Rising star Zack Grantham has been stuck in a downward spiral of grief ever since the car accident that left him a single dad and put his career on hold. Back on the road with the Carolina Cold Fury and still crippled by emotional baggage, he’s in need of some serious help with his son. But while the nerdy new nanny wins his son’s heart, Zack isn’t sure he’s ready for a woman’s touch—even after getting a glimpse of the killer curves she’s hiding under those baggy clothes.
Kate Francis usually keeps men like Zack at a distance. Though his athlete’s body is honed to perfection, he refuses to move on with his life—and besides, he’s her boss. Still, the sparks between them are undeniable, tempting Kate to turn their professional relationship into a personal one. But before she makes a power play for Zack’s wounded heart, Kate will have to open him up again and show him that love is worth the fight.
The overhead lights go out, and the club would be in total darkness if not for the recessed lights that edge the perimeter of the stage. I slouch down in my seat, pulling my ball cap lower over my forehead. This causes me to have to tilt my head back a little bit farther to watch the show but keeps my face better obscured. The beard I’d been growing for the past four months I’m sure helps to hide my fame as well.
I don’t want to be recognized.
I don’t want anyone to see me and realize just how low Zack Grantham has fallen from grace.
A sexy techno beat starts thrumming low, gradually building in decibels. A few whistles pierce the air, one redneck sounding a catcall. A rolling tide of mechanical fog slithers across the black lacquered stage and then swirling spotlights from the corners of the club start rotating. A slight flutter at the pitch-black curtains that sit closed tight is the only indication that something is about to happen.
A quick glance down at my phone that sits on the table in front of me shows that the time is almost midnight. Time for the grand finale of the evening. The moment all of the drunk and horny patrons of The Golden Box have been waiting for.
I ignore the phone, but tip back the tequila shot sitting in front of me, my eyes sliding up to the stage as I set the glass back down. When the music reaches its apex, a slim but toned bare leg sporting an obscenely high-heeled red shoe peeks through the slit of the curtains, thigh parallel to the floor . . . calf muscle taut, with toes pointing downward. The whistles and catcalls increase, but I watch dispassionately.
The owner of that bare leg raises her knee up higher, then stretches it out fully . . . gracefully, and holds it there, just as the music lulls to a slow grind.
She holds it for just a second.
Just a moment, where everyone waits to see what comes next.
The curtains fly apart just as the bass thump of music crashes through the club and a stunning woman with glorious curly blond hair bursts through. My brain processes a starched white button-down shirt and a black fedora on her head, then just as quickly processes the fact that she reaches to the dipping gap at her chest and rips the shirt open. Beautiful, round, and by the looks of them, real, boobs pop forth . . . spectacularly bare and bouncing.
A hundred horny men start cheering and I’m sure the majority of dicks go to full mast.
The stripper, who I happen to know goes by the name Candi Apple—and yeah, that’s Candi with an i—struts confidently up to the silver pole lodged firmly at the edge of the stage.
Hips swaying, tongue licking at her full bottom lip, hair wild and blowing from some kind of cheesy wind machine built into the stage flooring.
Her right hand reaches out, grabs the pole, and she bends her knees . . . squatting way down until her ass is almost on the floor. Her legs are spread wide and the rotating strobe lights cause sparkles to bounce off the silver sequins that cover the scrap of material between her legs. Candi gyrates her hips, fucking the pole . . . right in front of me. Her dark eyes scan the men surrounding the stage, calculating who might be the biggest tipper. Her gaze passes right over me because I don’t have green clutched in my fingertips waving back and forth with zeal to stuff them in her G-string.
The show goes on and I watch it all . . . willing for my body to feel something. I’d hoped for a hard-on to prove I wasn’t dead, but even a slight fluttering of lust deep in my groin would have been welcomed. Hell, I’d probably kill for a gurgle of indigestion—just fucking something— anything to show I could react.
I come up fucking empty.
The slight ache in my right wrist pulls my attention away from the tits and ass, and I open and close my fist several times to ease the cramp, finally giving it a hearty shake. Overall, my wrist has healed well over the last four months. The plates and screws have been removed, physical therapy has been completed, and I’m feeling physically strong. Yeah . . . my wrist is aching right now, but only because I’ve been gripping the armrests of my chair too tightly while I waited to see if Candi Apple might be the one to bring me back to life.
Luckily, it’s just an ache and certainly not something that gives me any pause. I’ve been cleared by the team orthopedist, Mark Godson, and cleared by Coach Pretore as well. Starting next week, I’ll resume practice with the team, and if I’m lucky, it won’t be long before I’m back in the game . . . a starting second-line left winger for the Cold Fury.
My insides feel dead, my capacity to care for much of anything seems lost, but there are two things that still keep me functioning. It’s the prospect of playing hockey again, and, more important, my son, Ben.
A flare of light catches my eye and I see my phone screen glare brightly. I grab it and wince at the angry text from my sister, Delaney.
WTF Zack? You leave an hour ago to get some milk and you’re not back. Where are you?
Guilt suffuses through me, and it’s not lost on me that I’m actually feeling an emotion. But then again . . . the acknowledgment of guilt has not been hard for me the past four months.
I wonder what Delaney would say if I texted her back I’m at a strip club. Hoping Candi Apple turns me on.
She’d shit a brick, that’s for sure.
About The Author:
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author, Sawyer Bennett is a snarky southern woman and reformed trial lawyer who decided to finally start putting on paper all of the stories that were floating in her head. Her husband works for a Fortune 100 company which lets him fly all over the world while she stays at home with their daughter and three big, furry dogs who hog the bed. Sawyer would like to report she doesn’t have many weaknesses but can be bribed with a nominal amount of milk chocolate.
Sawyer is the author of several contemporary romances including the popular Off Series, the Legal Affairs Series, the Last Call Series and the Carolina Cold Fury Hockey Series.