Black Jack Gentlemen
Release Date: July 7, 2015
Detroit’s expansion pro team has a hot star forward, fresh from the English Premiere League. Thanks to a series of fatal misunderstandings coupled with his famous temper, Declan MacGuire only has one thing left to him—soccer—and he’s determined not to make the same mistakes in his new life stateside.
Emily Keller, an accidental low-level PR flunkie for the team watches as Declan gets sucked into a whirlwind romance with Cassandra Dean, the team’s Queen Bee groupie, trying not to be jealous while the woman maneuvers him into a sickeningly familiar situation.
When things escalate, the team is forced to take sides, and Declan faces the toughest choice of his life.
Declan grabbed his teammate’s arm and shoved him through the locker room door. “Don’t flirt with that poor girl, mate. She’s besotted with your sorry, diseased self. Don’t make it worse.”
Coop yanked his arm out of Declan’s grip and glared at him. “Fuck off, Scotty.”
Declan’s hackles rose, but not nearly as much as they normally would have. It was as if the past seventy-two hours had been a sort of temper purge, leaving him deflated, not his usual prickly self.
“I saw you doing the same with Emily, the hot PR cougar. She loves to pamper her pet.”
“Her what?” He was yanking off his tie and coat and wasn’t sure he’d heard the guy correctly.
“You, my fine troublemaking friend, are Emily Keller’s pet. Her toy. Her fantasy player, whatever.”
“You’re full of shite.” But his face burned hot yet again at the idea that Emily considered him anything but the latest in a long line of problem children for her particular function—that of shielding the team from the bright light of negative media attention. He was putting his shoes inside his locker when the door flew open, revealing his two coaches, Metin the Turk and Rafe the South American.
“MacGuire,” Rafe barked. “Office. Now.”
Dec looked around as if perchance there might be another “MacGuire” in a shit ton of trouble. Coop turned away from him and stripped out of his shirt. He noted all the other players similarly ignoring him like the leper he was.
Jason met his eyes from down the row of men in various stages of undressing. The place was so quiet he could hear melting ice in the baths next to the locker room. Both Metin and Rafe stood in their suits, arms crossed over chests, identically dark eyes narrowed and focused on him.
“Okay,” he muttered under his breath. He’d already begun taking off his shirt so he slid his arms out of it and was hanging it on the hook designed for the daily dress shirt when a throat clearing behind him made him stop and turn. Desmond, the tall, dark and legal, had joined the coaches.
“You can leave your shirt on, Dec,” the man intoned in his James Earl Jones voice. “You won’t be practicing today.”
“He felt strong but weak at the same time. Sure of himself, yet gut-churning terrified. All of which buoyed him, and made him even more positive about his decision.”
“Men, boys, there wasn’t much difference especially among pro athletes. They worked hard and played harder, spending their money on fast moving things that made a lot of noise, looked nice, and made them fell important. Rafe stopped, realizing he could be describing their automobiles as well as their wives and girlfriends.”
“The little kid at the grown up part sensation burned a hole in his gut.”
“The young man oozed vulnerability, but it combined with a sort of innate strength just under the surface.”
“‘I’ve been bad, yes. But now, I’m completely good. With you. Badness over.’ He raised a dark eyebrow. ‘Well other than the badness I’m about to get into with you.’”
“He touched a fingertip to her nose, and then walked to the elevator, leaving her to stew, steam, worry, fret, and freak out all in the space of about ten seconds.”
“With this incredible man – a near perfect combination of strong and weak, of commanding and vulnerable, with a mature self-awareness now after a few months with her.”
“Sam always greeted her that way, like a worried puppy, convinced it must be dumb luck that he got to see her again, as if she would disappear forever unless he acted ecstatic at every greeting.
“Every day he amazed her all over again, terrifying her and charming her by his existence.”
“She took a deep breath, relieved and destroyed all in one second.”
“Her sharp voice fit her, as if she had edges he’d injure himself on if he were not careful.”
“When he touched her hand she flinched, her need to make him go away, yet never leave, intense beyond imagining.”
“You won’t be satisfied until we’re both sitting around our parents’ house, old and covered with cats, bitching about how we got screwed over by men.”
“A small corner of her heart seemed to flex, like an atrophied muscle,”
“He might want her for some of the wrong reasons, but so many more of them were right. She represented so much he missed about his life, in an utterly bizarre way, but still…”
“And she disappeared as if someone hit a delete button on a computer screen,”
“I love you but don’t get a big head over it or anything.”
“He turned and shut the door behind him, leaving her mad, sad, disappointed, relieved, and exhausted, all in one thick clot of emotion.”
“But his presence in her new life, in her new workspace, now made her so jittery she thought she could climb the walls and cling to the ceiling like a cat.”
