Staying on Top by Lyla Payne Review & Giveaway

staying on top






Sam Bradford has it all—he’s the #2 tennis player in the world, plenty of girls want to date him, and he’ll never want for money. At least, that’s what he thought until his accountant stole everything and disappeared. Interpol has no idea where to start, and neither does the American F.B.I., so Sam figures he’ll just have to take care of his body and play a few extra years to make it back.

When Blair Paddington, the accountant’s daughter and a friend of a friend at Whitman, shows up and claims she can help Sam get his money back he’s torn between wanting justice and the very real possibility that Blair is just as big a con man as her father. When she promises not only money, but justice, Sam agrees—but only if he can go along on the search.

The two of them set off on an adventure neither rich kid is prepared for—cheap hostels, the same clothes three days in a row, and nothing but a backpack of possessions—so they can fly under the radar as college lovers on a winter break. In spite of Blair’s shady family, her daring and resourceful personality strike Sam’s interest and he finds himself falling for the one girl he shouldn’t.

When they finally find her father, the truths that come to light not only make Sam question his affection for Blair, but could cost him more than money—if they can’t work together one last time, neither of them may be going home. Ever.



Sam’s hot breath blew across my neck, rustling strands of hair that tickled my skin. It felt a little wet, but I couldn’t see well enough to figure out if he was drooling on me and, really, there wasn’t much point in knowing the answer.

I could not believe that he was slumped against me on the last leg of an impossibly long coach flight from Melbourne instead of in Australia where he belonged. This was not part of the plan, even though in the back of my mind it had been a possibility. I figured my surface honesty would have him groveling at my feet, ready to give me any and all required information so that I could fake finding my dad and bringing him to justice.

It made me respect him more that he wouldn’t bite, but the distrust he’d earned by being taken by my father had made him suspicious. It made me unexpectedly sad. Even though dating Sam hadn’t appealed to me for many reasons, his carefree, embracing attitude toward the world had warmed me in St. Moritz. It was rare to find someone who had made it all the way into his twenties—and been successful along the way—who hadn’t acquired a certain amount of cynicism and bitchiness. Myself included.

Sam hadn’t been putting it on, though. He simply lived each moment as though it was its own tiny story, then closed the book and moved on.

It was how my father lived, but with an entirely different agenda. It was how I lived, because of the life I’d been born into, but it didn’t come naturally to me. I wanted to keep something. Watching Sam had made me sad then—for myself. For what I’d never had.

Watching him now made me sad for him. Or humanity in general, I didn’t know.

I suspected it had a little to do with why I hadn’t shoved his head off my collarbone two hours ago. And I would be lying if I denied the heat between us, or the fact that touching him was like a drug I had no desire to quit cold turkey. It had taken every last ounce of self-restraint not to lean up and kiss him in the hotel room.

It had been over thirty hours since we left Australia, and I had never missed my father’s arsenal of private jets more in my life. We’d stopped in China and Holland, which didn’t seem like it could possibly be the fastest route to Austria. If I didn’t get my feet on solid ground for more than a couple of hours I was going to flip out—it would have been easier to take the sleeping pills Sam had offered, but one of us had to be sober to make sure we made our connecting flights. He’d popped them every few hours and slept more than he’d been awake.

Lucky bastard.

Hopefully whatever had freaked him out about being awake on the plane wouldn’t be an issue in a car, because the drive from Vienna to Jesenice would be at least three hours and I had exhausted my supply of caffeine pills. Sleep was becoming an inevitability.

The pilot announced that we would be touching down in about twenty minutes. I elbowed Sam, not gently, disproportionately pleased at his pained grunt.

He sat up slowly, squinting out the window and self-consciously wiping the corners of his mouth. “Where are we?”

My fingers itched to check my chest and shoulder for drool, but I ignored them. “We’re landing in Vienna. Are you going to be okay to drive?”

“To Slovenia?”


“Won’t your dad’s vast network of spies be able to see us if we rent a car?” He yawned, unaware of how badly he made me want to slap him and kiss him with equal fervor, then peeked at me out of the corner of his eye.

Maybe not so unaware.

He seemed to think me paranoid, to assume my estimation of my dad’s omniscient nature higher than the reality. In truth, I wasn’t positive how closely Neil monitored his marks—or me, for that matter. It didn’t really matter. We weren’t going anywhere near my dad. All of the stops I had planned hadn’t been utilized since before my mother died, as far as I knew. The crazier the trek, the more uncomfortable the travel, the faster Sam would wear down and cough up the signatures I needed.

