Field of Passion and Dreams (Book 1 of The Field Series) – Erotic Romance

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Graham Grayson is a hard worker and all around gentlemen. His dream to play in the majors like his dad just came true. He was called up to be the catcher for the Pittsburgh Buccaneers. On the day of team photos, he meets photojournalist Jordan Michaela Roy.

Still grieving the loss of her dad, Jordan sets aside emotions and memories of her sports reporter father to find her passion again on the field as a sports photojournalist. While working spring training for Major League Baseball, she never anticipates passion igniting off the field, too.

Neither Graham nor Jordan can deny their explosive attraction or the happiness they feel being with each other. Their fathers’ past friendship has them wondering about destiny.

While they worry about the demands of their careers, traveling, and being in the public eye, nothing can prepare Graham for the devastating news that makes him question life, his dream, and love.

Will Graham realize his mistakes before it is too late?

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DEDICATION

This book is dedicated to all the women who are working on loving their body because that shit’s hard and I’m proud of you!

FIELD OF PASSION AND DREAMS

The Field Series, 1

 JACQUELINE ANNE

Copyright © 2016

Chapter One

Graham Grayson finally got the call up to the majors to play baseball for the Pittsburgh Buccaneers. It had to be the best damn present he had ever received. He had been working his ass off the past few years in the minors, not just as a catcher, but as a hitter, too. After the amazing success he had last season in the minors, rumors were swirling around. He thanked his lucky stars the buzz was true. He was finally a major league ballplayer, as long as he didn’t screw it up.

“Hey Double G, you’re up next,” Tyson Best, one of the pitchers, yelled while walking into the locker room. Today was the day all the players were scheduled to have their photos taken.

“Almost ready,” Graham answered. He glanced in the mirror to make sure his white uniform was completely perfect. It displayed the team name in black and gold. Those colors ran quite thick throughout the city of Pittsburgh. This much he already knew about his future home.

“G, are you nervous?” Tyson asked, taunting him.

Graham met Tyson the first day of spring training. Tyson called him Double G. The name had immediately stuck like glue. Tyson explained to Graham that he seemed too cool for his name and all amazing ballplayers needed a nickname. Funny how Graham had been playing ball since he was five and this was the first time anyone ever thought he needed one. But, Tyson insisted. After a few days, Graham was willing to go along with it because they clicked effortlessly on the field. So much so, they were both kind of shocked about it. They even started hanging out off the field.

“Hell no. Why would I be nervous for pictures?” Truthfully, Graham always hated getting his portrait taken. There were way too many awkward ones from his childhood. As he got older, he would practice his dimpled grin in the mirror. Once he hit high school, his yearbook photos were much better.

“Oh good, ’cause you should see one of the photographers. Woo wee, she is fine,” Tyson said with a whistle.

“You’re an ass.” Graham tried to keep a straight face but enjoyed his friend’s enthusiasm.

“No, I’m charming. I may not have your good looks, but I do know what women like to hear.”

Tyson’s confident smile was so big and so white against his dark skin, Graham almost had to shield his eyes. One of Tyson’s endorsement deals was with a teeth whitening company. Clearly the product was working well.

“Grayson, the photographers are ready for you,” Coach Robert Pixler shouted in a deep voice.

Graham trotted out of the locker room and down the hall. His new cleats clicked on the floor as he made his way to where the make-shift photo studio was set up. The guy introduced himself as Neal and instructed Graham on where to stand. He assumed he was just one of the photographers. Graham doubted he would have sparked Tyson’s interest.

Graham stood tall and straight, looked into the camera and gave him his best practiced soft smile. He didn’t want it to be too big and look dorky, but he also didn’t want to not smile and look like a hard-ass.

He was overanalyzing his smile—again.

“Hang on one second, Graham.” The photographer fiddled with his camera. He looked toward an office. “Jordan, do you have another memory card?” he shouted.

“Yes. Here you go, Neal.”

Graham heard the strong, yet angelic voice and watched the woman walk out of the office toward the studio area. She was so beautiful his breath hitched. His eyes were fixated on her as she handed something to Neal. She was wearing a polo shirt with the MLB logo on it and khaki pants, similar to what Neal was wearing. He examined her, from her shoulder-length blonde hair all the way down her body. He could faintly see her figure through her work clothes as she moved. He felt like a kid waiting to unwrap a Christmas present. She definitely had a form that would knock a man to his knees.

“Sorry about that, Graham. I’m ready now,” Neal clarified, ready to shoot again.

And then she walked away without even noticing him.

Disappointment rushed through him. How could that encounter have been so one sided? Maybe she was too focused on work. If so, he admired that about a woman. He liked independent women. Sadly, they weren’t the ones he dated though. Apparently, he attracted other types—like needy, high maintenance ones.

Graham was in another place. His mind consumed of her. Did he say her name was Jordan? He wanted to know more about her.

“Graham, I need you to look toward the camera,” Neal instructed, interrupting his lustful thoughts.

“Sorry.” Graham tried to focus back on the camera, but it was no use. “Is she also a photographer?” he asked Neal.

“Who? Jordan?”

“Yes.”

“She’s my assistant and one hell of a sports photojournalist. Why?”

Graham’s view wandered toward the office, already longing to see her again. Neal cleared his throat, drawing Graham’s attention away from Jordan and back to Neal who was beaming.

