t that I didn’t like Catherine. And I sure as anything respected her. She was exactly what a writer who didn’t like confrontation and still wanted to deal with the top publishers needed. Someone to take charge and be the boss of my business life so I could be the boss of my writing life.
I glanced at my phone, which miraculously still had a charge, and rushed on knowing I was going to be late. As usual. But, hopefully by only a minute or two. Not too bad.
Well, not bad for me. For Catherine, you’d think the world was ending if someone was thirty seconds late.
I hurried toward the gorgeous Art Deco building, getting my customary shiver just seeing the brass and glass doors. This is Your Life, Hailey Tate. A thrill beyond belief. Like tripping over the yellow brick road and landing facedown behind The Great and Powerful’s curtain.
There were a few things I loved about being a writer: telling stories, working in yoga pants, and going into my agent’s office to discuss my next project.
I’m not gonna lie. It made me feel like a grownup instead of just a girl scribbling stories in math class.
Because, really, when had I used algebra in the last decade? Never, that’s when.
Pushing through the front doors, I couldn’t help but notice all the security guys hovering around a tall man, head bent over something just on the other side of the lobby.
Advantage, Hailey! I rushed to the front desk to sign myself in so I could sneak upstairs and not be any later than I already was. I got as far as the elevator door when Frank, the very sweet older man who worked the desk, rushed over and stuck his hand into the slowly closing doors.
“Ms. Tate!” He smiled, the welcome I usually got when I came in. “Shame on you, sneaking by like that.”
“Don’t worry.” I gave him a smile, trying to rush this along. “I signed in.”
“I know, dear. But, could you bring this envelope up to Ms. Sutter?” Frank handed me a thick FedEx envelope. “I’m a little afraid of her when contracts come in.”
He gave me a wink and stepped back, letting the doors start to fall shut again.
“Hold the elevator!”
The voice echoed down the short, tiled hall to where I watched the doors slip inward as I tried to pretend I didn’t hear it. I reached for the close-door button. But Frank, sweet man that he was, stuck his hand in again, stopping the elevator. Again.
And all I could think about was how Catherine was going to give me yet another lecture on timeliness.
You’d think she’d save those for if I got too close to a deadline, not just for when I was running a few minutes late for a meeting.
“Thanks.” The tall, shaggy-headed blond stepped into view, his gaze crashing into mine for less than a moment.
Connor Ryan. Now middle-aged men hovering in the lobby made sense.
I was probably going to end up in a tabloid just by being on the same block with him, let alone sharing an elevator.
He turned away just as quickly as he’d arrived, standing just outside the elevator, his hand on the bumper, holding it open. I glanced at my watch, wondering why he wasn’t stepping in. But his gaze stayed glued to the front of the building, his feet firmly planted on the floor outside the elevator.
“Excuse me,” my voice was light and low. It wasn’t every day I spoke to a famous person…unless she was a writer. Even though I wasn’t a fan—sports or tabloid—it was still a bit intimidating.
Connor Ryan glanced in and down at me with a look that said he was more curious what I was doing interrupting his standing around than he was in what I was going to say.
“I have a meeting I’m trying to get to,” is what I came up with.
I’d hoped he’d let the doors shut, but I’d already lost his attention as his gaze turned back toward the lobby. I got a vague, distant Uh-huh in response.
“So, if you could just let the doors go,” I added. “I’ll be all set.”
“Pardon me,” I pushed, because that wasn’t really a yes or no question. “I really need to get upstairs.”
He glanced back my way, his eyes dropping down to take in my yoga pants and deep purple lululemon wrap.
“I’m sure you can wait another moment.” His gaze swept up and away dismissively. “You don’t look like you’re really needed anywhere.”
I couldn’t believe he’d just said that. It wasn’t every day someone was that unkind to me without even knowing me. Or, to be honest, even when they did.
“That wasn’t very nice.” The words slipped out, something making me braver than normal…unless you consider the fact that I’d barely whispered them.
“Excuse me?” he shifted his body to glare down at me.
I finally seemed to have his full attention.
“I said that wasn’t very nice. You’re holding me up for a meeting and…” I faded off, not really sure where I was headed with any of this as he stared me down.
“Sweetheart,” he drawled like he had all the time in the world and yet was still absolutely right about everything woman. “I am an expert on women’s appearance. And, trust me. You are not exactly rocking the important vibe.” With a shake of his head, he turned back to the lobby.
I fought to keep my jaw from dropping as I registered the clipped sound of heels clicking on the tile floor. Connor Ryan’s expression had changed from one of rude condescension to pleased appreciation.
“Thank you so much for holding the elevator.” One of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen outside a magazine stepped into view. Of course, I’d probably seen her in a magazine too. “I’m almost late for an appointment.”
“I know the feeling.” I’d said it under my breath, but Connor Ryan’s hearing must have been worse than his manners.
He angled himself away from me and turned on the charm. “I’d never want to leave a lady in distress.”
I may have actually snorted. Or, at least I did in my head. I thought really hard about snorting out loud too.
“Excuse me.” I tried again. “Could we maybe…”
I gave them both a smile, hoping they’d just get the idea and step into the elevator. They were so busy scoping one another out, I doubted they noticed. But, to be fair, the model gave me a slight smile…or at least, she tilted her head down toward me and smiled while she ogled the guy holding the doors open. And who could blame her? He was stunning to look at.
You don’t get named America’s Sexiest Athlete by being average.
Finally, they both stepped in and turned their backs to me. She pushed a button and the flirting continued in hushed tones until the doors opened again. She slipped him a card and he leaned out the elevator to watch her long legs strut their way down the hall to the frosted doors of the modeling agency.
I considered pushing him out. Just one big shove and I’d be on my way. My phone read eleven minutes past and I knew I’d never escape an epic timeliness lecture now.
When we got to the seventh floor, I moved to step around him, glad to just get out of his arrogant sphere and instead walked straight into his side as he exited the elevator.
“You’re coming here?” All the shock I felt slipped out with the words. Why in the world would a sports guy be coming to our little, boutique literary agency?
He glanced down as if he’d forgotten I was there. He probably had. “And, how is that any of your business?”
“Um…” It really wasn’t. I was just surprised.
“Oh, you’re one of those people.” His arms crossed as his gaze narrowed down to glare at me. All that masculine anger focused on me set my adrenaline pumping. “I’m an athlete, so I must be dumb?”
“No. Actually, almost everyone who comes here writes romance or books for teens.” I shrugged. I would have been surprised if any sportsy-god-guy stepped onto our floor. I moved around, finally happy to have the upper hand. Even if it was just for getting to walk away first.
He gave me a look as if he didn’t believe me. I gave him back the nicest smile I had.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me,” I drudged up some bravado out of pure annoyance. “I have a meeting someone made me late for.”
I walked by Meg at the front desk, not bothering to have her call back to Catherine since I was late. Also, with how she was drooling over the guy glaring at the back of my head, I figured she wouldn’t remember how to use a phone anyway.
Two doors down, Catherine paced in front of her desk, weaving around the piles of book filled boxes. I tapped on the door and watched as she swung in my direction, a look of pure relief washing over her.
This had nothing to do with lunch.
“Thank God you’re here. I was afraid you’d heard about the bet and you weren’t going to show.”
A sick feeling washed through my stomach. I was tempted to turn around and walk right back out.
Instead, I stepped into the room and closed the door. “What bet?”
“The one I lost you in.”