To say we are obsessed with Kate Stewart and her Underdog Series would be an understatement! WE. CAN’T. GET. ENOUGH. OF. THESE. BOOKS!!!! Kate Stewart brings heart and heat and swoon and romance in this series of standalones. Today we have an EXCLUSIVE excerpt from Lance’s book and you guys, it is EVERYTHING. I just can’t wait to read this. Feb 29th can’t come soon enough!
PS: The Guy in the Middle is not up for pre-order. Links will be added on release day!
I was born to play and bred to win.
My priorities were instilled in me early on—family and football. Those ideals led me to TGU and a coach whose ironclad principles mirrored my own.
With one last college season to play, my goal was singular—get drafted. By realizing my NFL dream, I could save my family, our ranch, and the only home I’d ever known.
Two birds, one ball.
Playing hard was my only option, but there’s always a wild card.
For all of my planning and hard work, I never anticipated falling for the coach’s daughter. Harper was a fair catch, but who knew loving her could be the one play to throw my career before it started or that the weight of our secret would change the game.
*The Guy in the Middle is a stand alone novel in the Underdog Series. This is Lance’s story.
Tony shakes his head. “You need to get right, kid. Head and heart. You need to shake it off and concentrate.”
“And what is it you think I’m doing?”
“Brawling, not boxing. It’s a sport, not a street fight. Lately, you’ve forgotten your form, and now you’re just bloodthirsty.”
“You know what, man,” I shake my head my temper flaring, “you think—”
“I’ll take a crack at him. One glove.”
The sound of her voice has me reeling where I stand. I turn to see Harper at the foot of the ring in an oversized Giants hoodie and matching beanie. She looks beautiful and completely foreign standing here in my space. With as many times as I pictured her there, it does no justice to the real thing, which only angers me.
I stare down at her, incredulous as to how she got so close without me noticing her. All eyes on her, she stands with clear confrontation on her features, her hands on her hips. “Since when are you such an egomaniac that you get in your own way?”
Trying to mask the kick to my heart, I give her a listless stare. “What the hell do you know about it?”
“I know what I just witnessed, isn’t you.”
“That right?” I walk over to the side of the ring, crossing my gloves on the rope as I peer down at her. “Sweetheart, you haven’t been around much for two years, and what’s it been now, six weeks? So again, what in the hell do you know?”
“I know enough.” She’s acting full-on pissed with no right to be. At the moment, I just want to pull her to me and smash the smart ass off her lips before savoring it off her tongue. She’s a much-needed fresh breath of air for my collapsed lungs, but I refuse to inhale because I know the cost.
I’m a man standing in the wake of lost love, bitterness in my heart, and singed beyond anything I can control. I was supposed to have left her there, in that city, in that apartment, but she’s been with me the whole time, and her sudden appearance is only worsening the facts—I can’t get over this fucking woman.
But I’m determined to. And I refuse to let her fuck with what’s left in my chest.
“Harper, what are you doing here?”
“I was invited by someone, right now, I don’t think you would recognize him.”
“Consider yourself un-invited. Surprised you found your way here. When you leave, you go back the same way you came.”
“Shut up, asshole,” Trevor spouts before making his way to Harper. “Hey you. Good to see you.”
She gives him a grin with her greeting of “Hey you,” and he pulls her into a hug, lifting her off her feet. This lights me up as I feed on the animosity in the barn and the irritation at her sudden appearance. He doesn’t know her. Not like I do. He’s only met her once. But she’s done nothing but wreak havoc on my life since the minute I fell for her. She can’t be here, invading my space, burning more of herself into my memory. She has no right to weasel her way in with any sort of opinion or air of authority. I can feel my pulse thundering at my neck as Trevor hugs her a lot longer than appropriate. “Looking good, girl.”
“Thanks, and look at you, all grown up.”
“Yeah?” He says pridefully before leaning in suggestively, “You’d be surprised how much I’ve gro—”
“Happy for the both of you,” I snap, “and your reunion and all, but we’re in the middle of something here.”
Tony chooses that moment to make me hate him. “Actually, she’s just in time. I’m done embarrassing your sorry ass today. Might as well let her take a crack at you.”
She looks past my brother’s shoulder, lifting her brown eyes to mine in challenge. “What can it hurt?”
