Taking a Shot, p.1part #3 of Play by Play Series by Jaci Burton / Romance & Love
Author: Jaci Burton ONE
JENNA RILEY WANTED NOTHING TO DO WITH SPORTS.
Which was ironic considering she owned and operated her family’s sports bar. Doubly ironic considering one brother was an NFL quarterback and the other brother was a major league baseball player. And triply ironic considering her entire family loved sports of all kinds.
Personally, she was fed up with baseball, hockey, football, NASCAR, basketball, tennis, or anything having to do with a ball or a fast car—unless she was the one behind the wheel driving it. Her distaste for anything sports related likely had something to do with having sports of all kinds shoved down her throat her entire life. And now she lived with it twenty-four hours a day, hearing about it every damn night at work. The bar was constantly filled with sports.
She was in the wrong line of work. She should quit her job and be a roadie for a rock band. Now that’s something she could get behind in a major way. She snickered at the thought. Like she could ever be free from the chains of familial responsibility. Ever since her father semi-retired from the bar, Riley’s had become her responsibility, which meant, like it or not, sports had become her life. Big-screen televisions broadcast every event, blaring out the voices of obnoxious announcers calling plays behind her, in front of her and to the side of her. Excited fans filled the bar after every game, so not only did she have to listen to the games on television, she also had to bear witness to the patrons’ recaps after.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, there were the sports networks rehashing player stats and player drafts and all the game replays with analyst commentary.
For someone who hated sports, she had a head full of statistics on every player who had ever played any sport.
Which meant everyone at Riley’s loved her.
“Hey, Jenna. ”
She glanced up from wiping down the bar. Steve Mahoney, one of her regulars, signaled for another beer. She grabbed a bottle, popped off the top, slid it over to him, and added it to his tab.
“You see the game tonight?”
She smiled and nodded. “Of course. ” As if she had a choice.
“Two goals for Anderson. The Ice scored a winner by picking him up last year, didn’t they?”
“Yeah, he’s great. ”
Dick Mayhew got into the action, sliding onto an available barstool someone had vacated. He lifted one finger and Jenna grabbed a beer for him.
“He and Eddie make a hell of a team,” Dick said. “I think they’re unbeatable. ”
Steve nodded. “I think we have a serious shot at the cup this year. What do you think, Jenna?”
Jenna thought she’d like to extricate herself from this conversation and refill some of her customers’ drinks down at the other end of the bar. Instead, she did what she always did when talk of sports came up. She grinned and leaned her elbows against the bar and did her best PR. “I think you’re right. Anderson is quick on his skates and he’s magic with his shots. It’s like he knows right where to put them. I’ve never seen anyone who can shoot a puck like he can. He has no fear going to the boards. He’s as tough as they come. And we already know Eddie is a proven winner at right wing. That’s why the Ice have held on to him as long as they have. Together they make a hell of a duo. With Victor at left wing, they’re an unbeatable trio. Their combined stats on goals are off the charts. ”
“Not to mention power plays. When one is down, the other two pick up the slack,” Steve said, and he and Dick launched into their own conversation, which freed up Jenna to grab a few drinks for her other customers and see to the bar orders from the waitresses who served the clients throughout Riley’s.
Riley’s always packed in people like sardines after a game, which meant Jenna lost all track of time. She’d been here since before noon and it was now midnight. Her feet hurt, she smelled like food and alcohol, and she was ready to go home, fall into bed, and sleep for twenty-four hours.
Too bad she had to be here tomorrow and start all over again.
It was mid-week. Maybe people would start clearing out soon. After all, it was a work night.
But the sounds of raucous cheers made her cringe. She took a quick glance at the door and her worst fears were realized when she saw a half dozen of the St. Louis Ice hockey players stroll through the front door.
Crap. Now no one would leave until closing time, which meant almost three more hours for her and her team. And the players were probably hungry. She headed into the kitchen.
“Players just walked in,” she said to Malcolm, her head cook.
Malcolm, who had the patience of a saint and always took things in stride, just nodded. “I’ll get out the steaks. ”
She laughed, shook her head, and went back to the bar. She refilled a few drinks and decided to let her waitresses handle the players. She’d go over there and say hello when she had a free minute. Right now she was slammed filling drink orders. Something about players coming in hopped up her customers’ excitement level and made everyone thirsty.
It was good for business, though. She loved having the players frequent Riley’s. She had Mick and Gavin—and Elizabeth—to thank for that.
“You look busy. ”
She lifted her head and stared into the steel gray eyes of Tyler Anderson. He wore his raven hair a little long and shaggy, just the way she liked…
No. She did not like this guy. He was a jock, a hockey player, and she most definitely did not like sports players. Especially not Ty.
“Yeah, Ty. I’m a little busy here. What can I do for you?”
“Thought you could use some help. Why don’t you have two bartenders?”
“Because I can handle it by myself. Is Lydia taking care of your table?”
“She is. We’re fine. Steaks are ordered. ”
She planted her palms against the side of the bar, sucking in a quick breath. “Then what do you need?”
