Shit.

That woman was the last female he wanted to think about. He was still pissed and confused about her leaving him while he was in the damn bathroom, and now he was dealing with this crap.

Miss Gore dropped the newspaper on the desk. “You probably don’t know who I am, but I can assure you that nothing is more important to me than my job, and your Club hired me to repair your image.”

“My image doesn’t need repairing.” He turned to Jack. “I didn’t sleep with those women.”

“Just hear her out,” Jack suggested tiredly.

“It doesn’t matter if you did slept with an entire floor of an all girls’ dorm or not,” Miss Gore said. “It’s all about perception, and right now the District thinks you’re a whore.”

Chad turned wide eyes on the woman. “Wow.”

“It’s the truth.” She waved him off. “I have represented professional athletes, musicians, and celebrities far worse than you.”

“Man, you do wonders for a man’s self-esteem.”

Miss Gore sat back, folding those prim hands. “Somehow I doubt you have any problems with your self-esteem. In my past experience, I have dealt with addiction, anger problems, and sexual escapades that would make yours seem like a Disney movie. Each and every one of my clients’ images was beyond tarnished when I came onboard. Remember that certain child celebrity who had a penchant for cocaine and Botox injections? You don’t see her at the club scenes anymore, and she’s now working in Hollywood again. So I have experience with overgrown children who don’t care how their actions affect other people. I have built a career on repairing images of those in the spotlight. I have never failed at it, and you’ll be no different.”

Oh, he was gonna be real different. “Look, I’m sure you’re great at what you do, but I don’t need you.”

“And that’s where you’re sadly mistaken.” Miss Gore met his stare head-on.

Chad sat down and gripped the edges of the chair. He’d never cussed at a woman before, but damn, he was coming close.

Jack cleared his throat. “I know you think you don’t need this, Chad, but you don’t have a choice.”

“Bull. Shit.”

As if he expected that kind of response, Jim opened a file and handed several papers stapled together over to Chad. He took it, quickly realizing it was his contract, and opened to the stipulations page.

He scanned it and breathed, “Shit.”

“I’m sorry,” Jack said, scratching his chin. “If you don’t agree to work with Miss Gore and do what she says, the Nationals won’t re-sign you—and could even let you out of your existing contract early.”

He was absolutely dumbfounded.

“This is in your best interest if you want to continue to play ball here,” Jack said.

Chad had no idea what to say. Anger and disbelief slammed into him with the force of a Mack truck, which ran him over and then backed up and did it again. Shit.

“I’ll take your silence as acceptance,” Miss Gore said. “We’ll begin working together immediately.”

“Really?” he grumbled.

“Really.” She reached into her purse again and dropped a freaking encyclopedia-size file in his lap, causing him to grunt. “This is my contract.”

“Jesus.”

“And you will see that in your Nationals’ contract you are required to sign this one.” She leaned over and flicked the stack open to page twenty. “This is the list of new lifestyle choices.”

Lifestyle choices? He wanted to laugh, but none of this was funny. His eyes darted over the list and he nearly choked. “Holy…” There were no words. Seriously.

No drinking in public. No late nights. No bars or clubs of questionable status. No women. He snorted at that. Women, as in plural, because he was a man-whore according to Miss Stick-Up-Her-Ass.

Well, and according to his brothers, but whatevs.

“This is laughable,” he said finally, shaking his head. “I’m not a seventeen-year-old boy. I’m an adult.”

“Good. I agree.” She smiled again. “Now it’s time for you to start acting like one. I expect you to look over everything there, because you will follow those rules. My reputation depends on it, and unlike you, I actually care how the public sees me.”

He really didn’t like this woman.

“You need to do this, Chad. I know how much this team means to you and this city—your brothers,” Jack said, picking up a pen and offering it to him. “You need to sign this and just go with it. In a few months when things die down, it won’t be this bad.”

Chad stared at his agent, feeling like he’d just been betrayed. Then his gaze dropped to the two contracts in his lap. The thing was, he could say screw it and go free agent. The Yankees would grab him up in a heartbeat, but the publicist was right. Leaving this town and his brothers was the last thing he wanted. He and his brothers had a shitty childhood in their cold, sterile home. If it hadn’t been for Maddie’s family, God knew where any of them would be right now. Hell, it was Maddie’s dad who used to come to his Little League games.

Dammit. This city had a ton of bad memories, but the good ones…. Yeah, they outweighed the shit his father and mother dragged him and his brothers through. He needed to be close to his siblings or what he was doing now would seem like child’s play. Leaving wasn’t an option. Who was he kidding by even thinking he would? He just didn’t think he’d end up here, with a babysitter. The Club had him by the balls.

He tipped his head back and groaned. “You’re fucking kidding me.”

