IAN O’Connor Brothers, #1
A year ago, she begged me to stay.
A year later, it’s my turn to beg her not to go.
My obsession. My downfall.
I tried to resist, to keep her at a distance.
I tried to save myself.
But no one will be saved here, not even a selfish bastard like me.
My life has always been about sport and family, including my stupid brothers. Until that night, the night I made the worst decision of my life. And I’m still paying the price for it.
We both are.
But the time has come to take back control of the situation, to risk it all, to convince her to let me in because she can’t be anything other than mine.
I am Ian O’Connor, and I’m about to accept this challenge: try to hold onto the only woman I’ll ever be able to love.
And even if I already know how this badly written romance is going to end, I won’t back away. This time, I’m going all the way. Because I only want her.
And I have no intention of losing her.
I’m an O’Connor, the O’Connors never lose.
EXCERPT ~ PROLOGUE
Three years earlier
The music is too loud, the voices too rowdy. The alcohol, my drunk friends, the overly-excited guests. The women are the same groupies as always, hoping to lure in a sports champion.
I hate these parties. I hate these people.
I hate my whole life.
I just want to play. Rugby is the only thing I know how to do, and the only thing that makes me feel good. It’s what shapes my identity: without rugby, I wouldn’t be anything.
“Hey, champ.” A woman approaches the bar and takes the stool next to me. She touches my arm, and my nerves go rigid.
“We haven’t met yet.”
Maybe because I had no intention of meeting you.
Oh, that’s original.
“I’m here with some friends. Big supporters of the team.”
Well, you don’t say.
“This might seem silly to you, but I actually came here hoping to meet you.” She squeezes my arm as I grip my glass tighter.
She raises her hand slowly, sensually, up to my shoulder.
“May I ask if this player is here with anybody tonight?” She whispers.
I take a deep breath and turn away, ready to put a stop to this before it can begin, when someone wraps their arms around my neck, practically choking me.
“Here I am! Sorry I’m late!”
She hugs me and pushes her lips against mine. “I couldn’t find a taxi,” she says, slowly pulling away from me.
I’m surprised and completely taken aback, but she smiles at me, winking. “Did you order me anything to drink?”
“Er, I…” I mutter like an absolute idiot.
Then she turns to the intruder and says dryly, “I think this is my seat.”
I’m lucky I don’t choke on my own saliva.
Embarrassed, the woman gets up and leaves the bar without a word, and this stranger, who appeared out of nowhere, sits down next to me.
“Vodka and lemonade, please,” she tells the barman. “Heavy on the vodka, easy on the lemonade,” she adds.
Then she turns to me and smiles.
The barman sets her drink down, and she immediately takes a few sips.
I stay there, frozen. Dumbstruck. Mute.
“So…” she begins, turning to face me, “it looks like you owe me a favour – an enormous one.”
“Me? What?” I snap out of my daze.
“I saved your life.”
“Are you joking?” I raise an eyebrow.
“I’m being completely serious.” Her face is too.
“And how’s that, exactly? Let’s hear it.”
“I’ve saved you from a boring night, first of all. From that leech trying to slide herself into your bed –maybe even your life! From a failed marriage spent buying shoes and clothes for your trophy wife.”
I burst out laughing.
“You’re not exaggerating there, are you?”
She laughs too.
“Perhaps, a bit, but you know, you never know how the night is going to turn out, what one meeting might lead to. Sometimes, a person can change your whole life, whether you want them to or not, and the results aren’t always good.”
“Seems to me like your imagination is running a bit wild. And I could’ve got rid of her without your help.”
“Huh. Sure seemed to me like you were in trouble.”
“Trust me, I know how to defend myself.”
She looks me over for a few seconds.
“Yes, I imagine you do,” she says rolling her eyes. “Anyway, it’s too late now.”
“You’re tied to me forever.”
“You better believe it. You’re in big debt with me, my friend.”
I look at her, amused.
“You could also pay up right away and consider yourself free.”
“And what would that involve?”
“A dance. With me.” She nods towards the dance floor at the end of the room.
“I’m sorry, I don’t dance.” Her lip curls in disappointment.
“Oh, that’s too bad for you,” she says, putting down her drink and standing up. “I’ll find someone else to dance with, and you’ll still be in debt to me. And all debts must be repaid,” she whispers in my ear before heading towards the dance floor in her red backless dress.
I watch her disappear into the crowd, still thrown off by the unlikely encounter, when my brother, Ryan, sits himself down next to me.
“Where’d she come from?”
“Same old gold digger looking for something exciting?”
“Probably,” I say, unconvinced.
“You don’t want to let her get away.” Ryan elbows me and gestures across the room with his head. I see Jake, one of my teammates, approach her and another girl.
“You should do something.”
“I have no intention of doing anything.”
“Don’t start with me.”
“Maybe you could…”
“She doesn’t seem too bad.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about.”
“Well then, what is it?”
I sigh. “That’s not the kind of woman you can forget about after a night or two.”
“And you picked up all of this insight by having a two-minute conversation with her?”
“I just know, that’s all.”
“And that’s a bad thing?”
“A fucking disaster.”
Ryan shakes his head in disapproval as I force myself to watch the scene playing out a few metres in front of me.
Jake approaches the girl and smiles at her.
I sit up straight on my stool.
Jake talks to her, unloading all of his charm, and she blushes.
I feel my stomach burst into flames.
Jake offers her his hand. She looks at her friend, who nods, then accepts it and follows him to the dance floor.
I jump to my feet instinctively.
Jake puts his hand on her bare back and lets it slide down slowly to her waist and she tilts her head to the side in surprise, perhaps a bit uncomfortable with the gesture.
I rest my elbow on the counter behind me.
Jake whispers in her ear, and she smiles again: mouth, eyes and face.
Every part of her is smiling.
And my legs are shaking.