Jack "Ox" Oxford is used to being alone. Granted, when you screw over your friends, being alone isn't always a choice. Playing for the Chicago Watchmen is a last-ditch effort to save his career…and right some of his past wrongs. He's not expecting a warm reception, but he's also not expecting a flat tire to change everything.
Recovering control freak, single mom and semiprofessional chaos wrangler Lola Deacon McIntire doesn't need an arrogant ballplayer to swoop in and save her from anything, much less her flat tire. And she definitely doesn't need her body to betray her and decide this is the guy to wake up her rusty libido. She isn't about to upset her sons' lives for any man—much less one who so clearly doesn't think he's dad material.
Jack never thought he'd find someone who wanted to build a life with him, but the more time he spends with Lola and her boys, the more it starts to feel permanent. Even tough-as-nails Lola concedes there just might be a future here—the big, beautiful, messy future neither of them was looking for—but only if Jack will accept he deserves it.
At precisely 9:00 a.m. the next morning Lola was sitting in her car outside the farmhouse.
At 9:04, she was still sitting there, a jumble of thoughts, none of them productive or good.
She finally got herself moving when Jack came around from the back and leaned against the side of the house, his arms folded in front of his chest as he watched her. “Glad to see you’re wearing a shirt,” she said, slamming the car door shut and walking toward him.
He smiled and a huge thrum went through her, proving just how bad an idea this arrangement was. “I’ll state for the record that if you ever choose to declare a no-shirts-while-working day,” he said, “I’m all for it.”
She didn’t for a second believe him. He’d been Nate’s best friend since his rookie season; Silas’s favorite player. She’d watched him on and off the field for years and even though she’d already succumbed to it twice she knew that low drawl and easy smile went along with the part he played. He used them on everyone from the grandmothers whose programs he signed to the reporters who interviewed him. Up until this last year, at least.
She resisted rolling her eyes as she replied, “I’ll state for the record it’s unlikely to happen.”
“Well, then, I sure hope you weren’t spending all that time in the car thinking about the clothes I did or didn’t have on,” he answered.
Unfortunately, that was exactly what she’d been thinking about. Or, rather, him in various states of undress, her in the same, and how hot and hard he would feel against her. In danger of giving in, she went with the surefire way to shut that conversation down. “I was thinking about my husband, if you’d truly like to know.”
“About him not wearing a shirt?”
“Do you really know how to do this kind of stuff?” He was a professional baseball player from Connecticut. Not exactly the guy she’d call to hang a picture, much less help renovate a house. Then again, Nate had put him here to work and Nate generally knew what he was doing.
Still, it didn’t help when Jack gave answers like, “I’ve got a great phone. I can look up how-to videos from pretty much anywhere.”
She frowned at his grin. “You’re really not worried about your hand?” Pissing his father off was one thing; ruining his career another entirely.
“Don’t you worry,” he said, his smile turning wicked. “My hand works just fine when it needs to.”
Trying not to let on that his smile had hit her right below her belly, she threw her hands up in the air. “Does everything you say have to be some kind of sexual innuendo?”
“I was talking about pitching.” He cocked his head. “Wait, you were talking about sex?”
He wasn’t talking about pitching. She wasn’t that out of practice. But it had been long enough for her to be entirely off her game. The best reply she could come up with was a snorted, “You wish.” Except the second she said it, she snapped her mouth shut, because he looked at her in a way that made her wonder if maybe the whole flirty thing he had going on wasn’t just a way to get under her skin.
No. This was just a game to him; it had to be. He couldn’t seriously be interested.
Except then he swallowed hard and looked away.
Lola’s heart was racing and it felt harder than it should to breathe. But they were both adults here; they each knew exactly how bad an idea it would be to let this go further. And so at the same time they both turned to leave the room. The problem was that they bumped into each other in the process.
“Oh, shit,” he muttered as his hand came down to steady her yet again.
Her thoughts exactly. It was just that it had been so long since she’d touched a man—accidental stumbling excepted—and she wanted so badly to feel that again. He was the wrong person to be thinking this about. Yet she couldn’t stop herself from looking up at him.
Everything was suddenly clearer. Sharper. Even the way he stood, although he hadn’t moved so much as a muscle. His gaze bored into hers, then traveled past her jaw, between her breasts, right down the center of her before coming back up. She felt the heat rise through her, as she dropped her gaze to his lips. She’d done a lot of kissing in her life, but only with Dave. Would Jack taste different? Feel different?
“I’m not a good guy, Lola. You deserve a lot better than me,” he said, his voice gruff as he straightened up a little. But all that did was bring their bodies closer into alignment—close enough for her to feel exactly how aroused he was.
She wasn’t sure what she deserved. She’d been a good wife to her husband. She’d always thought she and Dave deserved to live a long and happy life together. That hadn’t been meant to be. Was it wrong to want so badly to feel a man’s touch, even if it wasn’t Dave’s? To want to touch a man so badly?
“Lola…” he said. Groaned, really. “This is a horrible idea.” But instead of moving away from her, he straightened up all the way, which meant they were now separated only by centimeters. She could feel his heat surrounding her.
“Horrible fucking idea.” This time he spoke more to himself.
But it didn’t stop him, either.
Instead, his hand came up and after a moment of just hanging there, he cupped her jaw, and just the touch of his hand to her skin had her nearly whimpering in longing. This was what it felt like to have a man touch her again. This was what it felt like to have her whole being reawaken. She put her hands on his chest. Everything inside her was humming. Throbbing in the most delicious and frightening of ways. She needed to be listening to what he said because he was absolutely right. And yet she brushed his lips with hers.
He stared down at her for a few seconds as she pulled slightly back. And then in one swift motion, he picked her up and spun them so her back was against the wall as his mouth took possession of hers.
He wasn’t a big fan of kissing women. Fucking them, yes. Being involved in everything else that led up to the fucking, absolutely. But kissing wasn’t his thing. Not like that, at least. Never like that.
About the Author
A big believer in happily ever afters, Jen Doyle decided it was high time she started creating some. She has an M.S. in Library and Information Science and, in addition to her work as a librarian, has worked as a conference and events planner as well as a Communications and Enrollment administrator in both preschool and higher education environments (although some might say that there is very little difference between the two; Jen has no comment regarding whether she is one of the “some”).