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Dare To Love Series_A Stranger's Dare, page 1

 

Dare To Love Series_A Stranger's Dare
 

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Dare To Love Series_A Stranger's Dare


  Table of Contents

  CHAPTER ONE

  CHAPTER TWO

  CHAPTER THREE

  CHAPTER FOUR

  CHAPTER FIVE

  CHAPTER SIX

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  CHAPTER EIGHT

  CHAPTER NINE

  CHAPTER TEN

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  CHAPTER TWELVE

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  CHAPTER FOURTEEN

  CHAPTER FIFTEEN

  CHAPTER SIXTEEN

  CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

  CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

  CHAPTER NINETEEN

  FIVE MONTHS LATER

  THE END

  Text copyright ©2017 by the Author.

  This work was made possible by a special license through the Kindle Worlds publishing program and has not necessarily been reviewed by CP Publishing. All characters, scenes, events, plots and related elements appearing in the original Dare To Love Series remain the exclusive copyrighted and/or trademarked property of CP Publishing, or their affiliates or licensors.

  For more information on Kindle Worlds: http://www.amazon.com/kindleworlds

  A STRANGER’S DARE

  A Kindle World Novella

  By

  Vonnie Davis

  DEDICATION

  To all the awesome coaches my kids had in high school and college.

  And for Calvin—always.

  CHAPTER ONE

  A bead of sweat streamed down Webb Mohanty’s back. His fingers curled into fists on the glossy table in one of Gabe Dare’s conference rooms. Webb’s throat, too dry for his liking, needed a few fingers of his favorite single malt whiskey.

  It was time to stop this chair-to-chair barrage of criticism.

  “You know, I must have tied the knot in this necktie too tight this morning. I think it’s cutting off the blood to my brain because I could swear all of you are telling me I’ve been a naughty boy and it’s fucking time I cleaned up my act.”

  Damned if he wasn’t pissed.

  “That’s exactly what we’re telling you.” The accountant for the Miami Thunder football team shook a fistful of newspaper and magazine clippings at Webb. “I don’t care if you are some kind of American hero turned gridiron sensation. We’re starting to lose money on you. I’ve done the calculations. It would be cheaper to buy you out of your contract, than to keep paying to cover your destructive shenanigans.”

  Webb’s left nut went into hiding. The right one wasn’t far behind. Hell, he lived to play football. Loved the good and bad of it. His blood had pumped for the thrill of the game since first grade when he played on a midget team. Even if he never could please his old man.

  Football was the one thing he’d missed with a passion while he was a SEAL. Now, at twenty-nine, he knew he only had a few years left to play. Most running backs retired around the age of thirty and he was inching toward that milestone. He still felt great. Maybe he could last a couple years beyond that. A few had.

  “Is this what you want? For us to let you go? Shit man, drunken brawls, car chases with cops in hot pursuit, and women coming and going from your bedroom as if it had a revolving door. Sometimes in fucking pairs,” barked the team traveling director, his gaze harsh as he leaned toward Webb. “We expect that out of some of our regular players, but not the SEAL who rescued the senator’s son from some hellhole in Russia. That alone gave our team a lot of good press.”

  Webb ran a hand down his face. “Yeah, and that was supposed to be kept secret. Thanks to that leak, new civilian, or not, I had to go before Naval Intelligence and answer some damn hard questions. Mainly, how my being part of a highly classified mission to rescue a six-year-old boy became fodder for the papers. Hell, I had no clue how anyone got ahold of that information. I just know my part in saving a scared little boy was used to make me look damn special. And I wasn’t. I was merely doing my duty.”

  Feet shuffled under the table and a few throats were cleared. Webb was definitely irate.

  He’d had to dodge every reporter’s question about his involvement in bringing the senator’s son home to his parents. The kidnapping of a little boy—such a heartless old school tactic. Yet the Russians were doing their damndest to keep his mother, who headed a senate committee, from ruling against Russia’s interests on some oil leases or shipping rights or some such shit.

