Cora Carmack burst onto the New Adult scene with her sexy, angsty Losing It. After several books in that universe, she's heading back to college with May's All Lined Up, the first in her Rusk University series. It's the story of football-hating Dallas, who's at college with her football star ex and coach dad, and Carson, who's trying to get off the second string. Will these opposites attract, especially once they find out who the other really is? We couldn't wait to find out, so we cajoled (begged?) and got an exclusive excerpt to tide us over until May! Happy reading!
It’s like she took the scream right out of my throat. I’ve been out here alone, alternating between convincing myself to leave and convincing myself to stay. And here comes this gorgeous girl with a lion’s roar.
She leans over the ledge, her eyes searching until she finds me sprawled at the base of one of the wide oak trees in the yard. I sit up a little straighter under her gaze.
Her pale skin shines a creamy white in the moonlight, and dark red hair frames a heart-shaped face with full, pouty lips. Her eyes narrow on me, or maybe she just squints. After a few seconds of studying me, she offers an unenthusiastic, “Sorry.”
“Don’t be. That was the best thing I’ve seen all night.”
“You can’t have had a very exciting night then.”
No. No, I hadn’t. I’d tagged along with some other teammates, thinking I needed to make an effort to get to know them off the field. I’d gotten to know them all right. And I was already tired of them. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to walk on to a team like this, it never was. People were nice enough, but none of them took me seriously.
Just a walk-on.
Most people see us as just players for the real athletes to practice against with no real chance of getting any substantial playing time for ourselves. A few are more accepting.
But fitting in isn’t worth spending an hour with those assholes. They aren’t even drunk yet, so I can only imagine how much worse it will get.
I shrug off that frustration and tell the girl, “At least things are looking up now.”
She stiffens, shaking out her hair like a mane. The deep red shines, catching glints from the lights as she moves.
“Listen,” she says. “Tonight is not the night to flirt with me.”
I should probably be annoyed by her brusque tone, but I find myself smiling instead.
“Who said I was flirting?”
She scoffs, her fingers curling tighter around the balcony banister.
I grin because yeah… I was. She’s not cocky when she says it either, just matter of fact. I find it… fascinating.
“It’s not like I stood below the balcony reciting Romeo and Juliet.” Not like I could either. I never managed to finish that when we’d read it in high school English, and the movie version I watched with guns and gangs got me a big fat F on the exam. She makes a noise, and I can’t tell whether she’s scoffing at me again or laughing.
“Romeo was a tool.”
“Really?” I thought girls lived for that shit.
She crosses her arms over her chest and huffs, “He’s head-over-heels, mopey in love with Rosaline, and then in one night, he flip-flops and decides now he’s in love with Juliet. If he would have just thrown his whiney tool self at another girl, Juliet wouldn’t have died.”
“Well, I can promise I’m not going to suddenly declare my love for you. Satisfied?”
She shrugs, and I assume that’s the only answer I’ll get.
“So was it a Romeo who inspired that scream?”
“Nope. Just the regular kind of asshole.”
She stumbles over the last word, her cheeks pinking prettily, and I get the feeling her blunt honesty doesn’t usually include swear words.
“Well, fuck that guy.” My suspicions are confirmed when her blush deepens, and she pulls that full bottom lip between her teeth. I try to connect this shy piece of her puzzle with the brazen girl who called me on my flirting without blinking.
“Uh… yeah,” she replies hesitantly.
I make a mental note to cuss as much as possible to keep that sweet flush on her face. “Don’t let that dick ruin your night.”
I should probably learn to take my own advice. I’m the one hiding in the backyard of a frat house.
“They will not ruin my night.”
They? There’s more than one? Damn.
I start to ask her name, but then someone inside the house shouts out, “Dallas?” and her head whips around in response.
“That him?” I ask.
She rolls her eyes and nods.
“Well, then Dallas. As I see it, you have two options. You can turn around and unleash another of those screams on him, which would be entertaining. Or…”
I trail off, debating whether or not to try again considering my crappy flirting record with this girl so far.
“Or forget about the prick, and hang out with me. I’ll make my best effort not to be an asshole.” She hesitates and I add, “Or a Romeo. Or a tool. Or whatever it is you’re sick of.”
There’s a third option that I don’t add, as appealing as it is. She could introduce me to the dick, and I could introduce him to my fist, and work off some frustration. But that could get me in trouble with Coach, so while effective, it’s off the table.
I am fully prepared for her to say no and lump me in with whatever other guys have pissed her off tonight. Instead, she considers me. Her lips twist, somewhere between pursed and pouty.
“I’m not sleeping with you,” she says.
