Oct 19 2013 11:00am
Take Me Out: Exclusive Excerpt
The crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd… Four Crimson Romance authors celebrate the love of the game with these sweet and seductive baseball romances.
Traded and jaded, catcher Ben Border is considering stepping out from behind the plate. Then he runs into former flame Scarlett Dare. Turns out the sexy marketing executive still sends him into a fever pitch. But is she willing to trade Fortune 500 success for a happily ever after?
Slugger Gone South:
When New York Yankee Marc MacNeal comes to Merritt, Alabama, for a charity golf tournament, he’s shocked to be reunited with his ex-fiancée Bailey Watkins. It could be the perfect chance to get some long-awaited closure—or the start of a whole new ball game…
Safe at Home:
Amanda Warner hates baseball, but knows it’ll take a swing for the fences to save her dad’s hardware store. Hoping his star power will bring the crowds in, she sets her sights on Scorpions’ All-Star Josh “Hotstuff” Arrevalos brings unexpected surprises. But is her heart ready to play ball again?
That Ol’ Team Spirit:
Someone’s haunting the Sharks’ stadium and creating some major league mischief. So psychic Peg Noonan and her granddaughter Trish are determined to discover who’s menacing their concessions stand. With the help of Trish’s high school love, sportswriter Rob Hanks, they just might have a ghost of a (second) chance.
Get a sneak peek of the upcoming baseball romance anthology Take Me Out (available October 28, 2013) with an exclusive excerpt from each of the book's four stories: “Trade Off” by Elley Arden, “Slugger Gone South” by Alicia Hunter Pace, “That Ol’ Team Spirit” by Bea Moon, and “Safe at Home” by Leslie P. García!
Read the excerpt and then enter for a chance to win a bundle of Crimson Romance titles!
“Trade Off” by Elley Arden:
Bolstered by too many indecent thoughts of Ben and two dirty martinis, Scarlett closed the gap between them once the elevator doors slid shut. She leaned in just enough for the tips of her breasts to brush his shirt. “Your room or mine?”
He answered her verbal come-on with a physical one, slipping an arm around her waist and pulling her the rest of the way to him. Hot and hard. “Whichever one is closer.”
“Mine,” she said.
Although his smiling green eyes were the same, he smelled older, more expensive, and his body was thicker. His hands were bigger, too, roving her back, covering every inch, leaving a heated path in their wake. The combination of sensations ratcheted her desire, making her squirm in her oversensitive skin.
The heels she wore brought her up to his chin, and Scarlett pushed onto her toes, inching her lips closer to his. Would kissing him feel the same?
The elevator beeped, and the doors slid open before she could find out the answer. She took Ben by the hand and pulled him into the hall, moving at a brisk pace. “End of the hall,” she rasped.
No other words were exchanged. The whole situation was surreal. He’d been her first, when she was painfully inexperienced and scared beyond reason. Thank God, she was neither of those things now. Oh, the things she could do to him! Excitement welled in her chest, leaving her breathless, making it hard to keep the pace without sounding like an out-of-shape fool. And all the while he held her hand, gently pressing circles with his thumb into the soft pad of her forefinger. Simple. Luscious. Pressure.
At the end of the hall, she shoved her keycard into a door and tugged him into her room. They faced each other in the tiny entry hall.
“Twenty years.” He cupped her face, smoothing rough thumbs along her cheekbones and sending chills cascading over her burning body. “Let’s make up for lost time.”
He pulled her mouth to his, and when their lips touched, her desire exploded with a premature moan. She could feel him smiling.
“You always were easy.”
She gasped, and when she did, his tongue darted inside her mouth with a sweep and swirl. He tasted like warm beer and … something decidedly Ben. Cinnamon. Her head spun, spinning her right back to senior year, but only for a second, because he wrapped her up in much stronger arms and turned her toward the bed.
Scarlett gripped the collar of his shirt. All the while he kissed her, teased her with his lips and tongue, roved his hands along her back and bottom, pressing her against him.
He was better at this. So. Much. Better.
She moved her hands to his shoulders, her mouth widening against his. A very distinct bulge pushed against her belly, letting her know he was every bit as excited. It was hot, hotter than she’d had in a long time. So hot she was going to spontaneously combust if she didn’t shed some clothes. His clothes.
