Hardball: A Sports Romance

Hardball

 

A Sports Romance

Alexa Reiss

Can you change a 'fuckboy'?

 

Chance Lawrence is the best quarterback in the state.
He’s so
hot
and just
looking
at him makes my legs shake.

 

I knew he was trouble.
Ripped body
and cocky attitude tell me to stay away. But now he’s gotten in the hottest scandal of the year that can ruin his career.

 

I have
to pose as
Chance’s
girlfriend just to save his reputation.

He wants me in his bed and he is determined to prove he’s changed. I think I'm in love,
but
then
I have doubts
. Should I listen to my head—or my heart?  

Chance

 

The second Chance Lawrence walked into his Coach’s, Mark Adam, office he knew that he had pushed things too far.  Liam had even warned him this morning that the previous weekend had gone too far, and now from the grave expression on his coach’s face, his best friend had been right. Not that Chance had honestly cared at the time. He didn’t even know before that Paige Fields was the daughter of the head Coach of the Ravens, a rival team that they were geared to play for the Super Bowl.  Hell, all he had noticed at the time was her impressive bust and taut body.

    “Take a seat, Chance,” Mark told him, motioning to the chair in front of his desk.  “There are some things we need to discuss as you can imagine.”

     Chance lowered himself into the chair across from Mark. “I know, but before we do, I just wanted to say—”

     Mark didn’t give him a chance to speak. “I know what you’re going to say, Chance, and it isn’t an excuse. Have you seen the paper today?”

    “Not yet.”

    “Here then,” Mark said, tossing the paper into Chance’s lap. “Read that headline for me. Read the an entire article actually.”

    He glanced down at the headline with a grimace.

   
Quarterback Chance Lawrence seen partying with rival coach’s daughter

    
While Chance Lawrence flaunts an impressive record of carrying his team to the Super Bowl his first year as a backup quarterback, many fans are left questioning if signing Lawrence has been the right move for the team.

    The quarterback has been connected to numerous women over the past year, one claiming a pregnancy as a result, and his endless partying has left a sour taste in many fan’s mouths. 

    “I just hope he gets his act together,” David, a fan, told the Report yesterday. “I get that he’s young, and he’s newly signed as the quarterback, but you have to respect for yourself and the team. He’s turning this team into the laughing stock.”

   
Chance looked up angrily before he could read further on. “What the fuck? Since when does my personal life matter to fans?”

     “It matters to fans because you are the anchor for this time,” Mark replied steadily, folding his hands over his stomach. “You’re in the public spot light, and every time you put that jersey on, you represent this state and team. I don’t blame any of these fans for feeling the way they do given your antics lately.”

     His antics lately wouldn’t make anyone proud. After signing a contract worth $4 million dollars, how could anyone resist the party life? Sure, his father, a wealthy investor, was never short for money, but what was so wrong with enjoying his mid-twenties as a carefree bachelor? Years of training to be the best as he could be meant sacrificing nights out with his friends during high school and college.

     And now that Chance had an ample amount of time and money to enjoy his success, he would be damned if he didn’t take advantage of it.

     “I’ve worked hard to be here, coach,” Chance said. “I’ve sacrificed a lot of my personal life before hand to be the best I can be for this team. I just want to enjoy the success.”

     “You can enjoy the success in a responsible way,” Mark said. Rubbing at his face tiredly, he looked across his cluttered desk at Chance in exasperation. “Robert has given us an ultimatum here from all the bad press that you’ve managed to stir up.”

    Chance stiffened at the General Manger’s name. He was the only one who had the authority to let Chance go if he felt the need to save press. It was one of the many reasons why Chance hated the politics behind the game. A contract meant he was owned by the team, and also owned by Robert who wasn’t afraid to voice his displeasure.

    “Like what?” He asked, suspiciously. “What does Robert want us to do?”

    “You to do,” Mark corrected sternly. “He suggested a publicity stint to make your name more pleasing to fans before the season officially starts up in two weeks.”

    “What sort of publicity stint are we looking at?”

    “A steady girlfriend would help with these rumors,” Mark said.

    Chance snorted loudly at that. “Yeah, no thanks. I like being single right now.”

    “Then consider yourself on the bench with a pay cut. That is the other option.”

    Drumming his hands anxiously on the arms of the chair, Chance studied his coach’s face for a possible way out. Mark’s face remained impassive.

    “Fine,” Chance snapped, rubbing at his face in agitation. “Who the hell do you have in mind since this is your publicity stunt? You probably wouldn’t like my pick of a pretend girlfriend.”

    Mark grinned at him, clearly pleased with that answer. “You’re right. I wouldn’t, but I suggested someone to Robert who also agreed with me. She’d be a good pick for you.”

    “I can’t deal with girls who aren’t above a seven on a scale of one to ten,” Chance said, bluntly. “If she’s going to be my girlfriend to in front of the cameras, she has to like to party with me.”

    “That’s not the point of this. Come with me.”

    “Who is it?” Chance asked, reluctantly rising from the chair. “Do I know her?”

