PrologueAJThe bass hits so hard it rattles the windows as coeds dance in the living room of the frat house. My buddies and I rehash the different plays of the night, going over exactly what we did right to beat our bitter rivals. Everything had gone exactly as the plays were written on Coach’s board. The game couldn’t have gone any better. It was a very good day. Being that it’s my junior year at the university, scouts had littered the stands, and I’m the reason we scored four touchdowns, saying it was a very good day might be an understatement.
This party is in full swing, a celebration of our victory, but I don’t feel much like drinking. I’ve never been much into partying. Football is my life. Going to practice hungover or dehydrated isn’t going to get me signed to the NFL team of my dreams. There is no room for distractions in my life.
Except there is one distraction. One I can’t seem to get out of my head. As if my thoughts had somehow conjured her out of the ether, Claire Alverez walks into the house with a friend. My entire body tenses up and any previous thoughts about the game or scouts, flee my mind.
I never would have expected to see her at one of these parties. They often get out of hand toward the end of the night, and it’s not an unusual occurrence for the cops to arrive to break up the party or break up a fight. Claire is pre-med, the smartest and most serious girl I’ve ever met on campus. I’ve obsessed over her since I first saw her freshman year, when I was helping a friend move into the dorms. It had been the end of summer and still sweltering hot. Claire wore shorts, showing off her long and toned tan legs, and a tee shirt that fell off one shoulder. Her hair was up in a messy bun and she wasn’t wearing any makeup, but damn, when she smiled … I felt it all over. She was the sexiest girl I’d ever seen, and she wasn’t even trying. I haven’t been able to think about another girl since.
“A toast,” one of my teammates says, snapping me out of my reverie. Reluctantly, I turn away from the sight of Claire. My friends have their red plastic cups raised, beer sloshing over the sides. “To the man of the night, our captain, who leads us to victory again and again. You, my friend, could have any chick in this room.”
They laugh and agree, lifting their cups higher into the air and roaring with laughter. And they’re right. Everywhere I turn, chicks are trying to catch my eye. As soon as I walk up to the bar, a dozen girls are making their way across the room, suddenly realizing their cups are empty. But it doesn’t matter; I’m not interested. I only have eyes for Claire, but she’s the only one who isn’t looking at me like a prize whose head she wants mounted on the wall above her headboard. She’s not interested in showing off to her Instagram followers. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if she weren’t even on Instagram.
Claire is wearing a tight black dress, shorter than anything I’ve ever seen her wear before. Her wavy dark hair is falling down around her shoulders, so long it almost touches her waist. She’s wearing just a touch of makeup, only mascara and lipstick. Not anything like the other girls at this party with smoky eyes and layers of foundation. With so little effort she is the sexy chick in the frat house. I want to grab her like some kind of caveman and drag her away from her friend, throw her over my shoulder and climb the stairs up to my room. But she doesn’t seem like the type to be impressed by trophies and college football victories. She’s the kind of girl who sees the bigger picture. If I’m going to impress her, it’s going to be with wit and charm and brains.
My eyes jump from group to group around the crowded party, searching for her. When I finally find her, standing by the stairs, she’s looking right at me. My heart stops with a clunk when she doesn’t break eye contact like I expect her to, and when she smiles at me, my heart starts back up with the speed of a bullet train.
She’s standing alone. I spy her friend, who’s ditched her, stalking another player by the bar. Without even thinking, I’m on my feet and walking toward her. As if my body were a tightly wound spring, just waiting for this opportunity to unleash itself. There’s no thought, just instinct. It’s like she has some sort of tractor beam, pulling me toward her with her gaze.