The Storybook Groom
Texas Titan Romances
Adrenaline meets passion in this contemporary sports romance.
Torin, a pro-football player, can’t understand why Ginny, the copper-haired beauty who drove him home from the airport, won’t give him her phone number. He sets out on a quest to impress the girl, but he needs to locate her first.
Little does Torin Godfrey know that Ginny is on her own mission. She enlists the unsuspecting NFL player to assist her, but she soon finds herself vulnerable in Torin’s strong yet peaceful arms- a potentially lethal position for them both. Will her attraction to the handsome football player cost her more than her career? Or could their missions end in a romance fit for a storybook?
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Ginny yelled as a white Suburban jackknifed in front of the pickup zone at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, restricting three cars from continuing around it—including Ginny’s candy-red corvette.
She tapped her left foot next to the brake pedal to stay her impatience. It didn’t work. If she couldn’t get to him, he’d take another car, and she had turned down three other fares to pick him up. All that effort would be for naught if she couldn’t get to him, and she needed this particular fare.
Perhaps she had been a little hasty with her decision to become an Uber driver, but it worked beautifully as a cover. It had been the only job she could think of that would mesh with her other employment—and frankly, it was more than a little beneficial. And the job gave her the opportunity to interact with normal people—to feel normal.
Ginny hit a button on her steering wheel, changing her radio station to country. Country music had at least one redeeming quality: the fiddlers. Being a violinist, Ginny had fiddled on several occasions.
It took forever for the family of six to pack into the Suburban in front of her and continue on their merry way. In reality, about four minutes had passed. Ginny pressed down the gas pedal and sped at a whopping fifteen miles per hour to Terminal E. Why did it seem like going over seven miles per hour on an airport road was committing a felony? She laughed at the irony.
She pulled to a stop at the curb where a lone man stood. Next to her low sports car, he appeared eight feet tall. Yep, this was him. She hopped out of her car and opened the trunk.
“You’re my Uber driver?” he questioned in a sexy Southern drawl. “And you drive people around in that?”
Okay, maybe not so sexy after that last question.
She cocked an eyebrow. “You don’t like my car?” She reached for his bag, but he pulled it back into his chest. “Seriously? What do you think I’m going to do to your bag?”
“I’m a gentleman,” he said, offended, and he placed his bag in her trunk. “And it’s not that I don’t like your ride. It’s just…” He rubbed the side of his face. “Don’t mind me; I haven’t had much sleep these past few weeks, and the hits are catching up with me.”
She reached up to close the trunk at the same moment he did. For a split second, when their fingers brushed, all her cares vanished. Years of hurt and deception floated away like dandelion fluff in the wind.
She looked up at him—way up at him. The guy was a giant. He wasn’t just tall; he was thick, in a good way. In a really good way. His shirt couldn’t hide his defined chest and arm muscles. The cotton T-shirt didn’t cling to him with the objective of displaying every hard-earned muscle, like a bodybuilder’s; it lightly swept over his chiseled torso, lending the impression of confidence, tempered with humility.
When her eyes finally rose to his face and she caught his seductive smile, she knew that she’d been caught appreciating his fine physique. His clear blue eyes twinkled their satisfaction as his hand settled onto her shoulder. His touch pacified her anxiety and provided her a moment of clarity. By the way he focused on her eyes, he had felt something too, but was it the same calming sensation she had? He released her shoulder and turned before she could scrutinize his expression.
Ginny settled back into her seat, and a smile tugged at her lips as a plan came together to get him to touch her again. She slowly pulled out of the airport and advanced onto the freeway.
With the top down, Ginny’s loose hairs circled her face in the wind. She loved how her hair blew just enough to lightly caress her cheeks when her convertible top was down. She caught traces of cinnamon and sugar as the sweet aroma spun with the wind.
She couldn’t help but lick her lips. “Did you bring one of those huge cinnamon rolls back with you from Atlanta?” she asked eagerly.
“Yes, ma’am.” He shot her a confused look. “How did you know I was coming from Atlanta?”
“This is the Delta terminal. I park myself here and wait for the larger flights from Delta’s other major hubs, and judging by your accent, I’m guessing you’re not arriving from Salt Lake City.”
He laughed, but then caught himself and did a sideways stare as if he shouldn’t trust her. “Delta flies in from all over the world. What makes you think it was either Atlanta or Salt Lake City?”