    “She’s one of Robert’s secretaries.”

    Chance groaned inwardly at that. Just what he needed. A pretend girlfriend that Robert knew and apparently liked as well. Still, he followed Mark out of the office in the direction of the general office.

    He swept a critical gaze over the few women who worked in the front office answering phone calls. None of them were the slightest bit attractive, and he was sure that they were all married, or desperate like Lindsey Jacobs for a boyfriend.

    “This way,” Mark said, leading him thankfully past the women in front. “Her name is Arabella Braden. She just turned twenty one.”

     Mark pushed the door to the conference room open to reveal a startled woman who looked up from a mountain of paperwork she was reading through, and appeared to be editing from the red pen in hand. The protests Chance had in the back of his head immediately disappointed when his eyes landed on the woman he assumed to be Arabella.

     He had to give it to Robert. The woman was damn right attractive from her slender physique, long tresses of hair that was a vanilla color, and studious and introverted appearance from black slacks and grey blouse she wore.

    “Is there something you need, Mr. Adams?” Arabella asked, clearly confused about their sudden appearance. Her eyes, a deep azure color, quickly glanced over at him through large eye glasses before looking back at Mark. “Robert told me that you were coming by to discuss something with me.”

    “Yes,” Mark said, closing the door behind Chance. “We have a bit publicity problem that Robert felt you could help fix for this team.”

    Arabella’s eyes widened at that. “I-I’m not sure he picked the right person,” she said, lowering her pen slowly. “I’m sorry, but I’m a bit confused of what is going on. Why is Chance Lawrence with you?”

    “I’m here to ask you to be my pretend girlfriend,” Chance said, boldly. He grinned in amusement at the alarmed look Arabella gave him. “Just for the cameras, sweetheart. Although, I wouldn’t mind if we—”

   Something hit his shoulder hard directly on his sore muscles. Chance rubbed at the spot, glaring at Mark as he took a seat directly across from Arabella.

   “What is he talking about?” Arabella asked.

  “We have unfortunately found ourselves in a rather bad situation,” Mark started, folding his hands on the table. “Chance is one of the greatest quarterbacks in the NFL, even surpassing some of the veterans. His antics as you know have caused a bit of bad press for the team.”

     Arabella refused to look in Chance’s direction even though he knew she could his eyes on her, studying the enticing curve of her collarbone. “What does this have to do with me? I would think that Chance has to make amends for himself. That’s what responsible adults do.”

   Chance bristled at the insult. He opened his mouth to retort, but Mark beat him to the punch.

   “He will on his own time, but Robert and I believe that a girlfriend in front of the camera will do his image some good.”

    Arabella stared at him wordlessly, her pretty red lips parted slightly in surprise.

   “We think that you would improve his image greatly,” Mark continued on. “You’re a hard worker. You don’t cause trouble. We think you could balance Chance’s image out a bit for now.”

    “You’re asking me to be his girlfriend?” Arabella asked, the shock in her voice evident. Before Mark could reply, she continued on in a terrified voice. “I cannot date a football player who sleeps with random women all the time. I don’t even go on dates, Mark. I can’t deal with him.”

    That confessional slip stirred the blood in Chance’s lower area. Maybe having Arabella around wouldn’t be so bad, he thought to himself. The women he had slept with over the year were far too easy to get into bed. Someone like Arabella would be an enjoying challenge.

    That would be his reward for having a pretend girlfriend to keep his contract, but to keep playing the one sport that he loved more than anything in the world.

   “It would just be pretend,” Mark said, assuredly. “It doesn’t mean you have to spend any time with him.”

    “But that would be a pretty good perk,” Chance added slyly. “I’m a lot of fun to be around. Just ask around.”

    Mark sighed at him in irritation. “Stop it, Chance. You’re not helping the situation. What do you say, Aria?”

   
***
Chapter Two
Arabella

 

“So, they’re offering you a big promotion to be Chance Lawrence’s girlfriend?”

     Arabella gulped down another glass of wine for the night. It still didn’t ease the tension in the pit of her stomach. Of all the women in the world, Robert had picked her to help out with the bad press surrounding Chance because of his behavior. The thought of standing in front of flashing cameras, having her face plastered all over the place, and then letting that womanizing man put his hand on her left a sour taste in her mouth.

   “Yes,” she gasped out, looking up at her best friend Lindsey Jacobs. “Apparently they think my image will do him some good.”

    “Nothing will do his image any good,” Lindsey said. “You know that he slept with Paige Fields right? It was all over the headlines this morning.”

   “I know. Robert isn’t pleased with him at all.”

    Pouring them another glass of wine, Lindsey shook her head as she gazed out the living room window Arabella’s two bedroom apartment. “I wish I could say I feel sorry for you, but I’m also envious at the same time. Chance is a Greek God walking this earth.”

    “I haven’t noticed,” Arabella said. Which was partially true. When it came to the athletes that breezed through the office at various times, she tried not to take notice of them. Many of them were out of her league, and that included Chance. Even if she did sneak a look every once and a while at Chance’s finely muscled body and honey blonde hair with piercing green eyes.

