by Desiree Holt
Game On Book Four
Go Big or Go Home
When her relationship goes up in flames, Holly Funchess jumps straight back into the heat—by becoming a firefighter. Running as far away from her past as she can, Holly trains hard and lands a job with a small San Diego firehouse. With everything to prove, she has no problem putting her love life on the back burner. But where there’s smoke…
A former football player with a string of failed relationships behind him, Chase DeMarco has put his all into his Coast Guard career and the youth football team he coaches. He’s not about to let anyone distract him—especially Holly, the woman at his gym who seems to relish getting under his skin. But when their skirmishes turn into full-contact workouts—and they face off against the dangers of their jobs—Chase and Holly must choose between letting the clock run down or playing to win…
Genre: Contemporary RomancePurchase link(s): Amazon ARe BAM iTunes Kobo B&N
Content/Theme(s): Firefighter, Coach, Coast Guard, Football, Military, Sports
Release Date: October 25, 2016
Publisher: Lyrical Shine
Excerpt & More
Chase DeMarco parked his SUV in front of Pump It Up and grabbed his gym bag from the backseat. Resigned, he climbed out and pressed his key fob to lock the doors, taking in the large two-story building in front of him. It was crazy to come to this gym—a study in concrete, steel, and glass, definitely not his kind of place—instead of his regular gym. But avoiding his friends tonight was more important than his comfort level, and he desperately wanted a workout after a long day at sea. Swallowing a sigh, he jogged up the sidewalk to the entrance.
Just as he reached the doors, his cell phone rang. For a long moment, he hesitated, not sure if he wanted to answer. He had a feeling he knew who it was, and he wasn’t in the mood for the conversation. As the ringtone stopped, he pulled his phone from his pocket and looked at the readout. Yup. Right on the money.
As usual, John “Johnny-On-The-Spot” McFarland had lousy timing, always in Chase’s face when Chase least wanted him around. He and John had been solid friends for sixteen years—four at the Academy and twelve in the Coast Guard. They had come up through the ranks together, and now John served on the patrol boat that Chase commanded. The phone rang for a second time. Persistent ass. Would John not leave him alone? When the phone rang yet a third time, Chase gave a sigh and tapped the screen to accept the call.
“Hey, bud.” John’s voice rumbled through the connection. “Where are you? Don’t tell me you’re standing us up tonight. After we sweat for an hour, we’re all taking Mancini out to get him drunk and celebrate his engagement. We’re waiting for you.”
Waiting for him. Great. Unless someone’s schedule made it impossible, Chase and three of his friends met at the Coast Guard’s fitness center every night to work out. They’d been doing it since they’d all arrived at the San Diego facility. Sometimes they went out afterward, sometimes not. But it was a comfortable habit and he enjoyed it. Except for tonight. He’d told John he wouldn’t be there, given him a lame excuse. He should have known his friend wouldn’t let him off the hook that easily.
He just hated shit like this. It wasn’t just celebrating his friend’s engagement that left a sour taste in his mouth. It was the fact that every time one of his friends got hooked up, they wanted to find someone for him. Why was it when two people coupled up they wanted the same thing for everyone else? Couldn’t they see he was happy just the way he was? That he did just fine flying solo? He told them often enough. DamnJohn—and everyone else—for refusing to believe it.
He swam on the surface of the dating pool, never sticking with any one female too long. He always broke it off before there was a chance for someone to get hurt.
He sighed again. “Sorry, buddy. Remember I told you I had a conflict? Text me where you guys end up. If I can do it, I’ll catch up with you later.”
There was a long silence.
“Jesus, Chase. Enough already. Get your ass in gear for later. I’ll text you where to meet.” John paused. “Don’t let us down,” he warned.
Chase would have answered him, but he was listening to dead air.
His life in the Guard was who and what he was, a man to be respected and admired. It was his anchor in life. Women came and went, but the Guard was always there, steadfast and loyal.
The days at sea were exhilarating, the work he did soul satisfying. Validating.
Validation, the thing he craved the most. It was a counterbalance to the words that never left his head.
“It isn’t you, Chase. I just can’t stay in this house any more, not even for you. Be good for your dad.” His mother’s voice seemed permanently lodged in his brain.
