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“Is he stringing you along, Banana?” The implicit threat of George hunting down Drew and making him pay is clear.

A huff of laughter escapes me. “More like the other way around.” Shame creeps up my neck and makes it tight. “He wants…” Everything. I shudder. “It’s just supposed to be sex.”

George hums in his throat. “Who do you think you’re fooling with that one?”

“No one but me, apparently.” I frown down at the ground.

After a long moment, George stirs. “This isn’t like you. Not this weird limbo shit you’ve got going with him. What’s the deal?”

Because it’s either a hook up or casual dating for me. Drew doesn’t fit in either category. He never really did.

“He’s… He’s my mirror.” It sounds stupid when I say it but also rings true inside of me. “When I’m with him, I can’t hide. All the bullshit, all the f**ked up issues I think I’ve overcome are reflected back at me in perfect clarity, telling me that I’m full of it.”

“Shit,” says George.

The leaf spins round faster. “You know the most f**ked up thing of all? Even though I see all of my flaws, when I’m with him, I’m…” I toss the leaf away and shrug as a helpless sound comes out of me. “God, it’s going to sound so stupid, George, but I feel… everything.” I press the heels of my hands into my eyes so I don’t have to see my friend. Because it is sappy. So freaking sappy, but undeniable. “I’m so happy that I’m afraid to take the next breath because it might end.”

I might not be able to see him, but I can feel George’s presence. And the weight of his stare. “If it’s that good,” he finally says, “why are you keeping him at a distance?”

It takes several swallows to find the strength to answer. “Because it has to end. He’s going to go out there and have the world in his palm, while I’ll struggle just to find a nine to five job. And when it does end, I won’t recover.”

Silence greets me. Filled with the chirp of late fall crickets and the distant motor traffic. I want to crawl away and die. Especially when George sighs.

“Shit, Anna.”

“Yeah,” I say, knowing what he really means: I’m screwed.

He puts an arm around me and tugs me against his sweaty shoulder. I lean into him, registering even now that his comfort isn’t half as relieving as Drew’s. Which just makes it worse.

I don’t see Drew all week. He texts me to say that, thanks to his away game, he’s behind on his classwork and has to catch up. No one I know has a schedule as crazy as Drew’s. Up at dawn to work out with his team, classes afterward, then practice, then meetings, then classwork and studying. Frankly, I’m shocked he ever finds the time to see me.

When Drew finally is available to hook up, I’m the one stuck working. As if the universe is conspiring against us, our one class together is cancelled when Professor Lambert sends an email telling us that she’s got the flu.

But late at night, when I’m in my bed and he’s in his, he calls me. We talk of nothing too deep, just small things. Which means that I now long to hear his voice as much as I need to feel his body against mine. All of which winds me up and makes me twitchy. But maybe a little space is for the best.

HOME GAME. SECONDS on the clock, and we’re sixty yards from the end zone. One touchdown and the game is ours. The noise of the crowd is a jet engine revving up for liftoff. It rushes down the sides of the stadium and washes over me with a power that vibrates my bones. The hairs on my skin lift. My balls draw up tight. Go time.

Heart in my throat, I bend close to my guys to call the play. I can barely hear my own voice and use hand signals as well to make myself clear.

“Crabapple Betty. One.”

“Hut,” they shout in tandem. A clap of the hands and they break and get into formation.

Around us is a sea of fans in red, cresting high like a breaking wave. Many swing plastic battle axes back and forth, their chant a rhythmic pulsing: Battle, Battle, Battle. Before me is a stretch of endless green and a wall of hulking linemen twitching with the need to crush me. Grunts and stamping feet. Under the lights, it’s brighter than midday and hot as hell.

Adrenaline surges, and I tamp it down. Quick check toward Coach. Good to go.


Dex snaps me the ball. Guys burst into action. The thuds of flesh against flesh ripple through the air. Handoff fake to Gray, then I step back into the pocket. Footsteps pound. Linemen rush in when they realize the fake. My boys hold them off.

