Field of Trust (Book 2 of The Field Series) – Erotic Romance
Buccaneers pitcher Tyson Best is captivated by vibrant artist Cece Schmidt, and he is determined to uncover the mystery lurking in her eyes.
Cece knows her one-night rule will never be enough with Tyson. Frustrated with the hold her corrupted family still has over her, Cece can no longer ignore her feelings for Tyson, despite his high-profile career and the life she ran away from. After confessing partial truths about her past, Cece and Tyson begin their secret romance.
Tyson knows they have a strong connection and refuses to let someone special run out on him like his parents did years ago. In order to protect Cece, he seeks the whole truth about her past and in the process unveils crime and terror.
When Cece receives a threat from her uncle, she is desperate to end the fear once and for all—but first, she will have to play a dangerous game.
Will trust and love pull them through?
[Siren Classic: Erotic Interracial Romantic Suspense, Sports Romance, bondage, HEA]
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I dedicate this book to those I call family even though we aren’t related by blood. You hold a special place in my heart.
FIELD OF TRUST
The Field Series 2
Copyright © 2017
Tyson Best stood outside the Hope Gallery, pretending to admire the historical charm of the former church. What he really wanted to do was admire the beauty he hoped was working inside.
He met Cece Schmidt back in March. She came to visit her best friend, Jordan, who was now dating his friend and fellow teammate, Graham Grayson. Cece was the life of the party, laughing and engaging everyone in conversation, including the entire Pittsburgh Buccaneers baseball team. She was vivacious and so full of life, yet mystery lurked behind those electric blue eyes.
He talked to her a bit and observed her from afar. It didn’t take him long to realize Cece was like no other woman he had ever met. He was entranced by her beauty and intrigued by her personality.
Tyson talked to her and texted her every so often, just as friends. He thought about her every single day, whether he wanted to or not—and he tried really hard not to. He was still in the beginning of his career as a pitcher for the professional baseball team and needed to keep his head in the game. Then again, some things in life were worth the risk. Tyson learned that years ago. Distraction or not, he was now determined to get to know her better.
He opened the door to the art gallery and a bell chimed announcing his arrival. A little old lady walked toward him.
“Hello there, young man. How can I help you today?”
Tyson removed his Buccaneers ball cap out of respect for the woman and the fact that he was in a church—or it used to be. Old habits die hard.
“You must be Mrs. Schmidt. My name is Tyson Best.” He stuck out his hand to greet her. “I am—”
“Oh, I know who you are,” she happily acknowledged him. “You play baseball with Graham. Jordan told me about you.”
Jordan had worked at the gallery before she got her job as a sports photojournalist and spoke very highly of the sweet, elderly woman. He was a bit disappointed Cece had never mentioned him to her.
She shook his hand, then pulled him into a hug, an unexpected gesture.
He stood six feet two with chocolate brown skin. Mrs. Schmidt was about a foot shorter with soft, wrinkled skin so white it looked like she hadn’t seen the sun in ages. Nevertheless, her hug was strong and firm reminding him of the way his grandmomma hugged him.
“Someone taught you right with those manners.” She hooked her arm through his and ushered him down the center aisle.
“Yes, ma’am. My grandmomma raised me.”
“Well, sounds like she did a mighty fine job. What brings you in today, Tyson?”
“Graham was telling me about your gallery. I was hoping to find some items for my new house.”
Allowing Tyson some time to browse the gallery, Mrs. Schmidt excused herself. He found a number of Jordan’s photographs for sale, all stately framed. Art, sculptures, jewelry, and furniture were showcased throughout the open space. The assortment would surely please anyone’s taste.
A loud bang sounded from the back room. Tyson dashed near the entrance to the storage area.
“Mrs. Schmidt? Everything okay?” he yelled.
He didn’t want to startle her if he went back to the section clearly marked “Employees Only,” but the woman had to be pushing eighty years old, and he was concerned she may have fallen.
“Everything’s fine,” a pained voice shouted back.
“Are you okay, dear?” he heard Mrs. Schmidt ask.
“Damn, that hurt,” she grumbled.
“Cece?” He knew something had happened. The least he could do was help, so Tyson walked back…and immediately halted. Nothing could have prepared him for what he saw.
