Lunch with Uncle Seth
Avery runs into trouble when she visits the Titans stadium.
Avery hadn’t been in contact with Wyatt since he’d sent the text saying he’d arrived safely in New Mexico. Apparently there was some stuff going on with Corbett. He said he’d fill her in when he got back. Whether he liked it or not, they’d have to talk about things. She hoped he’d stop running long enough to talk.
Avery parked her car in a reserved spot close to the building and walked through the main stadium doors. There was a flurry of activity going on today. She told the security guard she was there to see her uncle and he quickly got on the phone to locate him. After a few minutes, they’d found him on the field but he’d instructed them to escort her to the restaurant.
It wasn’t out of the ordinary to spend time with him but she wondered what her uncle was up to. She thanked her security escort for bringing her up but assured him that she’d be OK waiting outside the restaurant for him. Practice was in session and it looked like the team was running drills of some sort. She walked over to the railing to see her uncle talking to the head coach.
She turned to see none other than Riley Sloane. “Riley. Hi.”
“What a pleasant surprise. You look gorgeous.”
“Thanks.” Riley had been shamelessly flirting with her since the first day they’d met. The men in the family weren’t happy about it but that didn’t seem to deter Riley’s flattery whenever he saw her. Apparently he had a healthy ego and a death wish. The noise from the cheerleaders as they bounded out of the restaurant was a welcome distraction. They waved at Riley, a few of them blew kisses at him, as they got on the escalator. “Now that’s gorgeous.”
“That’s overkill. They try too hard.” He glanced at the cheerleaders then returned his determined gaze back on her. “Don’t tell me you’re going to be working here.”
“No.” She laughed. “I’m just having lunch with my Uncle Seth.”
“Ah.” He grinned. “It was wishful thinking on my part.”
“How are things? I hear you’re starting to let go and dig into your position.”
“Finally a compliment from someone in the Blake family.” He held his hands up in the air. “I normally get a grunt or stiff nod from your uncle.”
“Sounds like you two are getting along. He doesn’t give just anyone that stiff nod. You have to earn it.”
“He doesn’t do that with you.”
“Well, I’m special.” She smiled.
“Yes, you are.” Riley’s eyes gleamed. “So how’s school? I heard you’re thinking about pursuing medicine.”
“Yes.” She grimaced. Who hadn’t her Uncle Seth told?
“If you ever need someone to play doctor with you, give me a call.” He winked.
“I don’t think there’s a medical remedy for an over inflated ego.” A female voice said behind them.
They both turned around to see Parker standing there.
“Parker! What are you doing here?” Avery hugged her.
“Sam’s doing an overview of the stadium’s security and I thought I’d tag along.”
“Parker, I’d like you to meet Riley Sloane.” Avery turned to Riley. “Riley this is Parker Carson. She’s Sam’s sister.”
He gave Parker a casual once over. “What’s with the gun?”
“I’m a cop. And although your performance on the field is sometimes criminal, alas I cannot arrest you for it.” She smiled.
“Improving every game is part of the drama that keeps people tuned into the Tomcats as we rise from the down trodden ashes to Super Bowl victory. People love to root for the handsome rising superstar. TV ratings go up every time the Tomcats play.”
“Ever since the big boom of reality TV, everyone thinks they’re a superstar.” Parker shrugged.
Avery bit back a smile. The ever smooth Riley looked like he wanted to strangle Parker and Parker looked like she was waiting for him to flinch so she could take him down. A man passing by with a camera waved at Riley. The quarterback motioned for him to come over.
“Ladies, this is Stu. He’s the photographer who’s going around the stadium taking day in the life shots for a project Seth’s putting together about our daily operations. Stu, you’re in for a treat. This is Seth’s beautiful, brilliant niece Avery Reed. She’s going to med school in the near future.”
“Hi Avery.” The photographer beamed as he shook Avery’s hand.
When Riley didn’t attempt to introduce Parker, Avery intervened. “Stu, this is Parker Carson. She’s J.J.’s sister-in-law. Her sister Sam is roaming the stadium checking the security layout.”
“I saw Sam and her team near the loading bays. I can definitely see the resemblance. Beauty runs in the family.” The photographer shook Parker’s hand too.
“Stu, how about you take a picture of us?” Riley draped his arm around Avery’s shoulders.
“That’s a great idea.” She locked arms with Parker and pulled her closer.
“Sure.” Stu took the lens cap off his camera. “Parker I just need you to get on the other side of Riley. And Riley, if you could put your arm around each beautiful lady’s waist it would be great.”
Avery and Riley were getting into the posing position just fine. He gently placed his arm around her waist. Being that close to him, she couldn’t help but see the definition in his body. He was lean but muscular and solid. He towered over her though, not that it was hard. She envied Parker’s taller stature. Her five foot seven frame complemented a man of Riley’s height better. She was ready to get the photo over with but Riley and Parker were having a problem standing close. Stu gave them a few more directions and they were finally in the position he wanted for the photos.
