Obstruction: A Playing for Glory Romance
There is a fine line between love and hate. Christopher Brooks spots Riley Adams, his first love, at the Buffaloes' first press briefing of the year. He cannot allow her back into his heart that she broke more than seven years ago. Or can he?
Riley does not have the luxury of hating or avoiding Christopher. Their lives are inextricably linked forever. Her best option is to confront him before he discovers her secret through someone else. And when he knows the truth, will Christopher hate her even more or will he be willing to forgive?
Release date: January 14, 2019
Publisher: Francine Beaton
Print pages: 305
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Obstruction: A Playing for Glory Romance
Christopher had to work hard not to show the man in front of him how much he hurt. He knew it would only give the bastard more satisfaction, and that was something Christopher refused to do.
Where the man’s previous words hurt like hell, his next sentence had Christopher clenching his jaw in anger. It was only once Riley’s father had left that Christopher could give in to his hurt, anger, and rage, following each other in quick succession. He slammed the door shut; the bang reverberating through the quiet of the afternoon. For good measure, he punched his fist against the wood, but the pain shooting through his fingers made him regret it.
At least the pain in his hand was something physical and something he could deal with. The pain slicing through his chest was a different matter.
Then the sudden realisation hit and the doubts crept in. Christopher slid to the floor and closed his eyes. Deep breaths didn’t help to expel the uneasy feeling.
He hadn’t heard from Riley since early afternoon, and she was not answering her phone. Had her father been telling the truth?
Christopher didn’t want to believe it—not his Riley. She wouldn’t do that.
Unfortunately, the niggling doubt didn’t disappear.
He needed to see her, so he got in his car and drove to Riley’s house. He knew the route by heart. He should. He had taken it many times in the almost four years that Riley Adams had been his girlfriend. Today, however, it felt different. His hands were shaking as he clutched the steering wheel. He prayed it wasn’t the truth.
Another car beat him to Riley’s house, stopping right in front of the house. Christopher hesitated. It looked like the older man had expected his visitor, as he was standing at the front door. The visitor exited, then greeted Riley’s father with a handshake and a hug at the front door.
Christopher’s heart clenched. He never received such a greeting from Riley’s father in the past four years. It looked like the old man had been telling the truth. Riley’s father turned without acknowledging Christopher, even though Christopher knew he had seen him.
He couldn’t drive any further. His legs felt as if they couldn’t move, and his heart ached. Christopher dialled Riley’s number one more time. Again, the call diverted to voicemail. Again, he left a message, pleading with her to phone him back. He didn’t know how long he had been sitting in his car. It was dark when he accepted he was waiting in vain. The lights in Riley’s room were on, but she still didn’t reply.
He started the car and drove to the house where he spent most of his childhood years. The disappointment was hanging over him like a smothering blanket.
Christopher didn’t want to believe it. He couldn’t believe it. He still didn’t want to believe it, but when the hours ticked by without a word from her, he had no choice. He had to accept it. Riley’s father had been telling the truth.
Should he fight for her?
No. The answer had been almost instant.
He wouldn’t fight. If Riley didn’t even have the decency to tell him herself that it was over, it was not worth fighting for what they had. She should’ve done it herself—not sending a messenger. The last four years meant nothing to her if she could move on so quickly.
His dreams, their future, were all gone. He had to accept it and move on.
Christopher glanced around his room. It’s over. It’s time to say goodbye to his childhood and his dreams and his memories.
He hoped his parents wouldn’t hate him but, as he was feeling now, he never wanted to put his foot in this town again.
He got up, taking the most enormous suitcase he could find, and started packing.
He dared not look at the photo albums and scrapbooks that was a reminder of his life with Riley. He didn’t want to destroy it yet, but he couldn’t look at them. He would ask his mother to keep it for him until he was ready to deal with it. He grabbed the albums from the shelf, without giving in to the urge of opening them and opened a smaller suitcase.
One photo slipped from the pages and landed on the bed, and Christopher picked it up. He felt his throat close when he studied it. He remembered when his mother had taken the photo. She must’ve put it inside the album because Christopher hadn’t seen it before.
