Authors: Natalie Brock
Tags: #Sports Romance, New Adult
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Published by The Hartwood Publishing Group, LLC,
Hartwood Publishing, Phoenix, Arizona
Copyright © 2016 by Natalie Brock
Digital Release: February 2016
All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination, or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental.
A girl with an intense hatred for jocks learns a lesson about prejudice when she’s forced to tutor an injured star college quarterback so he can keep his scholarship. Romantic sparks fly when she gets to know him and finds there’s way more to the handsome athlete than meets the eye. As their romance blossoms, they struggle with relationship boundaries, Sara’s insecurities, and the fact that Philip’s injury could very well derail a promising football career. But will she lose him and her dreams of a future together if he returns to the game to reclaim his position on the field? Or is their love strong enough to withstand the pressures and scrutiny that go with playing in the big leagues?
With love and gratitude to my friends, family, and readers who have encouraged my writing over the years. A special acknowledgement to my mom, who always wants to know what I’m working on. And my deepest thanks to my wonderful husband who sat with me on many a Saturday and Sunday watching college and pro football while patiently teaching me about the game.
“If you do this for me, I’ll never ask you for another favor as long as I live,” Kevin pleaded.
Sitting across the booth from Kevin in a busy diner just off campus, Sara wondered how many more ways there were for her to say no. She didn’t like jocks any more than Kevin did, but he was clearly desperate to unload this tutoring assignment on her. Tutoring a jock so the guy could keep his athletic scholarship status and stay in school was certainly no prize assignment for anyone, but she figured it was worse for Kevin, being a guy—especially a guy with no athletic ability, no interest in sports, and not a whole lot of self-confidence.
Sara and Kevin were both sophomores at Eastern Florida University near Orlando, and they were both majoring in special education. They got paired up on a few projects, and they each volunteered for the tutoring program to earn extra credits toward graduation. In some ways it seemed like the universe kept throwing them together.
One weekend, Sara and Kevin were working on a project in his dorm room when he leaned closer and kissed her, leaving her stunned. The kiss was rather clumsy, and Sara’s first instinct was to pull away, but she resisted that instinct and decided to approach the encounter like it was research—sex education, to be exact. She was nineteen, and in her mind, probably the last living virgin on campus. She wanted to get over the hump, so to speak, to get it over with. So Kevin ended up being Sara’s first sex partner. Turned out it was Kevin’s first time too, and if either one of them had a sense of humor, they might have thought the awkwardness was funny. But since they didn’t, it was just plain awkward. They had sex a few more times before Sara admitted to herself that she really wasn’t enjoying it. In fact, it kind of felt like work, and from the books she read—and there were many—and the tales she’d been told by girls back in high school, it shouldn’t be this hard.
Sara was someone who tended to analyze everything like a scientist. Logic and biology told her there should have been some pleasure involved. Maybe if she or Kevin had been able to relax, she could have enjoyed sex a little, but it wasn’t in the cards, not with Kevin anyway. Maybe she just didn’t like sex, period. Only time and experience would be the judge—that is, if there ever was another time and if she ever had another experience. There were many days she doubted she ever would.
Sara knew she didn’t really have the right to be picky. After all, she was no prize herself. As her own worst critic, she concluded she was far from a great beauty, maybe average at best, and no one would ever mistake her for a cheerleader or a swimsuit model with her 36B bust size. On top of that, she could stand to lose five or ten pounds off her five feet six inch frame.
She had shoulder-length, wavy, brown hair, which seldom behaved the way she wanted. Her complexion was fair and her skin issues had thankfully calmed down since high school. Her sapphire blue eyes were probably her favorite feature on her face, and she had full lips that guys supposedly liked. But the guys she liked didn’t seem to notice her, and the guys who liked her weren’t really her type. She often wished she was softer and sweeter, but she had developed a bit of an edge to keep herself from getting hurt, and that edge had the unintended effect of turning guys off.
Even though Sara liked Kevin well enough, in the end she really didn’t want to be more than friends with him. He was cute in his own nerdy way, but she wasn’t attracted to him or turned on by him, and he was so awkward at times that he made her uncomfortable, both in bed and out. Meanwhile, Kevin had started to get serious about Sara, probably mistaking sex for love, like people sometimes do. That’s when Sara told him she’d rather they just stay friends.
Still, she couldn’t help but feel sorry for poor Kevin sitting there with a pinched look of distress on his face, wringing his hands like his grandmother might. “Okay, okay,” she said, waving at the air in a gesture of surrender. “I’ll tutor the jock. But you owe me.”
Kevin got so excited, he bounced up and leaned over to kiss Sara across the table, but instead he nearly knocked over their glasses of water. Sara reached for both glasses and steadied them before they fell over. Glancing up at Kevin, she saw him blow some air through his lips, relieved he escaped an unpleasant fate.
Sitting back down, Kevin said, “I hope he’s not a total jerk,” trying to sound empathetic. “The jock’s last tutor—a guy, by the way—gave up on him and quit. Can you imagine how bad it must have been for the tutor to quit?” Sara rolled her eyes. That tidbit would have been nice to know before she agreed to the assignment. Kevin puffed out his chest. He seemed to be enjoying his renewed sense of superiority. “These jocks are usually dumber than a doorknob,” he added.
