I am not afraid to admit that writing a romance of sorts with a few risque scenes has been a little difficult--but fun nonetheless. It's allowed me to talk with fellow writers and see how they got past the roadblocks. The heatwaves. Past the parts that make you frown.
It's time to turn a frown upside down for now. Without fully releasing the story, here is the first two chapters of Reading the Defense that has been nothing but a joy to write so far.
I am currently wrapping the final installment and have been overwhelmed by the responses. From my pen to...it begins.
Samantha Morrison was running late. Which explained the loose strands that had fallen out of the clip at the base of her neck. All morning she had been trying to organize her classroom and get through training the teacher aide that would be helping her out through the upcoming school year.
Unfortunately the assistant seemed much more interested in text messaging and snapping her gum than educating third graders, causing Samantha to dart around the classroom stapling and taping posters to the walls, forgetting about taking a break for lunch let alone paying any attention to the state of her unruly wavy tresses. An angry ring blared from her purse as she started crossing the street to a trendy sports bar on the north side of the river.
Without needing to look at who the caller was, Samantha answered the phone without a greeting. “Where the hell are you, and why the hell is it taking you so damn long?”
She laughed at the mock anger on the other end of the phone. “Hello to you too Liz, I’m just outside.”
“Thank Christ, Jenna is already buzzed and thinking about calling Kevin. Who does that after two drinks? It’s busy in here so what do you want? We’ll order up for you.”
“Hmm, I don’t really know. Maybe just some wine?” She really didn’t feel like drinking much since she had an early morning meeting with the principal and the dean of students to go over the first quarter of assignments. Somehow showing up with a hangover didn’t seem like the best thing.
“Okay, see you in a few.”
Tossing the phone back in her bag, Samantha walked up to the entrance of the bar and tugged on the heavy door. The immediate smell of cologne was almost intoxicating, if not overbearing at first. She forgot that the bar Liz had gotten everyone to meet up at was a stomping ground for many to watch sports games. It was still earlier on a Tuesday evening, but the crowd was thick. The highlights from the city’s beloved football team streaming on the many flat screens scattered throughout the masculine interior. It never ceased to amaze her how the fans could be so fanatical over a sports team. Making her way through the sea of business suits and a full assortment of people wearing jerseys voicing their opinions of the latest draft pick to how the team had better make it to the Super Bowl, someone bumped into her from the side causing her to lose balance.
In the blink of an eye, her ankle turned and her body started to fall. Two quick hands from next to her reached around and grabbed her before she completely made an ass of herself by falling to the floor. One strong arm wrapped itself around and rested comfortably if not tightly onto the small of her back while the other hand gripped her side.
“Oh!” All Samantha could do was laugh before looking up to say thanks to the owner of the hands that seemed to be man-shackling her body. As the focus started to return to her eyes, she raised them high enough to look into the darkest pair of brown eyes she’d ever seen.
“Thanks, I have no idea how that happened.” Her eyes blue eyes twinkled as she realized how that must have sounded like a joke.
The man looked down at her then smiled, a small dimple popped out high on his cheekbone. Samantha’s eyes riveted on it for a quick second before focusing on what he was saying.
“It’s crowded in here and someone wasn’t paying attention to where they were going.” He straightened them both, releasing his arm from her back but keeping his grip on her side.
She glanced around as if to confirm what he’d said. “I guess, who knew for a weeknight.”
Nodding toward the television screens that were flooded with commercials, “It’s a perfect night for a game.”
She rolled her eyes, “Every night is perfect for a game in a sports bar.” The man chuckled, a deep rumble that hit her belly to the quick.
The temperature of the bar seemed to have gone up at least twenty degrees since she’d walked in; nervously she shook her head giving off a breathless laugh. Glancing back up, her eyes got locked into his curious gaze. After what felt like several minutes of going mute, her tongue decided it could work.
Just above a whisper she leaned forward and said, “You can let go of my jigs now.” Her fingers lightly grazing his hand as each word fell from her lips.
His brow furrowed, as if he’d heard her wrong. “Your what?”
Smiling she confessed. “My jigs, the handles that you’re hanging onto above my hips.”
The man barked out a laugh, “Are you serious? Why do you call it that?”
“Please, as if men don’t have names for their body pa-“Heat flooded her cheeks, Samantha stopped herself but it was all too late. This man who seemed almost larger than life lifted an eyebrow and grinned looking sexy as hell doing it and putting all GQ models to shame.
Leaning forward, he spoke close to her ear, his breath brushing across her skin lightly. “Well now, that’s not something I’d expect a sweet lady like yourself to know anything about.” He released his hand from her and cocked his head to the side.
This time it was she who laughed outright; after calming herself and taking a deep breath she knew she had to make her way to the group waiting for her. Or get to the nearest washroom and splash cold water on her face and all over her body.
“I really should get to my group before they call a search party.” She started to step around the man.
Nodding, he paused before speaking. “They must be waiting.” Samantha started to step around him, his brooding eyes following her every move. Only a few steps ahead she turned back and gave him a wicked grin.
“Thanks for the save, short stop.” With that she turned and weaved her way towards the back of the bar.
Gabe watched Samantha disappear into the crowd and turned back to sit with Ernie Devlin, the Offensive Line Coach. The two had come to Bandios to kick back a few and go over their game plan for the next day’s practice.
After spending most of the day reviewing game film and talking with the other coaches, Ernie had suggested that they get out of the Cougars’ compound and talk strategy over a few beers. A couple of the younger players Gabe had been working with during the off-season were showing improvement but were still arrogant on the field and forgetting their train of focus. He needed to figure a way of getting into those guys’ heads to get the plays to stick. It was when he’d chewed through an entire package of gum and snapped at the two front office secretaries did Ernie tell him they were heading out.
