Play Me by Diane Alberts
Take a Chance, #3
Entangled Publishing - July 2013
Even the best-laid plans can go awry.
Single-mom Kiersten Worth knows a bottle of champagne and night of hot, no-strings-attached sex is the perfect solution to her jilted bride blues…and Garrett Kelly, long-time friend and her teenaged son’s sexy basketball coach, is just the stud for the job.
Garrett wants more from the elusive temptress than a casual affair, but he never expects it to come in the form of an unexpected pregnancy. When he proposes an unorthodox solution—move in and raise their baby together—Kiersten has to decide whether to let down her guard and open her heart to the man who secretly loved her for years, or risk losing his tender embrace for good.
Three months, two weeks, one day, and nineteen hours.
That’s how long it had been since Garrett walked away from Kiersten. She barely even spoke to him anymore, other than a soft hello as they passed on the court after practices. It was probably better that way. Anything more than a brief encounter hurt too much. He’d spent most of his life pretending not to care about her. Pretending he was fine without her. But now that he’d had one night in her arms, he knew he wasn’t.
And he wanted her more than he could ever possibly describe.
Oh well. Tough shit. He wasn’t going to get her on his terms. And he wouldn’t accept hers.
He needed a drink. Or three.
He unlocked the door to his apartment and froze. Pots clanged in the kitchen. Dropping his gym bag to the carpet, he walked around the corner. Only his buddy Mike had a copy of his key, and that was just in case of an emergency or if he somehow lost his own set. But why would Mike let himself in and then cook? To the best of his knowledge, Mike didn’t even know how to cook.
“Mike?” he called out.
“Uh, no,” Kiersten replied. “It’s me.”
He tensed and walked slowly into his kitchen, his heart beating rapidly in his ears. “How did you get in here?”
She flushed. “I asked Mike for the key. Told him I needed something for Chris to practice at home.” She waved a hand. “He didn’t question me, thank God. My story was weak.”
He studied her. “Why are you here? You could have just knocked.”
“I was worried you wouldn’t let me in,” she said softly, averting her eyes. “So I took matters into my own hands.”
“And the dinner?”
“A way to try to make up for what I did. It’s pathetic and not big enough, I know, but I had to do something.”
He raised his brows. “You could give me space, like I asked. Why cook for me? What do you want?”
She looked at him. “I thought you might like to eat some food. Last time I checked, you were human.”
“It’s been over three months since we talked or hung out.” He crossed his arms over his chest, not sure what her sudden reemergence in his life meant. What game did she play? “And last time I checked, we weren’t really on speaking terms. Yet here you are. Cooking me dinner.”
“Yep.” She set down the spoon she was stirring the sauce with, shoulders tight as she leaned on the counter. “Pretty much.”
He looked away from her and swallowed hard. Did she realize how much it hurt him just to see her face or to hear her voice? Probably not, since he’d been the only idiot who had wanted more. Every woman paled in comparison to her. No matter how hard he tried to move on, to be attracted to another woman, there was only one person on his mind. Kiersten. But if she was here…
He shoved his hands into his pockets. “Have you changed your mind about us?”
She paled and he cursed himself for jumping to foolish, optimistic conclusions. “I—no, not yet. But—”
“Then you need to leave,” he said. He raised his head and met her eyes, unwilling to back down. “I haven’t changed my mind, either. I need space.”
“It’s been three months. Isn’t that enough space?”
“No.” He drew in a ragged breath. “It’s not. Now please leave.”
She bit her lip. “No.”
“Yes.” He stalked toward her, picked her up, tossed her over his shoulder, and headed for the door. He tired not to remember that the last time he’d carried her like this, they’d been going up to her bedroom. “If you won’t walk out on your own, then I’ll carry you out.”
She punched his back and squirmed. “Let me down. We need to talk.”
“The time for talking is over. I need distance right now. Eventually we can be friends again. But for now?” He opened the door, set her in the hallway, and closed the door in her face. “Please go home.”
He turned away and stomped into the kitchen. Damn it, he wasn’t doing this anymore. He may have played the part of the lovesick friend for months—hell, years—now, but he was done with being a bench warmer she pulled out when it suited her mood.
From now on, it needed to be a starting position for him…or nothing at all.
Shutting off the stove, he picked up the pot and peeked inside. She’d made his favorite meal. Cheese ravioli. Vodka sauce bubbled away in a different pot and he could smell the garlic bread in the oven.
“Listen, Garrett, we need to talk,” Kiersten said.
Garrett jumped and faced her with a glare. “What are you doing in here—again?”
“I have a key.” She waved a gold key under his nose, her nose tilted up in the air stubbornly. “And I know how to open a door on my own. I’ve been doing it since I was three.”
“Congratulations.” He snatched the key out of her hand and reached for her, determined to put her right back where he had left her. “But you need to go. I’m serious.”
She jumped out of his reach and sprinted behind the relative safety of his favorite chair. “Not until you listen to me. Sit down and shut up for a second, will you?”
He pursued her, ready to stick her back out in the hallway, sans key this time. “All I asked for was a break. Can’t you respect that?”
He bolted around the chair, reaching for her arm. Her eyes widened and she darted to the side when he feinted left and ran right, hoping to fool her into his arms. “I can’t leave until we talk,” she replied.
“Why not?” he asked in exasperation, holding his hands up. “What could possibly be so damn important?”
She blinked at him, wringing her hands. “I’m pregnant.”
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Diane Alberts has always been a dreamer with a vivid imagination, but it wasn't until 2011 that she put her pen where her brain was, and became a published author. Since receiving her first contract offer, she has yet to stop writing. Though she lives in the mountains, she really wishes she was surrounded by a hot, sunny beach with crystal clear water. She lives in Northeast Pennsylvania with her four kids, a husband, a schnauzer mutt, a cat, and a Senegal parrot. In the rare moments when she's not writing, she can usually be found hunched over one knitting project or another.
She is a multi-published, bestselling author with Entangled Publishing, Swoon Romance, and Decadent Publishing. ON ONE CONDITION hit #18 on the Barnes and Noble Bestseller List, and TRY ME hit #76 on Amazon. CAPTIVATED BY YOU hit #31 on the Barnes and Noble bestseller list. Her goal is to write so many fantastic books that even a non-romance book fan will know her name. She also writes New Adult books under the name Jen McLaughlin. Diane is represented by Louise Fury from the L. Perkins Agency.
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