Look out friends! A special excerpt from author Tracy March! And some really awesome prizes too. (Beyond books which we all love, a really stunning bracelet!) Also, that cover is super adorable. Don’t you think? 😀 And guess what? The Practice Proposal was just released yesterday! Whee! Release book fun!
Liza Sutherland isn’t looking for love. Not from a charity-auction date she didn’t even bid on and especially not with Nationals first baseman Cole Collins, the guy she obsessed over as an awkward teenager. She won’t get involved with a notorious player, no matter how attractive Cole is.
Cole Collins is up for contract renegotiation, but after too many late-night parties, he’ll need some positive publicity before he can make the roster. His agent, Frank, pitches Liza as the perfect prop…only Cole didn’t account for Liza no longer being just a teenager with a crush. She’s gorgeous and smart and he’s instantly hooked.
When Frank makes Liza a deal she can’t refuse—a bet she will fall in love with Cole or a cool half mil goes to charity—the game is on. But neither bet on the real feelings that surface. Could a fake fling turn into an official forever?
The truck took the last bend before the barn, then came to an abrupt stop. Mack got out and hurried around to the side of the trailer. “Looks like we’ve got company.”
Cole lowered his eyebrows and glanced at Liza, then got up and joined Mack, both of them looking toward the barn. She stood in the trailer and got a view over the cab of the truck. Artificial light radiated from the far side of the barn, illuminating the rear of a television news van and several other vehicles.
“Reporters,” Cole said flatly.
Liza’s stomach clenched. “All the way out here?” She was amazed they’d be interested in Cole’s date with her.
“Want to try another way out?” Cole asked Mack.
The crease between Mack’s eyes deepened and he shook his head. “Not a good idea to go headin’ down some makeshift road without a little daylight. It’d be like runnin’ down a rabbit hole.”
“We could wait them out,” Cole said. “But they’ve spotted our headlights by now. I’m sorry, Liza.” He shifted his gaze between her and Mack.
“It’s not your fault,” she said anxiously. She wasn’t big on being in front of a camera.
Cole leaped up onto the trailer, went to Liza, and gently put his hand on her shoulder. He was all tense muscle and tousled hair, and he still smelled smoky from the fire. “I didn’t want a bunch of reporters spoiling our date. I’d hoped to get some privacy for a change.”
“It won’t be spoiled,” she said. Nothing could ruin the evening they’d had.
Cole nudged her shoulder and gave her a sidelong glance, looking perfect in the moonlight. “So you’re up for a photo shoot?” He rubbed his hands together, seeming a little nervous himself.
She figured they might get some positive press for BADD, and that would be good. Maybe someone would see a news clip about the auction date and decide they wanted to donate. Heck, maybe she could make a pitch—she was nearly that desperate to find a way to meet her fund-raising goal. She shrugged and gave Cole a half smile. “Sure.”
“No way around it except to face ’em,” Mack said as he got back in the truck.
She and Cole sat on top of a hay bale and pulled the blanket over their knees. The trailer swayed and bounced over the last bit of dirt road, Cole steadying Liza with his arm around her. He turned toward her, pulled her close, tenderly kissed her on the cheek, and spoke softly in her ear. “Thanks for being such a good sport about this.” Feathery sensations fluttered through her, and she shivered.
“It’ll be fine,” she said, believing that it would.
Mack pulled the truck and trailer alongside the barn. Before Liza and Cole had time to move, several reporters, cameramen, and photographers crowded behind the trailer. Liza squinted against the flash and glare of the lights. A middle-aged female reporter—dressed in a business suit and looking too city for an assignment on a farm—took the lead with questions. “Cole,” she said, as if she knew him personally, “isn’t this the date you donated to raise money for the BADD Athletes Foundation?”
“Yes,” he said. “It’s a good cause. I hope more people will learn about the important work BADD is doing to keep athletes drug-free.” He glanced at Liza. The corners of his mouth turned up slightly, and his eyes sparkled with the reflection of lights from the cameras. “But I’m the one who benefited here. Look who I got to spend an evening with.”
Liza swallowed hard, thinking it was awesome that he seemed proud to be with her, and he’d pretty much made her donation pitch, too. She probably had a silly-looking grin on her face, but she couldn’t help it.
The reporter piped up again. “I have it from a reliable source that you might be settling down with Miss Sutherland.”
Liza’s grin flattened, and her heart raced double-time. What reliable source would’ve told the reporter that?
“Any truth to that rumor?” the reporter asked. “Inquiring women want to know.” Several of the photographers chuckled.
Liza couldn’t believe they even had to ask. Cole wasn’t settling down—he probably never would, and certainly not with her. She turned to him, hoping he had a clever answer. He glanced at her with a glint in his eyes, then turned back to the reporters. “Settling down is looking like a pretty good idea.”
Liza’s stomach clenched. What?
“Should we expect a proposal soon?” another reporter asked. “I’d love to be there for an exclusive on that.”
The flash of a camera highlighted the mischief in his eyes, and a wisp of a sexy smile played across his lips. “It’ll probably go something like this,” he said with a drawl. He faced Liza, skimmed his fingertips along her jawline, and guided her head until she met his gaze.
Her mind swirled with confusion. All she could think was, Please don’t kiss me here…now! She frantically wondered how to react to him in front of these people—in front of everyone, for that matter. Any stupid move she made would be captured on video and posted on YouTube forever.
He leaned closer, and Liza braced herself.
“Will you marry me, darlin’?” he asked.
Liza’s heart lurched. Stunned speechless, she blinked several times, her pulse thrumming in her ears. Cole tipped his head and whispered in her ear, “Just smile.” His warm breath sent another shiver through her, and she smiled with sheer bewilderment. He leaned back and tugged playfully on a lock of her hair, a crooked, coy grin on his face.
After a beat, he faced the reporters and winked as the cameras clicked and whirred. “That’s as close to an exclusive as I can give you.”
NB: Someone who comments today will win a (digital) copy of The Practice Proposal, as well as this lovely bracelet. Or, you know, don’t talk. Because I’ve decided if people don’t enter contests, those prizes automatically come to me. *angelface* 😉
Incidentally, Ms. March is new to ALBTALBS so you guys – show her some love, okay?!