In the Grasp (PAPERBACK)
In the Grasp (PAPERBACK)
A steamy second chance football romance!
He was my first love and my greatest heartbreak. Now he’s my assignment.
I’ve worked too hard to get my dream job at the largest paper on the west coast, and I won’t let Jack Fuller, the league’s most notoriously private quarterback ruin this chance for me. But the moment we lock eyes, all those old feelings come rushing back in a way I’m completely unprepared for and instead of holding onto my hurt, I find myself giving him another chance.
When I push back against writing the article, my bosshole editor threatens to get what he wants, one way or another. The only way I can protect Jack is to spin the story myself. Will Jack be able to forgive me when I tell him what I’ve done?
A reporter and an extremely private quarterback shouldn’t mix, but she’s not just any reporter—she’s my ex and the only woman I’ve ever loved.
Paige O’Malley has owned my heart since I was sixteen years old, but I was a dumb, cowardly kid and let her go when things got hard. Now she’s here and I know I only have one chance to win her back. I refuse to lose her again.
Until I’m blindsided by an article I never saw coming and suddenly I question if any of it was real or if she was just using me for a story the entire time.
In the Grasp is the first steamy standalone contemporary sports romance in the LA Wolves series.
This is the paperback edition.
- Second Chance
- Friends to Lovers
- Sports Reporter vs Private Quarterback
CLICK HERE TO READ AN EXCERPT
CLICK HERE TO READ AN EXCERPT
You know that feeling you have when you first wake up and notice that it’s brighter than normal? That feeling just a split second before the panic sets in that it’s too bright and you realize you’re running late? That’s the feeling I have when I shoot straight up in bed and reach for my alarm clock.
“Shit!” I say, adrenaline spiking through my veins as my heart races and drops to my stomach at the same time. I’m going to be late for my first day at the LA Chronicle.
I’m never late.
I dash out of bed like my ass is on fire. Frantically, I search for my clothes. Why the hell didn’t my alarm go off? I swear, I set it.
Suddenly, blinding pain in my toe debilitates me. “Dammit!” I hop around on one foot, trying to hold in the other curses battling to get out of my mouth.
“Stupid boxes,” I mumble, attempting to shove them aside. I’ve lived in this apartment for two days, and it’s astoundingly clear that I’ve had no time to unpack anything. Half-full boxes litter my new six hundred square foot, one-bedroom apartment in downtown Los Angeles. It costs me a fortune to live downtown, but the commute is easy since my office is only one mile away. I couldn’t stand the idea of being stuck on the freeway in the notoriously horrible LA traffic for hours at a time just trying to get to work. Plus, my new job at the LA Chronicle came with a pay raise. My old meager salary from when I worked at the San Francisco Gazette barely covered my cost of living.
I stumble into the shower—graceful as ever this morning—and quickly lather my body with soap. I’d skip it altogether since I’m already running exceptionally late, but I was too tired last night after my weak attempt to unpack. I can still feel the aftereffects of moving—that grimy feeling of dried sweat and greasy hair. It’s not a lovely image.
I quickly rinse my hair before running back into my room, tripping over another half-unpacked box in the process, and throwing on a modest black pencil skirt and white blouse. Not my nicest professional outfit, but I honestly don’t know which box is holding most of my clothes. Yes, I was the moron who didn’t pack them in suitcases or something to keep them separated from all my other household essentials, and who also failed to label any of my boxes—rookie move. I complete my ensemble with simple black flats since my toes have been tortured enough today, and then dash out the door.
I make it to the office only five minutes late, but that’s still about twenty minutes later than I was hoping to be on my first day.
My job is my life—I’m the definition of a workaholic—and I pride myself on my work ethic. Running late is not the first impression I wanted to present to my new boss, who I’ve heard is a real ballbuster. Anxiety courses through me as I silently hope and pray that my tardiness doesn’t start me off on the wrong foot when I had such high hopes of making an excellent first impression.
I hurry down the hall toward his office, double-checking the sign on the door before entering and seeing Vince Rosenburg, my new editor, sitting behind his desk. His dark hair has a bit of salt and pepper, but he still looks handsome for a man in his fifties. His glasses sit low on his nose, and when I enter he glances at me above the rim without ever moving his head up.
“Paige O’Malley.” He pointedly looks at the clock on the wall across from him. “I was wondering when you were going to make your way into work.”
I try to hide my subtle wince, but Vince is as shrewd as they come—a sign of a seasoned reporter and editor—and I can tell by the slight arch of his brow that he caught it.
