Illegal Motion: A Loveswept Classic Romance, page 1
Illegal Motion is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
A Loveswept eBook Edition
Copyright © 1993 by Donna Kauffman
Excerpt from The Devil’s Thief by Samantha Kane copyright © 2012 by Nancy Kattenfeld.
Excerpt from Paradise Cafe by Adrienne Staff copyright © 1988 by Adrienne Staff.
Excerpt from The Perfect Catch by Linda Cajio copyright © 1995 by Linda Cajio.
All Rights Reserved.
Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
LOVESWEPT is a registered trademark of Random House, Inc.
Illegal Motion was originally published in paperback by Loveswept, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. in 1993.
Cover design: Lynn Andreozzi
Cover photograph: © Eastphoto/Gettyimages
This book is dedicated to my husband, Jeff—you were right, I can do this.
Special thanks to Joyce and Ellen for reading … and reading.… And to my family and friends for their unfailing support.
Excerpt from Samantha Kane’s The Devil’s Thief
Excerpt from Adrienne Staff’s Paradise Cafe
Excerpt from Linda Cajio’s The Perfect Catch
“As the charges against you stem from evidence obtained without a properly issued search warrant, I have no choice but to dismiss this case. Mr. Logan, you are free to go.”
The pounding of Judge Hanover’s gavel was lost in the cacophony of angry shouts and groans of disappointment from spectators packing the courtroom.
Nick Logan rose slowly from his chair at the defense table, wincing as he straightened the injured knee that had stiffened painfully during the long morning session. Frowning, he retrieved his briefcase. He should be overjoyed that he’d be leaving the courtroom without cold bracelets around his wrists, but he wasn’t. Justice hadn’t been done. And he wouldn’t be truly free until he could prove he was innocent.
Murmuring a thank-you to his attorney, he picked up his cane, then started up the aisle. A legion of reporters was sure to be waiting on the other side of the heavy swinging doors and he mentally prepared himself to face them. Those reporters certainly wouldn’t be fawning over him the way they had just the previous year when he’d helped the Jaguars win their second consecutive Super Bowl. No. They’d keep on attacking him as they had since the police had conveniently discovered packets of cocaine in his locker the day after he’d failed the NFL’s supposedly foolproof drug test.
The moment he emerged into the corridor, flashing lights blinded him while a thunder of questions assaulted his ears. Head held high, Nick threaded his way through the crowd. He tamped down his temper and the urge to tell the media his side of the story. It wouldn’t help. He’d come off looking as though he was out to get sympathy … or worse, that he was an outright liar. Pride was the only thing he had left.
Pride and Skylar Buchanan. Not for the first time Nick sent up a silent prayer of thanks for his college buddy. While the rest of the world believed Nick was just another overpaid jock who’d let success as an all-pro offensive tackle go to his head—and up his nose—Sky had gone out of his way to be supportive and to ferret out the truth.
Dazzling spring sunshine bounced off windshields and chrome as Nick picked his way through the cars in the lot and found his sedan. He tossed his briefcase and cane onto the passenger’s seat and carefully angled his six-foot-four-inch frame under the steering wheel. He smiled. Now that he wouldn’t be appealing a conviction from a jail cell, he could take a more active role in clearing his name. And he had a lot to work with. He and Sky had followed leads to one name, one startling name: Eric Miller. The Jaguars’ star quarterback just might be the man who had framed Nick. Sky had taken a job with the only person who might be able to give them conclusive proof—Eric’s lover at the time of Nick’s arrest: Willa Trask.
Out on the open road, Nick floored the accelerator, all pretense at patience gone.
Nick was frowning as he followed the winding corridor of the Millennium Sports Club to the weight room, where Sky had said to meet him. A fruitless and frustrating week had passed since his case had been dismissed. He’d come straight to the club from the airport; his trip to New York to appeal personally to the commissioner of football for reinstatement had been a failure.
His frown deepening into a scowl, Nick recalled the gratingly polite way the commissioner had dismissed him and his request for the ban to be rescinded so he’d be eligible to play for the Jaguars in the fall. Damn. The man wouldn’t even listen to him or his explanations. Nick vowed not to waste another minute. He had to clear his name. And fast. Thank God for Sky. He’d left a message on Nick’s machine that he had important new information and asking for a meeting at the club.
Hearing Sky’s unmistakable voice, Nick hesitated before opening the weight-room door.
“I don’t … think I can … get it up … again.”
“Sure you can. Come on, concentrate” came a feminine voice that was soft yet deep and brooked no argument. “You can do it, Sky. Now push. Push.”
The urge to find out who belonged to that intriguing voice of pure honey mixed with pure steel was irresistible. But Nick wasn’t one to invade a man’s privacy at a potentially delicate moment. He waited a discreet few seconds, then said loudly before cracking the door, “So Sky Buchanan can’t get it up again?” He eased into the cavernous room and stopped dead in his tracks.
A gorgeous, sexy redhead stood behind the weight bench where Sky was working out. Startled by Nick’s voice, she had straightened up and was looking directly at him.
