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THE TOTAL PACKAGE
BY STEPHANIE EVANOVICH
Smart and sexy Dani Carr knows as much about football as any man–maybe more. It’s always been her dream to make a living talking about the game she loves. But Dani’s not interested in being just the usual eye-candy sideline reporter; she wants to be the first woman analyst on a pre-game show, the ultimate in exclusive boys-club jobs. And it turns out, that despite the odds, she has the talent to get her there.
Star quarterback-and heartthrob–Tyson Palmer always did things in spectacular fashion, including ruining his career after debuting as a first-round draft pick. When the head coach of the Austin Mavericks refuses to let him waste his million dollar arm, Tyson makes a Hail Mary pass at redemption and succeeds with everyone…except Dani, who appears to be using her high-profile commentator job to make a name for herself at his expense.
Dani refuses to let anyone forget about Tyson’s transgressions….and for good reason. There’s history between these two, sizzling history that dates back to their college days, and it ended in another spectacular flame-out of Tyson’s. He’s conveniently forgotten all about that episode because Dani is no longer the cute girl next door he barely remembers–she’s a bombshell with huge ratings and a long memory.
But can a woman trying to claw her way to the top and a quarterback who knows all about rock bottom make it to the Super Bowl without destroying each other in the process? And what will happen when Tyson-riding high on his career comeback-realizes he needs to make an even more important comeback with Dani?
THE TOTAL PACKAGE
BY STEPHANIE EVANOVICH
The server dropped off his fresh drink, but Tyson kept at the remaining ice in his drained glass. Pheromones were producing an equally worthy rush. Ella with the Italian name had barely changed at all. She was still cute. The bar was starting to wind down. It was after 1:00 a.m. The music had stopped playing, but the other drinkers in the bar didn’t seem to notice. Those in hushed conversations still were quiet, only now lip-reading was no longer required. Rowdy voices remained boisterous.
“Of course I remember. Thanks to you, I got a B.” Not sure if that was true, but he had a knack for mixing his caddishness with boyish charm, even when he was half in the bag. “You’re here for homecoming?”
“Yes, by default. I stayed here to continue on to my master’s. I graduate this year.”
“Congratulations,” he said, straightening up, envious that she would soon be rewarded for having learned all her lessons, including the one about resisting temptation. Suddenly being the biggest partier in the room was a dubious distinction. “Have a seat, let me buy you a drink. We’ll celebrate.” He slid his fresh drink across the table in her direction.
“I’m not there yet.” She took up his offer for a seat across from him and ignored the highball of whiskey. “I still have to make it through the year. How are you?”
A loaded question if ever there was one. And the first time he was asked it all night without the asker trying to quickly take it back. By the kindhearted look on her face, she really wanted to know. But how is anyone who’s about to lose everything and become a social pariah? Who will have managed to fall from grace in such a spectacular fashion and in record time? Looking into the eyes of this innocent bookworm, who was still protected from the outside world by two square miles of college campus, he longed to answer honestly. To tell Ella Bella that he wanted to go home but couldn’t remember his own address. And then confess that even if he did recall it, he couldn’t go there anyway because the repo man was probably lying in wait to take back his Land Rover, the only thing he had left after his exceptionally beautiful trophy wife cleaned him out and left when the rumors started to surface and the police came calling. He wanted to admit that he couldn’t tell the difference between stoned and tired anymore.
“I’m doing great,” he replied, longing to pick up one of the conversations from his past. And if there was one thing he could never be accused of, it was being a whiner.
Her expression didn’t change, and she continued to study him with the same gentle smile.
“You don’t have to keep up appearances for me, Tyson.”
At first it didn’t register, and then he just didn’t want it to. He had already attached himself to the fantasy that she was too busy being intelligent with her nose in a book to be bothered with television. Or the Internet, where his life seemed to play out as he lived it. A train wreck he couldn’t stand watching even as he stood at the helm and drove. He resisted reaching into his pocket for another Percocet, opting instead to take back the Jack Daniel’s he had previously offered her.
“Here’s to the good old days,” he toasted before taking a swallow.
He quickly put his hand and the glass back on the table, a trick he’d learned to feel grounded. Now was the moment for her to take her leave and join the ranks of those repulsed by him. But sweet inexperienced Ella wasn’t beating a hasty retreat. Instead she pulled her chair up closer and lowered her voice.
“I’d much rather toast to your future,” she said, picking up his half empty drink and polishing it off.
He didn’t want to pretend anymore. And he didn’t have to carry on the charade. She still seemed to be looking at him with the wide-eyed adoration she had in the past, only now with a shadow of Jack-shooting tough girl.
“I don’t have a future.”
“Of course you do,” she proclaimed, “and I want to help you get back on the field.”
Tyson leaned back in his chair, stretching out his long legs to one side of the table. He crossed his arms over his chest and let out a single chuckle. Not the follow-up he’d expected. And she said it like he should’ve known.
“Just how do you propose to do that, Ella Bella?”
“By being a real friend for starters, the kind that wouldn’t just sit idly by and watch you get hooked on drugs.”
“Nobody got me hooked on anything,” he said stubbornly, more defense mechanism than anything else. By the time the news broke that she was indeed correct, this conversation would be over and he’d never have to see her again. And he refused to blame anyone other than himself for his lousy choices.
“So it was just alcohol that influenced your decisions that night with Carla Dowe?” she asked, moving on to the next topic, sounding more like a sideline reporter than an old friend.
Tyson grimaced. That was one face he’d never forget. At least she got right to the point. Carla Dowe was the beauty he met in a nightclub outside of Houston. She had long hair, longer legs, and rode him like a cowgirl in his rental car in the parking lot where they shared a joint after drinking the night away. His other transgressions surfaced rapidly after she sent one too many selfies of them looking a little too cozy. Her tune changed altogether once her parents found out. In the lawsuits that followed and thanks to his expensive attorney, the bar that let her in and served her took the brunt of the fallout. The suspicion around him remained as the allegations intensified, and rightly so. Even he had trouble recollecting the events of that evening. His blackouts had become a frequent occurrence. Luckily, his own lawyer was ruthless enough to subpoena and systematically grill friend after friend of the girl’s to testify about that night and Carla’s delight at having landed herself the ultimate score, complete with all the smiles she snapped, captured, and sent. But it was a double-edged sword. She looked young and innocent. He looked like ten miles of bad road. Tyson was spared a jail sentence but convicted of being a total scumbag in the court of public opinion.
“I swear she told me she was twenty-one.” He tried to make it sound like a joke, but the embarrassment reflected in his bloodshot eyes. “And she was eighteen.” He added feebly. He wasn’t sure why he bothered. There was still the issue that he was married at the time.
“Four days into eighteen. Easy to lose sight of that fact given she was still in high school,” Ella replied, graciously making no reference to his now-ex-wife.
New York Times Bestselling Author, Stephanie Evanovich is a full-fledged Jersey girl from Asbury Park who began writing fiction while waiting for her cues during countless community theater projects. She attended New York’s School of Film and Television and acted in several improvisational troupes and a few small-budget movies, all in preparation for the greatest job she ever had, raising her two sons. Now a full-time writer, she’s an avid sports fan who holds a black belt in tae kwon do.
Links to Stephanie’s website, blog, books, etc.
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