Christopher had thought the day they took that photo was the happiest day of his life. His mother had them posing just outside their house, only hours before Riley became his. And that had been two months ago.
How could things have changed in such a short time? How could Riley have changed her mind after what they shared? He thought she loved him…
The sound of a car driving past his window interrupted his thoughts. His parents were home, and they needed to talk. Christopher took a deep breath and made his way to the kitchen to switch on the kettle.
When his parents walked into the kitchen a few minutes later, they immediately could see that something was wrong.
It was a relief to talk to them. What Christopher’s father had to say, didn’t make Christopher feel any better. It only made him angry and more determined to leave and never come back. His only relief was that his parents would also leave town in the next four days. He wouldn’t have a reason to come back.
That night Christopher didn’t sleep, and he guessed that neither had his parents. When he gave up on the pretence of sleeping, he showered and got dressed. When he took his first load of luggage to his car, his parents were already in the kitchen.
The goodbyes were emotional, even though they would see each other on Sunday before his parents were leaving the country. With promises to phone as soon as he was back in Pretoria, Christopher left the house he grew up in for the very last time. It was still dark when he steered his car into the quiet streets.
He stopped outside town to look back to the place where he grew up, where he experienced all his firsts in life. It was also where he suffered his first heartbreak, and the sooner he can get out of this town, the better.
He had driven a distance before the sun rose. He stopped at a lookout point, thinking about what happened.
There, where no one could see his pain, he cried until he could cry no more.
He checked his phone one last time, still hoping Riley would contact him, but there were still no messages.
Before he could stop himself, Christopher threw his phone down the cliff. He knew it was more than frustration that made him do that.
He then promised himself that it was the last time. No woman would ever have the power to hurt him as Riley did. He would not give them a chance because he would never expose his heart to such abuse again.
Just over seven years later—Buffalo Stadium, Pretoria
Christopher sat up with a jolt, almost toppling his chair as he did so. All the air squeezed out of his lungs when he noticed the woman who had entered the media room. He cursed, inviting a shocked look from the man sitting next to him.
What the hell was she doing here?
His only relief was that she hadn’t seen him yet. His survival instinct urged him to flee before she saw him, but it was irrational. He didn’t have the luxury of leaving.
He kept his eyes on her, drinking in the sight of her even when he shouldn’t have. The feelings it evoked seeing her after all this time. It scared the hell out of him.
He had to stop staring at her before she could notice him. He bent down, hiding his head below the table and half-turned his back to the room. He had to take several deep breaths to swallow the sudden bout of nausea and anxiety.
A hand on his shoulder caused him to look up. Christopher could read the concern on the face of Daniel Cooper, the team captain of the Buffaloes and one of his friends at the franchise. Daniel’s voice was steady and reassuring when he handed Christopher a bottle of water.
“Are you okay? Don’t tell me you are nervous. You’ve been doing press interviews before. I know this is the first one in your new position, but you can do it, Bro’. Just relax, take a deep breath, and exhale. And remember, I’m next to you.”
Christopher could understand why Daniel received the award for best captain in South African rugby two years in a row. Daniel now had a calming effect on Christopher. It came from years of experience, and Christopher believed he had the same impact on his team.
Christopher took a grateful sip of the water. After he had swallowed, he closed his eyes and did what Daniel instructed him to do. Christopher took a deep breath and exhaled in a loud sigh. When he opened his eyes, he felt more in control. He turned to Daniel and nodded, “Thanks, Bro’. Don’t know where that came from. You’re right. I should be used to it by now.”
Christopher turned to face the press with renewed determination.
Maybe it was his imagination. Perhaps it wasn’t Riley Adams. It could be someone who looked like Riley.
His hopeful thinking didn’t help. Christopher’s second look confirmed his fears. The woman who was standing less than ten feet away was Riley Adams. Christopher frowned. She had a press pass around her neck, so she must be here as a journalist. How could he have missed Riley’s name on the list of accredited journalists?