“Have a seat. Let’s talk about assignments.”
“Yes, sir. I apologize for being late.” I don’t make excuses, since I don’t have a good one, and I know it won’t matter to him anyway. But I figure he’ll respect the apology.
He may respect it, but he doesn’t acknowledge it. “So, remind me what you did at the Gazette again?”
He and I both know that he is well aware of my work at the Gazette. I wouldn’t be sitting in front of him if he didn’t know my qualifications, but I’m guessing he’s making me jump through extra hoops due to my tardiness. I decide it’s best to play along.
“I’ve done a little bit of everything. The Gazette was great about allowing reporters to cover every area of the paper before selecting which section to focus on. My favorite assignments were the features and local news. My portfolio included several of my recent pieces.”
He pulls out my portfolio from under a stack of papers on the corner of his desk. “Yes, I’ve looked over it. I noticed you did some sports writing as well.”
“Yes, but I didn’t feel very qualified to cover sports—I’m not a huge sports fan,” I confess. That’s not entirely true, but the truth is complicated and something I rarely share with people.
“You don’t have to be a fan to write it well, which you did,” he says, his sharp penetrating gaze spearing me to my seat with its intensity. He looks back at my portfolio. “I was especially impressed with your football coverage and your personal profile piece on the mayor. I’d be curious to see you tie the two areas together.”
“I’m not sure I follow you…”
He leans back in his chair, folding his hands over his slightly protruding belly. “There’s a lot of talk that the Los Angeles Wolves could go all the way to the Super Bowl this year. The team is better than ever, especially now that it’s led by the best quarterback in the NFL. Do you know anything about Jack Fuller?”
My heart plummets to my stomach. That’s such a loaded question, but there’s no way he could possibly know my history with Jack.
Of course, I knew Jack was in LA, but I didn’t think our paths would ever cross. There are over three million people in Los Angeles.
How can I diplomatically get out of this assignment if my boss is going where I think he’s going? I can’t see Jack again. I’m not ready. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready, not after how things ended. Not after he shattered my heart and made me feel like I meant nothing to him.
“Um, I don’t know too much. Like I said before, sports coverage wasn’t my forte. I was mainly a features and local news writer. The only thing I’ve ever heard about him is that he never gives any personal interviews.”
That is a blatant lie, which makes me feel a little queasy because I hate lying, but I’m also not about to share that Jack and I have a long, complicated history. Or the fact that I’ve followed Jack’s career ever since college.
“Exactly!” My boss leans forward excitedly. “I want you to be the reporter that gets a personal interview. You did incredible work on your human-interest pieces, and you have sports in your background. Even if it’s not strong, it doesn’t matter since the focus will be on Jack and his private life. He never gives anybody more than he has to at those damn press conferences. It’d be one hell of a story if we could get him to talk to us.”
Panic surges inside me, but my face remains passive and my tone neutral as I ask, “Why me? Surely there have to be other reporters more qualified…”
“You don’t want it? Half my reporters would die for this opportunity. Jack Fuller is hot right now, and I want coverage on him while people still care. Why wouldn’t you take this opportunity?”
He looks at me curiously, and I squirm in my seat. He’s right. It would be an incredible opportunity to get the most notoriously private quarterback in the league to give a personal interview, which is something he’s never done before. But I just can’t be the person that does it. Vince would never understand, but when it comes to Jack, I need to keep my distance. Moving to LA to work for such an esteemed paper was too good an opportunity to pass up, but I have no desire to ever see the man who broke my heart into a million pieces again.
“I’m sorry, sir, I just don’t think I’m the right person for this piece. But I’d be happy to do another assignment. In fact, I have several ideas about some stories that would be—”
He cuts me off. “Maybe I wasn’t clear. I’m putting you on sports. I hired you for a specific reason.”
My eyes widen. “Excuse me?”
He stands and walks around his desk, leaning on the front in a classic move of power intimidation. “I did a little digging into your past, specifically the fact that you went to high school with Jack. You must know each other.”
My chest constricts as though there’s no oxygen in the room.
He continues, “Getting a personal interview—the first of its kind out of this guy—would set this paper apart from all the other news affiliates that have tried. Most quarterbacks love the limelight, but not Fuller. I want to be the paper that gets that interview out of him before someone else manages to do it.” He gives me a stern look. “You will take this assignment, or you can go back to San Francisco, if they’ll even take you back. You know how quickly those positions get snatched up.”