“Hey, Jordan! My camera is acting up again. Can you take over Mr. Grayson’s photos while I figure out what is wrong?” Neal gave him a manly cue.

Graham mouthed “thank you” to him.

Bro code understood.

He watched her walk out of the office toward him. His heart raced. Dammit. Get some control, Grayson.

“So, I hear they call you Double G.” Graham nodded in response. “Well, Double G, I’m Jordan Roy. It is nice to meet you.” She smiled and stuck out her right hand while holding her camera in her left one.

Graham was standing there like a dumb-ass completely absorbed by her beauty. And now by her radiating smile which lit up the entire room.

She pushed her hand forward again. Taking the hint and needing to be polite, he shook it. She moved her hand away all too quickly.

Holy shit! If a body could speak in fireworks, he just felt the Fourth of July from a handshake. He wanted to know if she felt it, too. He looked into her eyes to try to get some indication but was failing miserably. He was fascinated by her gorgeous hazel eyes with hints of blue, green, and brown. He wondered if her eye color always changed depending on what she wore. Today, they looked bluer.

“Nice to meet you, Jordan.” He conjured up all the brain cells he had in order to put those five little words together.

“So, Double G, you are the Buccaneers’ new catcher? And if I remember correctly, son of pitcher, Kip Grayson?” she inquisitively asked while prepping her camera.

He nodded, completely intrigued with this woman. She knew about his dad? She was either well acquainted with baseball or did some serious research for this job.

A few moments of awkward silence passed by. What is wrong with me? I can’t even have a decent conversation with her.

“You don’t talk much, do you?” she asked, grinning.

“I–I do. Apparently just not well in the presence of a beautiful woman,” he managed to say.

She took a good look around the room, then she laughed—hysterically—which threw Graham off his game, not that he was succeeding much to begin with.

“What’s so funny?” Graham wasn’t sure if he should be insulted by how amusing she found him, but he couldn’t be. The sound of her laugh made him weak in the knees.

“You are pretty funny, Graham, or a sweet talker.” She cocked a brow.

With a shrug and a quirky smile, he responded, “A little of both?”

She laughed again and backed away from him to set her camera on the tripod.

“Okay. Smile nice,” Jordan said and started snapping away.

After a few shots, she reviewed the photos she had taken. Her lips curved up into a sexy as hell smile. He imagined all the things he could do to her to get her to smile like that over and over again.

She took the camera off the tripod and brought it over to him.

“I don’t think you want any of these as your player photo.” She showed him the screen, and he was mortified. It was middle school all over again. “Try to relax, Double G. It’s not painful, I promise.” She patted him on the chest.

Heat seared through his body again from where she touched him. He took a few deep breaths trying to regain some kind of control. He had to pretend like he was back in his bedroom practicing his smile, but it wasn’t working. Instead, he focused on the attractive woman in front of him trying to impress her.

She took a few more shots then reviewed them. “Perfect. Wanna see?”

They walked toward each other. This time, he was doing more than watch her. His senses wanted to discover all of her. He inhaled her scent—the amazing aroma of citrus and sunflowers hit him. He yearned to touch her, to feel her naked skin against his.

She showed him the photograph she thought was the best one and he agreed. It was pretty damn perfect, at least for him.

Neal walked out of the office, and Jordan started to walk away.

“Wait!” Graham grasped her arm. She looked where he touched her then to his face. He was now certain she felt it too—an indescribable zing. “Will I see you again?”

“I’ll be around,” she answered, too nonchalantly for his liking.

With that, she went back into the office.

Of course she would be around. She was working spring training.

* * * *

Once all the players were done with their individual photos, they made their way to the cafe for lunch. Tyson sat down across from him and set down his lunch tray.

“What’s up with you, man? Ever since you came back from your pictures, you’ve looked like a lost puppy dog.”

Graham debated on whether or not he should say anything to his new buddy but then figured maybe Tyson could help. “Between you and me?” Tyson nodded in agreement. “What do you know about that photographer?”

Tyson’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. “I told you, Double G!” Tyson laughed. “You saw it, too—the mystery buried under her work clothes.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know. Seriously, all I know is her name is Jordan Roy, and she is an amazing sports photojournalist, or so I have been told.” That and she made his knees weak and his tongue-tied.

Oh the things he wanted to do to her with his tongue. He sighed. What the fuck was getting into him?

“Speaking of—” Tyson’s focus roamed over Graham’s shoulders.

He turned around and saw Jordan walking by. She was carrying her lunch and talking on her cell phone. She looked like she couldn’t care less that she was in a room with a bunch of major league ballplayers.

Who is this woman?

She sat at an empty table in the far corner of the large room and carried on her conversation. Graham pondered whether or not he should go sit with her when she was done on the phone. He really wanted to get to know her. When she ended her call, she pulled out a book to read and started eating. Graham got up to make his move and saw Mike Rosen, their star shortstop, making his way over to her table, beating him to it. Graham froze. He was disappointed he may have lost his chance with her. Mike was known as the team’s ladies’ man. He was a guy with all the charm and chiseled looks and ready to blow money on whatever flavor suited him best for a night—and typically it was only a night. He was always making the tabloids.

Graham waited and observed to see how things would play out.

Jordan and Mike exchanged a few words, but Graham couldn’t make out what they were saying. She shook her head. They both smiled, and Mike dramatically walked away with his hand over his heart looking shocked and hurt. Some of the guys laughed.

