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New York Times bestseller Elle Kennedy brings you a sexy new Off-Campus novel that can be read as a standalone…

 

The Deal by Elle Kennedy is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.

 


 

The app has received recognition from BBC, Forbes and The Guardian for being the hottest app for explosive new Romance, Teen & Young Adult novels.
Ali Albazaz, Founder and CEO of Inkitt, on BBC The Five-Month-Old Storytelling App Galatea Is Already A Multimillion-Dollar Business Paulo Coelho tells readers: buy my book after you've read it – if you liked it

Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

1

SUMMARY

Hannah Wells has finally found someone who turns her on. But while she might be confident in every other area of her life, she’s carting around a full set of baggage when it comes to sex and seduction. If she wants to get her crush’s attention, she’ll have to step out of her comfort zone and make him take notice…even if it means tutoring the annoying, childish, cocky captain of the hockey team in exchange for a pretend date…

All Garrett Graham has ever wanted is to play professional hockey graduation, but his plummeting GPA is threatening everything he’s worked so hard for. If helping a sarcastic brunette make another guy jealous will help him secure his position on the team, he’s all for it. But when one unexpected kiss leads to the wildest sex of both their lives, it doesn’t take long for Garrett to realize that pretend isn’t going to cut it. Now he just has to convince Hannah that the man she wants looks a lot like him.

Author: Elle Kennedy

HANNAH

He doesn’t know I’m alive.

For the millionth time in forty-five minutes, I sneak a peek in Justin Kohl’s direction, and he’s so beautiful it makes my throat close up. Though I should probably come up with another adjective—my male friends insist that men don’t like being called beautiful.

But holy hell, there’s no other way to describe his rugged features and soulful brown eyes. He’s wearing a baseball cap today, but I know what’s beneath it: thick dark hair, the kind that looks silky to the touch and makes you want to run your fingers through it.

In the five years since my assault, my heart has pounded for only two guys.

The first one dumped me.

This one is just oblivious.

At the podium in the lecture hall, Professor Tolbert delivers what I’ve come to refer to as the Disappointment Speech. It’s the third one in six weeks.

Surprise, surprise, seventy percent of the class got a C-plus or lower on the midterm.

Me? I aced it. And I’d be lying if I said the big red A! circled on top of my midterm hadn’t come as a complete shock. All I did was scribble down a never-ending stream of bullshit to try to fill up the booklet.

Philosophical Ethics was supposed to be a breeze. The prof who used to teach it handed out brainless multiple choice tests and a final “exam” consisting of a personal essay that posed a moral dilemma and asked how you’d react to it.

But two weeks before the semester started, Professor Lane dropped dead from a heart attack. I heard his cleaning lady found him on the bathroom floor—naked. Poor guy.

Luckily (and yep, that’s total sarcasm) Pamela Tolbert stepped in to take over Lane’s class. She’s new to Briar University, and she’s the kind of prof who wants you to make connections and “engage” with the material. If this was a movie, she’d be the young, ambitious teacher who shows up at the inner city school and inspires the fuckups, and suddenly everyone’s putting down their AKs and picking up their pencils, and the end credits scroll up to announce how all the kids got into Harvard or some shit. Instant Oscar for Hilary Swank.

Except this isn’t a movie, which means that the only thing Tolbert has inspired in her students is hatred. And she honestly can’t seem to grasp why nobody is excelling in her class.

Here’s a hint—it’s because she asks the types of questions you could write a frickin’ grad school thesis on.

“I’m willing to offer a makeup exam to anyone who failed or received a C-minus or lower.” Tolbert’s nose wrinkles as if she can’t fathom why it’s even necessary.

The word she just used—willing? Yeah, right. I heard that a ton of students complained to their advisors about her, and I suspect the administration is forcing her to give everyone a redo. It doesn’t reflect well on Briar when more than half the students in a course are flunking, especially when it’s not just the slackers. Straight-A students like Nell, who’s sulking beside me, also bombed the midterm.

“For those of you who choose to take it again, your two grades will be averaged. If you do worse the second time, the first grade will stand,” Tolbert finishes.