“She shut out the sound of the woman’s high-pitched bleating. She knew that tone. She’d adopted it herself many times and in many situations, but had dropped it thanks to Sophie, who’d told her that first time they’d met that if she didn’t stop sounding like a trophy wife at a fundraiser they’d have to cut her loose.”
“This isn’t the 1950s Marcus… or… France. You don’t get to have a wife and a girlfriend, sorry.”
Liz Crowe tells unusual stories in a compelling way. She has a knack for presenting conflicting information in a way that makes sense. She also has a remarkable skill for putting a feeling or sense into words that had previously been just under my skin or a mist across my brain. She has mad skills, and I am in awe. Her characters are madly complicated and typically unlikable, yet she forces me to look beneath the surface and care about them nonetheless. In addition, she also manages to squeeze my cold heart while doing so. I have now read a few of her insightful and richly detailed books and have come to the conclusion that her dastardly characters are the story, the rest is just what happens. She never fails in her mission to enlighten, entertain, and satisfy, regardless of the subject matter, trope, or genre, she has become my guilty pleasure.
I have read 4 Liz Crowe books in a row, 800 some pages all told. I think it is time to check into rehab… or at least schedule an EKG and a spa vacation. I have enjoyed my sojourn with the Black Jack Gentleman series, but my heart seems a bit worse for wear. I have decided that Liz Crowe thrives on melodrama and conflict, she has it mastered. She also seems to have a contest with herself for creating a more infuriating and self-destructive a-hole than she had previously crafted for the book before. The main characters that populate the Black Jack Gentleman series seem to be the kings of stupidity and bad decisions. These bad-boys are hot-heads, selfish, and stupidly engage in random yet unbelievably hot sex rather than pursue the partner they actually want. I dub Ms. Crowe the queen of smartly written and intelligent smut – as she never fails to bring volcanically hot sensuality that leaves me… dehydrated. She is undoubtedly a keen observer as her books are richly detailed and highly insightful of her characters inner mechanizations, personality traits, and private musings.
My favorite of the series was Red Card, which is a heartbreaking story. It contains several love stories, as well as one of devastation and grief. It turned on a dime, stood me on my head, and pulled me inside out. I adored Metin but also frequently wanted to part his butt cheeks with my dainty foot. The story was angsty, high drama, sizzling sensuality, and painfully real. Ms. Crowe’s characters continue to fascinate, antagonize, lure, and bait me. They squeeze my heart, have me grinding my teeth, make me smile, and cause me to gasp and require rehydration and extra laundry. How she can trick me into caring for a bitter, cold, petulant, hostile, and bossy woman whose own father describes her as having a “terrifying personality” is… stupefying and mind-boggling, yet Liz Crowe has that down to an art form, and uses fifty cent words while doing so. While her storylines often frustrate and antagonize me, she always wins me back by the epilogue. I adore her, but she certainly makes me work for it.
Bad boy of European football, Nicolas Garza is about to hit American shores with a vengeance. Signed by the Detroit Black Jack Gentlemen as lynch pin for their expansion club, Nicco only half believes he’s making the right move. But with a past full of ghosts and rotten behavior chasing him from his homeland, he has no real choice.
Parker Rollings is a college soccer superstar, but his parents’ plans for their only son do not include professional athletics. When the Black Jacks approach him to finalize their roster, Parker leaps at the chance to keep playing, leaving behind medical school, stability and his first and only college sweetheart.
Nicco and Parker face off as bitter rivals for a coveted starting spot at midfield and are forced to channel their negative energy into something positive for the sake of the group—and themselves.
All eyes are on the fledgling team in its debut season. It’s crucial that the Black Jacks prove all the doubters wrong. They must make a good showing in the league and with new fans. But player drama, club dynamics, and misplaced priorities may tear it apart before it even begins.
MAN ON EXCERPT
A handful of fresh-faced young Americans interspersed in the group, which made Nicco feel old. Which totally pissed him off. What was Inez thinking anyway? There were two players per position in the room, two strong contenders for each spot—except his. He sipped his water bottle and glared at the Germans. Nervous tension gnawed at his gut but he kept his face calm. Finally when their temporary coach showed up and flipped the blinds closed, he relaxed.
So everyone in the room has to fight for their spot except me? That works.
He dropped his feet to the floor at Rafe’s pointed glance and propped his elbows on the table prepared to ignore the forthcoming pep talk.
He’d already made plans for the night and wanted to rest up beforehand. This goofy welcome pep talk would be as good a time as any. Letting his thoughts wander to the nightclub catering to gay men and promising full discretion, he made himself stop obsessing over the failed therapy session.
