HERE TOMORROW 7 PM PST. ELIZABETH SPAUR AUTHOR OF: ELIZABETH SPAUR
7 PM PST.
He had no faith in love. She had no faith in men. They’ve got nine months to find faith in each other.
Since the night his life had taken a dramatic left turn, Nick Jacobs had been searching for a chance to prove he was the man he’d always wanted to be. When his old friend calls him and offers him a chance to help rebuild the Cormac University football program, he thinks this is his shot. He didn’t count on falling for Olivia or getting her pregnant. Can he juggle all his responsibilities and prove to himself, once and for all, that he’s worthy of love?
After the traumatic loss of her mother, Olivia Valenti shut herself off from the world. Running the Cormac University English department is a dream come true. She didn’t think she would ever want or need anything else. One night with Nick in Las Vegas and motherhood is on the horizon. Can she open her heart to Nick and build the home she never knew she dreamed of?
An instant attraction and a night of celebration lead to an unexpected pregnancy, which Nick and Olivia are determined to face together. Unfortunately, their pasts and present are about to collide, and old secrets will challenge the foundation they’re trying to build their family on. Can they learn to let go of the past in time to share a future?
Will they realize that love always wins?
Welcome to Shotgun Romance, the second book in the Gridiron Knights series set in King’s Folly, South Carolina, where football is king, and the locals have something to say about everything. When you come for a visit, you’ll never want to leave.
This is a stand-alone romance. It can be read and enjoyed on its own. If it’s your first taste of the Gridiron Knights, check out Second Chance Option and find out how Tess and Cade found their happily-ever-after.
This wasn’t going well. He wasn’t sure how he thought it could go. When he’d realized he needed to let Olivia know he would stand by her and help her with the pregnancy and the baby, he’d gotten in his truck to drive to her place. She only lived down the beach, but it might as well have been another planet. Their differences had grown bigger in his mind and any attempt to come up with a plan for their conversation went out the window.
He still couldn’t believe he was going to be a father. When had his life spun so far out of control?
“Sorry. Just thinking. Look, I know I’m no prize. I came here to tell you I want to help.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Don’t know what kind of father I’ll be, but I’ll do my best by this baby, and you.”
Speeches weren’t his thing. He figured this was the best he could do. Hopefully, it was enough.
“I appreciate that.”
Her response could be more lukewarm, but he wasn’t sure how. Of course, given what he’d learned about her parents, he was guessing she didn’t have a lot of experience with dependable men. He may not be relationship material, but he was reliable. Once he committed to something, he was all in. Not that she had any evidence of that.
“So, it looks like you’ve got a schedule going already.” He jerked his head toward the kitchen. His stomach had done back flips when he’d seen the due date circled. March eighteenth. He was going to be a dad on March eighteenth.
“I like to come up with a plan when I can. It doesn’t always work out, but it’s a good place to start.”
She was pretty cute when she retreated behind her professor wall.
“Yeah. I should probably do one of those calendars. Keep everything straight.”
“I know you have a lot to do with the football program and your business with your brother. With your mother sick, too, I don’t expect – “
“It’s obvious you don’t expect much from me.” That burned in his gut.
She shrugged. “I’ve been on my own for a long time.”
“Just because I didn’t plan on being in this place with you, doesn’t mean I’m going to let you down. My schedule might be tight, but I’m going to be here for you and the baby. But I get it. I have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.”
She nodded. “I know everyone thinks I have my head in the clouds because of my chosen profession, but I’ve had two feet planted on the ground for most of my life.”
He understood what she was saying. “I’d say we both got stuck with facing reality when we were young. I say we work together to make sure our baby gets to be a kid for as long as possible. We can figure it out together as we go.”
“That sounds reasonable.” Her shoulders relaxed slightly.
That was progress.
“You mind if I copy down the dates you’ve got organized?” He nodded toward the calendar on the table. “I’ll get you a copy of my schedule, so we can match them up. Maybe we can have lunch together in the next couple of days start figuring things out.”
“That would be fine.”
Nick moved to the table and stared down at the calendar that documented the next eight months of Olivia’s life. He tried to hide his smile. The color coding was cute as hell, but he didn’t think she’d appreciate him pointing that out right now.