In the midst of what looked like a junkyard, sat Cece slumped over with her legs sprawled out in front of her. Her long, dark hair was pulled up into some crazy concoction on the top of her head, which oddly enough, closely resembled a pineapple. Although her face showed feelings of loss and frustration, her blue eyes still drew him in. Her body was covered in paint, and her clothes were a complete mess.
His heartbeat picked up a few paces as he swallowed hard. He was seeing her in her element for the very first time. To him, Cece looked flawless.
“Oh God. What are you doing back here?” she grumbled, visibly annoyed and embarrassed.
He stepped over the mess and noticed an old wooden ladder on its side, broken in two places. “Lending a hand.” He outstretched his and she reluctantly took it. He pulled her up, accidently covering his hand with paint.
“Thanks. Sorry about the paint. I’ll get you some towels.”
Tyson shrugged it off. He didn’t care about the paint. “I actually stopped by to shop. The helping part was needed.” He gave her a sympathetic smile. She had no reason to be embarrassed. Accidents happened. “Are you okay?”
Cece looked down at her body. “I think so. I won’t know the extent of the damage until I get all the paint off.”
“The color looks good on you.” Tyson was really hoping he could lighten her mood.
“Ugh. This is so humiliating.” Cece took a few steps and hissed. “Okay, damage to the leg for sure.”
“Here, let me help you.” Tyson swooped her up into his arms.
“Tyson! No! Now you have paint all over you,” she scolded.
“I don’t care. They’re just clothes, Cece. Where’s the bathroom?” He couldn’t care less about his clothes. Now, having Cece in his arms? That was another story.
Cece pointed to a small corridor. Tyson walked sideways with her cradled in his arms, so they could both fit down the narrow hall.
Once he reached the tiny bathroom, he set her on her feet. She hobbled a step and sat on the closed toilet. He grabbed some paper towels and handed them to her. He watched her closely as she cleaned the paint off her skin.
She looked up at him and caught him staring. He cleared his throat and glanced up at the ceiling, slightly embarrassed she noticed. He couldn’t help it, though. Now that she had been in his arms, he wanted to know more of how her skin felt and how she tasted, preferably without the paint.
“You don’t have to stay back here with me. Go ahead and shop. I’ll be out in a few minutes.”
“I don’t mind, Cece. I want to check out your leg once you get the paint off.”
She rubbed over an area of her leg and flinched.
Tyson grabbed some more paper towels and wet them. “Here, let me,” he insisted, kneeling in front of her. He cautiously began wiping away the paint.
* * * *
Cece was thoroughly humiliated and thankful the red paint was covering her flushed skin. She was watching how gentle Tyson was being with her. The star pitcher was tall, strong, and confident. And here he was taking care of her, a feeling she never experienced before. She suddenly felt claustrophobic in the small space and took a few calming breaths.
“Ah, there we go. You have one nasty bruise which is already appearing. No bleeding, or at least I don’t think so. Hard to tell with the red paint.”
“Crimson,” she corrected. Thinking about art and colors usually relaxed her—up until she fell off that rickety ancient ladder. She was pissed at herself for daydreaming too long about the piece she was working on.
He grazed over her leg, causing goosebumps to break out over her body which seemed to have a mind of its own.
“Crimson,” he repeated, looking at her with a soft smile. “I think you are going to live.”
“Too bad I can’t say the same for the artwork I fell on.” She stood and winced, pain radiating through her leg. Not a good sign.
She nodded, bracing herself on the bathroom sink.
“I’ll take you home.”
After bickering with him over the fact she could take care of herself, in pain or not, she let out a frustrating groan and realized he wasn’t going to take no for an answer. She was certain Tyson knew she would be okay, but why push it when he was offering to help. He was too kind. He was quite charming as well, even though she didn’t want to admit it.
It was a lethal combination.
Tyson went to retrieve his car. Either he got a primo parking spot, or the man must have been running since he was back in no time. She handed him a clean drop cloth to spread on his seat. There was no way she would ruin his car in addition to his clothes. He graciously accepted it. Then he wrapped his arm around her so she could use him as a crutch. Hobbling outside, she immediately noticed a shiny, new, black Cadillac Escalade parked right outside with the flashers on. Gas guzzler was the first thing that popped into her mind. Then again, she was driving a beat up old Honda Civic. The thing had two hundred thousand miles on it and still purred like a kitten when she started it. Well, not really. More like hacked up a fur ball.