It seemed as though she turned him down.

Graham beamed and sat back down. “Resilient to Mike’s charm. I like her even more now,” Graham stated then took a bite of his chicken sandwich.

“So, Double G, when are you going to make your move?” Tyson quietly asked.

“First, I have to stop acting like a baffling idiot when I am around her.” Tyson grinned at him. “But, I think I need to take this one slow and become friends with her first. I get the feeling she is different from a lot of other women.” His eyes met hers for a brief moment. “I like that.”

* * * *

Jordan sat at her temporary desk and went through the team’s photos, trying to get some editing done while the players were in a meeting. The portrait-style sessions went well with no emotional hiccups. Point and shoot came easily to her, and she hadn’t faltered with that style over the years. Her palms still sweat thinking about the action shots she would soon be expected to capture. She tampered down her anxiety and memories of her father while trying to focus on her skills and the adrenaline rush she used to feel when she was lost in a game.

She came across Mike’s photographs and rolled her eyes. The fact he hit on her during his photos and at lunch time made her laugh. Did he think every girl would drop to her knees for a chance to be with him? She wasn’t stupid or desperate. The man was all over the tabloids with a different girl—or girls—every time. Sure he was hot with his dirty blond hair and mysterious dark eyes and made a ton of money, but he was not her cup of tea. Then again, she really didn’t know what her type was. She knew Mike wasn’t it though. She wondered how many times those cheesy pick-up lines actually worked for him. Sad thing was, they probably worked ninety-nine percent of the time. Well, not with her. She was here to do a job, not cozy up with ballplayers, especially ones with egos so big their head could barely fit in the room. Mike was a definitely a player on the field and off.

She edited his best photo and continued on.

She stopped when she got to Graham’s. She compared his to make sure she did pick the best one. His quirky grin made her smile and feel all warm and fuzzy inside. She tried really hard not to check him out but would be blind if she didn’t notice how good looking he was. He had short brown hair, a little longer on top, and gorgeous blue eyes. His six-foot frame looked amazing in his uniform. He had thick thighs and a great ass from years of being in a catcher’s stance, muscular all over, and oh those dimples.

Her mind wandered picturing how great he would look out of his uniform, smiling at her while she lay under him. Damn. She sighed and shook her head. He was obviously a charmer and full of shit with the “beautiful woman” comment he made. But she couldn’t help the smile that kept appearing when she thought of him.

Work, Jordan. Focus on work.

Neal peeked his head into her office. “They are ready for the team photos now, Jordan.”

Jordan and Neal carried their cameras and equipment out to the field. They lined the players and coaches up arcing the Pittsburgh “P” on the field.

“Do you want to do the honors,” Neal asked her.

“Sure.”

Just another portrait, she told herself, albeit a huge one and right on the field where all the action happened.

She took a deep breath in and out and climbed the ladder which was placed behind home plate. She checked her view and had Neal adjust a few of the guys making sure everyone was appearing nicely in her view. After a few minutes of snapping away, she had a number of excellent photos to choose from.

The players broke from their pose and sectioned off for practice while Jordan and Neal made their way off the field. Before they reached the tunnel, Jordan stopped and turned around. She looked down at her sweaty hands which were trembling as she carried her camera. It was now or never. She bit her lower lip, excited and nervous adrenaline ran through her.

“Jordan? Are you okay?” Neal stood beside her, both surveying all the happenings on the field.

“Confession?” Jordan requested, wanting to unload some of the heaviness she felt in her heart.

“I’m all ears.”

She didn’t look at him. She kept her eyes on the massive diamond. “I haven’t shot a sporting event in over five years.”

“I know,” Neal acknowledged but did not press her for details.

Quiet moments ticked by despite the sounds of baseball practice surrounding her. She could hear the rapid beats of her own heart, wanting to be set free.

“I figured your brother told you, but neither of you know why.”

Neal’s brother, John, was Jordan’s advisor in college. He was the one who recommended her for the position. She had used her sports photographs when she applied to the school but switched her focus to travel photojournalism. For years, she walked away from her love of sports. The memories of her father made it too painful. Mr. Taylor insisted her sports photos exhumed her passion more so than her work from the mission trips she went on. She had a lot of respect for the man. His talent and passion was obvious to all those who graced his classroom. For him, it wasn’t just about teaching skills, but learning to love what you do and feed off it. That was what produced the best work.

Truthfully, it wasn’t like any other job was knocking on her door either.

After a great deal of soul searching and a few emotional breakdowns with her best friend, Cece, and her mother, she sorted through her thoughts and feelings searching for an answer. It was years of pent-up grief screaming to be released. She still couldn’t shake the feeling that this position would either make her or break her. Cece and her mom encouraged her to take the risk to see if she could rediscover her passion. So she put on her big girl panties and flew to Florida from Pittsburgh. And there she was, standing in a dugout during spring training surrounded by major league baseball players.

Jordan and Neal took a seat on the bench as she set down her camera. She was thankful she had worn her sunglasses on her head. She slid them down over her eyes, not wanting to show all her emotions—not to Neal and certainly not to any of the players or coaches.

Although Jordan had recently met Neal, Jordan had always been a good judge of character. Her circle was small but strong. Neal was much like his brother. She recognized it immediately by the little things he said and how he acted. She felt a special bond with them as they shared the same passion—a common understanding, so to speak. Not to mention, a few fatherly qualities as well.