As he seated himself back down on the stool, all thoughts were directed to the brunette beauty that just swept passed him. A smile crossed over his lips as he recalled her nicknaming her body.
“So what was that all about?” Ernie asked, shifting his bulky body as he turned toward Gabe. Ernie Devlin, a once great running back for the Jets back in the prime of his playing career, retired ten years earlier and had decided coaching was better than playing. With coaching there were no injuries.
Gabe shrugged at the question, “Nothing, some lady almost fell. I just helped her out” He helped her out but got caught up in the bright glitter in her eyes forgetting to ask what her name was let alone see if she wanted to get a drink. Gesturing to the television screens Gabe’s attention turned from Samantha back to the team as the coverage onscreen was showcasing that morning’s practice from the Cougars’ practice field outside of the city.
“He’s quick but he doesn’t listen, look at his feet. Even from here you can see he’s dragging. Why doesn’t he tap?”
“Maybe you should take him dancing?” Gabe scoffed. “Jesus, Russ, it’s still the pre-season, keep working on him. He’ll get it sooner or later.”
Gabe picked at the label on his beer bottle and spoke under his breath. “Let’s just hope it’s not later.”
For as long as he could remember, teammates and coaches had always called him Russ. Gabe could never figure it out because his name wasn’t long, but he figured he’d rather have everyone call him his name rather than a nickname. A nickname. Gabe ran a hand through his thick brown hair as he thought about the woman who he just met. He had never been someone to forget his words but the minute he’d looked into her light blue eyes speech eluded him.
He noticed her while walking back to his seat after talking to a few of the fans in the bar, answering their questions and casually taking their ribbing about Dillon Velesques not knowing how to spell the word team. She struggled with the door as it closed behind her, but once she got passed the entrance and made her way through the crowd he saw how her pale yellow summer dress swayed above her knees with every step. Strands of her dark hair framed her face and itched to have fingers run through them. She seemed to be looking for someone and looked around the bar with wide eyes.
When she fell into him he grabbed onto her and was able to get a better look into her face. Whatever make up she must have applied earlier in the day had seemed to have worn off which probably was an all right thing considering the fairness of her skin. The brightness of her eyes, had given her a look that was sexy and very appealing.
“You coming out for Camille’s dinner thing on Sunday? She’ll be real hurt if you don’t?’ Camille Devlin loved a good cookout, especially before the season started and she became a football widow for a good seven months.
“Yeah I think so. I was going to head up to the cabin and lock it up for the summer but I should be back in time.” Gabe glanced around Ernie toward the back of the bar in search of the pretty woman in the yellow dress. Her jasmine soft perfume stuck to his nose, a thought ran passed him and he soon found himself calling out to the bartender.
“Welcome to detention Ms Morrison!” all of the ladies shouted, led by Liz, her closest friend since university, who hugged her as she sauntered to the group. They all scooted together in the booth giving space for Samantha to sit down, lifting their half filled glasses in the air in a loud toast.
“To work and all that other bullshit!” A few other people around their booth raised their glasses to join in the toast.
The table was littered with empty glasses. Tossing her bag under the table, she beamed to her friends. “Oh you ladies have been so bad. I guess aspirin is going to be my best friend tomorrow if I have to catch up to you.”
Samantha still felt flushed after having an encounter with the man at the front of the bar. His thick dark hair seemed to fall between short and a little overgrown, perfect for giving her a second to see the slight curl at the ends. His cream knit polo didn’t hide his muscular chest nor did the jeans that seemed permanently worn out lose the definition of his legs.
One of the ladies spoke loudly over the scattered cheering throughout the bar. “So what took you so long anyways? Erica was getting tired of waiting and took a few sips of your wine.” Erica giggled from the corner of the booth and shrugged her shoulders slightly. Samantha took a few minutes to explain how she walked in and almost fell, finding herself being manhandled by some random man at the front, not glossing over the fact that she put her foot in her mouth. Something that happened all of the time with her. All of the ladies gasped and encouraged her to go back up to the front and take up residence at the bar. Getting to know that mysterious man a little better.
“Yeah right, he was just being nice. It’s not like he suggested anything anyways.”
A very unconvinced Liz was the first to respond. “Sam, give us a break. You are gorgeous, maybe he was flirting with you.” Samantha’s eyes dropped down. “I’m serious, you’re always telling me I need to look up every once in awhile. You tell me to step up whenever I think Dave is seeing something and he never is. Maybe you need to look up too.”
Samantha’s eyes flicked back up and for a minute she was at a loss. Liz’s words distracted her and her eyes nonchalantly darted out towards the front in search of the man. “I don’t know, it was probably nothing.”
“Sam, you’re twenty eight and in need of sex.” She gasped at Liz’s choice of words. “Come on, how long since you and Brian broke up? Five months?”
“A year,” Erica piped up as she placed her empty glass on the table, her eyes looking out for the server.
“That’s right. A year. A vibrator and romance novels are poor substitutes for an entire year. You need a man.” The table dissolved into giggles, Samantha knew Liz was right. When the man had caught her she immediately wanted to blow off her friends and stay close to him. His hands felt so incredibly warm against her body, causing her to almost whimper aloud as he tightened his grip on her side. Something inside of her exploded and she wanted to explore it.
Forgetting about the man at the front, the women fell into easy conversations about their lives. Erica feeling the stress of all the wedding planning for her dream winter nuptials. Jenna’s failed attempts at calling her latest conquest, a college senior she met at the local coffee house. And of course Liz’s escaped night out where she can pretend she’s single for a few hours before returning home to her husband and nine month old son. Two drinks into the night, Samantha glanced down at her cell for the time. Knowing she was going to have to drive back home only added that much more time, she reluctantly grabbed her bag and gave hugs to all of the women before she left.