Once she was tucked in the car safely, Tyson got in then moved into traffic. He proceeded to make an illegal U-turn right in the middle of the street.
Damn athletes. The pain and humiliation were clearly making her grumpy.
Tyson, and most of the Buccaneers, were all pretty nice guys. Cece had met all of them, thanks to her best friend, Jordan, dating their catcher, who also happened to be Tyson’s best friend. What she didn’t want was any of them to see her in a state of disarray. Professional athletes were always on the top of their game on the field and off. Artists, on the other hand, not so much. She scanned her body, completely mortified. She covered her face, seeking some kind of refuge. Coming from a free-spirited artist, which she knew she was, she was one colossal mess.
* * * *
The drive to Cece’s was lightning fast. She only lived a few blocks away from the gallery. Tyson put the SUV in park and examined the old brick factory which had been converted into living spaces.
“Which one is yours?”
“Fourth floor on the right,” she grumbled, joining him as he sized up the building.
“Elevator?” She huffed. “I take that as a no.”
He got out and helped her out of the car, allowing her to use him as a crutch again. He didn’t want to push the issue, but at this rate, it would take them forever to get inside her place. She needed to get her leg elevated and ice it for twenty minutes.
Once they reached the top of the first-floor stairwell, he took matters into his own hands. Tyson picked her up and tossed her over his shoulder. Cece let out a surprised yelp, obviously objecting to his method of transportation.
“Cece, stop squirming. We’ll get there much faster my way.” Although quicker wasn’t sounding so good right now. He enjoyed holding her, and the view of her ass was spectacular.
Her neighbors passed by and said hello with a snicker.
“Dear God, this has to be one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, and I have had a lot of them.”
He felt her body relax all of sudden, perhaps giving up on the challenging day.
When they reached the fourth floor, she directed him down the hall to her unit. He set her down to open the door, keeping his arm wrapped around her waist to steady her—or so he told himself.
“Cece, don’t worry about it. Shit happens.”
Her striking blue eyes were full of despair. He reached out and tucked a stray dark hair behind her ear. He let his finger linger on her smooth skin and her expression softened.
Attraction. And mutual. He felt it.
He wasn’t sure if he was happy she kind of liked him or scared as hell this could actually turn into something. That was what he wanted, right? Because looking at her like this, he was ready to jump in head first.
He wiped away a spec of paint on her cheek, loving how she felt under his touch. He cleared his throat to try to keep from pressing her up against the door and touching all of her. Being this close to her reminded him how much he wanted her.
Cece quickly looked away, concentrating on unlocking her door. Just like that, the hint of mutual attraction was gone, leaving Tyson confused.
“Thanks again for the ride—car and muscles.” She let out a nervous laugh.
She limped through the doorway. Tyson took the liberty to follow her in.
“You’re not getting rid of me that easily. I want to make sure you are okay.”
“Suit yourself,” she said with an exasperating sigh.
Tyson watched her hobble around out of the corner of his eye to make sure she was safe, while he took in the open space. Just like the woman herself, Cece’s place was eclectic and vibrant, filled with so much color. It was full of antiques, modern pieces, and everything in between with no organization other than the structure of the interior brick walls and exposed pipes. Given the interior designers who were trying to earn Tyson’s business at the moment, he imagined they would think this place was a nightmare. It didn’t feel that way to him. He felt wrapped up in all that was Cece. He bet she had a story for every single thing in her place—some kind of connection to it. He wanted her to tell him each one.
He followed her into the kitchen area in the back of the loft. She plopped down on an old wooden chair which was already covered in splatters of paint.
“Ibuprofen?” he asked. Then he would get her some ice to help lessen the pain. She would be hurting more tomorrow from the fall. It was always worse the day after.
“Cabinet on the left. Thanks.”
Tyson opened the cabinet and shuffled through bottles of vitamins and various remedies but didn’t come up with any type of pain medicine.
“No. Dammit, I must be out.”
He offered to run to the store for her, but she insisted an item on the top shelf of the pantry would do a similar job. So Tyson opened the small closet. Looking up, he smirked.
