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Excerpt: Wild Card

(c) 2022 Adriana French

Chapter One


Snow is falling and, for whatever reason, the sight of the silvery flakes clinging to the pines outside the window calms me. Nothing else seems to help me relax anymore. Alcohol doesn’t work. I’m not into weed, or pills.


I only need the Montana chill in my bones to help me decompress after the most brutal baseball season of my career.


My lips curve into a satisfied grin. We did it. The Colorado Rockies won the World Series. Now I can take as much time as I choose to kick back and do whatever I want until next season.


My sister Scarlett, Greg Harmon and I, are sprawled out on the couch in my living room, half watching the pregame report, but mostly waiting for the football game to start.

“Did you know you’re getting married soon?” Scarlett blinks up at me and then peers down at her cell. She’s always been overdramatic, so I don’t give her more than a sideways glance. God knows what she’s reading.  


Greg, my best friend since third grade, grabs a handful of popcorn and takes Scarlett’s bait. “Who is it now?”

With a mischievous smirk, Scarlett flips her screen around and shows us an image of me and Kingsley Lockhart at Casa de Estrellas, my family’s estate in Texas.

“Really?” I sneer in disgust. The shot was taken last December after my mom’s annual winter bash. Kingsley’s clan and most of Greg’s were there as well, including his gorgeous sister Vivi, but it’s impossible to tell by the picture. “Where’s everybody else?” I groan and take a pull from my beer.

“The Kingsleys were at my parent’s house for dinner last night. You should’ve seen Kingsley in action.” Scarlett’s eyes grow wide as she fills Greg in, and I wish she’d drop the subject or at the very least, read the room. “She kept trying to talk you into sneaking off into a bedroom, didn’t she, Judge?”

“Rubbing salt in the wound, are you?” I hold my sister’s stare for a beat, and shift to Greg. “I brushed her off as best I could without being rude, but Kingsley was relentless.”

“Well, you have known her forever…” Greg says.

“Only because our parents are so tight, but I have zero interest in her. Don’t find her the least bit attractive.”

“Must be tough being a billionaire, with a World Series ring and all those women flinging their panties off and falling at your feet.” He teases.

Scarlett swipes her phone’s screen. “Looks like Kingsley is serious about you.” She shows me another picture Kingsley has obviously manipulated, and then another. “She’s making it look like you two are madly in love.”

“For fuck’s sake, don’t I have any say in this? Next time I see her, I’m going to nip this ludicrousy in the bud and since she refuses to take a hint, I won’t be as nice to her as I was last night.”

“You should check your Friendbook occasionally.” Scarlett mutters.

“It’s been so long I don’t even remember my password.” I reach over the cushions, gesturing for Scarlett to hand me her phone. “Do you mind?”

She waggles her brows and passes it to me.

Greg leans over, trying to see the screen. “Everyone’s pretty much lost their shit over you since you won the Series.”

“I didn’t win the World Series, The Rockies did. My team did. We all did.” Crap. I scroll through Kingsley’s Friendbook page. I’m in almost every post.

“Correction.” Greg contemplates me with pride. “When you threw that no hitter, and you secured your team’s wild card position in the playoffs. Your team then went on to win the World Series. The Rockies wouldn’t have had the chance to even compete if you didn’t get them into the playoffs first.”

I’m so fucking distracted by what I’m seeing on Scarlett’s phone. I’m getting a headache. I show Greg the screen.


“Look at that picture. These were all originally group photos of our families. Serves me right for standing next to her on the end. I made it too easy for her to crop everyone else out of the shot.”

“Guess it doesn’t help that Kingsley’s dad owns FriendBook,” Scarlett adds.

“You know Vivi’s working there now.” My chest tightens when Greg mention’s his sister’s name. I’ve been so consumed with baseball; I haven’t had the bandwidth to think of anything else. Unlike Kingsley, or any of the other women who are now suddenly into me because I’m in the limelight, Vivi has always appreciated me for exactly who I am, World Series winner or not.


She’s been my biggest cheerleader since she was seven. Which means I’ve been holding myself back from kissing her since I was nine. And all this time, I’ve managed to hide my attraction to her from Greg who would ring my neck if he ever found out. Vivi’s the baby of the family and I understand why the Harmon’s are so protective of her.