The server had taken her credit card to open a tab earlier and so she made her way back up to the bar to cash out.
“What the name luv?” A gorilla with no neck shouted out to her from behind the well.
Leaning her palms on the deeply varnished wood, she called back out to him. “Morrison.”
The man came back and gave her the credit card. “Tab’s been paid out, it’s no charge.”
Samantha stared at him. “What do you mean it’s been paid, I haven’t signed anything?”
“It’s no biggie, really.”
Getting annoyed she decided the gorilla needed to cough up some answers. “I’m the kind of woman who likes to know who’s floating the bill.” Instead, he looked behind her and nodded his head. Samantha didn’t have to turn around. She felt the heat of his hand as it settled into the small of her back. Twisting, she turned her head to give him a sideways glance only to be greeted by that sexy dimple.
“Looks like I’m bumping into you this time.” His voice was deep but somewhat quiet. Without thinking, she tossed the credit card into her bag, subconsciously knowing that in the morning while getting coffee she would be ripping through the purse on a desperate search for that card.
She turned to face him head on, drawing in a ragged breath mentally telling herself not to undress him with her eyes. “I can pay for my own drinks you know.”
“I’m sure you can, this just gave me an excuse to talk to you before you left. Are you really leaving for the night?”
“Yes, I have a meeting first thing in the morning.”
“Oh yeah, what do you do?” Gabe hoped she would keep talking to him for at least a couple of minutes. He had spotted her when a few of the players had stumbled into the bar. Bandidos was one of the few bars where players and coaches could go without being hassled too bad from the fans. She had been sitting with her friends, at some point during the evening she’d taken the clip out of her hair and let the long locks fall around her shoulders. He had wanted to approach her then but knew he could get her by holding her tab hostage.
“I teach third grade out near Hinsdale.” When she announced her profession, Gabe picked up on her pride instantly. “You must love your job.”
“I do, it’s funny. When I was younger if anyone ever asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always say a teacher. Now I’m grown up and I can’t picture being anything else. It’s very rewarding, and being around kids all day keeps me on my toes.”
He chuckled softly, Samantha found herself warming to the sound. “I’m sorry I’m being so rude. I’m Samantha, but I’m sure you already knew that since you somehow figured out which tab was mine in this crazy place.”
“It wasn’t that hard to find out. I know a few of the people who work here. I’m Gabe. Gabe Russell.”
Samantha leaned toward him and he could have sworn he heard her sigh. “Can I tell you something?”
He regarded her closely. “I was trying to figure out your name while I was with my friends. So now it’s my turn. What do you do?” Samantha leaned her hip against the bar and noticed a man sitting next to Gabe who seemed to be half listening to their conversation and adding bits to an ongoing conversation with a younger man on the other side of him.
Despite the genuine question he always tensed up when people asked about his career. He’d lived in the public eye professionally for so long, it had made him cautious when he met new people. “I’m a football coach.”
Her eyes widened in shock. “Really? I wasn’t expecting that.”
“What were you expecting?”
“I’m not sure, something active for sure but. Wow, really? Do you like what you do?”
“I do.” His voiced dropped a little lower. “I’ve been with the Cougars since I retired as a player a couple of years ago and coach the wide receivers. “
It was no secret he was trying to keep his voice down to avoid other people in the bar from listening to their conversation. For a moment she was glad that she decided to stick around for a few extra minutes. The man sitting next to Gabe twisted in his stool and turned toward Gabe.
“My lady’s calling, I’d better go. Don’t forget its back to back tomorrow.”
“Samantha this is Ernie Devlin. Ernie this is Samantha Morrison.”He rose from the seat and nodded at Samantha. “Nice to meet you Miz Morrison.”
He shook her hand before leaving. Gabe saw the wonder in her eyes and answered her question before the words escaped her mouth.
“He’s another coach for the team. The players have two practices tomorrow to get ready for the game against New Orleans on Saturday.”
“Oh, right. That makes sense.” Samantha stifled a yawn as it tried to force its way out but failed to hide the moisture that fell into her eyes from the act. “It’s getting late, I really should be going.”
“I guess it is getting kind of late, I should be heading out too. You don’t mind if I walk out with you do you?” Samantha’s gaze dropped to his mouth before she smiled sweetly to him.
“That would be nice.” Gabe followed her outside and asked where she was parked. For some reason he couldn’t explain, he felt uneasy at the thought of her walking several blocks so late in the evening alone. After telling her his overly exaggerated concerns of her being mauled by bears and racing cars she burst out into laughter only to give in and let him walk her to her car. They walked along the sidewalk amidst the constant clatter of oncoming traffic. The August night breeze keeping the air comfortably humid. While waiting for a few cars to pass through the second street, Gabe reached down and entwined his fingers with Samantha’s. The breath caught in her throat, he squeezed her hand and they both fell quiet until reaching her car. He was impressed with the newer model that seemed a little out of range for a teacher.
“Thank you for walking me to my car Gabe, I had fun talking with you.” Nervousness crept up her neck because this was exactly what Liz was talking about earlier. She needed to be more aware and go with the flow.
He released her hand and reached up to push a sole strand of hair away from her face. “Me too. Can I call you tomorrow?”
