Stepping into the sunshine, Indy shouldered her bag and turned towards the OBX library, her mind running through the assignments she still had to complete when a shadow crossed over her path, a large body falling into step with her, close, but not touching, their strides matching.
“Jack,” she said, glancing up at him sideways, a small smile threatening at the corner of her mouth.
“Indiana,” he said, echoing back her name, sending a shiver down her spine. He was the only one allowed to call her that, the only person who made the name she’d hated since forever sound friggin’ good.
They walked together without another word, turning the corner that separated the courts from the residential area of the complex, but her stride was suddenly cut off when Jack shuffled his feet, sliding his arm around her waist and pulled her into a shady walkway between buildings. Her bag slid off her shoulder, but he caught it before it crashed to the ground and smashed her laptop to smithereens. He let it settle on the ground gently before leaning over her, forcing her to step back into the wall.
Walls were their thing. Their first kiss had been against a wall in a random hallway at Roland Garros, their second pressed against the wall of their hotel in Paris and now that they were back in North Carolina, they found any excuse to push each other against a wall and kiss until they were gasping for air and their bodies begged for relief. Jack’s lips trailed from her temple, using the wall behind her as an anchor before bending his head to hers. Pushing up onto her toes, Indy met him halfway. She’d never been so grateful for every millimeter of her five feet ten inches as she was when she was kissing Jack. His hands slid through her hair, twisting it around his fingers, then cradling the back of her head, drawing her mouth more firmly against his. Indy brought her hands to his torso, gripping his t-shirt, letting her palms press against the cut of muscle that disappeared into his cargo shorts. The skin on skin contact made his breath hitch, his mouth opening just enough to allow her tongue to slide in, deepening the kiss, before letting her teeth nip at his bottom lip. A groan rumbled in his throat as he stumbled forward, pressing his body full length against hers. He wrenched his lips from hers, trailing his mouth over the line of her jaw to the spot just behind her ear. It was her turn to gasp and her head fell back as she arched into him. No one had ever kissed her there before. Jack smiled against her skin as her fingertips dug into his sides and she let a moan slip free as he focused his attention on that spot, scraping his teeth against it then soothing that small pain with a flick of his tongue. Her hands scrambled to get purchase against his shoulders, desperate for some leverage, anything to help her slide her body against his. Then he was gone, his hand gone from her hair, his mouth gone from her neck and his body inches then feet away. Indy blinked at him, trying to figure out what happened when the voices echoing down the pathway towards them finally reached her ears.
Bending down, he lifted her bag as she ran her fingers through her hair, knowing he’d made an unholy mess of it. “You’re fine,” he muttered, handing her the bag, then keeping the distance between them as a group of junior boys stomped past them, none giving them a second glance.
“You have good ears,” Indy said, biting her lip at the close call. If those boys had seen them, the news would have spread like wildfire through the OBX campus and everyone would have known by the end of the day. She was only seventeen for another few months, but that wasn’t really the problem, seventeen or eighteen wouldn’t matter to other people. She was a young tennis pro, he was an up and coming agent. The last thing either of their careers needed was the heightened publicity of a controversial relationship, even if Jack Harrison was far more of a gentleman than any guy she’d ever met. Sometimes a little too much of a gentleman, truth be told.
Jack shrugged, glancing back over his shoulder again before facing her fully. “I’m sorry about this.”
She reached out and took his hand, “We both agreed,” she said, entwining their fingers together, “it’s just between us for now. It makes sense for the both of us.” Pressing his lips together in a thin line, he nodded, but she knew he wasn’t entirely convinced. “Jack, we talked about this. You said you were okay with it.”
“I just wish it were different,” he said, tugging her closer, pressing a soft kiss to her forehead. His hands released hers and dropped to her hips, the edges of his thumbs brushing against her hipbones in slow circles sending shivers over her skin.
“Me too.” She wanted to scream it from the rooftops that this amazing guy was hers. That he had deep green eyes and a smile that brightened them whenever he looked at her. That he was brilliant in ways that she couldn’t even fathom with his degree from Harvard. That he’d fought their attraction for so long because of that ingrained sense of honor, like one of those heroes in a fairy tale, except Jack was real, flesh and blood.