Along with that of his high school sweetheart. “Come on. Unbend a little. We’re celebrating graduation, right?”
And Cheryl, the last straw for him. “We were just having a little fun. Why are you such a stick in the mud?”
He’d wanted to ask her if she’d ever heard of a thing called fidelity, but it seemed the women he chose in his life either hadn’t heard of the word or didn’t pay much attention to it.
The voices played in his head, echoing down through the years. Only his achievements in the Guard kept them locked away.
John wasn’t right in his assessment, though. Chase was a commander in the United States Coast Guard. He wore his uniforms and his designation proudly. It defined him. No woman would ever be able to compete with that or shake his confidence again.
No relationships. Ever. And he was fine with it, at last.
But damn. Now he felt guilty for avoiding his friends tonight. Why couldn’t this be a practice night for the youth-league football team he coached? It would have given him the best excuse in the world.
Chase, you’re an asshole.
Yeah, he probably was.
“Are you planning to stand there blocking the door all day?”
The words were hostile but the voice had a low, musical quality to it that for some reason teased at his nerve endings. He turned around and nearly smacked into the woman behind him. She took a step back and glared at him.
“Did you hear me?” she demanded.
A more fanciful man might call her an earth goddess. She was tall, the top of her head coming just past his shoulder. Her long legs were emphasized by the short shorts she wore. Brown hair with streaks of light scattered through it was scraped back in a tight ponytail, the style accenting the hazel of her eyes, her high cheekbones, and her almost translucent skin.
What the fuck? Who was that stranger talking in his head? He’d been listening to his friends’ wives and girlfriends too much.
“Well?” Her voice was impatient now. “You know standing where you are you’re blocking the door, right? Some of us actually want to go inside and work out.”
Chase shook himself.
“Sorry.” He opened the door and stepped aside to let her enter, trying not to notice that she had a most excellent ass.
“Geez,” she huffed. “Some people.”
She flicked a glance at him over her shoulder as she moved into the building carrying her workout bag. Chase had to drag his eyes away from her. Tonight he was all about working out, not hooking up, not when his friend’s engagement had dredged up yet again all the reasons why happy ever after wasn’t for him.
Still, as though some evil elf were sitting on his shoulder, he tracked the woman’s movements as she checked in at the reception desk and headed toward what he assumed were the locker rooms. The traces of whatever fragrance she wore still lingered, driving him crazy. As she walked, her ponytail bounced with the sway of her ass. He—
“May I help you?”
Chase rolled up his tongue and turned toward the front desk. Enough already.
“Uh, yeah, hi. I’d like to work out tonight. It’s my first time here, so what kind of arrangements do I need to make?”
He tried to concentrate as the nice young lady behind the counter explained membership fees, guest passes, trial packages, and whatever else Pump It Up offered. But it was hard to concentrate when his brain seemed to have self-destructed. What the fuck?
“Yeah, I’ll take that,” he said, wondering exactly what he’d opted for.
“The thirty-day trial package?” The girl beamed at him. “That’s a great way to start. Almost everyone who buys it ends up going for the full ride.”
Thirty-day trial package? Had the snippy female mesmerized him so much he’d forgotten where he was? He’d only come here for one night. Oh, well, it would do him some good to take a step back from the group until they got over all the happy celebrating. He took the papers the girl pushed at him, filled them out, and handed her his credit card. Along with his receipt, she handed him a two-page brochure on the facility itself and a diagram showing where all the different machines and equipment were located.
He changed in the locker room, stowed his things in a locker, and hung the key bracelet on his wrist. His normal pattern was to start with either a treadmill or an elliptical, so he headed for the long double row of them facing the front wall of glass. The treadmills were first, but then he spotted Miss Ponytail at an elliptical so, perverse idiot that he was, he marched over and took the one beside her. After placing his water bottle in the tray and hanging his towel over the bar, he climbed aboard and set his program.
Why on earth was he doing this? He made it a firm habit to stay away from women with attitude like she’d displayed at the door. Women were problem enough without bothering with the hostile ones. Yet here he was, right in her space.
She glanced at him briefly, frowned, and went back to focusing on her routine and whatever she was listening to with her ear buds.
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