“I can’t believe you got an A,” Nell whispers to me.

She looks so upset that I feel a pang of sympathy. Nell and I aren’t best pals or anything, but we’ve been sitting next to each other since September so it’s only reasonable that we’ve gotten to know each other. She’s on the pre-med path, and I know she comes from an overachieving family who would tar and feather her if they found out about her midterm grade.

“I can’t believe it either,” I whisper back. “Seriously. Read my answers. They’re ramblings of nonsense.”

“Actually, can I?” She sounds eager now. “I’m curious to see what the Tyrant considers A material.”

“I’ll scan and email you a copy tonight,” I promise.

The second Tolbert dismisses us, the lecture hall echoes with let’s-get-the-hell-outta-here noises. Laptops snap shut, notebooks slide into backpacks, students shue out of their seats.

Justin Kohl lingers near the door to talk to someone, and my gaze locks in on him like a missile. He’s beautiful.

Have I mentioned how beautiful he is?

My palms go clammy as I stare at his handsome profile. He’s new to Briar this year, but I’m not sure which college he transferred from, and although he wasted no time becoming the star wide receiver on the football team, he’s not like the other athletes at this school. He doesn’t strut through the quad with one of those I’m-God’s-gift-to- the-world smirks or show up with a new girl on his arm every day. I’ve seen him laugh and joke with his teammates, but he gives off an intelligent, intense vibe that makes me think there are hidden depths to him. Which just makes me all the more desperate to get to know him.

I’m not usually into jocks, but something about this one has turned me into a mindless pile of mush.

“You’re staring again.”

Nell’s teasing voice brings a blush to my cheeks. She’s caught me drooling over Justin on more than one occasion, and she’s one of the few people I’ve admitted the crush to.

My roommate Allie also knows, but my other friends? Hell no. Most of them are music or drama majors, so I guess that makes us the artsy crowd. Or maybe emo. Aside from Allie, who’s had an on- again/off-again relationship with a frat boy since freshman year, my friends get a kick out of trashing Briar’s elite. I don’t usually join in (I like to think gossiping is beneath me) but…let’s face it. Most of the popular kids are total douchebags.

Case in point—Garrett Graham, the other star athlete in this class. Dude walks around like he owns the place. I guess he kind of does. All he has to do is snap his fingers and an eager girl appears at his side. Or jumps into his lap. Or sticks her tongue down his throat.

He doesn’t look like the BMOC today, though. Almost everyone else has gone, including Tolbert, but Garrett remains in his seat, his fists curled tightly around the edges of his booklet.

He must have failed too, but I don’t feel much sympathy for the guy. Briar is known for two things—hockey and football, which isn’t much of a shocker considering Massachusetts is home to both the Patriots and the Bruins. The athletes who play for Briar almost always end up in the pros, and during their years here they get everything handed to them on a silver platter—including grades.

So yeah, maybe it makes me a teeny bit vindictive, but I get a sense of triumph from knowing that Tolbert is failing the captain of our championship-winning hockey team right along with everyone else.

“Wanna grab something from the Coffee Hut?” Nell asks as she gathers her books.

“Can’t. I’ve got rehearsal in twenty minutes.” I get up, but I don’t follow her to the door. “Go on ahead. I need to check the schedule before I go. Can’t remember when my next tutorial is.”

Another “perk” of being in Tolbert’s class—along with our weekly lecture, we’re forced to attend two thirty-minute tutorials a week. On the bright side, Dana the TA runs those, and she has all the qualities Tolbert lacks. Like a sense of humor.

“’Kay,” Nell says. “I’ll see you later.”

“Later,” I call after her.

At the sound of my voice, Justin pauses in the doorway and turns his head.

Oh. My. God.

It’s impossible to stop the flush that rises in my cheeks. This is the first time we’ve ever made eye contact, and I don’t know how to respond. Say hi? Wave? Smile?

In the end, I settle for a small nod of greeting. There. Cool and casual, befitting of a sophisticated college junior.

My heart skips a beat when the corner of his mouth lifts in a faint grin. He nods back, and then he’s gone.