His breath hitched, and he felt a pain shoot through his chest—a pain Christopher thought long forgotten. If he hadn’t seen her name on the accredited list, Christopher could only conclude that she wasn’t Riley Adams anymore.
Seven years was a long time, and she might be married with a string of kids.
Christopher didn’t want to think about it. Riley Adams was in his past, and that was where she should stay. He would not let her, or any other woman gets close enough to do what she did. That pain was not worth it.
If he still had doubts whether it was Riley, those soon disappeared when Riley noticed him. He could see the shock and recognition on her face. Her eyes widened and all colour drained from her cheeks.
Riley looked as shocked as he was. She should be. She should be more embarrassed, but at least she showed emotion.
Christopher could’ve hit something in frustration. The year and his new job could not have started on a worse possible note. It was only the second working day of a very long season waiting for the Buffaloes Rugby Club. As their new Director for Media- and Communications for one of the youngest professional rugby clubs in South Africa, Christopher had no choice but to deal with the press.
Judging by that lanyard around Riley’s neck, it meant this wouldn’t be the last time he had to deal with her.
It felt like an eternity that they stared at each other, oblivious to the other people around them. It was as if the years he hadn’t seen Riley slipped away. He felt the familiar tugging at his heart whenever he looked at her, and he frowned. He couldn’t allow it.
Daniel nudged Christopher’s arm and pointed to his watch. Christopher took a deep breath. He had to get a grip. He cleared his throat and tapped with still shaking fingers on the microphone to get the press’ attention. The voices faded away, and everyone turned towards the panel.
“Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen. Welcome to our first press briefing of the year. I’m Christopher Brooks. I’m the new Media- and Communications Officer and your future point of contact with the Buffaloes. You’ll find a stack of business cards with my contact details on the table at the door. You are welcome to contact the members of my team or me.”
Well, at least that didn’t sound too bad.
He swallowed again, avoiding looking toward where he’d last seen Riley and continued, “I’m certain you didn’t come to listen to me, so let me start the proceedings. As you all know, we’re entering a brand-new competition, and it caused some changes. I’ll introduce you to our panel, as they will be the ones who will tell you more of what to expect from the Buffaloes this season. You all know our club captain, Daniel Cooper, sitting here on my left. Next to him is another familiar face, Coach Tom Brady and next to him…”
If he didn’t look at Riley, Christopher got through his part of the proceedings.
The briefing was long. It was always like that at the start of a new season or a new competition.
Since Nicholas Carter bought the club a few years ago, he had made the Buffaloes one of the top clubs in South Africa. For such a young club, and one that was not one of the four big franchises, the Buffaloes was a successful club, and it continues to grow.
They attracted some big names year after year and this year was no exception.
Nicholas had, since the early days of the club, made a big thing about the new signings and the handing over of their kits. Today was no exception.
Listening to the questions and interviews after Nicholas had handed over the kits, Christopher sighed. As if the fact that Riley Adams’ sudden reappearance in his life was not enough, Christopher realised he would have his work cut out for him.
Ulrich Fὅlscher, the young centre the Buffaloes lured from one of the big English Premier clubs, was an introvert, but he gave clear enough answers. He would not be a problem.
Christopher’s problem would be Richie Campbell, the international winger from Scotland. The way Richie glared at the press did not forebode well, and Christopher knew that his attitude—combined with his strong Glaswegian accent—would make Richie a nightmare to interview. At least Matthew and Daniel understood the man well enough and explained some of the winger’s answers when they noticed the press didn’t follow him.
Christopher was well aware of Richie’s reputation as a player. He was the first international player signed by the Buffaloes and Christopher could bet his paycheck on the fact that the press would climb over each other for an opportunity to interview Richie.
During question time, Christopher ignored Riley, even though her hand was the only one raised. It was with almost childish satisfaction he glared at her when he concluded the briefing. It didn’t last long though when he noticed the practically resigned drop of her hand to her side without looking away from him.
