Home > Most Valuable Playboy (Most Valuable Playboy #1)

Most Valuable Playboy (Most Valuable Playboy #1)
Author: Lauren Blakely


Always a bridesmaid.

No Action Armstrong.

Ball Cap Boy.

Mr. Clean.

The Unused Insurance Plan.

Oh wait. Here’s one more, a personal fave.

Best Butt in the NFL.

Those are just some of the nicknames I’ve been given in the last few years. They don’t bug me. Not one bit. They’ve all been true, especially the last one. You should see my ass. You can bounce a quarter off my cheeks.

Here’s the thing—when you spend the first three years of your career warming the bench for the best player in the league, you can’t get a chip on your shoulder. You have to stay sharp and be ready for that moment when you swap out a ball cap for a helmet and get your pants dirty.

My time has finally come this season, and so far, we’re winning.

But tonight isn’t about what happens between the opening kickoff and the end of the fourth quarter.

Tonight is about the one game I’ve always dominated.

For the last few years, I’ve been the highest ticket item in the players’ annual charity auction, and I can’t help enjoying that. Because the guy I’ve backed up has been called a lot of things—a legend, the greatest ever, a titan of the game—but the one I most enjoy is “second-best-looking quarterback on the Renegades.”

Hey, I didn’t give him that name. The media did, deciding the dude who played second-string—me—had a prettier face. Before this season, I’d seen a grand total of 120 minutes of playing time in my first three years, but I’ve taken home the top honors in the charity auction, where some of the loveliest ladies come to bid on the players they want to take out for a night on the town.

Ah, the memories of those dates have warmed my heart, and other parts, on the sidelines when the games were dull. Evenings in limos, testing the strength of the leather backseat, nights in hotels that lasted way past dawn, mutually and blissfully ignoring the no physical contact between the winner and the player rule.

Yeah, I’ve enjoyed the fuck out of being paraded on stage in front of hundreds of women, their slender arms lifted in the air, raising their bids higher on me than all the other guys. It’s been my one chance to shine, even to stand out.

Those days are behind me, though, now that I’m finally leading the team down the field every single Sunday. I still expect to rake in top dollar for the charity I gladly support, but this time, I won’t be living it up and letting loose after hours. I have a reputation to protect, and a season on the line.

The trouble is, the woman who has her eyes on me at the Most Valuable Playboy charity auction wants my full enchilada, and it’s not on the menu anymore.

Guess that means it’s time to call an audible on the line of scrimmage.


My hair is sticking up.

In my defense, it’s always sticking up.

I have what’s known as permanent bed head. Which can be awesome, if I want to look like I just strolled out of a most excellent roll in the hay, complete with a sexy stranger running her hands through my dark brown strands.

It’s less awesome for pulling off the part of a classy athlete dressed to the nines. I’m decked out in a tailored charcoal-gray suit and parked in a leather chair in a suite at the Whitney Hotel in the heart of San Francisco, along with a bunch of other guys from the team.

Violet’s trying to curb my bed head. Her long fingers thread through my hair, aiming for a reverse roll-in-the-hay effect. “I swear, Cooper, you’ve had the most stubborn hair your entire life.”

I wiggle my eyebrows. “It takes after me. I can’t be tamed, either.”

She rolls her amber eyes, her long chestnut hair spilling over her chest. “That’s right. You’re a wild mustang. Impossible to domesticate.”

I neigh.

She stops, sets her hands on my shoulders, and gives me a sharp stare. “Can you count with your hooves, too?”

I drag a wing-tipped foot along the carpeted floor one, two, three times. “I can go all the way to ten.”

“You let me know when you make it to twenty, Mister Ed. That’s when I’ll truly be impressed,” she says, with the smile I’ve seen for the last twenty years. I’ve been friends with Violet since we were kids and I moved to her hometown, a few blocks away from her house.

I rub my palms together. “Excellent. I have a goal to shoot for. You know I love goals.”

She laughs. “I do know that.”

Give me a task, and I’m nose-to-the-grindstone focused. I’ve been that way my whole life. Run a mile in under six minutes? Sure thing. Throw a ball downfield twenty-five yards? Let’s do it. Win a scholarship to a top-tier school? Consider it done, and done with a smile.

Violet stretches her arm behind her, silver bracelets jingling as she grabs some hair gel in a black tube from the chrome coffee table. “We need to domesticate your lovely locks, Cooper. I don’t have a riding crop with me, but I think this gel will do.”

I give the tube a skeptical stare. “You’re not going to put a ton of goop in my hair, are you?”

She adopts a serious expression. “Absolutely. It’s a brand-new product I’ve been testing at my salon. It’s called Goop for Guys. It’s so perfect for you.” She lowers her voice to a whisper. “But I won’t tell anyone you have to use . . . product to look so pretty.”

“More like pretty ugly.” A deep voice booms the insult across the suite. Jones is the king of put-downs, and one of my closest friends on the team. At the moment, he’s lounging in a chair, scrolling through his phone, and wearing a custom-fitted dark navy suit.

The team publicist, Jillian, organized the event and chose the tailored suit theme for this year’s auction, our annual holiday fundraiser for the San Francisco Children’s Hospital. Her exact words were, “Suits are like catnip to women, and to men, too, and I want my team of pretty kitties to raise even more money this year.”

That’s a tall order, but most of the dough comes from the entrance fee—a donation to simply walk in the door. We’ve already circulated amongst the crowd, chatting with fans in the ballroom, finishing the mingling session while the speakers played “It’s Raining Men.” That song presaged the final event of the night—the auction itself, also affectionately known as the annual parade of Renegade Man Meat, when the single men on the team strut their stuff.

I glance over at Jones, picking up the insult volley. I eye his midsection suspiciously. “How’s your girdle fitting you tonight? Is that why you look so nice and trim?”

He pretends to adjust it. “Yeah, I borrowed yours.”

“It’s a comfort fit. I can see why you’d need it.”

“You can wear it next. A blushing bride always needs one.”

That’s what the guys call me now. Bride. But hey, I’ll take it over bridesmaid since it comes with the starting job after three long years on the sidelines.

Violet shakes her head as she flips open the tube. “The two of you—”

“Are clever, brilliant, and handsome devils? Why thank you,” I say, straightening my vest. I went three-piece, all the way. If Jillian wants us to wear suits to rake it in, I’ll damn well do my best to bring home a four-peat. I’ve been the recipient of the highest bid the last three years, and since I love streaks, I want to keep it up this year, too.

For the kids.

I want to win for the kids. The hospital does amazing work, and I gladly support it.

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