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Secret Baby Scandal

By´╝ÜJoanne Rock

Secret Baby Scandal
Joanne Rock

One

"Good game, Reynaud." The beat writer who covered the New York Gladiators waited with a microphone in hand as starting quarterback, Jean-Pierre Reynaud, stepped into the interview room at the Coliseum Sports Complex.

Jean-Pierre was prepared for the reporter's questions as he settled into a canvas director's chair in the small, glassed-in booth after his third straight win at home. Just outside the interview room, thousands of fans lingered in the Coliseum's Coaches Club, staying after the game to see the players take turns answering questions for the media. Here, fans could relax and have a drink at the bar while the traffic thinned out after the Sunday night matchup versus Philadelphia.

After clipping the small microphone onto his jacket lapel with his right hand, which not too long ago had thrown the game-winning pass, Jean-Pierre gave the crowd a quick wave. The high ticket prices for the exclusive Coaches Club didn't prevent the fans here from bringing glittery signs or asking for autographs, but team security made sure these kinds of events went smoothly. Jean-Pierre would give an interview and roll out of here in less than thirty minutes, which would leave enough time to catch a private plane to New Orleans tonight. He needed to take care of some Reynaud family business, for one thing.

And for another? He planned to discreetly scout his brother's team, the New Orleans Hurricanes, before the much touted brother-against-brother football showdown in week twelve of the regular season. Of the four Reynaud siblings, Jean-Pierre's eldest brother, Gervais, owned the Hurricanes. The next oldest, Dempsey, coached the Hurricanes. And Henri Reynaud, known league-wide as the Bayou Bomber, ran the Hurricanes' offense from the quarterback position, slinging record-setting pass yardage with an arm destined for hall-of-fame greatness.

Living up to that legacy? No big deal. Right?

Damn.

As the youngest member of Louisiana's wealthiest family and co-owner of the Reynaud Shipping empire, Jean-Pierre had inherited his love of the game from his father and his grandfather, the same as his brothers. But he was the player the New Orleans papers liked to call "the Louisiana Turncoat" for daring to forge a career outside his home state-and outside of his family's sphere of influence. But since no NFL club had ever successfully split the starting QB job between two players, and Jean-Pierre wasn't the kind of man to play in a brother's shadow, he didn't care what the Big Easy sports pundits had to say about that. When the Gladiators made him an offer, he'd taken it gladly...once he'd recovered from the shock, of course. Gladiators head coach Jack Doucet had been an enemy of the Reynauds after a football-related falling-out between their families. Jack had been the second in command back on a Texas team that Jean-Pierre's grandfather had owned, and not only had the split been acrimonious, but it had also severed Jean-Pierre's brief prep-school romance with Jack's daughter when they moved across the country.

So yeah, it had been a surprise when Jack's team had offered Jean-Pierre a contract with the Gladiators.

New York was a big enough stage to prove himself worthy of the family's football legacy, but there was no room for failure. No NFL team sat in a brighter spotlight-the Gladiators doled out the highest number of press passes to media members. And if Jean-Pierre didn't hold their interest? He lost ink-and fans-to the second NFL club in New York, the one he got stuck sharing a stadium with on the weekends. He'd learned to play the press as well as he played his position on the field, was unwilling to lose the traction he'd gained since arriving in the Big Apple.

"Are you ready?" a New York sports radio personality asked him as the number of interviewers around him multiplied.

Jean-Pierre nodded, shoving his still-damp hair off his forehead before straightening his tie. The fast showers after a game barely took the steam off him. His muscles remained hot long afterward, especially since he did the interviews in suit and tie. His silk jacket weighed on his shoulders like a stack of wool blankets after two hours on the field dodging hits from the fastest D-line in the game.

Around him, the room quieted. The doors had been secured. Waiting for the first question to be fired his way, he peered past the reporters to the fans in the Coaches Club. All around the space, huge televisions that normally broadcast the game were now filled with the feed from the interview room. Jean-Pierre's gaze roamed over to where the team owner sat, holding court at one end of the bar with a handful of minor celebrities and a few of the first-year players.

And just when he needed his focus most, that's when he glimpsed her.

The head coach's daughter, Tatiana Doucet.

Infuriating. Sexy. And completely off-limits.

Their impulsive one-night stand last year had wrecked any chance they might have had at recovering their friendship. But dammit all, just looking at her still set his body on fire in a way that tripled any heat lingering from his time on the field.

He tugged at his tie and took in the sight of her, unable to tear his eyes away.

Tall and lean, she wore one of those dresses that showed off mile-long legs. Even though the rest of the dress was modest-splashes of colors highlighted with sequins, neckline up to her throat, sleeves that hit her wrist-the acres of bare skin from the middle of her thigh that trailed south were enough to stop traffic. She wore a silk scarf around her hair like a headband, no doubt to hold back the riot of dark brown curls that brushed her shoulders. Curls he remembered plunging his hands into during the best sex of his life. She stood at the back of the room, hovering close to an exit as if she wanted to be ready to run at first sight of him.

He understood that feeling well.

The punch to his chest from just seeing her was so strong he missed the first question in the interview, the words a warble of background noise in his head. How long had it been since she'd shown up at any Gladiators event?

Not since last season. Jean-Pierre hadn't laid eyes on her since that ill-advised night they'd spent tearing off each other's clothes.

Ignoring the aggravating rush of air though his lungs at spotting the woman he'd once cared about-a woman who'd since traded her soul for the sake of her job as a trial attorney-Jean-Pierre focused on the man holding the microphone.

"Run that question by me again?" He hitched the heel of his shoe on the metal bar of the director's chair and tried to get comfortable and relax into the interview the way he always did, even though his pulse hammered hard and his temperature spiked.

A low rumble of laughter from the journalists told Jean-Pierre he'd missed something. The throng crowded him, the handheld mics pushing closer while the boom mic overhead lowered a fraction. The sudden tension in the air was thick and palpable.

"No doubt it's a question you can't prepare for." The reporter from Gladiators TV, a popular app for mobile users, grinned at him. "But I have to ask what you think of Tatiana Doucet's remark to me just a minute ago, that she wouldn't bet against the Bayou Bomber playing in his home state when you match up against your brother's team in week twelve?"

The words sunk in. Hard. They damn near knocked him back in his chair.

Tatiana had said that? Implying she would bet against the Gladiators, the team her father coached? Or, more precisely, she would bet against Jean-Pierre.

Her father was going to have a conniption over that remark. Not just because of the suggestion that anyone in his family would bet on a game in any way, which was strictly forbidden. Jack Doucet wou

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