Ice Cold Player – Sample

Chapter One


Day one of my senior year in college, and I was homeless. Prospectless. Hopeless. Probably several other -lesses I didn’t have the energy to conjure up. After a week of tireless effort—there’s another one—not a single apartment, house, condo, or other would let me move in with my duck.

I didn’t want to admit I was giving up, but damn, even my unparalleled manifestation abilities couldn’t create an acceptable housing situation out of thin air. There were a million other things going on in my life I should probably be focused on—the coveted assistantship, Juliet the cheer traitor, Dad’s new political aspirations, not to mention his dating agreement. Housing, though, was an immediate problem I’d thought I could solve with little effort. A win to start the semester off right.

Yeah, not so much.

Sweat dotted my forehead, and I tilted my face up to the blazing sun, hoping the heat would dry some of the tears. I hated crying, hated even more letting people see me cry, which was why I’d tucked myself away in a little-known courtyard behind the business building. The crumbling concrete fountain in the middle had seen better days, and most of the foliage was overgrown with weeds.

Except for the area bordering the edge of campus. Pine trees grew in thick clumps, but the azalea bushes had taken over the ground level in a riot of color. Teagan University had a beautiful campus, but this spot was my favorite.

The faint scent of coffee blew through on a light breeze, compliments of Wildcat Coffee right around the corner, and I could almost imagine this was any other day. If not for the constant texts from my friend group talking about practice and classes.

I silenced my phone and set it next to me. They meant well, but they weren’t helping. I returned to my sun worship pose, but my serenity didn’t last long. Quiet footsteps marked the approach of an interloper.

A shadow blocked the warmth, and I sighed, accepting I wasn’t going to find any more peace today. When I opened my eyes, my heart sank. Standing above me with his arms crossed was my coffee nemesis. Gavin King. Yes, I knew his name, but I refused to use it. ‘Hey asshole’ worked just as well.

He grunted and took up a position next to my spot on the wall of the fountain. We’d never had a real conversation, so I had no idea what he was doing here popping my solitude bubble.

When I peeked at him from under my lashes, he stared straight ahead at the azaleas, seemingly content to stand there and ruin my afternoon.

“What do you want?” I finally asked.

“You looked upset.” He stated it as a fact, and my shoulders tensed up at the thought anyone had noticed.

Out of habit, I went on the offensive. “So you came out here to gloat?”

His lips tipped up on the end, but he didn’t take the bait. “No. I came out here to make sure you weren’t about to take a header into the fountain.”

I glanced at the shallow green water and shuddered. “Gross. Why would you care?”

“Because I’d probably have to clean the fountain after. This is technically part of Wildcat Coffee, and they hate their employees.”

I hadn’t known my favorite coffee shop owned my favorite piece of land. Like everything else around here, I’d assumed TU owned it.

“Maybe they only hate grumpy employees who’ve never heard of customer service.”

He chuckled, low and slow, and I hated the way the sound shivered up my spine. “I think they’re okay with me not handing out free espresso shots to all the girls who smile at me, Princess.”

The nickname did it. I couldn’t stand assholes who assumed since I was pretty and rich I must be entitled. The stupid sad feelings I hadn’t been able to shake were banished with a flash of temper. “I smile at everyone, jackass.”

“Not the way you smiled at me.” His lazy, confident tone irked me to no end.

Yes, I’d thought he was hot the first time I’d seen him—I wasn’t blind—but he’d been surly and rude. I didn’t reward that kind of behavior with my good graces. Then he’d proven me right by fucking with one of my friends.

I clawed back the scathing retort he was no doubt expecting, choosing to gift him with my silence instead. Maybe if I ignored him, he’d go away.

His posture shifted as he cast a quick look down at me. “Might as well tell me what’s wrong since I’m not going back inside until you do. No reason to prolong the torture.”