She told him all about the past with her father, his death and her fears. It was the first time she had spoken about it aside from the time she told her best friend, Cece. This time, she wasn’t crying. It was a major stepping stone for her. She hoped the last of the walls she built were coming down.

Jordan also recalled the conversation they had at lunch the day before. Neal had taken her to Seasons, a pub-style restaurant where all the players and coaches hung out. There were a ton of tables all around and baseball memorabilia all over. One gray-colored wall immediately caught Jordan’s eye. From afar, it looked like a toddler scribbled all over it with a silver marker. Jordan examined the wall and tried to make out some of the signatures. Neal explained to her that the pub had been there for nearly two decades. Every first time a major league ballplayer or coach ate there, no matter what team they played for, they would sign the wall. The history and moments it captured fascinated her. Soon, she found herself with her camera in her hands, snapping away. She had apologized for getting caught up in the moment, and Neal told her to never apologize when she was documenting a story.

Documenting a story. The words had hit her hard like a head-on collision. Then the words Cece, an extremely talented artist herself, said replayed in her head. The passion will be reignited soon.

She had been looking at sports photojournalism all wrong. For years she associated the games with her father and their bonding time together—the memories they shared which ended all too soon after he lost his battle to cancer. But it wasn’t just about baseball or any other sport, she had a story to tell like her dad did as a sports reporter. Neal reminded her of that simple, yet extremely important element.

Like the signatures, the players were there for a reason. They were living their dream. One she imagined would have started at a very young age. People went to the pub to see the famous wall or catch a glimpse of their favorite player enjoying himself off the field. She was here to tell the players’ stories and document the teams’ comradery and their progress. It wasn’t about the moment she captured. It was about what led the player to that very moment and what happened afterward because of it.

It finally donned on her for all those years her dad did the same as a sports reporter. He used words while she used her photographs. Her mind flashed back to a number of games and the things her dad would point out to her. Between innings, they would take a glance at the screen of her camera, reviewing the photos she took. He would say things like, “Look at the way you caught that ball coming in. Do you know he found his curveball back in the seventh grade?” Or “That kid you just photographed, just set the school record for RBIs. You caught that image for him, Jordan, that goal he was working so hard to reach.”

All those years, Jordan and her dad were telling stories—together.

The entire time she was talking, Neal didn’t say anything to her or interrupt her. He simply listened. Her father used to do the same. Tranquility filled her.

Neal picked up her camera and handed it to her. “Go, Jordan. You have a story to tell. I have a feeling it is going to be one hell of a story.”

I can do this. My dad was preparing me all those years.

She felt the walls she built five years ago crumble even more. She took a deep, reassuring breath, feeling more of the stress and sadness starting to wither away. She was not only going to make her dad proud but herself, too.

Jordan smiled and took her camera from Neal. She walked onto the field and closed her eyes, concentrating on the sounds all around her. The crack of the bat against a ball. Baseballs slamming into leather gloves. The sound of cleats against the concrete dugout floor. Men laughing. Coaches yelling.

When she heard the ball wailing through the air and smacking the catcher’s mitt, a sound distinct from a fielder’s glove, her heart and mind told her to start there. She opened her eyes and concentrated on the pitcher and catcher—the way they moved and silently communicated with each other.

She brought her camera up to her eye, focusing on the pitcher winding up and pressed the shutter release button. A simple, split-second motion, but the desire to do it again and again rushed through her.

For the next two hours, Jordan made her way around the field taking photos of the players practicing and caught the coaches instructing them. She did her best to stay out of their way, but a few players definitely noticed her.

Mike tipped his hat and winked at her a few times leaving her feeling a tad annoyed. Perhaps it was all the photos and headlines she had seen of him and his harem.

Then there was Graham Grayson, a.k.a. Double G. Even with his catcher’s mask on, she could feel the heat of his gaze. The warmth struck a chord deep inside her. One she had yet to discover. She had to get a grip on it—and fast. This was work. Networking. Future opportunities. Time to focus and prove to herself and others she could do this.

And this was just practice for the players—and essentially for her as well. She knew the game would be the real test for her. Nevertheless, she was rediscovering her passion, and so far, it felt fantastic.

Chapter Two

After a few days of practice, Graham was getting into the swing of things. He worked out in the morning and gave it one hundred and ten percent every practice. Afterward, he typically went home, ate and crashed. His father always told him the best way to recover was to get enough sleep. At this point, Graham didn’t have much of a choice. He was dog-tired every single night.

Today, Tyson was throwing some solid, fast pitches and harder than he had been the past few days. When Tyson took a quick break on the mound to stretch his arm, Graham slid his mask to the top of his head and jogged out to him.

“Man, did you eat extra Wheaties this morning? You are killing my hand today.” Graham smiled. Yeah, his hand hurt, but it was always a welcomed pain. The feeling of a strike landing in his mitt was an incredible sting.

Tyson was one hell of a pitcher. This was his second year in the majors. The first half of last season didn’t go so well, but he came back full force the second half. Tyson was determined to surpass the momentum he finished off with last year.

Tyson dug his foot in the dirt. “Just got some stuff to prove to the coaches, Double G. You and I work well together. We click. You read me, and I read you—spot on—almost each and every time.”