For a moment she said nothing but stood there looking deeply into his eyes trying to read into them. Where had he come from? Why was he walking her back to her car? After living in the city for years very few things including walking a few blocks scared her. And yet when he asked to walk her, she never would have considered saying no to him. Something about the way he was standing next to her, about the way he had been looking at her so intensely was beginning to have an effect on her insides. It took all of her strength in holding back and not throwing herself against his strong body, rubbing up and down like a cat in heat. Giving into the pressure in her belly she gave him her telephone number and then moved to get into her car.
Before she could slip away from him, Gabe reached out and ran a finger lightly down her cheek. “I’m glad we bumped into each other tonight Samantha.” God help her, all she could do was nod at the man. All she wanted to do was raise up on her toes and kiss that tempting dimple that seemed to appear at just the right moments.
The streetlight caught the glitter in her eyes as she turned back to Gabe after tossing her bag into the passenger seat. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow, coach.”
With that, Gabe closed her door and watched her speed off in the direction to the expressways. Yes, she would talk to him tomorrow.
It wasn’t quite seven o’clock the next morning as Gabe made his way back to the practice field for the second time, only this time he held a clipboard. A day he would like to forget three years ago in Indianapolis took the breath from his lungs and pulled him from the game forever. In the second quarter against the Colts he was taken down by a bone crushing hit damaging his knee. As one surgery turned into three, for the sake of his body the hit caused an early retirement at the age of thirty three. Despite being told that he would never put on his cleats again, San Francisco hired Gabe without hesitation and he started his career coaching the first season as a non player. The uproar with their management brought him to Rockford where he finally found a groove that was manageable, and a budding team itching to claim a spot in history. The club was new but that didn’t change anything. Gabe made a vow when he started coaching, he would never push a player to do something he couldn’t do himself, even if that meant getting up at the crack of dawn running lines to the comfort levels of his knee and lifting weights until exhaustion. He understood the strength and determination it took to get the job done; he also knew when to listen to his body. If the players complained it was too much, he could fight them on it or tell them to take a break. In his second season with the Cougars, Gabe was finally finding a good place as a coach.
Up ahead near the thirty yard line, Tony Soliano was already setting up so the players could start their drills after warming up. The coach was a tall and thick man in his mid-fifties. For the practice, he donned a knit polo embroidered with the Cougars’ logo on the right breast. Soliano retired before Gabe entered the league and he could remember how the ex-quarterback played even if they weren’t working together. He had been in a freshman in high school when Soliano played his last season for New England. Gabe had been sitting in the front room of his parents’ house, shouting at the small screen with his father as he broke Len Bowman’s passing record by twelve yards.
“Mornin’ Russ, you stop by your desk yet?” Tony tossed a roll of tape to the turf as he spoke to Gabe.
“I dropped off the folder on Jennings this morning before working out but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Should I be looking out for something?”
The man shifted slightly and folded his arms across his chest, looking beyond Gabe he shrugged his shoulders and waited. On the side of the field, Gabe saw Deitrichs running sprints and remembered the post it note Tony had left on his phone.“He’s fast I’ll give you that, but I don’t know if he’s ready yet to take it from the bench...”
Tony interrupted whatever else Gabe was going to say. “Put him in and see if he can take it, you’ve been pushing him hard this week. I think he could fill in the gap.”
Gabe’s eyebrows shot up, he stared incredulously at the man next to him before his mouth twitched at the corner. A rusty smile denied for the rough playing fields showed itself for the shortest of moments. The man was no fool and completely agreed with Soliano, he saw Deitrichs’ potential and was glad he wasn’t the only one.
“Was there something else I should be looking for?”
“Game film came in. I was watching it pretty late last night and think there’s a break in the defense that we can work with.”
Gabe rubbed the back of his head, his watch rattling as it moved along his wrist. Several players made their way out onto the field to stretch but Gabe didn’t see any of it. In his head he was running plays and figuring positions, clipboards be damned. “I’ll take a look after we’re done and see what we’re looking at.”
Soliano rolled his eyes and blew out a gruff laugh. “You already knew didn’t you? Damn it, sometimes I think you eat and sleep football.”
Gabe grinned broadly. “It’s my life.”
Tony smacked his shoulder before throwing his head back and laughed. “Yeah it is, if Maggie didn’t have her set of rules I’d prob’ly eat and sleep football too but seeing as my wife is the ruler of the household, it’s not allowed in the bedroom.”
Gabe had to laugh at that. A few of the players turned in their direction surprised to hear the sound rumbling from his chest and he quickly sobered. He remembered when he was married to Bree, something that was an afterthought of a misguided view of growing up. She would always complain about his shuffling papers while in bed studying up on plays, or how the flickering of the television bothered her. He should have known that the day she bought a mask to wear at night, the honeymoon had ended.
They married young at the start of his career. He was in love or so he thought. She wanted the lifestyle she thought would be automatic. Only to realize two years into their marriage that Gabe was a quiet man, he didn’t need the bright lights. Looking back, he married her because then he would have had it all. A career, a wife and a home. When she didn’t fight him over the cottage they’d shared, he knew he’d made the right decision in moving on. The last he’d heard was that she had attached herself to a defenseman in Indianapolis, wherever the ball landed he supposed, which was in the hands of much younger player.
Just then the rest of the players flooded the field and the athletic trainers started running the first thirty minutes of practice. Gabe tugged the hat low on his head and gripped the clipboard tightly to his side. As much as he should be focusing on the guys on the field, he started to get flashes of Samantha from the night before.
“Someone had a good night.” Ernie smacked Gabe’s back as he stood with the rest of the coaches.
Gabe nodded his head. He did have a good night, probably one of the better ones as of late but he was not in the mood to discuss that with Ernie considering where they were. Chalking off his time with Samantha, he focused on his break from the meetings. “Thanks for getting me out yesterday, I needed a break.”