I stare at the empty doorway. My pulse explodes in a gallop because holy shit. After six weeks of breathing the same air in this stuffy lecture hall, he’s finally noticed me.

I wish I were brave enough to go after him. Maybe ask him to grab a coffee. Or dinner. Or brunch—wait, do people our age even havebrunch?

But my feet stay rooted to the shiny laminate floor.

Because I’m a coward. Yep, a total chicken-shit coward. I’m terrified that he’ll say no, but I’m even more terrified he'll say yes.

I was in a good place when I started college. My issues solidly behind me, my guard lowered. I was ready to date again, and I did. I dated several guys, but other than my ex, Devon, none of them made my body tingle the way Justin Kohl does, and that freaks me out.

Baby steps.

Right. Baby steps. That was my therapist’s favorite piece of advice, and I can’t deny that the strategy helped me a lot. Focus on the small victories, Carole always advised.

So…today’s victory…I nodded at Justin and he smiled at me. Next class, maybe I’ll smile back. And the one after that, maybe I’ll bring up the coffee, dinner or brunch idea.

I take a breath as I head down the aisle, clinging to that feeling of victory, however teeny it may be.

Baby steps.

GARRETT

I failed.

I fucking failed.

For fifteen years, Timothy Lane handed out A’s like mints. The year Itake the class? Lane’s ticker quits ticking, and I get stuck with Pamela Tolbert.

It’s official. The woman is my archenemy. Just the sight of her flowery handwriting—which fills up every inch of available space in the margins of my midterm—makes me want to go Incredible Hulk on the booklet and rip it to shreds.

I’m rocking A’s in most of my other courses, but as of right now, I’m getting an F in Philosophical Ethics. Combined with the C-plus in Spanish history, my average has dropped to a C-minus.

I need a C-plus average to play hockey.

Normally I have no problem keeping my GPA up. Despite what a lot of folks believe, I’m not a dumb jock. But hey, I don’t mind letting people think I am. Women, in particular. I guess they’re turned on by the idea of screwing the big brawny caveman who’s only good for one thing, but since I’m not looking for anything serious, casual hookups with chicks that only want my dick suit me just fine. Gives me more time to focus on hockey.

But there won’t beany more hockey if I don’t bring up this grade. The worst thing about Briar? Our dean demands excellence—academically and athletically. While other schools might be more lenient toward athletes, Briar has a zero-tolerance policy.

Fuckin’ Tolbert. When I spoke to her before class asking for extra credit, she told me in that nasally voice of hers to attend the tutorials and meet with the study group. I already do both. So yeah, unless I hire some whiz kid to wear a mask of my face and take the makeup midterm for me…I’m screwed.

My frustration manifests itself in the form of an audible groan, and from the corner of my eye I see someone jerk in surprise.

I jerk too, because here I thought I was wallowing in my misery alone. But the girl who sits in the back row has stuck around, and she’s making her way down the aisle toward Tolbert’s desk.

Mandy?

Marty?

I can’t remember her name. Probably because I’ve never bothered to ask for it. She’s cute, though. A helluva lot cuter than I realized. Pretty face, dark hair, smokin’ body—shit, how have I never noticed that body before?

But I’m noticing now. Skinny jeans cling to a round, perky ass that just screams “squeeze me,” and her V-neck sweater hugs a seriously impressive rack. I don’t have time to admire either of those appealing visuals because she catches me staring and a frown touches her mouth.

“Everything okay?” she asks with a pointed look.

I grumble something under my breath. I’m not in the mood to talk to anyone at the moment.

One dark eyebrow rises in my direction. “Sorry, was that English?”

I ball up my midterm and scrape my chair back. “I said everything’s fine.”

“Okay, then.” She shrugs and continues down the steps.

As she picks up the clipboard that contains our tutorial schedule, I fling my Briar Hockey jacket on, then shove my pathetic midterm into my backpack and zip it up.

The dark-haired girl heads back to the aisle. Mona? Molly? The M sounds right, but the rest is a mystery. She has her midterm in hand, but I don’t sneak a peek because I assume she failed just like everyone else.