Christopher should’ve felt satisfied, but when he saw Riley’s expression when she turned to leave, he felt strangely hollow. He had recognised it. In the past, Riley often had that expression after dealing with her father. That he had caused it this time played on his conscience, although not for long.
It had been a long time ago when anything Riley did, bothered him. It couldn’t affect him now. It shouldn’t, anyway.
Riley had to learn that this was his turf, and she had to fall in with his rules.
When he got back to his office, Christopher checked Riley’s credentials. He groaned when he found her on the list of journalists for the new internet-based broadcaster, Sport100. He now understood how he missed her name because Sport100 only provided the list this morning. Sport100 worked with freelancers, but Riley wasn’t one of those. On Sport100’s website, they listed her as one of the regular presenters and researchers.
Christopher cursed. He was doomed. He would’ve no choice but to deal with Riley. He promised himself that her innocent-looking face wouldn’t fool him again. This time he would prepare himself and treat Riley as she deserved to be treated, after what she and her family did to his family.
Christopher almost snorted. Yeah, right, as if that little pep talk would change anything.
Riley’s heart was still beating fast when she left the media room with her cameraman, Dave.
She had thought she’d never see him again. Seven years ago, after his family and he left town, Riley had searched for Christopher Brooks in vain. To find him here, at the Buffaloes’ first press briefing, on her second day in her new job, had been a shock.
She took two deep breaths, ignoring Dave’s concerned glances. She made small talk on the way back to the studio of Sport100, an internet-based sports broadcaster. When she moved to Pretoria, she hoped for a new start. This was not what she had in mind.
For the next couple of hours, Riley struggled to keep her mind on her work. She only managed by using all her willpower and concentration, but those evaporated as soon as she left the studios.
On the way to her townhouse, Riley didn’t want to think about the repercussions of meeting Christopher again. She didn’t have the luxury to ignore this opportunity presented, one she’d been searching for years. She needed to deal with it soon.
When she first saw Christopher in that media room this morning, she thought her heart would stop. For those what felt like endless moments when they held each other’s eyes, it felt as if the years in between didn’t exist. He still had the same effect on her as he had when she met him as a naïve fourteen-year-old.
The reality had soon kicked in, however. Riley had seen the look on Christopher’s face when he realised he was staring at her—it was one of disgust. A look that she could only describe as hatred replaced it.
Riley couldn’t understand why, but she made a promise to herself, right there before the press briefing had even kicked off: She wouldn’t allow Christopher Brooks to hurt her ever again.
When he broke eye contact, Riley had breathed a little easier. Her hopes that Christopher was only there as a representative of one of the sponsors were soon dashed.
Her heart had sunk in her shoes when he introduced himself as the new Media- and Communications Officer for the Buffaloes.
New was the operative word because when Riley tried to learn more about her new position, she had researched the Buffaloes too. The Buffaloes then didn’t have a dedicated media officer. Riley would cover rugby, as well as a couple of other sports for Sport100. If she had known that she had to deal with Christopher, Riley doubted if she would’ve accepted this position.
She had seen the way Christopher looked at her—and the way he ignored her for most of the proceedings. She surmised it would be a challenging year. Christopher had shunned her during question time today, and she expected he would do it again in the future.
Riley gritted her teeth. Christopher hadn’t seen her for the last seven years. If he had changed, so had she. He was the reason she had to grow up fast. She developed backbone and grit. She had to. She became even more stubborn than she had been when he knew her. He would soon find out. She was not that eighteen-year-old girl he left behind.
If it wasn’t for her stubborn trait, Riley doubted she would’ve been able to get through that first few years after high school. She learned hard lessons during those years, and some of those lessons would help her through this as well.
When she had parked her car in front of her townhouse, Riley took a deep breath. She needed to look calm before she left this car. Now was not the time to fall apart.
Seven years ago, she didn’t have the opportunity which today unexpectedly brought. It was a great opportunity, but it meant she needed to make an important, albeit tough decision. That decision, however, had nothing to do with leaving—it didn’t matter how hard Christopher Brooks would try to chase her away.
