Chapter 1 and 2 of Narrowing the Angle.
He would rather be headed anywhere else.
A cold, damp dungeon where he was chained to the wall would be preferable.
Instead, he was headed to a New Year’s Eve party with a bunch of couples and happy people when he was neither.
Not a couple and not happy.
You’d think that winning the championship barely two months ago would have put him in a better state of mind. Soccer was his life, the thing that he loved to do. It was the one thing he could always count on to be there, to never let him down. Winning the title felt amazing. He’d been on a high for days afterward, smiling and celebrating with his teammates and friends.
When the excitement died down, he was left to sit and think about what came next.
Something he had no answer for.
He knew what he wanted but since it was never going to happen, he’d made a decision to let it go and move on.
Let her go.
Not that she was his to let go of or that she even fucking knew he existed outside of being Edwin Boyle, midfielder for the Valley Falls Strikers and friend that she told all her problems to.
She knew his stats and his preferences when it came to deals and merchandise and sponsorships. That was her job as his agent. Or one of his agents. What she didn't know was that since the first time he’d seen her in the Top Athlete offices, he’d been done for.
She’d been standing against the wall, not talking to anyone, looking completely out of place and out of her comfort zone. Edwin was drawn to her beauty but also to her courage for obviously doing something that was completely foreign and uncomfortable to her.
He’d felt himself moving toward her and before he could stop himself, turn around and run in the other direction, she caught his eye.
There were days he wished he’d run.
Then maybe he’d be able to sleep without thinking of her.
“Hey,” she’d said. Then she held out her hand for him to shake. “I’m Hannah Temple. I’m new here.”
Those ten words had sealed his fate.
He would forever want her and there was no amount of sex with other woman that would change that.
Not at first. At first, he let himself be lost in the dream of her. Of what it would be like if they were together. When she joined his management team, it was even better, if seeing her and talking to her almost every day was better.
For the record it wasn’t. It was torture. The good kind.
Was there a good kind of torture? He wouldn’t have said so five years ago, but having Hannah in his life in any way was better than if he’d never met her.
She was funny and sweet and went out of her way to make sure he had and got everything he wanted or needed. They became friends of a sort. Talking even when it wasn’t about soccer. He got to know her, the things she liked and didn’t, what she did in her free time and all the little things you knew about friends.
He knew she preferred tea to coffee and in Chicago, where she lived, there was a place just around the corner from her apartment that made the absolute best. He knew her favorite music was nineties hip hop and rap because she had an aunt that indoctrinated her with it as a teenager, and he knew that she never dated clients.
It was in her contract and if she was caught doing anything remotely untoward with a client, she’d be automatically fired.
That was the reason he’d never said anything. Never acted on his feelings for her. They even kept their friendship secret, never telling anyone or acting like anything other than client and agent when they saw each other.
He liked her too much to be the reason she got fired. She loved her job. And was great at it. The care he got from her was impeccable. She never treated him like he was a client but always as if his opinion and not just the money mattered.
That was part of her charm.
It goaded him to think of her doing the same with her other clients.
He wanted to be special, to be more important.
Only, he knew he wasn’t.
That was why, after the Strikers had won the championship, he’d made the decision to let her go. He’d asked Top Athlete for a new team, and since he’d been with them for years, they agreed. He also cut off all ties with Hannah. No more texts or calls to see how her day was. No more chatting about stupid shows they bothed watched. No more of anything.
The biggest change was the dating.
If he was going to forget her, he had to fully move on. And now that he was a pretty hot commodity since he was a member of a championship soccer club, he had no problem finding willing women.
He just wished he was as willing.
He tried. A lot. There had been more women in the past two months than in all his life. He tried for at least two or three dates before sex but some of the ladies weren’t wiling to wait. He wouldn’t lie and say the sex wasn’t good, because it was. Especially after going five years without.
Yeah, five years of nothing but his hand and images of Hannah in his head.
But good was a relative term. He might have preferred sex with a real peson other than with his hand, but when it had been just him and his thoughts, at least there had been emotion involved. The women he was going on dates with were nice and some were fun and sweet and most were sexy, but they weren’t Hannah.
