Down by Contact (Seattle Lumberjacks) by Jami Davenport
It's showtime.After twelve years in the league, all Zach Murphy wants is a Super Bowl ring. He’s been about hard hits not smooth manners, about breaking quarterbacks not making small talk at cocktail parties. But now he’s shattered something else. After dumping a tray of drinks on the team owner’s snooty daughter and accidentally feeling up the Governor’s wife, his tenure with his team looks perilously short. And things are getting worse.Life is looking up for Kelsie Carrington-Richmond. A onetime beauty pageant star and mean girl, she only recently stopped living out of her car. But those times have passed. Her finishing school for real men has a real shot, and the Seattle Lumberjacks have hired her to polish their roughest player.Except…it’s Zach. Long ago she broke his heart. He’s just the beast she remembers—gruff, protective—but she’s nothing like the beauty from his past. Yet, getting knocked down happens, and getting back up makes a contender. And they both have the hearts of champions.
I have this little confession to make that will probably shock most of you because it’s more than obvious that I have a mouth like a sailor and sometimes my manners are so horrible Emily Post would be embarrassed.…. When I was a young girl my parents sent me to Etiquette School. Yep, that’s right… I sat in a class room and learned all the ins and outs of perfect etiquette. I learned everything from which fork to use during dinner to how to properly introduce yourself…. I was teased because of this, and quite frankly to this day if someone finds out they laugh. I know it’s funny because I don’t use my “training” as I should but in social setting I can whip out that perfect etiquette charm as though it was something I use every day.
So here’s why I confessed that little tidbit about myself… I can totally relate to Down by Contact. I mean like relate to the point where the interactions between Kelsey and Zach (at least when it comes to her classes) remind me so much of myself and my husband. Don’t get me wrong… my hubby has some fantastic manners and can pull out the charm so smoothly you’d almost think he was southern… but that wasn’t always the case. I couldn’t tell you the number of times he has looked at a place setting with a look of horror because there was not only more than one fork… but more than one spoon. But unlike Zach… my sweet man picked it all up pretty quick.
As for Down by Contact… I have to say it was an extremely enjoyable read. Obviously I was able to relate to Kelsey but I was able to connect with both her and Zach. I felt the love, the anger, the bitterness, the betrayal, and most of all the steamy hot chemistry. But there was more to it than all of that….
The glimpses of Zach on the field or in the locker room interacting with his team mates was so realistic that I actually felt as though I was in that testosterone fueled atmosphere and I loved every second of it. Watching Zach grow and learning more about the man that he is made me fall in love. Sure he had this whole gruff exterior that I sometimes wanted to smack over the head with a frying pan…. But he was a hopeless romantic who had fallen for the girl he was meant to be with when he was in high school. And even though that girl betrayed him in a way that would make most men run for their lives… he was able to forgive her and continue to love her.
Then there was Kelsey and in all honesty I felt for that girl on so many levels that I just wanted to hug her and tell her it would all be okay and that even though things look bad right now on all fronts… it will all work out. She was the kind of heroine that I love… she may have come from money and she may have been a mean girl in high school, but she was strong and she worked for what she had in the end. It may have taken her years to see it… but she really was meant to be with Zach in every way and she was meant to be away from her horrible family.
Down by Contact is definitely one to check out. Especially if you’re looking for a rough around the edges hero with a heroine who is determined to shine.
Giveaway: Jami is giving away all three of the Seattle Lumberjacks books to one winner from all the different tour stops
Kelsie Carrington glided across the room straight toward him. His Cactus Prairie High School crush here? In Seattle? What the fuck? Wasn’t halfway across the country far enough to escape her and those painful memories? He blinked several times, but there wasn’t a damn thing wrong with his vision. His one-date disaster balanced on a pair of heels so high the altitude should require an oxygen mask. Her blond hair shone as brightly as the gold in a coveted Super Bowl ring. Each graceful step of those long legs carried her closer to him.
He held his breath and prayed she didn’t recognize him. Just like old times, Kelsie looked right through him, as if he didn’t exist. Her patent beauty-queen smile was plastered across her perfectly made-up face. Damn, seeing her transported him back to being an awkward teenage boy who only fit in on the football field. Her fake smile reminded him how stupid he’d been to fall for her particular brand of poison. Her perfect face dredged up a shitload of painful emotions.
Oh, yeah, painful all right. Zach Murphy had fallen in love once and been carried out of the game on a stretcher. He’d stick with football. Football gave him life, while women sucked the life out of him. Football made sense to him. Women didn’t.
Especially this woman.
He glanced to either side to see if any of his teammates noticed the fucking bleeding heart dangling on his sleeve. They were too busy staring at Kelsie—she’d always had that effect on men. Well, except for the king of asshole quarterbacks, Tyler Harris. Zach gave Harris a few grudging points for tossing out his womanizer ways and only having eyes for his sassy girlfriend.
Yet something on Zach’s face must have clued Harris in. Like a hungry hyena catching the scent of wounded prey, Harris’s sharp gaze moved from Zach to Kelsie and back again. The quarterback possessed this uncanny ability to dissect an enemy’s weakness—and despite being teammates, they were enemies. One corner of the fuckhead’s mouth turned up in a knowing smirk. He nodded briefly at Zach and returned to his conversation with his hot little girlfriend, even though Zach knew damn well the jerk kept one eye on him.
Ignoring Harris, Zach scratched his chin and studied Kelsie. What the hell was the cause of his most humiliating moment in a lifetime of humiliating moments doing here a thousand miles from Texas, invading his territory?
