SHE COMING FRIDAY 7 PM pst. J.Santiago Author of: FIVE-STAR EXCERPT WITHIN - SEE INTERVIEW TOMORROW 7PM PST.
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.
Tank stood in the midst of the crowd, chilling with Marsh and Tilly. He’d been available for a while, mingling with everyone at the bar. Not that it was a chore. He loved the fans, loved their enthusiasm and their gratitude. Not one to analyze his feelings, he imagined that, if he spent some time thinking about it, he’d admit that he liked being in the spotlight. He enjoyed being the go-to person, and for this town, he was it. And that meant he had to mingle.
Cy would make him do all sorts of stupid bullshit that he supposed most people wouldn’t enjoy. But Tank liked meeting the donors and the bigwigs, liked chitchatting with the president of the university. Franco would give him a hard time, but Tank wouldn’t take it too seriously because he knew that Franco was the master of mingling. Most of the time, the bullshit he had to attend, his coach would have to attend, too.
But tonight was about the team and tradition. Tank had done his part and now, he was tucked away from the crowd with the insulation his teammates provided. It was nice, having friends who weighed over three hundred pounds. Tended to keep one safe.
There were some token cleat-chasers hanging around, but it wouldn’t be a party without them. Tank had learned how to keep himself insulated from that, too. He indulged, like the rest of them, but he tended to think that he was smarter than everyone else about keeping himself in line. Most of his teammates didn’t have Chantel Jones to mother them, so he chalked it up to her.
The team knew most of the girls who hung around, who were sometimes like flies you wanted to swat. So, the girl with the platinum-blonde hair who came charging through like she was on a mission caught him off guard. When he saw her reach her hand out to Marsh, visions of his conversation with Franco and Cy about tonight flashed through his head. Cynthia, Marsh’s girlfriend took no shit from no one and wouldn’t take kindly to the spindly Gwen Stefani–looking girl touching her man.
Briefly, he wondered if they would get in trouble for a girl fight.
Could they post that on Instagram if they weren’t in the picture?
He stepped forward, hoping to thwart Cynthia, when the blonde went down—hard.
“What the fuck, Cyn? Are you crazy?” Marsh asked, showing that he had a pair of balls.
But Tank knew better. Marsh would be sucking up to Cynthia for the next couple of days after talking to her like that. Trying not to smirk, Tank glanced at Tilly and rolled his eyes before dropping to his knee and scooping up the sprite.
Tilly’s gold teeth flashed as he caught Tank’s expression.
Shrugging his shoulders as he lifted her, Tank nodded to the kitchen doors behind them, and Tilly pushed them open for the three of them to go through.
“Think she’s okay?” Tilly asked, still smiling over Marsh’s peril.
“Looks like she’s out cold.” Tank didn’t want to lay her on the ground. Spying the clean stainless steel countertops, he moved toward the wall and laid her down.
Looking her over, he took note of her almost skinny frame. Her head fell to the side, and he was struck still by the angry red scar that ran from the corner of her mouth and then spanned out like a web on the bottom part of her chin along her jawline and down her neck.
“Shit,” he muttered.
Tilly followed his gaze.
“Looks like a glass shattered around her head,” Tilly observed.
“Wearing a Bear’s Den shirt. Wanna go get Mark?”
Tilly nodded and left the kitchen. Tank continued his perusal down her neck to her ample chest, small waist, and very long legs. She’d looked tiny on the floor, but she appeared taller than he’d first thought. She was hot, even with the scar. His gaze worked its way back up her body to her scar. As he stared at it, he wondered not about how it had gotten there, but about what color her eyes were.
He didn’t have to wonder. He looked up, right into a pair of dark chocolate eyes.
Smiling, he said, “Good. You’re awake.”
Scowling, she replied, “Did you get a good enough look, perv?”
Still smiling, Tank nodded. “Great, hostility. I’ll chalk that up to getting knocked on your ass and hitting your head. Do you feel okay?”
Seriously? That was her first thought. Her second was, I have the luck of the damned.
Without needing an introduction, Amber knew she was staring into the light-green eyes of one Tank Howard. Although she wasn’t sure how her body would react, her dignity and pride demanded that she sit up and break out of the damsel-in-distress role. Swinging her legs over the side of the counter at the same time as she sat up, Amber pulled her braid over her neck in an attempt to cover the scar. Bracing herself for the dizziness she knew would hit her, she secured her hands on the side of the counter and held on.
“I don’t think you are supposed to move that fast after you lost consciousness,” Tank observed.
His damn smile drew her attention to his mouth and the dimples in his cheeks.
“I’m fine,” she replied while fighting the dizziness that threatened to win. Inhaling sharply, she slowly looked up and met his eyes. “A friend of yours out there?” she asked with a glint in her eye.
“Yeah,” he said.
“Nice girl.” She noticed that he stayed close, and she knew he was waiting for her to topple over. Over my dead body, she thought. “Does she know those pants come with a weight limit?”
“Wow!” he exclaimed. He threw his head back and laughed. “Should we ask her? Or how about you ask her, and I watch? I’m supposed to keep the guys out of trouble tonight. Think my coach would be okay if we just witnessed a catfight? I thought about it right before your head hit the ground. Then, I got distracted.”
“Yeah, into necrophilia much?” She paused. “Need a dictionary?”
“Ah, dumb-jock jokes. Very original. So, you have anyone who can claim you, so I can get you off my hands?”
As if on cue, Keira and Mark burst through the kitchen doors with Tilly in tow. Keira rushed over to Amber while Mark stopped to clasp Tank’s hand.
“Thanks, man,” he said.
Keira spoke softly to Amber, “You okay?”
“Yeah. I just need to get out of here. I’m fine.” To prove she was okay, Amber jumped down off the counter without flinching.
“Keira, it’s starting to die down out there. Why don’t you take Amber home?”
“All right,” Keira agreed.
“It’s okay, Mark. I can drive.”
Keira, Tank, and Mark all said, “No!” at the same time.
Conceding defeat, Amber shrugged her shoulders. “Fine. My stuff’s at the bar.”
Still leaning on the counter, Amber watched as Mark left with Keira to retrieve their bags from the bar. Left alone with Tank and Tilly, Amber knew she needed to thank them.
Amber looked up into those amazing green eyes. “Thanks for the white-knight routine.”
Rolling his eyes, Tank moved toward her. “Take care of yourself.”
“I will. Thanks.”
He reached out to shake her hand. Like a politician, he was too smooth and shiny to be trusted. Meeting him halfway, her hand slid into his. His large hand engulfed her small one. All at once, the slimy feeling melted away as a shocking warmth stole through her. Her eyes widened as they clung to his. But, just as quickly, she slid the shutters closed, the electricity doused before the spark could ignite. And they were once again just two people who had happened to meet.
Tank released her hand, and with an irritated sigh, he walked away.
“See ya around,” Tilly said as he followed Tank back out through the swinging kitchen doors.
LOUISA MAY KNIGHT, THE INTELLECTUAL, AND LEX PELLITTERI, THE SOCCER SUPERSTAR, WERE CHILDHOOD SWEETHEARTS.
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