Dropping her hands to his waist, she yanked on his shirttails, freeing them from his jeans. Her fingertips brushed warm skin. Just one touch, and then she would rid him of his shirt. She shoved hands beneath the fabric and flattened her palms against the bumpy plain of his stomach, feeling him breathe. Still kissing him. Deeper. More frantic. Their mouths slid back and forth, up and down.
Ben cupped her breasts through her blouse, holding them, heating them, making her squirm.
“Faster,” she whispered against his lips as she scrambled to unbutton his shirt.
His breathy laugh warmed her face. “Do you have someplace to be?”
He traced tiny circles with his thumbs until her nipples hardened. “I want to be under you.” She pushed his shirt apart and over his shoulders, dropping her lips to his throat as he groaned.
God, he was sexy. She felt sexy, too. This stuff was so much better with age. She was surer, stronger, more deliberate. She owned her body and its crazy concoction of hot and wet responses. She loved every bit of it. Every bit of him.
“Wait.” She stepped out of his reach, catching her breath.
She took him in, from glossy-curled head and bare chest to blue jeans and Oxford-clad toes. “I want a good look at you.”
He grinned and shook his head. “I’m not a showman.”
She stepped forward and unbuttoned his pants, but not before she snuck in a quick caress of his glorious abs again. “I don’t want a show. I just want to look. It’s been a long time, and you’ve … grown.” She shoved his jeans past his hips and then stepped back so he could lose the shoes and pants.
Standing before her in a pair of straining, gray boxer briefs, he was magnificent. “That’s nice,” she cooed.
“Come here.” He reached for her, drawing her in by the hand, laying a palm against her cheek and then raking his fingers through the hair at her temple. He kissed her, long and deep, until she felt boneless, liquefied by lust. “My turn,” he growled when the kiss was complete.
He lifted her shirt by its hem, slowly, tickling her skin as he went. She raised her arms, letting him finish the job, and when he did, she reached behind her to remove her bra. A finger touched her collarbone, tracing the dip of her throat, dragging along the center of her chest to the valley between her breasts. His breathing hitched, and she smiled, looking down, seeing what he was seeing. She was swollen, hard, so damn ready for him.
“Touch me, Ben.”
He traced fingers overtop her breasts, around the sides, brushing his thumbs over her rigid nipples. She shuddered and sighed. His lips pressed against her shoulder, while his hands continued to explore, and then he lifted one heavy breast to his mouth.
Scarlett tipped her face to the ceiling and shoved her hands into his hair, letting the passion consume her.
“Slugger Gone South” by Alicia Hunter Pace
Despite being raised in the South where the high priest of the Sports Church is football, Bailey Watkins loved baseball. She loved the order, the precision, and the pace. While other sports were slaves to the time clock, a baseball game took its fine sweet time but could still go from near defeat to sudden victory with a good crack of the bat.
So when word got around that a big — really big — major league baseball player was coming to Merritt, Alabama, for the Tee Off for Autism Celebrity Golf Tournament, Bailey was so pleased, she even agreed to don her nurse hat and man the first aid station in the name of charity.
Of course, in her wildest dreams, she never imagined that player would be him.
By the time she’d found out, it was too late to tell Tournament Chair Missy Bragg that she was backing out. Few told Missy “no,” and those who did could seldom make it stick.
So here she sat on the hottest day in July, under the hospitality tent as Missy’s victims — stars from the entertainment industry, big names from no less that seven professional sports teams, and a silver medal-winning Olympic skier — milled about. Also in the mix was the bevy of reigning and former beauty queens whom Missy had imported to be their dates for tonight’s gala.
Though she had not yet seen the Good First Baseman Gone Bad — as she liked to call the man who’d eternally damned her to the land of the brokenhearted — Bailey pulled her visor down over her eyes and sunk lower into her chair. He would likely never notice her as long as she lay low. He didn’t even know she lived in Merritt now. Besides, it had been eight years. Who was to say he would even remember her? It would be good if he didn’t.
Plus, nobody was paying any attention to her. Why would they? There were free ham biscuits and a fruit tray. He loved biscuits.
According to the schedule on her clipboard, the tournament opening ceremonies were in fifteen minutes. Clearly, he wasn’t coming. He was probably busy getting engaged again or taking another court-ordered paternity test.
