Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Playing the Rookie ARC and Excerpt Available #sports #romance #novella by Rachelle Ayala

Woohoo! I've been busy working on my new series of sports novellas: #Played Series. My first book, Played by Love, is published already, and I have Advanced Reader's Copies of Playing the Rookie available now!

Product Description:
Jessica Song is tired of being a good girl, staying in a relationship well past closing time. Fresh from a breakup, she takes a walk on the wild side as a sports events intern.
Baseball rookie Jay Park Ahn has been burned one too many times by good girls, especially his cheating ex-fiancée. When he meets wild Jessica, he throws away all caution to enjoy her to the fullest.
Jessica and Jay agree to a week of enchanting, starry-eyed dates and wild, unrestrained sex to get their exes out of their systems.
Their pasts collide, exposing the secrets in Jessica’s heart and threatening Jay’s position on the team. Jessica must leave her disappointment behind while Jay has to decide whether Jessica comes before baseball. What will they sacrifice to turn their fling into true love?

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Excerpt (Chapter 1):
“I had no idea baseball players are so huge.”
A snarky male voice behind me says, “They’re major leaguers, what did you expect?”
Oops, I whip my head around and catch Todd Martin, my friend and intern coordinator, smirking at me. His bright teeth flash knowingly, and he shakes his head, causing his afro curl hair to bounce and jiggle.
“Something a little bigger than peewees, but these guys are hulks. Sure this isn’t football?”
“Jessica Song.” He wags his index finger and peers over his natty horn-rimmed Johnny Depp style glasses. “Kindly refrain from referring to any athlete as peewee, or I’ll revoke your internship.”
“Point taken, boss.” I straighten the sign-in sheets on my clipboard and stand behind my station ‘A through C.’ “I’ve only ever seen them on TV, and well, wow, in real life, they’re gorgeous.”
“Get your jaw off the floor and let’s sign them in.” Todd cocks his hand next to his mouth and whispers, “If you see one you like, note your room number on the back of his badge.”
“Uh, that’s not what I’m here for. Besides, I’m kinda still hung up on someone.”
“That’s exactly why you need to be here, girlie. You’re supposed to be getting over him. As for ballplayers, three’s never a crowd.” Todd’s eyebrows do the conga line, and he hooks his thumb. “Play ball! Here they come.”
A fluster of heat tackles me as the first group of major leaguers swagger to my table. My face tilts up, and up, and my voice catches in my throat.
“W-welcome t-to spring training. Please sign in and pickup a name badge. Oh, and your folder, Mr., Mr.? Uh, I don’t know your name, because you’re not wearing a badge.”
Three men with the build of lumberjacks form a dense wall of manhood in front of my table, blocking all light from my eyes and sucking the oxygen out of the room.
I swallow, unable to stop gawking at their strong chiseled jaws, tanned faces, and solid muscles, evident even under their suit jackets.
One of the players chuckles. “You must be new if you don’t know who I am.”
His friend punches him on the bicep. “Better be glad she doesn’t recognize your ugly mug.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Let me look you up.” I flip to the team roster, barely able to keep the drool in my mouth. Why didn’t I study this last night instead of playing video games with the other interns?
“A. J. Callahan.” A man with a wide mustache points to his name. “I have a suite. Wife and kids visit on the weekend.”
“Thank you, Mr. Callahan.” I check off his name and grab a goodie bag filled by our sponsors. “How many children?”
“Three.” He grins, puffing his chest. “Two boys and a girl.”
Digging under the table, I find the children’s camp backpacks. He loops all three over his wrist and winks. “If you want to earn some cash, call me.”
“Excuse me?” My heart drops and my jaw slackens. A wife and three kids and me?
“They’re four, seven, and nine. Girl’s the oldest.” He glances at my name badge and scribbles on his card. “Name’s Jessica too. Tell her what to do and she’ll make the little guys obey.”
“Oh! Sure. Thanks, Mr. Callahan.” I pocket the card and move on to the next player.
Hands, most of them huge, faces, chiseled and handsome, torsos, damn fine, but because I’m too busy to look up, my eyes are stuck at groin level. A symphony of sexy voices in a multitude of accents scramble in my vicinity. Forget about flirting and being star struck, I’m barely able to keep up with the flow, handing out goodie bags, passes, backpacks, badges, pens, notepads, and folders while answering questions.
