With only two more days until the release of Roughing, I am so excited to finally share the first chapter with all of you. You guys already know my hockey players, but it’s time to meet my star running back, Sebastian Prince. I’ve had Bash and Tori’s story in my head for a long time, and I love my latest couple with all their fun and sexy banter. In case you missed the cover and blurb reveal, you can check them out below along with the first chapter of this sexy, sporty second chance college romance. I hope you guys love Roughing as much as I loved writing it.
As the star running back for the Strickland Senators, Sebastian Prince knows what it takes to score on and off the field.
Bash has it all—money, looks, women, and the Heisman. But he can’t get the one thing he wants. Two years ago, Bash lost the only girl who ever made him feel something. And he wants her back.
Tori Reynolds hates football. But she hates Bash even more. After a not-so-chance encounter at a game, Bash has another shot with the girl who got away. While Bash might be a different person than before, Tori is hesitant to let him back into her life. Bash has never turned down a challenge, and when it comes to Tori, he’s willing to go the distance, and this time, he’s not just looking to score.
Tonight is going to suck.
I can feel it in my bones as I run down Broad Street, toward the Strickland University football stadium. Our school lives and dies by football. Between the Philadelphia Eagles and our college teams, the city comes alive on game nights.
With the start of a new season, the air buzzes with electricity from the fans screaming in the distance. I’m not one of them. Football is not my thing. Neither is our star running back. At least that’s what I tell myself every time I run away from Bash. But he’s fast. Obviously. So, I don’t get far before he catches up to me, trying to plead his case for the thousandth time.
“C’mon, Tori,” Jessica yells, pulling on my shirt.
I slow my pace to check out a cute guy sitting on a bench in the Quad because I need a distraction for tonight. He was in one of my classes last year, though I can’t remember which one with how many I packed into my schedule so that I can graduate on time.
Jogging almost in place, I get up the nerve to raise my hand and wave to the boy who I think is Josh. Or maybe Justin. Either way, he’s hot. We can clear up the name situation later. Now that my senior year is finally beginning, I’m forcing myself to break out of my shell. This is a good start.
“Stop checking him out. We’re gonna be late,” Jessica whines.
I laugh at my best friend and roommate since freshman year and turn my head away from the hottie on the bench. “Let me ask him to come with us. Just hold on a second.”
She still has a good grip on the Strickland football baby tee that rides up my stomach, exposing some of my flesh. The shirt is too small for me. It was free, and since I’m not much of a football fan, I didn’t want to pay for it. So, I stuffed my curvy ass into this size small shirt that has my boobs popping out of the V-neck.
“We don’t have time. Let’s go! Clay will be pissed if I’m not in my usual seat at the start of the game, and I don’t feel like fighting with him tonight, of all nights.”
Shrugging her off, I smile at Josh-Justin as he waves in my direction. I return the gesture and hope we will run into each other again. Preferably before the party tonight.
“Fine,” I say to Jessica in a huff and jog next to her, dodging people on the street as we pass.
If I can find someone to bring along with us to the party, my senior year will be off to a better start. I need a buffer when I step into the house that holds so many bad memories. Not only is this game important, but so is the massive party the football team throws every year at their house. It’s the kind of invite you die to get. Because an invitation by a team member means you’re one of the elite, part of the inner circle of sports royalty on this campus. I know from experience.
Until Jessica had started dating Clay Summers last spring, I avoided football and anyone associated with it like the plague. My father is a big fan of the sport, but I loathe it because of one person. The boy who broke my heart freshman year. The asshole who also lives in the house I dread so much.
Darting through the courtyard, I spot another boy who has the potential to make my ex-boyfriend jealous. If I don’t find someone good-looking enough to bring to this stupid party, I will look like an ass. I can’t have Bash see me alone when I have no doubt he will have a swarm of women surrounding him. Or worse, he’ll try to talk to me, same as usual. Then, I’ll have to play the catch me if you can game, where I look for ways to evade his charms.
