Sacked

Sacked

Synopsis:

What he wants he gets…

Knox Masters is a quarterback’s worst nightmare. Warrior. Champion. And…virgin. Knox knows what he wants–and he gets it. All American Football player? Check. NFL pros scouting him? Check. Now, he’s set his sight on two things. The national title. And Ellie Campbell. Sure, she’s the sister of his fellow teammate, but that’s not going to stop him. Especially not when he’s convinced Ellie is the one.

…but he’s never met her before.

But Ellie isn’t as sure. She’s trying to start a new life and she’s not interested in a relationship…with anyone. Beside it’s not just her cardinal rule of never dating her brother’s teammates that keeps her away, but Ellie has a dark secret that would jeopardize everything Knox is pursuing.

 

Knox has no intention of losing. Ellie has no intention of giving in.

Excerpt:

1
Knox

Preseason
I don’t see her until I’m three quarters of the way up the stands. In my defense, the stadium seats over one hundred thousand people, so it’s not until I’m nearing the hundred and fifteenth row that I realize what I thought was a sunspot is actually a person.

Irritation prickles inside my chest. This is my time. Before trainers, field crew, coaches, and other players come in, I run these bleachers in blissful solitude. It’s selfish, but I’ve earned the right to be selfish. As the starting defensive end and captain of the Western State Warriors, I’ve bled on that field, played through immeasurable pain, eaten my share of fake turf. Suffered fucking awful losses. I have a week until the media storm really gears up and It doesn’t seem too much to ask for some privacy.

Now, I have to deal with some stalking gridiron groupie, at six in the morning no less. I thought the jersey chasers didn’t get up before noon. The only woman I want to see is the team nutritionist and her breakfast smoothies.

As I come even with the top row, I can see her more clearly and I’m not so annoyed—or blind—that I can’t admit the intruder is a hot piece. Nice rack under a fitted sport T-shirt and long legs propped up against the seat in front of her. Dark brown hair caught up in a ponytail. She has an athletic look to her, which I’ve always liked.

If I did groupies, she’d be on the top of my list, but I haven’t dipped my wick in those pots ever. I won’t start with her.

Frustrated that my morning ritual is marred, my greeting is rude. “How’d you get in here?”

Before the last word leaves my mouth, I know the answer. I never lock the doors when I come here to run because I’m done in an hour and I don’t want to deal with the hassle. Her cool eyes flick over my six foot, six inch frame as if I’m nothing more interesting than a fruit fly.

“The door was open.”

This time when my skin prickles, it’s not with annoyance at all. More like…interest.

  So that’s what it feels like to be dismissed.

I don’t think I’ve had that reaction from anyone since I was five, because even as a kid my potential was evident, garnering attention. I dip my head to hide a grin I suspect wouldn’t be welcome. So, not a groupie. If she is, she’s got better game than anyone I’ve seen before, because the cold shoulder act apparently works well for me.

I pull my cap off and run a hand through my hair to give me a moment to regroup. “Sorry. I thought I was alone here. I usually am.”

Again her cool eyes measure me—taking in my running shorts, bare chest, stupid trucker hat from my brother, aviators—and find me wanting. A thrill shoots through me. Yes, that’s definitely interest. Damn, didn’t realize I had a streak of masochism.

“Do you own the stadium?”

The obvious answer to her question is no, but the fact is I kind of do. In here—and on campus—I’m a god. That sounds like an arrogant sentiment, but I’d be more of an asshole if I didn’t acknowledge the truth of it.

This girl, though? She couldn’t be less impressed. I glance down at my sweat-drenched chest that has had more than one Western State co-ed licking her lips and running her hand over my pecs and abs. I don’t show off for girls, or at least, I’ve never felt like I had to before.

There’s challenge in the line of her body, in her voice. The competition gene that exists in every cell of my body pings to attention. And that’s not all that’s arising. So naturally, I drop into the seat next to her.

“I’ve never sat up here,” I confess.

The field looks tiny from this vantage point, and above us are the luxury boxes. People pay a fortune to sit up there. Seems like a giant waste. The only place I want to be in a football stadium is the field.

“Best seats in the house,” she murmurs. Her hands cup around her raised knees. The right one has a nasty surgical scar. It looks like a fighter’s mark, which makes her about ten times hotter.

