USA Today bestselling author Brooke O’Brien brings the heat in this steamy romance about an NBA basketball player who puts everything on the line to be with his coach’s daughter.
The stakes are high for Colson Rush. When he’s traded to the Miami Blaze, his focus is one thing—winning a championship.
All that changes the moment he set his sights on Sydney Carr.
Sydney knows better than to mix business with pleasure. She’s worked hard to land her dream job, working with her dad for the Miami Blaze, and she’s not about to risk it all for the newest basketball recruit.
When Colson comes to her rescue to fight off a man trying to steal her purse, even she can’t deny the sparks flying between them.
It’s too bad she’s his new coach’s daughter.
Giving into the temptation will be one personal foul neither of them can back down from.
“Get out of my lane, motherfucker!”
Those words, combined with the sound of screeching tires, force my eyes wide open, sending my heartrate from zero to sixty in two seconds flat.
A car swerves in front of us before veering off into another lane as my driver, Jairo, starts shouting expletives in Spanish.
“Sorry ‘bout that, boss,” he says before continuing to curse under his breath. The tone of his voice mixed with the slight curl in his lip would send chills down anyone’s spine. “These drivers are out to test my patience today.”
“S’all good,” I grunt.
Up until a few months ago, I had spent my entire career playing for Chicago. We had built a team we thought would take us all the way to the championship. Things changed after we were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs.
I was disappointed when I learned one of those changes was trading me to Miami to play for the Blaze. I had begun to put down roots and had high hopes of spending the rest of my career playing for Chicago, eventually planning on raising a family there, too.
Miami is now my home, though. If there was any team I’d want to be traded to, it would be the Miami Blaze.
The Blaze organization set me up with a company to help oversee my move, which took a tremendous weight off my back while I spent time with my family in Denver. Although, here I am, arriving in town with no idea what I could be walking into. My only reassurance came from my new assistant’s text letting me know the move went smoothly and according to plan. “We should be there in about fifteen minutes,” Jairo says through the cloud of exhaustion settling over me.
I gaze out at the blue skies mixed with the skyscrapers with the clear water in the distance as a backdrop. The Florida sun blows a warm breeze through the window. The temperature is high, reminding me of the stifling humidity back in Chicago.
I sigh, tilting my head back against the headrest, shutting my eyes, taking a moment to unwind as the city streets pass us by.
A few minutes later, the GPS signals our destination is on the right. When I finally break my eyes open, I’m met with the city streets of downtown Miami. Palm trees line the sidewalks surrounding the building which boasts impressive floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s what drew me to the apartment in the first place, and the stunning view overlooking the ocean. A few people walk along the sidewalk, bags in their hands from the shops lining the strip.
Hitting the unlock button, I slip out and round the back of the SUV to collect my luggage when a shriek pierces my ears.
“Get off me,” a woman grunts. “Help me! Please, help! He’s trying to steal my purse.”
Commotion breaks out; women around her start to scream as a man yells at her to let go of her bag and he won’t hurt her, but she refuses to give in. Every time he pulls on the handle, she tugs back even harder.
He may have her on a size aspect in height, but she’s feisty, holding her own. The fire inside her matches her red hair, and she refuses to give in.
My heart beats wildly in my chest, sending my adrenaline pumping. Where I come from, you don’t put your hands on a woman. I imagine her as my mom growing up, struggling to provide for us, and someone trying to steal from her.
All I can see is red.
“Get the fuck off her, man!” I roar, rushing toward him, pushing him back. “What the fuck you thinkin’ putting your hands on a woman?”
He raises his fist at me, still not letting go of the bag. I move my arm, attempting to shield my face when he clocks me in the jaw.
“Motherfucker,” I grunt, spitting out blood on the ground. “You wanna come at me?”
I charge toward him, pressing his back against the brick wall, pulling her along with us. Shoving my forearm under his chin, I hook a right fist landing a direct hit to his eye. Blood gushes from his brow, dripping down his face.
I don’t slow down and my fist scores a hit to his gut. I shove my forearm against his chest and warn him to drop the purse. His hold loosens, sending the woman falling to the ground, tripping over her heels.
Her shrill, pain-stricken cry rings from behind me, but I don’t take my eyes off him. There’s no telling what he’ll do now. Pain thrums through my hand, and a small voice pushes through my mind, realizing how bad it could be if I managed to injure my hand. I don’t allow myself a chance to think about it, not right now.
“All right,” he sighs, holding his hands up in surrender. “All right, man.”