Ernie shook his head in disapproval. “That’s not what I meant and you know it. Who’s the lady?” The two men started to walk around the players as they were listening to the instructions from the trainers.
“Just someone who was meeting up with her friends.” Ernie tossed a sideways glance at Gabe before hunching down next to Jamal Wallace, putting a hand on his back and pressing the player forward a little further to really stretch his muscles.
“That’s interesting,” Ernie said, as he stood back up and walked on with Gabe. “I’ve never seen you pay the tab for ‘just someone’.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothin’, just seemed a lot like she wasn’t just some lady you met in the bar.”
“I told you, she fell and I helped her out. There’s nothing more than that. ” Gabe started to feel flushed in his cheeks and hoped that the change in his tone only made it look like they colored in frustration.
Ernie saw right through him but decided to play him and push a little further. “So what does she do?”
Gabe answered casually as his eyes were trained on Jennings and Phillips who were making their way to the lanes. “She’s a teacher out in Hinsdale. Third grade. She said that her students last year made her throw a party for when the Cougars made it to the playoffs as long as they passed one of their tests.” He smiled, remembering how her face had been filled with embarrassment when she told him how she’d rather them celebrate for the sake of them passing their tests not for some football team winning a game.
Ernie’s mouth twitched before turning and heading out to the other side of the field. “Just someone.”
What do you mean he walked you to your car? Oh my god, please tell me you had sex!
Only Liz could be this obnoxiously fun. Samantha stifled a laugh as she stared into the screen of her cell. Their messages had been going back and forth for the past fifteen minutes. The first messages had been filled with simple morning banter, saying thanks for the invite and complaints of a grueling hangover. As her assistant asked a question about yarn, Samantha thought she had said yard and started thinking about the man she stumbled into the night before. With her thoughts drifting to the memory of his warm and strong hands as they enfolded around hers, her own fingers glided over the pad of her phone. Not realizing what she was typing, the last message had included Gabe’s name. Naturally her phone started to vibrate with an incoming call from Liz. She ignored it and placed a hand in front of her lips, catching her breath. Work was her life; she prided herself for being dedicated to her students and their work. The man with a sexy dimple had shaken her to the core; she was enjoying the feeling, but wanted to be smart about it. Before pushing through the back door to call Liz, she glanced up to make sure the aide was occupied and wouldn’t need help.
“I want details, like right now!” Liz lived for the stories of other people’s lives. She was a stay at home mother to a nine month old boy, so getting out took a lot. Gossip did not. “Hold on, Trent needs his bottle.” The sounds quieted almost immediately, Liz cleared her throat before charging back into the phone. “Okay, I want it all.”
Her voice held a ‘do not make me count to three’ tone to it, even if it was exaggerated. Giving in to her need of sharing, she started to tell Liz about how she started to leave. The skin on her chest warmed as she mentioned Gabe, reaching down she tugged at collar of her dress to get cooler air to the skin. She glossed over how he held her hand as he walked her to the car, but could not hide the sound of her breath as it faltered.
“I wonder if paying someone’s bill is the newest way of picking them up? I mean it beats having someone say, ‘Do you come here often?’”
“Yeah, but he did say something about him bumping into me when I grabbed the card. That fits the cheesy pick up line Liz.”
“He said that? That’s actually kind of cute. You know what makes this even better?“
“If it involves future plans to trip in a bar for free drinks, you need to pick another girl.”
“No, we picked the bar at the last minute. That place over on State was packed; I mean the drinks were pricey as hell, but worth it. Don’t you think?”
“I guess so.”
Liz laughed at the nonchalant way she felt about things sometimes. “You know so. You’re the only one who walked out without losing anything last night.”Except my sanity, Samantha thought to herself.
She blushed furiously, thankful that Liz could not see her. “I don’t know Liz, he was probably just being nice. “
“Being nice or being male. I would die if Dave had done something like that when we dated. I was lucky if he would walk me back to the dorms, he practically lived in the library. And forget about him buying my drinks. I’m still buying his!”
Both women laughed together at the thought of Liz’s husband. Dave Travers was tall and lanky, a man’s man in the world of environmental services. To Liz he was her very own Captain America with a green heart. Until he found a way to build communities on eco efficient properties, she would be firm to their budget. In order to graduate, Samantha had been forced to take a class on the fundamentals of tears in the layers of the atmosphere. Science was not her forte; luckily she had been teamed up with Dave, who helped tutor her way through the course. One day, Liz had been rushing into the library in search of Samantha and found her studying with Dave. When she first heard the passion behind his words as he helped her friend, she knew he was someone she was interested in. After her third visit to the library, Samantha took the hint and told Dave she had somewhere to go leaving him alone with Liz. The next day they became a couple.
Caving to her obsessive control over her classroom, she peered through the window to see how the assistant was doing. She need not have bothered; she too, was attached to a phone. “He was really sweet.” Talking about men should not be difficult, she had every right to. “And sexy as hell there’s no denying that. I don’t know it just threw me off. I mean where did he come from?”
On the other end, Liz shifted her son and sounded slightly breathless. “Well that’s easy, we called a service.”
Samantha couldn’t hold the bubble of laughter as it left her mouth. “You’re terrible Liz.”
“That is true, but I’m telling you right now you’re not going to see my credit card statement next month. I’m really proud of you Sam, you’ve been guarded lately and talking to you now, I don’t know. You seem different.”
As Liz smiled on the other end, Samantha could almost hear it and she relaxed a little. “Absolutely not, you seem happy, and excited. I haven’t heard you talk like this in a long time.”
She was happy. Last night something sparked inside of her that she didn’t understand. When she was falling into bed, her body felt light with anticipation. She hoped that Gabe would call her; but if he didn’t, his presence alone stirred a desire within her that was in need to be unleashed.