“We do. Kind of crazy. We’re like baseball soul mates,” Graham joked, batting his eyelashes.

“G, don’t get all sensitive on me.” Tyson laughed and hit Graham on the arm with his glove. “Honestly man, I’ve been wanting a catcher like you behind the plate. Someone to take this shit to the next level. I’m talking playoffs and championships, G.”

Graham nodded, understanding and wanting that so much he could feel it in his bones. “It’s all good. I have a lot to prove, too, you know.”

“You got this, G,” Tyson stated with total confidence in Graham. “Hey, are you going to the party tonight? We have to get all dressed up in our suits and shit.”

“Yeah. It didn’t sound like we have much of a choice.”

She is coming tonight as well.”

“Who?” Graham asked, immediately feeling a little flushed. He could blame it on the Florida sun, but knew better. The only she he had been thinking about lately was Jordan. As crazy as it was, he missed seeing her over the past few days. He assumed she was traveling to photograph other teams.

Tyson rested his arm on Graham’s shoulder. “Damn. You got it bad for her, G. I know you know who I am talking about. Miss Jordan Michaela Roy.”

Graham examined the sly look on his friend’s face. “You know her whole name?”

“I did some digging last night and found her on Facebook. She even accepted my friend request,” he said smugly.

Graham looked at Tyson who was wearing a big-ass smile. Why didn’t he think to do that? “Wait. What?” He had been so busy with baseball and daydreaming about her, and here he could have found her on Facebook, too.

“Then I messaged her and asked her if she was going to the party. She said yes, she has to, although Neal will technically be working the event. She just needs to be there as a backup. So dress sharp, smell nice, and bring your A-game tonight, G.”

“Best! Grayson! Break’s over,” Coach bellowed.

Minus Tyson’s hard pitches, practice today hadn’t been as grueling as the previous days, and Graham was thankful. Tonight’s shindig was kicking off the preseason games. They had tomorrow off and their first game on Sunday. The coaches said the party was important, so he wanted all the players to be on their best behavior.

Graham ate dinner when he got home. The party was a social gathering with appetizers, desserts, and cocktails, but Graham knew he would be hungry if he didn’t eat a real meal first.

Afterward, he took a nice long shower, letting the hot water soothe his tired muscles. He dressed in his black suit with light pinstripes. He paired it with a crisp white shirt and a gray and black silk tie. With a spray of his favorite cologne, he took one last look in the mirror and his thoughts drifted to Jordan—again. There was definitely something about her. And tonight, he was going to start exploring just what it was.

On the way to the event, he thought about how he would approach her and what he would say to her, hoping he could actually manage to have a good, solid conversation with her. As Graham entered the ballroom at the hotel and conference center, he recognized a lot of faces as he scanned the room. It was full of players and coaches, not just from his team, but others who had training facilities nearby. Some of them had brought dates, some were flying solo. Unfortunately, he didn’t spot the one person he was hoping to see.

“Awww, were you looking around for me, Double G?”

He followed Tyson’s voice and looked to his right. His friend was wearing a gleaming grin and all decked out in a sharp navy blue suit.

“You clean up nice, Best.” He gave Tyson a manly hug.

“So do you, man. Nice suit.”

“Thanks.” He continued to peruse the room trying to find Jordan. He spotted Neal taking some photos and was surprised he was dressed up, too. He wondered what Jordan was wearing tonight. Surely it wouldn’t be her work clothes.

“There.” Tyson tapped his shoulder and pointed over to the bar. “Almost didn’t recognize her. I don’t think a lot of the guys have put two and two together yet. But damn, she certainly has their attention.”

“Holy—” Graham’s breath did more than hitch, it nearly stopped. His heart raced as he looked her over from head to toe. Jordan was a fucking knockout. Her black and cream strapless dress perfectly hugged every flawless curve of her body. And her shoulders and legs? Why the hell did she hide those? Jordan certainly worked out. A body like hers didn’t come naturally. It was the result of dedication and training, and parts of Graham’s body were definitely taking notice. Who was he kidding? Every part of his body was fully aware of the gorgeous vision in front of him.

She walked away from a couple of the guys who were talking to her. He watched her order a drink from the bartender. A few moments later, he handed her a martini with a wink. A bit of jealousy ran through him. Was the bartender flirting with her or looking for a nice tip?

She took a sip and went to walk away…until Mike approached her.

The man really didn’t know when to stop, did he? Before Graham let bitter feelings rip through him, he and Tyson watched Mike’s body language from across the room. Even though he didn’t know what Mike was saying, he studied Jordan’s reactions to him. Mike was clearly agitating her.

“Well, are you going to make your move or keep staring at her from across the room?”

“I think I need to rescue her from Mike,” Graham said and started toward the bar.

Tyson grabbed his arm. Graham turned back around to him. “Tread lightly, G. She may not be the I-want-to-be-rescued type.”

Graham nodded and contemplated what Tyson said as he crossed the ballroom. He may be right, but he could swoop in now and explain later.

* * * *

Jordan realized she was downing her berry martini way too fast, hoping Mike would go away or the drink would magically make him disappear—or at least make this conversation less excruciating. Actually, to be a conversation, two people would have to be participating. Mike was the only one talking and all about himself. It seemed to be his favorite subject.

No such luck. The martini did not possess the magical powers she was hoping for.

