A hard hit can totally stun a person who is used to playing the field:
Jamie Winston has finally made it to the big leagues! He’s off to Wichita to play for the Wichita Warriors, a professional football team. It’s a little rough being so far away from the world he used to know so when he befriends a waitress in a small town bar, it makes life somewhat easier.
As his friendship blossoms into something more, he’s amazed that one woman can change his perception of ‘playing the field.’
But when his old world collides with his new world, it shatters his peaceful life and threatens to destroy the love he’s finally found.
Playing the Field will be available on lulu, Smashwords, and Kindle in September.
Here’s a preview of Chapter One:
Jamie Winston stood beside his best friend, RJ Shaw, tilting a glass of champagne to his mouth as he watched his other best friends try to maneuver a fancy knife over an equally fancy cake. A smirk curled his lips as the couple finally managed to saw off a slim slice, dividing it into two morsels.
“Ten bucks says she smashes it in his face,” RJ leaned over to whisper.
Jamie snorted. “Twenty bucks says he shoves it up her nose.”
“You are so on,” RJ said, setting his glass down on a nearby table in order to rub his hands together. “She’s too fast for him.”
Jamie lifted a shoulder as he trained his eyes on the couple pausing with the morsels of cake so the photographer could snap a picture.
“Here we go,” RJ said as the couple moved closer together and gently fed each other the cake. “Are you kidding me?”
“Come on, man!” RJ shouted to general laughter. “Ally, I know you can do better than that! Smash it in his face!”
The bride, radiant in the white, satin gown that clung to her curves before flaring out into a long train, flashed an evil look in RJ’s direction. She wiped her hands on the napkin her groom offered her before hiking up the bodice of her strapless dress.
“Oh, please do not let that dress fall down her chest,” Jamie groaned. “That is not a part of my cousin that I need to see.”
Beside him, RJ guffawed, clapping Jamie on the back. “I’m surprised she even wore a dress. I always thought Ally would get married in jeans.”
“Ally? Look at Cole,” Jamie said, pointing to the groom dressed in an immaculate white tux, wiping his own hands on a napkin. “Never thought he’d willingly wear a monkey suit.”
“He’s just jealous because he doesn’t look as good as us,” RJ said, pointing at the black tuxes he and Jamie had donned for the occasion.
“Probably,” Jamie said as he snatched a fresh glass of champagne from a waiter, gesturing for RJ to do the same. “Let’s go outside, man. It’s getting stuffy in here.”
The wandered out of the building and into the garden where small, white lights had been masterfully strung on the trees and bushes, creating a fairytale-like atmosphere. Although it was early May, plenty of flowers bloomed in rich, vibrant colors, lining the flagstone path that wound through the gardens to a bubbling fountain.
“This place is kind of cool,” RJ said, a touch of red in his cheeks.
“It is,” Jamie concurred. “I guess Aunt Liz found it first and when she brought Ally here, Ally fell in love with it.”
“Don’t blame her,” RJ said as he stood before the fountain, watching the water fall from the top layer of the fountain. “So, when are you going to tell them?”
Jamie sighed before draining his glass. “I have to tell them soon, although I don’t really want to tell them tonight. This entire day is about them, you know?”
“Yeah, but,” RJ said, turning to face his friend. “They leave tomorrow for their honeymoon. She’ll be pissed if you don’t tell her.”
“I know. And I have to fly out to Wichita this week to finalize everything and find a place,” Jamie said. “The preliminary camp begins in June. Training camp starts in July.”
“And we go on the road when they get back,” RJ added.
Cursing under his breath, Jamie plopped on a nearby bench. He didn’t want to tell them tonight. He didn’t want them to turn their wedding reception into some kind of celebration for him – he wanted them to celebrate each other. They’d been through so much to get to where they were now that they deserved to celebrate their marriage.
Besides, he knew his cousin would cry. He hated to see her cry and she’d try very hard not to, but she would anyway.
“I know,” RJ said, responded to Jamie’s muttered curses. “Wouldn’t want to be in your shoes, bro.”
“Why is that, RJ?” Cole asked as he made his way through the lush foliage, Ally right behind him. “Don’t want to live part-time in Indianapolis where every day you get your ass kicked on a football field?”
RJ grunted. “Something like that.”
Ally narrowed her eyes first at RJ and then at Jamie. “They’re not telling us something.”
“What makes you say that?” Jamie asked as a nervous flutter tickled his chest.
Ally’s lips thinned as her jaw tightened. “Don’t give me that, James. You’re holding something back and I want to know what it is.”
Cole slid an arm around Ally’s waist as his eyes darted from RJ to Jamie. “Is something going on?”
“Nah,” Jamie said as he forced his body to relax. “Nothing, really. You guys need to worry about celebrating, that’s all. Have fun – it is your wedding.”
“I am not going to have any sort of fun when I’m worrying about you,” she said.
Sighing, Jamie glanced at RJ. He didn’t want to have that particular conversation at that particular time but Ally was like a pit bull – once she sank her teeth into something, it would take a crow bar to pry her loose.
“It’s nothing bad, cuz,” he said. “Honestly. It’s just that I was traded. I’m going from a third string QB to a second string with another team.”
“Um, hm,” she said, her eyes trying to shine with happiness for him, but suspicion still lurked in their depths. “And what team will you play for now?”
“Um,” he said, stalling for time. He glanced at RJ who merely shrugged. “I’ll be playing for the Wichita Warriors.”
Her shoulders dropped as she approached him, placing a soft hand on his arm. “You’re going to be all the way in Kansas? Like…the land of Dorothy and all that?”
Jamie couldn’t help but to chuckle. “Yeah, looks that way.”
