by Ali Dean
Publication date: November 18th 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Sports, Young Adult
It’s match point in the most important tennis match in my life, and nothing can distract me. Nothing, that is, except the sight of Jude Wilder sitting in the stands with his little sister on his lap. He’s never watched me play. Never even noticed me before. And yet his eyes are on me now. I know what he must be thinking. I’m not just an outcast, I’m a social pariah thanks to my family being the town’s most notorious con artists. Jude is on the opposite side of the spectrum. Not only is he accepted, he’s worshipped. I’m nobody to him, and yet I’ve got this chance to impress him.
As it turns out, he isn’t at all impressed when I win the match, and I’m worse than a nobody to him. Jude thinks I’m a threat to his family. This should alarm me. It should scare me. Jude in protective mode is hot, all right, but I can’t afford to be on his radar. I’ve got one year to secure a college scholarship. It’s hard enough keeping a low profile with my tennis success, and the last thing I need is Jude Wilder of all people drawing more attention my way.
Especially if it’s hostile.
Even if I like it.
Ali is a USA Today Bestselling author of sports romance books. She has always loved to read, especially when there’s a happily ever after, but found that there weren’t enough books out there featuring girl athletes. So, she decided to work on that. Like the heroines in her books, Ali is an athlete, with running and skiing her favorite sports these days. Ali hails from Vermont and now lives in her own happily-ever-after in Colorado with her husband, two sets of twins, and golden retriever Pancake. When she’s not pursuing an outdoor adventure, Ali’s less healthy passions include ice cream, coffee, and beer.
“I’m on to you, Karis.” I muttered the words, but her eyes widened just enough to tell me she’d heard me, and knew it was a warning.
“You might think we’ve all forgotten what your mom and sister did. How many people they hurt.” Any reaction I thought I’d gotten initially from her was now locked down. She pulled her shoulders back and let a mask slide into place. I took a step forward, getting into her personal space. Wanting to affect her. Needing to.
“Your sister tried to mess with the Jamisons, my family, and I haven’t forgotten it.”
She crossed her arms and I made myself hold her eyes, even as they begged to drop to her cleavage. She’d done it on purpose.
“I’m not them.” She said it with so much calm, I knew it was forced. There was no anger and no bite, and it all played into the image she’d so carefully crafted of herself.
“No, you’ve got a different kind of game going on. The good girl, innocent, so unlike the rest of her family, people wouldn’t suspect a thing.”
Karis shook her head and took a step back, and then another.
“What are you doing? Why are you doing this?”
It wasn’t until her back hit the side of the building that I realized I’d been matching her step for step. Like I was the predator and she was the prey. I couldn’t bring myself to put any distance between us. Instead, I found myself placing an arm above her head and leaning down. As if I was about to kiss her. It was my own little game. Would she try to reel me in tighter? Get me to fall for her? Or was I playing into her hand?
“I don’t want you anywhere near my family.” I enunciated each word. “Stay away from us.”
Her eyes continued to hold mine. She didn’t shrink back, straightening her posture. We were so close I could feel her breasts brushing against me.
Finally, after a long moment, something flickered in her eyes.
A finger pressed into my chest. “You need to stay away from me,” she hissed.
My smirk was automatic. I’d finally gotten a reaction.
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