She tried walking away a few times, but he boxed her in each time. She also attempted to get Neal’s attention who was too busy on the other side of the large room. She didn’t want to make a scene, but she also had dignity. A fine balance Jordan was struggling with at the moment because she was certain this man didn’t hear the word “no” very often. He was so full of himself, she was beginning to find it humorous. She had to bite her lip to keep from laughing at him. Jordan cussed at her tendency to laugh when she was in a bizarre situation. She had done it the other day during Graham’s photo session when he complimented her. Although she found that to be a different kind of ridiculous.

She downed the rest of her drink and set it on the bar when she felt a warm hand on the small of her back. As the heat rushed through her, she immediately knew who it was before she even turned around.

“There you are. I’ve been looking for you.”

She turned to see Graham standing beside her. He pressed a soft, sweet kiss to her cheek. The moment—the sensation—left her stunned at first, then tingling all over. How in the world did he ignite so much in her with a simple touch?

She gazed up and down his body, admiring how handsome he looked in his suit.

“May I have this dance?” he kindly asked.

She looked at Mike with the smirk he had on his face—one she would love to wipe off. Then she turned to Graham, smiled and said ever-so-politely, “I would love to.”

He took her hand, kissed the top of it and led her to the dance floor. He was such a gentleman. He drew her into his arms and began moving her around so naturally. The man could definitely dance.

“Mike should thank you, you know. I was close to decking him.”

Graham chuckled. “I don’t doubt it. It would have been fun to watch.”

Jordan’s lips curved. There was something special about Graham. She felt it but couldn’t begin to comprehend it. The more she was around him, the more she wanted to discover just what it was, despite the need to stay focused on her job.

“Thank you for coming over, but I didn’t need to be rescued.”

“I know you didn’t.”

The tone in his voice sounded sincere. She was surprised he wasn’t insulted by her comment like some men would have been. It was necessary for him to know she could take care of herself. It was her strong nature and the way her parents raised her and her sisters.

He pulled her body closer to his as they glided as one across the dance floor. She became fully aware of how perfectly they fit together. He was able to lead her with the right signals and her body reacted effortlessly.

“You look stunning tonight, Jordan,” he whispered.

His warm breath near her ear sent shivers down her spine as they weaved around the other couples. She closed her eyes for a moment, trying to gather her senses in the process. She had never felt like this in a man’s arms before—strong, yet protected. The feeling was frightening and exhilarating all at the same time.

When she felt a little bit of control returning to her body, she thanked him and returned the compliment, noting how handsome he looked. She opened her eyes and leaned her head back to meet his oceanic gaze. Just like that, her body was in a frenzy again—a very heated one.

They danced the rest of the song and the next. They didn’t talk, but their bodies said plenty. When the slow song ended, and a fast one came on, a soft smile graced Jordan’s face.

“Thank you for the dance, Graham.”

She began to walk away, needing to get a grip on the desire spiraling through her body. She had never felt a connection with a man like she did with Graham Grayson.

Graham reached for her hand. “Jordan?”

She turned to face him, his alluring blue eyes looked as if they were searching for something.

“Yes?”

“Will you have a drink with me and chat for a bit?”

She agreed. How couldn’t she? For that one moment when he wasn’t touching her, her body sensed the loss.

They went to the bar. He ordered a beer for himself and a martini for her. She noticed he knew exactly what she had been drinking earlier. It was quite impressive knowing how well-mannered he had been so far. If not, it would have been kind of creepy seeing he must have been watching her before he came over to ask her to dance.

Graham handed Jordan her drink. They walked out onto the garden terrace which was fairly quiet. Only a few guests were out there getting some fresh air. They took a seat at a small bistro table near the fountain. It was a lovely night, and the scenery was breathtaking.

“Are you enjoying Florida?” he asked her.

“I am. The weather is beautiful and much needed after the snowy weather I left behind in Pittsburgh.”

“Oh, you’re from Pittsburgh?”

“I am. Well, about an hour north. I had been living in the city while I was in school. I just graduated this past December.”

“Congratulations.” He lifted his glass and clinked hers.

“Thank you. So, how are things going so far for you? You and Tyson seem to have clicked on the field.”

“We really have. He is a great guy. We are both working our asses off—oh sorry—we are both working really hard to prove we belong here.”

“Why did you just apologize?” She cocked a brow, curiosity getting the best of her.

“I cussed in front of a lady. My mother would have backhanded me if she knew I did that, especially since we are at a formal affair.”

Jordan laughed. He was too adorable for words at times and scorching hot during others. She found it to be the perfect balance.

“While I appreciate the proper etiquette, I’m afraid my mouth can sound like a sailor’s at times.”

Graham laughed, joining her own amusement.

“So tell me, how is your family doing?”

“Good. I went back to visit them in Connecticut over the holidays. My parents still have the house I grew up in. My sister, Gina, and her husband, Ian, live ten minutes away, so I don’t see them ever selling the house. I have niece, Isabella, who is three. My nephew, Carter, is five. And, I just found out I am going to be an unkie again.” His eyes lit up. “The kids call me that,” he explained with a proud smile.

Jordan took a sip of her drink, letting him talk. She enjoyed the sound of his voice—soothing and wholehearted. When she first met him, he didn’t say much. She was glad he was opening up to her. Good conversation was always important to her. Graham Grayson was incredibly charming and perhaps not so full of shit like Jordan originally thought. The more he talked about his family and his trip home, the more she liked and respected him. It was obvious how much love and admiration he had for all of them.

