I swallowed and braved a professional nod. “Hello. I’m Piper Madi—”
Cole extended his hand, but not to shake mine. He slammed his palm against the doorbell and clawed the box from the stone. The wires snapped. The estate fell into silence.
This…wasn’t going well.
He dropped the electronics at my feet.
“You…” I regretted speaking. This wasn’t a man who wanted explanations. He was the type who’d tear apart his own house when it annoyed him. “You didn’t answer your door.”
Cole’s voice was a heavy scrape of gravel and irritation. “I was in my weight room. In the basement. Working. Didn’t hear any knocking until…”
He stepped on the doorbell, pulverizing the plastic under his heel.
I raised my chin and faked some confidence. Usually I could get tough enough to dissuade my toddler from licking electrical outlets, but I hoped I could pull off authority against an egotistical, alpha-male, bastard jock.
“I’m sorry about the interruption. I’m with Sports One, your agency—”
Cole didn’t care. “You’re not Maddy.”
“Paul Madison, Maddy, is my father. I’m Piper Madison.”
I smiled. Cole didn’t. So much for the professional tone. Since when were football players harder than masters’ theses?
“My father asked me to meet with you regarding your contract—”
The behemoth returned to his house. I leapt away as the door slammed in my face.
What. The. Hell.
No greetings. No introductions. No pleasantries.
Did I knock on his door and fall back in time to some crazy feudal era?
Cole had glanced me over—one stare that was as invasive as copping a feel—and then bashed the door so hard his whole mansion grumbled.
What sort of pompous, ill-mannered, egomaniac was this man?
No wonder Dad sent me. As if fetching his coffee and cleaning his office wasn’t demoralizing enough, he set me up to fail! He knew Cole would act like this.
I was not letting defensive diva Cole Hawthorne get his way, not when I came to help his career.
I balled my fist and pounded the wood. The windows rattled, but I didn’t stop until the glass nearly crashed into his foyer.
The door opened. If possible, Cole was even less welcoming this time.
“Get off of my property.”
Not until I got what I came here for. “My father sent me with the paperwork for your contract. When you signed with the Atwood Monarchs, you and the team agreed on a consensual trade clause. You couldn’t be traded unless you consented to the transfer.” I held up the folder. “I have the waiver here. Sign this, and the Monarchs will begin the process for the trade.”
“I told you once…” He spoke slowly, not to intimidate me, but as if each word sharpened his teeth. “I’m not interested.”
A crazy desperation seized me. Sixteen months of interrupted sleep had culminated this morning when I poured two tablespoons of salt into my coffee. My descent into sleep-deprived madness continued as I waged career—and personal—suicide.
I stepped into the door and blocked it from closing.
Cole didn’t move. His sneer darkened into a threat.
I didn’t know much about football, but I’d learned one very valuable lesson working in the industry.
Some players were fun. Others flirty. Most were gentlemen.
Cole Hawthorne was none of those things.
Monsters existed in the world. If we were lucky? They’d stay bound between the hash marks. If we weren’t? If he went wild? No little yellow flag would be enough to stop a beast like him.
Cole smiled now, just to bare his teeth. “You’re making some bad decisions, little girl.”
I hadn’t been a little girl for a while, not since I took the pregnancy test in the cramped library bathroom between college classes.
“You need to sign this waiver, Mr. Hawthorne,” I said. “The trade would benefit your career. The Monarchs are done protecting you from the league. This trade will let you sign with a team who is willing to take the chance on you. Given the right contract, we might be able to get you more money and a bit of wiggle room.”
“Wiggle room?” Cole stood absolutely still, baiting me. “Do I look like a man who wiggles?”
Was I supposed to answer that? “…No?”
“But you look like a woman who wouldn’t mind squirming.”
“You’re an agent, aren’t you? You’d wiggle like a worm in the mud for an extra tenth of a percent.”
I wasn’t a real agent—more like a glorified office gopher. But even if I had sold my soul to the devil and lured in my own clients, I wouldn’t have squirmed or shimmied in the slightest for a bastard like him.