Once he’d gotten all the dates copied down he left her with a handshake. A freaking handshake. The best night of his life had resulted in a baby and all he was doing with his kid’s mother was shaking hands.
Story of his life.
Later that night, Nick sat on his back porch listening to the waves of the ocean break against the shore. Beachfront property wasn’t cheap, but he and his brother had gotten a great deal on this house. It was rundown and in foreclosure. The owners wanted to get out before the bank took it. So, he and Simon had gotten the property for a steal. After seeing Olivia’s upscale home, he felt like he was back on the other side of the tracks.
His brother had always wanted to live on the beach and Nick didn’t really care one way or another. He had to admit, the sounds of the beach at night were relaxing. Too bad he was too keyed up to appreciate it.
He turned at the sound of the sliding glass door. His mother came out on the porch.
“If you’re out here to sneak a smoke, think again.” He wasn’t sure why he was so gung ho to fight for her life when she seemed so ambivalent herself.
“Nope. Looked like you had something on your mind. God knows you’ve got no reason to come to me with your problems, but since we’re trying to do this mother-son thing, I thought I’d come out see if you wanted to talk.”
Simon followed their mother. “You don’t want to talk to her, you can talk to me.”
He shrugged. “You both might as well know. I’m going to be a father in March.”
“You sure it’s yours?” His mother’s question pissed him off.
“Yes.” The anger in his voice was obvious.
“Don’t get pissed at her. I would have asked if she hadn’t.” His brother sat in the chair next to him.
“Olivia and I hooked up at Cade’s wedding.”
His brother whistled. “Olivia? The Olivia is pregnant with your kid?”
“Who’s this Olivia?” His mother’s rasp hadn’t started to improve since she quit smoking.
“She’s a professor at the university. Nick’s had the hots for her since he met her.”
“I wouldn’t say that.” Nick felt heat slide along his neck.
It looked like his mother wanted to reach out to him for a minute but clenched her fist instead. “What’s wrong with her?”
“Nothing’s wrong with her.” He wasn’t thrilled that this conversation had turned into defending Olivia to his mother and brother.
“Then why aren’t you with her?” His mother sounded curious.
“Because I’m not good enough for her. She deserves better than an ex-con with a past like mine.”
His brother stared at him. “That bullshit was expunged and it’s ancient history. So why don’t you tell us what’s really going on.”
For a minute, Nick thought about arguing. His past would never be history. But, he was too tired to have this argument with his brother again. “I’m not going to talk about it. I’m telling you both so you can help me keep my shit together over the next eight months.”
“I can go back to Alabama. Get out of your hair.” His mother pinched her lips together.
Simon snorted. “Yeah right, Mom. Nick and I are going to send you back to Alabama to die. Not happening.”
Their mother shrugged. She’d been walking on eggshells since Nick had brought her home. Once Simon had found out what was going on, he’d gotten on board with the plan. But the three of them hadn’t shared a home in fourteen years, they were all dancing around each other without dealing with anything other than immediate concerns.
“Olivia’s a good woman. Got a good job and a career of her own. I need to be there for her, but it’s not like she’s going to need me to do everything for her. We can figure it out, it might mean you need to carry a little more around here.” Nick looked at Simon.
A throat clearing drew their attention to the side of the porch. Bob Moore, Nick’s mentor stood there.
“Didn’t mean to eavesdrop.”
“But you did anyway.” Nick couldn’t help smiling. Bob was a legendary coach and learning to take over the strength training for the university from him was an opportunity Nick never thought he’d have in a million years.
Bob shrugged but didn’t say any more, at least not about the eavesdropping. “Sounds like you got a pretty full plate.”
Nick shrugged, trying not to show how much this man’s opinion mattered to him. The only person other than Bob he was dreading sharing this news with was Cade. His boss and best friend was one of the men he respected most in the world. Not to mention Cade’s new wife was one of Olivia’s closest friends. Cade and Tess both might have a thing or two to say about the situation.
“I can handle my responsibilities.” He looked at his mother. “All of them.”
“Don’t doubt you can. But I know a thing or two about some of those responsibilities. I can help you with some of it.”