“I was happy it didn’t snow the whole time so I could take my niece and nephew to the park. I had been living in Indiana playing in the minors for the past few years. The weather didn’t get as snowy and cold there as it does back home.”

She was enjoying the easy conversation they were having and definitely didn’t mind having her eyes on him.

“Your dad was one of my dad’s favorite players. He actually met him a long time ago when he played in Pittsburgh. He was the local sports reporter and frequently got dugout and locker room passes to interview players. He was adamant about working when the Bucs played the Mets. He always said your dad was one hell of a stand-up guy.”

Memories of her dad telling her and her sisters stories came to mind. She treasured those moments then and even more so now.

“Thanks, he really is and a great father, too. That’s pretty cool they know each other.”

“I hear he is also a very respectable businessman.” She knew his father owned All Stars, a sports equipment company which had stores throughout the northeastern part of the United States.

“Yes, although he is slowly retiring, sort of. I think he is just waiting for my sister or me to take over All Stars. But with me playing ball and my sister pregnant again, probably won’t happen for a while. He is tinkering with the idea of franchising if he can let go a bit more. Dad prides himself on customer service, especially when it comes to fitting people with exactly what they need the first time around. I think he is finally at the point where he has good people in place and doesn’t have to work as much. He just likes to stay involved with the major decisions. Now he spends more time golfing and volunteering.” He took a sip of his drink. “Have you two ever been to one of the stores?”

“I have, but my dad never had a chance to.” Jordan’s smile slowly faded. It was still hard at times to hide how much she missed him. She expected there would always be little moments when her heart would be sad.

“I’m sorry. Did I say something wrong?”

The fact Graham noticed the change in her demeanor right away touched her. He was actually paying close attention to her—verbally and nonverbally.

“Oh no. It’s not that. My dad passed away five years ago. We lost him to cancer.”

“I’m sorry, Jordan.”

He reached for her hand, held on to it while slowly circling his thumb over her knuckles. The sweet gesture comforted her.

“It’s okay. I am finally doing better with it. I miss him but being so close to the game again…I feel like he is with me.”

“I am sure he would be proud of you.”

Jordan knew her dad would be full of pride no matter what she did as long as she did her best and was happy. And right now, she felt like he was smiling down at her.

Jordan told Graham about her family including how she and her twin sisters were named after some very prominent athletes. Her sister, Jackie, a senior in high school, was a track star and following in the footsteps of whom she was named after, Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Josephine, Joey for short, was named after the great Joe Montana. Although she wasn’t a football star, Joey was a phenomenal field hockey player.

Jordan Michaela was named after Michael Jordan, her dad’s favorite basketball player. She learned at a very young age she didn’t like basketball nor did she get her father’s height. Instead, she tried out for the soccer team in middle school and played until she graduated from high school. While she enjoyed it to a point, she never felt completely comfortable on the field.

No matter what they played or how they did, her parents never pressured her or her sisters. They just wanted them to always try their best, be happy and healthy, and have an active lifestyle. So that was how they grew up. They went to the gym as a family, hiked, kayaked, and went on other adventures which kept them moving and having fun together. Through all of it, Jordan would be in charge of taking photos. Whether they were zip lining at a state park, or she was taking photos of her sisters’ games or meets, Jordan did so for the family scrapbooks.

Her passion led her to her major and working at The Hope Gallery. The old church, which was converted into an art gallery nearly thirty years ago, immediately caught Jordan’s eye her freshman year. She loved the architecture, the high ceilings, and gorgeous stained glass windows. The owner, Dolores Schmidt, was well into her seventies with snow-white short hair and one of the kindest ladies Jordan had ever met. Mrs. Schmidt’s granddaughter, Cece, quickly became Jordan’s best friend.

“I’ll have to make sure I check out the gallery once I get settled in Pittsburgh. Do they have some of your work?”

“They do. I promised I would continue providing them with some. It really is an amazing place. My best friend, Cece, is always creating new artwork, plus they commission work there from other artists.”

“Might be a great place to get some pieces for my new place, whenever I find one.”

Jordan started telling Graham about some good places to go to when he got to Pittsburgh, but Tyson interrupted them.

“So sorry to disturb you two. Hi, Jordan.” He beamed at her with a perceptive look. What he thought he knew, she had no idea.

“Hi, Tyson.”

“Double G, we need you inside.”

“Okay.” Graham got up, and Tyson walked back inside. “Would you like to join me inside, Jordan?”

“I think I may walk around the terrace for a bit. I will be in in a few minutes.”

“All right.” Graham took a few steps away from the table.

“Hey, Graham?” She stood and began walking toward him.

“Yeah?” He turned to meet her gaze.

Jordan kissed his cheek. “Thank you for a nice evening.”

He smiled warmly. “It doesn’t have to be over, you know.” He paused for a moment.

She tried to figure out what he meant. Did he want to have sex already? That’s what men mean when they say that, right?

“Shit, sorry. That came out wrong.”

She noticed him blushing and grinned at his genuine reaction.

“I mean, we could dance and talk some more.”

He was quite chivalrous. “I’d like that.” She patted his arm. “I’ll be there shortly.”

Graham nodded and walked inside.