I stare at him, too shocked to speak right away. I knew he was ruthless, but I never saw this coming.
I can’t lose this job. Working for a major paper like the Chronicle has been my dream since college. Jack has taken enough from me—I won’t let him take this too.
“I’ll do it.”
Vince gives me a condescending smirk. “I knew you’d change your mind.”
* * *
It’s been nine years since I’ve seen or talked to Jack Fuller. The last time I saw him was when he walked away from me at Chicago’s O’Hare airport when we were seventeen. He broke up with me via text once he got home. A fucking text message, like everything we’d ever had meant absolutely nothing. I’m ashamed to admit that I begged him to call me before raging at him for being a coward.
No one has ever hurt me the way he did. I’ve never let any other man get that close.
After gathering my press credentials, I head out to my car to go to the stadium since Vince wants me to start working on this immediately. My breathing gets heavier the closer I get to my car. My chest gets tight, my pulse pounds in my ears, and my airways start to feel constricted as a panic attack grips me.
Oh God. Not now. Come on, body, I need you to work with me here. I need to be strong, not weak.
I quickly press speed dial for my best friend, Gina Rodrigo, knowing if anyone can help talk me down from my panic, it’s her. Gina has talked or held me through several since we became friends during our freshman year of college, although it’s been years since I had one. She’ll be able to help me get through this. I hope.
She picks up on the third ring. “Hey, girl, how’s sunny SoCal?”
I cut right to the chase because I’m now officially struggling to breathe. “My editor assigned me to interview Jack.” Gina knows all about my history with Jack and how brokenhearted I was when he dumped me.
“Oh shit.” Her tone is hushed and serious. “Are you okay? What the hell am I asking? Of course you’re not okay. You’re freaking out right now, aren’t you?”
I make an affirmative sound as tears fill my eyes, sweat builds on my neck and hairline, and my hands start to shake, my body officially working against me.
“Okay. Deep breaths. Close your eyes and do 5-2-5. I’ll count. Breathe in for one, two, three, four, five. Now hold, one, two, and breathe out, two, three, four, five.” I follow the soothing calm of her voice and do the breathing exercise she found online a few years ago three more times before my trembling subsides and my heart rate slows. Once again, I’m immensely thankful that fate brought her into my life.
Gina is a features writer for the Gazette. We met in college and became instant best friends. She was actually the one who helped me get my job in San Francisco. I’d been working at a small paper near Chicago but needed a change of scenery. I missed the west coast and Gina knew it. She’s confident and fierce—a total force to be reckoned with. Gina says it comes from the fact that she’s from a huge Puerto Rican family where she learned to be loud if she wanted her opinions to be heard. Either way, she’s been a godsend in my life.
“How you doin’ now?” she asks, her voice still soft and low.
“Better. I think the worst of it is over.” My chest still aches, but the rest of my body is coming down from the panic, my muscles no longer clenched.
“Paige, you can handle this. You’re not that seventeen-year-old girl anymore. You’re a kick-ass writer for the LA freaking Chronicle! Go out and show that man what he missed out on! You’re smoking hot, girl. Let him see what he could’ve had. He’ll regret the day he let you go, I guaran-fucking-tee it.”
I take another deep breath, hoping it can also bolster my faltering confidence. “You’re right. You’re absolutely right. I can do this. It’s no big deal.” I attempt to sound nonchalant.
“Well, I mean, it’s kinda a big deal…”
Okay, not helpful. “Gina!”
“But,” she emphasizes the word, “you’re going to rock the interview.”
“Except for the fact that he’s notorious for not doing personal interviews. Why would he talk to me? Because we dated for like a second nine years ago? That’s ridiculous.”
“First of all, you dated for almost a year, not a second, and you were best friends for over ten years before that. He’d be crazy not to talk to you.”
“I love and appreciate your optimism, but if Jack wanted to talk to me, he had plenty of time to do so.”
And that’s another nail in the coffin that is my history with Jack. He’s never once spoken to me since he sent that text breaking up with me nine years ago. Not a text, not a call, not even a fucking messenger pigeon. Nothing. Radio silence from the man who used to know me better than I sometimes knew myself. The pain of that is still more acute than I’d like for it to be, although I’ve buried it as deep as I can.
I learned a long time ago that his silence was louder than any words could ever be.
Jack Fuller is just an assignment. That’s how I have to look at this. He can’t be anything more.
He gave up his chance a long time ago.