I glance over at my fellow interns, but no one has time to chat. Smiles pasted on their faces, they work the lines, sorting players by teams and amenities. Fifteen professional teams descend on the greater Phoenix metropolitan area for spring training, keeping the resort and hospitality businesses hopping. Camps for children of all ages, spas for the wives, and of course, the players, trainers, and coaches all have to be accommodated.
There’s a lull in the check-ins, and I wipe my hair from my forehead. Todd ambles over, grinning. “How many baseball cards you collect?”
“One and it’s for babysitting.” I flip it over to show him.
“Ah, too bad, pobrecita. Your champ’s still coming in the door.”
“Hey, I’m not looking. Besides, they all have women already, and I’m not getting in line.”
Especially if there’s a wife or a committed relationship. I have principles. I’m not a home wrecker or a boyfriend thief. What’s wrong with wanting a man to myself?
“That’s the problem with women, you want exclusives too soon. Free yourself from that mentality. You don’t have just one best friend, don’t you? Why limit yourself?” Todd perches on the table and flicks the last remaining name tag.
“Besides the sleaze factor? No thank you.” I take the name tag and read it. “A. H. N. Never heard of him.”
“Probably a rookie, now’s your chance to make the first grab.”
I throw the tag at Todd. “How do I know he’s not gay? Maybe you’ll get lucky.”
He primps his afro curls and waggles his shoulders. “Jay Park Ahn, bet he’s Korean. You ever watch K-Pop videos?”
“You mean Gangnam style? The girls are hot, but I’m not sure about that guy in the dark glasses.” I prop my legs on the table, now that the rush is over. “Do I have to wait for this last guy?”
“Holy papa,” Todd exclaims. “Here he comes, Mr. Universe. Yow!”
A tall, Asian man with broad shoulders and messy spiky hair rushes into the lobby. His suit jacket hangs halfway off one shoulder and his shirt’s untucked. His head swivels back and forth with a bewildered gawk on his poster perfect face—smooth-shaven, angular jaw, a straight nose and long, narrow eyes under bushy eyebrows.
“Quick, give me his badge.” I scramble to put together a welcome package.
Todd leans over my table and fans himself. “Gimme some of that spicy kim chee, umm, umm, ummm.”
The baseball player, the presumed Jay Park Ahn, runs his long, sturdy fingers through his hair and stops in front of the arrows.
“A to C,” he says. “or J, K, L?”
“A to C, over here.” Todd steps forward and grabs the guy’s elbow.
Jay jerks away and gives Todd a puzzled look. “Is this a magic show?”
I almost fall off my chair laughing. The meaning of the colorful bandanas hanging out of Todd’s back pocket is entirely lost on Mr. Jay Park Ahn.
Unperturbed, Todd waves an orange paisley in the ballplayer’s face and pulls the man’s badge from under his sleeve. He hands him the badge and points him my direction. Thank you, Todd.
A gleaming smile brightens the gorgeous man’s face. “I’m Jay Park Ahn, pitcher. Sorry, I’m late.”
“Oh, not a problem.” I hold out my hand, figuring he’ll shake it, not knowing the customs around here.
“Call me Jay.” He takes my hand and dips his head, bringing his lips to my knuckles and kisses. Swoon. Do men still do this in the twenty-first century? Apparently Jay’s been watching too many BBC dramas.
Behind him, Todd rolls his eyes, sticking out his tongue and making a gagging motion.
An electrifying tingle runs up my arm. Really? That fast? I stifle a giggle as the handsome rookie releases my hand. “First spring training?”
“Yes.” He consults his smartphone. “Did I miss the team?”
I run my finger down the printout. “You’re a Rattler. Looks like they don’t meet until two. Here are your conference materials, room assignment, and gift pack. Wife and children?”
“Not yet, unless they’re in these bags.” He peeks into one of the tote bags and winks.
Zing. Is he flirting with me? My elevated heart rate stirs the butterflies in my belly and I clear my throat, striving to remain professional. “You’re free to go to lunch now.”
“Sure, yes, thanks for asking. Shall we?” And there’s that charming, irresistible twinkle in his eye.
“Uh, I, well, have to clean up, and then, well, my break’s coming up, uh.” Why is my tongue not working?
“I’ll pack up,” Todd says. “Show Mr. Jay around. Have lunch, dinner, a massage.” He yanks me from behind the table and pats my behind. “Go get them, tigress. Rrrrr…”
Jay’s eyes widen slightly. “Tigress, I’ll be sure to ask for you at the spa. My neck’s sore from the flight. Sixteen hours and two layovers.”