Jordan strolled around the terrace admiring the beauty of the flowers and the fountain. She walked over to the white wooden railing and took in the breathtaking site of the river. She thought about how she used to find peace behind the camera and her father’s encouragement to be a sports photojournalist. He always told her she had an eye for the shot, just like the best players had an eye for a flawless pitch or the perfect play. But after he got sick and passed away her last year of high school, her passion for sports photography died along with him. She couldn’t bring herself to take photos at sporting events anymore. Every time she tried, her mind would wander back to her father’s bedside during his last few days. Her heart had ached for so long. Seeing him look so weak and fighting so hard to stay alive, made her feel helpless. They all did. He was their Superman—and cancer had become his kryptonite.

But now, for the first time in a long time, she felt at peace again. She was exactly where she was supposed to be even though she was far away from her family. This was her journey. She was on the right path even though there would be some hurdles along the way. She looked up to the heavens—the clear night sky full of stars—and thanked her dad. A cool, gentle breeze swept over her. With light goose bumps covering her skin, she smiled. She had a strong feeling he had his hand in this.

She walked back inside and found Neal.

“Hey, Neal. How is everything going?”

“Great. How are you?”

“Good. This is a very nice party.”

“It is. Here, I want to show you something.” Neal toyed with his camera for a second. “Look at this.”

She took the camera from him and glanced down at the preview screen. “Oh my.” She stared at the photos. “They are lovely!” Neal had captured some amazing photos of her and Graham dancing together. The pictures looked like they belonged in a fairy tale.

“I think it is the two people in the photos that make them beautiful.”

“What’s so beautiful?”

Graham asked walking up behind her, placing his hand on her back. His touch radiated through her. God, she was loving it.

“These photos I took of you and Jordan dancing,” Neal explained.

He peeked over her shoulder. “They are…wow, Neal.” Graham moved his mouth near her ear, the heat making her shiver again. “You look absolutely gorgeous,” he whispered.

She swore he kissed her bare shoulder, or maybe his chin grazed over it when he moved. She wasn’t sure. Either way, his nearness was making her warm all over. She liked it—a lot.

“Neal, would you mind e-mailing those to me?” he requested.

“It would be my pleasure.”

Graham wrote down his personal e-mail address and handed it to Neal. “Thanks. May I steal her away?”

“Only if she wants to,” Neal said, beaming at Jordan.

Graham reached out his hand and politely waited for her to answer. Jordan smiled at him and placed her hand in his. He led her out to the dance floor again where they danced and chatted the rest of the night away.

Soon, the party started to dwindle down. Graham insisted on walking her out to her car so he knew she was safe. She wasn’t used to being treated like this. Graham was so polite and sweet, damn near chivalrous at times. She didn’t even think that trait existed anymore.

Then there were his looks. He was beyond handsome. And his smile? When he looked at her, and his lips curved up with his dimples, it was as if no one else in the world existed besides her. He was sexy as hell and made her feel the same way.

She clicked the remote to unlock the car door, and he opened it for her. She hesitated for a moment, waiting and hoping he would kiss her. Screw focusing on work. She could do both, or try to. She had to explore these feelings—this connection she had with him. If she didn’t, she would most likely regret it for the rest of her life and Roys were taught not to have regrets.

A few quiet moments passed by, feeling like an eternity. Jordan hated awkward silence. She guessed it wasn’t the right time or maybe it was simply a fun evening between friends and coworkers and nothing more.

“Good night, Graham. Thank you for a wonderful night.”

“It was my pleasure.”

She turned to get in the car.

“Jordan?”

She moved back to face him with one high-heeled foot still in the car. “Yes?”

He cupped her face, and his lips met hers for a sweet, gentle kiss. She slightly angled her head, inviting him for more. God, she wanted more. His tongue teased her lips then slid past them, deepening the kiss. A soft moan of pure bliss escaped her mouth, leaving the sounds to be swallowed up by his breaths.

Her body melted to his…until she lost her balance and stumbled.

He quickly moved his hands to her hips to steady her. She giggled, embarrassed by the moment, yet he didn’t seem to miss a beat. He smiled against her lips and continued wrecking her body of the control she liked to have.

For the first time ever, she was completely okay with it.

He guided her a few inches over, pressing his body against hers, sandwiching her between his warm, muscular body and the steel of her car. She wrapped her hands around his neck and pulled him even closer, his erection evident through the fabric of his suit pants. He groaned and broke their kiss. His forehead met hers, but she felt so breathless, she didn’t want to open her eyes and realize it was all a dream.

“Let me see those beautiful eyes.” His voice sounded as smooth as silk. Her eyes fluttered open, meeting his hypnotic gaze.

It was really happening. Graham Grayson and all the feelings he aroused in her were real.

“You are amazing, Jordan.”

He moved away from her. Her body was still screaming for him and now at her for not fulfilling a rising need. He was being the sensible one while questions and scenarios ran through her mind. What did she expect…to sleep with him tonight? Her sensibility came back but still left her feeling disappointed. It was just one kiss—one which left her aching. The sparks were there and ready to explode.

She got in the car and reached for the door to close it when he stopped her. He moved closer and crouched down beside her.

“Would you like to have dinner with me tomorrow night?”

The disappointed feelings rushed away as she smiled at him. “I would like that.”

He handed her his phone, and she added her name and number in. She handed it back to him, and a moment later her phone rang. He gave her a quirky, sexy smile. “Now you have my number as well.”