NFL quarterback, Zolt Hamil was America’s heartthrob until a career ending injury changed his life. Years later, he’s picked up the pieces and carved out a new path for himself. But the mental and physical scars of that day have left him moody and reclusive, and his only relief is indulging in pleasure and pain with his many one night stands. Though many of women have tried, Zolt refuses to care about any of them. Only one woman has his heart; a hallucination of a young, sable-eyed, blonde beauty whom he conjured that painful day on the football field.
On the first day at his new job at a law firm in Scottsdale, Arizona, Zolt comes face to face with his hallucination, Irelyn Wilkes. Their fateful connection, and explosive passion for each other pulls them together, and this time, Zolt refuses to let her slip from his life.
But Irelyn has her own demons to fight, and her controlling boyfriend is one of them. He doesn't take kindly to other people playing with his toys, and he’ll stop at nothing to keep her by his side.
Can Irelyn and Zolt defy the odds and find a way to be together? Or, will the events set in motion years ago keep them apart forever?
New Adult. Recommended for eighteen and above due to adult content, language, and sexual situations.
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Chapter One: Shadow-Self
I ran my hand along her naked arm as I moved toward the bindings that had her securely fastened to my wrought iron, four-poster bed. She’d been tethered there for over thirty minutes, and now that the sex was over, I imagined her arms and legs were probably beginning to ache as the adrenaline left her body. Miss No-Name Brunette rubbed her arms and legs after I released her. I didn’t need or want
to know her name. I’d never see her again so what was the point.
She watched me gather my clothes, and her eyes roaming appreciatively over my body.
“So, John, when can I see you again? You’re amazing.” She licked her plump lips as her eyes traveled over my naked body, stopping when she noticed the nasty scars on my left shin. Small gray
eyes darted to mine, and I saw the pity setting in. Pity was a deal breaker for me.
“We can’t,” I said and threw her clothes on the bed.
“Why?” Her bottom lip jutted out in disappointment. “Didn’t you enjoy yourself? You seemed to be having a great time.”
“It was fine, uh—”
“Nancy. My name is Nancy.”
I shrugged. “Right. Nancy. I don’t do repeat performances. Ever.”
“Don’t take it personally. It’s just the way things are.”
Her eyes narrowed, and she scowled at me. Then, she climbed off the bed and pulled on her clothes. “I don’t understand. Are you married or something?”
“Nope. Not married or anything else that concerns you. I’m just not interested. Tonight was great. Really. I enjoyed the shit out of myself. Fucking you was exactly what I needed. Thanks.”
“How am I supposed to get home? I left my car at the club,” she whined.
“There’s a cab waiting to take you anywhere you want. I’ve already paid the fare.” I shrugged again. This was the bothersome part of operating this way. They always wanted to see me again, and my answer was always no.
“I should have known when you wouldn’t kiss me there was something wrong with you. I bet your name isn’t even John. Do you even live here?” Whatever-her-name yanked on her shoes,
and then stood with her arms crossed over her chest.
“No, I don’t live here. And, darlin’, my name is whatever you want it to be.”
“Come on, now. We both had fun.” I flashed her my megawatt smile. “I’m pretty sure you came at least three times. It’s all good, and now, it’s all over.” I walked to her side and gently took her arm, guiding her to the door.
“But I let you restrain me!” She stamped her foot as I opened the front door.
“You did and wasn’t it fun? Maybe you can find a man that will be as adventurous. Now, off you go, Sally. Bye, bye.”
“Nancy!” she shouted as I closed the door on her. I could still hear grumbling as she walked away.
“Ugh.” Leaning against the door, I let out a long sigh. It would be a while before I could go back to that club. Too bad it ended the same every time. But I understood why. Women saw me as a
catch. I knew I was attractive. It wasn’t conceit, either. It was a fact of life that all men of the Hamil family were hot. My first year in the NFL, I was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as the Sexiest Man in Football. That cover, and the other endorsements I had, made me a nice amount of cash, so I was totally good with being an object of desire. Since they didn’t really know me, they didn’t know that I was nowhere as attractive on the inside.
I went back to the bedroom, washed and put the toys away, locking the drawer. Then, I stripped the bed, piling the sheets on the floor for the maid service to take care of. I left, not knowing when I'd come back. Could be the following day. Could be two weeks from now. But tonight, I’d been out of fucking control—chomping at the bit to blow off some steam. In fact, I still hummed with energy.
My shadow-self pressed in on me for days. When I got like this, only one thing helped: acting out. So, I’d gone to the club in search of the first remotely available Nancy, Sally, or whoever, that didn’t revolt me. Nancy had been an easy mark. I hadn’t been there ten minutes before I’d bought her a drink, and we were out the door, heading to the apartment I kept specifically for this purpose. I was always happy when I found a woman willing to dabble in a little bondage. I wasn’t heavily into the BDSM scene, but knew how to wield pain for the ultimate pleasure. If I stopped and thought about it, I’d be forced to acknowledged just how screwed up my life had become. So I didn't. I didn't think about all the nameless women I had fucked in the last six years, and how I hadn't been in a relationship since the injury. These exchanges served a purpose.