When he masturbated to thoughts of her, his release was powerful and quick. The sex he’d been having was void of anything but a need to get her out of his system and because he forbid himself to think of her while with other woman, it took a mightly long time for him to come.
Once it had taken so long that he’d debated faking it.
He had no idea if that was even possible, and thank god it hadn’t come to that, but it had been a thought in his head.
That was the one and only time he'd let himself think of Hannah while with another woman. It had only taken an image of her in his head of her smiling at him to finish. A fucking smile.
Who the hell came from a smile?
Apparently he did.
Since that night, he hadn’t gone on any more dates. It was futile. He didn't want anyone else. Only Hannah. If he couldn’t have her, he was going to live his life alone.
Well, not entirely alone. He had friends, most of which would be at the party he was about to walk into.
The team’s owner, Shane Bradely and his wife Allana were hosting. They’d lived in the city until only a few months ago when they’d purchased the house in the suburbs. Shane was one of those men who’d shocked everyone by falling in love and falling hard. Before Allana, he was always in the public eye with a gorgeous woman on his arm. Now, it was the equally gorgeous Allana on his arm and Shane was the guy who was always touching her or kissing her or smiling down at her.
He was the guy who’d gone from never being in love, to loving so hard that he didn’t care that everyone knew what a lovesick fool he was for his wife.
Edwin had heard all about their new house but this would be his first time inside. He pulled up the drive in his newly purchased Corvette, the one extravagant thing he allowed himself after winning the championship, and handed the keys to the valet after getting out.
Of course, Shane would have a valet for a party at his house. He shook his head as he walked up the long, winding walkway toward the house. He could see lots of people in the windows and had to take a deep breath and place on a fake smile as he walked through the door.
This was supposed to be fun.
A good time.
He was going to try.
Several people greeted him, teammates and people who worked for the team behind the scenes. He said hello as he moved through the crowd until he spotted Dallas and Ruby.
Kissing, which was not a shock.
“Can’t you guys do that at home,” he said as he approached them, both of them turning their heads at his voice.
“We can and we do,” Dallas said with a wink.
Dallas Ramos had been his best friend since they’d played together their rookie year. They’d been through a lot together and Dallas was the only one who knew of his obsession with Hannah.
Well, Dallas and now Ruby because the man told her everything. Friendship was no match for love.
“No date tonight?” Ruby asked.
Weeks ago, he’d mentioned to Ruby that he’d be bringing a date to this party. That was before he’d had his little mishap and sworn off dating once again. “I decided to come solo.”
“That might be a good thing,” Dallas said but he was looking around the room, as if looking for someone instead of looking at Edwin.
“And why is that?”
His eyes landed on someone across the room. “Because of that.” Edwin turned, trying to see what Dallas was referring to. “Or should I say, her.”
That’s when he saw what his friend was talking about. Hannah. Hannah was there. “Why is she here?”
“Allana invited her,” Ruby answered.
He couldn’t take his eyes off her. She was wearing a slinky deep green dress that hugged her curves, curves she had in abundance. Curves he dreamed of touching. The woman was built like a pinup model from the early twenties when having curves made you sexy. He wholeheartedly agreed.
Her hair was a different color from when he’d last seen her. She was normally a brunette but from where he was standing, it looked a lot lighter, almost blonde. It was hard to tell though and he wished he was closer so he could inspect it.
Preferably with his fingers.
“How do they even know each other?” He asked, keeping his eyes on Hannah as he spoke.
“She was in town a couple weeks after we won the championship and I invited her to dinner with Allana and Mae.”
“You went to dinner with her?” He was finally able to tear his gaze from Hannah. “Why didn’t you tell me?” He’d raised his voice both angry and annoyed and not really sure why.
“Unless you want me to punch you in the nose, you might want to rethink your tone,” Dallas said moving in closer, getting almost in his face.
Edwin took a deep breath, putting his hands up in surrender. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to shout at you, Ruby.”
