Wednesday, October 26, 2016
PLAYING TO WIN by Ashlie Knapp -- BOOK BLITZ
Spunky, quick-witted twenty-one year old Callie Thompson is a University of Oklahoma journalism student by day and NBA Oklahoma City Thunder dancer by night. Callie hopes her connections with the franchise might get her foot in the door for a sports broadcasting job when she graduates. She just has one rule: never date the players.
Kyle Kelly is the deadly handsome and charmingly Southern Thunder man of the hour. All the twenty-six year old is looking for is an NBA championship to call his own. An unexpected meeting with an opinionated, feisty Callie, however, who is very unimpressed with his celebrity status, sets his sights toward winning two things: her heart AND the championship.
With a laugh, Callie saluted her friend, grabbed her bag, hoisted it over her shoulder and walked out the door just as her phone began ringing. “Hey, daddy,” she said, walking down the long corridor that led to the underground parking lot where all the players and cheerleaders got to park.
“Hey, Sunshine.” Her daddy said he called her Sunshine from the moment he saw her blonde head of hair when she was born because he knew she was going to be his ray of sunshine. “I watched the game on TV. Boys did pretty good.”
“Yeah, it was a pretty good game. Kelly stunk it up in the first half. It’s a good thing he has some good teammates to cover for him.”
“Now, don’t be so hard on the kid, Sunshine. Last time I checked, you had a bad game or two in your lifetime.”
“Yeah, yeah. I know. You don’t need to remind me. There’s just something about him that rubs me the wrong way, that’s all.”
“There’s something about all professional athletes that rub you the wrong way, sister. That doesn’t mean they’re all like Matt.” Her daddy knew her too well.
“Ok, ok. Point taken. I gotta go, daddy. I’ve got a big test I have to get home and study for.”
“Alright, Sunshine. You coming over Friday night? I’m grilling my famous burgers.”
“I wouldn’t miss it.” Callie threw her phone into her purse and went scrounging for her keys, which apparently were not wanting to be found. “Come on, you stupid keys. Ugh. Where are you?!”
She rounded the corner of the parking garage, slamming her bag against the brick wall as she simultaneously slammed her body against what felt like a brick wall. Bouncing back from the force, her shoulder rammed into the wall, knocking her bag loose, the contents spilling out all over the floor.
Well, at least this made finding my keys easier, she thought with a sigh.
Callie looked up to find the reason she found herself and the contents of her bag scattered across the parking garage floor. She had to look up. And up. And up. And wouldn’t you know her luck? It was the man of the proverbial hour.
The night of schmoozing the big wigs had Kyle even more tired than the four quarters he had played before it. All thoughts of Ramen noodles gone, he wanted nothing more than to crawl in bed with his cat, Garth, and sleep for two days.
He had just reached his cherry red BMW ¬¬¬Z4, reached in his pocket for his wallet and phone to put in the door and realized he had left both of them in his locker. With a sigh, he pressed the lock button on his fob and headed back down the walkway to the locker room.
Muttering to himself about his dumb luck, Kyle turned the corner just in time to run right into a mop of white blond curls. The curls bounced off his chest, sending the girl and the contents of her purse? Bag? Small piece of luggage? Flying all over the parking garage floor.
“Damn it, jerkface! You can’t just-“ her voice trailed off as she looked up and saw the reason she was on the floor.
Great, Kyle thought. Another one of my mindless, speechless, adoring fans. He hoped she wasn’t hiding in the bathroom like the last one.
“You,” Curls spit, her eyes turning into slits and her forehead crinkling in a frown. “You could at least friggin’ apologize for knocking me to the ground and spilling all my stuff.”
Well, there goes the speechless idea, he thought with an internal smile. This girl was feisty with a capital F. “Do you kiss your mother with that mouth, Curly?” he asked her, dropping to the ground to help pick up her stuff. Well, everything but the tampons. He wasn’t touching those things with a ten foot pole.
“I have a name. Kelly,” she spit back at him. “Not that you would know. Or care.”
“Now, Curly, that’s not nice. Here I am, helping pick up all your stuff. The least you could do was tell me your name,” he said, turning on the charm.
