Sinners Football 01- Goals for a Sinner

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Unlucky in love, sports photographer Stevie Dowd has given up on men on order to concentrate on her goal of getting a cover shot for a prestigious sports magazine. Connor Riley, wide receiver for the New Orleans Sinners, has remained celibate all season to strengthen his game for a Super Bowl victory. Their goals collide, literally, when Connor bowls over Stevie on the sidelines as she attempts to get her perfect picture. Realizing Stevie is the woman he had a crush on in high school, Connor feels his vow is about to be broken. Can he win both the Super Bowl and Stevie Dowd?

He took a step into the room. “Do you
 
remember me, Stephanie?” he asked, almost
 
shy.
 
“Certainly. Connor Riley, wide receiver for the New Orleans Sinners, last seen through my viewfinder yesterday with thirty seconds to play in the game. Your team did win?” she asked, trying to put him at ease.

Of the three, he seemed the most stricken about her condition, but then, he was the one who had landed directly on her and put that helmet-sized bruise on her chest. Thank heaven, her legs had splayed open, or both of them might have been broken.

“Sure did. Ancient Andy came through for us again,” Billodeaux answered for the tongue-tied Riley.

“Do you remember Kevin Riley?” Connor hinted.

“Of course, the first of my lying, cheating boyfriends. See, no brain damage from the fall,” Stevie answered glibly. Then, she put a hand to her mouth and took it away again. “Oh, no! You’re Kevin’s little brother. All this time following the Sinners and I never tied the names together. I guess I put everything to do with him out of my mind. We played football together once when you were just a high school kid.”

Connor sidled up to the bed, seized the only chair and presented his bouquet. “You said you liked daisies because they were simple and cheerful.”

“You remembered that? We only met the one time when he brought me home to meet your parents, but they were out of town. Your brother dumped me the next weekend because we’d dated three months and I hadn’t put out for him. But you remembered I liked daisies?”

Goals of a Sinner

By Lynn Shurr

COPYRIGHT © 2009 by Carla S. Hostetter All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

Contact Information: [email protected] Cover Art by
Angela Anderson
 
The Wild Rose Press

PO Box 708

Adams Basin, NY 14410-0706

Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com Publishing History

First Champagne Rose Edition, 2010

Print ISBN 1-60154-717-X

Published in the United States of America
 
Dedication

For my husband, Dave, who answered questions even when the game was on and serves faithfully as my computer geek.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

With the weight of her long blonde ponytail streaming out behind her through the loop in her black New Orleans Sinners football cap, Stevie Dowd raced down the sidelines toward the end zone.

She stumbled to a stop, turned, braced her legs and raised the Canon EOS digital camera to her eye.

This was it—her chance at the cover of
 
Sports
 
Illustrated
magazine. No more being assigned to photograph rhythmic gymnastics or water ballet. No more being razzed by the guys about her “sensitive” portrait of the little lame bat boy. Stevie Dowd was in the right place at the right time.

The long pass thrown by reserve quarterback Joe Dean Billodeaux sailed down the field past the other photographers jostling each other at the fifty yard line. The football seemed to spin out on an endless trajectory. Then, just as Stevie had bet, wide receiver Connor Riley charged down the field in a race to get under the ball. His calf muscles bunched under the tight leggings of the Sinner’s all-black uniform. His arms reached skyward. “Let him fill the frame,” Stevie schooled herself with time-honored advice.

Riley was so close now she could see his signature blond curls sticking out from under his helmet and resting on his shoulder pads. He turned his head to search for the ball and the red devils on his helmet seemed to wink at Stevie as she pressed the shutter at the very moment he leapt and connected with the pigskin. She captured him going up and coming down with the prize. As the wideout touched ground and dug in to take a step toward the goal line ten yards away, Falcon cornerback, Revelation “Rev” Bullock, rose up behind him, a black mountain all covered in white, and came crashing down on Riley like a two-hundred pound avalanche. Stevie surged forward and kept rapid fire snapping.

The two men locked together arrowed out of bounds and Stevie Dowd caught every nuance of it with her camera. She took one more step closer and was buried beneath four hundred pounds of football player.

The Rev removed his massive frame from his opponent’s torso and offered a hand to Connor Riley, who shook his head as he rose. That was the Rev for you, always the good sport, but something felt wrong. He had landed on a surface much softer than artificial turf.

The Rev spit out his mouth guard. “Couldn’t let you get away from me and score, man, but it looks like we done sacked ourselves a photographer and he out cold.”

