Simply the Best

Chicago Stars #10
February 13, 2024
Avon Books
ISBN-10: 0063248565
ISBN-13: 9780063248564
Available in: Hardcover, Audio, e-Book

Simply the Best

#1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Elizabeth Phillips returns with the next book in her Chicago Stars series where a successful sports agent and the sister of his biggest client engage in a take-no-prisoners battle of the sexes.

Take one hard-driving sports agent…

Throw in a failed chocolatier…

And her superstar football player brother…

Add a quirky pink and purple food truck.

Then, to really screw things up, mix in a very unfortunate murder.

Brett Rivers is the hottest sports agent in the business—fast and furious, swift and deadly. Failure? Not an option.

Rory Garrett is—let’s be honest—a failure. She has a big heart, an empty bank-account, a passion for making exquisite chocolate, and a huge inferiority complex from living in the shadow of Brett’s most important client, her football legend brother.

Brett and Rory should never have met, and they absolutely, positively should never have had to deal with the consequences of one stupid, drunken night…one disastrous lie…one career in jeopardy…one missing football player…and a very dead body.

It’s going to get messy…and dangerous…and heartbreaking…and sexy. To Rory, Brett represents skewed values and a devious mind. To Brett, Rory is forbidden fruit, off limits, do not disturb, and no entry—definitely no entry.

A woman who has succeeded at nothing and a man who’s succeeded at everything confront the challenge of their lives as they struggle with themselves and each other. When it comes to love– What price are any of us willing to pay to be simply the best?


What lead to SIMPLY THE BEST…

Who is the Brett Rivers, the hero in SIMPLY THE BEST?

Initial scene in SIMPLY THE BEST…

A scene I enjoy!



Susan Elizabeth Phillips

 #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Elizabeth Phillips returns with the next book in her Chicago Stars series where a successful sports agent and the sister of his biggest client engage in a take-no-prisoners battle of the sexes.



Rory was drunk, and she’d earned the right to be drunk, and anybody who wanted to judge her for it could go to hell. Not that anyone at this party should be judging. “Juliet,” she said, extending her hand to the man who’d made his way out onto the hotel balcony to her side. “As in Capulet.”

“Darth,” he replied. “As in Vader.”

His voice was deliciously husky, his smile silky, and she was surprised to hear herself laugh. “Tell me, Mr. Vader, are you really evil?”

His mouth ticked up at the corner, a mouth with thin, finely carved lips. “It depends on who you ask.”

“I’m asking you.” The three fruity, high-octane cocktails she’d already gulped down in an attempt to erase her resentment over having to attend a party where she didn’t fit in made it easy to be flirtatious with this arrogant, cocksure, very sexy jock who had football money written all over him, from his slicked-back hair to his athletic body to his luxury watch.

“I bend the rules here and there.” He touched the red velvet flower in her hair with the tip of his finger. “Tell me you aren’t really thirteen, Ms. Capulet.” His finger moved to her cheek.

She let it rest there for a moment before she took a long sip of her fourth cocktail. “What do you think?”

“I think you left thirteen behind a while ago.”

She’d left thirteen behind a good twenty-one years ago, so how could she take offense? She tossed her dishwater-blond curls like a pro at this hyper-masculine hunk of man. “Correct. And what do you do for a living, Mr. Vader? When you aren’t destroying Jedis, that is.”

“I make money.”

“Really?” His gaze was brash and dangerous, exactly what she needed right now, and the alcohol numbing her brain made caressing the front of his dress shirt seem perfectly appropriate. “Any tips on how I could do that?”

He gave her a cocky, bone-melting grin. “I have a few ideas.”


When Rory woke up, she was alone, nauseated, and naked except for the red velvet flower hanging crookedly by her ear, a black garter belt, and a pair of fishnet stockings. She blinked at the drizzle of streetlight seeping through the window of a hotel room she dimly recalled being located in the same hallway as the party suite. After a couple of years of sexual judiciousness, she’d gone rogue.