The woman was tall, exceptionally fit, and slim. Her breasts were full, soft curves that pressed against the mint-green sweatsuit she wore. The sleeves had been cut out of the shirt, revealing two well-toned arms; the loose-fitting pants obscured the shape of her extremely long legs. His attention returned to her crowning glory, lingering on the strands of bright auburn hair escaping the band holding it away from her face. The curling wisps of hair clinging to her damp skin along with the memory of her caramel-coated voice made Nick forget his urgent need to talk with Sky. The woman took his breath away. His sudden desire for the striking redhead surprised him. Since his college days playing ball, he’d attracted the opposite sex like nectar drew bees. But it hadn’t taken long after turning pro for him to learn that the major reason a lot of women wanted to get into his bed was because he was a famous ballplayer. Bragging rights about sexual conquests weren’t the exclusive territory of men, he’d discovered. As a result, he’d become very selective.
Annoyed at being so easily sidetracked, Nick decided to get to the matter that had brought him to the club. To do so, he had to brush off the redhead.
“Millennium is certainly a ritzy enough health club, Sky, but the weight room?” The deliberately sarcastic edge to his voi
No longer irritated, the redhead’s expression turned to one of full-fledged anger. Nick belatedly realized that Sky’s taste in women must have changed. Judging from her stiffened spine and lifted chin, he could tell she was no fawning groupie—which meant there would be no practiced pout or flouncing out in a calculated chase-me-down-and-apologize huff.
His regret over his less than polite tactics must have shown on his face, because Ms. Sexy Voice’s expression changed from anger to resigned tolerance. She started to speak, but was interrupted by a loud groan.
The barbell hovered dangerously over Sky’s head for a moment before she snapped to attention and guided the heavily weighted iron bar to the rack in front of her. “Sky, I’m sorry,” she said, her voice even huskier than before. She fired an accusing glare at Nick before turning back to Sky, who was now sitting up and mopping at the sweat on his forehead. “I wasn’t … I mean … he distracted … Sorry,” she finished lamely.
When she looked back at Nick, her anger had returned full force. He was too far away to see the color of her eyes, but with her russet-red hair he’d lay odds on green.
“Mister, I don’t know who you are, or how you got in here after hours,” she stated clearly, her deep voice all steel now, “but in the future please be more careful about startling people around heavy weights. It’s dangerous and could result in serious injury.” Her pointed look left no doubt as to who the injured party would be.
Truly regretting his earlier words, Nick realized his error in judgment even more. She’d handled his rudeness—crudeness, really—very professionally, earning respect and an apology. Caught up in dealing with his continued fascination with her, Nick was a beat late recognizing how odd the expression on Sky’s face was.
“It’s okay, Willa,” Sky said. “I told Kelly to let him in before she left for the night. He usually has better manners.” He shot Nick a quelling look, silently urging him to keep his cool. “But I still claim him as a friend.” His smile tight at the corners, Sky gestured Nick over to them. “Willa Trask, meet Nick Logan, former college football teammate and a major cramp in my style.”
Willa Trask! This was Willa Trask? Nick’s mind raced as the news sank in. He fought a hard-won battle to maintain a calm facade, extremely difficult considering he was looking at the woman who had very possibly helped Eric Miller ruin his career.
He glanced from Willa to Sky, whose massive shoulders lifted in an apologetic shrug. Not trusting himself to speak, Nick grabbed his cane and crossed the room, buying some much-needed time to collect himself.
Willa Trask. He’d been looking directly at her when Sky introduced him. Not a flicker of recognition had crossed her lovely face. She was good, he thought, real good. Nick studied her carefully, his stony expression giving no indication of his inner turmoil.
“You must be a really good friend,” she said, her whiskey voice holding his full attention, “if Sky is willing to overlook the fact that because of you, I almost let three hundred pounds of iron come crashing down on his chest.” She looked back at Sky. “I really am sorry. I’m not usually so easily distracted.”
A year ago Nick would have been delighted to be a “distraction” to a beautiful redhead, but not now—and most certainly not under these circumstances with Willa Trask. He stopped a few feet away from the weight bench, cursing himself for his stupidity. He and Sky had talked about charming the lovely Ms. Trask into incriminating herself. And while she was a damn sight more intriguing than he’d expected, Nick doubted if this queen bee would go for his nectar after his rude performance.
Nick racked his brain, trying to find some way to rectify the situation and turn it to his advantage. But it was hard to concentrate. He was still dealing with the fact that she hadn’t shown the least bit of guilt, not even a shred of discomfort, when Sky introduced him. She looked as though she’d never even heard of Nick Logan, much less helped to destroy his life.
Well, if he’d faced off against some of the toughest men in the NFL and never backed down, he could sure as hell jar her out of her cold, calculating control.
His knee started to cramp from tension, and Nick forced himself to relax. He tried to smile, hoping he looked disarmingly sexy. Judging from Sky’s expression, he wasn’t succeeding. Either way it made no difference. Willa had already turned away to collect her towel and Millennium gym bag.
