The Black Jack Gentlemen
A city and a sport with something to prove—Meet the men who take that challenge.
The Black Jack Gentlemen—Detroit’s expansion soccer team.
They play hard. And live harder.
Book 1: Man On
Book 2: Red Card
Book 3: Shut Out
And coming soon…
Book 4: Set Piece
Book 5: Hat Trick
MAN ON A handful of fresh-faced young Americans interspersed in the group, which made Nicco feel old. Which totally pissed him off. What was Inez thinking anyway? There were two players per position in the room, two strong contenders for each spot—except his. He sipped his water bottle and glared at the Germans. Nervous tension gnawed at his gut but he kept his face calm. Finally when their temporary coach showed up and flipped the blinds closed, he relaxed. So everyone in the room has to fight for their spot except me? That works. He dropped his feet to the floor at Rafe’s pointed glance and propped his elbows on the table prepared to ignore the forthcoming pep talk. He’d already made plans for the night and wanted to rest up beforehand. This goofy welcome pep talk would be as good a time as any. Letting his thoughts wander to the nightclub promising full discretion, he made himself stop obsessing over the failed therapy session. The door clicked open and all eyes landed on the tall, blond man who walked in,backpack on his shoulder, dressed to play. Nicco’s scalp tingled at the sight of him—strong torso, long legs, firm jaw covered with several days’ worth of fuzz. Good Christ but he was a perfect specimen. Nicco kept his casual stance but startled when the kid’sbright blue eyes and huge white smile landed on him.He resisted the urge to smile back. Something about the man made Nicco distinctly uncomfortable. He suddenly wished he’d held onto the shrink’s business card. “And Parker will be working with you, Nicco.” He sat up, knocking his water to the floor as Rafe’s words got his immediate attention. He stared at the polite hand the kid stuck in his face then over at Rafe. His throat closed up between the proximity of the impossibly handsome man andrealization of the fact that the vision of masculine perfection he’d lusted after for the lastfew seconds wanted to take his spot on the field. Oh hell no. He leaned back again and ignored his inner polite self. Instead, he smirked, ignored the punk, and turned to face their coach as if suddenly fascinated by what the guy had to say. Parker stood a minute, and Nicco watched his face turn red before he sat in the one empty chair nearest the door. Rafe passed out new phones, reminded them of their obligation to “tweet” and “post profile updates” on Facebook at least three times a day. All shit Nicco already knew. Rafe’s hot young lady assistant issued key cards to the ones who’d just arrived,including the kid Nicco studiously ignored but whose very presence was making the front of his jeans uncomfortable.
RED CARD “It’s your hips that are the problem.” Alicia startled at the sound of his now-familiar, sing-song accent. She’d been kicking a line of balls into the net, one after the other for about fifteen minutes since she’d been early in her haste to get the hell out of her house and away from her sister’s loud disapproval. Taking a breath, she crossed her arms and studied him. Metin wore a pair of dark blue soccer shorts, plain heather-gray shirt, and cleats, as easily as he’d worn the dress pants and crisp cotton shirt the night she’d met him—the night you fucked him, you mean. He stood, loose-limbed, at ease in his element. His teeth glowed against his dark skin. The eyes she had melted into not forty-eight hours ago shone with something she couldn’t identify—happiness? Sarcasm? Lust? Who knew? Hoping to hide her frustration, she bent down to tie her laces tighter so he couldn’t see her face flush when her gaze hit the front of his shorts. She rose, determined to resist the take-me-now aura the guy threw her way. He probably didn’t even realize he did it. Not anymore. “Okay, I’ll bite. What’s wrong with my hips?” “Come at me.” She blinked, confused. “Um, huh?” “Attack, make like you want to score. You know? Like you do in games?” “Oh, right.” Dropping the ball tucked under her arm, she glanced over his shoulder at her target. He let her, trotting backward a few steps, then made for the ball. She feinted, maintaining possession before dribbling a few more feet. He came out of nowhere as she was about to make her final scoring charge, stripping her of the ball and sending her crashing to the turf. “Ow. Shit,” she muttered, getting to her feet, a familiar, angry competitiveness stripping all the horniness right out of her head. “I still don’t get what….” “Do it again.” He kicked the ball toward her,harder than necessary, but she stopped it and placed her cleat on top contemplating a different strategy. Shifting to the side, she danced past him, using all the speed she could muster, and headed straight for the goal. And there he was again, taking the damn ball away from her as if she were a rookie. She tried to shield it, putting her back to him and sensing every inch of his warm, perfect physique against her skin. Forcing herself to focus, she landed a hard elbow to his midsection and escaped his trap then traveled down the field alone, turning on all her motors, no longer hearing anything, way into her zone. And then, the damn man appeared in front of her again, batting the ball between her legs and taking off in the other direction, hand to his side where she’d nailed him. “God damn it, Metin. What is your point? You’re a pro. I’m an unemployed college graduate. You’re a man. I’m not. You make money at this, and I never will. What the hell are you trying to prove?” Her legs hurt from her workout the day before and she could barely catch her breath. She was, in a word, miserable. But the sight of him a few yards away, messing with the soccer ball while he stared at her, brought visions of tackling him, holding him down, and kissing him right to the front of her overheated brain.She turned away, ready to escape. “Once more.” The soccer ball smacked the back of her legs so hard she yelped. “That’s your fucking yellow card for the elbow. One more and you’ll sit.”
