The Trustworthy Groom by Cami Checketts
Hailey Knight has two choices: fall prey to a predator who is out to own her and destroy her football team, or marry a man she’s just met. True, her fake husband can make her quiver with a touch, gets her jokes, and is patience personified, but she knows better than anyone how quickly charm can turn ugly. Brady Giles has dealt with a sweetheart stalker for two years and has no hope of shaking the annoyance. He steps in to rescue the beautiful and feisty Hailey Knight from a leering idiot and somehow ends up engaged to her. The marriage is supposed to help them both out of sticky situations, but instead turns into a media hailstorm with lies and attacks coming from all sides. When Hailey falls in love with her fake husband and danger lurks around every corner, she knows it’s time to run, but Brady has never given up on an impossible battle.
Hailey’s brain scrambled for an out, any out. She put on a fake smile and said, “You don’t know how much I wish I could have dinner with you tonight, but you must not have heard … I’m recently engaged.” She kept a straight face when she wanted to gasp in shock. Where had that come from, and who was she going to claim she was engaged to?
William released her hair and actually took a step back, the scowl on his face ruining all his supposed good looks. “You are?” His eyes strayed to her left hand. She clasped it with her right to hide her naked finger. “To whom?”
A dark-haired man appeared at her table. Hailey dealt with burly football players every day of her life, but this guy’s shape still gave her pause. He was probably around six three and two hundred and fifty pounds. Every inch was muscle, not bodybuilder muscle but lean and functional and covered by smooth, tanned skin. He definitely had some Italian heritage in him as dark and good-looking as he was. Hailey had a strict policy of not checking out her own team’s football players, but she knew every single one of them. This guy wasn’t on her roster.
“Excuse me.” The man’s deep voice washed over her as his dark eyes looked at her with concern then flashed to William with annoyance. “Do you need some help?”
Yes, yes she did. Hailey grasped his arm and cuddled into his side, wrapping her other arm around his waist. “Thank you for coming to check on me, sweetheart.” His body tightened at the way she was trying to manhandle him, impossible to really do as she was almost a foot shorter and less than half his bodyweight, but she needed help, and she needed it now. The solution was so clear. William would back off if she were engaged. He would have to. Then there would be no repercussions on her football team and no coercion to date, and especially not to stay the night with, the slime ball VP.
“Um, sure … anything for you, honey.” The man wrapped his arm around her shoulder, and Hailey had never felt so safe as he gently pulled her close. Safety and reassurance were amazing and unexpected feelings to have at the moment, especially after the fear of William clogging her throat mere seconds ago and the fact that she naturally shied away from well-built men. The emotion of it all made her weak, and she found herself leaning against his muscular chest.
The dark-haired guy glanced down at her and winked. Ooh, he was quick too. She ticked off his positive qualities in her mind—not one of her football brothers, handsome with strong facial features, brown eyes framed with dark lashes, and smart. She might even give this guy a date to prove they were engaged.
“This is my fiancé,” she said to William, inclining her chin with pride.
The man kind of started, but he stayed close to her side as he released her from his hold and stuck his hand out to William. “Brady Giles. Pleasure to meet you …”
Brady Giles? Oh, crap, he was one of her players! He’d recently transferred from New England. He was one of the top cornerbacks in the nation, and they were extremely blessed to get him, but the Brady Giles she’d seen from the sidelines had long, dark wavy hair and a full beard. This guy with the cropped hair and clean shaven model-gorgeous face was a Brady Giles she’d never expected—sharp and way too appealing. What had she done?
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