She placed her palm on his forearm. “I know you didn’t. Just go talk to her. She’s sad that you switched agents and she thinks she did something wrong.” She gave him a sad look. “But I think she misses your friendship even more.”
He swung his head around, once again finding her across the room. Almost as if she felt him staring, she turned her head, her eyes catching his.
He couldn’t breathe from the want that washed through his body.
Dallas gave him a little push. “Dude, just talk to her.”
He never dropped her gaze as he pushed his way through the crowd. It felt like the longest walk of his life. What should have been fifteen or thirty seconds seemed like hours, days. He wanted time to stop, to just be able to live in this moment, where he could look at her and have her in front of him forever.
“I see you’re finally going to talk to me,” Hannah said when he was within a few feet of her.
That voice tore his heart out. She was mad and she had every right to be mad. He basically fired her and he hadn’t told her why. Not that it would have mattered. She didn’t like him the way he liked her. All telling her would have done was cause him more heartache.
“Hannah.” Her name on his lips sounded so right, so perfect.
“Don’t you Hannah me.” Her eyes flared with anger. “Why have you ghosted me? Why did you stop answering my calls and texts?”
He blinked. Wait, was she more mad about their friendship than being his agent? Maybe Ruby was right.
He got his answer because she kept going. “I thought we were friends? I can understand wanting a new team to represent you.” She frowned. “Sort of. I mean I thought I was doing a good job.”
“You were doing a good job.” She did a fucking great job. The new guys sucked. Well, not sucked but they weren't Hannah. They didn’t know him like she did.
Her eyes pleaded with him. “Then why’d you do it?”
He scrubbed a hand down his face. This was why he’d refused to let himself talk to her the last two months. He couldn’t tell her the truth but he also couldn’t lie to her. “I don’t even know.”
She rolled her eyes. “That’s a non fucking answer if I’ve ever heard one.”
God, he loved when she called him out of things. He wanted her to do it all the time. Every day. Forever. “I know that but that's all I have. I had a lot going on in my head after the win and I just…” He sighed, shaking his head. “I needed a change.” That was as close to the truth as possible.
She crossed her arms over her chest making her already large breasts look even bigger. He groaned inwardly and tried like hell to look at her face and not her tits.
“Is all the dating you're doing part of that change?”
Shit. Of course she knew about that. He’d been photographed several different times with several different women. It was like the damn photographers were waiting for him each time he was with a new woman. They never took pics of the same one twice.
“I can’t stay carefree and single forever,” he joked, trying to make light of the situation.
Her eyes softened and for a second he thought he saw a vulnerability in them. “I thought you hated the dating scene. In the five years I’ve known you, you’ve never dated. Unless,” she chewed on her bottom lip, “have you been dating this whole time?”
Fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck. What was this? Why did she care? Why did any of it matter? They'd been friends and she’d been his agent. Past tense. Now they were nothing because he loved her and she wanted to be friends. He couldn’t do that. He needed to keep his distance. To stay as far from her as possible before he did something stupid like confess his love.
And break his own heart.
“I’ve been on a few dates in the last couple of months. It’s no big deal.” He shrugged trying to convey what he wanted to show her. That he was casual and happy and didn’t need her to make his life better. It was a lie, of course. He wasn’t casual or happy and he did need her to make his life better. Or at least he wanted her. “It was good to see you, Hannah. Have a fun night.”
Every fiber of his being wanted to stay there with her. He’d let her yell or scream or punch him. None of that mattered. Just being with her was perfect. Instead, he gathered the strength from somewhere deep down inside him and walked away.
He felt like an ass and even worse, he was miserable.
Why in all the world had he, on just one look and one conversation, fallen in love with Hannah? Before her—or BH as he thought of it—he dated and had a few relationships. One in high school and a few in college. He’d loved them all in his own way but what he’d felt for them had been nothing compared to what he felt for Hannah.
And she’d never even been his.
How fucking ridiculous was that?
She’d known the moment she’d accepted the invitation to this party that Edwin would be there. It was the only reason she’d come.
Which told her everything she needed to know.
Something she’d suspected for a while but avoided thinking about.
She liked Edwin Boyle.
