Sacked (Gridiron #1) - Jen Frederick

1

Knox

Preseason

I don’t see her until I’m three quarters of the way up the stands. In my defense, the stadium seats over one hundred thousand people, so it’s not until I’m nearing the hundred and fifteenth row that I realize what I thought was a sunspot is actually a person.

Irritation prickles inside my chest. This is my time. Before trainers, field crew, coaches, and other players come in, I run these bleachers in blissful solitude. It’s selfish, but I’ve earned the right to be selfish. As the starting defensive end and captain of the Western State Warriors, I’ve bled on that field, played through immeasurable pain, eaten my share of fake turf. Suffered fucking awful losses. I have a week until the media storm really gears up and It doesn’t seem too much to ask for some privacy.

Now, I have to deal with some stalking gridiron groupie, at six in the morning no less. I thought the jersey chasers didn’t get up before noon. The only woman I want to see is the team nutritionist and her breakfast smoothies.

As I come even with the top row, I can see her more clearly and I’m not so annoyed—or blind—that I can’t admit the intruder is a hot piece. Nice rack under a fitted sport T-shirt and long legs propped up against the seat in front of her. Dark brown hair caught up in a ponytail. She has an athletic look to her, which I’ve always liked.

If I did groupies, she’d be on the top of my list, but I haven’t dipped my wick in those pots ever. I won’t start with her.

Frustrated that my morning ritual is marred, my greeting is rude. “How’d you get in here?”

Before the last word leaves my mouth, I know the answer. I never lock the doors when I come here to run because I’m done in an hour and I don’t want to deal with the hassle. Her cool eyes flick over my six foot, six inch frame as if I’m nothing more interesting than a fruit fly.

“The door was open.”

This time when my skin prickles, it’s not with annoyance at all. More like…interest.

So that’s what it feels like to be dismissed.

I don’t think I’ve had that reaction from anyone since I was five, because even as a kid my potential was evident, garnering attention. I dip my head to hide a grin I suspect wouldn’t be welcome. So, not a groupie. If she is, she’s got better game than anyone I’ve seen before, because the cold shoulder act apparently works well for me.

I pull my cap off and run a hand through my hair to give me a moment to regroup. “Sorry. I thought I was alone here. I usually am.”

Again her cool eyes measure me—taking in my running shorts, bare chest, stupid trucker hat from my brother, aviators—and find me wanting. A thrill shoots through me. Yes, that’s definitely interest. Damn, didn’t realize I had a streak of masochism.

“Do you own the stadium?”

The obvious answer to her question is no, but the fact is I kind of do. In here—and on campus—I'm a god. That sounds like an arrogant sentiment, but I’d be more of an asshole if I didn't acknowledge the truth of it.

This girl, though? She couldn’t be less impressed. I glance down at my sweat-drenched chest that has had more than one Western State co-ed licking her lips and running her hand over my pecs and abs. I don’t show off for girls, or at least, I’ve never felt like I had to before.

There’s challenge in the line of her body, in her voice. The competition gene that exists in every cell of my body pings to attention. And that’s not all that’s arising. So naturally, I drop into the seat next to her.

“I’ve never sat up here,” I confess.

The field looks tiny from this vantage point, and above us are the luxury boxes. People pay a fortune to sit up there. Seems like a giant waste. The only place I want to be in a football stadium is the field.

“Best seats in the house,” she murmurs. Her hands cup around her raised knees. The right one has a nasty surgical scar. It looks like a fighter’s mark, which makes her about ten times hotter.

I turn my attention to the field to stop the drain of blood into my shorts. “Can you even see the game from up here?” I squint and try to imagine what I look like down there with