The door clicked open and all eyes landed on the tall, blond man who walked in, backpack on his shoulder, dressed to play. Nicco’s scalp tingled at the sight of him—strong torso, long legs, firm jaw covered with several days’ worth of fuzz. Good Christ but he was a perfect specimen. Nicco kept his casual stance but startled when the kid’s bright blue eyes and huge white smile landed on him.
He resisted the urge to smile back. Something about the man made Nicco distinctly uncomfortable but horny at the same time. He suddenly wished he’d held onto the shrink’s business card.
“And Parker will be working with you, Nicco.”
He sat up, knocking his water to the floor as Rafe’s words got his immediate attention. What the fuck? He stared at the polite hand the kid stuck in his face then over at Rafe. His throat closed up between the proximity of the impossibly handsome man and realization of the fact that the vision of masculine perfection he’d lusted after for the last few seconds wanted to take his spot on the field.
Oh hell no.
He leaned back again and ignored his inner polite self. Instead, he smirked, ignored the punk, and turned to face their coach as if suddenly fascinated by what the guy had to say. Parker stood a minute, and Nicco watched his face turn red before he sat in the one empty chair nearest the door.
Rafe passed out new phones, reminded them of their obligation to “tweet” and “post profile updates” on Facebook at least three times a day. All shit Nicco already knew. Rafe’s hot young lady assistant issued key cards to the ones who’d just arrived, including the kid Nicco studiously ignored but whose very presence was making the front of his jeans uncomfortable.
Free will makes us human.
Choice makes us individuals.
Love makes us unique.
Metin Sevim has it all. At the pinnacle of international soccer playing success, he has managed to craft a perfect world for himself along the way.
When fate strips him of free will and the ability to choose his own path, he retreats from everyone and everything, destroying his hard-won career in the process.
Dragged back from the brink by his desperate family, Metin reluctantly agrees to coach the Black Jack Gentlemen Detroit soccer team but remains debilitated by memories and loss. When a surprising friendship emerges, it renews his passion for life, providing much needed solace… and extreme complications.
A saga of family dynamics and gender politics that cuts across cultures and circumstance, Red Card illustrates the human capacity for forgiveness through the life of one man as he attempts to rebuild his shattered existence.
RED CARD EXCERPT
“It’s your hips that are the problem.”
Alicia started at the sound of his now-familiar, sing-song accent. She’d been kicking a line of balls into the net, one after the other for about fifteen minutes since she’d been early in her haste to get the hell out of her house and away from her sister’s violent disapproval.
Taking a breath, she crossed her arms and studied him. Metin wore a pair of dark blue soccer shorts, plain heather-gray shirt, and cleats, as easily as he’d worn the dress pants and crisp cotton shirt the night she’d met him—the night you fucked him, you mean.
He stood, loose-limbed, at ease in his element. His teeth glowed against his dark skin. The eyes she had melted into not forty-eight hours ago shone with something she couldn’t identify—happiness? Sarcasm? Lust? Who knew? Hoping to hide her frustration, she bent down to tie her laces tighter so he couldn’t see her face flush when her gaze hit the front of his shorts.
She rose, determined to resist the take-me-now aura the guy threw her way. He probably didn’t even realize he did it. Not anymore. “Okay, I’ll bite. What’s wrong with my hips?”
“Come at me.”
She blinked, confused. “Um, huh?”
“Attack, make like you want to score. You know? Like you do in games?”
“Oh, right.” Dropping the ball tucked under her arm, she glanced over his shoulder at her target. He let her, trotting backward a few steps, then made for the ball. She feinted, maintaining possession before dribbling a few more feet.
He came out of nowhere as she was about to make her final scoring charge, stripping her of the ball and sending her crashing to the turf.
“Ow. Shit,” she muttered, getting to her feet, a familiar, angry competitiveness stripping all the horniness right out of her head. “I still don’t get what….”
“Do it again.” He kicked the ball toward her, harder than necessary, but she stopped it and placed her cleat on top contemplating a different strategy.
Shifting to the side, she danced past him, using all the speed she could muster, and made straight for the goal. And there he was again, taking the damn ball away from her as if she were a rookie.
She tried to shield it, putting her back to him and sensing every inch of his warm, perfect physique against her skin. Forcing herself to focus, she landed a hard elbow to his midsection and escaped his trap then traveled down the field alone, turning on all her motors, no longer hearing anything, way into her zone.
And then, the damn man appeared in front of her again, batting the ball between her legs and taking off in the other direction, hand to his side where she’d nailed him.