“It helps with the job.” She shrugged dismissively. “I’ve memorized most flights in and out of Dallas and their schedules. If I picked you up an hour from now, I would have guessed Toronto or Chile.”
She stared ahead at the road, hoping he wouldn’t press it. She had always been good with numbers—not just good, a savant of sorts. It was one reason why the agency had recruited her.
“That’s some dedication. You deserve this.” He pulled a white box marked with brown swirls from his carry-on bag resting in his lap and placed it on the center console between them. “I’d put it in your back seat for you, but …”
She placed her hand over his before he could pull it away from the box. “Thanks.” Another moment of clarity and peace calmed her, bolstering her spirits and causing her bubbly nature to surface—something she hadn’t felt in years. She reluctantly removed her hand and waved it in the air, deciding she’d play along with his little game. “Who needs a back seat?”
He tapped his finger against his chin, drawing attention to the cleft and his five-o’clock shadow. She diverted her attention from the road for a few moments to study his profile. His chiseled facial features and sturdy build screamed masculinity. She found him more attractive than she cared to admit. He pulled lip balm from his pocket and ran it across his perfect lips. Grudgingly, forced her head to turn and face forward. She had to remind herself she was driving and to quit staring at him.
He waved his lip balm in the air. “You’re right. Back seats are only for people with a kid, anyone with more than one friend, and anyone who wants to be an Uber driver and has more than one passenger.” He let out a deep chuckle. “How did you work that one out? I thought all Uber cars had to seat at least three or four.”
“I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you,” she said with a smile. If only he knew how true that statement was. “Okay, funny guy, maybe I like having only one passenger. It’s more like I’m a friend than a chauffeur.” She tapped her steering wheel. “Does that make me sound lonely?”
“Not at all.” He shook his head. “Desperate would be a better word.”
“Oh, you’re rotten,” she giggled out, pretending to slap his upper arm. She touched his bicep for a few seconds, allowing his tranquilizing effect to quiet her mind. This guy was witty, cute, and a soothing balm. The perfect fare. Unfortunately, that’s all he could ever be to her.
Their eyes met. “Believe me,” he said, “no man would ever consider you desperate.”
“Oh really. Why would you say that?” She never flirted with her passengers, until now. She couldn’t seem to help herself with this guy.
“Where should I start? Your vibrant green eyes, or your copper hair?”
“Ooh, copper, I like that. It’s usually referred to as orange or strawberry blonde.”
“No way.” He lifted a section of her hair and twisted the ends in his fingers to examine it. He then lightly touched her cheek as he tucked the section behind her ear before he turned to look out his window. “Were you wanting to get into that lane?” He motioned with his head to his right.
Ginny’s adrenaline spiked as she straightened her spine and pulled her car back into the center of her lane. She had unknowingly drifted into the lane to their right as she leaned into him while he was playing with her hair.
This guy was dangerous, and neither of them needed that liability.
“If we was in Atlanta right now—” He shook his head. “—we’d be cursed off the road.”
“C’mon, I only drifted for a second,” she said defensively.
“Your speed, darlin’. My granny drives faster than you.”
Ginny glanced down at her speedometer. Fifty-five. The all-too-familiar heat rose up her neck and settled in her cheeks. “So, you want speed, do ya?” She allowed the mischief in her eyes to linger until he responded with the same devious expression.
She pressed down the accelerator. Her car sped to a hundred and fifteen in less than two seconds, pushing them back into their seats. He let out a whoop as she let off the gas. Most sports cars were equipped with a regulator to control their speed, but not Ginny’s. Her baby could reach close to two hundred. She never drove that fast, but it was nice to know she could if she got in a bind.
They exited the freeway and wound along a wooded lane in one of the poshest neighborhoods of the greater Dallas area. The entrance to his community sported a tall black iron gate controlled by a security code pad.
He adjusted the travel bag on his lap. “Pull up to the gate and I’ll give you the code.”
That wouldn’t do. For his own protection, she didn’t want those numbers in her head. She hit the gas, switched gears into neutral, and used her emergency brake like a police officer, making an emergency turn to flip around. She slowly backed up to the control panel for him to enter his code.
“Never seen that before.” He shook his head and blinked as if he were trying to wake himself. “That may be the hottest thing I’ve ever seen a girl do.”