She thought she remembered a condom, but maybe not, and what if he had some horrible disease that wasn’t condom proof? The room spun, right along with her stomach. She’d had a one-night stand—something she could check off her bucket list, except it had never been on her bucket list—but she’d been despondent and stupid, no longer herself, and this obscenely rich jock, bloated with arrogance from too much adulation, had seemed like the perfect escape. Not only had she agreed—she’d encouraged him.

The party teemed with beautiful women years younger than her, each one decked in skimpy outfits and stilettos with hair all silky and swishy trying to snag the attention of the bevy of professional football players in attendance. Rory, thirty-four years old with runaway curls and a vintage cocktail dress that now lay in a black tulle puddle on the hotel room floor, had been the outlier, and yet Vader had singled her out.

She vaguely remembered he’d had a quarterback’s build, tall and broad shouldered. His asshole arrogance and slicked-back hair should have sent her running. Instead, they had somehow signaled do me to her impaired brain. Now, here she was, alone in a strange hotel room at three o’clock in the morning, her stomach churning with self-disgust from having sex with a stranger who possessed every quality she most disliked—and was almost certainly married.

Groaning, she staggered to the bathroom, held her hair back from her face, and threw up. She rinsed her mouth and splashed her face with water, all the while trying not to look at the wreck in the mirror but looking all the same, taking in the mascara smudges under her eyes, leftover smear of bright red lipstick, and eruption of unleashed curls around her head. At least it was still dark. She could sneak out of the hotel and hope she didn’t run into anyone.

Her hands were clumsy, her head throbbing, and it took forever to get her clothes back on. She snatched up the red satin evening bag that was all she had left of her mother—Are you proud of me, Mom?—and headed for the door, but just as she reached it, she spotted something lying on the desk. Something that shouldn’t have been there.

Five one-hundred-dollar bills.

He thought she was a sex worker.


The party was winding down. The caterers had left along with the bartender, but three couples and a few strays remained in the suite. Bret Rivers’ most important client, Clint Garrett, sat alone on the couch, his head in his hands.

Brett had arranged tonight’s party ostensibly to celebrate Clint’s birthday, but in reality to restore their relationship, which had hit an unexpected speed bump thanks to a slight error on Brett’s part. Brett wasn’t used to making mistakes. Mistakes were for losers. But then so were regrets. Winners fixed what they’d gotten wrong and came out stronger.

Brett calculated how to approach another conversation. Clint was normally a dream client—smart and talented, with a sterling character and a passing arm that put him in the same league as Robillard, Tucker, Brady, and Manning. Signing him as a client had placed Brett in position to move up to senior vice president, second in command, at Champion Sports Management. Things had been going perfectly until Brett had tried to warn Clint that his current girlfriend was only after his money.

Brett was always right about people. It was built into his DNA. But this time he’d gotten it wrong. Not only had he seriously misjudged Ashley Hart’s character, but he’d underestimated the depth of Clint’s feelings. He’d tried to retreat, but his accusatory words had been said, and Clint hadn’t forgiven him, not even after Ashley dumped him. Brett had talked trash about the woman he loved.

Brett hated being wrong. It went against everything he knew to be true about himself. Everything he’d built his career on. Now he had to fix the damage.

The balcony doors opened and Darius Beale, a veteran Chicago Stars offensive lineman, appeared, his arm wrapped around a beautiful brunette with mile-long legs. “Wassup, man?” Darius cocked a thumb at Brett. “Laila, this is my personal barracuda, Brett Rivers. Best agent in the NFL.”

Brett smiled at Laila, fairly sure she wasn’t the same woman the lineman had arrived with. “It’s easy to do good work when you have the great Darius Beale for a client.”

Darius grinned. “See what I told you? The River, man. He runs swift and deep, fast and furious. No mercy. The guy’s ruthless. Where you been hiding yourself, dude?”

“I had some business to take care of.” No need for his client to know Brett’s business involved an oddball woman with a round face, baby doll cheeks, and crazy honey-blond curls. The city’s exclusive escort services offered more variety these days.

