Powerplay

Powerplay

 

Book Three in the Hot Shots Trilogy

 

By Cher Carson

Copyright © by Cher Carson 

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, including photocopying, graphic, electronic, mechanical, taping, recording, sharing, or by any information retrieval system without the express written permission of the author and / or publisher. Exceptions include brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

 

Persons, places, and other entities represented in this book are deemed fictitious. They are not intended to represent actual places or entities currently or previously in existence or any person living or dead. This work is the product of the author’s imagination.

 

Any and all inquiries to the author of this book should be directed to:

[email protected]

Rebound Copyright © 2011 Cher Carson

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

Jenna Clark raised her wine glass and saluted her best friends, Callie and Tracey. “Here’s to getting even.”

“I still can’t believe you’re going to marry that cheating sack of shit, Jen. You deserve so much better.” 

Jen rolled her eyes and tipped her glass to her lips. She’d heard that argument more times than she could count over the past two years, especially since her friends had learned that her fiancé slept with the stripper at his bachelor party last weekend. “Why get mad when you can get even?”

Callie dipped into the bowl of pretzel sticks in the middle of the table, popping one into her mouth. “The way I see it, if a guy is going to cheat on you before the wedding, there’s no chance he’s gonna be faithful after you take your vows. Is that really what you want, hon?” 

Jen had asked herself that question half a dozen times over the past week. Was she crazy to even consider marrying Kevin in light of his behavior? But whenever she considered canceling the wedding, she heard her mother’s voice in her mind, griping about the invitations, caterers, flowers...

Trace twirled the stir-stick around in her nearly empty martini glass. “I still can’t believe he told you to sleep with someone else to even the score. I mean, who does that?”

“Someone who’s desperate to hold on to the best thing that’s ever happened to him,” Callie muttered.

Jen smiled and covered her friend’s hand with her own. They always had her back, no matter what. “Thanks for saying that, but…”

Trace reached across the table for her other hand. “You know how much we love you. We just don’t want to see you make a mistake. You’re gorgeous, smart, and successful. Hell, you could have any man you wanted. Why you’d settle for that tight-ass is beyond me.” She grimaced. “I bet he fucks in the missionary position all the time, doesn’t he?”

Callie laughed. “He probably doesn’t know any other position.”

Jen knew she should defend her fiancé, but she couldn’t; they were right.

“I still can’t imagine him banging a stripper,” Trace said, holding her hand over mouth when she hiccupped.

Jen took a sip of wine to wash the bitter taste out of her mouth. Thankfully, they’d taken a taxi to the bar. They all intended to indulge and no one wanted to volunteer to be the designated driver.

“Please, that stripper found out his old man owns a chain of restaurants and she wanted a piece of the action,” Callie said, leaning back in her chair.

Jen knew her friend was probably right. Kevin loved to flaunt his family’s wealth, not that he’d done anything to contribute to it, aside from managing one of the restaurants.

“I really don’t want to talk about this anymore,” Jenna said, sighing. “It’s too depressing.”

“Okay, let’s talk about how you’re gonna get your hot ex back in the sack,” Callie said, leaning forward. “Have you thought about that?”

Trace raised her hand toward Jen. “I’m sorry, you think she’s gonna have to
do
anything? Look at her. She’ll just toss that gorgeous mane of blond hair and bat those baby blues at him. Mark Atwell will be following her out of here faster than you can say ‘condom.’”

Jen laughed. “I don’t know about that. What if he has a girlfriend or something? He may not be interested.” Jen tried to imagine Mark, the player, settling down with any woman.

Both women looked at each other and erupted in laughter. They howled, bent at the waist until they both were swiping tears. When they finally came up for air, Callie said, “Have you forgotten we’re talking about Mark ‘the fucking-machine’ Atwell?”

Jen blushed and dropped her head in her hands. One comment about Mark’s stamina while they were dating and her friends wouldn’t let her live it down. “Would you guys shut up? People are staring at us.”

Callie sat up taller, her gaze travelling to the front door of the crowded bar. “Are you sure they’re gonna be here tonight?”

Jen shrugged, pretending she couldn’t care less whether or not Mark made an appearance. “I don’t know; he and his single teammates used to come here after home games when we were dating. Who knows if he still does?”

Callie grabbed a handful of pretzel sticks, popping them into her mouth one by one. When she finished chewing, she said, “I don’t know why you didn’t just call him. You guys ended things on good terms, right?”

They hadn’t ended it at all, at least not officially. She just started dating Kevin and stopped returning Mark’s calls, texts, and emails. After a couple of weeks, he took the hint and gave up.

“I couldn’t call him after all this time. I’d look desperate. Besides, how could I explain to him that I was just interested in a one-night stand to get even with my cheating fiancé?”

Trace winced. “God, you’re not really gonna tell him that before you do the deed, are you?”

“I don’t want to lie to him.”

“Oh please,” Callie said, sighing. “Can’t you put yourself first for once?”

Jen looked around, trying to decide on a Plan B, just in case her Plan A didn’t show up tonight. Yuck, sex with a stranger sounded almost as appealing as sex with Kevin. What the hell was wrong with her? He was the man she’d committed to spending the rest of her life with. Her friends’ opinions were starting to rub off on her. Kevin was kind, decent, attractive…

“Hey, isn’t that him?” Callie said, pointing to a crowd of men at the door.

Jen grabbed her hand, lowering it to the table. “Don’t point; I don’t want him to see me.”

“Huh?” Trace said. “How’re you gonna get him to take you home if he doesn’t even know you’re here?”

“Well, obviously I want him to know I’m here, but I don’t want to make it look like I planned to be here just because of him.”