“Watch the hands, pretty boy. This isn’t a date.” Parker mumbled but kept her smile in check.
“Been a while, has it?” Riley retorted.
“I was thinking the same thing about you and deodorant.” Parker bit back.
Avery couldn’t help but laugh.
“Everybody, big smiles.” Stu said.
The photographer took shots from different angles. Finally, it was over and the three of them broke apart. Parker glared at Riley as she checked her waist for her gun and handcuffs. And just to drive the point home, she checked her pockets too. Riley was mid balk when Sam contacted Parker on the walkie-talkie she held, asking to meet her on the executive floor. Parker bid Avery farewell and promised to call her that night. Now she and Riley were alone again and he had that same glazed over lustful look he’d been sporting before Parker arrived. She peeked over the quarterback’s shoulder and thankfully her Uncle Seth was coming their way.
“Hey pretty girl. Sorry I’m late.” He kissed her on the cheek and hugged her.
“Hey boss. No hug and kiss for me?” Riley smirked.
“Sloane, what did I tell you about my niece?” Seth’s jaw ticked.
“We just ran into each other. I didn’t want to be rude and not say hello.” Riley replied.
“Back to practice.”
“It was nice seeing you again Avery.”
“You too.” She forced a smile. When he was far enough away she glared at her uncle. “Why did you do that?”
“Sloane knows the rules. He’s supposed to keep his distance from you. His job depends on it.”
“Uncle Seth. How could you embarrass me like that?”
Seth put his arm around her and guided her to the restaurant. “Guys like Riley are only after one thing.”
“And you think I’m too naive to recognize that? Did you ever stop to think maybe I wouldn’t be susceptible to his so-called charms? I can’t believe you still see me as a little kid.”
“No, I don’t. I think you’ve grown into a beautiful, intelligent and perceptive young lady who can hold her own just like any woman in this family.”
“I know you want to keep me safe but you have to let me grow up. You can’t go around policing my social life. You’ve been treating Wyatt badly for years.”
“I like Wyatt. I think he’s a nice young man. And I’m not saying that because he’s family.”
“Since when? Because last time I checked, you were still giving him the evil eye at the family dinners.”
“That’s not true. He was told to look out for you and he’s done a great job.”
“Well, being rude to Riley is unnecessary.” She dug in her heels and refused to go into the restaurant when he opened the door.
“Is it? Because every time you’re around he’s grinning like an idiot. Has he been calling you?” Seth’s eyes narrowed.
“You’re doing it again. You can’t turn it off.” She shook her head.
Seth closed the restaurant door and gently pulled Avery over to the railing.
“I know I can go a bit overboard–”
“A bit?” She interrupted.
“OK.” Seth conceded. “I can be obnoxious when it comes to you. Just know it comes from a place of love. You’re my niece and I take the job of being your uncle very seriously. When you decided to go to college here in Texas, I made a promise to your dad that nothing would ever happen to you. But I’m not apologizing for caring too much and wanting you to be happy and safe.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being concerned.” She mumbled. She liked that part. But this also the same lame speech all of her uncles gave her. “But you can’t follow me around for the rest of my life. You and the family have to loosen up. I insist. No, I demand it.”
“I’ll do my best.” He smiled at her.
“Good.” She ran a hand through her hair.
“Are we good? I’d rather talk about birthday party plans over lunch.” He put his arm around her shoulders and guided her back to the restaurant entrance.
“Yeah. We’re good.” She smiled back and place her head on his shoulder. “Are you going to apologize to Riley?”
“No. Riley and I have a healthy level of hostility toward each other that I’d like to remain intact. It drives him to be a better football player. But I’d rather talk about your party.”
“I don’t want anything too big.”
“So no family cruise?”
“Or carnival or casino night. I just want something simple with the family and on the day I choose.”
“But I thought it would be great to have it on your actual birthday.”
She looked at her uncle and smiled. His attempt to throw her a kick ass party might have been endearing if she weren’t able to see what he was really doing. Turning twenty-one was a rite of passage that usually included drinking. If she were at home at some party that may or may not include a clown, she wouldn’t be able to say she partied for her milestone birthday.
“I’m going out with friends on my birthday. I was thinking of having the party on Sunday. You don’t have a problem with that, do you?” She squinted at him.
“You’re killing me.” He nodded and smiled. “Whatever you want. It’s your day.”
“I hope you’re learning from this. Mackenzie is going to give you a run for your money.”
Wyatt and Avery’s love story begins! The current reader inspired playlist has 71 songs and counting! Feel free to comment with song suggestions! I hope you enjoyed the pre-edited excerpt! Release date Saturday, July 23rd!
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