“Easily deserves 5 stars.”
“I did found that this book was very heartfelt, honest but yet emotional.”
“I loved how these 2 showed us that even though we may not be perfect, we are perfect for someone else, and they can and will love us.”
In Emma’s book, love is a lie, but she’s ready to turn the page.
Emma has hit loves rock bottom. Damaged by lies and deceit, she has become the kind of woman she hates.
After a chance reunion with her childhood crush, their sizzling chemistry offers Emma a chance at the type of pure love she dreamed about as a girl.
Jaken Tanner is a star, from the most popular guy in school to the face of the NFL. He is a winner with sexy good looks and a heart of gold.
Emma doesn’t deserve someone like Jaken. She is used to being second choice, but Jaken treats her as number one. After she discovers he has secrets of his own; she vows to make it work, but when his past comes back to haunt them, she retreats into her self-destructive ways.
Will the past destroy her chance with the right guy or will Emma realize she has been perfectly molded by her experiences to build a future with her one true love?
A New Season is a passionate sports romance by Sydney Aaliyah Michelle. If you like an alpha male with a heart of gold, a couple with smokin hot chemistry, and a pager turner that’s impossible to put down, then you’ll love Sydney Aaliyah Michelle’s latest stand alone, HEA romance.
Pick up A New Season and read Emma’s journey to acceptance today!
Read Chapter 1
Copyrighted Material Sydney Aaliyah Michelle 2016 – All Rights Reserved by SAM & Associates, LLC
My impression of first class—it’s so much safer than coach. Why?
Maybe it was because the ticket cost a fortune. It wasn’t my fortune, thankfully. It was part of my ex-boss’s creative severance package. Maybe it was the sweet bubbly champagne served by the perky flight attendant. I forgave her for her strained million-watt smile. Her tight, polyester uniform didn’t allow much blood to reach her head.
Perhaps, it felt safe because anything could happen in first class. In first class, you could settle in your seat, lean over, and watch the airport workers scurry across the tarmac. As they prepare your plane for departure, a slight breeze of wood and spice cologne fills your nose. You turn and the world moves in slow motion as you seek out the origin of the scent. In first class, you knew it belonged to something or someone good. Only in first class could you find yourself staring into the eyes of the man of your dreams.
“I know you from somewhere,” he said. His baritone voice vibrated through my chest. It wasn’t a line, either. We did know each other.
“You’re Jaken Tanner.” I left off the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.
“Yeah, I know who I am. Who are you?”
The cute way his nose crinkled made me forget my name for a second.
“Dennis,” I said. “Emma Dennis.” I didn’t mean to sound like James Bond.
“Wait…” He tilted his head and his eyes brightened. “You’re Vince Dickerson’s sister, right?”
“Mr. Tanner, can I get you anything,” Ms. Polyester interrupted.
His gazed locked on mine while he answered her. “I’m good.”
“You sure? A cognac, champagne?”
I panicked for a minute. If he turned, her million-watt cleavage would be in his face. I could not let that happen.
“He’s fine. We’ll call you if we need anything.” My voice projected louder than I had intended, but it had the desired effect.
The flight attended released a frustrated sigh and walked away. I turned back and found Jaken licking his lips and smiling.
I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from freaking out.
“How is your brother?”
“Oh, you know Vin. He’s always good.”
“Where are you coming from?” he asked, and I forgot. I had spent the last three years of my life traveling around Asia, and it completely slipped from my brain. I was too busy staring at the shape of his perfect, full lips. They were hot. “Hello. Emma. You with me?”
“Yeah, I’m sorry.” Pay attention, Emma. “I’m coming from Shanghai.”
His eyes narrowed. “Shanghai.” But he shook his head and asked, “What were you doing there?”
“One of my professors got a fellowship to study and teach in the university system in China. She asked me to come with her.”
“That’s why I haven’t seen you around town in a while.”
“Well, I left after I graduated.”
“You went to UT, right?”
“Well, I won’t hold that against you.” The University of Texas and Texas A&M were two of the oldest rivals in college history.
A dozen college teams had recruited Jaken. In the end, he’d decided to follow his high school coach to Texas A&M. Everyone thought he had a problem with adjusting to change. Although, after he had won the Heisman as a sophomore, no one else had a thing to say about Jaken Tanner, his choices, or his ability.
