Release date: January 19, 2015
As an offensive linewoman for the Cleveland Clash, Tanya Martin is tough inside and out. The 5’9” beauty can take a hit and keep on going. But when the man she was best friends with—and secretly in love with—in high school comes home the same day she learns her father’s gym is in financial trouble, she’s unexpectedly blindsided.
Super Bowl MVP Cam Simmons is only back in town to convince his mom to move out of her failing neighborhood and live in luxury with him in Boston. But running into Tanya stirs up plenty of old feelings he never resolved. He was happy to leave his old life behind him when he hit the NFL, but walking away from their friendship was a mistake he wants to rectify.
As they work together to help save her dad’s gym, Cam and Tanya’s easy camaraderie and undeniable chemistry resurface. But can she open up enough to trust him with her heart a second time around?
by Elley Arden
Elley Arden is a born and bred Pennsylvanian who drinks wine like it’s water (a slight exaggeration), prefers a night at the ballpark to a night on the town, and believes almond English toffee is the key to happiness. Find Elley Arden at www.elleyarden.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter @elleywrites.
An excerpt from Running Interference:
Mmm. Mmm. Mmm. There was something about a sunny Sunday morning that put extra spring in Tanya Martin’s already speedy steps. No dealing with ornery high school students and excuses about forgotten gym clothes. No football practice. Just hours to spend however she liked at her father’s boxing gym.
She lifted her face to the unseasonably warm rays and wished late February in Cleveland, Ohio, always looked like this. But the heaping mounds of filthy snow lining the sidewalk reminded her winter wasn’t done with them yet. She didn’t care. Today was going to be a great day.
A glass door opened up ahead, and a man backed onto the sidewalk. He was so big his body loomed around the stainless steel framing, and his voice boomed when he laughed at someone inside the coffee shop. Her pace slowed as she took in his profile. Black, fitted ski jacket. Dark denim jeans that clung to his tree-trunk thighs. And a pair of designer work boots that had never set foot on a jobsite. Not from around. These new businesses brought in all kinds, sellouts who couldn’t get through their Sundays without a double shot of something she couldn’t even pronounce let alone swallow.
She put her head down and picked up her pace, wanting to pass before she was forced to say hello. She didn’t want her South City neighborhood to change, and she didn’t want these people getting comfortable. They weren’t wanted. They weren’t needed. What this place needed was people with a sense of loyalty and conviction—people like her parents, who both owned mom-and-pop businesses on this stretch of street. For even longer than her mother had been cooking her “almost famous” pulled-pork and holding twice-monthly Free Soup Fridays at her restaurant, Mama Mary’s, her father had been taking kids off the streets and teaching them life skills with the help of boxing and martial arts at his gym. Those things were so much more important than overpriced warehouse condos and a chain coffee shop.
The rich rumble of words came first, followed by a splash of something hot along her neck, and then an impact that had her careening toward the icy snowdrift. Her hands jutted out to break her fall, but she never hit. Instead, a crushing grip circled her right elbow and a jolt set her upright. Somehow her shoulder remained attached to its socket.
“I’m so sorry,” said the deep voice again. “I … ”
She looked from the work boots to the face of the trendily dressed, mammoth man, and her jaw dropped. Cam Simmons.
“Tanya Martin?” he asked. “Holy shit!”
Stunned into silence, she reached a hand to her neck and wiped at the droplets.
He pulled a napkin bearing the Coffee Bean logo from his pocket. “Are you okay?” He dabbed the napkin at her neck, then her chest. A little too rough. But the swipes that followed were a little too friendly.
She nodded and brushed his hand away.
How long had it been? Five years. Not that she’d been counting … lately. Their friendship had cooled on a barrage of texts and calls that tapered off as he got used to life away from Cleveland. Eventually the distance between them proved too great to cross. Who needed old friends when you had a shiny new multi-million-dollar NFL contract?