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Hoops Holiday (Hoops #2.5)
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** Hoops Holiday consists of FULL-COURT PRESS, a HOOPS novella originally published in the TEAM PLAYER Anthology. It has been expanded with all-new, never-before-published content & epilogue.
It also includes Christmas-themed bonus material for LONG SHOT (Iris & August) and BLOCK SHOT (Banner & Jared).
*𝗔𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗙𝗨𝗟𝗟-𝗖𝗢𝗨𝗥𝗧 𝗣𝗥𝗘𝗦𝗦*
MacKenzie Decker was a question Avery never got to ask, much less answer.
They met when she was a young reporter fueled by ambition, and the ink on Deck’s first NBA contract was barely dry. Years later, they’ve climbed so high and lost so much, but one thing hasn’t changed. The attraction that simmered between them in a locker room before is still there. With success like theirs, everything has been possible . . . except them.
That was then . . . but what about now?
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I’m dripping wet and almost naked the first time I meet Avery Hughes.
It’s my second season in the NBA, and I’m used to conducting interviews at my locker wearing only a towel, with a ring of microphones, recorders, and demanding reporters crowded around me. But this reporter, this night, from the first look, blindsides me.
We played a shit game.
Correction. For forty-five minutes of regulation, we played a stellar game. That last three minutes—that was some shit, and as the idiot who turned the ball over repeatedly in the closing plays, most of that shit rests squarely on my shoulders.
Post-game and post-shower, I lean against my locker, eyes stuck to the floor while I duck and dodge the flurry of questions flying around my head. I should have taken the fine for not making myself available to the press. That would have cost me less. This costs my pride and the dregs of my patience.
“Can you walk us through that fourth quarter implosion, Deck?” a husky voice raises above the fray tightly encircling me. “Those last few minutes of the game were pretty brutal.”
My brows snap together at the rudeness, the audacity of this reporter. Sure, I’ve fielded tougher questions, but after this kind of game, a win that slipped through our fingers, and me responsible, I’m too raw and not in the mood for it.
“What kind of question . . .”
The half-formed demand withers on my lips when I meet the eyes behind the recorder thrust at me. They are the softest thing about her face. Her chin draws to a point, and her cheekbones flare out like a cat’s, rounding into sharp feline femininity. She looks down her keen little nose at me with a touch of disdain and condescension. Her lips are set in a flat, determined line, but that doesn’t make them less lush, less kissable. But still . . . the eyes are the softest thing in that face, darkest sable, surrounded by a fan of long, minky lashes. Those eyes lock with mine while she waits. They never lower to scrape over the bare brawn of my shoulders and chest. Don’t dip to my waist or the barely knotted towel hanging onto my hip. And definitely don’t slide over my legs, still dripping from my shower. Nope, she looks me right in and only in my eyes while she waits.
“Well, um . . .” I search for her name on the laminated media credential lanyard resting between a set of perky breasts. “Avery, we made some mistakes there at the end.”
She tilts her head and lifts her brows to the angle of “obviously” before scooting her mic an inch closer. Her scent, something fresh and wild, like the dark, textured curls rioting around her face, is a high note piercing through all the testosterone rife in the locker room.
“Great night overall. Bad few minutes,” I finally answer, crooking my mouth into a smile possible now that I’ve seen her. “Happens to the best of us on any given night.”
I shrug, watching her eyes finally drop to the flexing movement, before snapping back to my face.
Ahhh, made you look, pretty lady.
The dark eyes narrow and those kissable lips part like she already has the next question cocked and loaded, but another reporter butts in with something else. I answer a few more questions, getting impatient to dress and talk to Avery without the watchful eye of every major network. When our media rep shuts down the post-game press, reporters start filing out of the locker room. I consider letting it go. Letting her go. I’ve seen prettier girls, right? I can fuck a different chick in a different city every night. Matter of fact, it’s practically my civic duty on behalf of all my brethren who will never have the NBA all-access ass pass. Real talk, I’m already over that. Gorgeous, grasping and vapid. That pretty much describes every woman hanging out in the tunnel after a game. This girl—one look and one question tells me I can’t have my way with her. I never could resist a challenge, and when Avery turns to leave, giving me an uninterrupted view of a firm, round ass outlined in her tailored slacks, I know I won’t resist her either.
“Avery,” I call, holding onto my slipping towel with one hand and gently grabbing her elbow with the other. “Hold up a sec.”
She looks pointedly at my hand, so large against her slim arm, like it offends her, before looking back to my face. Some half naked, wet jock a foot taller and grabbing her probably isn’t making the best first impression.
“Sorry about that.” I drop her arm and flick my head toward my locker. “Could I talk to you for a minute?”
Reluctant curiosity settles on her face, and she takes the few steps back to my corner in the chaos of the locker room.