Nick’s frown returned as he watched her walk to the locker-room door. It was on the tip of his tongue to stop her graceful exit with a few pointed questions, but before he had a chance, she turned back. Her expression was unreadable, but her voice when she spoke was tight, her tone clipped.
“After years spent working in a male-dominated field, I don’t usually defend myself against macho innuendo.” She paused for a moment, as if choosing her words very carefully. “But I will say this—I’m a manager of this club, and if you had spoken to one of our guests like you spoke to me earlier, friend or not, you’d have been out of here within ten seconds.”
Nick tightened his grip on his cane and on his emotions. He caught Sky’s look of warning out of the corner of his eye and gritted his teeth against the urge to tell her exactly what he thought of her. That would definitely have earned him a quick exit!
Sky quickly jumped in to dispel the tension. “Why don’t we call it a night, Willa? Nick probably wants to talk football, and after an evening with me, I’m sure that’s one subject you’re sick to death of.” He stood, quietly cuing her to leave.
Willa nodded, carefully avoiding Nick’s gaze. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Sky.” She started to push through the large oak door, but at the last second she paused and looked back over her shoulder, pinning Nick with her gaze. “See how much quicker you get results when you ask nicely?” She was gone before he could respond.
An already bad day had just gotten much worse. Nick rounded on his friend. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me she’d be here? I just made a complete ass of myself!”
“Sorry I couldn’t warn you. I really thought Willa and I would be done long before you got here. Things didn’t go too well with the old commish, huh?” When Nick just glared, Sky added, “I didn’t do it on purpose, Nick.”
Nick’s anger dissipated. “I know.” He heaved a sigh, raking his fingers through his already unruly black hair. “I guess with the commissioner’s dripping concern for my continuing drug rehabilitation, then this … Though I should’ve guessed she wasn’t one of your women.” Nick chuckled. “I knew right off she was too classy for the disreputable likes of you.”
“Look who’s talking,” Sky shot back. Pulling his towel from his shoulders, he snapped it at Nick’s chest. “When was the last time you got your hair cut anyway?”
Nick ran a hand through the mass of dark curls that fell over the collar of his tailored black suit. “The length of my hair has been the least of my worries lately. Of course, if it offends your delicate sensibilities and obvious fashion sense …” Nick aimed a look at the huge tear in the knee of Sky’s aged sweats. His hulking friend was an ad for Goodwill.
“I know it’s not in line with Millennium standards, but since my boss didn’t care, I …” Sky’s comment trailed off as Nick’s smile disappeared. “She’s not what you expected, is she?” Not waiting for an answer, he added, “I know how you feel. When we learned she was the one seen delivering small packages to Miller at the Jags’ practice field, I fully expected we’d confront a calculating ice princess.”
Nick shot his friend an incredulous look. “You’re saying she’s not? She seems like one cool customer to me. She didn’t even blink when you said my name.” He shifted his weight slightly, leaning more heavily on his cane, then gave in and sat on the bench opposite Sky. The tension had ma
“Yeah, she’s confused me too. I’ve gotten the impression since I’ve been here that she’s just an honest, hardworking lady. I know she doesn’t date. The word is she’s still hurting over her breakup with Miller.”
Nick snorted. “Bet it burned her good when Miller dumped her after he’d gotten what he wanted. She helps him pass the drug test by framing me so he can keep his almighty income, then her meal ticket walks out.”
“I don’t know, Nick. Now that I know her, I just can’t picture her setting up an innocent man.” Sky avoided Nick’s angry gaze by ducking his head for a moment. After a deep breath he added, “I know that her connection to Eric and the team doctor does seem a bit too coincidental. I just wonder if someone besides Doc Abbott could be the link to switching the test results.”
“Sky, between being buddies with Doc Abbott and delivering those nice little packages to Eric at training camp, Willa Trask had to have been into the frame all the way up to her sexy green eyeballs.” Massaging his knee, Nick added quickly, “But that’s old news. What’ve you found out?”
“Things could get interesting here real quick. Willa has been instrumental in setting up a new program for the local pros to train at Millennium during off-seasons. Guess who signed up today?”
Nick didn’t have to guess. “Eric Miller.”
“Got it in one. I overheard the receptionist swooning over the fact that Mr. Golden Arm is coming in Monday.”
“Well, then I have to get busy, don’t I? Before the gruesome twosome screw some other poor, unsuspecting sap out of a career. Seeing me didn’t have her falling all over herself with guilt, and my big mouth has probably sabotaged my plan of wining and dining the truth out of Ms. Trask. She doesn’t look like the type who’d cave in under intimidation. No doubt she’d just lie to save her own skin.”
Sky groaned at the wicked smile on Nick’s face. “The last time I saw that look, Lawrence Taylor ended up spending the second half on the sidelines.”
DONNA KAUFFMAN SERIES:
Other author's books:
- Lavender & MistletoeThe Bakeshop at Pumpkin and SpiceLavender BlueA Great KisserThe Naughty ListSilent Warrior: A Loveswept Classic RomanceThe Royal HunterUnleashed: A Hamilton Christmas Novella
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