“You’re heading to New York?” I asked. Of course he was, considering we were on a plane to New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
“Yep. I had a commercial shoot in LA, and now I’m heading to New York for an appearance. Then it’s back home.”
“Commercial shoot, huh?”
“Yep, for Reebok.”
“So, what were you doing in Shanghai, exactly?”
“Research mostly.” I shrugged my shoulders.
“You moved to China to research America.” He chuckled. “What do Asians know about America?”
“You’d be surprised.”
I leaned into him and his laugh stopped as he placed his elbow on the armrest. I looked down and mentally measured the centimeters between his elbow and my forearm. I slid it a little closer, trying to seem inconspicuous.
The plane engines roared and I lost all inconspicuous points as I grasped his forearm in a death grip.
“Whoa, you okay?”
“I’m sorry. I’m kind of a nervous flyer. I’m okay.” Yet, my hand remained wrapped around his arm. I tried to let go, but I just couldn’t. His muscles flexed and I looked up and found him watching me, not with confusion, but with strange amusement. I removed my hand and turned to face forward.
“Welcome to American Flight 545, non-stop to New York’s LaGuardia Airport . . .”
The flight attendant continued her speech. I must have looked like whatever she was saying was the most interesting information I had ever heard. My eyes remained glued to her and her huge shaking chest as the plane taxied down the runway.
How am I going to sit next to this gorgeous man for the next five hours?
I’d had a crush on Jaken Tanner since I was twelve years old. He didn’t have a crush on me; I didn’t think he even knew I existed. Not to mention his interest would have classified him as a criminal because he was seventeen at the time.
As the plane continued toward the runway, the passengers grew quiet and the engines grew louder. My eyes grew wide and sirens went off in my head.
“You can hold my hand if you want to.”
His tone was playful, but the plane jolted and I didn’t care. I needed to hold on to something, and he offered. I grabbed for his hand. He laced his fingers between mine and laid our hands down on the armrest. We sat that way as the plane gathered speed, took off, and ascended to the sky.
We rode that way for the next few minutes. I enjoyed it and dreaded it. Enjoyed having a good excuse to touch him and dreading the moment when we reached ten thousand feet and …
He squeezed my hand, but then released it, which annoyed me, but he continued talking. I smiled like a twelve-year-old on the inside.
“How did you travel all over Asia when you are afraid to fly?’
“I’m not afraid to fly; it just makes me nervous. Only the takeoff and landing. Usually I’d have taken a Valium by now, but…”
“You distracted me.”
“That’s the sweetest thing anyone’s every said to me.”
And there it was…the moment I’d been waiting for since I was twelve years old. Jaken Tanner was flirting with me. I wanted to call all the girls back home who teased me for my obsession with football and say, suck it, girls.
“So, what are you doing in New York?”
“I’m meeting my mom there. My birthday is tomorrow.”
“Oh really, how old will you be?”
“I didn’t realize you were that much younger than me.” I stopped myself from saying, I did.
“You didn’t notice me at all when we were younger.”
“That’s not true. You look different, but you have the same smile and those big brown eyes. They are the same.”
I looked different was his polite way of saying that I was thinner. I was one of those kids who just never lost my baby fat. I would call myself big boned or chunky. My older brother affectionately called me Bear. My brother was an ass.
I wished Jaken didn’t remember me. I’d much rather he not remembered how awkward, weird, and self-conscious I was as a teenager. I would rather we meet fresh and I could show him all the confidence and swagger I had acquired in the last couple of years. Confidence that I couldn’t seem to conjure at the moment, as I dropped my head.
He reached out and raised my chin. When I met his eyes, he nodded. “Yeah, those eyes.”
I flashed him a shy smile and fell into his crisp blue eyes. Now I get what they mean when they describe the color of a person’s eyes like the ocean at sunset. Of course, I would never say that out loud, but that was exactly what his eyes looked like.
“How are your mom and dad?”
“They are good. Mom still works for Vin.”
“Oh, yeah. I haven’t seen him in a while. Only at events around town in the off season. He and his wife, Kaitlyn.”
“Oh, yeah. That’s probably a good thing.” I hadn’t seen them at all in three years.
“You don’t like her.”
“We used to be best friends.”
“Used to? What happened?”
“She married Vincent Dickerson.”
He nodded his head, and I realized he understood.