“God damn it, Metin. What is your point? You’re a pro. I’m an unemployed college graduate. You’re a man. I’m not. You make money at this, and I never will. What the hell are you trying to prove?” Her legs hurt from her workout the day before and she could barely catch her breath. She was, in a word, miserable. But the sight of him a few yards away, messing with the soccer ball while he stared at her, brought visions of tackling him, holding him down, and kissing him right to the front of her overheated brain.
“Once more.” The soccer ball smacked the back of her legs so hard she yelped. “That’s your fucking yellow card for the elbow. One more and you’ll sit.”
A submissive once, a submissive forever?
A man on the run from the only life he’s ever known, Brody Vaughn is poised to accept the Black Jack Gentleman’s newly vacant goalkeeper’s position. It’s a desperate move, but one he must take to regain his emotional equilibrium. Reeling from his Mistress’s rejection and on the ragged edge of a total breakdown, he arrives in Detroit. Numb with thinly veiled grief, he walks into the club’s front office completely unaware that an encounter with true destiny awaits him.
Sophie Harrison has seen it all–as Domme, sub, and victim. Now that her complicated circumstances have landed her as legal counsel for the expansion Black Jacks team, she holds herself aloof in body and spirit. Nothing and no one gets past her fiercely guarded walls. Until the day she looks up to greet the new goalie standing in her doorway, his raw combination of vulnerability and strength making her breathless.
Two people, horribly scarred by the excesses of the BDSM lifestyle and hiding from their true selves, meet across a desk over a simple contract. All bets are off.
SHUT OUT EXCERPT
“Vaughn! Goddamn it.”
Brody sat, staring at his feet, ignoring the usual post-match noise and bustle around him. Most especially he hoped to hide from the voice of Rafael Inez, the club’s manager. Reminders of how poorly he’d performed today were not going to help him. He’d been playing soccer in some capacity since he walked, since he had memories of anything. And today had been among his worst, ever.
From the streets of Nashville and the hills of East Tennessee, he’d been on teams, in clubs, trained by himself, trained by pros, the whole goddamned nine yards. He’d seen every sort of match condition, coaching, officiating misstep, and parental overreaction. He realized what it meant to suck serious ass—he’d done so today. And he understood why, too—hence the dark clouds draping his consciousness
“Fucking… shit.” The team manager drew closer, his deep voice joined by another, as a sort of bonus, really. He leaned against the dark wood lining the walls in the over-the-top, fancy locker room.
Metin Sevim, the Turkish coach, once a Spanish league phenom, had had the world at his feet until a horrific tragedy struck, leaving him drunk and useless for years. Apparently recovered, he had a look on his face Brody Vaughn caught loud and clear—the “we lost and it is pretty much your fucking fault” glare that coaches the world over affected.
Exhausted in mind and spirit, sick of the chewing out before it even started, Brody gazed at both men. Rafe’s snapping eyes reflected the same expression as Metin’s. He opened his mouth first, but the Turk put a hand on his arm. The men regarded each other as the swirl of post-match activity came to a loud peak.
Players in various stages of undress wandered in and out of the main locker room, grabbing towels, pulling on the dress pants, shirts, and ties the club required of them when entering and leaving the facility. One thing Brody would say about the former-hot-headed, player-turned-failure-turned-coach, Metin knew when not to talk. He tilted his head, still pinning Brody with something that faded from this is your fault to what the hell is wrong with you?
Then he sighed and, to Brody’s surprise, dropped onto the chair next to him, leaned forward, elbows on knees, and seemed to examine the expensive, rubberized floor. Brody hadn’t even made it to the shower yet. He felt so weighed down and lethargic, just lifting his arms to put his head in his hands took more energy than existed on the planet. He understood why, along with the fact that there wasn’t a thing to be done about it.
How would he even begin to describe his… issue? Heart pounding, legs aching, shoulder screaming where he’d landed on it, hard, then waved away the trainer at the sixty-fifth minute. By that time all of the players were pretty gassed from the late summer heat, but held on, toe-to-toe, with the Canadian national team in a friendly. The stupid, sneaky forward had seen him wincing, favoring his left shoulder, and drove the ball right in on his newly weakened side. It had been a simple fifty-fifty ball; face to face. He had blown it, him and his overpaid, lame ass, wobbly self.
Thanks to his one quick encounter with the front office legal woman, he’d been left in a quivering, useless, uncertain heap of need. Fuck that. He had to get a grip.
$20 Gift Card and winner’s book of choice from Liz’s backlist
About Liz Crowe
Amazon best-selling author, mom of three, Realtor, beer blogger, brewery marketing expert, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville currently living in Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse.
Her early forays into the publishing world led to a groundbreaking fiction hybrid, “Unconventional Romance. Worth the Risk,” which has gained thousands of fans and followers interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”).
With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.
Don’t ever ask her for anything “like a Budweiser” or risk bodily injury.