“Anna Jones.”


Just her name. That was all she’d said. It was like a hot finger stroking down my spine. My head snapped up. And there she was, so f**king pretty that I couldn’t think straight. I might as well have been sacked.

Breathless, my head ringing, I could only gape. I’m not going to say it was love at first sight. No, it was more like oh, hell-yes-please, I’ll have that. With a helping of right-the-fuck-now on the side.

Thinking maybe I was overtired and simply overreacting to something that wasn’t really there, I stared at Anna Jones and tried to make sense of my extreme reaction.

As if feeling my gaze, she’d turned, and f**king hell… Her eyes were wide, almost cat-like, with the corners tilting up just a bit. At first, those eyes appeared brown, but they were really bottle green. And so clear. And annoyed. She glared at me. I didn’t care. One word was playing a loop in my head: mine.

I don’t remember the rest of the class. I watched Anna Jones like a condemned man getting his last view of the setting sun. While she tried to ignore me. Admirably.

The second class ended I shot up, and so did she. We nearly collided in the middle of the aisle. And then it all fell to shit. Because at that moment, I became a bonehead.

I’ve never been nervous around girls before. To be brutally honest, my life has been fairly insulated. Football, and the fame that goes with it, has wrapped me up in its loving arms and given me everything I’ve wanted, women included. Unfortunately, it’s become crystal clear that, when it comes to my sport, Anna is not one of the converted. Poor thing.

Whatever the case, I was ill-equipped to handle her when she glared up at me, one delicately arched brow lifting imperiously, as if to say, “what the f**k do you want?”

Standing there, I became aware of myself, this big oaf, looming over her, my tongue thick in my mouth, a crazy twitch starting up on my cheek. God help me if she noticed that twitch. So I blurted out what is possibly the stupidest thing I’ve ever uttered in my life, “Hey, Big Red.”

Yeah. Shoot me now. What the holy hell had I done? What the f**k did ‘Big Red’ even mean? My mind screamed, Do something, you idiot! Apologize! Retreat! I swear I could practically hear an alarm blaring, a call to activate shields and arm the photon torpedoes.

But no, I just stood there and forced a grin as heat flooded my face and a sweat broke out on my back. Yeah. I was that cool.

Her dark green eyes had flashed in outrage.

And then she let me have it.

Needless to say, I hobbled away from that encounter and remain among the walking wounded. Rejection sucks. It sucks so hard that I haven’t said a word to her since. Instead, I just sit next to her during every class, silently pining. Pathetic.

Something has to be done about this. And soon. Because I’m losing my damn mind.

Chapter 1

HE’S LIKE THE f**king north wind. He blows in, and I turn his way.

And here he is again. Yeah, that one, the big, hulking jock striding into class like he owns this university, which he kind of does. Football is a religion around here, and he is the chosen messiah. Which sounds kind of sacrilegious considering the fact that he’s smacking a brunette on her ass as he leaves her at the classroom door. And she giggles, giggles, like it’s a privilege to be degraded in front of thirty students. And I suppose it is to some. God knows there’s a pack of girls who follow him around campus, all wanting to meet Drew Baylor, star quarterback, the phenom who will take us to the National Championship.

Their faith isn’t exactly misguided. He’s won it for them for the last two years. Even I remember those victories, the way the campus went wild, talk of Drew and his crew on everyone’s tongue. I fled the campus for the safety of my apartment. Not that it did much good; the whole state had been awash in football fever.

As if he knows that I have this slight need to look at him, his eyes find me as he ambles along. Those eyes, golden brown beneath straight, dark brows. Their focus is complete, hard. As if he can reach right down into me and pull my heart out.

God, everything just bottoms out inside of me. My thighs tighten as my pulse picks up. I can’t let him see, can’t let him know that one look from him has me dry-mouthed and struggling for breath.

I don’t look away—that would be too easy. Instead, I hold his gaze for three seconds, counting them out in my head as his loose-limbed stride brings him closer. 6’4” if he’s an inch, the guy knows how to move his body. Effortless. I’m sure he’s never stumbled, bumped into a desk with his ass as he threads through the rows to get to his seat. No, not Battle Baylor.

Ridiculous name.

Apparently, a name earned because he never gives up. Thanks to the seemingly endless parade of students and professors who like to wax on about the football team, I now know far too much about Baylor’s talent.

I probably sound like a snob. Maybe I am. Don't get me wrong, this is the South, I know how important football is to people. Down here, dog mascots are interred in their own mausoleum, tailgating is an art form, and women dress for games as if they’re going to church. And in a way, they are. The Church of College Football. However, my personal association with football begins and ends with my daddy shooing me out of the way whenever I stepped in front of the TV screen on Sundays. And Monday, and Thursday. Is there a day that football isn’t on?

And my only personal experience with jocks was in high school. Complete ignorance of my existence comes to mind. Except that one time when a group of them managed to surround me in the hall and took turns pinching my “phat” ass. I spent a week in detention for kneeing one of them in the balls, a punishment I still find less than fair, especially since none of them had to go.

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