Bob had lost his wife after a hard-fought battle against cancer. Nick knew he would need the man’s strength and wisdom to get through this.
“I’m not going to turn down help. But I’m not asking anyone to pull my weight.”
“Didn’t think you were.” The older man crossed his arms.
“I know you didn’t come by just to listen in on our conversation.” Bob wasn’t the kind to just show up anywhere.
“Nope. Got off the phone with Ed a little while ago. Seems the Gills have regrouped and are planning some new kind of asshattery.”
Damn. The Gills had tried to prevent Ed and Cade from taking over as co-head coaches of the Cormac football team a few months ago at a meeting of the Board of Trustees. It had been epic. The Gills had had their asses handed to them by Tess and the Board. Seems they didn’t learn their lesson.
“Do we know what they’re up to?”
“Not yet. We’re having a meeting in the morning. Want to make sure we got our plans laid out and tight. No room for them to worm their way in and mess things up.”
“What time?” Nick tried to remember what Olivia’s calendar looked like tomorrow. Their conversation earlier had left a lot up in the air. He hated that. It was better when things were laid out and he knows what was expected of him.
“Eight. Ron’s office.”
Nick nodded. He fished the small pad of paper out of his pocket that held all of Olivia’s dates to make sure he wasn’t going to have to let her down right away. There was nothing baby related on her calendar tomorrow. Good. “I can be there.”
Bob nodded. “Once we finish the meeting, you and I are going to meet. We’ll go through the schedule. We’ve got some time to get everything in order.”
Nick nodded. With the sanctions, the football team was facing they would have a smaller than usual roster this fall and no games to train for since this season was canceled. But he’d be working with Bob to run the strength programs for the other sports.
The good thing about the set-up Ed and Cade had come up with was that the younger coaches had a chance to learn the job from the ground up working with some of the best coaches college football had ever seen before they had to fly solo.
“I’ll see you in the morning.” Cade shoved his calendar in his pocket. His note pad full of notes paled in comparison to Olivia’s neatly organized planner.
Bob nodded and with a last glance between Nick, his mother and brother wandered back the way he’d come with a wave of his hand.
The next morning, Nick sat at the conference table in the athletic department with Bob, Cade, Ed and Ron Jackson, Cormac’s athletic director.
“We’ve got commitments from all my guys,” Ed said. “They’ll be back and ready to go by the middle of August.”
Cade nodded. “My team will take a little longer to assemble. Most of them still owe the military a little time on their current enlistments. Ben, Frankie and Boomer have a few things to wrap up and will be here sooner than the rest.”
“I’d be worried about your entire crew not being here sooner if we had to get a team ready to play this season.” Ed rubbed the back of his neck.
“I know.” Cade nodded. “Since the upcoming season is canceled for the Knights, we don’t have to worry about a game schedule or training for one. I’ve arranged for some practice games with some of the local varsity teams. That should give the players we do have some experience playing under our coaching system.”
“Couldn’t we at least arrange some games with community colleges?” Nick couldn’t imagine many college athletes being thrilled about going back to playing high school players.
Cade shook his head. “The local junior colleges have league play and full schedules. I am working on building relationships with some of the junior colleges because we can get some great talent from them once we can start recruiting again.”
“Which will be when?” Nick looked around the room. It was hard to put a team back together without players.
“Recruitment ban is officially lifted after the national championship. No going after eligible players until then.”
“Most of the top high school players will have signed commitments by then.” Nick had been committed to his top choice the second the rules allowed him to sign.
Ed chewed on the butt of his perpetually unlit cigar. “The very best high school players have been committed to schools for years. Hell, a school out west got a commitment from a nine-year-old player.”
“Nick. You and Cade both know there’s plenty of talent that doesn’t get picked up for one reason or another.” Ron gave them both pointed looks. “We’re going to have to get creative finding players the first couple of years. Not look in the obvious places. We’re going to be looking for athletes with talent, hunger, and drive. The kind of players who will stick with a program while it rebuilds. Who’ll take pride in being part of the rebuilding we’re doing here.”