Jessica knows I have a legitimate concern about tonight, yet she still insists that I come along and put on a happy face. I have spent the last two years avoiding Bash. I only need to make it through the night.
Shuffling past returning students, we’re almost at the football stadium. Like most prestigious schools, Strickland University has the pristine shine of an Ivy League campus. From the people to the statues of famous Philadelphians, the place oozes perfection and wealth. I’m one of the few who is here on a scholarship. Unlike these trust fund babies, I didn’t grow up with money. And I almost lost all of it because of Bash.
Once we reach the gates, we stop to hold out our tickets to a man wearing a Strickland University polo shirt. He scans the bar code and says, “The game is already in progress. Be careful getting to your seats. You’re on the field.”
“Shit,” Jessica moans, frowning in my direction. “You just had to stop and stare at that guy, didn’t you?”
I snicker, now walking toward her, ignoring her previous comment. “You have a date to the party. I’m still looking for one in case you’ve forgotten.”
“Oh, I didn’t forget. How could I? You’ve only mentioned it to me a thousand times since you had agreed to come.”
I sling my purse over my shoulder and laugh. “Please. I haven’t been that bad.”
She peels strands of sweat-matted blonde hair from her face and shoves them behind her ears. “Yes, you have. Don’t even try to deny it. You’ve been driving me insane all week. After making it this long without speaking to Bash, you can make it through a game and a stupid jock party no problem.”
A ball chaser to the core, she’s wearing a replica of her boyfriend’s jersey and dark blue eye shadow to match the color of the shirt. The jersey is so tight it could fit a child. She paired it with strappy sandals that show off her perfectly tanned legs and jean shorts that ride up her ass. Our tastes are similar, except I don’t date athletes. Not anymore.
I was like her once. But my relationship with Bash had only lasted a few months before the incident that ruined everything. He destroyed what we had and for what? Now, he’s the hot shit star of our football team and can get any girl he wants. Since our break up, I don’t think Bash has kept a girl around for more than a weekend if that. We were never meant to be together. Coming from different worlds, the two never meshed. It just took me longer to figure that out than him.
As the daughter of a former model, Jessica looks the part as the girlfriend of Clay Summers. She inherited her mother’s long lashes, perfect complexion, and rocking body. And, then there’s me. The artsy, giving zero fucks best friend who likes to dance in the Quad when it rains and do plenty of odd things that have made me an outcast at events like the one I have to attend tonight. I don’t fit in with these people. Never did.
Jessica tugs on my hand, dragging me through the crowd of screaming fans. The stadium is on fire, brought to life by the energy of the people around us. Making our way through the throng, we start jogging again when Jessica hears Clay’s name over the loud speaker.
We move so fast that my heart pounds out of my chest, the adrenaline coursing through my veins, igniting a fire under my skin. Turnover. That’s the only word that registers in my head as we move along the sidelines to look for our seats. I have no idea if the call is on our team or our rivals. Either way, I could care less. I’m here for moral support. Nothing more.
Oblivious to my surroundings, I drop my purse on the metal bench once we find our spot. Clay is so grossly in love with Jessica that he had our seats reserved. I pick up the piece of paper with my name on it, shaking my head. It’s cute, but I do hate jocks, even if this one, in particular, breaks the mold with how sweet he is when it comes to Jessica.
Scaring the shit out of me, Jessica screams my name so loud I turn around to face the field. But I get more than what I was expecting. A thick wall of man comes barreling toward me, reaching for the football as it smacks me in the head It happens so fast that I don’t have time to brace myself for impact, and the sting from the edge of the ball causes me to touch my left cheek reflexively, as I fall backward.
He somehow manages to slip his hand around me before I hit my head, but he can’t stop himself from landing on top of me, as we hit the ground together. As if thrown around like a ragdoll, my head and body hurt. I shut my eyes for a few seconds. Strong arms hold me tight, so tight, that I think he’s sucking the air from my lungs.
When I open my eyes, I feel his hot breath on my face before I stare into his bright green irises.
“Bash,” I mutter, out of breath, because he has always taken my breath away. That’s why I avoid him whenever possible.