She had worked hard to get where she was. She had to make changes and sacrifices, but it was all worth it. If Christopher didn’t like her being here, it was his problem. She wouldn’t back down.
She depended too much on this job.
The first weekend after training resumed was also the first weekend of the new year and a new rugby season. It would be the one free weekend where the players and those involved with the Buffaloes could still relax.
Christopher had joined his friends for a beer the previous night, but he wasn’t good company. It was better to leave after he snapped at Rick Walters for the third time. His friend didn’t cause his crappy mood. He knew that, and he also knew he could blame that on Riley. He had to apologise to his friend, but he first needed to figure out what to tell Rick.
Christopher spent Saturday morning in the garden, hoping that the physical labour of mowing the lawn and cleaning the pool would help to settle the tension in the pit of his stomach.
Christopher could thank the previous owner for planting such a big lawn. Apart from the fact that he had a garden and not a yard that resembled a building site, like many other houses in the estate, mowing the big lawn gave him some much-needed exercise. The task, however, gave him enough time to brood—and that was something he should have avoided right now.
Later that morning, Christopher received a phone call from Mark Bailey. Mark invited Christopher, and a few of their regular group of friends, for a pizza and pool night at his home. Mark’s invitation was precisely what he needed to get out of his own head. Christopher, therefore, didn’t have to think too hard before accepting the invitation. He needed a distraction. As a boys’ night at Mark’s house included crashing at any place they could find and a round of golf in the morning, it meant less time to think.
Mark lived in a golfing estate close to the estate where Christopher and a few other Buffaloes’ players lived, but Christopher didn’t even consider driving back after a few beers. He wouldn’t allow any of the others to do that either, so staying over at Mark’s place was the best option.
Christopher knew these guys. They would all be up at the crack of dawn and ready for exercise. They would still fit in a round of golf. Afterwards, they would all head back to the estate where Christopher lived, as they were joining a few others in the squad at one of the assistant coaches’ house. Carl Becker and his wife Sandy, who was the masseuse for the Buffaloes, were living not too far from Christopher in the same estate.
Being that busy, Christopher would have less time to think about Riley, which suited him fine. He knew he needed to figure out how to deal with her before the next press briefing, but not tonight.
Christopher and Rick had both played for the Nyalas’ Schools Team before Christopher’s career-ending injury. Since Christopher joined the Buffaloes four years ago, he and Rick had picked up their friendship. Through Rick, he had formed a close bond with some players, especially Daniel Cooper. Daniel somehow became one of Christopher’s closest friends and confidantes.
Christopher still couldn’t figure out how he and Daniel had bonded. Maybe they did because they were so similar. If Christopher’s rugby career didn’t end through a knee injury in his final year at high school, he might have competed with Daniel for the same jersey, even though Christopher was four years younger than Daniel.
Christopher had signed a contract to play for the Nyalas’ under 19 squad before his injury. He had been, like Daniel, the captain of every team in which he played. Maybe that was what made them bond. They had mutual respect for each other.
Daniel was the indisputable leader of The Three Musketeers, who also counted as Christopher’s friends. The other two members of the Musketeers were Mark, their host for the evening, and Matthew Kemp, the vice-captain. The rest of their close group included Jakes du Plessis and André Botha. Richie Campbell was now also a member of their group of friends. Richie had formed a close friendship with Matthew in particular when they were teammates in a combined international team five years ago.
Late that evening, they were still sitting on the veranda with their last beers of the evening. Of course, Daniel brought up the pledge, causing Richie to ask, confused, “What pledge?”
They all first stared at Richie, only then realising they hadn’t spoken to the newcomers in the squad about it, then at Daniel. He brought it up, and he had to fix it. It was his duty, after all. He exacted a promise from Richie, “Promise what I tell you now will stay with the team and us.”
Richie laughed at Daniel, his Glasgow accent very distinct, “Yer joking, right?”
When Daniel shook his head and denied that it is a joke, Richie’s gaze flitted between the friends, who were all watching him with the same solemn expressions. Richie might have realised that this was serious as he muttered, “I dinnae like it, but I promise to do whatever I’m supposed to do.”