He entered the code with recognizable tones: C, F sharp, A, E, D. Ginny cursed under her breath. The code was in her head now. When would these security companies learn? Blast her musical background. She slowly backed in through the open gate and flipped around once inside the gated community.
“I’m the third house on the left, with the Grecian fountain in the front.”
Ginny tapped her wheel at the rare sight of an opulent white fountain in the center of a Dallas yard. “Are you Greek?”
They bumped up his red cobblestone driveway.
“No. Greece.” He paused before clearing his throat. “My mom loved their fountains.”
Ginny could sense there was more to that story. She felt something burn in her chest as she watched as his facial expression soften. It was a sensation she hadn’t felt in years. Coming home to her mother had a very different physical effect on her. “That’s tender.”
“Don’t repeat that.” He ran a palm across his forehead. “That information could be dangerous to an offensive lineman like myself. We’re supposed to be tough.”
“You play football?” she asked innocently.
“You didn’t know?” He appeared slightly put out by her indifference. “I’m Torin Godfrey with the Titans.”
“Torin the Titan.” She clicked her tongue. Now was the time to lay the act on thick. She switched to agent mode. “I like it. And you’re a professional football player?” She pumped out her chest and spoke in the most sorority flirtatious way she could muster without vomiting. “My sister’s a physical therapist. She sells orthopedic braces, specifically back braces to aid in the recovery and pain of back injuries football players like you sustain and constantly battle.” She slipped her hand into her purse, pulled out a business card, and handed it to him. “If you’d like to try it out, give her a call.”
He nodded with apparent interest as he examined the card, then placed it into his bag. Mission accomplished; she’d get her sister’s business off the ground.
“Titans,” she continued, staring out the windshield at the massive stone fountain illuminated by white lights; it depicted a robed woman kneeling in a pool and pouring water from her vessel. “Well, that explains your fountain. Torin the Titan with the Triton fountain.” She blew out an exhausted breath and winked. “That’s a tongue twister if I ever heard one. If anyone asks about the fountain, you can say you’re a Titan, through and through. Personally, I prefer the real story, but we aren’t always able to offer the truth. Are we?” She sighed. “Sometimes the kindest thing we can do is lie to protect ourselves and those we love.”
“You messin’ with me? You don’t really believe that?” He paused when she didn’t respond. “Do you?” he asked, remaining in his seat as she jumped out of her car and opened the trunk.
With apparent reluctance, he climbed out of the car and joined her at the back. “I’m an idiot. I can’t believe I never asked you your name.” He moved both of his bags to one arm and extended his hand to her.
“It’s Ginny,” she said, taking his hand. She held on for longer than socially acceptable, but he didn’t seem to mind. She released his hand, severing the calming connection, and took in a deep breath before closing her trunk.
He brushed her arm. “Don’t you ever worry about the types of guys you might be required to drive around? Or where they’ll take you?”
She didn’t like the protective look he gave her. It made her more vulnerable somehow. “No,” she said in her most naïve voice.
“Can I have your number, Ginny?”
“Oh, you know how Uber goes. You get whoever is closest.” She gave him a timid smile.
He might not get her number, but she knew all of his. Eight: the number of times he had moved growing up. Four: the number of bone fractures he’d sustained. Three: the number of serious girlfriends he’d had. Six-five: his stature. Two hundred sixty-five: his weight. One: number of siblings. Four: number of speeding infractions. Twelve: the age when he started playing football. Two: the number of pro football teams he’d played for before the Titans. 4.0: his GPA from MIT with a degree in Electrical Engineering he’d finished remotely after being drafted into the NFL his junior year.
She knew who she drove around, and they usually served a purpose, including Torin Godfrey. But unlike her other fares, her mission with him had been personal. Her sister needed help launching her business. With less risk, Ginny had allowed her guard to take a back seat with Torin. She couldn’t help it; this guy was straight out of a storybook.
“Maybe I’ll pick you up again sometime. You’re perfect.” She caught her breath when he gave her a smile that said he knew she was into him. “You’ve been the perfect fare,” she corrected.
She turned away before she could do something really stupid, like give him her number and beg him to call. She opened her door, closed it, and sped away without looking back.
The life of a spy didn’t include true love. That was reserved for the olden-day storybooks.