Playing Hard: A Bad Boy Sports Romance

Copyright © 2016 by Eve Maddox
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real people, events or places is entirely coincidental.

 

This book is intended for adult audiences. It contains mature content, including graphic sex. Please do not continue reading if you are under the age of 18 or such content is likely to offend you.

 

 

 

 

 

PROLOGUE

 

AVA

 

 

You’d have to be living under a rock not to know that Riley Knox is a big fucking deal.

But still, until now, sitting amongst thousands of spectators all screaming his name, I hadn’t exactly appreciated just
how
big of a deal he truly is.

Call me uninformed if you want — I went to a selective college with a focus on academics, and not much of a sports culture. It wasn’t until my dad got it into his head to run for the senate and started dragging me around to the opening of a car door that I really had any reason whatsoever to pay attention to football — or to Riley Knox.

I mean — I guess I can see the appeal, in some ways. Like watching a bunch of built guys in skin-tight pants crash-tackling each other, their padding making them seem even more godlike in stature.

Sure, I might be a virgin, but I’m not made of stone.

Add to that the fact that we’re sitting on the sidelines of the last game of the college playoffs — my dad’s a huge donor to the university, plus he’s an old friend of Head Coach William Jackson. I have the perfect view of all those muscular thighs, all those bulging biceps, all those crazed, joyous, chest-beating victory celebrations.

I
guess
it has a kind of brutal, masculine appeal.

If you like that sort of thing.

And apparently, these people do. Everyone in the stadium is screaming as one, crying out in worshipful adulation.

And if they’re worshipping, then Riley Knox is their god.

I’ve already admitted that I don’t know a lot about football, but I always make a point to be prepared. Part of growing up with such a prominent parent is that I can’t say something stupid, ever, or something that’ll make him look bad. So I always find out a little about everything we do, everywhere we go. If we’re supporting a local artist, I’ll find out what school they went to, something about their influences. If we’re talking to a business, I’ll read up on when they were founded, what their profits are like, and what areas they hope to expand into.

And if we’re going to the football game that’ll decide the college champions for this season, I’ll know that Riley Knox is playing on a scholarship, is considered one of the best wide receivers in the game, and will be a top five draft pick next year when he graduates.

I know he’s six foot two of lean, brawny muscle, sandy brown hair, bright blue eyes, and flashing white smile.

I know he’s the hottest guy I’ve ever seen. With the
worst
reputation.

Turns out Googling ‘Riley Knox’ takes you down into a labyrinth of messageboard posts by horny cheerleaders, party girls and literally anyone else with a vagina, all extolling the virtue — or complete lack thereof — of Riley Knox. Pretty sure some of them are burned onto my retinas now:

Oh god, what riley did to me with his tongue should be illegal haha.

hoooooolllllyyyy shiiiiiiiit
i won’t be walking for the next few days. Best fuck i’ve ever had.

Anyone know if Riley ever comes back for seconds? Because that’s just cruel, once isn’t enough. Addicted to that dick now lol.

So that was my introduction to Riley Knox.

And this is my initiation ceremony.

I’m sitting next to my father as the players re-organize themselves. It’s the last few minutes of the fourth down, and the Blaketon U Saints need a touchdown or a field goal to win.

See? I told you I do my research.

My dad, Orson Westwood — retired Marine colonel, businessman, scion of wealth and privilege — is sitting next to me, looking tense. He’s always been way into sports. He played in college. Besides, I’m sure it’s been drilled into him by his soon-to-be-official campaign manager, Murray Wilson, that photos of him smiling and celebrating with a victorious team will look a lot better in the news than hanging out with a bunch of gloomy sad sacks.

I reach across and squeeze his arm. I know this is important to him.

“Want me to get you a glass of water or something?” I ask, wondering if I can do anything to take his mind off what’s coming.

Dad shakes his head. “No, thank you, sweetheart. But you go ahead and get something for yourself.”

I decide to take him up on his offer — after all, what do I care?

I barely even know who Riley Knox is.

And I couldn’t give less of a shit if he makes the touchdown or not. I’m here for my dad — that’s it.

I’m not here even a little bit out of curiosity to see Riley Knox in the flesh, after reading all those messages about him, and Google image searching him, and then doing a quick tour of the local newspaper’s website to see what they had to say about his antics.

Nope.

I stand up and maneuver my way through the tight press of tense bodies. They’re all staring out onto the field, eyes squinting, fists clenched. I thrust past one of them on my way to the water cooler, and he turns, giving me a weak smile.

“I don’t blame you, honey — I can hardly bring myself to watch, either.”

I flash him a tight smile and nod my head in response, as if I’m agreeing I’m too scared to watch the last few seconds of the game play out, instead of just being indifferent to them.

Nonetheless, I can understand how heartbreaking this must be for the coaching staff, the players, the fans — to have come so close, only to miss out by a few measly points. That’s gotta hurt.

I turn away, leaning over to grab a plastic cup before filling it up from the cooler. It’s a cold day but a dry one, and I can feel my lips getting chapped and my throat starting to burn.

I’m so caught up in swallowing down the cool water that it takes me a moment to realize what’s happening around me.

The crowd, which had gone stonily silent as the players lined up, has slowly started to buzz again. The men behind me — the coaching staff, the physical trainers, the water boys — have gone from utter dejection to sudden, silent focus, all of them trained on a single point out across the field.

Curious, I peek up over their shoulders at the screen in the stands — and gasp.

I mean, I may not know a thing about football, but even
I
can tell that what I’m seeing is amazing.