He came around the open end of the bar. “Nothing. I came here to help you. ”
Her eyes widened. “What? Get out of here. You can’t be back here. ”
“Sure I can. You need help. ”
“No, I don’t. ” She shoved at him, but she might as well try to move a car. “Go away. ”
The crowd thickened around the bar as soon as Ty made himself at home back there. He filled drink orders while Jenna stared dumbfounded. He popped the tops off bottles of beer like a pro, poured hard liquor, fixed mixed drinks, and operated like he knew what the hell he was doing behind a bar. He then took the customer’s money or credit card and handled her cash register, too.
What. The. Hell.
He slid a glance her way. “You have customers at the other end of the bar. ”
She finally gave up and took care of her patrons while Ty drummed up more business.
“Hey, Ty, your steak is ready,” Malcolm said a half hour later.
“Just leave it behind the bar. I’ll eat it here. ”
“You got it. ”
Jenna rolled her eyes and watched as Ty ate his steak standing up while he visited with the guys at the bar, then went back to serving drinks.
By two thirty she called for last round and everyone began to make their way out the door. Jenna started cleaning up while the last of her patrons left. She called taxis for those who needed them, helped the waitresses bus tables, and cleared her bar registers.
She let the waitresses go, locked the front door, and headed into the kitchen. The kitchen had been cleaned up, the other cooks and the busboys had left, and only Malcolm remained—with Ty—the two of them talking about football.
“What are you still doing here?” she asked, looking at Ty.
“Sorry. Got involved talking postseason with Malcolm. ”
“Who is now leaving,” Malcolm said with a yawn. “Want me to walk you out, Jenna?”
“No, thanks. I’ve got a few things left to do. ”
Malcolm narrowed his dark brown eyes on her. “Go home. Don’t stay here all night doing paperwork. ”
She laughed. “I don’t intend to. ”
She locked the door behind him, then turned to tell Tyler to go, but he wasn’t in the kitchen. She found him in the bar pouring a whiskey.
“Hey. Last call was an hour ago. ”
He smiled at her, tipped the glass to his lips, and downed the drink in one swallow, then put money on the top of the bar. She grabbed the money and slipped it into her pocket.
“Pocketing the profits, I see. ”
“No, smart-ass. I already closed out the register. I’ll add it in tomorrow. ”
He shook his head and leaned against the bar. “This is how you talk to your customers?”
“You stopped being a customer when you came behind my bar and served up drinks. ”
“You needed help. ”
“No, I didn’t. ”
He folded his arms. “Are you always this bitchy, or just to me?”
“Just to you. Now get your ass out of here so I can finish closing up. ”
He didn’t seem insulted, just cracked a smile instead, showing off perfectly straight white teeth. Weren’t hockey players supposed to be missing teeth because of all their fights on the ice? Why did he have to be so gorgeous? The damn man made her panties wet and had a habit of showing up here fairly regularly, which did make her bitchy because he hit all her hot buttons and she hadn’t had sex in a really long time.
She needed to get laid soon. Real soon. By someone who didn’t play sports.
She hit the master light switch, bathing the bar in darkness.
“Scared of the dark?”
She jumped, not realizing he was right behind her until his breath swept across the back of her neck. She’d turned the heat down so now she was freezing, but his body was warm. She resisted the urge to move in close to him. She bent down to grab her purse and sweater, brushing her butt against his crotch. He felt solid. Hard. Yummy.
Damn. She straightened, her eyes adjusting to the lack of light. “No. ”
“No, what?” he asked.
“I’m not afraid of the dark. ”
He turned her around to face him. The light from the full moon cast him in grayish shadow. She could see his face, though, as he cocked a grin. “Too bad. ”
“Then you might have to lean on me to protect you. ”
She took a step back. “Why the hardcore press here, Ty?”
“Come on, Jenna. You’re not a kid. You know why. I’ve been coming to the bar a lot, hanging around. I like you. ”
“I don’t like you. ”
He laughed. “Liar. I see the way you look at me. ”
“You are so full of yourself, Anderson. Go pick up another girl. I’m not the least bit interested in you. ” She brushed past him and headed to the door, waiting for him to meet her there so she could set the alarm.
He did, his coat in hand. She had her fingers on the keypad ready to turn on the alarm.
“Wait a second,” he said.
“Did you forget something?”
“Yeah. ” He hauled her into his arms before she could take her next breath, and his mouth came down on hers.
For a fraction of a second she thought about objecting and pushing him away, but hell, it had been a really long time since she’d been kissed. It was February, cold as the polar ice cap outside, and Tyler’s lips were warm. His body was hot and as he folded her against him, she felt that heat seep into her.
She dropped her purse and coat and went with it, letting his lips claim hers.
It was just as she’d imagined it would be, and okay, she’d thought about this a lot. His mouth was firm and demanding, a hint of whiskey on his lips. He didn’t kiss like a sissy, thank God. He wasn’t hesitant at all. He just took the kiss, sliding his tongue inside her mouth to wrap around hers.
She tingled all over, her toes curled, her panties got wet, and her sex pulsed with a roaring need. If he put his hands down her pants, in two or three strokes she could come. The kiss was that good.