I turn my attention to the field to stop the drain of blood into my shorts. “Can you even see the game from up here?” I squint and try to imagine what I look like down there with my pads and helmet, as I ready myself to blast by a blocker and shove the quarterback’s face into the dirt.

“Who cares if you can see? I’m here to drink beer and use the cow bell.” She mimes ringing the bell.

“This is the church of football, lady.” I slap a hand across my chest.

“Oh, is that what they play here? I thought it was soccer.” She’s playing me and I like it.

“That’s sacrilegious. This is clearly where the greatest sport of all time is played.” I wave a hand toward the pristine green field and the cavernous bowl that I swear still rings with the cheers of last year’s crowd.

“Oh, you’re one of those who treats the stadium like it’s some kind of church and the players are all Jesus characters designed to lead us to the Promised Land.”

“You say that like it’s not true.”

“You believe in the beauty of the spiral, the fulfillment of dreams, that this is the place where all creeds and religions and walks of life are accepted as long as you have talent.” Her words are mocking but her tone doesn’t quite get there. She believes half the stuff she’s saying.

“It’s not the bastion of idealism but you can pursue perfection here.” I can’t take my eyes off her.

“Then if you believe that, this right here gives you the best seat in the house.” Her quiet voice strikes me in the gut. “Up here you aren’t distracted by the cheerleaders or the crowd. It’s all game and the chase for excellence. You can see the church for what it is—a temple built to revere physical perfection. The spiral looks gorgeous as it cuts through the air and the hits look as hard up here as if you stood on the sideline. Up here, you can see it all.” She bites her lip, as if she’d said too much. “Plus, it’s cheap.”

I force out a chuckle so she doesn’t see how her words have touched me. Not many people feel the game like that. “I guess every place in the stadium has a different view.”

“Different maybe, but still bound by the same tension and the same excitement. And the same disappointment.” The last word lingers.

I feel her.

I have a lot of bitter regret in me from the way last year’s season ended. One win away from the college football champion title game and we couldn’t overcome the loss of our quarterback in the fourth quarter of the first playoff game. I force myself to unclench my fist. No point in dwelling on the past. My focus is this year, this time, this championship. I dangle my legs over the seats, nearly touching row below.

“What position do you play?” she asks.

“What makes you think I play?” I say evasively. Up to this point, she hasn’t shown any signs of recognition. There’s no fawning that I’m Knox Masters, two time All American Defensive End, winner of every defensive college player award handed out last year. I don’t like the way people change when they find out that I’m a Warrior. Everything is different then. Calculation sets in. Can I get them tickets? Can I get them access? Am I the path to an easier life?

I just want to kick back and enjoy the quiet with someone who gets it. She does—in every way that’s important. This nameless, gorgeous, funny girl who got up at the ass crack of dawn to creep into my stadium is enjoying the sunrise on this hallowed ground as much as I am. I lean back and let the comfortable silence settle between us as the rising sun bathes everything in its pure golden light.

“How about you?” I change the subject and flick a finger toward her knee. “That looks like a surgery scar. “

Her hand moves over it. “It is.”

“How’d it happen?” She arches an eyebrow and levels a look at me saysyou’ve got to be kidding. Clearly, I’m not getting anything more from her if I don’t give a little myself. Does it have to be my name or my position? I grasp the first confession that skips through my meager brain. “I’m hoping I don’t ever get injured. Surgery scares the bejesus out of me.”

“Bejesus?” Again with the eyebrow, but this time I catch a glimpse of a smile. “We’re both adults. You can cuss in front of me unless you’re a minor…” She trails off with an impish grin.

“No, I’m all adult.”

My weak attempt at flirting is met with a snort of amusement. At least I hope it’s amusement.

I need to know everything about her. I want to ask her name, find out where she lives, when she’ll marry me, but then I’d have to tell her my name. Maybe I can coax the details out of her without giving her much more. “Are you new here at Western?”

She tilts her head to the side. I can see she’s considering whether I deserve another answer or whether she’s done with me. Short of clamping my big hand down on her leg, I have nothing.

Something flickers in her eyes that I can’t read, but when she opens her mouth instead of getting up and leaving, I let out a breath I didn’t realize I held. “I’m new. A transfer.”

That fits. She looks older than a freshman and she lacks that that dazed, confused, overly eager expression that most of incoming class wears for the first few weeks.

“I’m a junior. This may be my last year,” I find myself telling her.

