Dex takes a bite of jerky, his big teeth grinding down the toughened meat like it was a dinner roll. “So not chick problems, then?” His grin is knowing.


Fucking. Gray. Fucking blabber-mouthed, soon to be dead, pain in my ass Gray.

“Cuz I’ve heard you’ve got yourself a cute little redhead—”

“You guys are worse than girls, you know that?” I mutter then slouch against the window. “A bunch of gossiping girls.”

He just shrugs. “I ain’t the one staring all hangdog out the window. Like a love-struck girl. I thought we talked about this. Not smart, man. Especially for you.”

It’s all I can do not to fist my hands, show any sort of reaction. After the fiasco that was known as Jenny, I suppose getting involved is a stupid idea for me. Dex’s dig is unfair, however, seeing as after the breakup, I was so focused on kicking ass, we won the National Championship. Again. Unfortunately, thanks to Jenny’s bitter lies, Dex’s job of keeping me healthy on the field was that much harder at the time. I might as well have had a “Pummel Baylor” sign on my chest after the dirt she slung about me got out.

“You ask Battle about his new girl yet, big D?” Rolondo’s now hanging over my seat, his grin wide and f**king evil. He laughs, a low, easy chuckle, before giving my head a playful slap. “You think you’re hidin’ anything, man?”

“Seriously?” I snap at the both of them. “You all haven’t got anything better to do?”

“Yeah.” Rolondo’s grin is still in place, shining brighter than the diamond in his ear. “Doesn’t beat seeing you cringe in your seat. Damn, boy, you blushing?”

I pinch the bridge of my nose and pray for a bus crash.

“He’s got it bad,” observes Diaz from behind me. Which is when I realize that they’re all f**king looking at me. The whole goddamn bus. I am going to kill Gray, who is conspicuously quiet in his seat at the front, trying to appear innocent as he flips through Sports Illustrated.

“Who is it, yo?” asks Marshall from across the way.

“I heard she’s the girl from that lacrosse team party about a month back,” Dex says. “The redhead wearing that killer black tank top.”

At this, all the guys who were there instantly nod in understanding. Hell, Anna’s top obviously made an impression.

Dex looks around at his now captive audience. “The way Baylor was watching her, you’d think she was the championship trophy.”

“Naw, Dex,” says Diaz. “You can’t eat no trophy. And Battle most definitely looked hungry.”

Snickers break out. Jesus, was everyone watching me make a fool of myself at that party?

Rolondo whistles low. “Must be one fine girl to get Battle worked up.”

“She looks like Christina Hendricks,” Dex adds helpfully.

Rolondo shakes his head. “Man, ain’t no one on campus got tits that big. Believe me, I’d know.”

“Watch your mouths,” I snap. I don’t care if I have to take down the whole bus. No one is discussing Anna that way. Even if Rolondo is technically correct, Anna is nowhere near that big… Shit. I officially hate these guys.

Rolondo holds up his hands in defense. “Hey, man, I didn’t mean no disrespect.” Because if there is one golden rule among men, it’s that you do not talk smack about a guy’s girl or his mom. “I’m just sayin,’ you mention Christina Hendricks, and I’m thinking about one thing.”

“And I didn’t say anything about your girl’s ti—breasts,” Dex insists, flushing. “I said she kind of looked like the lady. As in has a noticeable resemblance. Facial resemblance.”

Pinching the bridge of my nose is clearly useless against this burgeoning headache.

“Yo, don’t you think she looks more like the Black Widow in The Avengers?”

A round of appreciative agreement rumbles through the bus.

“That movie was tight,” Simms interjects. “Remember when The Hulk smashed the shit out of Loki like he was some rag doll? Damn, I’d kill to do that on the field. Take some running back and bam, bam, bam!”

“Bet you sorry you ain’t green too.” Rolondo throws an empty Pringles can at the Hulk-loving defensive end, which he bats away with a scowl before retaliating with a half-full water bottle.

“Whatever she looks like, our boy Drew is whipped.” That from Marshall.

Bastards. All of them.

“Why don’t you just call her, man?” someone shouts from behind. Jenkins. I compile a mental list for revenge purposes.

“Oh, honey,” intones Thomson—another smart ass, “I miss you soo muuuch!”

When they start making kissing noises, I do the only thing I can. “Marshall’s girl gave him a pink teddy bear, and he carries it around in his bag,” I shout.

“Betraying bastard!” bellows poor Marshall. But it’s too late for him. He goes down in a tackle of guys as he tries to defend his backpack.

Chaos ensues until the assistant defensive teams coach stands up at the front of the bus and settles everyone down with the threat of extra drills. Yeah, I love these guys. I’m smug and satisfied until Dex leans in, speaking only to me. “If you’re really into this girl, lock that shit up. Lock it up tight and concentrate on your game.”

And like that, my bubble bursts. What the f**k am I doing with Anna?

HE’S NOT HERE. He’s at an away game. Florida. This is how far I’ve sunk. I know his schedule. And I’m sitting in my room at ten o’clock on a Saturday night instead of going out with Iris and George. I’d begged off, using a need-to-read excuse. I love curling up with a good book. Except tonight it was a lie. My eReader is off and sits on the end of my bed where I tossed it earlier in a huff of irritation. A girl can only read the same line so many times before giving up the ghost.

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