The lady didn’t fit the escort mold, with the exception of that bright, crimson mouth and lacy black garter belt. She was no twenty-year-old working her way through college, a big point in her favor. He’d probably stiffed her by leaving only five hundred, but that was all the cash he had on him.

He’d never understood paying for sex, but it had been a tough week, a long time since he’d been able to fit a woman into his schedule, and something about her had caught his admittedly jaded attention.

Darius’s lady friend Laila turned out to be an econ major at the University of Chicago. As Brett chatted with them both, he kept an eye on Clint. Despite all the beautiful women in attendance, the party hadn’t cheered him up. If anything, he seemed more depressed, and Brett needed to fix that.

He excused himself from Darius and headed for the couch where Clint slouched, his head still in his hands. Brett broke the ice. “Things’ll look brighter in the morning.”

Clint thrust out his empty glass without lifting his head. “Get me another drink.”

Brett didn’t like Clint’s belligerence. Didn’t like it at all. But he swallowed his dignity. “Sure.”

Garrett was already drunk, but Brett was his agent, not his mother, something he wished like hell he’d remembered before he’d told Clint his ladylove almost certainly cared more about Clint’s money than about the quarterback himself. But the lady had dumped him, pointing out the error of Brett’s accusation, and Clint was holding a grudge. Losing credibility with a client made Brett break out in a cold sweat. So far, Brett’s boss hadn’t caught wind of the problem, and Brett intended to make damn sure he never did.

He grabbed a sparkling water for himself and splashed Glenlivet into the tumbler along with a few ice cubes and a generous amount of water for Clint. As he dropped a final ice cube into Clint’s drink, he thought about “Juliet” and hoped she’d left the hotel by now instead of hanging around looking for another customer.

He’d booked extra rooms for party guests who got too shit-faced to drive home, but he’d never expected to use one himself. He was thirty-five, too self-disciplined for casual hookups, and his encounter with Juliet had been out of character. But she’d had good times stamped all over her, and he was under a hell of a lot of pressure. You didn’t get to the top in this business by second-guessing, and no way he’d beat himself up about it.

Brett knew his strengths. Maybe it was arrogance, but who ever said that was a bad thing? He was smart, driven, and, as Darius had mentioned, ruthless when he knew he was right. He had razor-sharp instincts, and he worked smarter and harder than anyone else. Nothing was going to get in his way. Before the summer was over, he’d be the new senior vice president and heir apparent at Champion Sports Management. All he had to do was repair his relationship with one of the agency’s biggest clients.

Brett carried the watered-down drink back to the couch. Clint accepted it with a snarl. “Happy now?”

“I’m not happy at all. I know how much you loved her.” Something he sure as hell wished he’d realized earlier.

“I still do.” Clint gazed into his drink. “She’s beautiful and smart. She knows sports, she’s funny, and she cared ’bout me as a person, not just a football player.” His eyes darkened with anger. “She didn’t give a shit about my money!”

That was true. By dumping Clint, Ashley had proven Brett had vastly misjudged her. He should have known better than to butt into a client’s love life. Ashley was hot, one of the most beautiful women Brett had ever seen, but there’d been something avaricious about her, an air of entitlement that worried him. Still, if he’d kept his mouth shut, he wouldn’t be in this position. “I was wrong.” The words were poison in his mouth.

“Damn right you were. Now she’s goin’ out with Karloh Cousins, who doesn’t make half what I do.” Garrett’s bloodshot eyes turned mean, a word Brett would never have associated with his easygoing client. “Did you fix ’em up?”

Brett never lost his cool, no matter the provocation, but he could barely rein in his temper. “I’d never do that.” Cousins was a reserve point guard for the Chicago Bulls, a great guy, but as Clint pointed out, not nearly in the same league financially. Brett sat on the couch and risked resting his hand on Clint’s solid shoulder. “All I want is what’s best for you. You know that.”