“Look Liz, I’ve got to go. I’ve got a meeting in a few minutes.”
“Okay, don’t forget Sunday. Dave has been talking non-stop for the last week about how excited he is you’re bringing that D-A-M-N salad. Mama doesn’t swear Trent, promise.”
They both fell into giggles before disconnecting. Samantha walked back into her classroom and tossed her phone into her purse. She wasn’t going to be one of those women that stared at the phone waiting for a man to call on her. She’d wait until three thirty to check her phone next to see if Gabe had called. If he hadn’t, well then she would find something to occupy her time.
A grumble rippling through his stomach broke the heavy concentration that stole Gabe’s attention. Rubbing his stomach, he looked away from the previous day’s practice as it played on a small screen next to the bookshelf in his office. Punching the button on the remote, the screen of the television turned to darkness. He hadn’t had much more than coffee and peanuts all day. Glancing down at his watch he noticed the dials read six forty five.
He was going to call Samantha and completely forgot. One of the people from the front office had brought him reels of game film, and for the past six hours he’d holed himself up in the screening room taking in each reel. Play for play. His contacts were starting to dry out, each time his eyes closed the lids felt like sandpaper.
Rubbing his thumb and forefinger across the bridge of his nose, he stepped out into the hallway of the Cougar compound. The majority of the staff had left a couple of hours before; because it was the pre-season, evening meetings weren’t in order yet so only a few of the coaches stuck around. His office was relatively small from an aesthetic view, but suited him perfectly. He’d rather be out on the field where he was at home, rather than boxed in an office attached to a telephone.
Tossing the notes in his hands aside, he grabbed the cell phone and decided enough time had been wasted. He enjoyed talking with Samantha more than he would like to admit and was looking forward in hearing the sweet sound of her voice shortly.
Gabe dialed up to her and waited.
“Hey short stop.” He was greeted with a soft laugh that was as warm as that August evening. His body started to stir at the sound.
“Hello Mr. Russell. You obviously didn’t get marred by bears last night.”
Trying to keep his body temperature under control he thought about release techniques and body control, which was not helping. “No I didn’t, and I think I can sleep better tonight knowing you made it too. How did your meeting go this morning?”
Surprised that he remembered what she said the night before, it took her a second to respond. “Good. I don’t think the principal takes me seriously because of my age. I don’t want to be bothered but I hate to say it, it bugs me.” She laughed at her own statement.
On the other end, Gabe ate up her words. He wished he was there to see her face as she spoke. Last night, as he asked if she had a favorite moment of teaching yet, she thought about it before responding but beamed at him with her pick. Not knowing he was going to hear a story that made him laugh harder than he had in years, she told in great detail how hard it can be to hold your tongue around young children. One of her students had written a dirty word on the whiteboards while she had stepped away from her desk. When she came back in the ugly word made her laugh, causing her students to laugh. Ultimately she had to explain, really mean roosters that bite should not be called ‘cockheads.’ When he asked her what the rooster should be called, she blushed furiously.
I told them that they should call it, Mr. Rooster. So when they speak in a harsh tone, the rooster would know who the boss was in that house. God, that’s awful. But so true!
“I’m sure they respect you more than you think Samantha. From what I saw last night, you seem pretty dedicated.”
Dedicated didn’t even describe it. She was married to her job and had no qualms about it. For as long as she could remember, she had wanted to be a teacher. There was something about educating others, getting them to see that a bigger and brighter future was out there and she could help seemed like the perfect gift.
Gabe pictured her rolling her eyes at him. “Dedication doesn’t get you the golden ticket now does it?”
“Hard work and determination Samantha. Hard work.”
“Yeah, yeah. Oh, I’m rambling, you must be completely exhausted with two practices in one day.”
Gabe scoffed at her playfully. “It’s not so bad, you get used to it after awhile. I’m sorry I’m calling so late, one of the other guys gave me some film to look over and I lost track of time.”
Secretly, Samantha loved that he’d even thought of her during his hectic schedule. “It’s late?” He laughed at her mock question.
“Gabe, your job is demanding. Just you wait; as soon as my students start their book reports and dissecting plants, their projects will take over failed interceptions any day.”
Gabe couldn’t hold back his laugh at that. As they talked last night at the bar to just now, Samantha seemed to understand how easily something could sweep you away from all of the plans and hours of the day.
“Ouch, I think I spot a scorned woman on the other side.”
Samantha tried her hardest to sound stern but Gabe could hear the break in her tone. “You, sir, are a tyrant if I’ve ever seen one.”
Absentmindedly, Gabe pushed the same set of papers on his desk a little further in the corner until some fell over. He was curious about her and decided to dive in. “So, are you from around here?”
“No, I’m from Seattle. I went to college here and kind of fell in love with it all and haven’t left.”
“Seattle’s a nice city, they’ve got a great football field that I’ve played in a few times. It’s pretty in the northwest. Do you miss it?”
“You would know about that field! I do miss it, all of my family still lives in Washington so the distance gets to me sometimes. I go back whenever I can to see them, especially now that my sister has kids but I love being here and can’t really picture myself living anywhere else.”
Samantha settled deeper into the couch and sighed at the thought of her family. “What about you, where do you live in the off-season?”
“I have a cabin up in Michigan, it was the first big thing w-“He quickly stopped himself before mentioning his ex-wife. “I bought it when I turned pro. Its only a few hours away in either direction to all of my family that live in the area. I was actually going to go up there this weekend to lock it up for the season.“
“You know, I’ve only been to Glen Arbor and it was gorgeous up there. “
Gabe laughed and filed that away, his cabin wasn’t too far from there. “You are a Northwesterner. I know football stadiums and you know evergreens.” On the other end, Samantha smiled. She had thought the same thing.
