1 Chapter 1: Brayden

"Yo, Kendricks, grab me a cold one when you come back," Asher Stevens yells as I walk into the kitchen.

I give him a one-fingered salute to let him know that I heard him loud and clear. That guy drinks like it's his sole mission in life. By the time he graduates college this spring, he'll be in desperate need of a liver transplant. Although, I've got to give him credit-he's at the top of his game on the field. I have no idea how he does it. It's one of the great mysteries in life that I've stopped trying to unravel.

With a yank, I open the refrigerator door and scan the shelves. What I find is a depressing sight. Other than a shit ton of beer and Gatorade, it looks more like a barren wasteland.

Bunch of fuckers.

Don't these guys realize that we live half a mile from the nearest grocery store? Hell, with a few taps on their phone, groceries would magically appear outside the front door.

We're all supposed to be pitching in with the domestic chores. One look around this place will tell you that isn't happening. The toilet on the first floor resembles a sketchy Chia Pet. Plus, it smells like the penguin house at the zoo.

I avoid it at all costs.

With a grumble, I pull out one of the last bottles of water and twist off the top before guzzling down a quarter of it. Then I grab a Miller Lite for Stevens. I've tried broaching the subject of his alcohol consumption a few times, but it's not like I'm his mom. The dude is twenty-one years old; he can do whatever the hell he wants.

Carson, one of the other guys who lives here, saunters in as I slam the refrigerator door closed.

Carson Roberts and I go way back. We're talking elementary school. He's practically part of the family. The brother I never had but always wanted. He was there when I needed him and got me through one of the toughest times in my life. Even at twenty-one years old, I realize that friends like that aren't easy to come by.

Football is what we originally bonded over. We've been playing together since second grade. First, flag football before moving on to a middle school team and then high school. Luckily, we both ended up at the same college and roomed together freshman and sophomore years before finding a house with a couple of teammates. Like me, Carson will enter the draft in the spring. He's one of the best tight ends in the conference and was an All-American last year. The guy is one smart motherfucker.

Before I can open my mouth, he says, "Heads up, Kira just walked in."

Goddamn it.

A groan escapes from me.

That girl takes crazy, psycho stalker to a whole new level. It's almost as impressive as it is frightening.

Scratch that. It's just plain frightening. There have been numerous times when I've come home, afraid I'd find our pet rabbit boiling away on the stove.

Just kidding, we don't have a bunny.

But still...

You get the point I'm trying to make. It's fucking scary. And she won't leave me alone. I've tried everything, going so far as to tell her that it's never going to happen between us.

I mean, come on. Of course it's not going to happen!

I've never even locked lips with this chick, and she shadows me around campus and turns up in my classes. I'm this close to taking out a restraining order. The girl needs to move on. Or move away.

Preferably the latter.

For the most part, I've enjoyed my time at Western University, but it'll be a relief to get the hell out of here after graduation. There's only so much of this crazy behavior I can put up with.

Carson's shoulders shake with undisguised mirth. "That's what you get for being so damn pretty."

"Fuck off," I mutter. Just because he's a good friend, doesn't mean he won't give me shit.

He shrugs. "Hey, I've got an idea. Take her to bed and show her that you're not as amazing as she thinks you are. Aren't you notorious for your starfish impersonation?"


"Up yours."

Not offended in the least, a smile breaks out across his face. "You know what you need?"

I'm almost afraid to ask.

My stoic silence doesn't stop him from continuing. "A girlfriend."

Is he nuts?

"No, thanks," I snort.

I have zero interest in one of those. Especially right now. I've got enough going on with school and football. This is a big year for me. The season is underway, and, so far, we're number one in the conference. The goal is to take home a championship and win a bowl game. That would be an amazing way to end my four years with the Wildcats. Then I can turn my attention to the NFL with the combine and draft in the spring.

"I'm serious," he says, pushing the subject.

Yeah, that's the scary part.

I shake my head, ready to put an end to this conversation.

Over the years, there have been a few girlfriends. What I've discovered is that they're more of a hassle than they're worth. Division I football is more like a job, and my schedule is packed tight. My life revolves around practice, lifting, film review, travel, and games. Most of the chicks I've dated get bent out of shape when they aren't moved to the top of my priority list and end up forcing me to choose.