“What’s your poison?”
“Tequila, por favor.”
Tyson grabbed the bottle, a shot glass, and some ice for her leg. He checked the time on the microwave clock for proper icing methods. He sat on the chair by her and brought her leg onto his lap. Ice and elevation would help her. And the tequila, so she thought.
She poured a shot and downed it without salt, lemon, or a soured face. Impressive. She poured another one and gestured to him. He didn’t have a game the next day, so a little liquid courage wouldn’t be so bad.
She downed two more shots and started laughing at herself over how the day had gone. He was sure she had to be getting tipsy and letting off some steam, but hearing her laugh did things to his heart—and other parts.
He glanced at the clock, checking the icing time. Twenty minutes on the nose. Like a well-trained athlete, he knew the feeling of the time span from his own discomforts over the years. He pulled the ice off her leg and gently set her foot on the hardwood floor. He placed the ice pack back in the freezer and turned right in time to catch Cece.
“What are you doing?” he questioned with his arms grasping her waist. He thought she would at least wait until the coldness wore off a bit.
“I am covered in paint. I need to shower, Tyson.” She touched a spot on his right bicep. He looked at where the heat singed his body and noticed the smear of crimson. He caught her admiring his muscles. “And so do you,” she seductively whispered, gazing at him.
Invitation or not, Tyson’s body was on full alert. However, there was no way in hell he would get naked with her if she was tipsy.
“Your thoughts are so loud, I can practically hear them.” She pressed a soft, sweet kiss to the corner of his mouth, never taking those mysterious blue eyes off his. “I am not drunk, Tyson. I only had three shots. Four at the most.”
God, he wanted more, but he had to be sure. He would never take advantage of any woman, especially Cece.
“Please don’t make me do a sobriety test on my injured leg.” Her lips deviously twitched.
Tyson pulled her against him. He kissed the top of her head, enjoying his time with her and the feel of her silky, dark hair. She wrapped her arms around him, snuggling flush to his chest. She breathed deeply. He felt the last bit of tension in her body slip away. She felt good in his arms. Damn near perfect. He wasn’t sure how she was really feeling, so maybe a shower would do her some good. Then he would figure it out—whatever it was. He had a feeling he was going to have to exercise more control around her than he had to on the field.
“Let’s get you cleaned up.”
He helped her into the bathroom which was mostly white and black, a stark contrast from the rest of her place. Pops of yellow were sprinkled around in the décor and towels. He started the shower and waited until the water warmed up. When he turned around, Cece was pulling her crimson-splattered shirt up and over her head, revealing a black lacy bra and breasts he wanted to sink his teeth into. He gulped, then turned away from her.
His control was slipping away fast.
“It’s not like you’ve never seen a naked woman before.”
True fact, but no one had ever held his attention like she did. She was becoming more fascinating by the second.
He faced her again just as her denim cut-off shorts slipped to the checkered tiled floor. Her matching panties were barely there. Tyson was tempted to see what they looked like from behind. He guessed—or more like wished—she was wearing a thong.
She held on to the counter, making sure she didn’t put too much weight on her injured leg.
He should help her, but frankly, he was appreciating the view, and a little distance was best at this point. He watched as she carefully stepped out of her shorts. In doing so, he caught a side glimpse of her butt cheek. His mouth watered at her glorious curves.
A thong. Wishes do come true.
He checked the temperature of the water, hoping it was hot enough for her but needing it to be ice-cold for himself.
“It’s ready. Be careful you don’t slip. If you need anything, just yell.”
He needed a moment to breath, to collect himself. He moved past her, trying to leave the bathroom to give her privacy, her breasts brushing against him in the tight space. She caught his arm, and he immediately turned to see that electric blue stare of hers full of temptation.
“One night, Tyson.” She paused, clearly waiting for his reaction. “That’s all I can give you.”
One night? Portions of him were ready and willing. His mind questioned the terms of her proposition. He wanted her but was certain one night would never be enough.
He would show her what it would be like to be together and make it his mission to convince her otherwise.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Cece was adding foolish to that collection of descriptive words. Why in the world did she think she could have a one-night stand with Tyson Best?