I let her pass before I step into the aisle. I suppose I can say it’s the gentleman in me, but that would be a lie. I want to check out her ass again, because it’s a damn sexy ass, and now that I’ve seen it I wouldn’t mind another look. I follow her up to the exit, suddenly realizing how frickin’ tiny she is—I’m one step below her yet I can see the top of her head.

Just as we reach the door, she stumbles on absolutely nothing and the books in her hand clatter to the floor.

“Shit. I’m such a klutz.”

She drops to her knees and so do I, because contrary to my previous statement, I canbe a gentleman when I want to be, and the gentlemanly thing to do is help her gather her books.

“Oh, you don’t have to do that. I’m fine,” she insists.

But my hand has already connected with her midterm, and my jaw drops when I see her grade.

“Fucking hell. You aced it?” I demand.

She gives a self-deprecating smile. “I know, right? I thought I failed for sure.”

“Holy shit.” I feel like I’ve just bumped into Stephen fuckin’ Hawking and he’s dangling the secrets to the universe under my nose. “Can I read your answers?”

Her brows quirk up again. “That’s rather forward of you, don’t you think? We don’t even know each other.”

I roll my eyes. “I’m not asking you to take your clothes off, baby. I just want to peek at your midterm.”

Baby? Goodbye forward, hello presumptuous.”

“Would you prefer miss? Ma’ammaybe? I’d use your name but I don’t know it.”

“Of course you don’t.” She sighs. “It’s Hannah.” Then she pauses meaningfully. “Garrett.”

Okay, I was waaaay off on the M thing.

And I don’t miss the way she emphasizes my name as if to say, Ha! I know yours, asshole!

She collects the rest of her books and stands up, but I don’t hand over her midterm. Instead, I hop to my feet and start flipping through it. As I skim her answers, my spirits plummet even lower, because if this is the kind of analysis Tolbert is looking for, I’m screwed. There’s a reason I’m a history major, for chrissake—I deal in facts. Black and white. This happened at this time to this person and here’s the result.

Hannah’s answers focus on theoretical shit and how the philosophers would respond to the various moral dilemmas.

“Thanks.” I give her the booklet, then hook my thumbs in the belt loops of my jeans. “Hey, listen. Do you…would you consider…” I shrug. “You know…”

Her lips twitch as if she’s trying not to laugh. “Actually, I don’tknow.”

I let out a breath. “Will you tutor me?”

Her green eyes—the darkest shade of green I’ve ever seen and surrounded by thick black eyelashes—go from surprised to skeptical in a matter of seconds.

“I’ll pay you,” I add hastily.

“Oh. Um. Well, yeah, of course I’d expect you to pay me. But…” She shakes her head. “I’m sorry. I can’t.”

I bite back my disappointment. “C’mon, do me a solid. If I fail this makeup, my GPA will implode. Please?” I flash a smile, the one that makes my dimples pop out and never fails to make girls melt.

“Does that usually work?” she asks curiously.

“What?”

“The aw-shucks little boy grin… Does it help you get your way?” “Always,” I answer without hesitation.

“Almost always,” she corrects. “Look, I’m sorry, but I really don’t have time. I’m already juggling school and work, and with the winter showcase coming up, I’ll have even less time.”

“Winter showcase?” I say blankly.

“Right, I forgot. If it’s not about hockey, then it’s not on your radar.”

“Now who’s being presumptuous? You don’t even know me.”

There’s a beat, and then she sighs. “I’m a music major, okay? And the arts faculty puts on two major performances every year, the winter showcase and the spring one. The winner gets a five thousand dollar scholarship. It’s kind of a huge deal, actually. Important industry people fly in from all over the country to see it. Agents, record producers, talent scouts…. So, as much as I’d love to help you—”

“You would not,” I grumble. “You look like you don’t even want to talk to me right now.”

Her little you-got-me shrug is grating as hell. “I have to get to rehearsal. I’m sorry you’re failing this course, but if it makes you feel better, so is everyone else.”

I narrow my eyes. “Not you.”

“I can’t help it. Tolbert seems to respond to my brand of bullshit. It’s a gift.”

“Well, I want your gift. Please, master, teach me how to bullshit.”