After they lost Tate, Greg’s older brother in Afghanistan, you can hardly blame them for trying to shield Vivi from any more heartache—but hurting Vivi is the farthest thing from my mind. Hell, it’s too dangerous for me to allow myself to think of any what-ifs with Vivi.

Over the last few years, my desire for her has grown in intensity, to the point where whenever I’m near her I get a hard on, which makes my attraction to her all the more challenging. “So Vivi isn’t living in Silicon Valley?” I casually press Greg.  

He shrugs his shoulders. “Nope. Friendbook stole her from Google, so she’s back home, at least for now.” My pulse quickens with the realization of her being within my reach again, especially now that the season is over. I keep my face devoid of expression so Greg doesn’t catch on. “She has to travel to Menlo Park and pop into Friendbook headquarters once a month, but she works remotely most of the time. Kingsley’s on her project team.”

“Well good.” Scarlett reaches for her phone and I pass it back to her. “Maybe Vivi can delete Kingsley’s posts.”

Greg shakes his head and downs another fistful of popcorn. “Vivi doesn’t have anything to do with content. She’s creating Friendbook’s virtual reality space, or programming something. Not sure. I’m too busy at the ranch to keep up with exactly what my brainiac sister does. But she has three gigantic monitors set up in the back room, with a special Wi-Fi system, a VPN. Top secret shit. Big league.” He sets his empty down on the coffee table and I dig into the icy bucket next to me and hand him a fresh beer.

Greg stares out the window while he pops the top open. My best friend is very good at many things, but Poker isn’t one of them. He has the sort of face that reads like a book, and there’s something cooking in that brain of his. “Tell you what.” And here it comes… “I might be able to get you out of this predicament with Kingsley.” With a shit-eating grin, he turns and narrows his dark eyes on me.

“I’m all ears.”

“Vivi was just complaining that she doesn’t have a date for the Friendbook gala. She’s vying for a promotion and is positive she won’t get it unless she’s in a serious relationship.”

“What the hell kind of crock is that?” I snap, pissed that anyone would pull that archaic bullshit on her. She’s the smartest woman I know.

“Are we back in the fifties, now?” Scarlett scowls. “She doesn’t need a husband or a boyfriend, or girlfriend, or anyone to do her job.”

“I think the issue is she’s the youngest in her department. She’s only twenty-two.” Greg points out as if I’m not already well aware of every single fact regarding Vivi Harmon. The only reason I didn’t realize she was back in West Palomino was because of my insane season this year, but I would’ve found out on my own. “Vivi is competing with people a lot older than her. She needs to give the impression that she’s stable.”

“I can’t imagine how anybody would think Vivi wasn’t.” Scarlett points to our beer stash, and I hand her another.

“You’re not attracted to her.” Greg’s oblivious to how wrong he is. “And she sure as hell isn’t to you.” To be determined, but based on the way Vivi’s eyes lit up the last time I saw her, I sincerely doubt there isn’t a little room for persuasion. My filthy brain goes off on a tangent with ideas of how and where I would start seducing Vivi if she ever gave me an inkling of a green light. “So pretend you’re engaged to Vivi, and go to the company party with her next weekend. Problem solved.”

“Judge engaged?” Scarlett squeals and throws her head back with a laugh… “Oh my God, what I wouldn’t pay to be a fly on the wall at that party.”

“C’mon, Scarlett. Give me a break. It might be possible for me to settle down some day. I’m not that much of an animal.”

She lifts her head from the cushion and looks me in the eye. My sister has this annoying ability to raise only one eyebrow, the equivalent of a smart-ass smirk. “Interesting that the first word that comes to your mind to describe yourself is animal, isn’t it?”

I ignore Scarlett, and pretend I need a moment to respond to the best fucking idea Greg has ever had. “You sure your sister would be game for this?”

“I should probably run it by her first before you talk to her, but why wouldn’t she want to go for it? It’s a win-win. She moves up in the company, and you get Kingsley off your back. The party is at the Lockhart’s place in Whitefish.”

I bite down a smile and contemplate the irony of Greg setting me up with Vivi. I’ll have her all to myself ... and if he has a shit fit about anything, I can remind him it was his idea. Talk about a win-win…

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