She sat at her sketch table in the backroom of the gallery trying to draw up plans for some furniture she wanted to upcycle. Thoughts of the way Tyson took her over the edge—repeatedly—still consumed her mind two weeks later. The way he took control of her body and pleased her like no one ever had before was engraved in her mind—and body—forever. It was like he knew exactly what she wanted and needed.
And now, she needed to let it go.
She had ignored every one of his phone calls and rejected the flowers he sent to the gallery and to her loft. She was crystal clear on what she could give him. So why the hell did she feel so lost?
“Dear, what’s wrong?” Gram asked.
Cece laid her head down on the desk while her foster grandmother gently rubbed her back. She had always found it comforting, coming from the woman who took her in with open arms despite the mess Cece had been in. Unfortunately, it wasn’t having the same effect on her today.
“You seem to be having artist’s block.”
It was true. It hadn’t happened to her in years and was starting to piss her off. The last time she had it, she was sixteen and had just moved to Pittsburgh. The horrible past she left behind in Los Angeles and adjusting to her new surroundings spiraled her into a depression. Gram gave her nothing but love and support through it all.
“Does this have anything to do with that young man?”
Cece groaned, giving away her thoughts. Gram always had this uncanny insight. “Yes.”
“Why are you ignoring him, Cece? He’s a very nice man with a good job and well-mannered, not to mention quite handsome, too. What’s the problem?”
Cece looked at her sweet grandmother, surprised by the affection she was showing for Tyson given he was a black man. Even though it was the twenty-first century and Cece couldn’t care less if he was purple, Gram was brought up in a completely different time. In reality, Cece was brought up differently, too. Her Italian roots ran deep—very deep. Not that it mattered anymore.
“Cece, I have been around artists all my life. I don’t care what people see when they look at someone. All I care about is if they have a good heart. And Tyson Best? That young man has a good heart.” She patted her shoulder and set the phone down in front of her. “Call him, dear. See what happens.”
“I can’t, Gram. He is too high-profile. You’ve seen how the media dragged Jordan into the headlines since she started dating Graham. I can’t risk it.”
“You need to stop running away. You haven’t been Cecelia Drago Giovianni in years, possibly never. No one has come for you. Now, be the real you—the free spirited, life loving, passionate artist Cece Schmidt—and call him. If you don’t, you will regret it.”
Gram walked out of the backroom, leaving Cece alone in her thoughts. Hearing her real, full name for the first time in years had her cringing. It took her a good three years to stop looking over her shoulder all the time, watching and waiting for them to come for her. Her notorious family never came after she ran away from home. Compared to what she grew up around, she was in an industry they would never suspect and kept a fairly quiet profile. Being with a major-league pitcher would be far from keeping her life on the down low.
She stared at the large wall calendar, focusing on the date circled with balloon stickers. Worry filled her. Her twenty-fifth birthday was coming up. In her family, that was the age you were given more responsibilities, whether you liked it or not.
They haven’t looked for me or found me yet. Maybe I’m no one to them now. She silently prayed it was the truth.
Her cell phone dinged with a text. Cece picked it up and read the message from her best friend’s mom. Sarah Roy was throwing a little gathering since Jordan was coming into town for a photo shoot with her boyfriend, Graham. She assumed Tyson would be there since he was Graham’s best friend. There was no way to avoid him with their circle of friends.
She should have known better to indulge herself when her emotions were already involved. He was sweet and caring. His bright smile made her feel…something. Something remarkable.
She shook her head of what-if thoughts. That something is what she would never be able to figure out. It would be too risky for her and ultimately those she cared about.
It was time to put on her big girl panties and act like nothing ever happened.
* * * *
Tyson walked into Sarah Roy’s house carrying some baked goods and a bottle of wine. His grandmomma taught him to never go to someone’s house empty-handed. It stuck with him as he grew older and the gesture was always appreciated.
While he was warmly greeting other guests, he glanced around the Roy’s small, yet quaint, bungalow looking for Cece. He knew she was going to be there, but didn’t see her. Oddly enough, he could sense her presence. He attributed the feeling to being around her friends.
A few minutes later, he heard her laugh. His heart did a little flip as he turned around. She was walking down a hallway toward the living room with one of Jordan’s younger sisters. Their eyes immediately met. For a moment, he saw a mix of emotions. Then it was gone.
