Playing the Field -- Out now from BookStrand
[Siren LoveXtreme: Erotic Contemporary Ménage Romance, M/F/M/M/M/M, M/F/M/M, BDSM]
When Tess Proffit was asked to run a series of team building exercises for a promising group of professional football players, she never imagined how sexy, sweet or obnoxious they would turn out to be. Keeping things professional will be tough, as each man ignites her desires in different ways.
Curt, Mike, Kevin, Marcus and Randy don’t want to spend their off season on a secluded ranch working on team building, though they don’t mind spending time with the lovely Tess. When a bet between the men goes awry and Tess is hurt, they’ll have to become a team to win her back.
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(The following excerpt is for adults only!)
“I have a small announcement before we get started again. The limo won’t be coming for you this afternoon, gentlemen.”
Tess Proffit took a slight step back in her four-inch Manolo Blahniks, perfectly satisfied that, for once, she had their attention. All five men in the elegantly decorated library stopped. The first session of the morning had proven she was making the right choice in what she was about to do. Earlier they had been reading magazines or talking, one was listening to his iPod, another checked his stats in the newspaper. One simply stood at the bay window and stared out at the Central Texas hills that had been their workplace for the last few weeks. No one had listened to a word she said. Now all five heads turned in her direction, irritation plain on every gorgeous face.
“What the fuck does that mean?” Curt Goff asked, practically jumping up from his seat. It was the most active thing the twenty-million-dollar-a-year quarterback had managed in the three weeks she’d been his therapist. He generally preferred to stare through her or glance at his watch to let her know just how much of his valuable time she was wasting.
“I gotta get home,” Mike Cabrerra said, looking around as though hoping for backup. “I gotta party to get to. My brother’s not gonna be happy if I miss my nephew’s birthday.”
“Give him a call, then, because not a one of you is leaving here until I’m satisfied.” Tess wasn’t surprised at the frowns she got from the five men in the room. All together they constituted the majority of the payroll of the San Antonio Bandits. The football team had been seemingly championship bound three years in a row with no luck past the first round of the playoffs. The team owner was at his wits’ end, and this little experiment was his final grasp. Tess intended to make it pay off. “Until I decide you’ve made your breakthroughs, we’re all staying here. I don’t know about you, gentlemen, but I have all spring. It’s months before camp starts. If you want to spend the entire off-season here, that’s your business. I get paid the same whether we stay here for another week or the rest of your off-time.”
A collective groan creaked through the room.
Marcus Grant, the blond tight end, exchanged glances with Randy Hall, undoubtedly the best wide receiver in the business. According to the reports she’d been given, Randy got butterfingers the minute the regular season ended. Tess had noticed that of all the men in the room, these two seemed the closest. They were the only two who seemed like teammates. Randy shook his head at his friend, a frown on his gorgeous ebony face, and seemed to brace himself for fireworks.
He didn’t have to wait long. The attack came from precisely the man Tess had predicted.
“Fuck that.” Curt Goff stalked toward her, his long, lean body a testament to athletic grace. His matinee-star face was contorted in rage. Tess had quickly discovered that Curt was the control freak. She’d known he was the one who would take this the hardest. “I agreed to come out to this hippie freak show for one reason and one reason only. We all know what that is.”
“Million-dollar bonus, baby.” Kevin Best, the fullback, leaned back in his seat, a smirk on his lips. Despite his arrogant expression, Tess believed he was the sweetest of all the men. “That’s why we’re all here.”
And that was the heart of the problem. Not one of them had come because they felt they needed to work on their team communication. They were here because the owner of the team offered them a million dollars each to be here. Tess stood her ground as Curt stalked close. He was an intimidating man, no doubt about it, but he wasn’t getting his way this time.
“The deal was for weekday ‘team-building’ sessions.” Curt used air quotes, making his distaste for the process plain to anyone watching. He came inches from her, his enormous, muscular body so close she could feel the heat rolling off him.
“The deal was that you would really try to get with the program. Not a single one of you has. You’ve all joked and argued with each other. You’ve played a couple of practical jokes. Somehow I don’t think that rigging Kevin’s ketchup bottle to explode is really the definition of teamwork.”
“I disagree, Tess,” Marcus piped up. “It took three of us to get that to work right.”
Curt’s lips quirked up. Sometimes his eyes softened, and Tess got lost in them. She’d been surprised that he’d been an accomplice in the practical joke brigade. He seemed so uptight and serious.
“See, we’re a team. We can work together when we really want to,” Curt said with a sarcastic lilt to his deep voice. He was right back to intimidating asshole. “Now call the limo so we can get out of here. If you like, we can have one of your hand-holding sessions while we wait.”
She forced her chin up and stared at Curt. Even in her heels, he towered over her, and she refused to have a discussion with his chest.
“We have tried, chica,” Mike said, his dark eyes eating her up. She had to force herself not to roll her eyes. Where the quarterback had tried to use his height and overwhelming presence to get what he wanted out of her, the kicker had tried to seduce her. Together with Kevin, they’d made it plain how they would prefer to spend the week—naked and horizontal with her in between them. She wasn’t going there, of course, even if they were both damn fine.
“We’ve tried really hard to get into your panties.” The fullback gave the kicker a high five that set her teeth on edge. How could a guy who was so kind when they were alone be such an ass around his teammates?