Up close, Bash is even more handsome than when he’s strutting around campus. Of all the people to knock me over, it had to be Sebastian Prince. His cocky grin makes my lip curl with revulsion even though he seems to have the opposite effect on my body. One glance from Bash was all it ever took to make my heart pound. Today is no different.
He brushes my hair off my face to get a better look at my cheek. “Are you okay, Queenie?” His voice is deeper, sexier than I remember from the last time he approached me in class. We haven’t had many classes together since I’d made it a point to drop every class we shared over the years.
It’s been so long since we’ve spoken to each other. What do I even say? He makes me nervous, always has.
I blush ten shades of pink from my cheeks to my neck, distracted by the eye black smeared beneath his lower lids that draws even more attention to his eyes.
When I don’t respond to Queenie, the nickname he had given me years ago, he chooses the name only close friends use when speaking to me.
“Tori, can you hear me?” His voice is softer but still firm. “Say something.” He takes off his helmet and sets in on the ground next to him.
“You’re not allowed to call me that anymore,” I say through clenched teeth. And I have always hated the name Queenie. It’s stupid—just like him. “Get off of me, Bash.”
He doesn’t bother to move, just holds me with a firm grip and continues touching me, sending chills down my spine that leave tiny bumps on my skin.
People hover over us, talking amongst themselves. But all I can focus on is the sound of my heart beating so loud I hear it pounding in my ears. My cheek burns from where the football struck me, and with Bash touching it, my skin is even more sensitive. His fingers are calloused from years of playing football, yet there’s still has a softness about him as he caresses my face.
“I shouldn’t have come here,” I croak out. “This was a stupid idea. A mistake.”
He’s infuriating but beautiful. I can’t stop zoning in on his lips. He has nice lips. Every part of me wants to lean in, kiss him, and shove my fingers through his dark shaggy hair. To this day, no guy has ever affected me like Bash, which is why I need to get away from him. With tanned skin, chiseled features, and toned to perfection, he has the appearance of a fitness model. And he knows it. Owns it.
Bash rubs his thumb along my jaw, letting out a sigh of relief. “Why was it a stupid idea to come to the game?”
“Because you’re here,” I deadpan, rolling my eyes at him.
I wiggle free from his grasp, our faces only inches apart as I break away from him. The sexual tension burns between us like a lit match. We share a short-lived moment with Bash staring at me as if I’m an actual person. For once. That is until his eyes find my breasts that are spilling out of this stupid football shirt, and he has the nerve to wink at my chest.
“I see you haven’t changed,” I say, irritated. “Once a pig, always a pig.”
“I’m a pig?” He laughs. “I’m a guy. I can’t help it that you have nice tits.”
“You’re a pig. I think you had it right the first time.” I can’t help but smirk at him, feeling somewhat victorious after years of holding my tongue around him.
How can I hate and like him all at the same time?
As I sit up, Bash props himself up onto his elbow and reaches for my waist with his other hand. I swat him away before he can touch me. God knows I’d love to have Bash’s hands all over me again, but that ship has sailed. Despite my overwhelming attraction to him, I cannot allow myself to think of him in any way other than my shithead ex-boyfriend.
“I always liked the fight in you. I see you haven’t changed.” Fire blazes behind those beautiful green eyes. Why am I even looking at him? Why even give him the time of day? He’s a fucking meathead jerk, plain and simple.
The tiny bumps spread further down my arms and legs, a result of our proximity. And, of course, Bash notices the effect he has on me. He doesn’t skip a beat. Now aware of my body and how it reacts to him, I need an escape.
“Bash, let’s go!” One of his teammates calls out from the field. “Get your ass out here, and stop trying to pick up chicks.”
Laughter echoes around me, reminding me why I hate football and the assholes who play for this team.
“Bash, let me take a look at her, and you get back on the field.” A blond-haired man dressed in a Strickland Senators tracksuit hovers over us with a medical bag slung over his shoulder.
