Authors: Sherri Hayes
Tags: #Suspense, #Fiction, #Romance
First published by The Writer’s Coffee Shop, 2013
Copyright © Sherri Hayes, 2013
The right of Sherri Hayes to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her under the
Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000
This work is copyrighted. All rights are reserved. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced, copied, scanned, stored in a retrieval system, recorded or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
The Writer’s Coffee Shop
(Australia) PO Box 447 Cherrybrook NSW 2126
(USA) PO Box 2116 Waxahachie TX 75168
Paperback ISBN - 978-1-61213-143-6
E-book ISBN - 978-1-61213-144-3
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the US Congress Library.
Cover image by: © Les3photo8 | Dreamstime.com,
© Kozini | Dreamstime.com
Cover design by: Jennifer McGuire
Also by Sherri Hayes
A Christmas Proposal (a Hidden Threat short story)
Slave (Finding Anna, Book 1)
Need (Finding Anna, Book 2)
Behind Closed Doors (Daniels Brothers, Book 1)
About the Author
Sherri is the author of four novels:
Behind Closed Doors
(A Daniels Brothers’ Novel), and a short story,
A Christmas Proposal
. She lives in central Ohio with her husband and three cats. Her mother fostered her love for books by reading to Sherri when she was a child. Stories have been floating around in her head for as long as she can remember, but she didn’t start writing them down until five years ago. It has become a creative outlet that allows her to explore a wide range of emotions while having fun taking her characters through all the twists and turns she can create. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found helping her husband in his woodworking shop.
This book is dedicated to my dad. Without him, I'd never have developed a love of professional football. We spent many hours watching football and yelling at the television together while I was growing up.
irst, I'd like to thank my two beta readers. They saw this story in the rough, but were always there with encouragement and ideas.
Also, a big thanks to all of my Facebook and Twitter followers. They always rise up to the challenge when I post strange questions that seem to make no sense, and they’ve been a great support, always encouraging me to “write faster.”
It was late by the time Gage Daniels arrived home Tuesday night. He was tired and more than ready for a few days off. Too bad he had to report to practice the next morning.
He tossed his keys in the bowl he had sitting just inside the door as he made his way into the kitchen to get something to drink. He noted that everything seemed to be in its place. His brother and his girlfriend had cleaned up after themselves well after using his home this weekend. That was good. The last thing he wanted was to come home to a trashed house. Not that he could imagine Chris ever partying like that. No. That was Gage’s style. At least, it used to be.
Reaching into the fridge, he grabbed a beer and popped the top before taking a large swig. He had spent the last day and a half in Los Angeles with his manager, Mel, at an underwear photo shoot, of all things. Gage didn’t dispute he was a good-looking man, but why someone wanted to put him, a quarterback, in a pair of tighty-whities in a magazine was beyond him. He didn’t get it.
Mel had set everything up, so at least the previous day’s shoot had gone smoothly. That morning had been another story. For whatever reason, his manager scheduled an interview with some magazine he’d never heard of. Apparently they were big in Europe or something. He said it would be good for Gage’s image. Although after the interview, he wasn’t exactly sure what
they were trying to promote. The woman conducting the interview had pawed at him the entire time.
“What do you like to do when you’re not playing football?” She reached out to caress his thigh, her tone filled with innuendo. He knew he had a reputation as sort of a player, but come on! He was supposed to be there on business, not to get in her pants. Business was business. He didn’t like mixing the two. Even if he had, there was no way he would have gone for a reporter, no matter how attractive. That was just asking for trouble.
“Swim.” He’d kept his answer short, hoping she’d take the hint and move on with another line of questioning. No such luck.
“Hm. Anyone in particular you like to swim with? A girlfriend perhaps?” Her fingers glided suggestively against his arm this time. He leaned back in his chair, away from her. It didn’t work. She compensated by leaning in, her top dipping low.
“Surely you don’t like to swim . . .