Callie downed the rest of her drink and signalled to the waiter to bring them another round.

“What are we in high school? Just go up to the guy, tell him you’ve missed him, and ask him if he’s busy later.”

“God no, I couldn’t do that. Are you crazy?” Jen said, trying not to notice the women swarming around Mark and his teammates. She knew from the short time they spent together that professional hockey players attracted puck bunnies everywhere they went, and Mark always seemed happy to feed the frenzy.

The waiter approached their table with a tray of drinks. He set them down and smiled. “These are courtesy of the three men by the bar, ladies. Enjoy.”

All three ladies turned to see the men in question.

“Very cute,” Callie said. “Oh look, one of them is heading this way.”

Jen took another sip of wine. She’d already had three glasses, but she was just on the edge of tipsy, not quite ready to do anything reckless just yet.

The man in question, well-built with trendy clothes and cropped, sandy blond hair, reached their table and smiled at each of the ladies in turn before finally hooking his arm around Jenna’s chair.

“Evening, ladies.”

Callie smiled and raised her glass. “Thanks for the drinks.”

“Our pleasure.”

A ballad started playing and he smiled down at Jenna. “Would you like to dance?”

She was about to refuse when she caught the warning glare in her friend’s eyes. She was here to have a good time tonight, so she might as well get started before she lost her nerve. “Sure, why not?”

Callie wiggled her fingers and smiled. “Have fun. Oh, and remember, that plan of yours wasn’t written in stone. You could always deviate a little if you want to.” She winked, laughing when Jenna glared at her.

He held her hand as he led her toward the crowded dance floor. When they found a spot on the periphery, he turned her into his arms. “So, what’s your name?”

She looped her arms around his neck and looked up at him. He was tall, but not as tall as Mark. Damn it, why was she drawing comparisons? This was just about having a little fun, not rewriting history. “Jenna, but my friends call me Jen.”

He smiled, his hand gliding up and down her back. “Mind if I call you Jen?”

She shook her head. “Not at all. So, what’s your name?”

“Matt.”

She smiled, trying to look interested. “Nice to meet you, Matt.” This song promised to be the longest three minutes of her life.    

Nick Morris pointed to the dance floor. “Man, will you look at that blonde on the dance floor?”

Mark looked at the couples, trying to find the blonde in question. “Shit,” he whispered, setting his beer bottle down on the bar. “I don’t believe it.”

“You know her?” Nick asked. “Okay, you need to introduce me, man.”

“Not a chance, asshole.”

Nick tipped the beer bottle to his lips, taking a long pull before he asked, “That guy her boyfriend or what?” 

“I wish I knew.” If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t hesitate to cut in. If he was, he didn’t think he wanted to know.

It had been almost two years since Jenna stopped returning his calls. He knew he’d been a jerk when they were dating. He was so hell bent on keeping it casual that he sent her a pretty clear message that she was wasting her time with him. A message that she obviously received, loud and clear.

For the first time ever, she had made him think maybe it was time to make a commitment, but when he planned to tell her how he felt about her, it was too late. She’d already written him off. He watched the man’s hand drift down to her ass, and he grabbed his beer bottle, clenching it in his fist as he raised it to his lips. He remembered how it felt when he had the right to hold her like that, when she invited his touch. He’d been a fool to let her go. He should have told her he was falling in love with her before it was too late.

Nick set his beer down on the bar. “If you’re gonna stand here with your finger up your ass, I’m gonna go over there and talk to her.”

Mark grabbed his shoulder, pulling him back as the song ended. “Don’t even think about it.” He watched Jenna’s dance partner walk toward the bar as she headed in the opposite direction. He spotted two of her friends, Trace and Callie, at a table in the back corner. Thank God, Jen was here with her girlfriends, not her new man.

He crossed the space between them in a few long strides, grabbing her wrist. “Jen.”

She turned toward him, the smile lighting her face when she saw him. “Hey, Mark, long time, no see. How’ve you been?”

He wanted to take her in his arms, to hold her, but he wasn’t sure how she would feel about it, so he let his hand fall to his side. “I’m good. You?”

She shrugged. “I’m okay, busy with work.”

Jen was a successful real estate agent. He saw her face on billboards all over the city, and every time he did, the knife dug a little deeper. “It’s great to see you.”

She smiled. “Yeah, you too.” She pointed to the back of the seating area. “I’m here with Trace and Callie. I should probably get back to the table.”

He grabbed her hand, desperate to hold on to her just a little longer. “Uh, wait. Can I buy you a drink before you go?”

She glanced at an empty booth to their left. “Sure, why not? Just let me grab my purse.”

He watched her walk back to the table. The sway of her tight little ass in those boot-cut denim low-riders, the sight of her long blond hair falling down her back. God help him, he could get hard just looking at her.

Nick Morris came up behind him, looping an arm around his neck. “Looks like you struck out, buddy. It’s my turn at bat.” Nick whistled under his breath as he watched her turn and walk toward them. “Damn, I think I’m in love.”

Mark shared the sentiment. He couldn’t believe he still felt so strongly about her after all this time. “Back off; she’s mine,” he whispered.

Before he could respond, she approached, extending her hand to Nick. “Hi, you’re Nick Morris, right?”

He grinned. “The one and only.”

“It’s nice to meet you. You’ve had a great season so far; let’s hope it continues.”

He glanced at Mark. “You didn’t tell me she was a hockey fan. Okay, now I’m definitely in love.” Nick brought her hand to his lips.

She threw her head back and laughed. “You’re so sweet.”

Mark couldn’t stand to watch any more of this. He grabbed her other hand and pulled her toward the empty booth.

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