Bash tilts his head up at the middle-aged man and nods. He’s so athletic that when Bash grips his helmet and jumps up to his feet, he makes it look effortless. “Take good care of her, Doc. This one is special.” Bash says the last part while maintaining eye contact with me and slaps a big hand down on the team doctor’s back.
As Bash stands above me, I’m desperate to stop the electricity pulsating through me. Every part of me aches for him, craves his touch. And every memory of the time we’d spent together floods through me. Even though I would never admit it aloud, I miss it. Miss him. He was such a good kisser. For a short time, he was nice, a good boyfriend, even. Until he changed. Or maybe I changed. I never understood why he did the things he did to me.
With the helmet in his hand, Bash wipes a bead of sweat from his forehead, his skin glistening in the sunlight. Eye contact proves to be too much for me. I can’t stand another minute around him. My willpower crumbles, and if we weren’t in a crowded stadium, I would be in trouble. That’s why I do crazy things like drop classes when I know he’s in them. Or change directions when I see him coming toward me on campus. It’s silly and childish, I know. But I have no control over myself when I’m with him.
Bash pushes a hand through his hair. He could be posing for the cover of Sports Illustrated with the way he positions himself. I wouldn’t be surprised if that becomes a reality for him someday. He’s a good enough running back to play in the NFL, and he sure as hell has the looks to be on a magazine cover. And it doesn’t hurt that last year he was awarded The Heisman, making him an even bigger deal.
Bash smiles at me. “I guess I’ll see at the house later.”
I don’t respond to his comment. He takes my silence as an answer. Just by showing up with Jessica, he already knows I will be there. Before he puts on his helmet, I get one last wink from Bash, and then he walks onto the field.
To say I have trouble catching my breath would be an understatement. I was holding it the entire time we were together. Combined with the pain in my head and the welt growing on my cheek, I hadn’t even noticed all the air Bash was sucking from the space around me.
“I’m Dr. Holland,” the man says, getting down on one knee next to me on the ground. “I need to make sure you don’t have a concussion. You got hit pretty hard with the ball.”
I feel like such an idiot, surrounded by an entire stadium of screaming fans, while the doctor nurses my bruised cheek. I’m always the girl who sings to her tune, so why would this be any different? I can never just blend into the crowd like everyone else.
Once the game starts back up, no one notices me anymore. All eyes are on the field—as they should be. Thank God.
“I’m sure I’ll be okay.” I press my fingers to my cheek and cry out in pain. It hurts like a bitch. “See, it’s just a bruise. I’m sure it will heal on its own. I don’t have a concussion.”
Sitting behind me on the bench, Jessica squeezes my shoulder to let me know she’s still there. She doesn’t say a word as the doctor goes about his business.
“Do you know your name?”
I nod, making eyes at the doctor as if he’s crazy. “Yes. It’s Victoria Reynolds.”
He shines a tiny flashlight in my eyes and does the obligatory check to make sure I’m okay. My double vision of the field is probably temporary, which is why I don’t bother to mention it. I’ve broken bones before. This is nothing.
“Good. Do you know what today is?”
“Saturday,” I say, hoping this doesn’t go on much longer. I hate unwanted attention. The last thing I need is for people to label me as Bash’s ex-girlfriend who made a scene at the season opener. The rumor mill will churn, same as always. If Bash so much as sneezes, the campus knows about it. And anyone seen with him is always a target.
“Other than the bruised cheek, I’m fine,” I tell Dr. Holland, attempting to make my words sound believable.
Ten minutes pass before Dr. Holland is satisfied with the outcome of his tests. Apparently, I don’t have any major signs of a concussion. I figured as much by the way my body responded to Bash alone. Or maybe I’m losing my shit. Because why on earth would I think of Bash in that way ever again? He still disgusts me. He should repulse me. Except he doesn’t. And I kind of hate myself for it.
Helping me to my seat next to Jessica, Dr. Holland hovers over me with a concerned look in his eyes. “You don’t have any major warning signs, but that doesn’t mean your situation can’t change. I want you to be careful for the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours. No drinking, drugs, or any strenuous activity.”