“This is ridiculous.” I hold out my gloves. “Rip, take these off. Harper, thanks for stopping by.”
“I’m staying for dinner, your mother invited me,” she taunts.
“There’s a McDonald’s thirty minutes down the highway.”
“What the fuck, Lance?” Trevor says, glowering at me.
“I’m not fighting her,” I say, unable to keep the bitter edge to my voice. “And she’s got a real problem with making decisions. Not sure Mom’s pot roast is enough. She might need variety.”
Harper holds out her fist. “Just one glove, please, Trevor.”
“Coming right up, my lady.”
“You aren’t serious,” I scoff. “What the fuck are you going to do with that? It will feel like a mosquito bite.”
“I’ve got speed,” she says, winking at Tony. “Which is what you’re lacking, right? What are you afraid of?”
That if I look at her any longer, my heart will stop beating and fall out of my chest. “You can’t just come here—”
“Oh, I can’t huh? But you did,” she says, entering the ring with her one glove, the scent of her invading my nostrils. Rip chuckles, eyeing Harper, fully amused. He likes her, I can tell. Tony pulls her in for a hug, and they exchange whispers before she smiles and turns to me. “But you can come to New York, right? You can just barge into my life,” she says, jumping back and forth on her Nikes in an impressive show before ripping off her sweatshirt.”
Catcalls come from all sides as she dances around me in nothing but leggings and a sports bra, her perfect tits pressed together in a way I refuse to indulge in.
“Saw Troy at LaGuardia,” she gestures towards her discarded hoodie, “the shirts for you. He said you need to worship more than the Cowgirls.”
“Hey, hey,” Trevor said. “Thems fighting words in this house.”
“Yeah?” Harper says with a smile before looking over to me. “Looks like I’m in the right place.”
“Wrong, thanks for bringing it by, but there was no need to hand-deliver it. Mail would have done just fine. And don’t you have somewhere you need to be?”
“Gloves up, asshat, I’m not fighting one of your cows.”
“I’m not throwing a punch at a woman. You’re being ridiculous.”
“I love her,” I hear Trevor say to Tony.
I do too. And at this point, I’m close to hating her because of the way she keeps making me fall for her, every single time I lay eyes on her before ripping my soul away from me. Tony grins over at him with just as a fucked-up reply. “I’m getting hard just watching this.”
“I can fucking hear you both.” They both grin and shrug as Harper steps up to me in the center of the ring.
“Come on, champ, dukes up.”
“You can pack it up, Harper. I’m done fighting with you.”
“Punk,” she says, stepping forward and landing a jab on my chin. I roll my eyes.
“This isn’t cute,” I snap.
“I agree. Your behavior right now is deplorable. Not to mention what you did back in New York.”
“What I did?”
“You come to New York after two—” she lands another blow, and another and I don’t flinch. It’s like being hit with a pillow, “—years and expect me to just jump into your arms like a willing pound puppy.”
Gloves down, I stand there taking her in, her solid body toned to perfection, her skin porcelain, twin braids hanging loosely from her beanie, dancing over her shoulders with her movement. All I want is to grab her and fuck her up, with my lips, my tongue, my cock, the way she’s fucked with me. I’m in the mood to punish her, and it’s apparent she feels the same.
She lands a solid right to the mouth, and the force of it without my guard takes me by surprise. Copper melts on my tongue as she attempts to unleash my beast. She’s happily playing with fire, like I’m a joke, like we’re a joke.
“Ahhhh,” she says, crossing her gloves like she’s in a karate fight. This time my lips turn up briefly as the guys chuckle in the corner. My smile only angers me further.
“You underestimate me,” she says, landing another to my chest and stomach. I stand there completely limp as she dances around me, taking potshots.
“As I was saying, you come to New York after two years, ask me to spend Christmas with you, start a fight in a department store that turns into a street brawl, make these grand declarations and tell me you want me to just drop everything and come,” jab, jab, jab, “back here, for what was it?”
“Harper, this is personal,” I grunt, taking another right to the temple.
“Oh, well, you went BIG in New York,” she turns back and winks at the guys, “quite often.” She lifts a glove mimicking a puppet, “Commit to me now. I know I haven’t seen you in over seven hundred days, but if you don’t say exactly the right thing in my time frame, I’m leaving, and I’m taking my big dick with me.”
