Do you want to start reading book one of the Game Changer Series, Chasing Victory, now? It releases on April 26, 2021, but you can read chapter 1 of Chasing Victory below. ARC editions are currently in the hands of readers. The cover will be changing soon, so my ARC team are the only people who have a copy of the original. If you’re a blogger or an active reviewer, apply to join us so you don’t miss out next time!
You can read chapter 1 of Chasing Victory below, and then pre-order a copy so you’ll have it on release day.
Chapter 1 of Chasing Victory
Imagine going through life with the name Victory Parker. No, that isn’t a typo and, no, it isn’t short for Victoria or any other common V name. My parents had a really hard time conceiving and, yes, you guessed it, me being alive is their Victory.
My best friend, Hannah Fenway, who has the perfectly ordinary name I’ve always dreamed about, reminds me it could always be worse. They could have named me Triumph, Finally, Miracle, or the ever-popular We Did It, which would be infinitely more mortifying.
And, of course, I chose a career where people often get your name wrong, even if it’s Ann or Bob. I’m a junior agent with Gemstone Literary Agency in New York City. Part of my job is going through our “slush” pile, which means, manuscript submissions from aspiring authors who want to publish their books traditionally.
When my profile specifically shares a manuscript wish list and bio for Victory Parker and a query letter arrives for Victoria or, worse, Victor, it immediately gets the “delete” treatment. Attention to detail matters in all areas of life.
I’ve already gone through sixteen submissions this morning, and only one is promising. Standing to stretch my aching back and thinking that I should really start showing up to yoga class more often, I head to the coffeepot and wish there was a way to hook it up as an IV.
Our office space is best described as industrial chic with exposed brick, large windows, and countless bookshelves filled to their breaking points. We’re a small team, so our space is open concept to encourage collaboration, and our workstations are equipped with teak desks and huge dual monitors.
“How many cups of coffee have you had today?”
The sudden appearance of Carly Shipway, one of the senior agents, nearly makes me jump through the ceiling. She walks around the office in bare feet and scares the shit out of me each time I don’t hear her approach.
And, for the record, that would be every time.
She giggles when I clasp my hands over my heart and pretend to faint.
“Sorry,” she says. But she doesn’t look sorry. In fact, she’s grinning.
“I’m going to buy you a pair of stilettos,” I warn.
Carly groans. “Yeah, right. It will be a cold day in hell when I cram my feet into a pair of those torture chambers. Have you heard of bunions? You should probably Google them given the shoes you wear.”
My gaze drops to my classic black Manolo Blahnik pumps I found on Craigslist for sixty bucks. They’re not uncomfortable, exactly. Just not especially comfortable.
“Fine, I’ll get you a bell instead.”
She dissolves into another fit of giggles. “Victory! You mean, like a cowbell?” Mock horror covers her face, and I think for the thousandth time that she could easily own a catwalk.
Carly is long, lean, and gorgeous, clocking in at almost 6 feet tall. She has honey-blond hair, a ridiculously flawless tan, and big aquamarine eyes, which I didn’t even realize was a color until I met her. She’s about as far from cow-like as you can get.
“Basically,” I grumble, before inhaling the decadent scent of my rich black coffee with the most gloriously complex flavor profile that has ever graced my lips.
With a happy sigh, I take a grateful sip and the nutty undertones make me say a quick prayer thanking the heavens for small miracles. “And back to your original question, this is cup number four if you must know.”
“Holy shit!” Carly gasps. “Maybe you should Google water, too. It’s, you know, essential to life and stuff.”
“Yeah, yeah.” I wave dismissively and sigh with pleasure when I take another sip. “Coffee has water in it.”
“You could at least try decaf.”
I snort and turn my mug so she can read the decal: Death before decaf. “What the hell would be the point of drinking that blasphemy? There are some things in life that we should simply pretend don’t exist.” I tick the horrors off on my fingers. “Diet soda. Sugar-free chocolate. Imitation cheese. Decaf coffee.”
Carly rolls her eyes. “You need water and sleep. Maybe try a vegetable or two while you’re at it.”
A siren wails and invades our fifth-floor walk-up, making me jump. Carly, the native New Yorker, appears not to notice as she picks through our communal fruit bowl.
Waiting until the commotion passes before turning to face her, I rest a hip against the small faux-granite countertop. Feigning casualness, I tell her, “I might have something for you.”
“Really?” She plucks a huge orange from the bowl and her eyes shimmer with excitement. I hope it’s from the lure of a potential manuscript and not the fruit.
“Yup. I may have pulled a gem out of the slush. It’s a romantic suspense that checks every box. I’ll go through it in more detail after lunch and, if it still looks as good, I’ll send the query your way.”