“Ah, I can show you where the spa is, and I’m Jessica.”
“Just sick? I’m sorry. When you feel better I’ll order the massage. You Korean?”
There goes that eye twinkle or half wink again as if he’s using the ‘I’m a foreigner, I don’t know the language that well’ excuse to mangle my name. Either that or he’s got something in his eye.
“Half. My mother’s Filipina and my father’s from Korea. I know a few words like Ann-yeong and sa-rang hae-yo.”
“Hello, I love you,” he translates, and his wide mouth stretches over sparkly white teeth.
“Uh, I mean, that’s all I know, my father, you know, that’s what he says to my mom,” I mumble, my face flushed and hot as I redirect his attention to his conference materials. “Got everything you need?”
“Just about.” Jay scoops up his duffle bag, folders, and tote bags. A pen slips from a folder as he hooks a long finger through his goodie bag. One of the plastic handles break and food and sports supplement samples spill onto the carpet.
I dive for a yogurt container right when he bends for it. His duffle bag swings around and crashes into a arrangement of lilies. I try to catch the flowers, but the pot slips through my fingers and lands upside down. A juice box explodes under my flip-flops and sprays my bare legs as I tumble to the ground, my face planting in the lump of potting soil.
A child’s voice says, “Daddy, look at the clown. She knocked down the flowers.”
“Ha, ha, ha, that was good.” Jay claps. “Is this what they call vaudeville?”
My jaw slams to the ground. I need some help here and he’s laughing along with the children?
I sit up on my haunches and dust my face. The juice splattered over me makes the dirt sticky, and I’m sure my white shorts are Hawaiian punch colored.
“Need some help?” Jay reaches for me.
“About time.” I take his hand. Bam, his lethal duffle bag swings like a battering ram into my face.
A crowd of children shriek with laughter. One boy grabs the upended plant basket and smashes me over the head. Stalks of lilies tangle in my hair, and potting soil water drips over my eyebrows.
“More, more, more,” the children chant.
“Show’s over. Thank you, thank you.” Todd takes my hand and lifts it. “Take a bow.”
What else can I do? I have potting soil in my eyelashes and I’m marinated in fruit punch. I bow and manage to escape while Todd waves his bandana signals and throws candy into the crowd.
So much for the sexy siren act or at least the perky intern come-on. I settle for fruit punch dirt queen and duck for the service stairs.
I’m halfway to my room when I hear footsteps. “Tigress, wait up.”
What now? Does the rookie of the year need a babysitter?
Jay catches me, leaving a trail of coupons and flyers. Fumbling in his orientation folder, he says, “I can’t find my keycard, and I need to use the bathroom. Sixteen hours is a long flight.”
Gah. Don’t tell me he hasn’t peed since Korea.
“Come with me.” I yank the folder from him and powerwalk to my door.
Jay rushes in as soon as I slide the keycard. There’s a man scream and a thump, followed by a door slam and the sound of fluid hitting the toilet bowl.
“Who’s that?” Preston Jook, the guy who’s pretending to be my boyfriend, points at the closed bathroom door, then grimaces as he takes in the dirt and juice I’m bathed in. “And what the hell happened to you?”
“Long story. How’d you get into my room?”
He waves a keycard. “Easy. I showed them we were in a relationship on Facebook and they gave me a card.”
For the fourth time in the last hour, my jaw scrapes the floor. “But we’re not really in a relationship. It’s Facebook only. They can’t be handing out keycards to anyone who walks by.”
He flashes me a cheesy grin, looking as strained as a constipated child. “Lesson eight. I flirted with the receptionist. Mastered the art of charm. I complimented her clean good looks and how this hotel excels in customer service. She was eating it up, telling me how she scored the highest in all rubrics. Of course, the highest scoring service agent couldn’t turn down my woeful tale about wanting to surprise my girlfriend with an engagement ring.”
Part of me’s proud of Preston’s achievement. The middle child of an academically enriched family, he was so lacking in polish and charm that his father hired me to improve his image. Three months ago, he could never have pulled off a keycard heist on the strength of a Facebook relationship status.
“Good for you.” I pat Preston’s back. “I’ll write this up in my report for your father. Now you have to leave since I’m a mess and there’s a famous baseball player in my bathroom.”
The bathroom door opens, and gulp. The ballplayer, major league pitcher to be exact, fills the entire door frame.
“Jay Park!” Preston squeals. “I love you. 2.49 earned run average, a 97-mph fastball. And you’re here in America. Squee!”
[end of excerpt]

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