“She,” corrected Riley, noticing the blonde ponytail fanned out behind the delicate head of an unconscious woman. The hair held the black Sinners cap in place despite the impact. She had made no attempt to save herself. Both her arms protected a fancy digital camera held to one side away from the blow. She was fair, probably paler than usual now, no makeup, and no color on her partially open pink lips. Her long, light brown lashes fluttered as if she were getting ready to wake from her bed after a long, steamy night of sex.

Riley shook his head again. This celibacy thing was getting to him. Thank God the season was nearly over. Still, he remembered something about this woman, something familiar that didn’t come to him. The medics interrupted his thoughts as they squeezed between the two players and knelt by the victim whose feet lay splayed open on the playing field. The short, balding medic unsnapped the many-pocketed photographer’s vest. Riley inhaled.

She wore nothing under the vest but a white Sinners T-shirt with its little red devil logo plastered by sweat against one full, braless breast. Her nipples were clearly delineated and peaked up in the cool stadium air. Riley swallowed his saliva.

The Rev elbowed him. “You lusting after a knocked out woman, brother.”

“I know, I know,” Riley confessed. “This was all your idea.”

“Best season you ever had, right?” the Rev answered.

“I know,” Riley said again. “But there’s something else about her.”

The medics listened to the patient’s chest, checked her blood pressure. When her big blue eyes opened, the EMT with the crew cut held up two fingers and asked her “how many.”

“Ah, four. No, two. Three?” she answered faintly, trying to cooperate.

“She’s guessing. Concussion. Do you know your name?” The balding medic spoke slowly and clearly.

“Ah—” was the only answer that came from the full pink lips.

The other medic checked her credentials. “Says her name is Stevie Dowd.” He wrote on the chart he held. “Not hardly a dowd,” the Rev commented.

“Not Stevie, either,” Connor Riley said. “It’s Stephanie, Stephanie Dowd, my brother’s old girlfriend, the woman I loved my entire senior year of high school.”

“Get out.” The Rev pounded Connor on the back.

“A lost love. Good things come to those who wait.

Didn’t I just tell you?”

Stevie’s pink lips moved again trying to articulate a whole sentence. Connor removed his helmet and walked around the medics to kneel by her side. “Stephanie, it’s Connor. What can I do for you?” he asked.

“My pictures.
 
Sports Illustrated.
 
Get them to—” Her eyes closed again.

Riley looked up suddenly aware of the click and whir of other cameras around him. He pointed to one of the sports photographers preserving the moment on a memory card. “You, Dexter Sykes,” he commanded, reading the name off the man’s ID. “See that this camera gets to
 
Sports Illustrated
. And I better not see your name on the photo credits.” Gently, Riley unfolded Stevie’s hands off of her Canon. He unfastened the neck strap and thrust the whole piece of equipment at the man he had selected from the group. “See she gets her camera back, too,” he added with just the faintest threat.

“Sure thing, Mr. Riley. We all know Stevie. She’s been trying to get a shot like this for years. How about one for me, Connor?”

The photographer snapped without waiting for an answer. Connor blinked and gave a low growl.

Dexter Sykes stepped back behind the other photographers and took off at a run, rushing the pictures to
 
Sports Illustrated,
 
no doubt.

The emergency cart arrived. The medics secured her head and neck, slid a board under Stevie and strapped her down. On a count of three, they raised the board and placed her on the cart for the run to the waiting ambulance. Connor Riley watched Stephanie Dowd move out of his life again, this time on the Sinners’ meat wagon.

****

In the broadcasting booth, once the commercials had run, sportscasters Al Harney and Hank Wilkes filled the dead air time with their patter.

“For those who are just joining us, we are experiencing a delay of game. An innocent civilian got in the way of the troops and was mowed down by wide receiver, Connor Riley, and cornerback Rev Bullock at the end of the most spectacular play of the game. The medics are checking out the victim now and the game will resume once they get the meat wagon off the field. Say, Al, do you remember the time back in ‘96 a cameraman got sacked?”

“I do, Hank. That one always makes funniest sports videos. Here’s another one for the show. But about that play, Billodeaux’s long pass set a new record for the Super Dome and for this relatively young expansion team, the New Orleans Sinners, who moved in here when the Saints were lured to Salt Lake to take up residence in a new stadium near the Jazz. I wonder how happy the Saints players are because I can tell you Temple Avenue ain’t no Bourbon Street. The Sinners are doing their best to fill the gap left by the Saints though.”

“Yes, they have quite a reputation, but that doesn’t seem to be hurting their play any this year.

The next thirty seconds of the game will determine which of these teams goes on to win the wild card spot in the coming playoffs. The score is twenty-one to twenty with the Falcons in the lead. Three touchdowns to the Sinners’ two and two field goals and thanks to Billodeaux’s long pass, the Sinners are now within easy field goal range again.”