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Shakedown (Gridiron Book 1) by Lea Hart (1)



Kicking outside of my coverage


Jack hadn’t fumbled so badly since Peewee Football and hoped like hell he never did again. He was a fine-tuned football machine, the best damn defensive end in the NFL, and one woman certainly wasn’t going to change that.

No matter how much evidence mounted to suggest otherwise.

Giving himself a pep talk, he shook off the bad juju and strode off the field, knowing that one way or another Ana James was going to spend five minutes in his company.

Even if he had to resort to some shady tactics to make it possible.

Grabbing a towel from one of the assistants, he wiped off his face and nodded to his best friend, Clark. “You feel like going over to Ronnie’s office after practice?”

“Not really, but the look on your face tells me I may not have much of choice.” Resting his hands on his pads, he narrowed his eyes. “Does this have anything to do with her best friend who’s avoiding you like a bad rash?”

“If I tell you she wants me to come by to sign some paperwork, will you believe me?”

Snorting, he rolled his shoulders. “Not a chance in hell.”

“I need to get my mind right and have decided that Ana is the person who’s going to make it possible.”

“One woman’s lack of interest is not your problem.”

He shifted from one leg to another, then looked across the field. “I know, but I haven’t been able to get her out of my mind since meeting her six weeks ago. Which tells me we need to spend some time together so I can figure out why.”

“And that doesn’t make you sound like the biggest pansy ass in the league, in case you were wondering.”

Jack flipped him off and then leaned back so he could stretch out his back. “Don’t really care what it makes me sound like since I don’t give a rat’s ass what other people think.”

“This has disaster written all over it, but I’m not going to let you go in alone, so I’ll come to Ronnie’s.” Twisting from side to side, he let out a grunt. “What exactly do you hope to accomplish when we’re there?”

“I’m going to appeal to her soft heart and tell her that I need her help with Ana and pray she doesn’t laugh her ass off.”

“Ronnie doesn’t have a soft side. She’s a lioness parading as a sweet southern woman and will take you down just as easily as offer you a glass of sweet tea.”

“I think deep in her heart she knows that Ana and I would be great together, and plan on exploiting that until she helps me out.”

Clark shook his head and snatched a water bottle from the kid walking past. “Why don’t you just grab one of the women who throw themselves at you on the regular and forget about Ana James?”

“Not possible, man.”

“You’re kicking outside your coverage with that one and nothing good is going to come of it.”

“I’ve been doing the impossible since I was in high school and don’t plan on changing now. Ana fits the picture in my head, and I want a damn chance to see if I’m right. Because if I am, then life just got fucking simple.”

Flipping his hand up, Clark closed his eyes. “Quit talking.”

“Don’t be jealous, man, you’ll find yours eventually.” Seeing his coach signal, he waved and then punched Clark. “It’s all going to work out.” And he knew it would because he never let anything get in his way and made doing the impossible a regular habit.

And the woman trying to make an end-run around him would soon understand that.




Ana stood next to Ronnie and stared out the windows at the expansive view of South Beach. “Does the view of half-naked people ever get old?”

“Not really,” Ronnie responded. “Not that I get a chance to enjoy it very often since professional athletes are about as needy as toddlers.”

“Well, if anyone can keep them in line, it’s you.”

Letting out a laugh, Ronnie jutted out her hip. “Even if I have to crack a whip to do it.”

“Said the woman with an evil glint in her eye.”

“It’s not evil, just determined.”

“Speaking of determined, why is Jack Ellis blowing up my phone? Did you say something to encourage him?”

“Of course not. I’ve done nothing but put a pin in his balloon of infatuation, but whatever you did to him in San Diego is not wearing off. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you cast a spell on him.”

“I was barely civil, so unless he thrives on rejection, there is no other explanation.”

“That poor man, bless his heart, has fallen for you and wants a date like his life depends on it.”

“He only wants what is not immediately available. He’s got the world, women, and fans falling at his feet regularly, so clearly, the one woman denying him has become his holy grail.”

“Maybe so, but he’s smitten and isn’t going to rest until you’ve agreed to go on a date.”

“Ugghhh.” Turning, she walked over to a chair that faced Ronnie’s desk and collapsed. “I do not want to date a football player. Especially one that is so…”


“I was going to say big, rich, and popular.”

“Yeah, who would want that? Sounds disgusting.”

“Ha. Ha.”

Ronnie took her seat behind her desk and folded her hands. “I’m not saying you should marry the guy but having a meal together is not a totally crazy idea.”

“We have nothing in common and would bore each other to tears within ten minutes.”

“Excuses,” Ronnie announced. “Flimsy excuses.”

Groaning, Ana sat forward. “Why are you on his side?”

“I’m not, but he’s so love-struck that a little piece of my cold heart can’t help but react. It’s so damn endearing.”

“Where is my friend Ronnie?” Leaning back, she narrowed her eyes. “Clearly, you’re an imposter and can’t be trusted.”

Letting out a huff, she moved things around on her desk. “I know; it’s weird, and the only explanation I can come up with is that being pissed off for a year has worn me down.” She picked up a small voodoo doll from the bowl on her desk and flipped it around. “If I’m not careful, I may become a matchmaker.”

“Please, don’t.” Hearing heavy footsteps, she turned and saw Ella walk in. “How can you wear Doc Martins in Florida?”

“The same way I wore them in Texas. It’s my signature look, and a little heat and humidity aren’t going to change that.”

Ronnie stood and smiled. “Never let the elements take your style.”

“Not hard since I hardly have one,” Ana mumbled as she hugged Ella and then let Ronnie do the same. “Should we run out and grab lunch now?”

“Not necessary,” Ronnie replied. “Nelson is picking it up for us and should be back shortly.”

“I love Nelson,” Ella swooned as she sat down and smoothed out her flowered dress. “He’s the only man that understands my sense of humor and doesn’t make me nervous.”

“That’s because he’s gay and adores you,” Ronnie replied. “If he were hetero, it would be a whole different ball game.”

“I know,” Ella replied with a sigh. “I need to practice casual chit-chat with regular men and see if it’s possible not to make them run away.”

“They don’t run away,” Ana responded as she took her friend’s hand. “They just don’t know what to do with all of your colorful stories.”

Ella rolled her eyes and leaned back. “My mama used to say the same thing to my aunt right before she was committed.”

“My next party will be the perfect opportunity for you talk to as many men as you can stand,” Ronnie said as she took her seat. “I’ll tell Gerald to make sure the guest list includes some candidates for you.”

“What about Ana?” Ellie asked.

“There’s a certain football player who’s very interested, and I think she should give him a chance before she takes on anyone else.”

“Yeah, that’s not going to be a shit show,” Ella responded as she glanced over.

“It’s time you both kick outside of your coverage because dating another brainiac clearly isn’t the answer.”

“And what does that mean?” Ana asked.

“Loosely translated, it means going after someone who you wouldn’t normally consider.”

Ella smirked and raised an eyebrow. “That is a very loose interpretation since it usually refers to dating someone out of your league.”

“Exactly,” Ronnie replied. “Because it’s time we all considered men who are not our intellectual equals.”

“Certainly gives us a much bigger dating pool,” Ella responded.

“And a lot more men who can tell us they’d prefer sexy over smart.” Shaking her head, Ana crossed her arms. “No thanks.”

“Open mind, open heart,” Ella responded.

“And where did you pick up that piece of wisdom?” Ronnie asked.

“Fortune cookie.”

“Can’t make me,” Ana replied as she studied both her friends. When they each gave her a bland smile and nodded, she knew they were absolutely going to make her. Whether she would survive was a whole other question.



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