Coming Friday: Kathryn Renard Author of: The Comeback SEE EXCERPT ALSO UNEDITED EXCERPT OF THE NEXT INSTALLMENT TO THIS SERIES: False Start: TOMORROW
Maddy Cassidy has hit her stride at Montgomery University. She has great friends, stellar grades, and sees no bumps on the road to a drama-free junior year. Classes haven't even started when sparks fly between her and Elijah Hart, a moody Navy SEAL who's landed in academia after a devastating battlefield experience. He's not planning on falling for anyone until Maddy's looks and brains start to get under his skin. Will someone as beautiful as she is being able to look past his life-changing injury? And will Elijah's passion for Maddy be able to protect her from an unexpected danger?
**Contains plot-driven descriptive consensual sex**
Maddy turned and waved. "Hi Baylee," she said. Maddy walked over to where her friend stood near the bleachers and gave her a hug. "How was your summer?"
"Careful, I'm wet," Baylee laughed. "Summer was awesome. Too short, but awesome. Yours?"
"Pretty good, I did an internship at the NIH."
"Wow, impressive. I went backpacking around Europe," Baylee said, looking up at Maddy. "I ran out of money, so I had to come back early. By the way, I saw Elle in London. She was on holiday and leaving for Edinburgh the next day."
Maddy nodded. "Yeah, she texted me about seeing you. How was she? It's going to be weird not sharing the suite with her this year."
"She's stoked to see Angus again, of course. I'm so jealous. I wish I'd done a year abroad…" Baylee said, her voice trailing off. She was looking past Maddy into the pool.
"Who is that?" Baylee said. "Wow."
Maddy played it cool, running her hand through her hair, glancing toward the pool. She understood why Baylee had stopped mid–story.
Maddy knew most of the regular swimmers by sight. But a guy she had never seen before was in the lap lanes, leaning his arms against the edge of the pool taking a break.
She could only see his upper torso, but that was enough to make her stare. His body rippled with muscles.
"Is he on the football team?" Baylee asked.
"I don't think so. He doesn't look familiar." Maddy turned completely around to face him, forgetting all about being subtle. "Wow, he is hot."
The girls stood there stupefied. Then the mystery man turned toward them without warning. Baylee whipped her head in the other direction, pretending she wasn't staring.
But Maddy stood her ground. When you're caught, you're caught, she figured. She looked at the guy and flashed him a smile. His eyes met hers. She tried to tell what color they were, but he was too far away.
The guy didn't smile back. He just nodded and then flipped over, giving Maddy a glimpse of the ink on his chest. He knifed through the pool with an impressive breaststroke. Maddy tilted her head, watching him move through the water. He was making great time. And yet, there was something a little off about his stroke that she couldn't put her finger on.
"He knows his way around a pool, that's for sure," Baylee said.
"He's in the Navy."
"How do you know?" Baylee asked.
Maddy tapped her chest, right above her heart. "That tat. It's the SEAL trident. My dad has one."
"Mm, I love a man in uniform. Or in his case, out of one," Baylee said. "I wonder what a Navy guy is doing here?"
"Who knows?" Maddy said. "Listen, I'm going in. You staying around for a while?"
"Nah, I'm heading to the Jacuzzi for a bit," Baylee said, "I'm not looking forward to going back into that locker room."
Maddy laughed. "I'm glad I'm not the only one. That place is creepy when it's empty. I'll look for you when I'm done swimming."
Baylee waved and headed to the Jacuzzi, which was on its own deck located up a few stairs from the main pool deck.
Maddy took a ponytail holder from her wrist and pulled her chestnut–brown hair back. She hadn't been able to find her swim cap so this would have to do.
She walked toward the lanes. Her path would take her right past the mystery sailor. He was resting at the edge again.
Maddy stopped at the lane neighboring his. "Hey, sailor," she said and flashed another smile.
He nodded. "Hey, yourself." He still didn't smile at her.
"Are you a student here?" Maddy said. His eyes were a cool gray. She felt her confidence draining away.
"I'm a lecturer," he said.
Maddy didn't bother to ask 'what department'. She could take a hint. "See ya around," she said slipping into the pool. She pulled her goggles on and took off toward the other side.
She did a flip–turn at the wall and headed the other way. Each time she passed the guy in the lane next to her, her stroke got a little out of synch.
After about two hundred meters, Maddy lost track of time. It had taken longer than usual for swimming to have its usual effect on her. But now her head felt clear and calm, all thoughts of grumpy mystery–sailors floated away.
By five hundred meters, Maddy, breathing hard with sore limbs, climbed out of the pool and headed for the Jacuzzi.
Baylee was still there with a couple of guys who looked familiar to Maddy.
A thickly muscled blond greeted her with a big smile. "Maddy Cassidy, what's up?"
"Hey," she answered smiling back. She could not place this guy.
"I'm Turk. Runner's friend?"
"Right, sorry." She had only met him a few times when she had gone to off–season football events with her suitemate, Josie Savage. And to be honest most of the football players looked alike to her.
"That's Junior; he's Runner's new roomie," Turk said nodding toward a large, baby–faced guy next to him. "Junior, Maddy lives with Runner's girlfriend."
"Hi, Junior, nice to meet you," Maddy said.
"Hey." Junior's voice was as deep as a drum, but he was so quiet Maddy could barely hear him. He didn't meet Maddy's eyes. In fact, his eyes kept shifting around. Maddy realized he didn't know where to look.
Geez, good thing I didn't wear a real bikini instead of my lifeguard suit.
"He's in Cooper's old room. I was supposed to be in Bishop's, but things didn't work out," Turk said.
"Right. I forgot that Runner has two new roommates." Maddy turned to Junior, "Did Cooper have his ABC's and times–tables still painted on the wall?
"Huh?" Junior said.
Turk laughed. "If so, maybe Junior can use them."
Maddy wrinkled her nose at Junior to take some of the stings out of Turk's words. She didn't mind disparaging Cooper's intelligence—he'd been an ass the entire two years she'd known him—but she felt sorry for this poor kid.
"Are you a freshman?" Maddy asked, smiling and looking into Junior's eyes.
"Yes," he whispered.
"Snap out of it, Junior," Turk said. "She's way out of your league."
Maddy saw Junior turn bright red. She shot Turk a look, "He's closer to my league than you are."
"Yeah?" Turk reached for Maddy, who scooted away to the other side of Junior.
She laughed. "Dude, you wish you could catch me. But I'm way too slippery. Plus, Baylee will protect me, right?"
"Yeah, hands off, beast," Baylee said laughing and splashing Turk.
The four of them were suddenly in a full–fledged water fight, laughing and shrieking like middle–school students.
"Excuse me, can I get in?"
The foursome in the Jacuzzi looked up and went quiet.
Maddy recovered first. "Of course. Climb on in."
Maddy watched as her mystery man from the pool, dropped his crutches, balanced on his one muscular leg, and awkwardly lowered himself to the edge of the Jacuzzi. She tried not to stare as he slipped in, stump first.
Kathryn Renard is an award-winning journalist who's always enjoyed reading romance novels. But she felt there was a need for New Adult romances that were more like real–life college years. Her modern heroines and swoon-worthy heroes have flaws, but they also have a lot of passion. They may kiss the wrong guy, or sleep with the wrong girl, but her couples are worth rooting for.
Kathryn enjoys books with great plots and great characters, but also great sex scenes. She includes these elements in her books. Her characters do not tend to close the bedroom door on the reader.
In her real life, Kathryn works for a well-known national news organization and lives in Washington, DC with her husband, twin daughters, and spoiled dogs. She's the author of the well–received Montgomery University romance series.
at May 31, 2017
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