Really it was more than like. It was sort of an obsession.
The first night she’d ever met him, five years ago, she’d immediately liked him. Of course, she’d had no idea who he was at the time. Once she’d found out he was a soccer player, one she’d be representing, she’d shut any feelings she’d might have had for him down.
Or she’d tried.
Turns out that was easier said than done.
Edwin was funny and smart and so fucking sexy it made her ache. As much as she’d tried to keep him as nothing more than a client, he wormed his way into her life. They became friends. Best friends really. He was the person she called or texted when she had good news or bad news. He was the one person she wanted to talk to even if she was in a bad mood. And he was the guy who made her laugh when all she wanted to do was cry.
Ironic, considering that he’d been the one to make her cry the last two months.
At first, she was all ‘fuck him and the horse he rode in on’ when he’d asked to be switched to a new team of agents. It had stung but she got over it. When he stopped taking her calls or texts, things went from bad to worse. Why was he ignoring her? What had she done?
Only, she never got an answer.
Well, that wasn’t technically true.
He’d texted and said that he was sorry but he was just really busy at the moment.
If they’d been dating and he’d said those words, it would have been a brush-off. But they weren’t dating, They were nothing more than friends and even that was questionable. Maybe they’d never really been friends.
Maybe he’d been using her to get ahead in his career.
After all, she gave him more attention than any other client.
Because she thought they’d been friends.
How wrong she had been.
Then one day, she was flipping through the news on her phone and she came across a photo of him and a date. All hell broke loose in her heart and head.
She wasn’t sad and angry because they’d been friends. She was sad and angry because she liked him and she wanted to be the woman who was wrapped around him as they walked into a restaurant.
That was the moment that her world flipped upside down. She started thinking back through the years, to everything they’d ever talked about or done together. To all the phone conversations and late night texts. All the times he’d been the only person she’d wanted to talk to.
To her lack of a dating life.
It had been Edwin the whole time and she’d been too stupid to notice.
And now that she had, he was gone. Out of her life. And from the conversation they’d just had, it seemed pretty damn permanent.
Yeah, coming to the party had been a giant fucking mistake.
“You look like you could use this.” Her best friend from college, Zara, shoved a tumbler of amber liquid toward her. She accepted it and without even knowing what it was, she downed the whole thing.
Really good bourbon from the taste of it.
“O-kay,” Zara said, drawing out the word. “That shit is a thousand dollars a bottle but I’m sure Shane assumed people would shoot it like a free shot on ladies' night at a college bar.”
Hannah glared at her friend. “He can afford it.”
Zara shook her head. “Are you ever going to tell me what the hell is wrong with you? You’ve been a real bitch the last few months and I say that with all the love I have in my heart for you.”
Hannah laughed despite herself. She looked at her friend. They were polar opposites in every way. Where Hannah was blonde, pale with freckles, and curvy, Zara was dark-skinned with stunning black hair and a trim body. But looks weren’t the only place where they differed. Hannah was as midwestern as you could get. She’d been born in Chicago and still lived there to this day. She chose a large firm thinking that was the place to be if you wanted to be a sports agent.
Zara was born in India but moved to the states as a baby, her family settling in California. She’d only moved to Chicago for college and other than her strong opinion on the pizza, she was a full-on California girl. Oddly enough she’d settled in Valley Falls after college, choosing a small firm that mainly had Strikers as clients although it was branching out more and more.
She always told Hannah that it wasn’t the number of clients you had but how you treated them.
Hannah was starting to wonder if that was true. While Hannah was working sixty-plus-hour weeks, Zara had more free time to do the things she liked.
Zara dated a lot.
Something she herself never did.
At least now she knew why that was.
“Nothing is wrong,” she told her friend.
Zara studied her. “And this has nothing to do with the oh so delicious Edwin Boyle who was just over here talking to you before I came over?”
Busted. Zara knew the basics. That he had switched agents, but that was it. She didn’t know that he was practically her best friend. And Hannah definitely hadn’t confided in her what she’d only learned recently.
That she liked him as more than a friend.
“He was just saying hi.” That was true.