Jessica laughs but keeps her mouth shut. The last thing she needs to mention is the after party in front of the doctor.
“No problem.” I give him a forced grin, even though my face and head hurt like hell, causing the lines on the field to blur. “Thank you.”
“Take it easy, Victoria.” He smiles, then shoves his medical instruments into the leather bag. “You can have a delayed reaction. It happens to my players all the time. Don’t take anything I’ve told you for granted.”
I feign a smile. “Of course.”
“I’ll take excellent care of her, Doc,” Jessica chimes. She hooks her arm through mine, putting my biceps in a vise. “I won’t let anything bad happen to my bestie.”
Dr. Holland hands me his business card. “Call me if anything changes. My cell phone number is on the back.”
“I will. Thank you.” I stuff the card into my pocket as he walks away.
“Is he serious about not being able to drink tonight? That ruins my plans.” Jessica sounds like a child complaining about not getting her way.
I do an internal happy dance because I take this incident as a valid excuse to bail on the dreaded party. But Jessica doesn’t see it that way.
“You have to come with me,” she says, her eyes pointed at the field. She salivates over Clay. “You are not getting out of this that easily. We are a team.”
I hold my hand up to my forehead, pretending to faint. “I think I feel something coming on.” Trying to hold back my laughter, I fail.
“You’re not funny, Tori. I have been looking forward to this for weeks. We have it all planned out.”
“No,” I correct her, “you have it all planned out. I just listen to you ramble on about how you’re having sex with Clay.”
She presses her index finger to her lips and looks over her shoulder at the people behind us on the bleachers. “Shh! He would have a stroke if anyone heard you say that.”
How Clay has waited this long to have sex with Jessica shocks the hell out of me. A guy like Clay—the starting quarterback of our team, good-looking, and rich—has girls throwing themselves at him all day long. Just like Bash. They’re practically twins. Jessica is beautiful beyond words, but I’m still surprised he hasn’t bailed, like his jerk of a friend did to me.
“Calm down, Jess.” I stroke her forearm with my fingers. “I’ll make an appearance, but I can’t promise I will stay all night. I don’t feel good after getting smacked in the face and knocked down by Bash. He’s not a small guy, and the tip of the football hit me like a dart.”
She lets out a relieved sigh. “I’m calm. Just glad that you’re not ditching me.”
I force a closed mouth smile. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”
“But I understand if you need to leave,” she adds, with a hopeful expression on her face.
“I’m sure it’s nothing. I’ll be okay. Don’t worry about me. This night is about Clay popping your cherry.” I chuckle at the last part. “I won’t let this ruin your celebration.”
“You’re so vulgar.” She smacks me on the leg. “Why do you have to say things like that?”
“You’re such a prude,” I counter. “And for someone so pure, I can’t believe you want to give up your V card at a football party.”
She shrugs, her eyes focused on the game in front of us. “It’s an important night for Clay, and this is an important night for me. I don’t know. I just thought it would make it special for us.”
“I don’t know how special it will be with music thumping through the house and drunk people humping each other’s legs in the living room.”
Jessica rolls her eyes at me. “Easy for you to say. Bash made your first time something from a fairy tale.”
I can’t deny it. Bash went all out, made me believe he was my Prince Charming. It turns out he was more like a toad.
“But look what he did after. That’s all that matters anymore.”
She doesn’t respond this time. Jessica knows the story better than anyone. It’s a shame Bash has his version. That’s the story everyone on campus knows. It’s also the story that turned him into a legendary ladies man and made me an outcast.
As much as I’d love to use the pulse throbbing in my head as an excuse to go back to the dorm, eat junk food, and binge watch Netflix, I have to support my friend. So, I have no choice but to suck it up and deal with Bash and his stupid friends. It’s only a few hours.
How much damage can he do?
I hope you liked the first chapter of Roughing. Bash and Tori are coming your way on August 9th! Thanks for reading! If you liked this sample, I’d love it if you could share with a friend to help spread the word about the release.
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