I’m two seconds from dropping to my knees and begging her, but she edges to the door. “You know there’s a study group, right? I can give you the number for—”

“I'm already in it,” I mutter.

“Oh. Well, then there’s not much else I can do for you. Good luck on the makeup test. Baby.”

She darts out the door, leaving me staring after her in frustration. Unbelievable. Every girl at this college would cut her frickin’ arm o to help me out. But this one? Runs away like I just asked her to murder a cat so we could sacrifice it to Satan.

And now I’m right back to where I was before Hannah-not-with-an-M gave me that faintest flicker of hope.

Royally screwed.

 

Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

2

GARRETT

My roommates are piss drunk when I walk into the living room after study group. The coffee table is overflowing with empty beer cans, along with a nearly depleted bottle of Jack that I know belongs to Logan because he subscribes to the beer is for pussies philosophy. His words, not mine.

At the moment, Logan and Tucker are battling each other in a heated game of Ice Pro, their gazes glued to the flat screen as they furiously click their controllers. Logan’s gaze shifts slightly when he notices me in the doorway, and his split second of distraction costs him.

“Hell to the yeah!” Tuck crows as his defenseman flicks a wrist shot past Logan’s goalie and the scoreboard lights up.

“Aw, for fuck’s sake!” Logan pauses the game and levels a dark glare at me. “What the hell, G? I just got deked out because of you.”

I don’t answer, because now I’mdistracted—by the half naked make out session happening in the corner of the room. Dean’s at it again. Bare-chested and barefoot, he’s sprawled in the armchair while a blonde in nothing but a lacy black bra and booty shorts sits astride him and grinds against his crotch.

Dark green eyes peer over the chick’s shoulder, and Dean smirks in my direction. “Graham! Where’ve you been, man?” he slurs.

He goes back to kissing the blonde before I can answer the drunken question.

For some reason, Dean likes to hook up everywhere but his bedroom. Seriously. Every time I turn around, he’s in the midst of some form of debauchery. On the kitchen counter, the living room couch, the dining room table—dude’s gotten it on in every inch of the off-campus house the four of us share. He’s a total slut and completely unapologetic about it.

Granted, I’m not one to talk. I’m no monk, and neither are Logan and Tuck. What can I say? Hockey players are horny motherfuckers. When we’re not on the ice, we can usually be found hooking up with a puck bunny or two. Or three, if your name is Tucker and it’s New Year’s Eve of last year.

“I’ve been texting you for the past hour, man,” Logan informs me.

His massive shoulders hunch forward as he swipes the whiskey bottle from the coffee table. Logan’s a bruiser of a defenseman, one of the best I’ve ever played with, and also the best friend I’ve ever had. His first name is John, but we call him Logan because it makes it easier to differentiate him from Tucker, whose first name is also John. Luckily, Dean is just Dean, so we don’t have to call him by his mouthful of a last name: Heyward-Di Laurentis.

“Seriously, where the hell have you been?” Logan grumbles.

“Study group.” I grab a Bud Light from the table and pop the tab. “What’s this surprise you kept blabbing about?”

I can always tell how plastered Logan is based on the grammar of his texts. And tonight he must be shit-faced, because I had to go full-on Sherlock to decrypt his messages. Suprzmeant surprise. Gyabhhad taken longer to decode, but I think it meant get your ass back here?But who knows with Logan.

From his perch on the couch, he grins so broadly it’s a wonder his jaw doesn’t snap off. He jerks his thumb at the ceiling and says, “Go upstairs and see for yourself.”

I narrow my eyes. “Why? Who’s up there?”

Logan snickers. “If I told you, then it wouldn’t be a surprise.” “Why do I get the feeling you’re up to something?”

“Jeez,” Tucker pipes up. “You’ve got some major trust issues, G.” “Says the asshole who left a live raccoon in my bedroom on the first day of the semester.”

Tucker grins. “Aw, come on, Bandit was fucking adorable. He was your welcome back to school gift.”

I flip up my middle finger. “Yeah, well, your giftwas a bitch to get rid of.” Now I scowl at him because I still remember how it took three pest control guys to de-raccoon my room.

