Graduate student Autumn McShane has had her share of heartbreak. She's been abandoned and betrayed and she lost her beloved mother in a tragic car accident five months ago. That loss damaged her body and fractured her spirit but she's learning to recover, until her ex-boyfriend returns to town, intent on making her life miserable.
Declan Fraser hates her ex as much as Autumn does, but the last thing she needs is to put her trust in the hands of another man, especially one like Declan: his hard body and lulling Irish accent makes more than a few girls weak-kneed. The talented rugby player is rude and sarcastic, with tattooed, muscular arms and a cocky attitude, but he's the only one who can help Autumn win an ill-advised bet that, if lost, could cost her more than she's willing to pay. The reluctant alliance between Declan and Autumn stirs up cravings she doesn't want to admit, but Declan is a hard man to resist.
Just when Autumn starts letting down her carefully constructed walls to the sexy bad boy, he betrays her when she needs him most. Autumn suspects Declan has secrets, and she is determined to uncover what drove him away from her, even if that means fraternizing with the enemy. But will the truth return Declan to her arms or add to the scars on her heart?
Read an excerpt:
“What do you play?” I ask and he stops for a moment, notices me staring at his hands.
“Wing. Well, normally I’m wing. Tucker’s convinced Mullens to set me as scrumhalf.”
“Ah, so that explains it.”
“Why you hate Tucker.” He doesn’t respond, just returns to the bookshelf to grab another box and my gaze follows him, takes in the rigid set of his shoulders. “He’ll be gone at the end of the season, you know.”
“Hmm. If I’m lucky,” he says.
“Mullens is a good coach. I’ve known him forever and he’s friends with Ava.” A wrinkle forms between Declan’s eyebrows. “Dr. Winchell.”
“Thick as thieves with the president, aren’t you?”
“No. Well, yes, but it’s not what you think. She was my mom’s best friend. They’d known each other since college.”
He opens his mouth as though he wants to say something, but then just nods before he clears his throat. “Sayo mentioned it was a car crash?” When my eyes narrow, he shakes his head as though I shouldn’t be angry. “That was after she and the other two barked at me forever. Told me what an arse I was, how rude I was, how you didn’t deserve to be disrespected.” I relax and he continues. “You were hurt?”
“Yes.” My hands shake, tremble as they rest on the box in front of me and I can see myself bloody and still in the car, remembering the pain, the suffocating feeling of my mother’s loss. A breath tamps down the burn of tears in my eyes. “Three broken ribs, a completely busted up leg, and a lacerated abdomen. I had more scrapes and bruises than even you’ve probably had.”
“I’ve had many. Loads of scars as well.”
I don’t know what possesses me to do it, perhaps some subconscious need to prove how tough I am, that I’m not some sniggering girly girl, but I lift up the side of my shirt and show Declan the top of my incision from the surgery. It’s a horrid, long line still pink that runs from my hip to just below my bellybutton.
“A steel rod from the truck that hit us pinned me to the seat. Seven hour surgery.” Declan winces. The scar had faded and the doctors told me that over time it would continue to diminish, but it would never disappear completely. Five months on and it’s still quite disgusting.
Seemingly without thinking about it, Declan reaches down and rubs his thumb against my scar and at his touch, my stomach flips. I know he can see the light hairs on my stomach stand on end and how my skin covers in goose bumps. He looks at my face again and once more his eyes linger too long in my eyes, then down to my lips. But then he breaks contact and unbuttons his shirt.
“I’ve got a few nasty ones as well. See this?” He lifts his undershirt back over his left shoulder and I nod, curious of his point, his intentions. “Rory McDonald pushed me straight through the rusty, broken uprights when I was fifteen. Twenty-nine stiches that ached like a bugger. And here,” he lowers his shirt then pulls up the hem to show me a smooth gash just below his bellybutton. “Mickey Douglas forgot to ditch his watch during a practice match when I was eighteen. Fecking thing nearly ripped me in half when he lined me up and smashed me as I went for a try-scoring pass.” The scar is faint, barely noticeable and doesn’t register really as I am distracted by muscles so taut that I can see the lines across his stomach. There is a long trail of black hair below his navel that disappears beneath his belt and I can’t help the wild dip of my stomach as I watch his bare skin.
“That’s um, yeah.” I swallow against the dryness in my mouth and Declan steps closer, his shirt still raised. Again I feel him watching me, and I don’t realize how close we are standing until he drops his shirt. There is no smile on his face, no condescending little grin that tells me he thinks I’m an idiot.
I don’t react when Declan reaches for my face or when his hand cups my cheek. The tips of his fingers are smooth, not like the rough callouses on the tops and palms of his hands. I’m about to speak, say something glib, sarcastic, but just then Declan rubs his thumb across my bottom lip, a mimic of what I’d done to him Thursday night on the sidewalk. I can only manage to watch his head lower until his lips are at my ear. When he whispers, his voice is low, a soft rasp that nears a growl and instantly makes my body ache.
“Like what you see, love?”
He steps back and the crackle present in the air, the one I’d forced the other night, returns, collects into the stillness of the basement. The seconds stretch, he moves forward, and the only sound I can hear is the low hum of the lights overhead and my own heartbeat thumping in my ears.
“Yes….um, no…it’s not like that.”
Expat Irish rugby player Declan Fraser only wanted to play the sport he loves. He didn’t want to be stuck in this middle-of-nowhere town at this all too quaint university. He didn’t want his team captain to be an entitled jackass who switched Declan's position on the squad just to make himself look good. And he sure as hell didn’t want to fall in love with graduate student Autumn McShane.
Autumn is stubborn, but gorgeous; she bristles at any hint of dependency on anyone or anything, but she’s also a survivor. She’s everything Declan didn’t know he wanted. When Autumn finds herself in the middle of a challenging bet with her ex-boyfriend - who just happens to be the arrogant team captain that Declan hates - he feels honor bound to help her out. But he didn’t expect to fall for her in the process.
“Behind the Pitch” reveals the most twisted and erotic thoughts in Declan’s head as he navigates through his on again/off again, frustrating and deeply erotic relationship with Autumn McShane.
And lordy, does he have a filthy mind.
Eden Butler is an editor and writer of New Adult Romance and SciFi and Fantasy novels and the nine-times great-granddaughter of an honest-to-God English pirate. This could explain her affinity for rule breaking and rum. Her debut novel, a New Adult, Contemporary (no cliffie) Romance, “Chasing Serenity” will launch October 2013.
When she’s not writing or wondering about her possibly Jack Sparrowesque ancestor, Eden edits, reads and spends way too much time watching rugby, Doctor Who and New Orleans Saints football.
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