My defenses are still up, waiting for the second he tries to make a move. He takes a step to the side, adding distance between the woman and me. A quick glance out of the corner of my eye shows she’s seated on the ground, blood dripping from her knee and down her shin, tears streaming down her face.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah.” She nods. Her chest trembles with the force of her cries, trying to catch her breath.
“Fuck this!” the would-be thief shouts, taking off running down the street, weaving in and out of people. He crashes into one man, nearly forcing him to knock over an older woman passing by him.
“Goddammit,” I say through gritted teeth.
“It’s okay,” a bystander says, holding up her phone. “I called the police and gave them his description.”
“Ms. C, are you okay? I saw what happened and called 9-1-1. Police and an ambulance are on their way.”
A middle-aged man stands over her, clutching a phone in his hand. His eyes are wide, worried. He’s dressed in a button-down shirt, black slacks, and a tie. Judging by his attire and nametag reading “Antonio,” I assume he must work in my new apartment building.
“Thank you, Antonio,” she exhales heavily. “Would you mind?”
Her green eyes stare up at me as she holds out her hand in a non-verbal request to help her stand. My heart stutters while I struggle to catch a breath when I get the chance to look at her.
Her soft, red hair matches the light dusting of freckles that cross over her nose and cover the apples of her cheeks. Her eyes are green, so vibrant they almost would look blue if it wasn’t for the sunlight overhead. I slip her hand in mine, helping her to stand. Pain radiates through my knuckle and up my forearm when I pull her to stand, causing me to wince.
“Oh, God, your hand. It’s all bloody.”
She grimaces, reaching for my hand. The worry cloaking her big doe eyes wraps around my heart, gripping tightly.
How is it her stare alone has me feeling more off-kilter than the altercation a moment ago? Sirens blaring in the background grow louder as the cops pull up along with an ambulance right behind them.
I then realize we have a crowd forming around us. Bystanders with cell phones aimed at us mumble to themselves as they point at me in recognition.
It all happened so quickly. I spot Jairo doing his best to keep the crowd of people back, not letting them get too close. He glances over his shoulder, his eyes penetrating me as if saying, “What the hell, man?”
The sunglasses I had been wearing earlier were knocked off my face when everything went down, leaving me feeling more exposed.
“Is everything okay here?” the cop asks, approaching us, looking from me to the red-headed beauty now leaning against the side of the building. “We got a call about an assault.”
The redhaired beauty briefly runs down what happened while I clench my hand into a fist, checking out my injury. My head is going to be sore from the jab he got in toward the end, but otherwise, I’ll be fine.
“I’m okay,” she murmurs, adjusting her position to stand. “A few bumps and bruises, but it’s nothing a few bandages won’t fix.”
The cop looks from her, back to my tattered knuckle. “You okay?”
“All right, we’ll have the paramedics check you out, and we’ll need to get your statements.”
He glances from her, over to me, then to the crowd of people forming a few feet away, before asking, “We can do this somewhere more private if you prefer?”
“Please,” I sigh, ducking my head back down.
“You got it.”
He turns away from us to the other officers, asking the people to step back and give us some privacy. Antonio offers the woman a wheelchair to sit in while the paramedics check her over and the police take her statement.
She shakes her head, assuring him she’s okay before she peeks over at me. She puts on a brave smile as I offer her my arm, helping her into the building. We separate while I take a minute to talk with the cops, giving the EMTs time to check her over.
“Do you happen to know the man who did this?” the officer asks.
“No, I don’t know anyone here, honestly.”
“You just getting into town?”
“Yeah.” I nod.
“I figured,” he says, jotting notes on a pad of paper.
We run through all his questions, everything from a description of the man to my recollection of what happened. It all went down so quickly, piecing it together again takes me a few minutes.
After we wrap up, the officer shakes my hand and says, “Thank you for stepping in to help her. It could’ve gone much worse if you hadn’t. I’m glad you’re here in Miami, and I’m looking forward to watching you play this season.”
I thank him for his service before he slips in that he’s a season ticket holder and how he’s hoping we’ll make it to the finals this year.
The paramedics do a quick assessment of my head to check for a concussion. In the end, they confirm everything is fine, and I will need to take it easy over the next couple of days.
“How are you feeling?” I ask, seeing her now-bandaged knee.
“I’m okay.” She smiles. “Thank you so much for your help. I can’t imagine what would’ve happened had you not been there.”
“It’s no problem,” I assure her.
She peers up at me over her long eyelashes and winces. If I had to guess, it’s from the nice shiner I was told I’d be sporting for a few days, but I’m confident it looks far worse than it truly is.
“No problem? You happen to look in the mirror yet, though?”
