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The Wild Rose Press

Heat Rating: STEAMY
Word Count: 68,797
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Mercedes McFadden is pursued by the one man she could fall madly in love with…but he’s the last man on earth she’d ever want to marry. She doesn’t believe opposites attract.

Dante Edwards has lived a rich and elaborate life. Mercedes and her twin brother were orphaned and moved from one foster home to another until they were ten. She’s afraid of love and commitment he wants to settle down and have a family.

Dante, the number two tennis player in the world, is known for his playboy lifestyle but meeting Mercedes was love at first sight. Can he change her mind about falling in love when he flies her to France on their first date? Or will the paparazzi drive her away?


“Do you play tennis? I know your brother used to compete in college.”

“Yes, but I only play for fun or at charity tournaments. I was a junior champion at one time.”

“Honest? I apologize. Your name didn’t ring a bell.”

“No need to apologize. That occurred ten years ago.”

“What happened?”

Mercedes turned her right hand over and exposed her scar. “I fell forward, landing all my weight on my wrist with the racquet still in my hand, the joint snapped backward and…well”—she shrugged—“my life was turned topsy-turvy. I still play tennis for pure enjoyment, but I couldn’t bring myself to compete again after the accident. I had pins in my wrist and hand for nearly a year. After all the physical therapy, I no longer had the strength or the will to do what would have been required of me to make a comeback.”

She watched sincerity and concern deepen the blue of his eyes as he reassessed her. Only another athlete steeped in the discipline of his sport at tournament level could really understand all the hurt, disappointment, upheaval, and broken dreams that accident meant to her present and her future.

She paused, remembering, and then steeled herself from looking back—that wouldn’t change anything. She pressed her lips together, tossed back a wisp of hair the warm breeze had worked loose, and lifted her chin, determined to put her best face forward, as she smiled at him.

Dante ran his thumb gently over her scar, and then touched her wrist to his lips with a light kiss. “I’m very sorry.”

Stirred to her very soul, she lifted her eyes from her scar to his mouth before meeting his eyes. She hadn’t expected such an open and deep reaction from someone she recently met, someone who was more like a stranger than even an acquaintance.

“You smell good,” he whispered.

Not certain how to respond to that remark, she attempted to recover from her reaction to his sensual gesture and without thinking, said, “So do you.”

The moment those words were out of her mouth, she wanted to take them back, hide her embarrassment, and bury the awkward moment that hung in the air like a blank cartoon dialog balloon.

She had no idea what made her blurt out those words and quickly said, “Don’t be sorry. As you can see, I’ve survived to lead quite a full and interesting life beyond tennis. Things have worked out better than I ever imagined. Although, at the time I felt devastated, and being a teenager, thought my life was over and I had no future. But that only lasted a few years.” She laughed. “Once I began to channel all my energy and concentrated on my studies instead, I enjoyed my college years to the fullest.”

His regard to her response appeared thoughtful and steady. He released her wrist and frowned slightly, then took a sip of tea. “Chasing down stories of rich and famous sports figures has put you at the top of your game in many ways. And obtaining interviews should be a breeze. One look at you, Mercedes, and I’m positive you don’t have to ask anyone twice.”

A flush of embarrassment flowed through her at the compliment. “I rarely make the arrangements for the celebrities I interview. Now that I have the right connections, editors and agents offer me assignments. Sometimes I submit a proposal to an editor with a suggestion on whom I want to base my next article, and after we come to an agreement, they make the detailed preparations to coincide with schedules, usually with the agents who beg for feature articles and interviews to give their clients the publicity.”

“Did you realize freelancing would be this easy?”

She chuckled and shook her head. “No. I consider myself fortunate now, but for a long time I used to write proposals and submit them and received my share of rude rejections. Even if I received an offer, we’d agree on deadlines and a price, usually a flat rate anywhere from a quarter to two dollars a word. Now the offers are much more lucrative.”

“If you’ve been writing this long to have such a well-known name in the sports world, I find it unbelievable most people don’t know you’re a woman.”

Mercedes squeezed more lemon in her tea, misjudged her strength, and squirted Dante in the face. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, placing a hand over her mouth.

He wiped the juice off his cheek and looked at her, suppressing a grin. “I doubt your sincerity.”