She began to relax. Since golf wasn’t exactly a high-risk injury sport, the most she’d probably have to do was treat a bee sting or two and give out some sunscreen and sports drinks. She was just about to check on her supply of ice packs when she saw a golf cart speeding toward the tent. Missy was driving hell for leather — and she had a passenger. Him.
Marc “Polo” MacNeal. Bane of her existence.
Bailey looked down and pretended to study her clipboard as if the future of all mankind depended on her knowing the names of the volunteer caddies or who had donated the free T-shirts.
She had met Marc in the middle of their freshman year at the University of Georgia, and they had dated the better part of two years. The last time they’d seen each other had been in the spring of her junior year. He had already left to play in the minors, but he’d moved quickly from the double to the triple A’s. That April, she’d flown to Scranton to watch him play, and he’d given her an engagement ring that was much bigger than what a twenty-year-old ought to have been able to afford.
But most twenty-year-olds couldn’t catch or hit a ball like he could. Marc was the whole package, and he’d only spent two months in Scranton before the Yankee management took notice. When he’d been called up to the majors, Bailey had been one big bundle of conflicting emotions: so proud of him, scared of the changes, but excited about their future, too. And in love — so in love. Couldn’t forget that.
If she’d paid more attention to the fear, she might have been better prepared when the news hit that Marc had been accused of impregnating a Scranton woman and was to undergo a paternity test — and the news hadn’t come from him. Because Marc was a former UGA student, the scandal had been worthy of front-page attention in the Athens Banner-Herald. Bailey had been grief-stricken to the point of numb — too numb to answer his calls or, three days later, open her dorm room door to him. The way she saw it, there were only two things he could do: admit it or lie about it, and she didn’t want to hear either one. So she’d packed up his ring and sent it back to him. Then she’d put her heart on ice where it had been ever since.
And Marc had been in New York ever since — eight years, 341 homeruns, and one pennant later.
She’d lost count of the number of women. And there had been so many — models, actresses, women famous for being famous. He’d gotten engaged to a good percentage of them, though he had yet to make it to the altar.
And now here he was, just a few yards away. Bailey didn’t dare look up, but she could hear Missy shouting orders about unloading Mr. MacNeal’s clubs and getting him signed in.
Good. He’d be out of here soon. He’d never know.
“And you come right this way!” Missy’s voice was getting closer. “Bailey will take good care of you. She’s not just some volunteer here giving out Band-Aids. She’s the best nurse in this town. Why, she saved my friend Lanie’s life!”
“Safe at Home” by Leslie P. García
“Hotstuff! Hotstuff Josh! Over here! Come talk to us!”
“Josh, we’ve been waiting for you — ”
“You heard ’em, man! Get on over here!” Benton called, although he looked a little annoyed to lose his audience’s interest.
Josh hesitated, torn. He didn’t need female companionship, but even these screaming women were among those who plunked down money to see the Scorpions play, and baseball wasn’t just his job — it was his life. Keeping the team in this town that felt like home was important. He could contribute a few minutes to satisfy fans.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw George, the regular parking lot guard, moving out into a more visible spot. Waving slightly at George, knowing the security officer had probably already called someone to head out to the other side in case anyone tried to jump down, he sauntered over to the base of the rock wall and smiled up at the women. Women amazed him — beauty in so many forms, at all ages. He almost wished he didn’t find the fairer sex so damned enticing.
Benton waved at the women and wandered off, leaving Josh alone with his admirers.
“Hey, ladies! What’s happening?”
They giggled and whispered things to each other before answering.
“Great game, Josh! Where you goin’ now?” asked a zaftig blonde who was huddled up with a brunette friend.
“State secrets.” He winked. “Seriously, I gotta go, but thanks for stopping by!”
“Wait! At least an autograph!” The blonde, clearly the more outgoing of the two, leaned over, her boobs all but spilling out of the tank top she wore, and tossed him a Sharpie.
Josh caught the Sharpie above his head, and the women giggled and clapped.
“Got a picture?” he asked when no one presented anything to sign.
While he waited, another woman approached, younger than the first two, in a bright summer sundress that bared her shoulders and showed some cleavage. She had a breathtakingly pretty face, but she stayed back a little, and he noticed her tug at the dress as if it bothered her. When she fussed with the fabric, she almost dropped her purse.
All hot and bothered, he thought to himself with a slight smile. Too bad he’d sworn off any woman who might be a Scorpions’ fan. Twice he’d been stupid and paid dearly — literally and figuratively. Never again.