“Nah, but I feel fine, and they told me all is well. I’m not too worried about it.”
Her eyes travel over my face, down to where my hand is curled in a fist in front of my chest, zeroing in on my cut-up knuckles. I attempt to turn them away from her, not wanting her to worry about me but rather focus on herself.
“How’s your knee doing? Need any help, you know, getting to wherever you were going?”
She bites down on the corner of her lip, weighing her options with considerate thought, before responding with, “I think I can get around okay, although, I wouldn’t mind you walking with me. You know, for moral support.”
She fights back a smile as the paramedic tosses the remaining supplies into his bag.
He coughs slightly, muttering, “Do it.”
I glance over at him before looking back at her. A knowing smirk lines her eyes as she shrugs as if saying, “Well, are you going to listen to him?”
“You didn’t have to ask.”
The medic chuckles, lifting his bag off the ground and says, “Good, because if you weren’t going to take her up on it, I sure as hell was.”
He turns his attention back to her to give some instructions. “Now, just take it easy. If you experience any swelling, elevate it with some ice. It’ll be tender for a few days, but you’ll be back to normal in no time at all, I’m sure.”
She smiles, her eyes flashing to me, before thanking him. They clear out the lobby area, leaving us alone for the first time since we met.
Refocusing my attention to her, I hold my hand out to help her stand again.
“You know, we didn’t even get to introduce ourselves properly. I’m Colson.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Sydney.” She gives me an impish grin.
“Sydney,” I repeat, letting her name roll off my tongue. “Nice to meet you, Sydney.”
“Would you mind walking me up to my place?” she asks, motioning to the elevator. She purses her lips together, fighting off a smile.
“You know, it’s not safe to offer a stranger the opportunity to walk you to your door.”
“Well, I wouldn’t call you a stranger. You did just practically save my life.”
She smiles at me as I hold my arm out to her. Without hesitation, she loops her arm through mine, using me as a crutch to help her. Her other hand grips the strap of her purse, where the other end dangles from the side, the leather end frayed from where it was ripped.
It takes a little time, but we make it to the elevator.
“What floor are you on?”
“Same here.” I grin as she leans against the railing opposite me as I push the button for the fourteenth floor and wait as the doors close behind us. Once they shut, it’s as if all the oxygen is sucked from the small space, and I’m left with nowhere to go, nowhere to turn. The slight smirk lining her lips has me rooted in place.
I’m not sure what type of woman I expected Sydney to be, I guess I’d need more time with her to truly be the judge of it, but I half expected her to avoid my gaze the entire ride up to our floor.
That’s not what I got though. She used every second of time that ticked by to let her eyes drink me in, and I loved watching her get her fill.
Her beauty, her confidence, even with her broken purse sitting at her feet, her mascara smeared from her tears, her hair a little disheveled, she doesn’t hold back.
She doesn’t even try to disguise her thoughts or feelings, and there’s something incredibly sexy about a woman this confident and sure of herself.
When we reach our floor, the elevator dings, and we step out into the small lobby area. I hold the door open for her as she collects her purse and limps out.
“Which apartment is yours?” I ask.
“You’re not too far from me.” She smiles sheepishly. “I’m new to the building, well, Miami, too. I’m in 4B, at the end of the hall.”
All the apartments ending in B are down our hallway, which means she’s only a few doors down from where I am. By the looks of it, I’ll be making many trips past her place, seeing as I’ll have to pass by her apartment to get to mine.
She slips the key into her lock and pushes the door open, taking her heels from me, dropping them inside her doorway.
Standing in the hall, she peers up at me, and a weird feeling comes over me. If I didn’t know better, I’d say this feels like the end of a date, only we hardly got any time together, and I still don’t want it to end.
“If you need anything, well, you know where to find me now. If you have a cat that needs saving, any fires put out,” I mutter, clearing my throat when I realize how that sounds coming out of my mouth.
Why don’t you come right out and say, I’ll come rescue your pussy cat and put out the fire for you, I think to myself.
Insert foot into mouth.
She clearly picks up on where my mind went, chuckling lightly and shaking her head.
“You’re a real superhero. You know that?”
“I guess I am.” I laugh. When I throw in the wink at the end, she covers her mouth to hide her smile, threatening to split her face in two.
“I owe you one. Once I’m all healed, and we’re both feeling better, how about we do dinner or drinks?”
“Great. Have a good night, Batman!”
She takes the last step into her apartment before flashing me a small wave.
“To the Batmobile!” I shout playfully.
I can hear her laughing as the door springs shut behind her.