Colt Butler sat back in the limo, thankful for the double tinted windows and dark sunglasses that protected his bloodshot eyes from South Florida’s potent summer sun. Getting balls drunk with the defensive line after being cleared for play was a Miami Thunder team tradition. So he’d gone, totally forgetting to account for the fact that even though he was a big guy at six feet, three inches with 270 pounds of hard muscle, his body wasn’t used to downing beers or doing shot after shot. Now he was paying the very steep price.
Colt hadn’t hurt so bad since Clarence “Boom Boom” MacNeal had hit him from behind in a cheap shot that resulted in a season-ending broken ankle for Colt and the best season on record for his backup, LeRoi Harper.
The deep, two-tone sound of a cruise ship horn reverberated in the limo as the driver slowed at the port’s entry gate.
“Tell me again why I’m doing this?” He fished a bottle of aspirin from his duffel’s side compartment, popped it open and dry swallowed two tablets then chased it with two pills for motion sickness.
“Because you have a fabulous agent,” Manny Rodriguez said, not even bothering to look up from his phone.
“And that’s why I’m going on some Miami Thunder-sponsored, broke-down player booze cruise for three days? Doc cleared me for play. I should be in training.”
“Like you ever stopped your regularly scheduled workouts.” Manny pocketed the phone and looked up from his perch on the opposite side of the stretch limo. “Look, you got some shit luck last season. Not only did you go out on a stretcher, your backup posted better numbers than you’ve gotten in the past two seasons. You’ve got one year left on your contract and you’re going to spend the offseason and training camp fighting for your job on the field. It’s pretty safe to assume you’re not going to be taking it easy anytime soon.”
“Damn straight.” Football wasn’t just a game for Colt. It was who he was, and had been since the first pass his dad had tossed to him across the prickly, thorn-bush-plagued patch of yard behind their doublewide. Nothing was going to take that away from him.
“So start fighting off the field too. You’re thirty. You’re on the tail end of a damn good career. It’s not just about working harder than anyone else on the team anymore, it’s about working smarter.”
As if anyone worked harder than he did: Two-a-days even with the cast around his ankle; memorizing the playbook; kissing off everything and everyone that didn’t influence the action on the field. The plastic pill bottle popped in his grip. He’d squeezed it so tight he’d dented it and sent the childproof lid flying across the limo’s cream leather seats. The movement registered on his periphery, just like the actions of an opposing team’s players when the only thing Colt cared about was the ball arcing through the air on its way to the eligible receiver he was about to crush. However, in this case, his attention centered on his agent instead of the pigskin.
“You’ve got a lot of nerve if you think—”
Manny held up his hand, stopping Colt mid-snarl. “That’s not me being an asshole, it’s the truth.”
“Fuck you.” He shoved the pill bottle back into his duffel, not giving a shit that the little tablets would scatter in its depths.
“You don’t pay me to shoot sunshine up your ass, Colt.” Manny winked. “I charge another five percent for that.”
They both laughed. And that’s why he’d been with Manny since the beginning of his career—neither of them thought bullshitting should be part of the game.
“Everyone knows what Colt “45” Butler stands for on the field,” Manny said. “You take off like a shot and when you hit, the other guy goes down like he’d been hit by a bullet. But the Thunder front office is worried about whether you can bring that intensity back and be the kind of player today’s game requires—on and off the field.”
He’d spent his career avoiding team community outreach events and the bug-under-the-spotlight feeling that went with it. He wore a helmet to work, not a suit and tie. “Mr. Garcia knows—”
“He knows he needs a franchise player,” Manny interrupted. “Someone who’s not only good, but is good for the team. This Miami Thunder fan cruise is your chance to show you can be the Thunder’s public face, and that makes you about more than your stats.”
“I don’t want to be anyone’s public face.” Or the center of attention without the protection of his pads.
Manny threw his hands up in the air. “Then you’ll be doing that for another team in a few seasons. When will you get it through your stubborn Alabama-born-and-bred head that being good on the field isn’t always enough? You need to work all the angles. You know sure as shit that LeRoi Harper is.”
Bold as brass, LeRoi worked his mouth as much as his legs. “So why isn’t he going on this three-day cruise to the Bahamas, instead of leaving me to be the only current roster player among a bunch of retired old farts who haven’t hit the turf in years?”
“Because LeRoi doesn’t have the world’s best agent. You do.”
The limo rolled to a stop in front of the cruise ship’s VIP ticket entrance. Manny pointed out the window at a short woman with thick shoulder-length brown hair and a fantastic rack that even her Miami-Thunder-issued blazer couldn’t hide.
“Okay, that’s your handler for the cruise. Her name is Angie Keller, her direct supervisor is Dylan Rhodes, who is dating Olivia Garcia, who always has her big brother’s ear—and we all know that what Ian Garcia wants, he gets.”
And as unbelievable as it seemed, this trip just took a turn for the better. “I know exactly who Angie is.”
“Oh shit. I know that look. Please tell me I’m wrong. Tell me you did not do your normal fuck-and-flee routine with a woman who has the power to screw you over six ways to Sunday.”
Colt’s hand stilled on the door handle. “It wasn’t like that.”
“Until Ian Garcia approves your next contract, you better keep it that way. The last thing you need is to piss off Angie or anyone else in the front office.” Manny sighed and glanced out the limo’s window. “No matter how much hot Cuban-American goodness is wrapped up in one ill-fitting business suit.”
“Whatever you say, Manny.” Colt opened the door and stepped out.
Emerging from the limo was like getting body slammed by a gazillion-percent humidity. His sunglasses, cool from the limo’s air conditioning, fogged up and the Atlantic’s briny smell roiled his stomach. Maybe this was the day to break his rules and grab a greasy cheeseburger. Maybe then his aching head would give him a break.
“Mr. Butler, I’m Angie Keller. I’m going to be your VIP escort for the cruise.” She held out her delicate hand.
He towered over her even at a slouch, but she didn’t look the least bit intimidated. She never did. “I know what you sound like when you come—what was it? Three times in one night? Plus a few more in the morning, if I remember correctly. Don’t you think the reintroductions are a little much?”
Looking down, he couldn’t help but enjoy the view as the heated flush crawled up her light-brown skin. She was all round curves and pouty lips, accentuated with enough fuck-with-me-and-I-will-break-you-in-half attitude to make the entire defensive line quake in their cleats.
Angie narrowed her big brown eyes at him and he swore he could hear her mentally cursing him out in Spanish. “Look, no one with the Thunder knows about Vegas and I’d rather keep it that way, so let’s pretend we’ve just met.” She stuck out her hand again. “I have a promotion riding on the next three days going well. Do not fuck this up for me.”
“Whatever you want, honey.” He took her hand, but instead of shaking it, he flipped it palm side up and kissed the soft skin on her wrist, where her pulse beat erratically.
She jerked her hand free. “Come on. Let’s get you boarded.”
“I like that idea.” The words just popped out. He didn’t mean to say it any more than he meant to recall in vivid high definition how she’d looked with all that thick brown hair spilling over her heavy tits as she rode him on that oversized hotel bed until his eyes rolled back in his head.
But Angie didn’t seem to have the same happy memory. Instead, the look she gave him would have melted steel. “Aboard,” she said between gritted teeth. “Let’s get you aboard the ship.”
“Yes, ma’am, Miss Keller.” He tipped an imaginary hat then followed her through the private VIP entrance, realizing as he watched her signature swaying strut that it wasn’t his big head demanding his attention anymore.
Come back next week for more of HOT DARE!