  Political bullshit aside, all he’d cared about was getting to the kid. So what if he’d taken a bullet in the process? That was past history on a need-to-know basis and the press sure as hell didn’t need to know.

  Webb’s reply to the traveling director had been heated. After all, he was the best damn running back in the league. His service and private life was his. So what if he blew off a little steam now and then to erase the memories?

  “Since the Florida branch of the family controls the team, I don’t mind providing rooms for the players to bunk in style when they have games in cities where I own hotels.” Gabe Dare clasped his hands on the table, his face tightened as if he’d just sucked two lemons dry. “But damn, every room you’re assigned to is always trashed worse than the others.”

  Fuck if Webb didn’t feel like a person who’d made a first class ass of himself. He couldn’t recall destroying any hotel rooms. Maybe he had been drinking too much, partying too hard. “I’ll take responsibility for my actions, Gabe. Send me the bills.” He lifted his chin toward the accountant. “Get my home address from the penny counter and send me the bill. I’ll pay for whatever I bust up.”

  Gabe pointed. “I’m holding you to that. Not because I need the damn money, but because a man has to know his actions have consequences.”

  Hell, this is worse than being in the principal’s office back at Franklin High.

  Finally, the headmotherfucker spoke. “Do you want to continue playing for my team?” Ian Dare inquired, his tone all business. His eyes narrowed as he issued the challenge.

  “Of course. There’s no team I’d rather be with.” Webb’s heart rate pounded a path toward the end zone. Hell, this conversation was more serious than he had originally thought. Why else would the big wigs fly you from Florida to New York, dipshit?

  “When you walked on the field to try out for the team, you still had swagger and a can-do attitude from the SEALs,” the coach said. “You shone like a bullet aiming for a terrorist and ran twice as fast. Nothing and no one slowed you down the first two years, especially those young pups fresh out of college. Then all at once you changed, as if you began believing all your press. Shit, Mohanty, pull yourself together.”

  Gabe had his fingers steepledunder his chin. “Did you take any time off after you left the SEALs? You know, to regroup, get some counseling for post war stress?”

  If Webb didn’t know better, he’d swear there was caring in Gabe’s eyes. “No. I was too eager to play football again. I needed to stay active.” To keep the hounds of war at bay.

  “You say you want to stay with the Thunder. Well, here’s where the cleats hit the AstroTurf. I want my American hero back and you’re going to deliver by creating a new image.” The team’s owner shook his finger at him.

  “A new—”

  Ian extended his hand in a stop gesture. “Don’t interrupt the man who signs your paychecks. From here on out, I’m assigning you to Gabe. For some reason, he’s taken a liking to your ass. You’ll still be under contract with us, but will answer to him.”

  Webb glanced at Gabe who nodded his endorsement.

  “Here’s the rules we’ve gone over. A one drink minimum. And don’t think we won’t be watching. You’ll have a driver. One of Gabe’s security men who wants a change of scenery, Cooper Samuels.”
He jerked his head toward a bald, stone-faced man occupying a seat along the wall.

  “You’ll also choose a charity or a school to support. Pick one and plan on giving it a several hours of your time every week.” He slid the paper across the polished table toward Webb.

  His eyes scanned the list of possible causes for him to support with his time and froze on one illness. A familiar pain twisted his heart. Bile surged up his throat. Mia Rose, his little niece. He blinked rapidly to gain control of his emotions. Shame rolled in. He should have thought of doing something like this before with his new found fame. Man, he’d been a selfish, worthless soul.

  During the span of this meeting, his reactions bounced from annoyance to anger and now the gut-wrenching agony of losing a beloved child. He chose Acute Leukemia in Children because the disease had chosen his family. And the illness was an unrelenting, motherfucking bitch.

  More conversation jerked him from the dark hole of grief. He rejoined the present mid-topic.

  “Gabe is right. Because of all those reasons, we need to build you back up as a heroic figure,” the team’s public relations expert chimed in.

  Wait! What did Gabe say? I missed that part.

  “We want you to become a football player who does more than play hard on and off the field. That’s why we’ve put together this little plan.”