“Oh, Jamie,” she moaned as her eyes teared up. “That’s so far away.”
A grim Cole nodded as he shook Jamie’s hand. “But it sounds like a good opportunity for you.”
“It will be,” Jamie said as Ally wrapped her arms around his waist. He gave her a quick squeeze. “Hey, it’s not like you guys will around much anyway. The band is going on tour and you’re going with them.”
Ally looked up at him, horror in her eyes. “I guess I just sort of thought somehow you’d be with us. We’ve never been this separated before.”
“Sure we have,” RJ said in a cheerful tone. “Remember when you were in L.A. for the National Games and Jamie was at football camp while Cole and I were on the road?”
She shook her head. “That was different. Jamie wasn’t at camp for a long time.”
“It’s not going to be as bad as you think, princess,” Cole said, prying her off of Jamie.
“Yeah, whenever you guys are in my neck of the woods, we’ll get together. Or if the team is playing close to an Out of Control venue, I’ll hook up with you guys.”
“But…but,” Ally stammered. “You’ll be living in Wichita. By yourself!”
“He is a grown up, you know,” RJ said, flashing his boyish smile. Ally flashed a rude gesture.
Jamie laughed while inside he considered what Ally had said. He hadn’t really thought much about living in Wichita, so far away from his family and friends. He’d been more concerned with the team and trying to make first string if the Warriors’ aging quarterback, Dan Brock, decided to retire.
“I’ll only be living in Wichita during the season,” he said. “I’ll still be living at the old place when I’m in town.”
“Unless I rent out your bedroom,” RJ said with a grin.
“You will not,” Ally said, smacking RJ’s arm. “That house belongs to both of you and you’ll not rent Jamie’s room out as if he’s some…some drifter or something.”
“Geez, Ally,” RJ said, rubbing his arm. “I was kidding. I wouldn’t do that to him. He’s the one who knows how to cook and clean.”
Rolling her eyes, Ally wriggled out of Cole’s arms in order to hug Jamie. He returned her hug, holding her a little tighter than usual. “It’ll be fine, cuz,” he whispered in her ear. “We’ll figure it out, okay?”
She nodded, hanging on to him.
“Don’t cry, Ally,” he moaned, shooting Cole a look over the top of Ally’s head. “See? This is why I didn’t want to tell you today. I didn’t want to ruin your wedding.”
“You didn’t ruin it,” she said as she pulled away, running a finger under each eye. “Everything is fine, see?”
“Yeah, I see that,” Jamie said with a roll of his eyes. He took her hand. “Let’s go back inside. I still haven’t had a chance to dance with the bride.”
“Really?” she said with a smile. “And here I thought I was going to have to bribe you.”
“Nah, I’ll give you a free one today,” Jamie said. “It is your wedding day, after all.”
“Speaking of which,” RJ said as he and Cole followed behind them. “What’s the deal with the all nice-feeding-the-cake thing? I wanted to see blood and tears.”
“Hey, I was ready for it,” Cole said. “But the princess insisted we do it the nice way.”
Ally whirled around to jab a finger in Cole’s chest. “Call me that again and I’ll smash the entire cake in your face.”
“There’s that fire we all know and love so well,” RJ said as he scooped her into his arms and placed a kiss on her forehead. “Now let’s go watch Jamie work his moves on the dance floor.”
The night moved on without further mention of Jamie’s move. For that, he was grateful. He spent quite a bit of time on the dance floor with his cousin, at her insistence. He couldn’t tell her no, though – not when he’d put a bit of a damper on her day.
As the party started to wind down, Cole and Ally prepared to leave the hall in a limo that would take them to a nice hotel near the airport. In the morning, they’d fly to Aruba for a two week honeymoon.
After the happy couple bid their family and guests goodbye, RJ and Jamie followed them out to the car.
“Have fun on the honeymoon,” RJ said. “Because real life starts when you get back.”
“Oh, joy,” Ally said. “You make it sound like it’s a bad thing.”
“Nah,” RJ said.
“We’ll be ready to hit the road when we come back,” Cole said, shaking RJ’s hand. He moved out of the way so Ally could hug him goodbye.
“Give me a call when you get back,” Jamie said, a lump suddenly forming in his throat as he stared at Cole. “Let me know how the honeymoon went – without all the gory details.”
“I will,” Cole laughed. He yanked Jamie into a tight hug. “Take care, man. Don’t let anyone push you around, you hear?”
“Yep,” Jamie said, thumping Cole on the back.
When they pulled apart, Ally stepped forward, tears shimmering in her eyes. “Call me as much as possible,” she said as she fell into his arms. “I’m going to miss you so much.”
“Oh, cuz,” he said as he held her. “Don’t think about any of this while you’re away with Cole, okay? Enjoy yourself.”
She nodded in his chest. He kissed the top of her head.
“I love you, cuz,” he said, choking up a bit. “Be happy, you deserve it.”
She pulled away to smile at him. “I love you, too. Be safe and call me as much as possible.”
“Not a problem,” he said.
Cole gently tugged Ally to the waiting car and Jamie watched it pull away.
RJ tossed an arm over Jamie’s shoulders. “Let’s go get a drink, man. We deserve one.”
“Huh?” Jamie said.
“Think of all the crap we went through to get those two together,” RJ said, feigning tears. “Now they’re all grown up and leaving the nest.”
Laughing, Jamie followed RJ back inside and to the bar, glancing one last time over his shoulder but the car was gone. He recalled RJ’s comment about real life beginning and he couldn’t help but agree. It was as if the carefree days when the four of them would hang out had disappeared along with the limo.
He was really going to miss it.