Numbers Game by Desiree Holt and Liz Crowe

Numbers Game
By
USA Today Bestselling Author
Desiree Holt
&
Amazon Bestselling Author
Liz Crowe

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Former professional football player and coach Duncan “Hatch” Hatcher fumbled his career and marriage. Now divorced and ready to tackle his future, he has an opportunity to redeem himself as coach of his college alma mater’s football team. But how can he can turn the team’s losing streak around and keep the secret of his downfall buried when the school agrees to a documentary that will allow a lovely journalist to dig her way into his past…and into his heart?

Olivia Grant’s ex-husband almost wrecked her journalism career while he definitely did a number on her self-esteem. The documentary on Duncan Hatcher is the perfect way to rebuild both. As a freshman in college, she’d had a crush on the senior football hero, but he hadn’t known she existed. She never expects the sparks that fly between them as they work on the project nor the struggles they must face if they both want to win.

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Olivia Grant finally has the opportunity to reclaim her reputation and her career. The damage her ex, Daniel Forrest, has done to her self confidence is still playing with her mind, but now she knows she can and will overcome any obstacles. He took enough from her she’s not ever caving again. This documentary on Duncan ‘Hatch’ Hatcher is her ticket back and it’s going to be perfect.

Duncan Hatcher is now the Head Coach at his Alma Mater Lakeview University. It’s important for him to build a successful team, to prove himself worthy of this opportunity. The team he’s working with is not one he helped choose, and they are sorely lacking in the discipline needed in a winning team. He’s also looking forward to the documentary as long as his personal life stays personal in the process.

What neither of them realize is that there will be a spark between them from that first interview.

This is a favorite scene.

“Hello,” he said, his voice rough, as if he’d been asleep. He stuck out his hand as he approached her. “Olivia Grant, right? I’m not sure why anyone wants to do a documentary about me, but if it will help the school and the team, I’m all for it. Why don’t you come on into my office? You can tell me exactly what you’re looking for in the visuals and how much of my time you think you’ll need.”

She nodded, his welcoming attitude relaxing her slightly, taking the edge off her nerves. This might go well after all.

“As I said when I called, the A.D. assured me he’d spoken to you about clearing some time for me. And that I’d be able to come to the practices.”

“He did.” They came to an open door with the words Coach Hatcher on it. “Let’s go in and sit down.”

Olivia looked around, taking in the space where he spent so much of his time. There were pictures on the wall of him scoring his final winning touchdown for Lakeview his senior year, the game that sent the team to its first of several post-season bowl games. Of him with his coach and the president of the university. Others cataloguing his career in pro football, both as player and coach. The newest was one of him with this team, taken the day he was introduced to them.

“I’m sorry I don’t have more time today,” he told her, “but I’ll give you what I can. Then, if you can let me know what you’re looking for from me, we can work out a schedule.”

She nodded. “Understood. I’m grateful for any time you can make available. A lot of this will be video of the team interspersed with clips of my interviews with you. Will that work?”

He grinned. “We’ll make it work. Have a seat and fire away.”

“Is it okay if I record this? My memory isn’t what it used to be.”

Good going, Olivia. Make yourself sound old and decrepit.

“Sure. No problem.”

She opened the recording app on her phone and placed it on his desk. Here came Chapter One in her campaign to redeem herself both personally and professionally. She’d better not blow it.

“My first question is more to satisfy my own curiosity. How old were you when you started calling yourself Hatch?”

He chuckled. “Ever since I discovered I’d been named after my two grandfathers— Duncan and Jerome— and decided they made me sound too old.”

“I’m sure a lot of people have asked you this. What made you choose to come back to Lakeview rather than accept one of the other, more lucrative offers you had?”

He was silent for a long moment, staring at all the pictures before he answered her.

“Lakeview’s had some tough years recently. The shine is off the apple, so to speak, compared with how it was ten years ago. Scott, along with the president of the athletic association and two major donors, convinced me I could be the one to bring it back. I’m definitely going to give it my best shot. I guess you could say it’s an emotional thing.”

“How do you feel about this team? You arrived after signing season, none of the players, including the newest ones, are your recruits.”

He rubbed his jaw, pausing, as if carefully choosing his words. “I’ve been able to assess the team in practice, and we have a lot of young talent out there to work with. Luckily, they’re enthusiastic and feel they have something to prove. Feel free to come to as many practices as you like. I’ll set it up with security.”

“Thank you. I appreciate that.” She checked off a few more questions before turning off the recorder. “That’s it for the moment. I have more, but you said that you have limited time today. I’m sure there’ll be additional questions as we go along. If you can give me some idea of when you’d be available, I can put together a schedule for you.”

He flashed her that amazing grin once more. “I can work with that. Now, how about telling me the way you see this documentary laying out.”

“I want a double hook. I think it will capture a wider audience and really spike people’s interest.”

He raised one eyebrow, a gesture that gave her an utterly inappropriate thrill. “Like what?”

“The desire of the university to restore its football program to its former glory paired with the journey of Duncan Hatcher from player to coach and what that journey has meant. Personally as well as professionally.”

Again, he was silent for a long moment. Then he picked up a pen from the desk surface and began flipping it back and forth between his fingers. The muscles in her stomach tensed as she got the feeling there was something hidden beneath the surface here. Something that would screw things up. Oh, please, no.

“Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I’d like for you to leave my personal life out of this as much as possible. I still believe the constant lack of privacy and the pressures of my… situation played a big part in breaking up my marriage.”

Olivia studied his face. There was something closed off about his expression when he referenced his ex-wife. She had a feeling there was a lot more to the story than privacy issues and pressure, but she wasn’t here to get into that aspect of things. And if she didn’t respect his boundaries, he’d kill the documentary in a hot minute.

