Healing the Quarterback

By: Leslie North

Wildhorse Ranch Brothers Book Two



She was a sports medicine specialist and probably not supposed to have a favorite football team.

But damn it if Dylan Rose didn't love the Texas Teamsters.

She wandered through the packed stadium, munching kettle corn and taking in the football fans lining up for their own concessions. She always arrived at the stadium early so she’d have plenty of time to people watch. It was already the second week of September—the start of the regular season—but ninety-degree heat in Austin meant most ticketholders were buying seat cushions and postponing the moment they stepped out into the baking-hot sun. The covered walkway provided shelter from the elements, sure, but was packed with enough activity to constitute a carnival: children ran screaming underfoot, dull-eyed custodians spun their brooms around like stiff dance partners, and men and women guffawed with equal bravado. It was an atmosphere of ecstatic celebration, and the air crackled with barely-checked feelings of pride and rivalry.

Not to mention smells. Freshly-spun cotton candy, hot dogs grilled until they split open, something that gushed hot out of a machine and passed for cheese—all of this and more perfumed the air. The mouthwatering, caramel-salt smell of kettle corn popping had been the arrow to Dylan's own self-control.

Unfortunately, where humans gathered, they brought with them other smells. Spilled soda, body odor, and overflowing bathrooms—every aroma seemed to be competing as hard as the players were about to in the hopes of taking home a trophy.

When it all became too much for her, Dylan mounted the steps to the upper deck of the stadium. She would get some exercise walking laps at a higher altitude and escape the crowd for a bit, before heading back down to her own seat in time for kickoff in an hour.

She had not figured on getting knocked on her ass by a freight train.

It had to be some form of locomotive that hit her and sent her ten-dollar popcorn flying out of her hands. Nothing else could account for the power, the sheer force, responsible for the collision. It knocked the air out of her lungs, the sunglasses off her face, the indignation off her tongue; Dylan rebounded off the obstacle, arms pinwheeling, until someone reached out and caught her.

The train had a hand. He had a face.

God, did he have a face.

The man gazed down his nose at her, surprised but not in the slightest bit upset by their encounter. The man towering over her had a strong jaw, cocked slightly off-center in a rueful smile. His eyes were a wintery blue, and his blond hair hung down past his incongruous square chin.

"Excuse me, I didn't—" she began.

"Sorry about your—"

They both offered their stumbling apologies at once. The man held up a finger, and Dylan clicked her mouth shut. Wait a minute—had he really just signaled her like she was a dog? But he stooped down in front of her like Cinderella's prince to pick up her sunglasses, and she decided to let it slide. Speaking of letting things slide, it was all too easy to imagine from this angle how her hands might arc down those incredible shoulders of his…

It hit her like the first kickoff of the season. They had never met before, but this man was all too familiar. Dylan knew he was famous before she could put a name to his face, to his body. He was football stock, but he wasn't just any ordinary player.

Charlie Wild, starting quarterback of the Texas Teamsters, straightened and brushed the popcorn kernels off her glasses before passing them back to her.

"Yours, I believe."

"Thank you."

The way his eyes lingered on her…he must have some imagination hidden away in that impenetrable head of his, Dylan mused. He may dote on her like Cinderella, but she was definitely the sans-ball gown Cindy. Today she had dressed herself in a white slouchy tee, a corner of which she tucked into the front of her jeans to give the casual viewer at least some evidence of her trim stomach. A baseball cap pulled low over her eyes completed the lazy, figure-swallowing ensemble.

It amused her to watch the behemoth lean in again, conspicuously this time, to try for a good glimpse of her face beneath the hat. Now that she knew who he was, she also knew his specs. Charlie Wild: six-foot-six, two hundred eighty pounds, thirty years old. He hadn't just trained himself to peak physical perfection, he had invented it. In all her time pursuing a degree in sports medicine, Dylan had never been faced with a specimen like him. He looked like he had descended from Valhalla to play starting quarterback for the Texas Teamsters.

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