Her eyes shoot up. “You…dropping out?”

The surprise in her eyes and the way she said the words dropping out makes me think that she does know who I am, but she seems willing to go along with the fiction of pretending I’m a nobody. I appreciate that a hell of a lot.

There’s an ease between the two of us. She speaks about this place with the same language and words that I understand—a cross between reverence and frustration. Only someone who loves this game talks like that.

“What do you think?” I don’t know why I ask, but her answer seems important to me.

She doesn’t blurt out an immediate response, but asks me a question instead. “Why are you thinking of moving forward?”

Moving forward. Isn’t that the fucking most perfect way to frame it? “The things I’m doing here at Western are things I want to be doing at the next level, and I think I’ll be ready at the end of this year.”

“You think?” Her eyebrow arches up again.

I grin. “I know.”

“Then it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. If you believe you’re ready, then you’re ready. Isn’t it so much what goes on up here?” She taps her temple with her index finger. “And here.” She pats the top of her left breast, a breast that looks delicious even smashed under her sports bra.

I tear my eyes away from her pretty tits. “Yes, you get it exactly.” My words are hardly more than a whisper, but out of the corner of my eye, I see her nod in perfect comprehension.

“Thunderstruck” is the song that plays before the Florida Gators and the Alabama Crimson Tide take the field. When future hall of fame John Smoltz walked out of the bullpen to close out a game for the Braves, the distinctive licks hailed down from the sound system and the crowd screamed thunder in unison.

It’s the soundtrack of the beat down the assholes in Varsity Blues receive after their trip to the strip club on Friday night, like none of them had ever seen tits or ass before. Shit, even the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders run out to the fucking song. I’ve kind of hated it, mostly because we don’t play the sick grind when we run onto the field.

Right now, as the sun peeks over the top of the stands and lays a solid ray of love on the field of my greatest accomplishments to date, and the girl sitting by me waxes poetic about the greatest game in the world, I get it.

Her.

      This one.

The universe is talking to me. I don’t need lightning or a tornado throwing a car at my head. I don’t need a running back barreling through the line at top speed to drive home the message. It’s in the curve of her cheek, the delicate arch of her neck. It’s in her sweet legs and the longing in her face. She loves this place as I love it. She understands that winning at this game is about the head and the heart, not just the body.

I’d like to press her down on the concrete risers and show her exactly how well my head, heart and body work in unison. I breathe deep and try to get a grip on my rampaging emotions.

“And what about you? What are your plans?”

“I want to get a job. Not have to rely on my parents. Their…financial support is like a choker rather than a buoy.” She scrapes a hand over her head and down her ponytail. “God, I don’t know why I’m telling you this.”

Because you know it’s me. That I’m the one for you, just as you’re the one for me. Like recognizes like. However, she’s not seeing it as clearly. Already I can see her withdrawing, a little embarrassed by what she found herself sharing.

“It’s the seats. The air is too thin up here.” I squint down toward the field. “The reason that you like these seats up here is because you’re lightheaded and possibly unconscious during most of the game, making all the shitty plays seem like a bad dream.” I stretch out my legs. “Worse there’s no leg room.”

“You’re supposed to stand,” she chides with gentle mocking. “You can’t sit while the mighty Warriors take the field of battle.”

I laugh. When she grins back at me in return I feel winded, and not from any exercise I’ve done this morning.

“I think it’s okay to sit during timeouts,” I manage to joke. I’m glad I’m sitting down, because if I’d been standing when she threw me that smile, I’d have fallen over.

“I can’t see you resting much.”

“I may have been a headache for my mom,” I admit.

Another smile, only a little one this time, tips the corner of her lips. I guess the idea of me being a hellion amuses her. I fold my hands behind my head. From my vantage point, I appear a little under a foot taller than her.

“You been here long?”

“Long enough to get worn out watching you run the stairs.”

My routine is five times around the field, and then up and down the stadium steps for thirty minutes. She must have been here a while. At my raised eyebrow, she merely shrugs, but the light pink that shows up on her cheeks gives her away. Warmth having nothing to do with the early morning sun settles over me. I’m not the only one feeling something here.

“Running these steps is good for my heart. As a bonus it sweats the stupid out of me.” I wink but then realize I’m wearing my aviators and trucker hat so that action is for nothing. For the best, really. Winking can be a douchebag move at times.