“Mr. Arrevalos — ” the red purse slipped again as she moved closer to the other women. Was she a klutz or just nervous? He watched her approach, and apparently the first two gals noticed.
“Hey, Josh baby, we were here first!” the brunette whined. “You promised us you’d sign … ”
“Oh, here,” the blonde called, and something fluttered down to squeals from her partner.
Oh, God! The woman’s tank top, damp with perspiration. He frowned. Marty’s signature took up a huge space. So … she’d already taken it off once? He shot a glance upward. Yep. She was there in all her glory. She wasn’t wearing a bra.
Josh could see a guard marching toward her on the walkway and George talking into his radio. His fingers shook in his hurry to sign his name. Finished, he quickly balled the shirt and tossed it up. His legendary arm failed him, and the top fell at his feet. Swearing under his breath, he scooped it out of the dirt and hurled it back to the woman, who tried to hurriedly put it on as one of the guards arrived.
“Mr. Arrevalos! Josh Arrevalos! I’m Mandy Warner and I need — ” the newcomer was leaning over the wall yelling at him as a security guard caught her arm. He frowned as the guy — whom he didn’t recognize, must be a temp filling in — pulled her roughly, while another manhandled the original pair. They must have thought the women were all together.
“Please! I’m not a fan! I mean — ”
Somehow her dress must have snagged on the rough rock surface of the wall, because as she leaned over and the guard pulled her back, the brightly colored sundress slipped low and gave him yet another clear view of boobage. This newcomer, though, was clearly mortified. She quickly snatched her dress up, dropping her purse in the process, and swatted at the guard’s arm as she fixed her clothing.
He watched the guard escort her away along with the others; clearly she continued to argue with him even though he couldn’t hear what she was saying.
Suddenly, she managed to slip out of the guard’s tight grasp and turned back to look at him again. She called out to him, her voice desperate. “Mr. Arrevalos?”
No one called him “Mr.” Arrevalos, sure. Women, more often than not, called him Josh. Or Hotstuff. What did she need badly enough to risk more rudeness from the uniformed man catching her arm?
As she left, she turned her head once more. “Josh! Josh, I have to talk to you — please, we need to get together — ”
Not a fan? Yeah, right. He turned to go, but a flash of red stuck in the scraggly ivy planted along the base of the wall snared his attention. He walked over and reached in. Gingerly he pulled out the woman’s tiny red clutch.
He glanced over his shoulder. Logically, he should just turn the bag over to George and be done with it. But, perversely, he didn’t. Instead, he tucked it under his arm and hurried to his SUV. He’d return it himself. Not wise, when he’d become so tired of the games and the traps and tentacles of some of the fans, but something about this woman seemed different. Unless… he thought back to the brief flash of bared skin. No, she hadn’t dropped it deliberately. He’d been so wrong in the past, let himself be drawn into relationships he shouldn’t have with women who wanted a ballplayer, ego and opportunity. He’d fallen more often in the beginning than he should have.
At worst, she had her eye on an affair but decided he might find an indirect approach irresistible. But the desperation in her voice had seemed far too anguished to be about wanting a one-night stand. It intrigued him, despite his misgivings. He looked at the red clutch in his hand. At the very least, he could return her purse, apologize for the guard’s rough treatment, and see if she really did have something more interesting to talk to him about. If he was honest, he could admit to himself that he wouldn’t mind seeing that pretty face up close again.
Some days being a hero was better than others.
“That Ol’ Team Spirit” by Bea Moon
Trish was halfway home, already anticipating her warm bubble bath; she could almost smell the scent of lilacs. The ringing of her phone snapped her out of her reverie and she glanced down. It was her grandmother.
“Gran, is everything okay?”
“Trish, can you get back here right away?”
She was instantly alarmed. Terrible scenarios flashed through her mind. An automobile accident, a slip and fall, a purse snatching.
“I’m on my way,” she said, making an illegal U-turn and heading back toward the stadium. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong, honey,” Gran assured her. “But can you make it fast?”
Before she could ask anything more, her grandmother hung up. Trish called back immediately, but got no answer. Frantic now, she sped back to the stadium. As she rushed through the entrance, her flaming red hair — a gift from her Irish ancestors — whipped behind her. The security guard looked up from his magazine.