Beyond that? Well, there was nothing beyond that. But that didn’t mean I had become so jaded I’d forgotten how to get a woman off. I enjoyed women. Loved the soft curves of their body, and loved making them come. There was nothing hotter than watching a woman writhe and squirm as I fucked her closer to orgasm. The sound of her screaming what she thought was my name was music to my ears, but that was as far as it went. The reality was, I was a mess, and I didn't want that advertised. Actually, I was far worse than just a mess; I was fucking broken. Sometimes, I wondered if I was even capable of having a normal relationship. Truth was, I
waited for someone that didn't exist. A woman my pain-wracked brain conjured that day on the football field. To make matters worse, she wasn’t even of age. She was a young woman, maybe
fifteen or sixteen, with the most beautiful sable-brown eyes and blonde hair I’d ever seen. Her face was sweet, kind, and compassion filled. I realized how creepy this sounds. I wasn't a sick fuck who preyed on young girls, and I had no idea why my mind created her. But all I knew was, if I ever discovered she was real, I’d do anything to have her.
I rubbed my aching leg, and then climbed into my Viper. God, I loved this car. She was all power and beauty, and driving her made me happy. I revved the engine and closed my eyes, loving
the purr, and sometimes roar of her V10. Once on route 101, I opened her up, pushing her past the century mark on the speedometer. It was crazy to be weaving in and out of traffic on the main freeway. I was asking to be pulled over, but again, I didn't care. In fact, I pressed her harder and watched as the needle climbed to 110. The concentration it took to control this machine exhilarated me. Still wound up and looking to banish my shadow-self the only way I knew how, I pushed her just a little more. Why fucking for over an hour didn’t do the trick, I had no idea. But if I didn’t burn this energy off before I got home, sleep would be out of reach. It wouldn’t do to start a new job at one of the country’s most prestigious law firms red-eyed and tired. Once home, I intended to take a long, hot shower, and then smoke a few bowls. Hopefully, I’d emerge tired enough to sleep. For a while, maybe I’d find peace until the nightmare returned that plunged me into my own personal hell. A hell that I was used to. A hell that only she brought me out of.
The morning announced itself in its usual fashion. I jolted awake screaming, and drenched in sweat—the images as clear as the day they happened. “Fuck!” I yelled to the empty room. Pushing myself back against the headboard, I rubbed my leg, trying to make the pain go away. The image of her lovely face and those amazing sable-brown eyes chased the nightmare away, but my body still buzzed with the memories. I looked over at the bong and lighter on my bedside table and sighed. Just once, I wished I didn’t have to numb myself to start the day. Before giving in, I ran my hand over my damp collar-length hair, removing the waves sticking to my moist neck. I used to keep it short for this very reason, but I liked the way it looked longer. As I always did, I picked up the bong and lit the bowl with the lighter. The glow of the burning weed, and the sound of the bong gurgling as I took a hit immediately calmed me. I inhaled deep and held the smoke in my burning lungs. My long exhale sent a plume of smoke into the dawn-lit room. It floated for a second before dissipating, leaving behind the tangy smell of burning weed. With my eyes closed, I slowed my heart rate and rapid breathing. The high kicked in, and I already felt the calm take over. I hated being so weak, and hated that what happened almost six years ago continued to affect and define my days. I used to be the epitome of discipline. Not anymore. If I could let go of the self-blame, then maybe the dreams would abate. But night after night,
I replayed the game and its never changing end. At twenty-two, I had been one of the hottest quarterbacks in the NFL, playing for the Arizona Cardinals. The year prior, we’d made it to the NFC Championships, losing by a field goal. The next year, we were back in the same position, with the golden ticket to the Super Bowl
within our reach. The only thing standing in our way was the Philadelphia Eagles. I snarled as I thought about that team. I always snarled at the thought of them. Two minutes remained on the clock, and we were on the ten-yard line on third down. I dropped into the pocket, searching the field for an open receiver. I danced this way and that as if my movements might slow the clock. With no receiver available, I sucked in a breath and decided to go
for it. What I should have done was thrown it out of bounds and stopped the clock. That would have been the smart move—the safe move. We had one more chance. I had to make it happen. The
year had to end in a run for the Super Bowl. Running like a man on fire with the ball cradled against me as if I carried a newborn baby, I headed for the end zone. But I wasn't a running back, that wasn't what I had been trained for. Stupidly, I ran with my head down instead of up. As a result, I didn’t see the three-hundred pound
linebacker heading my way. I was the man with the ball, and I had left the protection of my offensive line, which made me fair game.
The next thing I knew, I was laid out on the ground in extreme pain. When I looked down at my left leg, I was surprised—and not—to see it angled in an unnatural position. I knew then that I
was well and truly fucked. I tried to scream, but my voice failed me. Pain and the smell of the turf below me was all there was.