  Plan? A headache pounded behind his eyes. This didn’t sound good.“What kind of plan?” What did they want? Their best pro running back to live in a monastery?

  “Well, son, if you’re going to do something big and have it go viral, the place to do it is in New York City,” Ian spoke again.“That’s why we flew you up here. We’ve hired a couple of actors to stage a purse snatching incident in front of Gabe’s illustrious hotel, where you’ll be staying.

  “Be out front this afternoon at four-twenty. Look for the lady with the red purse. Once our thief,” and he used air quotes around the word, “nabs her purse and she yells that she’s been robbed, you take off running, knock the guy down, and retrieve the bag. We’ll have a couple people there with cellphones to snap pics and post online.”

  Indignation over this stupid ass idea had acid rolling in his stomach. “You aren’t serious?”

  “As a fucking heart attack, Mohanty. Step number one to cleaning up your image is some good press for a change. You’re a hero, so let’s use it. Wear what you’re wearing now. Not running clothes. It’ll look too staged. Now, as for women, I expect you to cage that pecker for a month. After that, look around and find one decent woman to date for a while.”

  “A freaking month?”

  His nuts sobbed.

  “Look, nowhere in my contract does it say you can control my sex life.”

  “No, but there is a morals clause and believe me, except for drugs and murder, you’ve broken every part of it.” Ian Dare stood. “I think we’re through here. Webb, I’m assuming you’re intelligent enough to see the seriousness of your situation. No more pranks. This is your last chance.”

  “Oh, and bring the lady whose purse you retrieve to our table at the private dining room of Elite tonight. It’ll make for a great photo op,” the public relations manager ordered. “There’s a huge woman’s association meeting at the hotel where you’re staying, so keep your attentions focused only on the damsel in distress you rescue this afternoon. Got it?”

  “Yeah, I got it.” He’d just been shafted. No more booze except for a drop, no fun, no fast cars, and no more sweet tasting women. Dip him in vanilla, he was so done.

  He shoved his chair back to stand and Gabe motioned for him to stay. Once the room was empty except for the two of them and Cooper, Gabe rose to pour them each a drink. He passed a thick tumbler to Webb. “Rules or not, I think after that meeting, you could use this. Drink it slowly. My generosity only goes so far.” The scowl on his face put a period on his statement.

  “Thanks, sir.” Webb sipped at the fine Scotch. What would it be like being under Gabe’s watchful eye?

  “Coop, get your ass over to the table. You’re part of this discussion.” Gabe sat between Cooper and Webb. “I’m going to stick my nose in your private business. I’ve learned from family members the value of good counseling. I keep a psychiatrist on retainer for my employees and friends who hit hard times. It’s a service I offer for free and privately. The only reason Coop is in on this conversation is he’ll have to drive you back and forth to Dr. Paul’s office. I trust him.” He patted Cooper’s shoulder. “You can too.”

  “You think I need a shrink?” Hell, man, I’m not crazy.

  “I think you saw a lot while serving our country. Stuff like that has to leave scars. Triggers. Hell, in my opinion, any one coming back from war or secret ops missions needs a good listening ear. Someone to suggest coping mechanisms. If you agree, I’d like for you to spend as much time as you can here in the city.”

  Webb and Gabe stared at each other for a few beats.

  “You’ve barely touched your drink. They scared the bejesus out of you, didn’t they?”

  Webb turned the container of amber liquid slowly in his hands. Damn, he wanted to down it all, but not at the cost of losing his spot on the team. “I feel like I’ve been pulled backwards through a gnat’s asshole. Hell, a bottle of Scotch wouldn’t undo what I’ve just been through. Go ahead. Contact the shrink.”

  “Excellent decision. You won’t regret it.” Gabe stood and exited the conference room.

  CHAPTER TWO

  Cooper visibly relaxed on the way to his assigned car. Webb judged the muscled mass to be a couple years older than him. “You know, Gabe can be a tough boss. Hard as fucking nails. But he’s fair, as you just saw.” Cooper unlocked the black BMW with his keyfob and settled behind the steering wheel.

