I do love me a good sports-themed love story. Hottie athletes? Yes, please! Remington Tate, Jack Fucking Carter, Jude Ryder? Now we can add basketball player Jackson Berrios to that list! For your reading pleasure, I give you Chapter One of the new novella, Guarded, by J.D. Rivera. Expected release date is 9/17, Enjoy!
I couldn’t get my earlier conversation with Shane out of my head. I had just sat there and listened to him spit vile, nasty words in my face as I did nothing. “I can’t believe I ever married you. You’re so fucking plain.” “You’re so worthless.” Those were just a couple of the things he said to me.
One foot in front of the other. Enjoy the calmness of the lake. Block out everything else. You can do this Vanessa. Just watch the geese floating on the water.
Running had always been my safe place. When life was too much, I would go for a run.
I looked to my left and studied the geese and nearby sailboats as something knocked into my back. My legs gave way and I sprawled onto the sidewalk, rolling to the grass face down. I stayed frozen, not really sure what had just happened.
“Are you okay?” I heard a deep voice ask from above me.
Was I okay? I wasn’t hurting too bad, so I rolled onto my back to look up at the stranger.
“Are you okay? I’m so sorry. I wasn’t paying attention.” The handsome stranger with dark sweaty hair and dark eyes told me.
“I…Uh…I think I’m fine,” I told him as I sat up. That’s when I looked at his tanned, bare, sculpted chest and any thoughts about falling and hurting myself escaped me.
He offered me his hand to help me up. “It doesn’t look like you’re bleeding anywhere. Again, I’m so sorry. I looked down at my phone for maybe a second and ran right into you.” “No worries,” I stated as I took his hand and he eased me up onto my feet.
“Let me at least walk with you for a minute so I can be sure you’re okay.”
“Okay,” I said as I realized I was still holding his hand. I quickly released his hand and dropped mine. I looked at the path ahead of me, to the parking lot where my car was parked. “I’m just parked over there. I think I’ll be fine.”
“You’re probably right, but I still want to walk you to your car just to be sure. I feel horrible about knocking you down,” he said, looking straight into my eyes. I was held captive by his dark eyes and stared at him for a few beats longer than I should have before answering. “Okay, fine.”
We started walking down the sidewalk toward the parking lot in silence. I could feel his body heat, since he was walking so close to me. I wanted to say something but I didn’t know what to say. He was an attractive man and I didn’t want to make a fool out of myself, even though he had just seen me sprawled out on the grass.
“It’s a nice day out today,” he said, making conversation. I looked out over the lake again before answering. “It is. I’m hoping the entire week will be like this.” “That would be nice. I haven’t lived here long, but I bet it gets hotter.” I finally looked over at his face. “Oh, you’re not from here?” He gave me a surprised look. “No, I just moved here from New York.” “Well, welcome to Oklahoma.” “Thanks. So what all is there to do around here?” He asked as he looked me up and down.
I wasn’t sure what that was about. I didn’t really like it even though I was doing the same to him. I knew I wasn’t that attractive; at least my husband had made me feel that way. I glanced out at the water to clear my head of thoughts of my husband. I looked back at the sexy stranger. “Well, we have a lot to do here. You can check out the area near downtown called Bricktown. It has a lot of restaurants and clubs along with a canal. It’s really pretty. We also have a lot of lakes if you like that type of thing and well, we have a few sports teams. I’m sure you’ve heard of the basketball team, the Thunder.”
He chuckled a little, then smiled wide at me before answering. “Yeah, you could say I’ve heard of the Thunder. I think they just got a new player. Supposed to be really good.” “Oh, that’s right. I knew that.” He chuckled some more before saying “I’m really sorry. I didn’t ask your name.”
I looked into his eyes, trying to figure out what in the hell was so funny before I answered. “Vanessa. And your name would be?” It came out a little harsh, but I could tell he was laughing at something and it was starting to piss me off.
“Jackson,” he simply stated.
We reached the parking lot and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to bolt from this man because of his attitude or if I wanted to hang around him some more just to ogle his body. I pointed to my beat up Ford Focus. “That’s my car over there. Thanks for walking me to my car. Now you can rest, knowing I’m okay.”
He nodded, but I could tell he was thinking about something. “Have lunch with me?” He blurted as he looked back over at me.
I looked into his beautiful eyes. “You really don’t need to buy me lunch. I’m okay.”
“I know I don’t have to. This has nothing to do with me running into you. I’d just like to have lunch with someone. Remember I’m new in town?” “Um…Okay, I guess.” What the hell; he was hot and it’s not like my bastard of a husband wasn’t having lunch or visiting some hotel room with some woman right now.
“Where do you wanna go?” He asked. “Oh, what do you like? Do you like Mexican, Italian…?” “Any. I’m not picky at all. Just some place that isn’t stuffy.” “Okay. Wanna go to a place near here?” He flashed me a sexy smile. “Sounds good. Which place?” “How about The Wing Shack? I love their wings.” “Great,” he said, before walking off to find his car.
I walked over to my car, manually unlocking my door and sank in my seat. No fancy key fob for my car. Since separating from my husband, I had been forced to sell my nice SUV and settle for the Focus. I knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I was just having lunch with a guy. A sexy guy, but just a guy. In the back of my mind, I knew that, no matter what I did, I wasn’t doing anything
as wrong as my husband had done and was still doing. I started the vehicle and let the cool air from the air conditioner hit my face.
I sat there for five minutes just to relax. I grabbed my purse from the seat next to me and pulled out my makeup bag. Luckily, I found a cleansing wipe in my bag and was able to clean up and put my makeup on the best I could using the small visor mirror. Looking down at my clothes, I realized I was still in my tank top and shorts. I didn’t have any clothes with me, so they would have to do.I put everything back in my purse and was off to have lunch with a hot guy and hopefully enjoy myself for the first time in a long time.
I pulled out onto the highway and turned the radio up. All I could think about was that sculpted chest and those mesmerizing dark eyes. This guy was every girl’s fantasy and I was about to have lunch with him. Just as I was getting lost in my thoughts, my phone rang.I looked at the screen and noticed it was my best friend Amanda. “Hello.” “Hey, I was just calling to see if you wanted to grab dinner tonight?”
“That sounds great. Where at?”
“You sound…different. Do I detect happiness in your voice?” She prodded.
“I’m sounding like I always do. Where do you want to eat tonight?” I didn’t want her to know about my lunch date, because she would make it out to be a bigger deal than it was.
“Okay, whatever you say. How about Chelino’s?”
“Sounds good. Seven okay?” “Works for me.”
I really wanted to get off the phone with her before she got too quizzical. “Hey, I’m driving can I just talk to you tonight?”
“Okay bye, V.”
“Bye,” I said, then threw the phone into the console. Why was I this giddy about having lunch with a guy? Maybe it’s because you’ve been married to a dickhead for the last four years and treated like crap. Maybe you’d like to enjoy a guy’s company. A hot guy’s company.
I pulled into one of the parking spaces and took a few deep breaths to calm myself down. It was just lunch with another human being. A human being I would probably never see again. It would be okay.
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