Chapter Six

Every time Chase Gamble visited Madison at work, which was, like, every damn day since the two decided to admit their undying love for each other this past May, Bridget wanted to kick off her techno-colored pumps and crawl under her desk. Of course, she doubted her ass would fit in the space under the desk. Not that she was that big, but her desk was that small. After all, she was Madison’s assistant, which meant she got the leftover, no-one-had-used-in-forever type of desks. She probably needed to stop bitching because she was lucky the thing had four legs and hadn’t collapsed on her yet.

She’d spotted the tall, dark-haired club owner navigating his way through the cubicle farm outside their office before Madison did. A quick glance to the left and Bridget saw that Madison’s nose was buried deep in quotes for the winter fund-raising gala.

The winter fund-raising gala.

Le sigh.

There was still time to try to squeeze under her desk or at least pretend she was on the phone, but before she could grab the receiver, the doors swung open and Chase’s huge shoulders filled the gap. Big, door-busting shoulders—shoulders that reminded her of someone else, someone with a tongue and fingers to die for.

She really didn’t need to think about that right now.

Bridget fixed a bright smile on her face. “Hey, Chase.”

Over at her desk, her boss’s head jerked up and her lips broke into a wide smile as she spotted her guest. “Hey,” she said, standing quickly. “Is it lunchtime already?”

Chase sent Bridget a quick nod before turning his full attention on Madison. “Yes. You ready?”

Pretending to rearrange the pens on her desk, Bridget tried desperately to ignore the heavy and extremely long-lasting, PDA-filled meet-and-greet going on no more than five feet in front of her.

But Bridget looked up.

She always did, even more so now, because instead of seeing Chase and Madison, she saw Chad…and her. She was pathetic.

A sharp pang sliced her chest, ripping open a fresh wound that shouldn’t even be there. She sucked in a quiet breath as she watched Chase kiss Madison like she was the air he needed to breathe—and that’s when she looked away, blinking dry eyes.

It wasn’t Chase—God, no. It wasn’t Madison. Even though Bridget hadn’t been a big fan of Chase in the beginning, she was happy for them. No two people were in love with each other more and they deserved happiness. Being in love was the key, Bridget believed with every ounce of her being. It was different than loving someone—much, much different.

But her problem was who Chase was forever going to remind her of now.

Bridget picked up a red pen that matched her cardigan and placed it in the holder that contained colored-ink pens, a black pen with the non-colorful pens. So, she might be a tiny bit obsessive over where her pens were placed.

“Bridget.” Madison laughed softly. “Leave the damn pens alone and join us for lunch.”

Looking up, she tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. No matter how tight she pulled her hair back, the damn pieces always managed to slip through. “Oh, no, you two lovebirds enjoy your alone time.”

Madison made a face as she spun and grabbed her jacket and purse. “I don’t want any more alone time with him. That’s why I’m inviting you.”

“Thanks.” Chase turned to her slowly. “My self-esteem just went through the roof.”

Bridget cracked a smile at that.

“But seriously, come with us.” Chase draped an arm around Madison’s slim shoulders. “We’re going to the new restaurant down the street.”

“The Cove?” Bridget asked. Her stomach was so in.

“Yes.” Madison grinned. “The one you’ve been wanting to check out. That boasts the best burgers in DC.”

Chase tugged Madison against him. Any closer and the two would be sealed together. “I’ve ate there and their burgers are the shit.”

Damn them and their knowledge of how much sway burgers held over her. Standing from her chair, Bridget grabbed her purse off the little cart beside her desk. “Well, how can I pass up such a glowing recommendation like that?”

Chase grinned as he pivoted around. Looking over his shoulder, he said, “No jacket?”

Bridget straightened her cardigan so the embroidered flower didn’t end up poised over her left breast like some kind of weird nipple. “I don’t like jackets.”

“She thinks they’re too bulky,” Madison interjected as he held the door open for them. “It can be snowing outside and she won’t have a jacket on but will be wearing a scarf.”

True.

Chase fell in step between them. “A scarf but no jacket?”

Bridget shrugged. “It keeps my neck warm and besides, unlike Maddie, I have a couple of extra layers worth of protection.”

Her friend snorted as she shrugged on a black peacoat. “You don’t have extra layers of protection, Bridget.”

Confusion crossed Chase’s features, and Bridget bit back a giggle. “I have no idea what you two are talking about,” he said.

“Trust me,” Bridget replied, grinning at Madison. “Keep it that way.”

Heading down the main cluster of cubicles, she vainly ignored how her friend slowed down to an ant’s crawl when they passed Robert McDowell’s desk. It was common knowledge that the numbers guy had a thing for Bridget. He was nice and good-looking, but Bridget was more turned on by her polka-dotted vibrator than Robert.

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