  Once Webb was in the passenger’s seat, his driver started talking again. “We’re all loyal to the boss for the way he treats us. Gabe knew I was having a hard time after my wife walked out. Paid extra attention to my dark moods. Sent me to Dr. Paul. When I asked for a different kind of assignment, he promised he’d help me. That’s how I ended up with you.”

  “I hope I won’t be too much of a pain in your ass.”

  Cooper’s muscular arm lay across the top of the seat as he backed the car out of the parking spot. “Yeah, and I hope I won’t have to bust a cap in yours.”

  For the first time that day, Webb laughed.

  The three block drive from Gabe’s offices to his top of the line hotel took fifteen minutes in New York City traffic. Cooper eased the BMW into the parking garage and handed the attendant a card he said was from Gabe. They were directed to a prime parking spot. Both carried their luggage inside to register and pick-up their room keys. Large signs were everywhere for some sort of women’s convention.

  “In the name of all that’s holy, Cooper, what the hell is RWA?”

  “Don’t know, Webb. Your boss’s team mentioned a large woman’s conflab. Hell, there must be hundreds of ‘em. Thousands.” His head was on a swivel as he took them all in. “It’s like a smorgasbord of women. Good Gawd a-Mighty! I’m getting half horned up.”

  Webb leaned his back against the long marble-topped registration desk of the swanky hotel. His gaze swept over the hordes of females, all sizes, ages, and in various styles of clothing, lugging huge suitcases.

  The lobby was crowded shoulder to shoulder and hip to delectable hip with women talking non-stop like hives of bees on steroids. Some squealed and charged—arms open wide—to hug another female they evidently hadn’t seen in ages. They all had briefcases slung over their shoulders, probably holding laptops.

  Ah, understanding registered and he nodded. RWA must stand for Registered Women Accountants. Now it made sense. He scanned the jewelry and high-end clothes some wore. Maybe it was Rich Women Accountants. Who knew? He shrugged, turned, and signed the electronic pad the receptionist presented.

  “Here are the keycards for your two rooms, Mr. Mohanty.” The harried hotel employee smiled weakly. “I apologize that yo
u and Mr. Samuels will be on different floors. But with a mega huge convention here at the same time as a high society wedding, we’re squeezing everyone in as best we can.”

  “I’m sure you are, ma’am. This is fine.” He passed Cooper his keycard.

  As Cooper and Webb walked toward the bank of elevators, some of the women…accountants…whatever, parted a path and gaped. Some whispered remarks. A good half-dozen or more females crowded in the large elevator behind them, their assortment of perfumes following.

  One middle-aged lady eyed Webb up and down. “Your tailor did a good job on your suit.” She brushed off an imaginary piece of lint.“It hugs every firm muscle. What do you do for a living, if you don’t mind me asking?”

  “I’m a pro-football player, ma’am. The name’s Webb Mohanty. I’m pleased to meet you and your name would be—?”

  She batted her eyes. “Maeve Greyson. Would you mind terribly if I took a picture?” She waved her cellphone side to side. “Imagine, my first day here and I’ve already met a professional football player.” Her bejeweled hand patted her chest. “Be still my heart. God, how tall are you, anyway?”

  Webb laughed and slid his arm over her shoulders. “I’m six-foot-six. Hand your phone to my driver. Cooper, snap a picture or two of this fine looking lady and me, would you?” Where have I heard of Maeve Greyson before?

  “You wouldn’t have Scottish blood flowing through those handsome veins, would you?” She glanced at his legs. “I bet you’d look mighty fine in a kilt.”

  He snapped his fingers. “Maeve Greyson, author of Scottish time travel romances?” She favored him with a broad smile. “My momma loves your books. She reads them as soon as they come out. Wait until I tell her I met you. Turn about’s fair play. Can my chauffer take a couple pictures of you and me for her?”

  “Of course.”

  Webb handed Coop his phone while Maeve pressed the elevator stop button and leaned her head on his chest. The rest of the women in the elevator car had gone silent. She glanced up at him. “You wouldn’t be single, would you? I have a special niece—”

 
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