Folding her arms on the table in front of her, Sara quipped, “Hey, don’t insult doorknobs.” She glanced at Kevin’s backpack, which probably contained information she needed. “So, what’s his name and contact information?”
Kevin pulled his smartphone out of his backpack and started tapping on the keyboard. “Sending it to you right…now!”
A moment later, Sara looked at her own phone and scowled. “Philip Mason?”
“What? You know him?”
“No, but I remember reading about him in EFUsion. They made such a big deal about his injury.” She typed in the search box of EFUsion, the EFU college newspaper, and found the article. “Here it is. This is from a few weeks ago.”
She skimmed the article and read some excerpts out loud. “Mason’s Week-Six Injury May Sideline Him for Season—Philip Mason, quarterback for the Eastern Florida University Barracudas may be out for the season after a third quarter sack by a defensive end reinjured his ACL. Doctors are evaluating the need for surgery. Blah blah blah…Senior at EFU…the twenty-one-year-old was a likely first-round draft choice if he continued having seasons like the ones he had the last two years as quarterback for the Barracudas.” She shifted the aspect of her phone to get a wider view of the pictures that went with the article. There were pictures of Philip on the field, in the locker room, and around campus.
“Well, may as well get this over with,” Sara sighed, pressing a few keys on her phone. “I’m texting him a message asking when he wants to get started.” After the message went through, she returned to the Internet page with the article and photos of Philip. Shaking her head in disgust, she muttered, “Figures.”
“What?” Kevin wanted to know. Sara turned her phone around and held it closer to Kevin so he could see the photo of Philip with some girl.
“Not surprised he’d go for the bleached-blonde, buxom cheerleader type,” she noted.
“I guess you don’t have to worry about him hitting on you,” Kevin said matter-of-factly.
Sara’s eyes flashed and she glared at Kevin as he took her phone from her hand to get a better look at the cheerleader in the picture. He didn’t seem to have a clue how insulting that statement was. She had a low enough self-image without any extra help from Kevin. The guy was really an amateur when it came to interacting with girls. She knew Kevin well enough to know he wasn’t intentionally being hurtful. It was just his jealousy showing—but not jealousy of Sara. He was jealous of the jock.
“So what’s the deal with pom-poms anyway,” Kevin asked as he handed her phone back to her. He had apparently picked up on Sara’s annoyance, so he made an attempt to lighten the mood by starting one of their “what’s-the-deal-with” conversations. “I mean seriously, who invented them and how do you even come up with an idea like that? Can you imagine explaining them to the suits in the patent office?”
Sara laughed a little, visualizing the scene. “Right, and how important they are to the art of cheerleading. Must be shaken properly by an unnaturally adorable girl in an insanely short skirt who kicks her legs up in the air.”
“Exactly!” Kevin agreed. “You know how I think pom-poms were invented? Someone realized how dangerous batons were because cheerleaders were losing brain cells every time they got hit in the head by an uncaught baton.”
“Must be hard to prove when a cheerleader loses brain cells.” Sara giggled while Kevin practically rolled onto the seat on his side of the booth.
Sara came back to reality when her phone beeped to let her know she had a new text message. “Oh,” she said, shrinking back a little.
“He replied already?”
.” Sara’s stomach did a little flip when she read the message. For some reason, she felt nervous. “He says ‘No time like the present.’ Okay Mr. Mason. I guess we have an appointment.” Sara gathered her things and slid out of the booth. She gave Kevin a half smile and walked away.
“Hey, thanks again, Sara,” he called after her.
After stopping at her dorm room to pick up her shoulder bag and the tablet that had all her tutoring material on it, Sara went to find Philip’s dorm. Phone in hand, she looked from the display with Philip’s contact information to the numbers on the dorm room doors as she went to meet her student for the first time.
His dorm was located on the ground floor of the Stetson Apartments on campus, where many of the school’s athletes lived. The apartments on this side of the building overlooked a lake surrounded by well-manicured lawns. The freshman athletes usually had to share their quarters, but once you reached star status like Philip Mason, you had the option of a private apartment.
Philip Mason was the proverbial Big Man On Campus, and Sara hated him before she even met him. She hated that type. Big and burly, superficial and conceited, overly confident and cocky, a guy who drank too much and partied too hard, who blew off his studies and did the minimum required to get by, the kind of guy who never gave the time of day to a girl like Sara. She’d been ignored and rejected by her share of guys just like Philip. Without even meeting him, she already had low expectations.
Found it! “Twenty-four C.” She started to knock on the door and discovered it wasn’t closed all the way. She poked her head inside to find a party going on. Ear-splitting music, loud chatter, lots of jocks and cheerleader types. Exactly as advertised!
But why the heck did he tell her to come right over if he was throwing a party? Did he really think his tutor was going to be just another party girl? If that’s what he thought, he was in for a rude awakening.
Perusing all the guys and girls who looked like they were refugees from a modeling agency, she felt uneasy and intimidated before she even went in. She took a long breath of courage and told herself to put on her big-girl panties. She was a future teacher, an aspiring professional with a job to do, so ready or not, she entered the room.