SHUT OUT “Vaughn! Goddamn it.” Brody sat, staring at his feet, ignoring the usual post-match noise and bustle around him. Most especially he hoped to hide from the voice of Rafael Inez, the club’s manager. Reminders of how poorly he’d performed today were not going to help him. He’d been playing soccer in some capacity since he walked, since he had memories of anything. And today had been among his worst, ever. From the streets of Nashville and the hills of East Tennessee, he’d been on teams, in clubs, trained by himself, trained by pros, the whole goddamned nine yards. He’d seen every sort of match condition, coaching, officiating misstep, and parental overreaction. He realized what it meant to suck serious ass. And he understood why he’d done just that today, too—hence the dark clouds draping his consciousness The team manager drew closer, his deep voice joined by another, as a sort of bonus, really. He leaned against the dark wood lining the walls in the over-the-top, fancy locker room. Metin Sevim, the Turkish coach, once a Spanish league phenom, had had the world at his feet until a horrific tragedy struck, leaving him drunk and useless for years. Apparently recovered, he had a look on his face Brody Vaughn caught loud and clear—the “we lost and it is pretty much your fault but I don’t want to upset you too much” glare that coaches the world over affected. Exhausted in mind and spirit, sick of the chewing out before it even started, Brody gazed at both men. Rafe’s snapping eyes reflected the same expression as Metin’s. He opened his mouth first, but the Turk put a hand on his arm. The men regarded each other as the swirl of post-match activity came to a loud peak. Players in various stages of undress wandered in and out of the main locker room, grabbing towels, pulling on the dress pants, shirts, and ties the club required of them when entering and leaving the facility. One thing Brody would say about the former-hot-headed, player-turned-failure-turned-coach, Metin knew when not to talk. He tilted his head, still pinning Brody with something that faded from this is your fault to what the hell is wrong with you? Then he sighed and, to Brody’s surprise, dropped onto the chair next to him, leaned forward, elbows on knees, and seemed to examine the expensive, rubberized floor. Brody hadn’t even made it to the shower yet. He felt so weighed down and lethargic, just lifting his arms to put his head in his hands took more energy than existed on the planet. He knew why, along with the fact that there wasn’t a thing to be done about it. How would he even begin to describe his issue? Heart pounding, legs aching, shoulder screaming where he’d landed on it, then waved away the trainer at the sixty-fifth minute. By that time all of the players were pretty gassed from the late summer heat, but held on, toe-to-toe, with the Canadian national team in a friendly. The stupid, sneaky forward had seen him wincing, favoring his left shoulder, and drove the ball in on his newly weakened side. It had been a simple fifty-fifty ball; face to face. He had blown it, him and his overpaid, lame ass, wobbly self. Thanks to his one quick encounter with the front office legal woman, he’d been left in a quivering, useless, uncertain heap of need. Fuck that. He had to get a grip.
Amazon best-selling author, beer blogger and beer marketing expert, mom of three, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe lives Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales and fundraising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse. Her early forays into the publishing world led to a groundbreaking fiction subgenre, “Romance for Real Life,” which has gained thousands of fans and followers interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”). More recently she is garnering even more fans across genres with her latest novels, which are more character-driven fiction, while remaining very much “real life.” With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.