“Do you have a lot of stupid to sweat out?” She holds back a laugh.

I grin back. “It regenerates every day.”

This delights her and she finally allows the stifled laugh to escape. I can only stare at her for a second or two before I have to look away. She’s so goddamned beautiful it’s getting hard to sit here without looking like a total perv.

“They say admitting the problem is half the solution,” she agrees.

“The running is to get rid of the other half.”

At six fifteen, the sprinklers come on, spraying the turf. The artificial grass doesn’t need the irrigation to grow but it cools down the field and reduces the turf burn. An idea surfaces and I push to my feet. Leaning down, I hold out my hand. “Race you to the bottom.”

She stares at my big paw and then into my aviators. “I can’t.”

“No one will know.” And if they find out, no one will protest. After all, what will the team do? Suspend me? I wiggle my fingers. Come on.

She sighs and taps her knee, the one with the scar. “I really can’t race you. My knee might give out. I’m fine on flat surfaces, but running down a hundred rows would be asking for something bad to happen.”

Aw, fuck. That was stupid of me. “Then walk down with me.” She hesitates. “I’m not leaving until you slide on the field with me.”

“Gosh, what a wonderful and charming invitation.” She rests her hands on her hips. Whether she intends it or not, the action frames her perky tits nicely. I use the cover of my sunglasses to appreciate how generous the good Lord was with her.

“You know you want to,” I coax.

She purses her lips. The way that the center plumps out makes me bite my lower lip, to stop myself from leaning forward to see how that ripe bit of pink flesh would feel sucked into my mouth.

In a quick move I don’t see coming, she vaults the seat backs in front of us and races down the steps. Bad knee, my ass.

I clamber down behind her, and although I could overtake her, I hover in the background ready to catch her if she falls. Except I get the sense she’d rather have a hot poker up her ass than ask me for help.

“Slowpoke,” she says, full of smiles, when we reach the field.

“Did you hustle me?” I ask in mock indignation.

“Yup,” she replies without a shred of remorse. “Does that mean the turf contest is off?”

“No way.” I pluck the T-shirt out from the waistband of my shorts and tug it on. She makes a sound and I like to think it means disappointment, but since wet grass burn is no laughing matter, I cover up. “Longest slide wins,” I tell her. I swing my arms in warm up.

“What am I winning?” she asks.

I grin at her cockiness. “I’ll let you run with me tomorrow.”

“I can’t wait to lose then.” She rolls her eyes.

“Personal pride, babe. That’s what we’re competing for.” I’m not making dumb bets. I don’t need a bet to get what I want. After we’re done here, I’ll take her out to breakfast and find out everything about her. This is for the fun of it, because I want to see the longing in her face satisfied.

“You first then. I don’t want you to accuse me of cheating.” She nudges her shoulder against my arm, and that small, innocent contact is like a cannon right to my nervous system. I’m on the edge of obliteration but I want more. Now is not the time. The compression shorts under my running gear can only hold so much in.

“Don’t be sad when you lose. I’ll take you out for breakfast either way,” I reassure her and then take off before she can turn me down. At the twenty, I launch myself and slide a good seven yards.

“That’s not enough for a first down,” she yells from the end zone.

“Let’s see what you got!” I holler back. Rolling over onto my side, I prop myself up on an elbow and gesture that it’s her turn.

She places one foot in front of the other and swings her arms a few times for momentum. She sprints down, leaping forward and then slides to a stop about a foot past me. Damn. I drag her back by the ankle so that her face is next to mine.

Drops of water cling to her grinning face. I lean forward, ready to lick the moisture from her face but I stop myself when she winces.

“Your knee okay?” I ask, worried that she’d hurt herself.

“It’s fine.” Her chest rises and falls as she gathers her breath. I have to force myself to look away. Rolling on my back, I listen as her breath evens out.

Apparently the universe’s gift requires some work. I’m not afraid of hard work. As the great Vince Lombardi said, only in the dictionary is work preceded by success. Rolling on my back, I stare up at the gorgeous blue sky and revel in the fact that what I’d waited for arrived.

“So you love football, huh?”

She shrugs and turns her face to hide her smile. “It’s okay.”

Yeah, and I’m not Knox Masters, decorated defensive end, captain of the Western State Warriors, and projected top ten NFL draft pick.

© 2015 Jen Frederick



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