Christopher had to hide his amusement at Richie’s face as he listened to Daniel explaining about the pledge they signed last year. The commitment came because Mark had read an article about footballers who refrained from sex before the World Cup and management’s ultimatum that the squad need to change their behaviour and the image of rugby in general.
When Daniel finished, Richie shook his head, still stunned, “Yer fucking serious!” and frowned. “What does the pledge say?”
Daniel shook his head. “You must read it for yourself, because we expect you and Ulrich, and all newcomers, also to sign it. The essence of the pledge is that we must behave like professionals. We had to follow Management’s orders, even if we don’t like it—and that includes Chloe’s rules. We, as players, need to take responsibility for the team. Those of us who are single must abstain from sex and a new relationship until the final. Those who were in a committed relationship or married are to abstain from sex, at least the day before a match.”
Richie swore when he realised it wasn’t a joke, but Daniel stopped him, “Sorry Scotsman,” which clearly was Richie’s allocated nickname, and warned, “swearing is out. We also promised to limit any swearing as part of our new image. We have a swear jar in the locker room, and you have to donate a five-rand coin for every swear word,” before he admitted with a laugh, “We filled the third jar this week.”
Richie stared at them, aghast. “Had anyone broken their vow yet?”
When nobody answered, Jakes cleared his throat and asked hesitantly, “Does kissing count?”
In the year since Jakes re-joined the squad after his stint with the Springbok Sevens, Jakes spoke little. He had been prone to panic attacks the year before, and everyone got used to the elastic around Jakes’ wrist, which helped him to focus. Jakes still wore the elastic, but tonight, instead of tugging it as he used to, he stroked the band with gentle fingers.
Jakes, therefore, surprised or rather shocked everyone when he started speaking. He spoke not only about the woman he met while he was in Denver for physical therapy, but also about his past and the reasons he suffered from panic attacks. They had known all along that there was a story, but nobody could even imagine what Jakes told them. Everyone listened without interrupting him once.
When he finished, it was quiet again until Mark asked, “Have you told her how you feel?” Mark asked.
Jakes shook his head, “I was minutes away from doing so. Then I received Daniel’s message, reminding us of the pledge.”
Christopher bet Daniel now regretted that message because they had all been privy to Daniel’s frustrations during the last week. Daniel was as bound to the pledge as the rest of the squad, so there wasn’t much he could do—not if he wanted to set an example for the team.
Mark interrupted Christopher’s thoughts. His almost morose speech was so unlike Mark that Christopher looked at him with concern as he told Jakes, “Bro, let me tell you something. Don’t wait too long before you act on it. Don’t be too scared to say or do something. Sometimes you must take the risk. If you wait too long, you may lose the chance. Then, before you know it, five, or even ten years have gone, and the one you love got away.”
Riley’s face flashed before Christopher’s eyes. Before he could stop himself, he snorted, “You wish. Sometimes even seven years is not long enough to forget, even if you try.”
Christopher ignored both Daniel and Rick’s curious glances. He knew they hadn’t missed his foul mood since Tuesday. At least Richie’s agreement with Christopher and his comment drew the attention to him.
Christopher now understood the Scot a little better. After his talk to Daniel two days ago, Christopher did his research on Richie. Richie’s very public breakup was all over the British news, and that was why Richie hated the press with a passion.
Daniel grinned at André, who had been a psychology major, “You are having a field day with us, don’t you? What about you—and you Rick? Neither of you has anything to say.”
André smiled his quiet smile and glanced between his friends. “I listen to you all, and I observe, and I wait. One day I’ll meet The One, but I’m in no hurry.”
“Hell no,” Rick exclaimed. “There are way too many beautiful women to settle with only one. I’ll never settle down.”
“Bro’, I am waiting for the day when you will fall,” Jakes said to Rick. “I hope I’m there to witness it.”
Rick shook his head. “You will wait for a very long time.”
Christopher refrained from answering. He had a niggling feeling in the back of his mind that if he did, he might protest too much.
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...