He didn’t disagree. The former coaching staff had gotten rich while sucking the football program dry and breaking every league rule they could. Nick was a little surprised Cormac didn’t fold the team outright after the sanctions that were imposed. They needed a miracle to rebuild the team and this plan Cade and Ed had might be it.
They spent the next few hours talking about logistics and trying to figure out ways the Gills could potentially mess with them. Gill Senior was still an influential alum, even though he’d been forced to resign from the Board of Trustees after the recent meeting. He and his son were sneaky bastards and Nick wouldn’t put anything past them. Everyone agreed they needed to keep their eyes and ears open.
“If there’s nothing else —“ Ron started stacking the papers in front of him.
“I have something to say. An announcement really.”
All eyes turned to him.
“Olivia Valenti is pregnant and I’m the father. She’s due in March. So, I’ll have a lot on my plate. Bob and I are going to work things out so my job doesn’t suffer, but I wanted you all to hear it from me.” The words poured out of Nick’s mouth. “No jokes about shotgun weddings, either. We’re figuring out what’s next. I don’t want anyone putting pressure on her.”
Cade cleared his throat. “Does Tess know?”
Was Cade pale?
“Better yet, does Olivia know you’re telling people?” Ed asked a look on his face Nick couldn’t figure out. Was he trying not to laugh or puke?
“I imagine Olivia will tell Tess. She’s only a few weeks along so I’m guessing she’s not going to go wide with it for a while, but I’ve made a commitment to you all and the program and I want to make sure all my cards are on the table.”
Looking at the expressions on the faces of the other men, all of whom were or had been married, Nick felt his stomach seize up. “What?”
“Son.” Ed grimaced. “You’ve just violated the first major rule of relationships. You don’t share your woman’s business without her permission.”
“I’m sure she’ll understand. She’s a logical woman.”
Bob chuckled. “She’s also loaded up on hormones and in the first trimester of her pregnancy.” He held out his right arm and pointed to a small scar on his forearm. “Got that when my Barbara was pregnant with our first. I told Ed she was pregnant before she told anyone else. When she found out she stabbed me with a fork.”
Nick winced. He couldn’t imagine Olivia reacting like that, but then again, Bob’s wife, from all accounts, was one of the sweetest women that ever lived.
Shit. Olivia’s going to kill me.
Betrayal destroyed his future. An accident shattered her dreams. Life closed a door for each of them, if they can learn to trust each other, love will open a new one.
Ben Coleman spent two years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Being cleared of all charges couldn’t give him back his dreams of playing professional football, but freedom gave him a chance to heal. When an old friend offers him the opportunity to coach football at Cormac University Ben believes he can finally put the past behind him and build a future. Will the mysterious deputy with secrets help him rebuild his life, or tear it to pieces again?
After an accident as a teenager robbed her of her senses of taste and smell, Lily Mooney had to let go of her dream of being a professional chef. She never wanted to be a cop like three of her brothers, but more than a decade after her accident she was still on the job and will be until she finishes one last investigation, the one that will set her best friend free. Will the compelling new coach at Cormac University help Lily find the answers she’s looking for, or make her question everything she thought she knew?
Ben and Lily fight an instant attraction. Neither of them is looking for a relationship. Even if they were, there are a million reasons why they’re wrong for each other. Both of them are running from the past and the dreams that still haunt them. But King’s Folly is a small town and, with friends in common, they can’t exactly avoid each other. When their jobs collide and people they love almost get caught in the crossfire, they have no choice but to turn to each other.
Will they learn that love is the key to unlock their dreams for the future?
Welcome to Romancing the Receiver, the third book in the Gridiron Knights series set in King’s Folly, South Carolina, where football is king, and the locals have something to say about everything. When you come for a visit, you’ll never want to leave.
This is a stand-alone romance. It can be read and enjoyed on its own. If it’s your first taste of the Gridiron Knights, check out Second Chance Option to find out how Tess and Cade found their happily-ever-after and Shotgun Romance to learn Olivia and Nick’s story.
Benjamin Coleman gripped his truck’s steering wheel as his eyes drifted shut. Only a few more miles to go. His friend, and new boss, Cade said the cabin would be ready for him. All Ben cared about was the bed. Hell, he’d be fine with a rack on a ship or even a floor.