Surprised, I bark out a laugh and feel the last of the night’s frustration ebb away. She says exactly what she’s thinking, and I love it. I’m shocked by how much I want to keep prodding until I’ve unraveled every little thought that crosses her mind.
“Again with the assumptions,” I say.
“Like you weren’t thinking about it.”
I hadn’t actually gotten that far, but now I’m thinking about it, about how it would be an even better way to work off my frustration than fighting. I bet that flush is just as pretty across her chest as it is across her cheeks. It’s hard to tell from down below her, but she’s tall, maybe just a few inches shorter than me, and her legs go on and on. I imagine them going around and around my hips.
I clear my throat before I can wander too long down that trail of thought. “Thinking about and expecting it are two different things. One makes me a douche bag, the other just makes me a dude.”
But tempting or not, I don’t have time for that kind of thinking. It was one thing to hook-up with girls at Westfield. It didn’t take nearly as much effort to secure my spot on the team or keep up my grades there, but I am on an entirely different playing field here. Literally.
“Dallas!” The guy calls out again, and a light a few rooms down switches on. There’s a shrill scream before the light switches off and a door slams shut, clearly having interrupted something.
Dallas’s face screws up in a laugh, but no sound comes out.
When another room lights up down the hall, she sobers quickly.
“Why would you want to hang out with me? I’m likely to be a roaring bitch for the rest of the night.”
So honest. And gorgeous. It’s a rare combination. I have to remind myself again that I don’t have the time to really appreciate this particular rarity.
“What can I say? I have a thing for screamers.”
Her blush had calmed, but now it detonates across her cheeks again, and I’m laughing before I manage to hold it back.
“I’m kidding, little lioness. I’m not looking to hook-up with you. I just find your honesty refreshing. That makes you better company than every person I’ve run across tonight.”
She watches another light switch on, just two rooms away, and lifts her chin. She seems to come to a decision. Then she braces her hands on the railing, hefts herself up, and throws a long leg over the balcony’s edge.
“Holy shit!” I jump to my feet, sprinting to stand beneath her. She has both legs over by the time I’m standing under her, her toes tucked carefully along the ledge on the outside of the railing.
“Dallas, be careful.”
Her legs look even longer now that they aren’t blocked by the balcony, and her pale skin almost glows in the moonlight.
“You better not be looking up my skirt right now,” she says.
She twists her head around, and her eyes meet mine, and I am so caught. Even at night, the bright green of her gaze stands out like emeralds against her porcelain skin. I note, with a wry grin, that her underwear is the same color.
“Does this make me a coward?” she asks, glancing in the direction of the seeking voice.
“You’re currently dangling off a balcony. Coward was not the word I was thinking of.”
She grins, a vibrant gleam in her eye, and before I can smile back in response, she lets go and starts dropping toward the ground.
I throw my arms up, while simultaneously jerking my head away so I can’t be accused of looking up her skirt again. Her knee makes contact with my shoulder, and when I try to catch her I end up catching her skirt instead, and then I’m tipping backward with her somewhat in my arms. My ass hits first, then the top of her head cracks against my chin a second before her weight slams into my midsection.
“Fuck,” I groan at the same time she declares, “You are an idiot.”
With one hand pressed to the top of her head, she uses the other to push herself up enough to look at me, her elbow planted firmly below the socket of my shoulder.
“I could have landed that on my own. It was one floor.”
My ribs feel on the verge of caving in, and I force a shaky breath with her weight still on top of me.
“I didn’t know. You could have broken an ankle or something.” She shifts, and I groan. “Instead I broke my ass.”
She laughs again, the same silent one I’d seen her give on the balcony, and I catch sight of one lone dimple on her right cheek. She lets go of her head to shift herself higher, and before she can climb off me, I reach out to touch her forehead. She stills, and those large green eyes peer down at me. I trace my fingers across her skin, brushing through the bangs swept across her forehead.
“You okay? You hit my chin pretty hard.”
In response, she just reaches out and traces my chin in the same manner. In the silent night, I can hear the short stubble along my jaw rasp against her skin. She shivers.
Her eyes are open, and I swear I can see every thought in them. She runs her finger one way across my jaw, and then back, and I can tell she’s trying to decide if she likes the facial hair. Then her eyes touch on my lips briefly before flicking away, and then back again, like she knows she shouldn’t be looking, but then doesn’t really care.
And for all the promises I made her (and myself), I think about kissing her. I think about it, and I fist my hands against her back to keep from following through. Her tongue darts out to wet her lips, and they glisten, calling to me. I’m breathing heavy, and I hope she just chalks it up to having the air knocked out of me, not to the reemergence of the mental image of her legs wrapped around my waist that’s the true culprit.
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