“Have you thought…maybe we should tell Penny?” Indy asked, her fingertips landing on his forearms, gently stroking up to his elbows and back down to his wrists.
Jack let out a heavy breath. “Penny has a lot on her plate right now.”
“I know, I just feel funny keeping it from her. Jasmine knows.”
“We’ll do whatever you want to do. This is your show, baby.”
“I don’t need a supportive…” she hesitated, almost using the word boyfriend, but that didn’t really fit, did it? Not if they were keeping it a secret, “I need honest Jack.”
He leaned back, looking her in the eye. “Honest? Honestly, my sister doesn’t do well with change. It freaks her out and right now, I’m not sure that the idea of you and me will go over that well. On the other hand, if we don’t tell her and she finds out?”
“She’ll be pissed.”
“Maybe we wait a little longer. We could tell her in London?”
Jack nodded, “Face to face instead of over the phone.”
“There’s always Skype,” she said, not really sure if she wanted to know what Penny, the only girl who’d made an effort to befriend her when she first arrived at OBX, would think if she found out she and Jack were together.
Indy shook her head. They should do it in person. They should have done it before they left Paris, but Penny had been so devastated by withdrawing from the tournament that it hadn’t felt like the right time then either. “In London. We’ll be there in less than a week. We’ll tell her then.”
“Okay, in London.” They stood there for a moment, just breathing each other in until Jack leaned away. “I’ve gotta go. I have a meeting with a potential new client this afternoon and I’ve got to prep.”
Indy snorted a laugh. “Right, like you don’t already have a complete profile worked up along with potential sponsors to contact if they sign.”
“You know me so well,” he said, leaning around the building, checking the pathway for any more unwanted spectators. “I’ll go this way.”
Indy nodded back in the opposite direction. “And I’ll go that way.”
With a bow, he was gone, around the corner and out of sight, so she turned and adjusted her bag over her shoulder, heading out from between the buildings and towards the library. She’d have about half the time to get her Calc done than she originally planned. Fingertips pressing against that spot on her neck lightly recalling the feel of his mouth and the way her entire body was lit on fire by his touch, it was totally worth it.
“Are you sure that is a good idea?” a voice rang out from just a few steps behind her, the French accent giving its owner away, if the superiority and condescension weren’t enough of a clue. Indy spun around and came face to face with her agent, tall, blonde, perfectly put together in a silk blouse and linen skirt, somehow looking completely cool and calm despite the blaze of the sun. She was in town before they all left for England, mostly to go over her plans for Indy’s future off the court.
A denial formed on Indy’s tongue, but she knew it was useless. Caroline had seen them and it probably just confirmed what she’d suspected for a while. Her agent was damn good at her job and it wasn’t like she and Jack had been super careful about keeping private moments behind closed doors. “Good idea or not, it’s none of your business.”
Raising her eyes to the sky and shaking her head Caroline said, “You are my business, Indiana.”
“How many times do I have to say it? Don’t call me that, and my tennis is your business,” Indy corrected. “Keep your nose out of everything else.”
“It is not that simple,” Caroline insisted, her voice inching up in pitch.
“It really is.” She turned on her toe and walked away, wanting to look back, hoping that Caroline’s brow was furrowed and her hands were on her hips, lips pursed in aggravation. But looking back would ruin the moment because despite getting in the last word, Caroline now had the upper hand and it was only a matter of time before she used it to her advantage.
Penny Harrison, a rising female star, is determined to win the French Open and beat her archrival, Zina Lutrova. But when her coach imports British bad boy Alex Russell as her new training partner, will Penny be able to keep her laser-like focus?
Tennis is all Jasmine Randazzo has ever known. The daughter of two Grand Slam champions, she’s hell-bent on extending her family’s legacy and writing her own happily-ever-after…until her chosen Prince Charming gives her the just-friends speech right before the biggest junior tournament of the year, the Outer Banks Classic.
With a powerful serve and killer forehand, newcomer Indiana Gaffney is turning heads. She’s thrilled by all of the attention, especially from Jack Harrison, Penny’s agent and hot older brother, except he keeps backing off every time things start heating up.
With so much at stake, dreams—and hearts—are bound to break. Welcome to OBX: Where LOVE is a four-letter word, on and off the court.