Her eyes fly to mine. “Really? I figured you were into her…all big boobs and bunny-like. That isn’t me.”

“I know you’re not like that. It’s what I like about you.”

She bites her lip, and my eyes linger there, wondering how it would feel if I kissed her again, this time hard and intense and with so much feeling…

She exhales. “Look, can we forget about everything and just dance?”

“Hi. My name is Ryker. I play football. I love piña coladas and getting caught in the rain. I like making love at midnight, and…I can’t remember the rest of it. What’s your name?”

She giggles, and I know I’ve won her over. “Piña coladas?”

I pop an eyebrow. “Just going with the flow here. Don’t dis coconut and rum until you’ve tasted it.”

She laughs. “Okay. I’m Penelope, and I also love getting caught in the rain…and yoga?” She smiles. “Sorry. I can’t remember that song either.”

“I’m the football player you’ve looked for…”

“Come with me and escape.”

We both laugh.

“See, this is easy,” I say as I pull her closer, until her breasts are pressed against my chest. “I like getting to know you,” I murmur in her ear.

She tilts her head back, gray eyes glinting up at me. “Is that so?”


Her lashes flutter down as if she’s hiding her emotions, and my hands tighten around her, my fingers trailing over the soft fabric of her skirt. I’m itching to run my hand over her ass and claim it as mine.

“I have a question for you,” I say.


“Did you come hoping to see Connor?”

She shrugs.

“Did you come hoping to see me?”

Those long lashes lie against her cheeks.



I want to say Let’s get out of here.

Let me get to know you…let me unwrap that skirt and show you exactly what it feels like when a man gives you an orgasm.

The air in the room changes, and I look up and see Archer coming down the stairs with a few other defensive players. Our eyes meet across the floor, and his lips tighten as he rakes his gaze over Penelope.

He turns back to one of the guys and points at us. They laugh and sneer.

My gut churns. Dammit. I don’t want him watching us together, wondering if I’m dancing with her just to win the bet.

“What is it?” she says, looking up at me. “You got quiet.”

I smile down at her. “Nothing, Red. Look, I’m sorry about today. I shouldn’t have let Sasha say some of that shit in front of you.”

“She was staking her claim. She wanted me to know she’d had you.” Her lips compress.

“Well, she won’t have me again.”

She doesn’t look sure as she watches me, and there’s a thoughtful look on her face like she’s going to say more, but she settles on, “Okay.”

As soon as the song is over, I walk with her back to her group and say my goodbyes. She watches me with a frown and perhaps disappointment. Maybe.

I imagine I feel her gaze on me as I walk across the basement and head to the stairs.

I pass by Archer on the way out, and he can’t help but make a comment. “Leaving so soon, golden boy?”

I shrug. “Nothing for me here.”

His eyes drift over to Penelope, a hardness there. “Got turned down, huh?”

“Fuck off.”

And before he can reply, I’m out the door.


The Sunday after our next win, I make plans to meet up with Maverick at the Waverly Hotel, our usual place. We don’t have any classes together this year and now that he’s living off campus with Delaney and his sister, it’s like he’s on another planet. I’m stoked today because there’s only one game left on his suspension. Pretty soon, we’ll be back in the saddle and running things like we used to.

It’s about to storm outside as I waltz in the door of the hotel, a rather swanky place for a small college town like Magnolia.

The maroon-clad doorman greets me with a slap on my back. “Ryker! Hot damn! Badass game Friday night,” he tells me with a broad grin. “I couldn’t get a ticket, but I watched it on ESPN. You think you’ll be a first-round draft pick in April?” Looking flushed and excited, he’s probably still in high school.

“One can hope,” I say as I autograph a piece of paper he has tucked in his pocket.

“I can’t wait, man. Wherever you go, I’ll be following.”

He gives me a fist bump. He’s a true fan, and I dig that.

I stride across the room, and Maverick waves at me from a table near the bar. He’s a tall guy with brownish blond hair and a handsome face, and people sometimes confuse us for brothers—except I’m more handsome. I smirk as he tilts his head toward the big screen behind the bar that’s showing the highlight reel from Friday.

I grin and head his way.

When I arrive at the table, he’s got a Guinness waiting for me.

I take a seat, get a full view of his body, and feel the blood drain from my face. “What the fuck happened to you?” I’m staring at the dark-colored arm sling he’s wearing.

He gives me a don’t freak out look. “Broke my collarbone running yesterday.” He grimaces. “Might have been a rock on the sidewalk.”

No. Just no. I shake my head. “What kind of athlete breaks his collarbone running?”

“The kind who runs in the dark.”

I rub my forehead. “How many weeks will you be out? Does Coach know?”

He gets a tight look on his face. “He knows. I saw him yesterday. It’s a minor fracture, and I won’t be out long, just three weeks.”

Grimness blankets me. “Your suspension was almost up.”

He sighs, a look of resignation on his face. “I’ll be back with half a season left.”

My teeth grind. With our bye week coming up, that will give me a small break, but I’ll still have two additional games with Archer as captain. I give him a steely look. “You know those late-night jogs are shitty. I’ve told you a million times not to do it.”

He huffs out a laugh.

“Why?” I hold my hands up in the air.

“Okay, Mom, stop your bitching.” He smirks. “Delaney’s already given me a good talking to.”

I sigh. “I’m glad you’re happy, man, and I’m glad everything’s worked out, but I wish you were on the field.” I think about Archer. “At least when you were captain of the defense, Archer kept his mouth in check. And this betting thing…” I drift off.

He chuckles. “Remember that time I bet Blaze he couldn’t eat all those corndogs at the county fair? Dude puked for an hour.” A sigh comes from him.

“Those were the good ol’ days,” I say. “Things are different now.”

We move on and talk about Friday’s game, picking it apart and discussing strategy for next week. Even though he isn’t on the team right now, I depend on him.

After we order and finish our burgers, Maverick’s phone pings with a text, and when I see him smile down at his cell, I figure it’s Delaney—and probably time for me to head out.

For some reason, Penelope comes to mind. I pick at the label on my beer.

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