Want to guess what gets downsized?

I'll give you a hint...it's not football.

After the first couple of times it happened, I decided having a permanent girl in my life wasn't worth the price of admission. Sure, it would be nice to find someone to spend time with, but that's just not in the cards. And quite frankly, I'm not sure it will be in the near future. Not with wrapping up my last year of school and hopefully getting picked up by the pros. It's just easier to screw around with the jersey chasers on campus. For the most part, they understand that sex is nothing more than an hour or so of mindless pleasure. They get to brag about banging guys on the team, and I get a little stress relief to take the edge off.

"Then Kira would have no choice but to leave you alone," he continues as if I haven't already nixed the idea.

Like I need to get myself entangled in one bad situation just to get out of another... What the hell would be the point of that?

"She should have backed off when I flat-out told her that nothing was ever going to happen between us," I mutter.

"Again, if you weren't so pretty, girls wouldn't lose their damn minds over you." His lips curl around the edges before he tacks on slyly, "Mr. Campus Heartthrob."

I wince at the title I've won three years in a row.

Talk about embarrassing.

Sure, I'll admit it-I was flattered at first. Who wouldn't be? I got a ton of pussy by winning that stupid competition. My teammates were jealous, and I didn't mind rubbing it in their faces. As difficult as it is to imagine, screwing your way through all the girls vying to sleep with you gets old after a while. Now the damn thing is just a nuisance. Like I need these chicks trailing after me, following me around all over the place.

Nope. I'm over it.

Last year, I didn't enter the contest and still managed to win. How is that even possible?

My lips flatten before I grumble, "I prefer to think of it as ruggedly handsome. No dude wants to be called pretty."

"Please," he snorts, "your face could be plastered on a billboard. I'm surprised there aren't more crazies coming out of the woodwork just to sleep with you."

"Bite your tongue," I grunt. I don't even want to imagine that. I've got my hands full as it is. The last thing I need is to add more bullshit into the mix.

"I don't know, man. I think the girlfriend idea is worth considering. It could be the solution to all your problems."

"Or just give me more headaches." I shift my weight and take another drink from my bottle. "There's only one flaw with your plan. There aren't any girls I'm even remotely interested in."

His brows jerk together. "Who said anything about this being a real situation? I'm talking about finding a friend who could pretend to like your ass for a couple of weeks. Someone who wouldn't mind doing you a solid." He tilts his head. "Don't you know anyone like that who fits the bill?"

Hmm. I suppose a ploy like that could work. Except...there aren't any females who I'm strictly friends with. Even the ones who pretend to be platonic end up throwing themselves at me at some point. And the ones who get all drunk at parties and start sobbing about how much they love me are the absolute worst.

"Not really." I shake my head. "Any other bright ideas?"

He nods toward the backdoor. "I guess you could always try to make a run for it. Lay low at Rowan's girl's place for a couple of hours until Kira gets bored and finally takes off."

Yeah, the last time I did that, she waited around for five hours. Let that sink in.




The woman is seriously tenacious. Must be part of the stalker job description.

I turn the suggestion over in my head. Heading over to Demi's would give me a chance to see Sydney. And I rarely pass up an opportunity to do that. There's something about the blonde-haired, green-eyed soccer player that has gotten under my skin. Kind of like an itch that is impossible to scratch. And steroids haven't done the trick to cure it, either. If she's anywhere in the vicinity, my attention is locked on her.

My guess is that it's because she refuses to give me the time of day. There's definitely something to that old adage about wanting what you can't have. And what I can't have is Sydney. That girl wants nothing to do with me, which is precisely why I never miss an opportunity to mess with her.

Trust me, I'm more than aware that I'm not doing myself any favors. But still, I get perverse satisfaction in provoking her ire. All I have to do is open my mouth and she goes off the deep end. The girl has a real temper. I've seen it rear its head on more than one occasion. My guess is that she would be a real wildcat in the sack. Not that I'll be finding out anytime soon.

Or, more than likely, ever.

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