“For fuck’s sake,” Logan groans. “Just go upstairs. Trust me, you’ll thank us for it later.”

The knowing look they exchange eases my suspicion. Kind of. I mean, I’m not about to let down my guard completely, not around theseassholes.

I steal two more cans of beer on my way out. I don’t drink much during the season, but Coach gave us the week off to study for midterms and we still have two days of freedom left. My teammates, lucky bastards, seem to have no problem downing twelve beers and playing like champs the next day. Me? Even a buzz gives me a rip-roaring headache the morning after and then I skate like a toddler with his first pair of Bauers.

Once we’re back to a six-days-a-week practice schedule, my alcohol consumption will drop to the usual one/five limit. One drink on practice nights, five after a game. No exceptions.

I plan on taking full advantage of the time I have left.

Armed with my beers, I head upstairs to my room. The master bedroom. Yup, I was not above playing the I’m-your-captain card to snag it, and trust me, it was worth the argument my teammates put up. Private bath, baby.

My door is ajar, a sight that snaps me right back into suspicion mode. I warily peer up at the frame to make sure there isn’t a bucket of blood up there, then give the door a tiny shove. It gives way and I inch through it, fully prepared for an ambush.

I get one.

Except it’s more of a visual ambush, because damn, the girl on my bed looks like she stepped out of a Victoria’s Secret catalog.

Now, I’m a guy. I don’t know the names of half the shit she’s wearing. I see white lace and pink bows and lots of skin. And I’m happy.

“Took you long enough.” Kendall shoots me a sexy smile that says you’re about to get lucky, big boy, and my cock reacts accordingly, thickening beneath my zipper. “I was giving you five more minutes before I took off.”

“I made it just in time then.” My gaze sweeps over her drool- worthy outfit, and then I drawl, “Aw, babe, is that all for me?”

Her blue eyes darken seductively. “You know it, stud.”

I’m well aware that we sound like characters from a cheesy porno. But come on, when a man walks into his bedroom and finds a woman who looks like this? He’s willing to reenact any trashy scene she wants, even one that involves him pretending to be a pizza guy delivering pies to a MILF.

Kendall and I first hooked up over the summer, out of convenience more than anything else because we both happened to be in the area during the break. We hit the bar a couple times, one thing led to another, and the next thing I know I’m fooling around with a hot sorority girl. But it fizzled out before midterms started, and aside from a few dirty texts here and there, I haven’t seen Kendall until now.

“I figured you might want to have some fun before practice starts up again,” she says, her manicured fingers toying with the tiny pink bow in the center of her bra.

“You figured right.”

A smile curves her lips as she rises to her knees. Damn, her tits are practically pouring out of that lacy thing she’s wearing. She crooks a finger at me. “C’mere.”

I waste no time striding toward her. Because…again…I’m a guy.

“I think you’re a tad overdressed,” she remarks, then grasps the waistband of my jeans and teases the button open. She tugs on the zipper and a second later my dick springs into her waiting hand. I haven’t done laundry in weeks so I’ve been going commando until I get my shit together, and from the way her eyes flare with heat, I can tell she approves of the whole no-boxers thing.

When she wraps her fingers around me, a groan slips out of my throat. Oh yeah. There’s nothing better than the feel of a woman’s hand on your cock.

Nope, I’m wrong. Kendall’s tongue comes into play, and holy shit, it’s somuch better than her hand.

An hour later, Kendall snuggles up beside me and rests her head on my chest. Her lingerie and my clothes are strewn on the bedroom floor, along with two empty condom packages and the bottle of lube we hadn’t needed to crack open.

The cuddling makes me apprehensive, but I can’t exactly shove her away and demand she hit the road, not when she clearly put a lot of effort into this seduction.

But that worries me too.

Women don’t get all decked out in expensive lingerie for a hookup, do they? I’m thinking no, and Kendall’s next words validate my uneasy thoughts.

“I missed you, baby.”

My first thought is shit.

My second thought is why?

Because in all the time we’ve been hooking up, Kendall hasn’t made a single effort to get to know me. If we’re not having sex, she just talks non-stop about herself. Seriously, I don’t think she’s asked me a personal question about myself since we met.

