7 PM pst.
Tank Howard made headlines when he shocked the college football world by signing with Coach Franco’s non-BSC contender, Kensington State. Amber Johnson narrowly avoided making news following a harrowing accident that left her more than a little scarred. Three years later, as the profile of Kensington State begins to rise, Tank and Amber meet when she falls at his feet – literally. Although Tank needs to focus on football and Amber needs to focus on healing, neither one of them is able to fight their attraction.
As the season heats up so does their relationship and their struggle to navigate through his fame, her infamy, and the expectations of the season. When an agent comes after Tank, everything is on the line: his relationship with Amber, his shot at the Heisman and the career of Franco. Figuring it all out may be his greatest audible yet.
J. Santiago is a graduate of Villanova University and the University of Pennsylvania. She gets her love of sports from her fifteen-year career in the field and a houseful of boys who love to play. A former English and history teacher, she understands and embraces the power of stories in our lives.
The legend went something like this. Way back in 1993, the Kensington State football team, lamenting over their first full day of practice, had decided that what they needed was a night out. None of them had mentioned that it was only their first day of practice or had they bothered to state the obvious that it was merely the beginning of a very long season. Even back then, it was never clear who had come up with the brilliant idea. Whoever was responsible might well live in infamy in their small college town, but the secret had seemed to be well protected. Regardless, the team’s trip to the Bear’s Den had marked the beginning of a tradition that thrived now, almost twenty years later.
“So, we aren’t really going to make any money tonight, are we?” Amber asked as the bar started to fill with the team. “I mean, they’re mostly broke college students.”
Keira looked over at her as she filled a mug from the tap. “You would think that, right? But word’s gotten out over the years.” Shrugging her shoulders as she leaned across the bar to exchange the beer for money, she said, “It’s the other people who come to mingle with them that tip us well. I made bank last year—and the year before, come to think of it. It’s the Tank Howard Effect.”
At Amber’s questioning look, Keira continued, “He’s a walking economic incentive for this town. After the whole signing day spectacle, I feel like the whole town showed up two years ago. And aside from all the controversy surrounding him, he’s worth coming out to see.”
“Why’s that?” Amber asked as she headed to take an order from a customer.
“Have you been living under a rock?” She quickly apologized. “Sorry. I wasn’t thinking, but seriously, Amber, the man is hot.”
Shaking her head, she replied, “Aren’t they all?”
“You’ll see. He’s smoking hot—and nice, as far as I can tell.”
After that, there wasn’t much time to chat. The crowd at the bar was three deep. Amber would fill an order, collect the cash, and move on to the next. The noises from the bar and the pounding of the music made conversation difficult. Even taking an order required either great lip-reading skills or a provocative lean across the bar.
Briefly, Amber wondered how many more people Mark could admit without a citation for a fire hazard. But the rhythm of the bar didn’t allow her much time to think. Much like the seven-minute lull in a conversation, an unexpected break would hit when they could catch their breaths and look out with wonder on the scene.
It was pushing up against midnight when Mark made the call to shut it down. They went one for one—one person out, one person in. Finally, with that move, things became manageable again, and they were able to take much-needed breaks.
As Amber made her way to kitchen, where she could take a breather, she decided she appreciated being behind the bar because trying to get through this crowd was like a mouse trying to weave through a herd of elephants. The football players’ big bodies took up more space than the average person and blocked the small opportunities for light that bars made available. And the girls. Draped on virtually every player, a scantily clad girl fussed and fawned. Amber saw more skin on the way to the kitchen than she had at the beach.
Her leg was sore, and her head was pounding. She’d worked up a sweat, moving through the crowd. She could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Putting her hand on the small of an enormous human’s back, she stood up as far as she could and yelled, “Excuse me,” so she could slip past him and through the double doors to safety. It was the wrong thing to do.
The female on the other side of him didn’t hear what she’d said. She only saw a hand on her man. Before Amber could even react, a large woman, dressed in tights that obviously hadn’t come with a warning label, wrenched Amber’s hand off the back of the guy in front of her. The sudden jerking was too much for Amber’s tired right leg. She felt it crumple and then felt herself try to regain her balance before her head hit the floor.
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