Apparently, she was dead serious about the one-night stand.
Still, he couldn’t help but admire her. She was wearing a cream, flowy top with short brown shorts which showcased her legs—legs he loved to have wrapped around him again. Her long, dark hair was pulled up halfway. A silver and turquoise pendant hung around her neck, drawing him to a sensitive spot he knew she loved to have licked. His dick twitched. He had to distance himself from her.
Tyson walked into the kitchen and grabbed a beer. He fetched one for Graham, too.
“Hey, man. How did the shoot go?” Tyson asked him.
“It went really well. Some of the photos were fucking incredible. Damn, I need a nap. I never would have thought it would be so tiring.” Graham chuckled then took a swig of the ice-cold beverage. “But, I am determined to get a second wind. I have big plans with Jordan tonight.” He waggled his brows.
Tyson grinned, changing the subject. He didn’t need to know about Graham’s plans. “Are you allowed to spill some of the info on the shoot?”
Graham nodded and told him about the locations and their wardrobe changes. His best friend told him about the lingerie Jordan wore. Graham’s reaction and the way he told the story, made Tyson smile. Jordan and Graham were the epitome of a happy couple.
He wanted that someday. He wanted it with Cece.
For the rest of the evening, Cece avoided him like a plague. Tyson went along with it, respecting her obvious wishes, and enjoyed himself at the party. He really liked Jordan and her family. He found humor in the way Jordan and her younger twin sisters gave each other a hard time, but it was all in good fun. They clearly loved each other.
Tyson always wondered what it would be like to have siblings. In some ways, he had a lot of brothers now. Tyson had bonded more with some, like Graham, than others. They were all his teammates—his baseball brothers. One day, they would be sharing lots of stories together. For now, they were still creating them.
“I am going to head out. Thank you for having me, Sarah,” Cece announced.
Tyson seized the opportunity, stood and said, “I better get going as well. Thank you for inviting me. It was great seeing everyone again.”
By the time he hugged everybody, he was rushing out the door trying to catch up with Cece.
“Wait up,” he bellowed, but she kept walking down the sidewalk to her car.
“Please don’t, Tyson.”
When he caught up with her, he reached for her arm and twirled her around. He searched her eyes for some hint on what was running through her mind. This time, he saw hurt and regret. It twisted at his gut.
He always thought there was some mystery to her. Now, he was certain. As for what it was, he still had no fucking clue.
She looked down to the ground, avoiding his profound gaze. She shuffled her sandals against the pavement. He gave her a bit of time to say something—anything—but she remained silent. She could just walk off, but she didn’t. Tyson wasn’t sure what that meant.
He lifted her chin and saw her eyes welling up. What the hell happened to this beautiful, carefree woman?
“You can’t avoid me forever, you know.”
She looked away again.
He couldn’t hold out any longer. Every nerve in his body wanted to hold her, touch her, and protect her. He pulled her into his arms and kissed her. He sweetly caressed her lips with his, relaying his sentiments. He felt her body begin to melt against his but only for an instant before she stiffened again. He continued waiting for her to give into the passion they shared as he grazed her lips with his tongue, enticing her to open for him, but it didn’t happen.
Confused and disappointed, he pulled away from her, keeping his hold on her upper arms. “Tell me you didn’t feel anything, Cece.”
She shook her head. That was it? The least she could do was speak to him.
“Why the hell are you fighting this?”
“It doesn’t matter, Tyson,” she snapped as a single tear trailed down her soft cheek.
“Of course it matters. What aren’t you telling me?”
“We can’t do this. I already told you. Please respect my wishes and let me be.” She turned to get into her car.
Tyson remained a few steps away from her, watching her fumble with her keys and the car door handle since her hands were trembling.
“I can’t, Cece. I care about you and enjoy being with you. Whatever is going on, I am sure we can work through it.”
She was finally able to open the door. “Stop caring. Stop enjoying. Working through it isn’t an option.”
Tyson watched as Cece drove off. He was pissed off and hurt. He bit down on his lip, stifling a frustrating growl. The sweet taste of her strawberry lip gloss lingered as a reminder of what was slipping away.
Over the years, he had enough people walk out of his life. He wasn’t about to let Cece go.