By the time the interview had finished, the woman was practically in his lap. He’d politely excused himself and retreated to the car waiting out front to take him to the airport. The magazine was taking care of the lunch bill anyway, so it wasn’t as if he had to stick around to pay.
To make matters worse, someone had recognized him on the plane, and he’d spent the entire flight signing autographs and answering questions. Normally, he didn’t mind. Really, he didn’t. He loved his fans, and it was part of the job. After his disastrous lunch, however, he’d just wanted to be left alone.
Turning around, Gage spotted an envelope on the counter. How he’d missed it before was a testament to how tired he was, since it was lying there in plain sight. He picked it up and carried it with him upstairs to his bedroom. As much as he was dreading it, he had tapes for this coming Sunday’s game to look over.
He booted up his laptop and logged into the team’s private account. In the old days—not that he’d been around for the old days, since he’d only been playing professionally for five years—the players would huddle around a single television in one of the conference rooms to watch footage of the other team. He’d done that in high school, and that had been bad enough. This way was much better. Everything he needed to prep for the following day’s team meeting was accessible through a website and could be downloaded to his laptop and streamed to his big screen television. Once everything was set, he settled back against his pillows and pressed play.
The team they were playing wasn’t doing all that well this year, but their defense was solid. In fact, from what he could see, their defense was scoring as much as their offense. He would need to work with his receivers on protecting the ball. Turnovers could kill a team faster than anything.
An hour into the footage, his gaze drifted back to the envelope he’d brought upstairs. It seemed to be mocking him from where it lay on his nightstand. Picking it up, he saw his name handwritten on the front. It was just like all the others, and he knew what he’d find inside.
The first one had shown up two months ago at the stadium. It had been found by the front office manager and brought down to him. He’d taped it to the front of his locker. At first, he’d thought it was a fan letter, so he hadn’t opened it right away. Instead, he’d taken it home. Some of his fan letters, especially ones from women, tended to be slightly more explicit, and he didn’t like reading that stuff in front of the guys. In the privacy of his own home was . . . safer.
He knew from the handwriting on the front, however, that what he currently held in his hand wasn’t a fan letter. Flipping it over, he took a deep breath, opened the envelope, and pulled out the contents. As with all the others, there were pictures of him and a single sheet of paper that said
I’m watching you
. These pictures were from last weekend when he’d gone out with some of the guys after the game. A busty blonde was sitting on his lap, making sure he could see all her assets. She hadn’t really been his type—he preferred women who could at least hold their own in a conversation—but he was in the mood to party, and she was available. As he’d told the reporter, he didn’t have a girlfriend. Although he didn’t sleep around nearly as much as he had early on in his career, he wasn’t celibate either.
He looked at the pictures again, frustrated. Whoever was stalking him was doing a bang-up job of it. He had been photographed in nearly every public place he’d gone over the last two and a half months, and he’d not been able to spot anything out of place, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. Even the night the picture in his hand was taken, he’d thought he’d been diligent. The club was crowded but not any more than usual. People were moving comfortably throughout—socializing and dancing. He’d not seen any indication someone was paying him, or his teammates, any more attention than they normally provoked when they were out in public.
Throwing the letter down on his nightstand, he leaned back against the headboard of his bed and ran a hand through his hair. Tim Donovan, the team’s owner, would want to know about this. He’d nearly flipped a lid when he’d found out about the last one through the grapevine and that it hadn’t been the first. Tim had made Gage promise to come to him immediately the next time it happened. He’d even threated to bench Gage if he didn’t, and there was no way he would let that happen.
Shutting everything off, Gage lay back on his bed and stared up at the ceiling. Who was doing this and why? It didn’t make sense. He was just a football player.
Rolling over, he punched his pillow until he found a semicomfortable position. He’d need to take a detour to Tim’s office first thing in the morning. There was no way he was giving Tim an excuse to keep him on the sidelines.