“You don’t know what’s best for me. You just think you do.” Garrett shrugged off his hand. “She loved me, but she couldn’t take the pressure when the press started following her around and people kept taking photos. It freaked her out.” Clint’s expression grew bitter. “You should have taken care of the press. You should have kept them off her back.”

Making his clients’ lives easier was what they paid him for, but Brett had limited powers when it came to controlling the media. Still, if he’d known this was a problem, he would have done something.

Clint rubbed his beard, which was looking more street corner homeless than manicured scruff. “You didn’t know her at all. You just thought you did. I was goin’ take her to Vegas. Ask her to marry me. I had the ring and everything. That’s how sure I was. Cost me a quarter million.” Garrett rolled the tumbler over his forehead, his words beginning to slur. “One day Ashley and I were okay. The next day we weren’t.”

“I hate to see you hurting.”

Clint took a long, slow sip from his glass. “If you were so wrong about her, what else are you wrong about?” Without warning, he drew back his thirty-four-million-dollar arm and hurled the tumbler across the room, where it exploded against the wall, drawing a gasp from the other guests. “You and me. Once the trust is broken, what’s left?”

Brett’s customary iron stomach lurched. This was bad. Worse than he’d calculated.

Garrett came unsteadily to his feet and headed for the bar, glancing at Darius on the way. “Did you see her leave?”

Darius peeled his attention away from the broken glass. “See who?”

“My sister.”

An icy finger tapped the base of Brett’s spine. “Sister?”

Garrett filled a fresh glass with scotch, sloshing some over the sides. Bristling with hostility, he looked at Brett. “I saw you talking to her earlier. Where’d she go?”

Fate couldn’t be this much of a bitch. Not to him. He was The River. Swift and deep, fast and furious. He didn’t screw up. Never. “I talked to a couple of women. I’m not sure which one . . .” But he knew, and the icy finger turned into a hard fist.

“Curly blond hair. Weird black dress.” Clint took another slug of scotch. “She was actin’ strange. Not much of a drinker. Hates parties like this. Doesn’ like me much. She only came ’cause it’s my birthday and I made her.”

Cold dread shot right through him. Careful not to look as if he were rushing, he came off the couch and made his way to the door. Never show weakness. Always in control. “I’ll check it out. See if she’s still in the hotel.” See if she was still in the room where he’d left five hundred dollars.

He cut around the hallway corner. If Garrett found out about this, he’d fire Brett for sure. As for Brett’s boss . . . If he knew Brett had slept with the sister of one of his agency’s biggest clients, Brett could kiss his career good-bye.

He started to sweat. He was always careful. Always planning. Looking ahead. Positioning himself. This couldn’t be happening. Not to him. Not to The River.

He picked up his stride until he was practically running. He hadn’t been gone long. She’d still be asleep. This would all work out. He’d shove the money in his pocket and leave without waking her.

But what if she woke up? What then?

He’d figure it out. He always figured it out. He’d do whatever he needed to. Whatever it took. Failure wasn’t an option. He’d never lost a client, and he didn’t intend to start now.

He fumbled with the key card and finally got the door open.

The bed was empty, but the money was still there. Each bill ripped in half.

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“Readers will want to savor every delectable word in the sublimely talented Phillips’ latest Chicago Stars novel, just as one would enjoy the luscious artisanal bonbons crafted by the book’s heroine. Infused with addictively acerbic wit and graced with a perfectly matched pair of protagonists whose sexual chemistry is hot enough to melt chocolate, this is Phillips at her dazzling best.” — Booklist (starred review)

“Funny and engaging, with twists and turns that keep it moving. Newbies to the series and even sports-averse readers will appreciate this modern-day Cinderella take from Phillps.” — Library Journal (starred review)

“The shifting kaleidoscope of personal, business, and family relationships makes this such a captivating novel. [An] emotionally generous novel about romantic and familial love…a winning romance novel.” — Kirkus Reviews

Other Books in Chicago Stars Series

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