I missed the quarterback’s pass, and now Riley Knox, ball tucked under his arm, is powering his way down the field with it, legs pumping, every muscle straining. He spins around one defender, evading them easily. He leaps around another.

The crowd is going nuts by this point. There’s only a few seconds left on the clock, but Riley still has yards and yards to run.

He’s brushing past opposition players as if they don’t even exist now, all adrenaline and muscle and pure animal strength and grace.

It’s… okay, it’s kind of amazing, even to a non-sports fan like me.

But it’s also pointless. There’s no way,
no way
he’ll make it —

— the final siren blares almost simultaneously to the crowd’s erupting roar. The last thing I see is Riley leaping at full stretch, ball in hand, trying desperately to get over the final few yards —

— and the crowd explodes. The word ‘TOUCHDOWN!!!’ flashes up on the screen, music blaring loud enough to be heard even over the crowd’s wild hysteria.

All around me, men are either flailing around like windmills on crack or have fallen to their knees, praising whatever Lord in Heaven could take three seconds out of His busy day to deliver them victory.

I swear, I’ve never seen so many grown men in tears all in the same place at the same time.

And I don’t get it. Not even a little bit. I mean, if they’d just landed an astronaut on Mars or found the cure for AIDS or something, I could understand it. But this? Over getting a ball from one place to another place?

I. Don’t. Get. It.

I can’t see anything as the people around me start swarming every which way, not even watching where they’re going. Players and staff and whoever the hell else are hugging each other in jubilation, virtually sobbing, while I stand there dumbly in the middle of it all, holding my plastic cup full of water.

It vaguely occurs to me that I should get back to my dad — if he’s even really noticed I’m gone, in amongst all the celebrations. There’s ticker tape flying around now, God knows where it came from. Glancing up at the screen again, I can see a cheerleader dressed in virtually nothing despite the cold, her boobs nearly escaping from her halter top as she bounces around in glee.

I sneer a little, looking away. It’s not that I’m a prude… okay, no, that’s a total lie. I
am
a prude. But excuse me if I believe in keeping the goods under wraps — if only so you don’t take someone’s eye out with your impossibly pointy nipple. Which is becoming a distinct risk in her case.

I move through the crowd toward where I left my dad sitting, hopefully to where people are more fully dressed.

No. Such. Luck.

The crowd of men around me parts as the victorious players make their way across the field. For the first time since I watched his long run on the screen, I can see Riley Knox again, leaping and punching the air, screaming his lungs out.

Only this time, he’s ripped off his shirt.

He has it wrapped in his fist and is waving it around like a fucking psychotic, his hair all messy from having been shoved inside a helmet. Fuck only knows where his padding went.

The only thing I
do
know is he’s making his leaping, whooping way over here.

With half his clothes missing, every finely-cut muscle of his body glistening in the winter sunlight, tanned skin glowing, boyish grin, hair flopping around all over his forehead.

I swallow.
Hard.

I want to look away — I really do. Half-naked people don’t amuse or impress me. Toddlers throw tantrums and rip their clothes off in public; fully-grown adults don’t.

Except….

Except I can’t. I literally cannot tear my eyes away from him. He’s every bit as gorgeous and hot as he looks in the image search I totally regret doing on him now, only even more so, because he’s absolutely buzzing with joy and life and virility, looking just like a statue of a Greek god come to life.

And he’s coming my way.

I don’t know what the usual protocol is for this type of thing, but
this
time the people around Riley part around him, like he’s too holy to be touched or something. I don’t think Riley himself even notices — he’s too busy hollering and air-punching and waving his shirt around, every gleaming, glistening inch of him coming closer and closer to me, while I just stand there holding my drink.

I am
not
going to get out of his way just because he’s won a football game. And I am
not
just standing here gawping at him because I have literally forgotten how to use my legs, or because I am staring at his perfectly sculpted abs,
or

In the next second, I suddenly find myself pressed up against a ton of hard, sweaty, beefy chest muscle. Riley Knox’s arms wind around my back, picking me up off my feet and swinging me around, his voice screaming “
WOOOOOOOOOOOO!
” in my ear. My water spills down the front of my sweater, but I barely notice, I’m too frozen in shocked horror.

What the fuck is happening. What the FUCK.

I can feel my heart racing and my muscles going rigid in embarrassment. Riley Knox has
me
, a woman he doesn’t even
know
, in his arms, and is twirling around with me pressed to his chest as if I weigh nothing at all. I mean, I get it — he’s just overcome with jubilation and glee and self-importance from having won the game, and so I suppose there’s nothing much I can do but just endure the ridiculousness of it until he moves on to someone else.

And… and I suppose it’s not as if it’s
completely
unpleasant.

He smells like sweat and soap and leather. His pectoral muscles, pressed against my cheek, are hard and soft all at the same time, and somewhere in amongst all the twirling and whooping and everything else, I realize this is actually the first time I’ve ever been anywhere near a man’s naked chest. Certainly it’s the first time I’ve ever had my face mashed into one, all while inhaling his scent, feeling lightheaded from being spun around (that is the
only
reason I’d feel lightheaded in this situation), and totally enveloped in his arms.

The whole thing can’t last more than a second or so. The next thing I know my feet have been planted firmly back on the ground, and Riley’s made his leaping, hollering way back out onto the field, where his teammates have now swarmed over to bury him in hugs, before hoisting him up onto their shoulders to carry him off for a victory lap.

I’m left standing motionless where Riley put me down, still frozen, and feeling a dark, hot blush covering my face.

 

 

 

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