“Hey, Trish,” he called, as she hurried past his desk. “Working late, huh?”
“Is my grandmother here?”
“Yeah,” he said, with a peculiar smile that puzzled Trish, but there wasn’t time to question him.
She opened the door to the concession stand, out of breath, and blinked, trying to focus her eyes in the near-darkness. The only illumination in the tiny room came from a red candle. Eerie shadows flickered along the walls of the stand. Trish peered at her grandmother, who was seated across a card table from a young man. Even in the dim light, Trish instantly recognized him. Her heart jumped, but concern for Gran outweighed any other emotion.
“I got here as fast as I could. What’s wrong?”
“I told you! I’m conducting a séance to find out why this ghost is so ticked off, and I need your help.”
As her eyes adjusted to the dimness, she frowned.
“Why on earth are you dressed like a gypsy fortune teller?”
“Ambiance,” Peg whispered.
“You scared me half out of my wits, Gran! I drove back here at, like, a hundred miles an hour; I did an illegal U-turn right in the middle of traffic!” She glared across at the handsome young man who was watching the interchange with an amused smile. “And why is he here?”
Peg was all innocence as she tugged at her turban.
“Why Trish, darlin’, you remember Rob Hanks, don’t you?”
“I remember him, yes,” Trish snapped. “I repeat. Why is he here?”
“Nice to see you, too, Trish,” Rob grinned at her. “Your grandmother invited me. Said there might be a story in it. Ghostly ballplayer haunts the concession stand, leaves spilled sugar, shredded napkins … wooo wooo.
If her grandmother was offended, she didn’t show it. The turban, which looked suspiciously like the striped dish towel they used on the stand, slipped down over her eyes, and she pushed it back into place. To complete her costume, a brightly colored shawl was draped over her shoulders, and a dozen metal bracelets jangled as she moved her hands, whispering something under her breath, tuning them both out.
Rob smiled. “Long time no see, Trish. How have you been?”
She regarded him coldly. She’d been dreading this moment since she’d heard he’d come back to town to work for the local paper a month ago. It was amazing she’d managed to avoid facing him this long. “So you’re the new sports columnist for the Herald? I guess you never made it into the big leagues.”
As soon as the words left her mouth, she regretted the low blow. But if old loves burned brightly, so did old angers.
“Ouch,” he responded, his expression hardening. “Teenage dreams. We all have to come to grips with our own limitations, don’t we? Speaking of which, pushing popcorn and hot dogs is a long way from being a world-famous actress.”
“I do this because it allows me to go out on auditions,” she glared at him. Peg held up her hands.
“You both stop it. Now!” Peg gave another hitch to her slipping turban. “How do you expect a spirit to pierce all this negativity?”
“Gran, you look ridiculous,” Trish said. “Can’t you see he’s making fun of you? He’ll write a story for sure — about the crazy old woman at the ballpark.”
Her grandmother ignored her, her eyes shut once more as she resumed her hushed chanting.
With Gran shutting her out, Trish’s attention reluctantly moved back to the room’s only other occupant. Dark hair, dark eyes, square, even, white teeth, that jaw and those shoulders — she knew them well. Too well. Rob looked just as good as he had in high school, damn him.
Copyright © 2013 by Elley Arden, Alicia Hunter Pace, Leslie Garcia, and Bea Moon.
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Learn more about or pre-order a copy of Take Me Out from Crimson Romance before its October 28 release:
Elley Arden is a proud Pennsylvania girl who drinks wine like it’s water (a slight exaggeration), prefers a night at the ballpark to a night on the town, and believes almond English toffee is the key to happiness.
Words empower. South Texas author/educator Leslie P. García believes that absolutely. Absolutely.
Bea Moon is a former Vermonter, who made a beeline to South Florida at the first opportunity. She’s worked at many things, from waitress to executive secretary, with stopovers as newspaper columnist and freelance editor. She’s eighty years old and still doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up.
Alicia Hunter Pace is the pen name for the author team Stephanie Jones and Jean Hovey. Stephanie teaches third grade and wishes for a bigger bookstore in her small town. She likes civil war history, and people who follow the rules. She is happy to provide a list of said rules to anyone who needs them. Jean is a former public librarian who lives with her husband in a hundred-year-old house that always wants something from her. She likes to cook but has discovered the joy of Mrs. Paul’s fish fillets since becoming a writer.