One of the other coaches walked past the door to his office and peered in. Gabe threw up a hand and casually waived off the man, everyone else was heading out for a dinner break but Gabe forgot about the grumble in his stomach and would rather stay on the telephone with Samantha.
“Can I ask you a personal question Samantha?”
Her belly began to tie itself in knots as she listened to Gabe. “Of course.”
“Are you seeing anyone?”
Silence fell between the two of them, Gabe was the first to break it. “I’m sorry. I just thought I’d ask, before I have some guy coming out on a search and kick ass mission to find me after talking to you.”
He was greeted with a hearty laugh and a deep inhale. In whispered tone she answered. “You’re outrageous. No. No I’m not seeing anyone.” She hesitated. “Are you?”
A huge grin split across Gabe’s face, oh he was really glad she answered her phone that night.
“ No, but I’d like to see you again.”
“Wrap a belt around the dress.” Liz shouted out from her perch on the bed with Trent, who was sitting in her lap.
Samantha dashed out of her closet past them to grab a belt from the dresser. She and Gabe had talked for a little over an hour the night before and she’d felt a little sad when they hung up. Sad for all of two seconds. Before she tossed her phone on the floor and fanned her body, she had given him her address and they agreed on a time that he would pick her up at tonight.
Tying a thick leather belt with black beads encrusted in an elegant floral design, she turned to Liz. “Better?”
Liz nodded and Trent squealed with delight. Samantha walked over and gave the baby a kiss on the top of his head and then leaned against the wall.
“Just breathe Sam, J-E-S-U-S.“ Liz’s eyes looked down at her son, the boy completely oblivious and perfectly content with the ends of a blanket. “You’d think you were going out on your first date or something. Oh wait.…” Liz chuckled.
Blowing out the air in her lungs Samantha just smiled at her friend. “This is completely ridiculous. It’s dinner. Food!” Samantha started to blush and Liz started laughing at the nervousness that was creeping up in her friend.
“There is no way I am going to eat anything!”
“Oh, you can eat something.” Liz snickered.
“Oh my god Liz, that is the last thing I should be thinking about.”
The two women had been friends for years and Liz wasn’t going to take her answers for anything. “Stop thinking and just go with it.”
Samantha knew she was right, knew she was acting silly. “You’re right.”
“I know I’m right. God I love this, and I am so glad I’m married!”
Trent decided he’d had enough of everything and started to get fussy. Taking her cue, Liz gathered everything up and started to make her way home. Samantha stopped her before they headed out the front door of her townhouse.
“Thanks for everything Liz.” Before they could leave, Samantha reached over, grabbed one of the tulips that was in a bunch by the front door and placed it inside of Trent’s diaper bag.
Putting the carrier down on the ground for a moment, Liz pulled Samantha into a tight hug. “Have fun and just be you. He called you and wants to go out with you. Remember that.” Pulling away she picked up her son and walked outside.
True to his word, at seven o’clock Gabe rung her doorbell. Taking one last look at herself, she went and opened the door.
With the first sight of her, all he could do was smile at her beauty. Samantha was dressed in a sleeveless black dress that had a flattering collar and flared out above her knees. It was flirty and fun, accenting her hair which was much wavier than he’d remembered from meeting her at the bar. Gabe held the glass door open. Stepping forward, he slipped his hand around the small of her back. Leaning close he kissed her cheek then leaned back to take her in more closely. “You look beautiful.”
Her cheeks warmed at his compliment. “Come in for a minute, I have got to grab my bag.”
Gabe walked inside and looked around at where she lived. The spacious townhome was nestled in a smaller neighborhood close to the downtown part of town. The walls were painted in creamy pastels and filled with framed artwork and metal sconces. As he walked up to see one of the pieces of art, he noticed the fresh scent of flowers and saw that there were bunches scattered all throughout her home. The house was utterly feminine, the further he got inside the more relaxed he felt. Everything inside was soft and big, the couches were overstuffed and he could almost picture Samantha curled up on it grading papers.
“One of my students made that for me last year, I just got it framed.” She said from behind him, Gabe hadn’t heard her come up to him as she spoke to his back. Looking closer, he saw a note at the bottom of the paper.
I love Miss Morrison because she laughs
Turning to face her he raised his eyebrows. As if on cue, she burst into laughter. “There’s no denying it.”
He gave in and joined her laughter. “Are you ready to go?”
“Hmm, let me think about that one.” Looking around her flat, she turned back to him and beamed. “Yes.”
Gabe took her to a restaurant along the river, with the warmth of the night surrounding them they were able to sit outside and enjoy the scenic views and privacy. Just after they were seated, Gabe asked what she would like to drink that evening and then ordered a bottle of wine to share. Samantha wasn’t used to the gesture, her last boyfriend would always drink beer. Regardless of where they went, he had a beer and would ask for it in the bottle. The glasses had always been forgotten.
Gabe was looking at Samantha intently after the waiter left them behind, his gaze was beginning to make her nervous. Giving in to the stare she laughed and spoke breathlessly.
“I was just thinking.”
“That’s a good thing.” She smirked at him.
He raised an eyebrow and tilted his head toward her. “Not all of the time.” His voice held a definite diabolical tone; he noticed her eyes widen slightly before darkening. All of the sudden he no longer felt hungry for food, the state of his arousal made him glad they were both sitting. What in the hell was wrong with him? He needed to get control and calm the hell down.
“No really, I was thinking about your place.”
“Oh, what about it?” Samantha couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed.