I yawned before I could stop myself.
“You must be tired. You’ve been flying for how long?”
“Wow. Go ahead and get some sleep.”
I blinked my eyes in hopes it would keep me awake. I did not want to waste this opportunity. I had wished for a one-on-one, honest-to-goodness, actual conversation with Jaken Tanner all my life; I didn’t want to sleep through it.
I yawned again.
“Here.” He offered me his hand. “You can hold my hand again. You know, if it makes you feel better.”
I smiled and he smiled back. I didn’t want to get ahead of myself, but returning home was turning out to be a brilliant idea.
* * *
“Emma.” His deep voice whispered in my ear, and I moaned and turned toward it. His hand let go of mine as it came up and caressed my cheek. His hand curled around my neck and pulled me to him. I felt his breath against my lips and I leaned in. His lips landed on mine and…
“Emma.” My eyes shot open as the voice came from further away.
“Hey, we’re about to land.” I looked down and found my hand gripping the armrest. We were no longer holding hands. He followed my eyes. “You dropped my hand, curled up, and leaned against the window mumbling to yourself. I didn’t take it personal.”
I wiped my lips to make sure I hadn’t drooled and sat up straight. The plane was beginning to descend. My insides flipped and queasiness rumbled in the pit of my stomach.
“So, what do you have planned for your birthday?”
“Uhm, dinner. You want to join us?” Did I just ask Jaken Tanner out? No, maybe he’ll think I was being polite.
“I would, but I have to leave first thing tomorrow morning.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. “My event is tonight, but I’ll be done by eleven. Maybe we could meet up after I get back. Where are you staying?”
“W in Time Square.” First, his scent floored me. Then, his gorgeous blue eyes made me forget my name. Now, his smile would have knocked me on my ass if I hadn’t already been seated.
“That’s where I’m staying.”
“I swear.” He grinned at me as if he knew a secret and wanted to share it with me.
I took his phone out of his hand and showed him the locked screen.
“Zero, Eight, Zero, Eight.”
“I know.” He chuckled. “I needed something I could remember,” he said in a goofy Texas drawl. Even that voice made me hot.
I grinned and typed the numbers. I opened the contacts and added my info.
“I won’t have a phone until later, but you can email me.”
“Okay. Why don’t you have a phone?”
“I lost it in the separation.” He blinked. “My boss wasn’t exactly thrilled with me leaving.”
“You didn’t leave on good terms?”
“I believe she used the words ‘betrayed’ and ‘abandoned.’ She bought me a plane ticket and said bye bye.”
“Oh.” He nodded, licked his lips, and smiled.
“I can see how it would be hard to let you go.” Again, I bit my lip and failed to acknowledge his flirty comeback.
He chuckled and it vibrated off my chest and into my heart. I grinned back and spent the rest of the flight staring out the window.
It was a clear night and the lights of New York City appeared over the horizon. I knew it was silly, but after spending three years in Asia, I felt like an immigrant returning to America. I might actually kiss the ground and vow never to leave it again.
Jaken leaned over and looked out the window over my shoulder. His breath hit the back of my neck and I shivered.
“So, Emma, you ready to start your new life.” I looked back at him and smiled. When I returned to the view, I prayed my imagination would stop inserting Jaken Tanner into my new life.
It’s just a plane ride, for fuck’s sake.
The plane landed and Jaken helped get my stuff down. He stood in the aisle and motioned for me to go ahead of him. When I reached for my rolling bag, he took the handle and said, “I got it.”
His chivalry was sweet, but unexpected. In China, I did everything for myself.
We walked off the plane and into the airport. I spotted my mom right away. Her short, curly, silver hair stood out in the crowd. Tears sprung to my eyes when her incredible laugh filled the airport terminal. We saw each other last year when my mom visited me, but it felt like a million years ago. I forgot about Jaken and weaved my way through the crowd to her waiting arms.
“My baby girl,” Mom said.
“Hi, Mama.” I hugged her and she squeezed me so tight, I thought she would break a rib.
“Oh, I missed you.”
“Me, too.” I let go a little, but she didn’t. She squeezed tighter. She flew in last night and stayed at a hotel near the airport. She insisted on waiting for me before going into the city.
Mother and I had a strange relationship. We weren’t close. My brother was her precious little boy. If she took time out of her schedule to meet me here in New York, then it had something to do with him, but it was good to see family. “Mama, you’re going to hurt me.”
