Time Out Read online

  Sharee was right about the hair. Rainey shoved it out of her face, readjusting the Ducks hat on her head. Her wavy brown hair frizzed whenever it rained, or if the air was humid, or if she so much as breathed wrong. She had no doubt it resembled a squirrel’s tail about now. “It’s okay. Just…clean up,” she said, watching as the black truck rolled to a stop.

  “Look at that,” Todd said reverently, Rainey’s hair crisis forgotten. “That’s one sweet truck.”

  Sneakers squishing, Rainy moved toward it. She could feel water running in rivulets down her body as the driver side window powered down. “I’m sorry,” she said politely, feeling like a drowned rat. “We’ve closed up shop. We—” She broke off. The driver was wearing a Mammoth hat and reflective Oakleys, rendering him all but unrecognizable to the general public. But she recognized him just fine, and her heart stopped on a dime.

  The man she’d just been watching on the news.

  Mark Diego.

  He wore a white button-down that was striking against his dark skin and stretched across broad shoulders. The hand-painted sign behind her said: Car Wash—$10, but he pulled a hundred-dollar bill from his pocket. She stared down at it, boggled.

  “No worries on the wash,” he said in a low voice as smooth as aged whiskey, the same voice that had fueled her adolescent dreams.

  He didn’t recognize her.

  Of course he didn’t. She was wearing a ball cap, sunglasses, soap suds, and was drenched to the core, not to mention dressed like a complete slob. Unlike Mark, of course, who looked like sin-on-a-stick. Expensive sin-on-a-stick.

  The bastard.

  “I just need a place to park,” he said with the smile that she knew probably melted panties and temperamental athletes with equal aplomb. “I’m here to see Rick Diego.”

  “You can park right where you are,” Rainey said.

  He turned off the engine and got out of the truck, six feet two inches of tough, rugged, leanly muscled grace. Two other guys got out as well, and beside her, Todd nearly swallowed his tongue. “Casey Reynolds! James Vasquez! Oh man, you guys rock!”

  Casey, the Mammoths’ right wing, was twenty-two and the youngest player on the team. He looked, walked and talked like the California surfer he was in his spare time. He wore loose basketball shorts, a T-shirt from some surf shop in the Caicos, and a backwards Mammoths’ hat.

  James was the team’s left wing, and at twenty-four he was nearly as wild as Casey, but instead of looking like he belonged on a surfboard, James could have passed as a linebacker in the NFL. He was wearing baggy blue jeans and a snug silk shirt that emphasized and outlined his every muscle.

  If she hadn’t known they were the two players who’d been in the big bar brawl, she could have guessed by Casey’s nasty black eye and the bruise and cut on James’s jaw. Still managing to look like million-dollar athletes, they smiled at Todd and shook his hand.

  The kid looked like he might pass out.

  Mark and his two players clearly had a longtime ease with each other, but just as clearly there was a hierarchy, with Mark at the top—and he hadn’t taken his carefully observant eyes off Rainey.


  She turned away, but he snagged her hand and pulled her very wet self back around. She thought about tugging free.

  Or kicking him.

  As if he could read her mind, his lips twitched. “Easy,” he murmured, and pulled off her sunglasses.

  She narrowed her eyes against the sun and a wealth of unwelcome emotions as the very hint of a smile tugged at the corner of his sexy mouth.

  “It’s a little hard to tell with the raccoon eyes,” he said. “But the bad ’tude’s a dead giveaway. Rainey Saunders. Look at you.”

  The others were all still talking with a false sense of intimacy. Mark tapped the bill of Rainey’s Ducks hat, giving a slow shake of his head, like he couldn’t believe she’d be wearing anything other than the Mammoths’ colors.

  And suddenly she felt like that silly, love-struck teenager all over again. Having four years on her, he’d been clueless about the crush. He might never have known at all if she hadn’t made a fool of herself and sneaked into his apartment to strip for him. It’d all gone straight to hell since he’d been on the receiving end of a blow job at the time. She’d compounded the error with several more that evening, which she didn’t want to think about. Ever. It’d all ended with her pride and confidence completely squashed.

  Worse, the night had negated the years of friendship she and Mark had shared until then, all erased in one beat of stupidity.

  Okay, several beats of stupidity.

  She lifted her chin, which turned out to be a mistake because water had pooled on the bill and now dripped down her face. She blinked it away and tried to look cool—not easy under the best of circumstances, and this wasn’t anywhere close to best.

  Mark pointed to her nose. “You have a smudge of dirt.”

  Oh, good. Because she’d been under the illusion she was looking perfect. “Thought you liked dirty girls.” The minute she said it, she could have cut out her tongue. He’d been on GQ last month, artfully stretched out on some L.A. beach, draped in sand.

  And four naked, gorgeous, equally sandy women.

  She’d bought the damn issue, which really chapped her ass. Mark clearly knew it, and his smile broke free. She rubbed at her nose but apparently this only made things worse because his smile widened.

  “Here,” he said, and ran a finger over the bridge of her nose himself.

  Up this close and personal, it was hard to miss just how gorgeous he was.

  Or how good he smelled.

  Or how expensive he looked.

  All of which was hugely irritating.

  “Got it,” he said. “Not much I can do about the soap all over you. Let’s fix this too.” Then, before she could stop him, he tugged off her drenched hat, flashed an amused glance at what was surely some scary-ass hair, then replaced her hat with the one from his own head. The Mammoths, of course. He ran a hand over his own silky, dark hair, leaving it slightly tousled and perfectly sexy.

  She snatched back her hat. “I like the Ducks. They’re my favorite team.”

  At this, both of his players turned from Todd and stared at her. Rainey didn’t know if it was because of what she’d just said, or because no one dared sass their fearless leader. “No offense,” she said to them.

  “None taken,” Casey said on a grin and held out his hand, introducing himself. James did the same.

  Rainey instantly liked them both, and not just because they were famous, or cute as hell—which they were—but because they were quite harmless, as compared with their head coach. He wasn’t the least bit harmless. Rainey squirmed a little, probably due to the soapy water running down her body.

  Or the way Mark was studying her with the same quiet intensity he used on the ice—which she knew because she watched his games. All of them.

  “So how do you know Coach?” James asked her.

  Rainey looked into Mark’s eyes. Well, not quite his eyes, since they were still behind the reflective Oakleys that probably cost more than her grocery bill for the month. “We go way back.”

  Mark’s almost-smile made an appearance again. “Rainey went to school with my brother Rick.” He paused, clearly waiting for her to add something to the story.

  No thank you, since the only thing she could add would be “and one time I threw myself at him and he turned me down flat.”

  They’d seen each other since, of course, on the few occasions when he’d come back to town to visit his dad and brother. Once when she’d been twenty-one, at a local police ball that Mark had helped chair. He’d slow danced with her and the air had crackled between them. Chemistry had abounded, and she could read in his dark eyes that he’d felt it too, and she’d melted at his interest. But she hadn’t been able to swallow her mortification about the fiasco on her sixteenth birthday, so she’d made an excuse and bailed on him. She’d seen him again, several times,