He inhaled a few deep breaths. The plan had been to stop for the night about two hundred miles back, but the bed bugs at the motel had him tossing his overnight bag in the back of his truck and peeling out of the parking lot. His ability to run a hundred-yard dash in fifteen seconds came in handy.
A few more hours on the road couldn’t be worse than the infested mattress. Turned out, it was harder to stay awake for long stretches of time in non-combat situations than he remembered. Maybe he should have gotten a cup of coffee at his last stop. Crappy gas station caffeine was better than falling asleep at the wheel.
Fresh air might help.
Ben rolled down the window. It was late July. The temperature wasn’t exactly bracing, but King’s Folly, South Carolina was a coastal town. Its main road was close enough to the beach that the remnants of an ocean breeze blew in the window, giving him a jolt. It wasn’t a lot, but hopefully, it was enough to get him the rest of the way.
Blue and red lights flashed in his rear-view mirror followed by the sharp wail of a siren. A shaft of fear spiked through his gut like shrapnel. He kept his eyes on the road as he replayed the last few minutes. It was a two-lane highway, so no lane change. Cruise control was set at five miles an hour below the speed limit and his truck was in good condition. Everything had been checked and rechecked at his local garage last week before he hit the road.
There was nothing he’d done that could have drawn the interest of law enforcement. It was important to him to be aware of when his actions might cause the too familiar red-blue glare, especially at night on a lonely road.
He hit the brakes and slowed to a crawl as he pulled over. His wallet, registration, proof of insurance and concealed carry permit were in the center console. Easy access when he needed them, no reaching to any locations that made police officers twitch. Ben pulled them out and set them all on top of the console. Then he waited. An imaginary clock ticked in his head. The pit in his stomach grew with every second that passed.
What was taking so long?
It didn’t matter what the officer looked like, so he didn’t bother to glance in the side view mirror. The badge was usually all he could see anyway. Sweat beaded on his forehead. The humid South Carolina air smothered him.
The officer stepped into view under the glow of the full moon. If he hadn’t been holding his breath, she would have stolen it. The standard issue uniform did nothing to hide her knockout curves.
The cop approached his window and he got a good look at her. It was as if one of the heroines from the novels his little sister used to send in his care packages stepped off the page. He’d never asked her to send them and wouldn’t admit to her that he’d read them. Every note from Dorothy had some variation of the same message. If anyone needs a little hope and love, it’s you, big brother.
He shook his head and pulled himself out of his thoughts. Not the time for distractions as he focused on the woman next to his truck. Her dark hair was barely visible under the uniform cap. He wondered how long it was, and whether it was curly or straight. Dark eyes stared at him and a perfect black brow arched.
She cleared her throat and he realized he’d been staring at her like a teenager ogling his first nudie magazine.
Hopefully, she wouldn’t comment on his silence. “Would you mind repeating that?”
“I asked how you were doing tonight, sir.”
Her tone was all business and brought him back to reality.
“I was wondering why you pulled me over when I know I was going under the speed limit.”
She opened her mouth to answer, but he was too tired to play the game tonight. “I hope it’s not the practice of local law enforcement to pull people over for no reason.”
“Even worse if the reason you pulled me over had nothing to do with my driving and everything to do with the color of my skin.” He wanted to take the words back, not because they might not be true, but because he was too tired to deal with where they might lead. When was the last time he’d slept?
Her gaze narrowed. “You want to step out of the truck and come with me?”
The last thing he wanted to do on his first night in town was call his new boss and ask him for bail money.
“You want to know why I pulled you over. Step out of the truck and come with me.” Her tone was sharp and no-nonsense.
He didn’t need either of his advanced degrees to know he’d stepped in it. Ben shoved open the door, hopped out and followed her to the back of his truck. It occurred to him through the fog of fear, irritation, and fatigue that she’d turned her back on him, which meant he’d misread the whole situation. There wasn’t a cop alive who would turn their back on someone they suspected of anything or were looking to jam up.
When she stopped and looked at the back of his truck, his gaze followed hers. His overnight bag was hanging half out of the back, caught between the tailgate and the truck bed cover. He really had been in a hurry to get away from those bed bugs.
