Excerpt from Fair Catch
by Leigh Carman
Do you believe in love at first sight? No? Thank fuck. Neither do I.
—Sullivan Archer, wide receiver for the LA Wild Cats
Van and Toby meet
I turn to leave the narrow hall and at the exact same time, the door marked “office” flies open and a handsome man steps out. He’s bigger than me, tall and burly, with auburn hair and a ginger beard. The black T-shirt pulling tight across his impressive chest displays the bar’s provocative logo.
“Excuse me.” I drop my gaze and try to make myself as small as possible as I move to duck around him.
“Wait.” The big man grabs my wrist, and my heart leaps into my throat.
Oh God. He sees my hard-on.
My adrenal gland kicks into high gear, flooding my veins with anxiety and embarrassment. Heart pounding, I spin around and yank out of the man’s hold as I attempt to control the tightness in my chest. The guy holds up his hands to show he isn’t trying to pull any shit with me. “Sorry, buddy. Didn’t mean to startle you. I was just wondering if I could talk to you for a second in the office.” He nods toward the door.
With a huff, I cross my arms over my chest, then uncross them and scratch my head, unsure what to do with my hands. “Why on earth would I go in there with you? I don’t know you.” Plus, I might be athletic and in good shape, but I’m the opposite of huge. This guy has a half a foot and at least forty pounds on me.
The man grins, his navy-blue eyes sparkling. He holds out a one of his giant mitts. “Griff Freeman. I own this club.”
I eye his hand warily, but end up shaking it despite the overwhelming urge to flee. “Toby Bennett.” We drop hands, and because I’m an idiot, I can’t help but explain myself. “I haven’t done anything wrong.” He’s not bringing me into the office to kick me out because I overheard sex in the bathroom, is he? They don’t do that, do they?
Griff laughs. “No. You haven’t. But what I want to discuss is a sensitive matter. You’d be doing me a huge favor if you’d just duck into my office for a quick second.”
Sensitive? Now I’m on high alert, my muscles drawing as tight as a bow. I take a step back.
“A favor? What kind of favor?”
“Trust me, kid. You’ll probably end up thanking me,” Griff says, grinning.
Griff holds open the office door and awaits my decision.
It feels like this is a crossroads of sorts in my life. I can continue hiding, letting my past run my life, or I can take a chance and throw caution to the wind. What the hell do I have to lose? For the first time in my life, I don’t overthink my decision. Instead, I walk through that damn door with my head held high….
And my jaw drops open when I look around inside.
From my position across the room, I take in the lean, attractive man who walks through the door. Griff did well. Very, very well. He brought me the exact one I wanted. The one I pointed out near the bar. This guy is exactly my type.
If I had to guess, from the wary look in his eyes, I’d say the young man is about my age though he looks significantly younger due to his small frame and full lips. He’s several inches under six feet, but well toned without being overly huge. His dark, almost black hair flops down over his brows, and his skin is pale and smooth, without a single blemish or spot on it. But what really draws me in, what I couldn’t see in the camera feed in the dark club, are crystal blue eyes so light they remind me of the massive glaciers in Alaska. Only this man’s eyes aren’t icy and cold, they’re warm and inviting and… very frightened?
“I’ll leave you two to talk,” Griff says from behind the beautiful man.
“What?” The blue-eyed beauty spins around, gaping as Griff takes off. Once the door shuts, he slowly turns back to me, his face a mask of worry and suspicion. Damn, it wasn’t my intention to freak the guy out.
“Have a seat.” I point at the black leather and chrome chair next to mine, both placed opposite Griff’s incredibly tidy desk—the neat freak—and throw him a wink. The man doesn’t move. In fact, he looks as if he’s about to bolt. I can’t have that. I’m too intrigued to let this one go without at least getting him to talk to me.
I stand up and his eyes nearly bug out of his head. Okay, so I’m big. Really big. Six-foot-six, two hundred and ten pounds—I know I can be intimidating under certain circumstances, and it serves me well. Except right now I’m trying to be a regular guy. Unfortunately, the much smaller man Griff brought in isn’t exactly receptive to whatever vibes I’m putting out.