They didn’t take her seriously, not one of them. Oh, sure, when she had them one-on-one, they would talk the talk. She’d persuaded every single one of them, with the exception of Curt, to start to open up, but the minute they got together, the bad behavior began again. She felt her jaw firm stubbornly. For the last few weeks, she’d played nice. She’d tried every strategy she could think of, done everything she could to coax them to communicate about their challenges and opportunities during the post-season. They had shut her down every time she tried to break through their hard shells.
Since the day team owner Frank Boyle had hired her to get into his players’ heads, she’d been fighting an uphill battle. They’d done nothing but fight back. First, they’d balked at the idea of an intense twenty-four-seven, two-week program. She’d compromised on a month of eight-hour sessions, five days a week at Boyle’s isolated ranch. Then, they’d started pushing against those boundaries almost immediately. Curt had interviews he simply couldn’t put off. Marcus and Randy wouldn’t ride in the limo, so they were late every day and tried to leave early. Mike’s brother needed him, and from what she could tell, Kevin simply couldn’t go five minutes without thinking about either sex or food.
Yesterday, she’d put together several trust-building exercises, hoping that a team approach would work better than the individual sessions she’d attempted last week. It had been a disaster. Curt had mentioned that a reporter was doing an article on him as Athlete of the Year. That had gotten Kevin’s eyes rolling as he announced that Curt wasn’t qualified to be more than Douche Bag of the Year and that he couldn’t hit the side of a Mack truck going five miles an hour. Curt had promptly picked up a football and proven Kevin wrong by connecting with his head in a perfect spiral throw.
That had been the highlight of her day.
She was fed up. During the break, she had called Mr. Boyle and requested his support. Given the fact that season ticket sales were down and the talk radio shows were bashing the team even in the off-season, he had agreed to her plan.
Randy stood, reaching into his pocket and pulling out his keys. “If we squeeze in, we should all be able to fit in my car.”
Curt smirked down at her, winked, and took a step back. “Guess you lose, princess. Tell you what, I’ll be back on Monday. We’ll take this up then.” He strode across the room to join Randy and Marcus. “And there’s no way five of us fit in that Audi of yours. Leave the kicker behind.”
“Fuck you, Goff,” Mike said, shooting him the bird. “How many times in that last game did you connect in the end zone? Maybe you’re the expendable one.”
“Oh, yeah, what you do is so hard. You have to kick a ball through an enormous goal post. Face it, asshole, you flunked out of soccer school. That’s where we find all you idiots. The only reason you’re here at all is Kevin wouldn’t come without you.”
Kevin stepped between the two, glaring at the quarterback. “What is your problem, Goff? You know he’s asked for a trade, right? He had the best ranking of any kicker in the league, and you want to run him off?”
Marcus groaned loudly, his blond hair falling over a face that would look right on the cover of a magazine. His stark blue eyes took in the room. “Randy and I could leave all three of you behind.”
Tess sighed, a feeling of pure pleasure humming through her body. “I don’t think you gentlemen are going anywhere without a battery. Did I mention that I got an A in auto shop?”
Randy’s brown eyes got wide. “Blondie took my car apart?”
Curt was right back in her face. “Tess, you put the battery back in Randy’s car this instant, or we’re going to have trouble, you and I. Better yet, give me the battery, and I’ll put it back in.”
God, when his voice got deep and dark like that, it was as though every nerve ending in her body came alive. It took everything she had not to get on her knees in front of him, but she wasn’t doing that anymore, not for anyone, and certainly not for him. “We have trouble right now, Mr. Goff. I’ve done a hell of a lot more than take apart an Audi. Last night, Mr. Boyle decided that I’m now in charge of your bonuses. You don’t get your million unless I clear it.”
One dark eyebrow ticked up slightly. It was the only indication the quarterback gave that he’d even heard her. “Tell Boyle he can keep his million. I’ll call a cab.”
“Dude, there aren’t any cabs out here.” Randy sank back into his seat next to Marcus. “Didn’t you notice? We’re about a hundred miles from anything.”
Curt pulled out his BlackBerry. “Well, it’s a good thing I have a little black book filled with women who’ll drive a hundred miles to pick me up.” He frowned and held his phone up. “No bars.”
Mike smirked. “Yeah, that happens out here, too. Guess you’re walking.”
“I’ll find a signal.” He started toward the door.
Tess decided the time had come to play her trump card. Either Curt gave a damn about his team, or this was all for nothing. If he said no after this, she would have to pack it up. “Your bonuses are tied together. Either you all get them, or none of you do. If you walk out that door, you’re forcing them to give up their bonuses, too.”
Curt stopped, his hand on the door.
Mike’s face fell. Of all the guys, Tess knew he was the one who would take this the hardest. He ran a frustrated hand through his dark hair. It was almost brutally short, making the rest of his handsome face stand out. Now his dark eyes were narrowed in obvious concern. “Are you serious? I don’t have the contract the rest of these guys have. I need that money. I can’t believe this.”
Tess turned to Curt. Everyone was watching him now. His hand slowly came off the door, and jaw clenched, he stalked back to his seat.
“Excellent.” Tess took a deep breath, satisfied that she would have her chance—finally. “Now, let’s get this session started.”
She handed out the morning’s folders. When she passed Curt his, their hands met. Heat sparked across her skin. He looked up and tangled his stare with hers. The banked violence in his eyes let her know he wasn’t close to being done with her.