“I pulled you over because I’m not sure how far you’re going or when this happened.” She pointed at the bag. “Better to salvage something sooner rather than later.”
He scrubbed his hand down his face. “I was in a hurry to get back on the road.” He stepped forward and yanked the tailgate down. His bag toppled onto the ground. Squatting down, he unzipped it and looked inside. Perfect. His toothpaste had been caught in the tailgate and minty fresh goo was all over the rest of his stuff.
Her snort echoed in the silence.
“Something funny?” He looked over his shoulder. She filled out a uniform better than any woman he’d ever seen. Time to think of anything other than the sexy cop.
“Right now, or in general?” The corners of her luscious mouth barely twitched, but the laughter in her tone was clear.
He stood and zipped up the ruined bag. Once he was sure the toothpaste wouldn’t get all over the rest of the stuff in his truck he tossed the duffel in the back then slammed the tailgate. “How about we start with right now?”
She nodded. “Sure.”
“Sure, something’s funny.” She didn’t elaborate.
Did he drive off the road and hit his head on the steering wheel? “What’s funny?”
“Lots of things.” She seemed to be enjoying this. Whatever this was.
“Are you sure you’re a cop?” He glanced at her name tag. “Officer Mooney?”
“Deputy Sheriff Mooney, and yes I’m sure.”
He’d had more interactions with law enforcement than he should have in his life. Nothing like this had ever happened to him. “You don’t act like any cop I’ve ever met.”
She laughed. It rolled through him like a warm summer breeze and lodged in his heart. “I keep telling my boss, but he won’t fire me or let me quit.”
“Why?” He didn’t understand why she would stay on the job if she didn’t want to?
“Apparently, I’m too good at my job and the world needs good cops.” She made a sign for air quotes when she said the last two words.
“You don’t want to be a police officer?” This was the weirdest conversation he’d ever had. He still wasn’t ruling out a brain injury.
“Nope. But then we don’t always get what we want in life.” She shrugged. “You know that better than anyone I’ve ever met.”
“You know who I am.” His weirdly peaceful mood shattered.
“Best will linebacker I’ve ever seen. What happened to you was everything that’s wrong in the world.” Her tone was matter-of-fact.
He appreciated the sentiment and was impressed she knew the exact position he’d played in college. Most people didn’t know there was more than one type of linebacker. But it didn’t do much to pull his mood out of the gutter. This job was supposed to be a fresh start, not a reminder of everything he wanted to forget. “I guess I should get going.”
“Are you staying at Cade’s old place, or somewhere else?”
Her casual use of his boss and friend’s name stopped him. “You know Cade?”
“I know his wife and the girl squad better, but I’ve hung out with the whole crew from time to time. My parents own Mooney’s Pub, best Irish-Mexican restaurant around. It’s kind of the group hang out now.”
“Oh.” He was by the side of the road talking to a deputy sheriff about Cade and the local watering hole. Was Rod Serling going to step out of the shadows and announce that he’d entered The Twilight Zone?
“You look done in. Do you need me to follow you to wherever you’re staying?” The genuine look of concern in her eyes warmed his entire body at the same time it sent a chill down his spine.
He didn’t need anyone outside of his family caring about him. “No. I’m okay. Just need to get where I’m going.”
“You know where that is?”
He nodded, not trusting his voice. If he opened his mouth he might do something stupid, like ask her out. There was too much at stake with this new job, this fresh start. Getting involved with a woman, any woman, was a bad idea. Getting involved with a cop was the definition of stupid.
She studied him for a moment. “All right then. You drive safely. Cade will be pissed if you don’t get there in one piece.” With that, she ambled back to her cruiser and got in. A moment later she pulled out from behind his truck and drove away.
He wasn’t sure how long he stood by the side of the road after she disappeared. When everything in his life had blown up, he’d gone numb. Even after he’d been completely exonerated and began to put the pieces of his life back together as best he could, the sensation hadn’t really gone away. With one strange conversation, a feeling that was both familiar and foreign took root somewhere around his heart. Whether it was a good or a bad thing remained to be seen.
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