Sandra Brown Play Dirty: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780743582995

Play Dirty: A Novel

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9780743582995: Play Dirty: A Novel
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#1 "New York Times" bestselling author Sandra Brown is back with a gripping story of obsession and its deadly consequences.
After five long years in federal prison, Griff Burkett is a free man. But the disgraced Cowboys quarterback can never return to life as he knew it before he was caught cheating. In a place where football is practically a religion, Griff committed a cardinal sin, and no one is forgiving.
Foster Speakman, owner and CEO of SunSouth Airlines, and his wife, Laura, are a golden couple. Successful and wealthy, they lived a charmed life before fate cruelly intervened and denied them the one thing they wanted most -- a child. It's said that money can't buy everything. But it can buy a disgraced football player fresh out of prison and out of prospects.
The job Griff agrees to do for the Speakmans demands secrecy. But he soon finds himself once again in the spotlight of suspicion. An unsolved murder comes back to haunt him in the form of his nemesis, Stanley Rodarte, who has made Griff's destruction his life's mission. While safeguarding his new enterprise, Griff must also protect those around him, especially Laura Speakman, from Rodarte's ruthlessness. Griff stands to gain the highest payoff he could ever imagine, but cashing in on it will require him to forfeit his only chance for redemption...and love.
Griff is now playing a high-stakes game, and at the final whistle, one player will be dead.
"Play Dirty" is Sandra Brown's wildest ride yet, with hairpin turns of plot all along the way. The clock is ticking down on a fallen football star, who lost everything because of the way he played the game. Now his future -- his life -- hinges on one last play.

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About the Author:

Sandra Brown is the author of sixty-eight New York Times bestsellers, including Mean Streak, Deadline, Low Pressure, and Smoke Screen. Brown began her writing career in 1981 and since then has published over seventy novels, most of which remain in print. Sandra and her husband, Michael Brown, live in Arlington, Texas.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

chapter

1

That it?"

"That's it." Griff Burkett tossed a small duffel bag onto the backseat of the car, then got into the front passenger seat. "I didn't bring much with me. I'm sure as hell not taking souvenirs." He wanted no memorabilia from his stint in BIG -- official code name for the Federal Correctional Institute in Big Spring, Texas.

He made himself comfortable on the plush leather, adjusted the air-conditioning vent to blow straight at him, then, realizing they weren't moving, looked over at the driver.

"Seat belt."

"Oh. Right." Griff stretched the belt across his chest and latched it. Tongue in cheek, he said, "Wouldn't want to break the law."

As lawyers went, Wyatt Turner was okay. But if he possessed a sense of humor, he kept it under lock and key. He didn't crack a smile at Griff's wry remark.

"Come on, Turner, lighten up," Griff said. "This is a special day."

"Unfortunately, we're not the only ones commemorating it."

Turner drew Griff's attention to an ugly, olive green car parked in a handicapped space. Illegally it seemed, since there was no tag hanging from the rearview mirror. Griff didn't recognize the make or model of the car because it was younger than five years old. Nothing distinguished the no-frills sedan except the man sitting behind the wheel.

Griff cursed under his breath. "What's he doing here?"

"It's been all over the news that you were being released today, but I don't think he brought champagne."

"So why'd he come all this way to see little ol' me?"

"I assume he wants to pick up where the two of you left off."

"Fat chance."

The object of their conversation, Stanley Rodarte, had parked where he couldn't be missed. He had wanted Griff to see him. And Griff would have recognized him anywhere, because Stanley Rodarte was one ugly son of a bitch. His face looked like it had been hacked out of oak with a chain saw, by a carver too impatient to smooth out the rough edges. Cheekbones as sharp as knife blades cast shadows across his ruddy, pockmarked skin. His hair was the color and texture of dirty straw. Behind the lenses of his opaque sunglasses, his eyes -- yellowish, as Griff recalled -- were no doubt trained on Griff with an enmity that even five years hadn't blunted.

Griff shrugged with more indifference than he felt. "It's his time he's wasting."

Sounding like the voice of doom, Turner said, "Obviously he doesn't think so."

As they pulled closer to the other car, Griff flashed Rodarte a big grin, then raised his middle finger at him.

"Jesus, Griff." Turner accelerated toward the prison gate. "What's the matter with you?"

"He doesn't scare me."

"Well, he should. If you had a lick of sense, he would scare you shitless. Apparently he hasn't forgotten about Bandy. Steer clear of him. I mean it. Are you listening? Do not cross him."

"Am I gonna get billed for that unsolicited advice?"

"No, that advice is on the house. It's for my protection as well as yours."

Despite the blasting air conditioner, Griff lowered his window as Turner drove through the gates of the federal prison camp that had been his home for the past five years. The area in which he'd been incarcerated was classified minimum security, but it was still prison.

"No offense to the folks in Big Spring, but I don't care to ever enter the city limits again," he remarked as they left the West Texas town and headed east on Interstate 20.

The air was hot, dry, and gritty, perfumed by diesel and gasoline exhaust from the well-traveled highway, but it was free air, the first Griff had tasted in one thousand, eight hundred, and twenty-five days. He gulped it.

"Feel good to be out?" his lawyer asked.

"You have no idea."

After a moment, Turner said, "I meant what I said about Rodarte."