“Amazing! If it’s as good as you think, go ahead and request the full. Do a quick read, and then I’m happy to look based on your recommendation.”
I nod slowly and keep my expression neutral, but inside I’m doing cartwheels. Carly and I are friends, but knowing she respects my opinion in a professional capacity makes pride fill my chest to bursting.
“Thank you. I appreciate it. So much.”
Her eyes full of warmth, she squeezes my shoulder before padding silently back to her desk, tossing the orange from hand to hand as she hums.
Sounding like a water buffalo doing ballet in comparison, I dash back to my desk so I can text Hannah the good news. I’ve met a few friends since moving to the city, but no one could ever replace my soul sister.
She still lives in the outskirts of Gardiner, Montana, a four-hour plane ride away. We grew up with side-by-side backyards, and we zipped between each other’s houses so often that our parents installed a gate. I’d still live there, too, if life had taken the left fork instead of the right, but hey.
I’ve rewritten my story.
Victory: Today is amazing. I’m kicking ass at work and feeling SO pumped. How are you, babe?
Hannah has her hands full as a single mom to the most adorable toddler on the planet and primary caregiver to her ailing father. She still works part-time and volunteers at church without complaint, making her my hero.
When I’m in the middle of editing a manuscript for one of our newest authors, my phone vibrates.
Hannah: I’m SO ridiculously proud and love you so damn much. I can’t wait to see you this weekend! We’re making it over here. Same old, ya know?
My heart sinks and I immediately feel like a jerk. I need to get home and visit more often so I can physically be there to throw a lifeline to my drowning best friend. I can work from home, but as I’m building my career, I want to be available to meet with authors, publishers, and other industry professionals in person.
It’s been three months since I was in Montana, and I miss my parents and Hannah something fierce. Hannah’s older brother comes with the package, and as much as I hate having unwelcome, painful reminders thrown in my face on the regular, Cade is a necessary evil.
It doesn’t matter what we used to do through our bedroom windows because he makes me want to put wood planks over the glass now. Or, you know, hit him square in the face with one.
Victory: What can I do?
Hannah sends me a picture of her and my adorable honorary nephew making silly faces, and I grin so hard that my cheeks hurt while my eyes fill with hot tears.
Hannah: Come home to us.
Spending some much needed time with my favorite kid, and ensuring Hannah has a well-deserved break, will make dealing with her stupid brother almost tolerable.
As though I conjured it, a picture message notification pops up just as I’m setting my phone back on the desk. Since it’s from Cade, and I obviously don’t want to see whatever he’s sent, I place it facedown so the incessant blinking doesn’t drive me crazy.
But diving back into the manuscript is impossible.
Like a hopeless schoolgirl, the phone is back in my hands, making my face burn with shame. Knowing that I fall for his I-don’t-want-to-be-with-you-but-I-can’t-let-you-go routine every single time doesn’t make it any easier to resist. Gritting my teeth in annoyance, I click download and impatiently wait for the picture to load.
His selfie steals my breath, and I barely notice the smoky mountain range or gorgeous horses in the background. Cade is staring into the camera with his signature half-smile that is both arrogant and vulnerable.
The sight of him still slays me.
Cade: Morning, New York. How are the views in the city? Bet you miss this one.
Of course, I don’t.
So, I can’t explain why I’m zooming in on the picture to bask in the hard planes of Cade’s muscular chest, which are visible through his tight white T-shirt. Or why I’m imagining biting his pec while he growls and caresses every curve of my body.
The man makes my insides spontaneously combust.
If I close my eyes, I can still feel him. Nothing compares to the heat of his body, his breath on my neck while he mutters filthy promises, and his gaze hooking me before stripping me bare.
Cade’s body is immaculate, and the picture shows off faded jeans slung low on his hips, but only to his belt buckle. He’s wearing the one I gave him on the last anniversary we celebrated together, but that means nothing.
It means everything.
Undoubtedly, I’d be able to detect the familiar shape of him through his jeans if only he had positioned the camera slightly lower. Why is his shirt even on? Who needs pants? It’s a crime Cade ever gets dressed, though exclusively unwrapping him was a real treat.
For fuck’s sake.
My fingers drum obnoxiously on the desk while I debate a suitable response, finally deciding that ignoring him is more infuriating than saying I only miss the mountains.
I reluctantly return my attention to the manuscript that is suddenly far less interesting. So what if I stop to study the picture fifteen more times? Annoyance makes me decide to delete it, but the very thought causes a visceral reaction equivalent to signing up for a voluntary lobotomy.
And soon I’ll be stuck seeing him in person.
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