Rolondo is going deep, but a safety and a cornerback are all over his ass. I duck a tackle, cut right, duck again. Gray’s covered. Diaz worse. Energy pulses, the crowd screams. I check Rolondo again. He’s pulling clear with a burst of speed.

Everything slows down inside me. It’s just me and the spot ‘Londo needs to be. Breathe deep, pump my arm back. Fly!

An arm hooks my middle, I crash into the turf with a bone-jarring thud. My eyes following the ball as it arcs through the air. And it’s damn beautiful when my baby drops from the sky to land in the cradle of Rolondo’s fingertips like I’d personally placed her there.

Right in the end zone. Perfect.

The victorious roar is deafening.

“Yeah,” I shout, my voice lost in the chaos.

My guys swarm in, pulling me up, bouncing me around like a pinball.

“That’s what I’m talking about!”

My head rattles in my helmet from all the slaps.

“That’s right, bitches. Whoo!”

I jump high, punch the sky, then run toward ‘Londo. He meets me halfway, bumping his chest to mine.

“That’s how you do it!” I slap his helmet, grinning wide. “Fucking beautiful, man.”

“Cuz my boy threw me a mutha-fucking rocket on a string,” he shouts back, laughing and grabbing my jersey to hug me. “We own this!”

Stumbling back to the sidelines, we’re surrounded once again by the team. The band plays a victory song. The crowd screams for us. For me. And there is nothing like it. It’s like flying and falling all at once. Only one other thing in this world makes me feel a high like this, one person. And I’m going after her.


SATURDAY FINDS ME working a mixer for the Engineering department’s alumni fund, held at the student union. It’s a big party with a full dinner service, which means my back is aching from hauling around massive trays, laden with dinner plates. Attendance is fairly low, something my manager Dave blames on holding the dinner at the same time as the football game. I think of Drew playing and a strange twinge of guilt pricks my gut. I ought to be there. Watching. Cheering for him. I shake it off and concentrate on my job.

It takes us a good hour to clean up the back kitchen, load the sheet pans into the washer, and lock up the remaining wine. When the rest of the staff leaves, I stay behind with Dave, because someone ought to and no one else is volunteering. As manager, Dave is responsible for returning the key to the main office. Once he’s done here, I’m done for the night.

He walks out with me, which is nice since the building has gone dark, and fairly screams “ideal slasher film location.” When I tell him that, we have a laugh over the idea, even though a shiver crawls along my spine. I’m creeping myself out.

“Though, really,” Dave says lightly, “every venue we work is ideal. Just think of what could go down in the Architecture hall. All that unrelenting glass.” His blond brows wag. “There’s like no place to hide.”

I laugh again. “Stop. Or I’ll never work another night shift again.”

He only grins wider. And mocks a terrible Bella Lugosi accent. “Do not resist. Your nights are mine, Anna Jones.”


We’re almost to my scooter when I see him. And my steps slow to a crawl.

Bathed in the brightness of a parking lot light, he’s leaning against the side of a cherry red classic muscle car with thick white racing stripes running down its center. I know enough about cars to identify that it’s a Camaro and it’s in mint condition. Not that it really matters. My eyes are on Drew. And, God, he looks good. Faded jeans hang low on his lean hips. He’s got one leg crossed over the other and his hands stuffed in his pockets, pulling the jeans lower. A pale grey Henley hugs his broad chest and gorgeous arms.

He’s watching me, has been since I noticed him, and that one dimple on his cheek deepens when our eyes meet.

“Oh man, that’s pretty,” breathes Dave at my side.

I’m fairly certain he isn’t talking about the car. I roll my eyes. “Night, Dave.”

He ambles off, muttering under his breath about lucky bitches, as I walk toward Drew. A casual stroll, as if my heart isn’t going ten miles a minute, as if I don’t want to run and jump on him.

A wicked smile curls his lips as I get near. I’m smiling too. I can’t contain it. He just looks so f**king good. There’s a strange buoyancy in my chest. Happiness. I’m so happy to see him, my legs want to go faster. I force a steady pace.

