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Book #1 of the Begin Again Series

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Football players certainly like to drink. I’ve catered more events than I can count for Apex, but this one seems interminable.

“Hey, J.” Lilla finds me sneaking in a quick break at the end of the bar. Her eyes half close as she slumps onto the stool next to me.

“Hey, Lil.” I pat her back. “You all right?”

“I’m so tired. It must be after midnight, and we’ve been working like dogs all night.”

“I know. Bill said we could leave soon.”

“Why don’t we…oh, Jesus.” Lilla claps her hands over her mouth and stares behind me.

“What?”

Before I can turn around to see what she’s looking at, I feel a tap on my shoulder. I swivel on my stool and swallow when I see Dylan standing in front of me holding out his hand.

“Come with me for a minute? I have a work-related favor to ask for your help with.”

I try to ignore the butterflies in my stomach as I follow him.

But I congratulate myself on my refusal to take his hand. Clearly I’m making a bold statement. Dylan Gray, you can’t just ask me for anything and get what you want.

I have no idea where we’re going, but we leave the noisy, crowded bar and head through the lobby. Dylan holds the outside door open for me and then stops by the top of the stairs leading down to the parking lot.

A full moon and hundreds of stars light the sky. I admire the mountain backdrop as I relax into the welcome silence of the outdoors.

“So,” he says. “You say I’m not your type, correct?”

I force myself to look up so I make eye contact with him. His gaze locks on mine.

“Right,” I say.

“What will it take for you to agree to go out with me?”

I stare at him.

Is this guy for real?

“I don’t think I know how to answer that question. Do you always get what you want?”

He sucks in his breath but doesn’t take his eyes off me. “What about if we make some sort of a deal?”

“Like what?”

“Like, go to lunch with me tomorrow, and we’ll see how it goes.”

I raise an eyebrow at him and don’t say anything. Dylan shifts backward, like I’ve knocked him off-balance somehow.

Then his cocky grin returns from wherever he’d lost it. “Okay, I’ll be more direct: Would you have lunch with me tomorrow, Jasalie Gordon?”

I bite my lip and look out again at the mountains. Out where it’s safe and Dylan isn’t pursuing me with a fervor the likes of which I’ve never experienced.

“I don’t date clients,” I finally say.

And I don’t date celebrities. Really, I shouldn’t be dating at all right now, because I’ve proven I can’t even handle a rebound.

But before I can figure out how to tell him good bye, he reveals why he’s so talented on the football field: no matter the blockade, Dylan Gray always figures out how to move the chains.

“Lilla tells me you’re from here,” he says slowly.

I tap my foot on the pavement.

I’m going to kill her, because she clearly handed him his trump card.

I try to bluff. “So?”

He never takes his eyes off me. “So I’d like a tour of Tucson. How’s tomorrow?”

I tighten my jaw. Of course I can say no. And under any other circumstance, I would. This guy is pompous and spoiled and clearly comfortable pulling out all the stops to get what he wants. Beyond the added fact that I don’t know any more about Tucson than he does.

But I know my boss. Bill will find out about this, because that’s just who Bill is. He’s like a paparazzo that way, or a gossip girl. And Bill will absolutely deny me the promotion if he thinks I did anything less than everything for our potential client. He already practically told me to proposition the owner, for God’s sakes. This is nothing in comparison. Plus, at least it’s all in public. I’ll take Dylan on a quick tour of the city, and that will be that.

I swallow and make eye contact with him again. His gaze is focused and determined. But something else is in his face—a vulnerability that I can’t help wanting to know more about. I lean closer to him without planning to, but as soon as I do he shuts down his expression, and the openness in his eyes disappears.

“No pressure.” He shrugs like his attempt to blackmail me is suddenly no big deal. “We’ll just spend some time hanging out. It’ll be fun. Get to know each other a little.”

Get to know each other a little. That could work. After all, Dylan Gray can’t possibly be as perfect as he looks. It’s not possible. Everyone has flaws. And once I can actually see what his are, this ridiculous spell I seem to have fallen under will be broken, and I can return to my boring, but predictable, life with my two cats in Los Angeles, California and never think about him again.

I look up at him, something I’ve never had to do before with a guy. He’s got to be at least six feet four. Just makes the idea of spending tomorrow with him all the more interesting.

I sigh. “Fine. But I pick the sights.”

The corner of his mouth turns up. “Deal.”

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