She winces, tossing a look over her shoulder, “Sorry, Trevor.”
“Don’t be,” he quips, “just so you know that runs in the family.”
“What the fuck?” I protest as my entire corner snickers. “That’s so not how it went down.”
“Sorry,” Harper pipes, “foggy memory. It must still be a blur because of how fast you came and went.”
I step into her next jab. “You should talk.”
“I deserved that, two years ago, when it was relevant to our relationship, now I’m just pissed.” Another punch, this one lands squarely, and I have to give her a little credit, it had some pressure behind it.
“And you’re still a caveman. You might as well have thrown me over your shoulder and slapped me on the ass,” jab, jab, “oh wait, you did do that the first time we got together.”
“Is this some fucking joke to you?”
“Should it be?” She asks, lifting a brow. “You come to my city, turn my life upside down, demand once again that I commit without once letting me catch my breath.”
“That’s not how it—”
She lands another right on my lips, and it stings.
“You deserved that.”
Eyes blazing, I feel my anger brimming again. “You made your point yet?”
“Nope, gloves up, champ. You said you can’t fight without something to swing for, well here I am.”
“Well, your time is up,” I say, throwing my own invisible punch, I see it land, but instead of giving in to her quivering lips, her eyes light fire.
“Wow, that was fast. And you expect me to believe a word you say?” she throws a right, and I lift my glove to avoid another blow to the face.
“Ah, there you are,” she says, too pleased with herself.
“You’ve got a lot of nerve.”
“Touché, Lance. Get your fucking gloves up.”
“I’m not fighting you.”
“You love fighting me.”
“Dancing, that’s where you need to be. Not here.”
“I am dancing,” she says, doing a perfect impression of a boxer’s footing around the ring.
“And she’s better than you,” Tony says with a laugh.
This time I bite. “Why don’t you guys fuck off and give us some privacy?”
They all reply in unison.
“No fucking way.”
“I’m not missing this.”
“Sorry, man, no can do.”
“Dinner!” Mom calls from the house.
“Oh, good, I’m hungry,” Harper chimes in, throwing another jab.
“You can sit next to me,” Trevor spouts.
I’m too pissed at everyone in my life at the moment to see anything but red. “You sure you’re staying? I mean, I wouldn’t want to blink while we’re saying grace and miss seeing that beautiful ass of yours walking out the door.”
“Lance,” Trevor protests as Harper holds up a glove tossing a look over her shoulder. “I’ve got this little brother.” She turns to me. “And just how long do you plan on punishing me for that?”
“Not long after you see yourself out.”
“Well good thing, we all agree, don’t we boys that your grudges are getting old?”
All three of them speak up.
“This isn’t fucking funny,” I grit out.
“You’ve got issues.” She taps me again with her glove.
“I’ve got issues?” I press a glove to my chest. “You’re the coward. Sure you aren’t going to tuck your tail between your legs again? I think we both know I’m the fighter here.”
She shrugs. “Not much of one at the moment.”
“You’re making a fool of yourself,” I snap with venom. “You need to go back from which you came and forget about this place, me. You’re out of your depth and league, sweetheart.”
She stops her movement as Trevor curses in disgust. “Fucking asshole.”
Harper walks up to me, tilting her head up, her eyes earnest, all amusement gone. “Maybe I am, then again, I know just how to handle you, Lance Prescott. Don’t forget that.”
“Think so, huh?”
“I know so.”
In a blink, my trunks and underwear are at my ankles. Bare-assed and cock dangling, I stare helplessly down at her, mouth parted as the guys howl with laughter. But she’s not laughing, not at all. She’s pissed.
“You want a worthy opponent, Prescott, you’ve fucking got one! See you at dinner, asshole. And you can watch my beautiful ass walk out of the barn all you want, but I’ll be the one saying grace tonight.”
And with that, she stomps out of the barn.
Buck ass naked, aside from my trainers and the trunks around my ankles, I watch helplessly as the guys follow her out.
“If you don’t marry her,” Trevor calls back over his shoulder, “I sure as shit will.”
Series Reading Order:
PS: This is a series of interconnect standalone novels.
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