When I’m five feet away, Drew pushes off the car and stands tall. He’s still grinning when I stop in front of him, and his eyes travel over me. I feel that look down to my bones. God, he’s sexy. I don’t usually think of guys in those terms. Sexy sounds false, an adjective better left for advertisers’ use. But Drew is sex on a spoon. I want to slide him into my mouth and savor him.

“He’s g*y, you know,” Drew says by way of greeting.

It’s a minor miracle that I know what he’s talking about because I can smell Drew’s clean, tangy scent now. I can feel the warmth of his body, and it’s making me fairly dizzy.

“Considering I’ve met more than a few of Dave’s boyfriends, I’d say, yeah, I know. So you’re warning me, why?”

Drew huffs out a short laugh. “Petty jealousy, Jones. He’s a good guy for walking you out.”

“Mmm.” I look him over. “You win tonight, Baylor?” I’m guessing he did. Even here, far away from the stadium, the faint strains of the school band and laughter drift through the air.

His whole face lights up. “Yeah.”

I can’t help but grin. “Good on you.”

Drew shrugs as though it’s nothing, but he isn’t fooling me. Happiness bounces around him, a bubbly fizz in the dark night. “I did my part.” His gaze roams down my body. “Nice outfit, Jones.”

I’m still in my catering clothes, a white oxford shirt and black knee length skirt. And stupid ballerina flats. I probably look all of twelve.

“You have your uniform,” I say. “I have mine. Why are you smiling like that?” There’s a gleam in his eyes that’s so dirty it makes my heart skip a beat.

“I’m picturing you in my uniform.”

“Because those massive shoulder pads would look sooo sexy.” I make a face.

His tongue runs over the edge of his teeth. “Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of my jersey. God, you’d look hot in my jersey.”

“A jock’s wet dream, I suppose?” I quip, but my breath is a little too fast now. It’s as if I can feel the silky texture of Drew’s big jersey sliding over my bare skin.

“You bet, baby.”

“God.” I roll my eyes and shake my head.

He’s laughing again, a low, rolling sound that warms me inside. Suddenly we’re closer, less than a foot apart. I don’t know if he moved or if I did. I can’t think. He’s so close that heat surges between my legs, and my br**sts grow heavy. I’m surrounded by Drew. Again.

“I’ve missed you.” His voice is soft, that special tone that I’ve come to think of as mine. A low intimate sound that fills the space between us. Like we’re in our own world. All I can think about is the last time he used that voice on me. I want to kiss you, Anna.

And by the way he’s looking at me, his focus going to my lips and his brows drawing tight with intent, I’m guessing he’s thinking about that too. He hasn’t yet touched me, but his strong body leans closer to mine.

A gust of icy wind rushes over the lot, and I shiver. “I don’t know how you can stand it out here without a coat,” I babble. “Aren’t you cold?”

Drew reaches out and grasps the lapels of my secondhand pea coat that’s hanging open to the breeze. His touch is so gentle as he pulls the ends together, that I stand there, throat closed, mouth dry.

“I just played football for four hours.” He doesn’t let my coat go, but holds it, his thumbs slowly rubbing over the wool, his forearms an inch away from my br**sts. “If I could get away with it, I wouldn’t be wearing a shirt at all.”

“That would…”—Be wonderful? Yes, please? With sugar on top?—“give the campus police something to talk about over donuts in the morning.”

“Mmm,” he agrees with a lazy rumble, while he tugs just the slightest bit on my coat. I drift closer and his voice drops to a murmur. “The press would have a ball. Drew Baylor shocks all by revealing his ni**les.”

He shouldn’t be allowed to say words like ‘nipples’ in public. As if called, mine instantly perk up. His lashes lower, and I know he’s noticed my agitation. I hear his slow inhale.

A steady throb joins the heat between my legs. My chest is so tight now that when he dips his head to graze his lips across my ear, I can’t breathe.

“Did you miss me, Anna?” he whispers.

My hands find their way to his chest, and I press my palms against the dense muscles there. He smells clean, like the shower gel he uses and, underneath it, his natural scent. It’s so familiar to me now I can no longer describe it. I only know I want to draw it deep into my lungs. I want to close my eyes and lean into him. But I keep them open and focus on the golden skin of his throat.