“You really don’t have any idea who I am, do you? Figures. Why would a big, famous guy like you have any idea who I am? It’s not like I stood by you for the last three friggin’ hours smiling a cheesy ass smile for all the idiots trying to grab my butt all night.”
Kyle stood up, handed her the items he had picked up and stared at the firecracker in front of him. Crazy blond curls pulled up in a haphazard bun on top of her head. Big, hazel eyes on a makeup-less face. A dotting of adorable freckles on her nose. A big baggy green Sea World t-shirt that looked about a hundred years old and a pair of Under Armour sweats. Why in the world would she think he knew her?
“You are insufferable!” she yelled, shoving him in the chest with both her hands. “It figures you wouldn’t recognize me with clothes on!”
It then dawned on him. Curly was the fancy little Thunder dancer that was locker room fodder every time Vanessa pulled out a new routine for the squad. The looky but no touchy dancer that hated all things NBA player. Kyle thought every guy on the team, married or not, at one time had a crush on the little vixen standing in front of him. He contributed it to the fact that she oozed unavailability. But he did have to admit, Curly filled out a Thunder cheer suit very nicely. However, if given a choice of this stripped down version or the dolled-up, decked-out dancer made up for the masses, he would have to say he much preferred this one.
“Well, now Curly, I didn’t recognize you without your pompoms,” he said with a grin. ”And all the gunk on your face. I must say, I think I prefer this look to you all dolled up.”
“Said no man ever,” Curly said with a hint of a smile.
“You didn’t let me finish. I was going to say although I did like to see you half naked.”
“And that’s the chauvinistic spirit of all men in general I know and love.”
“Do you hate all men in general or is it just me? Do you bat for the other team?”
“What? No!” Curly’s face turned red as one of the cherry tomatoes he helped his Mema pick from her garden every summer. “I just know your type.”
“My type what?”
“Your…man type,” Curly moved her hands all around his torso in a sweeping gesture. ”Tall. Athletic. Handsome. Full of yourself.”
“You think I’m hot? And how do you know I’m full of myself? I may be the most humble person on the face of the planet. You don’t know me.”
“Handsome. I said handsome. And you, mister,” she said, poking him in the chest with her pointer finger, “Are most certainly not humble.”
“I think a game of horse says differently.”
“A game of horse. Have you been around the game of basketball much? Or do you just shake your booty and call it good? Don’t worry. It’s a fairly simple game. I’m sure I can teach you. My four-year-old nephew caught on pretty quickly.”
“I know how to play horse,” she said, stomping her foot.
“Well, that’s great. Then we play.”
“What happens if you win?”
“You have to go out on five dates with me so I can show you how humble I am.”
“I don’t date professional athletes.”
“Fine. We hang out,” Kyle continued with finger air quotes, “Five times. And I choose the places we hang out. No arguments.”
Curly paused, her fingers absentmindedly twirling an errant curl that had strayed from the wild bun on top of her head. Kyle had no idea what made him throw the idea out at her. Maybe it was the fact that she made him forget about how tired he was. Forget about how the only thing he wanted to do was go home to his nine-year-old cat. Or maybe it was the fact that his heart skipped a beat when she gave him that slight smile and blushed when she got caught calling him handsome. Whatever the reason, it was enough to have him crossing his fingers that she would say yes.
“Fine,” she said in a huff. “You’ve got a deal.”
“What happens when you win?”
“I guess you’ll just wait and see.”
“Oh, Curly. We won’t ever see. Because, even though I am a gentleman, I don’t even let my four-year-old nephew beat me at my favorite game.”
“And I see that humility you keep trying to get me to believe you have has gone flying out the window.”
Kyle threw his head back and laughed. It was turning out to be an interesting evening.
Ashlie Knapp is a small-town Oklahoma mom who loves hanging out with her coaching husband, bookworm daughter, comedic son, eleven year old Cocker Spaniel, cantankerous cat and fraidy-cat Guinea pig. If you can’t find her on her couch religiously reading any book on her Kindle Unlimited account or watching an entire season of Psych on Netflix, then you can probably find her shooting hoops with her son in the front yard or singing Taylor Swift or Dolly Parton songs into cooking spoons in the kitchen with her daughter.