NACHO FIGUERAS PRESENTS: HIGH SEASON
The Polo Season Series #1
by Jessica Whitman
Release Date: May 31, 2016
Trade Paperback, Mass Market, eBook
World-renowned polo player and global face of Ralph Lauren, Nacho Figueras dives into the world of scandal and seduction with a new fiction series set in the glamorous, treacherous world of high-stakes polo competition.
Georgia never wanted to be a jetsetter. A plain old country vet was fine for her. But one distress call from her best friend and the next thing she knows she’s neck deep in the world of polo’s most elite international players–complete with designer dresses, fine champagne and some of the most gorgeous thoroughbreds she’s ever seen. Some of the most gorgeous men too…
Alejandro Del Campo needs his team to win the season’s biggest polo tournament or else he’s not sure how much longer they’re going to be in business. What he doesn’t need is some sassy new vet telling him how to run his business–and distracting him at every turn. But as they come closer and closer to the championship match, it soon becomes clear that Alejandro wants to win Georgia just as much as the tourney trophy. But can he ever convince her his world is where she truly belongs?
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FROM NACHO FIGUERAS PRESENTS: HIGH SEASON BY JESSICA WHITMAN
ON SALE MAY 31, 2016
The horse let out a whinny, and Alejandro swore softly in Spanish. The last thing he wanted to do was wake the entire barn. He slipped a halter on MacKenzie, the favorite in his current string of ponies, and led her out of the stables. The moon was bright in the sky as he swung onto the pony’s bare back. With a snort, she broke into a trot.
Approaching the gatehouse, Alejandro gave the guard a curt nod. He was determined not to seem furtive riding his own horse on his own time, but the guard’s professional discretion didn’t disguise his surprise that Alejandro was taking a pony out at night without a saddle. The Del Campo family team, La Victoria, had a match tomorrow, and with the odds already stacked against them, Alejandro knew he should be home in bed, not tiring out his best pony with a hard-riding midnight outing.
He couldn’t sleep, though. Not yet. It was one of those nights when the darkness weighed down and his mind raced on. He felt particularly caged in Wellington. Every last inch of the landscape was tamed. For all its luxury, he felt trapped by the gated community—his guards and staff and fleets of grooms—when what he needed was a solitary ride in the wilderness. That’s why he rode at night, willing to risk the hidden dangers on the dimly lit paths—the possibility of a shadowed dip in the earth where a hoof could catch, a nocturnal animal suddenly darting out in front of them and spooking his pony—in exchange for having the roads to himself. He needed to gallop, skin to skin, even if only for a short stretch, to lose himself in the strength and speed of his horse. To reach that soaring, unifying moment that felt less like riding and more like flying, when he and the horse joined together to become one seamless beast.
Alejandro turned onto the canal road, leaned forward, and tightened his thighs—clicking his tongue and murmuring in Spanish until the pony’s gait smoothed out into a fluid gallop.
MacKenzie picked up speed, responding to his movements as if she could read his mind. Alejandro smiled. This pony loved to run. She was one of the few horses who could sustain this kind of pace and still be in world-class form the next morning. MacKenzie was such a fighter that she seemed to gain more fire, more heart, with every step she took. He’d find a role for her in the match tomorrow. She needed the game as much as he did.
He pressed his legs harder, driving the horse faster, determined to calm his buzzing mind and push his body until he could collapse, exhausted. It was practically the only way he could get any sleep these days.
It didn’t use to be so hard, he thought, slowing to a canter. He’d always slept like a baby after they won a match, but Lord knows, those wins were few and far between these days. A few glasses of wine occasionally worked, but he’d stopped drinking as part of his training, knowing that even if the alcohol initially brought him relief, he’d be wide awake a few hours later, eyes on the ceiling, while ghosts and shadows chased through his brain…
He shook his head, wishing for other ways to exhaust himself.
A string of images flashed through his mind. The sweet, silken curve of an inner thigh. The beckoning swell between waist and hip. A flirtatious smile thrown over a naked shoulder, inviting him to take what he wanted . . .
He swore to himself and rode harder, violently shutting down this train of thought and replacing it with the simple conviction he had come to focus on since the death of his wife—he had to win. And in particular, he had to qualify for and win the biggest game of the season, the upcoming Carlos Del Campo Memorial Cup, named after his own late father.
In determined pursuit of this goal, Alejandro had turned to abstinence in this last year, in every sense of the word. He had given up most earthly pleasures—drinking, women, unnecessary socializing, anything that could distract him from the game—and channeled all his restless feelings of grief and anger directly into his training. Spending every spare moment in the saddle, mercilessly pushing his already hard and athletic body as close to perfection as he could get, riding until he could barely walk. And yet, despite his absolute focus on the field, La Victoria had already lost more games than they had won this season, making a mockery of their name.
Alejandro wanted to blame his other teammates. If only they would train harder, pay better attention, be willing to sacrifice more. His younger brother, Sebastian, for example, could barely bother to turn up for practice most days, much more interested in taking advantage of the endless parade of polo groupies that were at his beck and call. Rory, the other young pro on the field, was talented but suggestible, and only too eager to follow Seb’s party-happy lead. Lord Henderson, the patrón, had once been a formidable athlete, but a lifetime of hard playing had taken its toll on the older man, and these days, like many patróns, it was more his ability to bankroll half of the team’s expenses that secured his place on the field. Really, when Alejandro thought about it, it was a miracle they ever won a game.
Still, deep down, he knew that, as team captain, the responsibility for their losses ultimately lay upon his own shoulders. And that, despite his absolute personal focus and relentless pursuit of the cup, he was somehow failing them all.
Alejandro kicked his pony on, trying to shake loose his feelings of uncertainty and loss, to shed them like scales in his wake. The heavy sound of MacKenzie’s hoofbeats, the dull thump of his own heart pounding, all resounded as one. Behind them, motes of sand kicked up by MacKenzie’s hooves briefly danced in the moonlight and sparked a glimmering silver trail.
He rode until his body felt leaden, his muscles ached, and the sultry Florida air had soaked his shirt all the way through. Finally, turning for home, he felt the pull of his bed and knew that now he’d rest and get at least a few hours of sleep before he was up and ready to show the world his game face again.
About Nacho Figueras
Argentine polo player Ignacio “Nacho” Figueras has become one of the most recognizable and talented polo players in the world. He is currently the captain and co-owner of the Black Watch polo team. In addition to playing polo, Nacho has been featured as a face of Ralph Lauren and its Black Watch clothing and watch collection since 2000. In June 2009, he was voted the second most handsome man in the world by the readers of Vanity Fair and has appeared on numerous television shows, such as Oprah and Chelsea Handler. Nacho currently splits his time between Miami and Argentina with his wife, Delfina and their four children, Hilario, Aurora, Artemio, and Alba.