“I’m sorry. Hey, don’t look now, but Jaken Tanner is staring at you.”
I held her at arm’s length and laughed.
“We were on the same flight.” I waved for Jaken to approach.
“That was some reunion. Hi, Mrs. Dennis.” He reached down and hugged my mom, and for some strange reason, my jaw ached. I reminded myself to relax. I imagined hugging Jaken so many times—fantasized about doing other things with him. Here I was watching my mom getting what I wanted.
I shook the thought out of my head and focused on keeping my face neutral.
“Well, Jaken. Don’t you look good.”
Jaken blushed, and it was the most adorable thing I ever saw.
“Mrs. Dennis, you’re too sweet,” he said and winked at me as he hugged my mom again. I bit my lip in frustration.
“Jaken is staying at the W, too.”
“Oh, really. Well, it’s fate that you two ran into each other.”
“I should have a car; you ladies need a ride?”
“That would be lovely. I can’t stand taxis,” Mom said, and she and Jaken took off toward baggage claim. I trailed behind, feeling a bit like the little fat girl in middle school all over again. Chasing after the football star and watching him flirt … with my mother.
We entered the baggage claim area and a short old man in a suit held up a sign with the name Jason Bourne. I knew it was for Jaken. The Bourne Identity was his favorite movie, and hip-hop was his favorite type of music. He loved the color green but was partial to Cowboy blue since they had drafted him in the first round seven years ago. I also knew Italian was his favorite food, but he loved to barbecue. I knew all this from his website because Jaken Tanner was famous. Like the kind of famous who had limos booked under an anonymous name.
“Hey,” he said to the driver.
“Mr. Tanner. Pleasure.” He looked around Jaken at my mom and me and smiled. “I was told it was just you.”
“Yeah, I picked these ladies up on the airplane,” Jaken said and the driver laughed.
“We know each other from Dallas,” I said and wasn’t sure why I was explaining anything to this guy.
He shrugged his shoulders while he grabbed my carry-on bag and Jaken’s wardrobe bag.
“We have checked bags, too,” I said.
“Three suitcases,” I said and bit my lip. The guys and Mom all turned to look at me. “What? I accumulated a lot of stuff in three years.”
“One suitcase a year. That’s not bad,” Jaken said and headed toward the conveyor belt.
I decided to keep quiet about the four boxes I had shipped.
When the driver organized all my bags in the trunk, we were off to New York. My mom ended up sitting in the front seat with the driver while Jaken and I sat in the back. It was five thirty in the morning, and the sun was beginning to creep up into the sky as we headed into the city. I leaned my head back on the seat and found Jaken looking at me. I smiled and he dropped his eyes and I followed his line of sight to his open hand. I placed my hand in his. I closed my eyes but didn’t fall asleep.
I concentrated on the point where his hand touched mine. The way his fingers slid between mine when the car jolted, and the rough feel of the callus that formed at the top of his palm. It was his right hand—the hand he used to throw a football. The hand he earned millions of dollars with. His million-dollar hand in mine made me feel kind of special.
We rode the rest of the way to the hotel like that, and thankfully, my hand didn’t sweat. I couldn’t say the same thing for the rest of my body.
As we arrived at the hotel, I let go of his hand and started to exit the car. Jaken grabbed my arm and I turned back toward him.
“Check your email before you crash tonight.”
“You sent me an email.”
“Yeah, you fell asleep on me on the plane.”
“You told me to.”
“Now, I’m telling you to read your email.” He winked and my insides grew nauseous but in a good way.
A few minutes later, safe in my hotel room with my mom changing for a morning workout, I fished my computer out of my bag and turned it on. Nothing. No power.
Waiting in my inbox could be the most romantic email of my short romantic life and I had no way to access it.
I looked over at my mom’s phone plugged into the nightstand outlet. For a sixty-year-old mother, she was a modern woman, but she hated technology. Her flip phone wouldn’t help. I collapsed on the bed and squeezed my eyes shut. I wished I could sleep, but it was five o’clock in the afternoon in China. I would rather dream about Jaken in my sleep instead of obsessing over him while I was wide-awake.
In my fantasies, Jaken and I were the perfect couple. In reality, my mind created thousands of reasons why Jaken and Emma didn’t make sense.