The sand-bearing wind scoured Griff's face and flattened his hair against his head. "Relax, Turner," he said, speaking above the noise of a foul-smelling cattle truck roaring past. "I won't wave red flags at Rodarte. Or at anybody else. That's in my past. Ancient history. I took my punishment and paid my debt to society. You're looking at a rehabilitated, reformed man."

"Glad to hear it," the lawyer said, heavy on the skepticism.

Griff had been watching Rodarte in the car's side-view mirror. He'd followed them out of Big Spring and now was matching their speed, keeping at least three vehicles between them. If Wyatt Turner realized that Rodarte was on their tail, he didn't mention it. Griff started to say something about it, then figured there were things his lawyer didn't need to know. Things that would only worry him.

Three hundred miles later, Griff stood in the center of the apartment's living area, which was a laughable misnomer. A person might exist here, but you couldn't call it living. The room was so dim it bordered on gloomy, but the poor lighting actually worked in its favor. A crack as wide as his index finger ran up one wall from floor to ceiling like a jagged lightning bolt. The carpet was gummy. The air conditioner wheezed, and the air it pumped was damp and smelled like day-old carryout Chinese.

"It's not much," Turner said.

"No shit."

"But there's no lease. The rent's paid month to month. Consider this only a stopover until you can find something better."

"At least Big Spring was clean."

"You want to go back?"

Maybe Turner had a sense of humor after all.

Griff tossed his duffel bag onto the sofa. Not only did it look uncomfortable but the upholstery was stained with God-knew-what. He remembered fondly the high-rise condo he used to live in, in the ritzy Turtle Creek area of Dallas. Suffused with natural light during the day, a spectacular view of the skyline at night. Outfitted with countless amenities. Half of the gadgets and gewgaws he hadn't even known what they were for or how to work them. But the important thing was that he'd had them.

"When you sold my place, weren't you able to keep any of my stuff?"

"Clothes. Personal items. Pictures. Like that. It's all in a storage unit. But the rest..." Turner shook his head and nervously jiggled his keys as though anxious to get back in his car, although the drive had taken them nearly five hours with only one stop. "I liquidated everything in the Toy Box first."

That had been Griff's pet name for the extra garage he'd leased in which to store his grown-up toys -- snow skis, scuba equipment, an Indian motorcycle, a bass fishing boat that had been in the water exactly once. Stuff he had bought mostly because he could.

"The Escalade and Porsche went next. I held off selling the Lexus until I had no choice. Then I began emptying the apartment. I had to sell it all, Griff. To pay off your fine. Consulting fees."

"Your fee."

Turner stopped his bit with the keys. Under other circumstances, the combative stance he took would have been humorous. Griff was more than half a foot taller, and he hadn't slacked on workouts during his incarceration. If anything, he was harder now than when he went in.

Wyatt Turner had the pallor of a man who worked indoors twelve hours a day. A workout for him amounted to eighteen holes of golf, riding in a cart, followed by two cocktails in the clubhouse. In his mid-forties, he had already developed a soft paunch in front and sagging ass in back.

"Yes, Griff, my fee," he said defensively. "I get paid to do my job. Just like you do."

Griff looked at him for a moment, then said softly, "Did. Just like I did."

Turner backed down and, looking slightly embarrassed by his momentary testiness, turned away and laid another set of keys on the stick-furniture coffee table. "Our extra car. It's parked outside. Can't miss it. Faded red, two-door Honda. Not worth anything as a trade-in, so when Susan got her Range Rover, we kept it for emergencies. It runs okay. I had the oil changed and the tires checked. Use it for as long as you need it."

"Will the daily rental fee be added to my bill?"

Again, Turner took umbrage. "Why are you being such a prick about everything? I'm trying to help."

"I needed your help five years ago to keep me out of fucking prison."

"I did everything I could for you," Turner fired back. "They had you. You do the crime, you do the time."

"Gee, I need to write that down." Griff patted his pockets as though looking for a pen.

"I'm outta here."

Turner moved toward the door, but Griff headed him off. "Okay, okay, you're a prince among lawyers and I'm an unappreciative prick. What else?" He allowed Turner a few moments to fume in righteous indignation, then repeated in a more conciliatory tone, "What else have you done for me?"

"I put some of your clothes in the closet in the bedroom." He gestured toward an open doorway across the room. "Jeans and polos haven't gone out of style. I picked up some sheets and towels at Target. You got toiletries?"

"In my duffel."

"Bottled water, milk, eggs are in the fridge. Bread's in there, too. I thought there might be roaches in the pantry."

"Safe guess."

"Look, Griff, I know it's no palace, but -- "

"Palace?" he repeated, laughing. "I don't think anyone would mistake this dump for a palace." Then, to keep from appearing ungrateful, he added, "But as you said, it's only a stopgap. Do I have a phone?"

"In the bedroom. I put down the deposit for you. It's in my name. We can have it disconnected when you get your own."

"Thanks. What's the number?"

Turner told him. "Don't you need to write it down?"

"I used to carry a couple hundred plays inside my head. I can remember ten digits."

"Hmm. Right. Don't forget to check in with your probation officer. He'll need to know how to contact you."

"First item on my list. Call Jerry Arnold." Griff drew a check mark in the air.

Turner handed him a bank envelope. "Here's some walking-around money until you can get a credit card. And your driver's license is in there, too. Address is wrong, of course, but it ...

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