Ramon Castillo, world famous soccer player and international playboy has been brought low by a career-ending injury. After the humiliation of a shattered leg at the World Cup final, he has spent a year enduring surgeries and painful therapies, the last three months of which are at the Castillo resort in Las Vegas under the watchful eye of his cousin, Jackson Castillo and owner of the Castillo hotel chain. But Ramon’s lack of interest in soccer, women, or in anything besides the blackjack tables has Jackson worried. Gillian Winter, catering and banquet manager for the MGM Grand Hotel is nurturing her own deep wounds. Her beloved husband has died unexpectedly, leaving her with a young son whose one dream is to meet his hero: Number 17 on the American National Soccer team, Ramon Castillo. When an apparent chance encounter in the lobby of the MGM reveals Ramon's presence in their midst, everyone's lives are changed forever. Can Madame Eve work her magic and bring true healing to Ramon and Gillian? Or is it too late?
Leaning over, elbows on knees, he fought with every ounce of his being not to run back out the door. His knee and shin started throbbing in sympathy. He clenched his eyes shut and tried to still the mantra: I can’t do this…I can’t do this…I can’t go back here…it’s too much work…it’s….
A hand on his knee broke his concentration. He jerked his head up and stared straight into a set of deep green, worried eyes. The sudden urge to stand, take her with him and kiss her overwhelmed him until he had to grit his teeth against it. She smiled. The understanding in her gaze helped. His heart kept pounding, but he smiled back as he glimpsed Harrison’s bright hair and freckled face peeking around his mother’s long legs. They were both dressed to play.
“Mom,” Harrison tugged at her shorts. “Is that really….” He pointed, his smile huge and infectious.
“Ramon Castillo. I’m pleased to meet you.” The woman guided the boy from behind her and pushed him forward. The kid introduced himself, his face bright with awe. Ramon couldn’t help but grin at his enthusiasm. “Do me a favor, Harry.” Harrison looked up at his mom and she nodded. “Don’t make a big deal about it because I came here today to play with you.”
The boy nodded and reached for his mother’s arm.
“Oh, and with my mom. She’s a killer goalie, you know.”
Ramon got to his feet, only somewhat confident his legs would hold him and he wouldn’t throw up.
“Yeah, I’ve heard.” He extended a hand to her. She took it, and his entire body zinged at the connection. She gasped and stepped back, covering the awkward moment by kneeling down and talking to her son. Ramon froze in place, words caught in his throat, watching her strong body move under a tight T-shirt and soccer shorts. She finally stood back up and faced him.
“So, no gloves?” He pointed at her hands, devoid of the protection goalkeepers usually wore.
She gave him a challenging look. “You counting on me needing them?”
He put a hand on her back, dying to touch her again, and using the excuse of getting them out of a growing crowd of gawkers to do so.
“You might be surprised.” Some of his old confidence returned. The combination leather-sweat-turf odors of the place no longer made him nauseous, but became familiar and energizing. He hadn’t so much as passed a soccer ball since his accident. Something about the moment made him want that, if for no other reason than to divert the raging lust for the woman he followed onto the field.