I don’t understand why this guy is so skittish. Most people are either shocked speechless when they meet me or gush a never-ending line of embarrassing praise.
Is it possible he doesn’t recognize me?
Nope. No way. Everyone in LA recognizes me. Hell, everyone everywhere recognizes me. Which is precisely my problem. More so since the team won the playoffs last week, giving the Wild Cats their first Super Bowl appearance in eighteen years.
“I-I should go,” my guest stammers. “I think there’s been a mistake.” His voice is as beautiful as the man himself, breathy and soft, but clearly masculine.
If he won’t come to me, I’ll go to him. I walk across the room and as I get nearer, he flattens his body against the door. His skin is so flawless and pale, I can see his pulse fluttering at his throat. From this close, it’s apparent the man is quite a bit shorter than I originally thought. Maybe almost a foot less than my own six-foot-six. Griff knows I like my men small and fit, but this one… there are no words. He’s positively breathtaking.
“What’s your name, gorgeous?” I should wait for permission, wait to see if he’s receptive to my advances, but I can’t help myself. I reach out and skim the back of my knuckles across the perfect skin of his throat, stopping to feel the beat of his heart beneath my fingertips before removing my hand.
“Toby. You’re….” I struggle to come up with the proper words to describe his beauty only to find I’m speechless. I move closer and hear Toby’s breath hitch. “Hey, I’m Van.”
Toby blinks those big blue eyes, showing off the thick black lashes that frame them. I rake my gaze down Toby’s perfect, lithe body and spot the substantial bulge in his so-tight-they-should-be-illegal jeans. It seems Toby isn’t exactly as averse to hooking up with me as he wants me to believe. Or maybe he’s turned on by the thrill of the unknown. Taking another chance, I close the distance and press my hips against his, letting Toby feel how turned on I am. Our erections grind together, and Toby groans. His eyelids grow heavy and flutter shut.
“Why me?” Toby asks, his voice raspy with lust. “You’re….” He opens his eyes and motions at my body as if that one gesture says it all. “Why not go out in the club and take your pick?”
I’m shocked. Toby really doesn’t recognize me. Doesn’t know why I can’t waltz out to the middle of the dance floor in a gay bar and pick up a man. My brows scrunch together, and I put my hands on either side of his perfect face, skimming my thumbs across the smooth skin. “I did take my pick, Toby. I chose you.”
Toby blushes and gasps, parting those perfect, red lips. Unable to wait a second longer, I lower my head and take my first taste of this gorgeous specimen. Sweet alcohol and something purely Toby bursts across my tongue. I sigh as he melts against me. Fucking perfect. Toby is definitely going to be one to remember.
About Fair Catch
One night of passion.
They never expected to see each other again.
They were wrong.
Tobias Bennett is a quiet and unassuming man who teaches yoga and enjoys parkour. Though he is proud to be gay, an abusive relationship with a domineering man has left Tobias wary of romance, and he keeps to himself in his tidy Los Angeles apartment.
Pro football player Sullivan Archer is Tobias’s complete opposite: loud, brash, fond of the spotlight… and deep in the closet. When a hamstring injury sends Van to Tobias as part of his therapy, neither of them is expecting to come face-to-face with his one-night stand. Now they’re stuck together throughout Van’s healing process, and the close proximity will force them to deal with some hard truths. For Tobias, it’s realizing his hookup is a celebrity. For Van, it means accepting that he likes Tobias more than he wanted. They’ll both have to acknowledge that if they choose to pursue a relationship, their lives will change in big ways.
About Leigh Carman
She lives outside Atlanta with her husband, 2 kids, and French bulldog.
She is leaving explicit directions in her will for her friends to discreetly scatter her ashes around Fenway Park. Then they are to sit back, watch a game with a beer and a Fenway frank and have a wicked good time.
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