The hit was dirty, straight up. Later, I found out a bounty of $5,000 had been issued for any player that took out one of my knees. I hoped he got a bonus because he’d gone above and beyond
his mandate. Not only did I miss a season, my football career was over. Instead of taking out my knee, his helmet, and the power behind it, hit my shin and shattered my tibia and fibula. I remembered lying on the ground as the trainers and medical staff attended me. Chaos had broken out around me. Players fought, and coaches and referees argued. I needed to find peace from the commotion; needed to concentrate on something other than
the excruciating pain coming from my leg. I turned my head and found a pair of big, sable-brown eyes, surrounded by golden-blonde hair, staring at me. She was beyond beautiful, and her eyes were
mesmerizing. I had conjured an angel.
In my hallucination, we shared an instant connection. When all around I saw pity and remorse, in her eyes, I found solace and compassion—a kindred soul to my loss. The need to help, and her inability not to, showed in the tears falling down her face, and the trembling of her full red lips. My heart still clenched whenever I thought about it. As conjurings go, I had created a whopper. When I thought back on it, I knew there was no way she could be real. The average person wouldn’t have been allowed to get so close to an injured player on the field. Hell, my girlfriend, who’d been sitting in the stands, wasn’t allowed on the field. It still baffled the shit out of me that my mind had created such a vivid image. I could still see her brushing tears from her eyes in my hallucination, and I remember her taking a small step forward. I wanted her to come closer, to touch me. That was where the hallucination ended, stopped by a new streak of pain that had traveled through my leg, sending me into momentary blackness. When I opened my eyes, my blonde-haired beauty with soul-filled eyes had disappeared. All I had left was the image of her that pulled me from my terror every morning. I figured she’d probably be around twenty or twenty-one by now if she were real. I’d admit, that even today, I looked for those eyes in every blonde I encountered. Pathetic. Yeah. Too fucking pathetic. I sighed and took two more hits off the bong. Maybe one too many, but at least now I felt more balanced, controlled, and ready to start the day. What the world saw now was a man who graduated from Harvard Law School, summa cum
laude, and worked for almost three years at a top law firm in Boston. Some of the country's top law firms had courted me, and I had my pick of firms. But I decided to come back to Arizona, the place where my life changed forever. Gingerly, I climbed out of the bed and headed for the pool. I didn’t bother putting on swim trunks; swimming naked was awesome. After a few stretches, I dove into the pool and swam laps for an hour. Swimming kept me in shape, though not the shape of an NFL football player. Those days were gone. Finishing my laps, I headed for the shower, feeling excited, like something huge would happen today. The last time I had this feeling, something huge happened all right. I looked at my leg
and scowled as sudsy water washed over my angry scars.
I dried off and walked into my closet, surveying the suits I had to choose from. I was somewhat of a clotheshorse—always had been. Today, I picked a black Hugo Boss suit, white shirt, and black, silk tie. In the mirror before me, I watched a professional, seemingly together man tie his tie. It was a lie of course, but one I was used to.
Once dressed, I went to the kitchen and packed up a brownie in a plastic bag to take with me. I'd gotten good at baking brownies. But these weren't just any chocolaty treats. These had a kick. Cliché I know, but hey, whatever got me through the day. Whether I’d partake in it depended on how the day went. Obviously, smoking at work wasn’t a good idea. But every now and then, the pain became unbearable. If a handful of ibuprofen didn’t do the trick, the brownie would. I refused to take pain meds. Those things did a number on my brain. I put the brownies away, and all the paraphernalia of my coping mechanism, and locked
them in a cabinet in the pantry. I didn't need Hannah, my housekeeper, finding them. She probably wouldn't care, but I did.
Thinking of Hannah made me laugh. I'd only met her twice, but we had developed an odd, sometimes hilarious, texting relationship. I really liked her. Her cooking was amazing, and she kept
my home perfect. Her work was about to increase, and I was thrilled. My brother was bringing my dog, Ben, home to me. He had been with Brody in Colorado for the last two months while I got settled. I couldn't wait to see both of them. Thinking about it made me giddy. I knew Ben would love it here. There was plenty of room for him to run. Bernese Mountain dogs needed lots of exercise. I almost didn’t get him because of that. Now, I couldn’t imagine my life without him. He got my ass outside and stopped me from being such a hermit. If I thought about the fact that my best friend was a dog, I would get bummed. But then again, fuck it! I loved my dog, and I had missed him terribly. I doled out my handful of vitamins and four ibuprofen into my hand, and then popped them into my mouth. From the fridge, I pulled out a bottle of OJ, taking large swigs from the bottle.
Let the day begin, I thought as I walked down the hall to the door. The sound of my designer shoes on the travertine floors reminded me of the sound of cleats on concrete. It made me smile, but the memory was bittersweet, and I pushed it aside. Behind bittersweet was pure malice, an emotion I couldn't allow myself. Not today.
Grabbing the keys to my Viper, I headed out the door. Watch out Arizona, Zolt Hamil was back.
When she's not spending time in her fantasy world, Dawna loves football, reading, and pretending she's a top chef in the kitchen. Oh, and fawning over her dogs and husband, sometimes in that order.
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