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Ball Sacked
Author: Christina Hovland

 

Ball Sacked

 

 

Anna Dvornakov isn’t having a very happy holiday. The last thing she wants is to attend a gala where her ex-boyfriend is set to go to the highest bidder in a bachelor auction. She’d convinced herself he was “the one.” Turned out, he wasn’t.

Professional quarterback Drake Wellington’s career is on the fritz. Worse than that, the woman he’s fallen for called it quits on their relationship. Sure, he messed things up, but he’s certain that with a little holiday magic he can convince her to give him one more chance.

Unfortunately, things never go as planned during the Jingle Balls Ball…

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

Anna

 

 

* * *

 

Nothing screamed winter wonderland quite like the hearty scent of pine, the ambiance of twinkling lights, and thousands of upside-down heart-shaped ornaments that sort of looked like testicles adorning the ballroom in downtown Denver’s Sheraton hotel.

Yes, Denver’s first annual Jingle Balls Ball benefiting a testicular cancer charity was quite the soiree. The holidays, however, had lost their festive spirit when Anna Dvornakov had broken up with her boyfriend.

Just like that, her holiday cheer went topsy-turvy, and not in the cute way. No, it fell with a resounding splat.

Sure, she and Mr. Not-So-Right had only been together for two months, but in that time, she’d fallen tulip over daisy for him and his handsome all-American face and boy-next-door charm.

A pull deep in her stomach reminded her of him. The thickness in her throat itched at the memory of the light press of his lips against hers—the whispered promises and plans that made her heart tingle.

He was, it turned out, too perfect. Uh-huh, that was a thing.

So Anna’s hobbies of late included floral arranging, long walks in slushy snow, pretending to crochet, and…learning lessons the hard way.

She had regretted the breakup with Drake as soon as it had happened because, you know, he was perfection. The knowledge that she’d cut him loose gnawed at her like a persistent hangover from her grandmother’s stockpile of Russian vodka.

The gnawing had not been enough to call him back when he’d reached out to her, but it was enough to think about calling him back. All. The. Time.

Like right then. Standing in the ballroom.

“You look stunning,” said Sadie, her soon-to-be sister-in-law, as she slipped an eggnog martini into Anna’s hand.

Anna grunted in reply. The muted red satin dress came from Dillard’s. The slimming body shaper that made it impossible for her to get a full breath came from an ad she saw on the internet. The red pumps came from some shop at the Cherry Creek Mall that her other sister-in-law, Heather, had dragged her through.

Sadie was decked out in what could only be described as a very festive gold velvet dress with a green bolero jacket that somehow managed to say vixen-attorney-you-shouldn’t-mess-with instead of mother-of-the-bride.

“He’s going to be here.” Anna gulped. Drake was in the auction. Hell, he was the auction. The committee had managed to pull together a bachelor auction with all sorts of sports figures. Specifically ball players, because the committee chair was into all things nuts and balls for this event. They’d secured a pro golfer, a baseball superstar, an up-and-coming basketball player, and the pièce de résistance…Drake.

Of course, she hadn’t known until last week that Drake had agreed to the auction. It seemed so unlike him. Then again, if they were no longer together, what stopped him from prowling for a new woman to keep him company?

Anna was going to see him and then she’d get a front-row seat as other women fawned all over him. She’d die a little inside each time the bidding number was raised.

“You got this.” Heather flanked Anna on the opposite side, linking their arms together.

Heather was dressed head-to-toe by the chicest mommy-and-me boutique in downtown Denver. She rocked the hell out of the maternity thing.

“Screw him,” Sadie said.

“I did. That’s the problem,” Anna mumbled. Memories of Drake with skin on skin, mouth on mouth, and hands everywhere made her heart beat faster and a jolt of desire whack her upside the head.

She’d liked him. She’d wanted more. But she’d broken up with him because her feelings had gotten mangled up like a truckload of poinsettias dumped in the middle of I-70.

“We all make mistakes,” Sadie assured. “It’s what you do afterward that determines your future.”

“Have you been reading self-help books again?” Anna took a careful sip of the martini. Oh, super lovely, it tasted of both rum and undertones of top-shelf whiskey.

Two of these and she wouldn’t care about men at all—specifically, one man.

Drake.

Gah, even his name was perfection.

Dr-ehhh-khhh… It didn’t roll from the tongue. It whispered from the back of the throat. Taunting her.

Unfortunately, if she polished off that martini, she also wouldn’t be able to walk out the door without tripping over her own feet. There was no chance of holiday magic when a girl was drunk as a skunk lying facedown on hotel carpet in the middle of a faux winter wonderland.

She was on the committee for this soiree and had been appointed as the florist-in-charge, making her officially responsible for any decoration malfunctions during the event. Therefore, getting snockered wouldn’t do at all. The white poinsettia trees she’d created couldn’t monitor themselves.

She’d also strung twinkle lights across the entire ceiling so they came together in the center, effectively creating a luxury big-top style ceiling that added amazing ambiance and sort of looked like a flower with the strings of lights radiating like petals from the central cluster.

If she got tipsy, who would take care of all those things? The whole event could implode with one tipsy Anna and a loose string of lights.

That’s what she had convinced herself of, anyway.

One final sip—fine, it was more of a gulp—and she set the drink aside.

“Roman’s here.” Anna tilted her head in the direction of her oldest brother, who was standing at the ballroom doorway next to a Jingle Balls sign and scanning the gathering crowd.

“I’ll be back.” Sadie hurried toward her fiancé as he meandered into the ballroom.

Anna was the opposite of her siblings. First, she had all brothers. So there was that. And they were all brawn and testosterone and laid back while she was more along the lines of a curvy, high-strung pixie.

Roman treated Sadie like she hung every star in the entire night sky, so Anna forgave him for nearly all of the shit he’d put her through during their childhood.

She wanted what they had, and she’d thought for the briefest of moments that she’d found it. But then Drake went and ruined it all with his inability to commit to anything that didn’t involve a football and bajillion-dollar sponsorship deals.

At the thought of Drake, her stomach began to churn against the two sips of eggnog.

The twinkling lights seemed to pulse just a little too fast and the pine scent became overwhelming when her mind shifted to him.

She rummaged in her clutch for her cell and scanned her messages. Not that she was searching for something in particular, but if he were to reach out again, she might text him back this time. Only because they were going to see each other soon. There was no other reason. Liar.

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