Hot. Intense. Relentless.
Rory Cameron is all about rugby. He’s been playing since he was a wee bairn in Edinburgh. By now, he should be a powerhouse with his single-minded dedication to the Traverse City Blues Rugby Club. But something is missing. With his dad breathing down his neck to make a big club, the last thing he needs is a sassy country girl distracting him.
Grace making the men’s team? Improbable. Rory coaching a women’s rugby team? Unbelievable. Falling for the girl? Absolutely.
Grace Bowman moves to Michigan to forge a new life without her family’s constant mothering. She refuses to let her diabetes keep her from the life she craves. Time to live big and take chances—carpe diem and all that. Still, the last thing she expects is for things to heat up with the coach of the women’s rugby team. If her new lifestyle doesn’t kill her, rugby just might. But Grace is willing to take the chance for a winning try with Rory.
Most people assumed if you were quiet, you were passive, if you were an introvert, you were dispassionate.
That was the farthest from the truth.
Ruaridh, or Rory as everyone called him, was a very passionate man. It just didn’t show on the outside. Or rarely. Even when Rory was in pain, like he was now. He had mucked up the game for the Blues again, and he couldn’t stop thinking about it. They had lost Saturday’s match on a play Coach called the Americana. Not sure if the name was based on the coffee or the culture… Actually, the coffee was an Americano, so no. And did it even matter?
He stretched his neck from side to side, pops and creaks as he did. For the hundredth time, he thought perhaps he wasn’t made for rugby. Maybe it wasn’t in his blood like his father claimed. Maybe there had been a leap in generations, the ball gene bouncing haughtily over the top of his head. All the weight training, conditioning, the protein smoothies, rugby videos for strategy—eating and breathing rugby—and still no results. At least not what was expected of him.
“Bro, grab that other side of the table and help me move it to the far wall.”
“Oh, sure, Del.”
They shuffled and maneuvered the table down the long aisle banked with treadmills and rowers nearest the window, stationary bikes and ellipticals on the other side. It was a Monday at Crunch Fitness Gym, one of the busiest nights of the week, almost every machine taken, and the reason they were here to do a bit of recruitment for the Blues. The bigger the pool of men to play, the better chance of winning the games.
“Right along here, Rory, boy.”
Del placed his side of the table first along the back wall of the core strength area littered with colorful exercise balls. Rory then followed with his own side of the table. “Where’s Irish?”
“He probably waited for Gillian to get home from work for a bit of humpty-dumpty, but he’ll be here. Come on, cuz, let’s grab the chairs.”
Rory followed Del back the way they had come. Padraig, who the team had nicknamed Irish, had been new to the Blues last year but already had landed a woman and a spot on the USA Eagles national team. “I kind of miss him at the house.”
Del gave him a look over his shoulder as though he was completely daft. “We’re talking about the same Irish, right? Moody fucker as fun as a torn ligament?”
“He’s gotten better. You have to admit.”
Del handed Rory three folding chairs and then collected the box with their flyers and sign-up sheets. He grabbed their banner that was still set along the brick wall at the entrance to the gym. “Mate, that’s true. When he first came, never thought I’d see the day.”
Both turned to see Irish standing just inside the door with a gear bag over his shoulder.
“Ah, speak of the devil. Help Rory with one of those chairs, mate, and give us a hand setting up.”
Irish dropped his bag where he stood and offered a hand to Rory, who refused. “Nah, you’re good. Need the extra training. I got this.”
Irish shook his head. “Do you ever stop, like?”
“Not until I get there.” Rory shimmied past both the lads, ignoring the look that Irish had thrown Del. He’d get there. Any day now and things would click, all come together. His rugby stars would align, and he’d be a streak of lightning on the pitch. This Cameron would play for a big European club, just like his da wanted. He’d be a blur on the field, dodging and spinning, one try after another—a champion.
Lost in the beautiful daydream, Rory missed helping with the setup until Del yelled at him to help hang the Blues banner across the front of the table.
The three of them took a chair behind with Del in the middle.
Behind the row of ellipticals and bikes was a wall of weight machines that divided the room between the cardiovascular equipment and the large area for free weights. The gym had become something of a second home to Rory over the years, and although comfortable in the space, he recently found it boring. Always the same people, often many trying to show off, the stench of sweat and body odor now overbearing. Where the noises of a busy gym used to offer him a type of relief, a recognition of who he was in a way, he now found them irritating and abrasive.
They had barely sat down when a couple of girls walked by the table. A blonde with big breasts in a tight gym shirt and leggings slowed as she passed and smiled. Her eyes flickered over all three before they settled on Del.
“Good evening, ladies, you want to play rugby?” Del waved a flyer at them, his smile bright against his darker skin.
Her friend with short, spiky hair and more muscles than Rory tugged on the blonde’s hand until she moved again.
“Aw c’mon,” Del teased. “We could use some fit ladies like yourselves.”
The blonde smiled over her shoulder and shook her head.
“Del, you’re off to a bad start,” Irish said.
“What do you mean, bro? I think I’m off to a perfect start.”
“Wrong sex,” Rory pointed out.
Del tipped his chair onto the back legs. “Nope. Right sex.”
“Coach said we can recruit women?” Rory asked.
Irish leaned his elbows on the table and made a point to roll his eyes at Rory. He hated when the bastard did that. Padraig had a boarding school education, just like Rory, but he didn’t have to show it off all the time. “He’s not talking about gender, Rory.”
Ah, got it.
“I’m interested,” a female voice interrupted.
Their heads turned in unison to a petite woman who stood just left of the table. She wore old-style gray tracksuit pants the Americans called sweatpants, heavy cotton and bunched at the knees, and a pink T-shirt with black letters that read I don’t wear bows. I shoot ’em. Rory snorted a laugh. She had her brown hair pulled back with a headband and a water bottle in her hand, but it was her eyes that he returned to again and again in his assay. Big and bold, a beautiful dark blue, like the deepest fathoms of the ocean.
“Uhhh…” Del finally broke the awkward moment, but with nothing that could save their arses. Even with all the swishes of the machines and the clank of weights dropping, an uncomfortable silence had draped itself around their table.
She crossed her arms. “I thought I just heard y’all ask that blond chick if she wanted to play.”
Irish covered his mouth with his hand, most likely hiding the smirk that Rory knew well, and Del just sat there with his mouth open. Rory wanted to say something. Anything to help her. Or maybe not so much help, but break the horrible discomfort that hung in the air. Rory rubbed at his chest to ease the ache.
Hands up in the air, she asked, “Well? Can I play or not?”
About the Author
Having traveled and lived all over the world, Cd Brennan now enjoys reliving her glory days by writing about them. Feisty heroines with wanderlust or sexy rugby heroes who breathe passion for more than just the sport.
Aussie/Yankee twined, Cd is now settled in Michigan with a rugby player of her own and two wee sons who are still adapting to the snow. A full-time editor and mum, she and her hubby still dream of starting a hobby farm—a few cows or buffalo, maybe some chickens and pigs, too. She loves rugby, traveling, anything outdoors, and all things from the 80s.
But she especially loves to hear from readers! Find her at your favorite places.