I hated him and his confidence and his unflappable calm, but my mouth went rogue and blurted out the story of my final appointment of the afternoon. Bob the office manager had laughed in my face when I inquired about a pet deposit for my duck and asked if I meant dick instead. Then he’d offered me a discount if I was nice to him—his words.

Gavin’s jaw tensed as I talked, and when I stopped for breath, it took a second for him to unclench enough to talk. “I hope you reported him.”

“Oh yeah. I walked out and called the owner immediately. Despite apologizing profusely and promising to fire my good buddy Bob, he couldn’t allow a duck as a pet in the complex.” I sighed, feeling slightly better now that someone else had reinforced my reaction.

He shook his head slightly. “If your duck is the problem, why not leave it behind?”

My hands clenched in my lap. So much for feeling better. “I’m not abandoning Henry simply because things got hard. I’ll find a place. Just probably not today.”

He pulled a fuzzy, black, cat ear headband from his back pocket and sat down next to me on the stone lip of the fountain. “I heard you were engaged to that football player. Maybe you could move in with him.”

I snorted. “No. Mac and I were involved for a very short time, and now it’s over.”

His head tilted just enough to meet my gaze. “He didn’t meet the royal standards?”

My stomach did a curious flip at the direct eye contact. Gavin was objectively beautiful. Not in a shiny, perfect way, but in a gravelly, rough, fuck me against a brick wall kind of way. Too bad his personality ruined it.

“I don’t know why you think I’m going to give you details about my personal life.”

“You already did.” He lifted one hand to tick off fingers. “I know you don’t have a place to stay. I know you’re irrationally attached to your duck. I know you have no problem metaphorically throat punching someone. And I know your last relationship ended because of you.”

I winced, unable to hide my reaction fast enough. “None of this is your business.”

He shrugged. “You’re welcome to leave any time.”

My hackles rose at the idea of him scaring me away. This was my place. He could leave. “And you’re welcome to stop being an asshole. Looks like neither of us is going to get what we want.”

He scrubbed a hand down his face, and I thought I caught the edge of a grin before he hid it with his fingers. “Whatever you say.”

I shifted to face him, trying to decide if I’d rather strangle him or shove him into the fountain. “We didn’t have the right chemistry.”

“Still sounds like your fault. It’s okay. It can be hard to work up a sweat for the peasants.”

He was needling me. On purpose. I could see it in the subtle way he watched me as he let his barbs fly. I couldn’t figure out if it was because he took joy in kicking someone while they were down or if he was trying to distract me from Bob and his ilk.

Honestly, his motivations didn’t matter. Despite knowing what he was doing, I couldn’t stop myself from responding.

I leaned in to poke his bicep. “I work up a sweat just fine. Don’t judge my sex life based on your own lackluster efforts.”

He turned to fully face me and grinned. “You couldn’t handle me, Princess.”

I wanted to wipe that smug smile off his face. I wanted to prove I wasn’t a poor little rich girl incapable of passion. I wanted to kiss him. The thought shocked me, but I was too far gone to make a good decision.

Quickly, before I could change my mind, I fisted the T-shirt over his chest and closed the distance between us. Gavin didn’t miss a beat. His mouth descended on mine as his hand speared through my hair, gripping tight.

Heat rushed through me, stealing my breath and making me tremble. I expected an angry, bruising kiss, but he softened. He explored and teased. I swallowed a whimper and released the clenched fabric to flatten my palm over his racing heart. So it wasn’t just me.

Gavin changed the angle, coaxing my lips open. A flurry of what-ifs sped through my mind in rapid succession. What if I climbed into his lap? What if I dropped my hand a little lower? What if I’d been wrong this whole time?

No. Bad decisions happened when I let my lady parts lead the way. I shoved against his chest, and he backed away immediately. For a split second, I saw raw hunger on his face, then it disappeared behind his usual arrogant expression.

I stood and brushed imaginary dirt off my shorts as if I kissed my arch nemesis in a secluded courtyard every day.

“It wasn’t me.” I turned on my heel and followed the path out of the courtyard, willing my heart rate to return to normal.

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