Playing for Keeps
(Sporting Secrets, #3)
Publication date: July 6th 2022
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Romance, Sports
Falling for your former best friend? Never a good idea.
Ethan Lewis is the joker of his rugby team, the guy who’s always up for a good time. The only thing that can wipe the smile from his face is any mention of his former best friend, Luke. He has no idea why Luke has actively avoided him for the past five years. Okay, so he broke the bro-code by hooking up with Luke’s sister, but the result was his son—and he wouldn’t change that for the world. So when he hears Luke’s signed a contract to play for his team, Ethan decides he’s going to do everything he can to get his best friend back.
Luke has returned to New Zealand from playing rugby overseas, determined to achieve his lifelong dream and make the national team. And he’s not about to let Ethan’s presence distract him. So what if one of his new teammates is the person who shredded his heart? Luke’s moved past that, and he’s happy now with his new boyfriend. There’s no way he’s falling back under Ethan’s spell.
But it turns out no matter how good you are at evading the opposition, there’s one thing you can never escape—and that’s the love of your life.
Seeing that look of concentration on Ethan’s face, I was suddenly whisked back in time to the summer we were sixteen.
Ethan and I were sleeping in a tent on the back lawn of my parents’ holiday home in Wānaka, as we usually did. I’d woken up to find Ethan tossing and turning, his sleeping bag rustling like a bag of potato chips every time he moved.
I propped myself up on my elbow to look at him.
“What’s wrong?” I whispered.
“I can’t sleep.”
“Yeah, I picked up on that. Thanks for sharing your insomnia with me. I really appreciate it.”
It was a small tent, and I could feel Ethan’s tension as he tried not to move. He half sat up, then thumped back onto the airbed with a groan. “Urgh! I can’t turn my brain off sometimes. I suppose that’s to be expected with my exceptionally large brain.”
I snorted. “Yeah, you keep telling yourself that.”
He shuffled again, tossing one way, then almost immediately turning back.
“What do you normally do when you can’t sleep?” I asked.
“I jerk off.”
My breath rushed out of me while my cock immediately started to firm up at the thought.
Great. Now the idea of Ethan jerking off was in my head, which meant I wasn’t getting back to sleep for hours. If ever. No doubt my brain would prefer that particular daydream over the random crap my real dreams threw at me.
He shuffled again.
“So jerk off now.” I spoke without thinking, the words channeled from my subconscious.
Ethan’s breath hitched. “What?”
My heart pounded. I needed to keep talking, fast.
“If it means you’ll stop moving, I’m happy for you to sing the entire One Direction album. Whatever it takes to get you to settle down.”
In the silence I heard Ethan swallow. My heart continued to thump.
“If I jerk off, you’ve got to do it too, otherwise I’ll feel weird,” he said eventually.
My mouth went dry and my cock grew even harder.
Oh holy hell. Ethan was giving me permission to jack myself off in his presence. Thank you, Universe, for letting my Ultimate Fantasy Number Five come true.
I went for a jokey tone. “Oh no, you’re forcing me to jerk off. I’ve never done that before.”
Ethan chuckled. “Yeah, cos I believe that.”
We were silent for a few moments.
“Well, are you going to do it?” he asked.
I tried to keep my voice casual. “I just hope I do it right.”
Ethan laughed again. “Is there a wrong way to do it?”
“Not sure. Maybe if it involves sharp fingernails?”
“That’s pro tip number one. No fingernails,” he said.
“Right.” My voice came out slightly breathless as I palmed myself through my boxers.
“You doing it?” His voice was slightly rough.
I slipped my hand inside my boxers, and shit, that felt good.
“Yeah,” I grunted.
Suddenly the rustling noises coming from Ethan’s sleeping bag were no longer annoying. Instead, my mind imagined his hand on his cock, imagined him stroking himself down his hard length.
Shit. This wasn’t going to last long.
I turned my head slightly, risking a glance at him.
Holy fuck. Ethan’s lips were parted and he had a look of concentration on his face.
He turned his head on the pillow and his eyes met mine for a second before closing. Then his shoulders stiffened and he let out a small gasp.
Ethan’s blissed-out look triggered my own orgasm. Fuck. It was the most intense orgasm I’d ever had. I was surprised I didn’t spontaneously combust.
Once my breathing slowed, I sat up and rummaged in my bag for clean boxers. Ethan did the same.
Neither of us said anything. My heart continued to pound like a fast bass track.
Ethan lay back down. He yawned and stretched. “That was exactly what I needed. You always have the best ideas.”
He closed his eyes. Within minutes, his breathing had evened out and he’d fallen asleep.
I’d been left staring at the tent ceiling for hours, listening to the soft exhale of Ethan’s breath, as my brain swirled with two unavoidable conclusions.
I was definitely gay.
And I was definitely in love with my best friend.
The noise of a car engine startled me and the memory dissolved, leaving me standing there next to Jonathan, staring out the window.
Ethan’s car pulled out of the driveway, and Char waved goodbye from the doorstep. The affectionate smile on her face cut at me, slashes I didn’t expect.
I sucked in a deep breath.
When I turned away, I found Jonathan’s sympathetic gaze on me.
“You had a crush on him growing up, didn’t you?” he said.
Seeing Ethan had left me raw, with no filters working. “A crush? More like I was fucking head over heels in love with him.”
Jonathan eyes widened. Oh holy Christ, yeah, that was probably high on the list of things I shouldn’t admit to my current boyfriend. That I’d been in love with my best friend, who was about to become my teammate.
At least I hadn’t admitted that seeing him had reminded me of the residual love for Ethan that still clung on in my heart—love that I couldn’t shake free no matter how hard I tried.
Jonathan dropped his gaze, looking for a moment as if he was contemplating the pattern on the carpet before lifting his eyes back to mine.
“Maybe you need to stop punishing him for not loving you back.”
Jax's stories are all about light-hearted conversations and deeply-felt connections. She loves exploring exactly why two characters are the only ones who’ll make the other truly happy, and the journey they take to reach their happily-ever-after.
Jax lives in New Zealand and is a rabid sports fan, a hiking enthusiast and has a slightly unhealthy addiction to nature documentaries. As an extrovert who spends way too much time in her own head, she loves to connect with readers. Join her Facebook group Jax's Crew (www.facebook.com/groups/jaxcaldercrew) for bonus stories plus exclusive excerpts from her upcoming books.
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