“Uh…” I struggle for words, any sequence of them that doesn’t consist of I, miss, you, and too. “I’ve been busy. You know, midterms.” “Obviously. We go to the same college. I was studying, too.”

There’s an edge to her tone now. “Did you miss me?”

Fuck me sideways. What am I supposed to say to that? I’m not going to lie, because that’ll only lead her on. But I can’t be a dick about it and admit she hasn’t even crossed my mind since the last time we hooked up.

Kendall sits up and narrows her eyes. “It’s a yes or no question, Garrett. Did. You. Miss. Me.”

My gaze darts to the window. Yup, I’m on the second floor and actually contemplating jumping out the frickin’ window. That’s how badly I want to avoid this convo.

But my silence speaks volumes, and suddenly Kendall flies off the bed, her blond hair whipping in all directions as she scrambles for her clothes. “Oh my God. You are suchan ass! You don’t care about me at all, do you, Garrett?”

I get up and make a beeline for my discarded jeans. “I do care about you,” I protest. “But…”

She angrily shoves her panties on. “But what?”

“But I thought we were clear about what this was. I don’t want anything serious.” I shoot her a pointed look. “I told you that from the start.”

Her expression softens as she bites her lip. “I know, but…I just thought…”

I know exactly what she thought—that I’d fall madly in love with her, and our casual hookup would transform into the fucking Notebook.

Honestly, I don’t know why I bother laying down ground rules anymore. In my experience, no woman enters into a fling believing it’s going to staya fling. She might say otherwise, maybe even convince herself she’s cool with a no-strings sex-fest, but deep down, she hopes and prays it’ll lead to something deeper.

And then I, the villain in her personal rom-com, swoops in and bursts that bubble of hope, despite the fact that I never lied about my intentions or misled her, not even for a second.

“Hockey is my entire life,” I say gruy. “I practice six days a week, play twenty games a year—more if we make it to the post-season. I don’t have time for a girlfriend, Kendall. And you deserve a helluva lot more than I can give you.”

Unhappiness clouds her eyes. “I don’t want a casual fling anymore. I want to be your girlfriend.”

Another whyalmost flies out of my mouth, but I bite my tongue. If she’d shown any interest in me outside the carnal sense, I might believe her, but the fact that she hasn’t makes me wonder if the only reason she wants a relationship with me is because I’m some kind of status symbol to her.

I swallow my frustration and offer another awkward apology. “I’m sorry. But that’s where I’m at right now.”

As I zip up my jeans, she refocuses her attention on getting her clothes on. Though clothesis a bit of a stretch—all she’s sporting is lingerie and a trench coat. Which explains why Logan and Tucker were grinning like idiots when I got home. Because when a girl shows up at your door in a trench coat, you know damn well there’s not much else underneath it.

“I can’t see you anymore,” she finally says, her gaze finding mine. “If we keep doing…this…I’ll only get more attached.”

I can’t argue with that, so I don’t. “We had fun, though, right?” After a beat, she smiles. “Yeah, we had fun.”

She bridges the distance between us and leans up on her tiptoes to kiss me. I kiss her back, but not with the same degree of passion as before. I keep it light. Polite. The fling has run its course, and I’m not about to lead her on again.

“With that said…” Her eyes twinkle mischievously. “Let me know if you change your mind about the girlfriend thing.”

“You’ll be the first person I call,” I promise.

“Good.”

She smacks a kiss on my cheek and walks out the door, leaving me to marvel over how easy that went. I’d been steeling myself for a fight, but aside from that initial burst of anger, Kendall had accepted the situation like a pro.

If only all women were as agreeable as her.

Yup, totally a jab at Hannah there.

Sex always stirs up my appetite, so I head downstairs in search of nourishment, and I’m happy to find there’s still leftover rice and fried chicken courtesy of Tuck, who is our resident chef because the rest of us can’t boil water without burning it. Tuck, on the other hand, grew up in Texas with a single mom who taught him to cook when he was still in diapers.

I settle at the eat-in counter, shoving a piece of chicken in my mouth just as Logan strolls in wearing nothing but plaid boxers.