“I noticed the flowers that were kind of all over the place.”
She smiled, thinking about the flowers and was surprised he noticed them at all. He really was observant.
“I can’t help myself especially when out at farmers markets. It’s terrible, at least my bank account will tell you its terrible but I can’t resist. I don’t know what it is but it could be the dead of winter and I’ll still have a bouquet on the kitchen table or cups filled with whatever flower is in season in the washrooms and my bedroom.”
Gabe gazed at her and enjoyed hearing the wistful way she felt about the simplest things. “Don’t you have something you can’t help yourself with?”
He cocked his head and she laughed at his shrug of feigned innocence. Samantha was really beginning to like his amiable confidence. “Football doesn’t count.”
“Well, then I guess that’s for you to find out.”
She licked her lips, Gabe’s eyes following the motion and had to fight the urge of pulling her from her seat and sealing his lips with hers. Just as she was about to say something the waiter came over and took their orders, breaking the mood. He asked her about her friends and found out that she was planning a birthday party for a friend’s husband; she found out that one of his hobbies was wood work.
The meal was over before both of them were ready and Gabe asked if she’d like to take a walk with him along the river.
Clasping Samantha’s hand, they fell into comfortable silence as they walked on the pale stone. The sound of the rolling waves and wind rustling through the branches of the trees surrounding the path brought a sigh from Samantha’s mouth.
Leaning her side against him, she brought her eyes up to look at him. “Thank you for tonight Gabe.”
His fingers tightened around hers, stopping for a moment he bent his head and brought his lips to hers. Samantha’s lips remained closed and Gabe ran the tip of his tongue across her lower lip, then to the crease where it had fallen open slightly. Tightening her grip on his hand, she made a small moan and opened to him.
Taking his time, his tongue moved gently against hers. Gabe ached to run his fingers through her hair, releasing their hands he reached up. The hair felt soft in his hands and he could swear it smelled of fresh roses. His other hand rested in the small of her back, silently begging her closeness. Samantha tasted the powerful flavor of him and lost herself in their kiss. Her hands clutched his sport coat tightly, she tilted her head to take his tongue deeper and realized she needed to feel him. Dimly she heard a sound in his throat as one of her hands moved from his jacket and slipped to rub his side.
Heat shot straight to his groin, he knew if he didn’t step back he was going to pull her dress up around her waist and take her against one of the trees lining the path. With great reluctance he released his mouth from hers. She pouted, while Gabe ran a hand through his coarse hair and gave a nervous laugh.
Eyes locked on her swollen lip, he tried to regain some form of control. It was Samantha who spoke first.
“I think I found something you can’t help yourself with.” She smiled coyly at him and then walked ahead to catch her breath.
Shaking his head ruefully he caught up to her and once again reached for her hand, lacing their fingers together. They started walking back to his truck.
“What are your plans for this weekend?”
Samantha could hardly remember how to spell her name let alone what her plans were, but somehow her brain started functioning.
“My friend Liz is having a barbecue on Sunday so I’ll be going over there. Do you have a game?”
“Yeah, Saturday.” She looked over at him, her eyes encouraging him to talk about his work. “We’re playing New Orleans, they’re a good team. There’s one kid I’ve been working with that has the sweetest gift. I’ve been trying to figure the best way to play him and I think after watching their defense, this kid could be our surprise in taking them.”
Gabe continued to talk about his coaching methods and managed to bring up a few of the people he tried to coach like to his players as they got to the truck. Samantha lived practically in the center of the town and they arrived at her driveway in minutes. He shut off the engine and glanced over at her; she was digging in her bag for the keys but stopped to look back at him. Smiling, he just shook his head and got out to walk over and open her door.
As Samantha stepped out she held on to Gabe’s hand. “I had a really good time tonight, thank you again.”
“You don’t ever have to thank me.” He reached up and pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. Sweet breath escaped her lips, Gabe’s mind short circuited from keeping cool to wanting her. Pulling her close he crushed her lips with his in a devouring kiss. She responded with fervor and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. Her breasts were pressed against the front of his jacket and he could feel the softness against his chest. His tongue was aggressive and she matched his passion with her own. Gabe’s large hands reached down grabbing her bottom urging her closer. Samantha groaned into his mouth as she felt his hot and thick arousal pressing into her. She wanted to push her hands into his pants and feel him, feel the weight of what she’d done to him.
Gabe broke the kiss when he felt Samantha rub up his body. It took him a minute for the focus to return to his eyes. Her lips were swollen from his bruising kisses; he couldn’t resist taking a little nip on the bottom lip that glistened from the light of a nearby streetlamp.
Samantha brought her arms down and placed her palms on his chest. “Oh, I really want to do this. “ The heat from her palms was driving him crazy.
“Me too, but I think I need to go back to my truck.” He stepped back a little and tried to adjust himself as casually as possible.
Her eyes snapped up to his. “What?”
Gabe saw her confusion and laughed. “It’s a school night ma’am.” He leaned down and kissed her nose. “And now you owe me.”
A breathless laugh swooped over her. God this man was impossible Samantha thought to herself. “How do you figure that?”
“Well see, I’ve gone out of my way twice for you. Now you have to take me out.” The corner of his mouth kicked up and he gave her a wicked grin. Something that did not help the burning in her belly.
Samantha nodded and turned toward the path leading to her front door. Before she got to the curve of the path, she turned to face Gabe.
“I owe you more than a drink coach.”
Turning back, she disappeared to go inside. Gabe stood back for a minute, standing like an idiot in her driveway staring at the space she just left afraid he heard her wrong. He shook his head until he slipped into the driver seat, looking at the garage door he threw his head back and laughed.