He would go back to his life a few million lighter and I would go . . . wherever I went.

I hesitated to answer his question about the rental car, unwilling to argue with him or to let him farther into my secret life. He was along for the ride now, though, and there would be consequences to pay at the end of this sham partnership. Those couldn’t be helped.

It wasn’t as if he wouldn’t notice committing a felony.

“We’re not going to rent a car,” I whispered. “We’re going to . . . borrow one.”

“Borrow one?” His golden brown eyebrows shot up. “You have a friend in Vienna?”

“Not exactly. Why, do you?” Borrowing a car from a friend would be preferable to boosting one, even if I did plan to give it back.

“No.” Sam gave me a strange look, his typically soft brown eyes sharp and probing. “What does not exactly mean?”

The woman sitting on the aisle, who hadn’t slept a wink but had recognized Sam the moment we sat down, shifted. Her head tilted toward us, and her constant and obvious eavesdropping made me wonder if I should have said yes to his cheeky suggestion of a disguise.

“Can we talk about this once we have more privacy?”

He shrugged, unbuckling his seat belt and grabbing his bag from under the seat as the wheels touched down in Austria. I followed suit and the two of us disembarked with a couple hundred other passengers who looked as tired as I felt. Sam, for his part, appeared way too perky and refreshed for someone who had slept half bent over on a plane. The woman who had been sitting next to us grabbed him at the top of the Jetway.

“Could I have an autograph? It’s for my daughter. She’s a big fan.”

The spiderweb of lines around her eyes and lips put her in her fifties, probably, and I supposed her dark brown, brittle hair came courtesy of a box and a drugstore. She had been pretty once, though, and the smile she turned on Sam dropped years from her face.

“I don’t believe you could possibly have a daughter old enough to watch tennis.” He rummaged around in his pack and came up with a tennis ball, then signed it with a wink. “There you go.”

She hurried away toward baggage claim, her cheeks red and cracked wide with a grin. Sam’s smile widened when he saw the look on my face, which I imagined was somewhere between incredulous and disgusted.

“What? Jealous?”

“Hardly. I’d just forgotten what a shameless flirt you are.” I would never admit it, but I did feel the slightest twinge of . . . not jealousy. But something. Irritation?

“It goes with the territory.”

I snorted. “Right. Because you can’t be good at tennis and be an asshole to fans. No one has ever done that.”

The smile slipped from his face, not disappearing, just shrinking. Even asleep on the plane, his lips had curled up at the corners. Not that I’d been staring.

“I know you want to think the worst of me, and I suppose you must have your reasons for that, but I’m not an asshole. A bit of a whore, if you want to be judgy about it, but never an asshole.”

A funny feeling, shame or maybe guilt, took root in my stomach. It was foreign—a virus that my father had long ago vaccinated me against, and my body attacked it now. How Sam Bradford lived his life was none of my business. There had been good people in my path before and it had never stopped me. It wouldn’t now. I was almost out.

“I don’t care who you flirt with or where you stick your penis, but I do care about how long this whole endeavor keeps me away from school. So, if you could try to focus.”

“Okay. Fine. No funny business.” He reached out and tugged on the hairs that had fallen out of my bun, loosening the whole thing until it flopped low on my neck. “With anyone but you.”



I have read all of the previous books in the Whitman University series so I was looking forward to reading about Sam and Blair. Staying on Top isn’t set on campus like the previous books, as this one is more adventurous. Blair is one character I truly have a love/hate relationship with.

The previous books in the series do not need to be read prior to reading Staying on Top since Blair and Sam were simply minor characters in those. As with the other books though, this one is also well-written and full of romance! Staying on Top does add two new elements to the Whitman University series and those are suspense and adventure and they are great additions!!!

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of Staying on Top in exchange for an honest review.








I’ve long had a love of stories. A few years ago decided to put them down on the page, and even though I have a degree in film and television, novels were the creative outlet where I found a home. I’ve published Young Adult under a different name, but when I got the idea for Broken at Love (my first New Adult title), I couldn’t wait to try something new – and I’m hooked.  In my spare time I watch a ton of tennis (no surprise, there), play a ton of tennis, and dedicate a good portion of brain power to dreaming up the next fictitious bad boy we’d all love to meet in real life.






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  1. Maria Theresa Santos says:

    I dont know

  2. I’m not sure at this moment.

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