He raises a brow when he spots me. “Hey. I didn’t think I’d see you again tonight. Figured you’d be VBF.”

“VBF?” I ask between mouthfuls. Logan likes to make up acronyms in the hopes that we’ll start to use them as slang, but half the time I have no idea what he’s babbling about.

He grins. “Very busy fucking.”

I roll my eyes and eat a forkful of wild rice.

“Seriously, Blondie’s gone already?”

“Yup.” I chew before continuing. “She knows the score.” The score being, no girlfriends and definitely no sleepovers.

Logan rests his forearms on the counter, his blue eyes gleaming as he changes the subject. “I can’t fucking wait for the St. Anthony’s game this weekend. Did you hear? Braxton’s suspension is over.” That gets my attention. “No shit. He’s playing on Saturday?” “Sure is.” Logan’s expression turns downright gleeful. “I’m gonna enjoy smashing that asshole’s face into the boards.”

Greg Braxton is St. Anthony’s star left wing and a complete piece of shit human being. The guy’s got a sadistic streak that he’s not afraid to unleash on the ice, and when our teams faced off in the pre-season, he sent one of our sophomore D-men to the emergency room with a broken arm. Hence his three game suspension, though if it were up to me, the psycho would’ve been slapped with a lifetime ban from college hockey.

“You need to throw down, I’ll be right there with you,” I promise.

“I’m holding you to that. Oh, and next week we’ve got Eastwood heading our way.”

I really should pay more attention to our schedule. Eastwood College is number two in our conference (second to us, of course) and our matchups are always nail-biters.

And shit, it suddenly dawns on me that if I don’t ace the Ethics redo, I won’t be on the ice for the Eastwood game.

“Fuck,” I mumble.

Logan swipes a piece of chicken off my plate and pops it in his mouth. “What?”

I haven’t told my teammates about my grade situation yet because I’d been hoping my midterm grade wouldn’t hurt me too bad, but now it looks like fessing up is unavoidable.

So with a sigh, I tell Logan about my F in Ethics and what it could mean for the team.

“Drop the course,” he says instantly. “Can’t. I missed the deadline.” “Crap.”

“Yup.”

We exchange a glum look, and then Logan flops down on the stool beside mine and rakes a hand through his hair. “Then you gotta shape up, man. Study your balls off and ace this motherfucker. We need you, G.”

“I know.” I grip my fork in frustration, then put it down, my appetite vanishing. This is my first year as captain, which is a major honor considering I’m only a junior. I’m supposed to follow in my predecessor’s footsteps and lead my team to another national championship, but how the hell can I do that if I’m not on the ice with them?

“I’ve got a tutor lined up,” I assure my teammate. “She’s a frickin’ genius.”

“Good. Pay her whatever she wants. I’ll chip in if you want.”

I can’t help but grin. “Wow. You’re offering to part with all your sweet, sweet cash? You must reallywant me to play.”

“Damn straight. It’s all about the dream, man. You and me in Bruins jerseys, remember?”

I have to admit, it’s a damn nice dream. It’s what Logan and I have been talking about since we were assigned as roommates in freshman year. I didn’t enter the draft because I wanted to focus on college, but there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll go pro after I graduate. No doubt about Logan getting drafted, either. The guy’s faster than lightning and a goddamn beast on the ice.

“Get that fucking grade up, G,” he orders. “Otherwise I’ll kick your ass.”

“Coach will kick it harder.” I muster up a smile. “Don’t worry, I’m on it.”

“Good.” Logan steals another piece of chicken before wandering out of the kitchen.

I scarf down the rest of my food, then head back upstairs to find my phone. It’s time to ramp up the pressure on Hannah-not- with-an-M.

 

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Age Rating: 18+

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Age Rating: 16+

Note: This story is the author’s original version and does not have sound.

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1) Always get her FULL name.

2) Consider asking what she does for a living.

3) Find out why she’s moved to town. Get details. Details are crucial.

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5) If you ignore Lesson Four, apologize instead of flirt when you’re sent to the principal’s office.

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Age Rating: 18+

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