Still, her reporter’s nose was twitching, and she made a mental note to do some research on his personal life, even if just for herself.

“What about your parents or either of your siblings? Are they off limits, also? Your brother is a well-known coach, and your sister is married to—”

“Minimal exposure for them, and I get to approve whatever it is before you air anything.” His face was flushed. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt you or be rude. But it’s something I’m firm on, okay?”

She cleared her throat. “That’s not a problem. I’m not here to produce an exposé, only a story that will garner interest for the football program and show how an icon can make a big difference.”

At that he laughed, again treating her to that slight tremor of something she shouldn’t feel. “I don’t know if I’d call myself an icon, but if I can do anything to promote this team, I’m all for it.”

“You said you only had a little time today, but I prepared a list of questions. I can go over them with you and then email them to you if you like.”

“Sure. Let’s have it.”

Olivia reached into her messenger bag, pulled out her tablet, and opened the document with her notes. She explained how she had outlined the script and what visuals she’d need to best carry the message. And the kind of questions she’d be asking him.

Hatch nodded as she spoke, making notes on his own tablet. “Why don’t you email them to me anyway? Maybe I’ll think of something else to add.” He wrote something on the back of a business card and handed it to her. “Use my personal email and my number.”

Her eyes widened as she took the card from him. “Your personal number?”

He shrugged. “I like to think I’m a good judge of people. My senses tell me I can trust you.”

“Thank you. I promise not to betray that trust.” She leaned back in her chair. “I’d like to come to as many practices as possible, and of course, the games will be an important component.”

He pulled over a scratch pad and wrote something on it. “I’ll have the department office get you the credentials you’ll need to be a sideline reporter for the games. I watched you today. You’re savvy enough to know how to stay out of the way and still get what you need.”

“Thank you. I appreciate it.”

She had to tamp down the thrill of excitement that tickled her yet again.

“When do you plan to release this?”

“I’m hoping to have it ready to go at the end of the regular season, before the bowl games, since I’m sure the Jaguars will get a great invite this season. We can always add that bit after the fact.”

Hatch nodded. “Scott says the video is self-funded. Is that right?”

Olivia nodded. “That’s correct. It will run on Channel Five, but I also plan on shopping it to major sports networks.”

He grinned. “Looking for a foot in the door, right?”

“I am.” She lifted her chin and stiffened her back. “I hope you aren’t one of those men who think women can’t produce good sports material.”

He smiled, then laughed, surprising her. “My mother and my sister would tan my hide if they thought I felt that way. No, I’ve seen damn good video and some excellent reporting by women in the industry. I just want to know where you’re going with this. It will help me make sure you get what you’re looking for.”

“Thank you. And thanks for making time for me tomorrow. I know your schedule’s very tight right now.”

“Then you’ll understand if I have to cut out any time.”

She nodded. “I will.”

“So.” He leaned back in his chair. “Tomorrow?”

“Sure. Thanks for making the time.”

“You’re welcome.” He paused and seemed to be studying her through narrowed eyes. “Listen. They’ve got me doing a bunch of charity events that you might want to get some shots of. I’m sure the folks sponsoring them wouldn’t mind. The first one is a 10k race on Sunday.”

Olivia swallowed her smile.

“Actually, I’m running in it myself, although I’m sure I won’t be anywhere close to your time.”

His eyes lit up. “Yeah? You are? I bet you’ll do better than you think.”

“We’ll see. But I can have my cameraman there to get some action shots. And Hatch? Thanks again for agreeing to do this.”

An undecipherable expression flitted across his face, there one minute and gone the next. “I’m totally on board. Scott and I agree it will be a great way to give the program a shot in the arm. Let people know things are moving forward here. Help the program.”

He rose, signaling their meeting was over. “See you then.”

She gathered her messenger bag, practically dancing her way out of the office. She felt like pumping her fist and shouting, Yes! Yes! Yes! Take that, Daniel.
Desiree Holt & Liz Crowe. Numbers Game (Kindle Locations 156-237). The Wild Rose Press, Inc..

Other than her mind reverting to things her ex has said and done to undermine her, someone else enters the picture to muddy the waters. Bert Hoekstra a freelance reporter who thrives on dirt and the worst kinds of gossip is waiting in the parking lot by her car. He wants access he’s been denied but Olivia will not be coerced. Not anymore.

Now what Olivia doesn’t know and won’t for a while is the reason behind Hatch’s divorce and leaving the professional coaching arena behind.

The documentary will be beneficial to all involved and Olivia is putting her heart and soul into it. Hatch understands all of this as well, and he can’t help but fall for her.

I laughed and cried a bit too, these two are complicated and fun. There are many ups and downs in this story and the romance is sweet as well as sizzling.

I would love to read more from this awesome author pairing.

5 Contented Purrs for Desiree and Liz!

Desiree Holt

USA Today Bestselling and award winning author Desiree Holt writes everything from romantic suspense and paranormal to erotic, a genre in which she is the oldest living author.

She has been referred to by USA Today as the Nora Roberts of erotic romance, and is a winner of the EPIC E-Book Award, the Holt Medallion and a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice nominee.

She has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning and in The Village Voice, The Daily Beast, USA Today, The (London) Daily Mail, The New Delhi Times and numerous other national and international publications.

“Desiree Holt is the most amazing erotica author of our time and each story is more fulfilling then the last.” (Romance Junkies)


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  Liz Crowe

Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville living in Central Illinois. She’s spent her time as a three-continent expat trailing spouse, mom of three, real estate agent, brewery owner and bar manager, and is currently a social media consultant and humane society development director, in addition to being an award-winning author.

With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, inside fictional television stations and successful real estate offices, and even in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are compelling and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, at times frustrate, and always linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.

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