Zara frowned. “I think there is a lot more to this story than you’re telling me but I’m not going to push. Tonight is for fun and you and I never get to see each other. So let’s go get some more of that thousand dollar bourbon, sip it slowly this time and spend some time together.”
That sounded great to Hannah. Anything to get her mind off her Edwin.
They made their way to the bar where they each got a drink. Then they strolled the party.
“Do you really like living in Valley Falls?” Hannah asked her.
“I do, as hard as that is to believe. All I ever wanted to do was be a sports agent. I didn’t need a large company and millions of clients. I like helping people get what they want in life.”
“You always were the better of the two of us,” Hannah said.
Zara laughed. “I don’t think that’s true at all. You just had and still have loftier goals. There’s nothing wrong with that. Go take over the world.” She gestured to the sky. “I will be here cheering you on loudly and telling everyone I know her. She’s my friend.”
Hannah couldn’t stop the laughter that bubbled out. “But I’m not taking over the world. I’m barely taking over a corner of Chicago.” She sighed. “I’m starting to think that it’s not what I want anymore. Maybe you had it right all along.”
“Then do something about it,” Zara said as if that was the easiest thing in the world to do.
“How would I even do that?”
“Make a change. Go out on a limb. Take a chance.”
“Are there any more inspirational sayings you’d like to throw at me?” She raised her eyebrow.
“They’re inspirational for a reason.” Zara touched her forearm. “If you don’t like your life, do something about it. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in all these years of being a sports agent, it's that you have to fight for yourself because there are very few other people out there who will.”
Hannah understood what Zara was saying but that didn’t mean she knew what she wanted to do. “I wish I was as bold as you. That I could take chances and put myself out there.”
“I wish I was as awesome as you make me sound. I’m just a person out in the world trying her best.”
“Yeah but you live,” Hannah said emphatically. “You try things and meet people and date.” The last word was said with an abundance of pent up frustration.
“Is that what this is about? Dating? Jesus, Hannah, if you want to date, go date. There are guys everywhere, literally everywhere, including this damn room.”
That was part of the problem. The only guy she wanted to date was in the same room. “If only it were as easy as you make it sound.” She took a generous sip of her bourbon.
As she looked up over her glass and her eyes landed on Edwin. He was talking to Cooper Holland and his wife Mae, who Hannah had just met a few months ago. Cooper was someone who everyone at Top Athlete had tried to get over the years but he’d never been interested, He’d gone with the small firm, Sports World, that Zara worked for. The rumor mill was swirling with news that he was about to retire.
She leaned in closer to her friend. “Any truth to the rumor about Cooper?”
Zara’s eyes sparkled with mischief. “You know I can’t tell you that.”
“Come on, Zar, I won’t tell anyone. I just want to know.”
Zara shook her head but smiled as she leaned even closer. “He was thinking about it. He still has two years left on his contract but Shane and I are sitting down in a couple of days to renegotiate. Cooper doesn’t want to play full time. Maybe only half the games.”
That was interesting information but not unexpected. Hannah had watched him play the last couple of years and she could tell he was in pain. He was not getting any younger and keeping up with all the young guys had to be hard on his body. “My lips are zipped,” she told Zara.
“They better be or else I’ll be forced to have you killed and I really can’t afford that.”
They dissolved into a fit of giggles. She’d missed this. Missed having someone to talk to and laugh with. Someone who knew her almost as well as she knew herself.
Zara was one of those people and Edwin had been the other.
“Ladies.” They both looked up to see who had joined them only to find Allana Bradley and Ruby Mullen standing before them. “It seems like you’re having entirely too much fun over here,” Allana said.
“That’s the purpose of a party,” Zara said.
“She has you there,” Ruby said, laughing.
“Then we are definitely joining you,” Allana said. “If I have to listen to one more conversation about soccer tonight I might throw a ball at someone's head.”
“I’m pretty sure that comes with the territory of being the wife of the owner,” Hannah said.
“Yeah, yeah, but does it have to be all the time.” Allana shook her head. “I swear he dreams of this damn team.”