He blinked a few times and looked again. Really looked beyond the beauty-queen face and body. Something was very wrong with this picture. A loaded tray of drinks teetered precariously on the palm of Kelsie’s raised hand as she moved in and out of the crowd. Rich girl Kel had never worked a real job in her life. Yet, he doubted she was serving drinks just for the unique opportunity to slum with the common folk.
Damn, maybe his life wasn’t the only thing that’d changed.
Kelsie scanned the room then did a double take. Their eyes met and crashed with the intensity of a wrong-way collision on I-5. The fake smile faltered. The gliding stopped. She looked around the room as if planning an escape route. Then she straightened her shoulders and turned on the charm, gracing him with her halogen smile—perfect white teeth and hot red lips. Really hot. As if she were happy to see him.
Zach scowled his best don’t-fuck-with-me scowl.
Kelsie faltered. Her stride went from graceful to jerky. The smile slipped off her face, replaced by what appeared to be panic. She pivoted on her impossibly high heels and fired up the after-burners.
Oh, no, she wasn’t getting away this easily. Zach jumped to his feet and gave chase, single-mindedly focused on confronting her, something he’d been dying to do since his senior year of high school. Yeah, stupid idea, but he’d never been one for thinking before reacting, a trait which worked well in football, not so well in real life.
She glanced over her shoulder, her blue eyes filled with what looked like fear, as if she expected him to do physical damage to her or some stupid-assed thing like that.
Zach cornered her near the head table. Kelsie changed directions and charged past him. He spun around to follow, refusing to let her off that easily. He clipped her full tray drinks with his elbow. She lurched with the tray, but it was too late. Helpless, Zach watched the disaster happen in slow motion.
The tray teetered back and forth, as Kelsie desperately fought to gain control. The tray won. Glasses of wine sprayed red, white, and pink across the tablecloth, looking like a tie-dye session gone mad. Goblets shattered. Women screamed as wine drenched expensive evening gowns. The team owner leapt to his feet, his sputtering laced with profanity as red wine coated his custom-tux and white shirt. His spoiled daughter, Veronica, didn’t hold anything back either, loudly insulting the size of Zach’s brain and his dick. Closest to the debacle, the governor’s wife leapt to her feet, her low-cut sequined evening gown hung on her like a limp rag. Red wine and mimosas dribbled down her neck and chest and disappeared in her cleavage. Zach grabbed a napkin and desperately blotted at the wine. In his panic, he swiped the napkin across the plump mounds of her breasts. She screamed as if he’d purposely groped her. HughJack, the team’s head coach, grabbed him and pulled him away.
“I’m sorry. Oh, fucking hell. I’m so sorry.” Zach wanted to crawl under the nearest boulder.
“What did you think you were doing?” Coach spoke in that deadly calm, quiet voice that struck fear in the meanest of linemen. Zach preferred HughJack’s ranting and notorious clipboard throwing to that voice.
“I—I don’t know. I’m sorry.”
Veronica, still sputtering and looking for blood, turned on Kelsie. “You! How could you be so stupid?”
“I—I—” Kelsie shoved her fist in her mouth, obviously horrified at the carnage she’d helped cause. She lifted her gaze to Zach’s. Anger blazed in her stormy blue eyes.
Wait one fucking minute. She blamed him? He hadn’t done one damn thing other than be where he was supposed to be—a charity benefit for a charity whose name he couldn’t even remember. She was the one who didn’t belong here.
Jerking her gaze away from his, Kelsie dropped to the floor and started wiping up the mess with any napkin she could confiscate from the nearby tables. Several other staff joined in the fray, wiping tables, cleaning up the mess, and comforting wet, angry guests.
Zach debated on whether or not to fade into the background or make her night that much worse. Once again, she’d made him look like a backwards hick, her special talent.
A fat, sweating chef with chocolate stains on his white apron waddled out of the kitchen and spoke in a harsh whisper to Kelsie. “You idiot. Did you do this?”
Kelsie didn’t look up, just worked frantically to clean up the mess. The chef bent down and pointed a pudgy finger in her direction. “You’re fired. Get the hell out of here. I’ll be contacting you for reimbursement for the damages.” He kept his voice low, but Zach heard him.
Zach stepped forward, a knight not exactly comfortable in his dinner-jacket armor. “Apologize to the lady. It was an accident, and your behavior is abusive.”
The chef gritted his teeth and spoke loud enough for only Zach to hear. “Who the hell are you? Some dumb jock? You probably beat up your girlfriend on a regular basis. And you accuse me of abuse?”
Zach exploded and charged. Just before he made contact, two defensive linemen, big suckers, yanked him backward and pinned his arms behind his back. Zach lunged at the fat chef again, dragging the linemen with him. More teammates jumped into the fray and held him back. Several others restrained the chef, who hurled accusations at Zach and Kelsie.
“Stop it, you dumb shit.” Harris smacked Zach on the arm none too gently. Zach grunted and squinted into the harsh light glaring in his eyes. Someone had a camera trained on him.
Harris stepped in front of Zach, blocked the cameraman, and faced the furious cook. “Let’s calm down and be civilized. It was an accident.” He spoke in an aside to his teammates. “Let them go.” The men did as Harris ordered. The cook made a move toward Zach but Harris countered it, placing his body between the two dueling men. He put his hand on Zach’s chest and pushed. Zach staggered back a step, reining in his temper.
He’d done it again. Screwed up in a social situation and dragged the whole team down with him. His new team. The ones who were counting on him to be a leader on and off the field. He’d led them, all right, almost into a brawl.