   Up until yesterday, Chance hadn’t even spared her a second glance. She contributed it to his attention being directed elsewhere at all times, but that was also fine with her too. The last time she had been on a date ended up being one of the worse nights of her life.

    Dating was just a blunder for her, and now her boss expected her to be in the spotlight next to a celebrity athlete who took pride in the list of women he had slept with.

   “Take the money,” Lindsey said. “Seriously. How many women get this type of opportunity?”

    “To be what? A pretend girlfriend?” Arabella asked, bitterly. “I’d like to think that I could find a boyfriend eventually on my own terms. Not a pretend one who couldn’t care less about the publicity stunt that is trying to save the team’s reputation.”

    Lindsey scoffed at that. “When was the last time you actually went on a date?”  

    “College,” Arabella said, quietly. “That was the last time since…”

    Memories from that night threatened to surface, but she shoved them back away to a compartment in the back of her mind. Arabella looked back down at her wine glass to avoid Lindsey’s eyes.

    “Shit, Aria. I’m sorry,” Lindsey said, reaching out to grab Arabella’s hand. “I didn’t meant to bring up bad memories.”

    “Don’t worry about it. It was a long time ago.”

    “I know, but still. I know how it still makes you feel.”

    Arabella shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly as possible. “It’s whatever now. I just don’t know how turn Mark and Robert down in the mean time.”

    “If it’s any consolation,” Lindsey said, gently, “this could be a great way for you to earn some more respect around the office. Everyone takes you for granted.”

    It just meant dealing with Chance in the meantime. The only reason why Arabella had taken on the job of being Robert’s secretary was because of her parents. They were all a close circle of friends of wealth. Arabella had memories of Robert since she was a toddler while Coach Adams had also grown close to her parents as well through the same circle. It was a great resume builder is what her dad had told her at the time.

    And there was no doubt in Arabella’s mind that her parents who thrived on their wealth and status would be over the moon over Robert’s offer.

    “Just think about it,” Lindsey said, gulping down the remaining wine in her glass. “I better get going since we both have to be into work early tomorrow morning.”

    She kissed Arabella on the head before leaving the house. For a while, Arabella sat on the couch curled up with her glass of wine before the ringing of her cellphone broke the silence. She glanced down at it, and couldn’t help but roll her eyes.

    “I’m surprised you haven’t called me sooner,” Arabella said, wryly. 

    “Your father made me wait,” June Braden replied, an impatient tone in her voice. “So, have you responded to Robert’s proposal yet? He promised you quite the promotion if you took it.”

    “How do you know about this?” Arabella asked, curiously. “It just happened today at work. How did you find out so fast?”

    June sighed into the phone. “We go to the same dinner club as Robert. How do you think we found out?”

    “True.” Arabella smiled slightly. “I suppose you’re calling me to convince me to take the publicity stunt.”

   “Why wouldn’t you? Most women would die to have the chance to be a celebrity athlete’s girlfriend. Especially someone like Chance Lawrence.”

    “He’s a womanizer, mom. He slept with a rival’s team coach’s daughter. He practically implied that we could hook up for the publicity stunt to.”

    “Which says he’s attracted to you.”

    “Which says he’s missing the point about all of this,” Arabella said in exasperation. “Why should I waste my time on this man who doesn’t care about his own team’s reputation?”

   “No one ever said that you had to care for him,” June said. “It’s just a publicity stunt. All you have to do is travel with him, go to his games, be seen in public together a couple of times. What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

   “Everything could go wrong. Why do you want me to take this so bad?”

   “I just think—”

   Irritation swept through Arabella fast.

   “That I should let the past go?”

   “—that you should give yourself a chance to move on with your life a bit more,” June finished as though she hadn’t spoken. “It’s not going to harm you at all, sweetheart, to be around someone who is attracted to you. Not every man is out there to get you.”

    Arabella pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration. “I never believed that. I just think this is going to cause more of a headache than what it’s worth. Do you see the media attention that other athlete’s girlfriends get?” She grimaced at the thought of millions of anonymous comments analyzing every move she made. “I can’t handle all of that attention.”

   “That’s why you don’t pay attention to what other people say,” June said. “I have to go, sweetheart. Your dad is hollering for me from downstairs. Just give it a thought is all I’m trying to say. You never know what could come from all of this.”

    “A headache,” Arabella replied. “I love you, mom. I’ll call you later.”

    Two hours later, and a pound of Chinese Low Mein noodles, she keyed in the code to her security system before clicking off all the lights. Arabella settled into bed with a heavy sigh, staring up at the flickering shadows of the ceiling. Maybe her mom was right. What could possibly go wrong for pretending to be Chance Lawrence’s girlfriend? The hefty promotion Robert had promised would certainly be enough to pay for a semester’s worth of graduate studies.

   That would come in handy. It only meant having to deal with Chance for an entire season of football. How possibly hard could that be?

 

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