“But at least he’s doing it next to you,” Ruby said, saluting Allana with her champagne glass.
“Can we not talk about sex when half of the people here,” Zara indicated to herself and Hannah, “aren’t getting any.”
“First,” Allana said, “No one mentioned sex. And second, you both could have any guy in this room.”
That made Hannah freeze in place. She didn’t just want any guy. She wanted Edwin.
Zara laughed. “I just said basically the same thing to Hannah. Although she has this stupid no dating athletes rule.”
“It’s not stupid,” she chimed in. “It’s in my contract.” Although she’d never wanted to date a client or athlete. That is until she realized she was half in love with Edwin. Now she was tempted to throw the rules out the damn window.
If he would only speak to her.
“You have a clause in your contract about not dating athletes?” Ruby asked. “That seems kind of backward.
“Says the woman who refused to let herself like a player thanks to some preconceived notions,” Allana said.
“Oh this sounds like gossip and I love gossip,” Zara said.
Hannah couldn’t help but laugh. “I’m assuming it’s not relevant any longer since she’s happily in a relationship with Dallas Ramos.”
“Oh I know and please don’t take this the wrong way, but that man is hot.” Zara fanned her face. “Like seriously hot.”
Ruby laughed. “I’m not sure how I can take it the wrong way since I’m in complete agreement. In fact,” she held up her hand wiggling her fingers for them to see, and there just so happened to be a huge diamond ring there, “he’s no longer just my boyfriend. He proposed a couple of days ago.”
Zara and Hannah squealed in delight, each of them pulling on her hand to get a better look. Even Allana who seemed to already know the news joined in on the excitement.
“This is so exciting,” Hannah said, her mind immediately drifting to Edwin. Dallas was his best friend so not only would he already know about the engagement, but he’d most likely be the best man at the wedding.
A wedding she probably wouldn’t even be invited to.
Fuck, she needed a drink.
For the next couple of hours, she drowned her sorrows in alcohol and laughter. Allana and Ruby introduced her to person after person, and she made contacts with players or athletes that she would have never come in contact with if she hadn’t been invited to the party. She also flirted a little with a guy named Dan who just so happened to ask for her number.
Overall the night was a success.
Except it wasn’t. Not really.
The whole night she looked for Edwin. He was always talking to someone and always laughing. She spent every minute of her time dreaming up different scenarios in her head about what would happen if she made a move.
And as the clock counted down from a minute to midnight, she said fuck it and went in search of him.
If there was ever a time to make a move, it was when you were slightly tipsy and entering a new year.
She turned a corner and found him alone, leaning against a wall.
“Hannah,” he said, and was it her imagination, or was he a little breathless. Maybe it was all the alcohol she’d consumed.
“Why are you hiding back here instead of ringing in the New Year with your friends?” she asked. God, he looked good. He’d unbuttoned another button on his shirt and now she could see more skin than earlier in the night. Plus, he’d rolled up his sleeves.
Jesus was there anything sexier than a man’s forearms?
“I could ask the same about you?” he said, his eyes searching hers.
“I was looking for you.” Alcohol. Bringing honesty to the forefront for hundreds of years.
He pushed off the wall just as she took another step toward him. They were mere feet apart. He was so close that she could see his jaw tick.
She wished she could touch it, feel it under her palm.
“Let’s go back out there with everyone else,” he said, his voice low.
That fucking voice. That low, deep, sexy as fuck voice that she’d listened to night after night on the phone. How had she been so blind to what she’d been feeling?
“I don’t want to go out there.” She lifted a hand, placing it on his chest.
His breath caught.
the party was counting down to midnight.
She could feel his heartbeat through his chest.
She swallowed as his eyes bore into hers
His breathing sped up.
She bit her bottom lip.
His hand reached out, landing on her waist.
She curled her fingers, gripping his shirt tightly.
He closed the distance between them.
She begged him not to stop with just her eyes.
He pulled her against his hard body.
He lowered his mouth to hers.
And so, on the first second of the new year, Hannah Temple was kissing Edwin Boyle.
She owed alcohol a thank you card.