Home > Princess and the Player

Princess and the Player
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills

 


Chapter 1

TUCK

“To Tuck, the oldest wide receiver in the NFL! Happy birthday, old man!” Jasper says as he raises his glass of Dom Pérignon.

“Still kicked your ass in the gym today, quarterback,” I say as he and Deacon clink their glasses with mine. “You puppies dream of being me when you’re thirty-five.”

“True, true. You’re a legend on the field,” Jasper says. “In fact, you’re so old I bet you still have a Blockbuster card.”

I grunt. “Jesus, that’s lame—and wrong. I grew up on HBO.”

Deacon, our running back, refills our glasses as our limo moves smoothly through Manhattan traffic. He chuckles. “I’m not going to make any jokes about your age because I sincerely feel bad for you, but think of it like this: You’re one year closer to wearing a big ole diaper. Better yet, you’ll be wearing it while you watch us play.”

Jasper cackles as I roll my eyes. These young guns are twenty-seven and consider me old, which is sorta true in the football world. Most wide receivers peak in their midtwenties, then decline by 50 percent each year after. Somehow, I’ve lasted fourteen seasons. I have had two ankle fractures, a broken wrist, four dislocated shoulders, and a groin injury but still keep coming back and playing my heart out.

They start whispering, and I eyeball them, wondering what they have planned for tonight.

They surprised me an hour ago when they showed up at my place wearing black masks and killer suits. They gave me a mask—only mine has a shit ton of feathers on it. Judging by their excitement, I’m surprised they didn’t insist I wear a sash and a crown.

I sigh. Usually my birthday is a somber event, and I either hang at home with my current girl or go to the Baller. I drink a few beers and eat a slice of chocolate cake. That’s the tradition.

I gaze down at the scars on my fingers and knuckles, glossy and whitened over time. My birthday is also the day my father died ten years ago. These guys don’t know that. Why would they? I keep my personal stuff close to my chest.

Whatever. Fine. No matter the dark shit going on in my head, I can roll with a surprise party. It’s not a stretch to put on a smile. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid.

“You all right there, Tuck?” Jasper asks as the limo pulls to the side of the road and stops.

“Yep,” I say as we get out of the car. “So what’s this big surprise? Where are we going?”

“Oh, it’s nothing special,” Jasper murmurs as he and Deacon share a sly glance, then giggle like frat boys.

Uh-huh.

One of the feathers from my mask sticks to my mouth, and I spit it out.

Sure, I’m a carefree guy. Some might even call me a party boy. But this—this shit is just weird.

Jasper tosses an arm around me, obviously the organizer of this shindig. He’s dressed in a tailored navy suit, and his frizzy white-blond hair is twisted up in a man-bun. His eyes twinkle. “Trust me; you’ll love what we have planned. I can’t tell you because I want to see your face when we get there. It’s going to blow your mind.”

I glance around the dark alley we’ve entered. There are no shops, lights, or people. A rat scurries off to the side. “If a clown jumps out from behind that dumpster, I’ll kill you,” I growl. “Birthdays are prank-free zones.”

“For the third time, there aren’t any clowns tonight!” Jasper lifts his hands. “I wouldn’t do that to you, Tuck!”

“Clowns should be murdered,” I add. “Wanna know who invented clowns? A psycho, that’s who.”

They burst out laughing, most likely recalling their last prank, where they tossed a “synthetic partner” female clown—with tits and a vagina—in the locker-room shower with me. I wrestled that monster to the ground and threw her out.

Guess I deserved it. The month before their prank, I took out a Craigslist ad as a hot woman looking for men to give her anal and left their cell numbers. Their phones blew up with calls and voice mails for days.

Jasper grins. “There’s no tricks where we’re going. Just beautiful women—”

I halt. “If you’re taking me to a strip club, I don’t do those anymore. Remember the redhead? The one who stalked me—”

“Yeah. She had some serious boundary issues. What was her name?” Deacon asks.

“Lollipop,” I mutter with a groan. “Still can’t look at redheads without flinching.”

I went to a bachelor party where she was a stripper. I tucked a hundred in her bikini top. Didn’t even get a lap dance, but she got obsessed, sent weird letters, and then showed up in cities where I was playing. Once she smashed the windows on my Porsche. The final straw was when she confronted me outside my apartment building. She was arrested and sent to jail. The Lollipop Incident may have happened a few years ago, but the trauma lingers.

“Here we are,” Jasper announces with a hand flourish as we stop at a metal door outside a ten-story brown building. Blackout shades cover the windows, and if there’s a club inside, I can’t hear it.

Jasper knocks, and a peep door slides open. He whispers a password, and the entrance creaks as we step inside. Red carpet leads us to a two-story foyer dimly lit with Victorian-looking sconces. Ornately framed portraits cover the interior walls, scenes of fancy people from long ago.

The man who opened the door sweeps hooded eyes over us. With auburn hair, he’s tall and well built and wears a black tux with tails. “Membership card, please,” he says in a haughty British accent.

Jasper pulls out his wallet and flashes a card at him, then nudges his head at me and Deacon. “I’ve brought two guests that the board approved last month.”

He bows. “Ah, yes. Welcome to Decadence, gentlemen, the premier club of New York. I see you have your masks—good. I’m Brogan, your guide during the orientation. We wish you incredible delights and pleasures in our playhouse. Tonight’s our fairy-tale theme. Let us begin. Follow me, please.”

Hold on . . .

Delights and pleasures? Playhouse?

What the actual . . .

Ah, shit . . .

I raise an eyebrow at them. “A sex club. Seriously?”

“Oh yeah, baby!” Jasper says as he pumps his hips. “There’s gonna be a hot time in the old town tonight.”

I shake my head at him. “Dude, is this place even legit?”

“Totally. The mayor sponsored me,” he says as he tugs me along the hallway. “It’s got a steep membership fee, seventy-five thou a year, plus a vetting system. They run background checks, credit scores, you name it. We have the masks so no one knows who we are. There aren’t any Lollipops here, so let that thought go.”

“I managed to stop thinking about her, but thanks for reminding me.”

He smirks. “You could be a mechanic or an accountant or whatever. That’s the cool part. Pretending to be someone else.”

“I see.”

“I usually say I’m a personal trainer, you know, because of my great body. Anyway, tonight everything’s on me—drinks and the entrance fee. You’re welcome.” He does a bow like Brogan did at the door.

“How much was it for us to get in?” I ask.

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