“Soren, I need your help.”
I pried my eyes open and stared at the fan sluggishly moving the air in my dark bedroom. Faint music came from the phone pressed against my ear after Eva’s dramatic hello. Thankfully, she waited the several seconds it took my brain to engage.
Middle of the night calls were never good news.
I scrubbed my hand down my face. “Why didn’t you call D?”
She snorted. “He just got back together with Nadia, and you want me to interrupt them when there are other useless football players available?”
“I’m hanging up now.”
“No, wait.” The tinge of panic in her tone made me sit up in bed. Eva was a pain in the ass most days, but she didn’t scare easily—or at all, as far as I knew.
“What’s going on, Eva?”
Someone spoke in the background, closer than the music, and she sighed. “I’m at a party with some friends and we need a ride home.”
Her answer didn’t mesh with her tone. I believed she needed a ride home, but something else was happening here. This was why I avoided getting involved, people were never upfront about their situations when they asked for help.
Unfortunately, Eva was one of the few people I considered a friend, and pain in the ass or not, I’d never leave her hanging if she needed me.
“Where are you?”
“Hold on.” Eva said something I couldn’t pick up and got a muffled reply.
I knew the place, hell, everyone knew the place. Those parties were hardcore, and our crew tended to avoid them. Not worth the trouble, especially during the season. What the fuck was Eva doing there?
Her reasons didn’t matter. She knew I’d come, just like she’d come if hell ever froze over and I called her for help.
“I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”
She thanked me and hung up. I checked the time to find it was after midnight, meaning I’d only gotten about an hour of rest. Not that it mattered. I hadn’t been able to get a full night’s sleep since Margot showed up this summer. When I did sleep, I tossed and turned until I woke up with my sheets knotted around me.
My phone showed dozens of notifications from my social media feed, but I swiped them away. They were probably all from people wanting an inside story about Derrick and Nadia’s pre-game kiss. I shook my head. Fans thought they deserved to know every detail about players’ lives, but I wasn’t going to be the one to destroy Derrick and Nadia’s privacy.
I untangled myself and stood to search for the clothes I’d discarded not too long ago. My sore body protested being vertical. Eva was going to owe me for this one. She knew how hard game days were, especially ones where we eked out a win against a physical opponent.
Every once in a while, I wondered if the strain on my body was worth it, then I remembered that my other option was being chained to an office for the rest of my life. My ribs screamed as I got dressed from a brutal hit I’d taken near the end of the game, but I pushed past the ache.
Football was the life I wanted, and I’d take any amount of pain to be able to play. I shook the dark thoughts from my head and grabbed my keys. There’d be plenty of time to stress about my future later.
The party was still going when I got there. I lucked out and got a parking spot one house down from the blasting music. Even during my partying days, I tended to stay away from the frat houses. Too many drunk girls looking to score with a football player. Any football player.
Admittedly, I wasn’t looking for a relationship myself, but I liked the girls I was with to actually want me and not a trophy fuck.
Not that I’d been with any girls this year. There was a certain amount of freedom in not playing that game anymore, but my dick was pathetically lonely. Maybe Derrick had the right idea with Nadia. Those two were stupidly in love with each other, and I wondered what it would be like to have someone be everything—and have them return the feeling.
I shook my head. That wasn’t my life, and it never would be.
The Kappa house looked about as I expected. All the windows and doors open despite the early chill in the air. Drunk college kids draped over every surface. I blew out a breath and wondered when I’d become a cranky old guy.
A couple of blondes I recognized from somewhere called my name, but they weren’t even a temptation. My only focus this year was playing the best football I could and hopefully winning a championship. They pouted when all they got from me was a smile, but they’d get over it.
A keg blocked the main door, so I took the open gate to the backyard. Even with the unseasonably low October temperature, girls in bikinis beckoned at me from the pool. A scene I would have been all over last year, but something had shifted in me this summer.
After this season, I had one more year of eligibility, but if my parents had their way, I’d be firmly ensconced in the family business before then. The heir apparent of the Brehm dynasty, unless I could do something to convince them I wasn’t wasting my time playing football in college.
If I didn’t buy myself some time, I’d never make it through my last year to the draft.
I shook my head at the shivering co-eds and wound through the crowd to get into the house. Derrick would go first round, no question. Especially after our game today. His antics before kickoff had gotten him on every major sports network, and he’d followed it up with the best playing of his career.
I shoved my hands in the pockets of my hoodie and scanned the room for a familiar blonde head. Eva was usually the center of attention, but none of the groups on the first floor included a tiny cheerleader with more attitude than height.
A guy I vaguely recognized from the swim team jostled me, spilling half his drink as he attempted to apologize. I cursed at the cold feel of beer splashing across my thigh. Why had this ever seemed fun?
He wandered off to assault some other poor shmuck, and I caught sight of a different familiar face along his path. Colton Price. New to the team this year as a junior transfer and gunning for my starting position. I was a little surprised to see him at a party. Derrick, team captain and resident control freak, had told us all to get some rest after the brutal game earlier, but not all the guys had the same definition of ‘rest’.
My eyes narrowed as I took in Colt’s pinched face and the way he cradled his wrist. I didn’t know the three guys surrounding him, but they all looked pissed. Colt especially seemed to be spewing an angry tirade.
I pulled the phone from my pocket and forced my gaze away from his spectacle as I texted Eva for her location. Colt wasn’t my favorite person—he was vicious and entitled, a combination I tried to stay far, far away from. I’d bet he deserved whatever happened to him.
Eva answered me right away. Upstairs. Second door on the right. Don’t bring anyone with you.
I frowned at her last order. It sounded like she was hiding, which would explain why she wasn’t down here among her adoring fans. The path to the stairs took me closer to Colt, and I caught some of his angry whining as I passed.
“That stupid bitch broke my wrist.” He punctuated his statement by using the arm he’d been cradling to throw his plastic cup of beer into the empty fireplace, as if that would take away the pain.
I rolled my eyes. If his wrist was really broken, he wouldn’t be able to gesture so violently.
He snarled as he glanced around the room. “She’s going to regret that as soon as I find her.” The three goons standing around him nodded enthusiastically.
I almost stopped walking. Colt was a selfish asshole, and he held a grudge. Whatever girl had pissed him off probably didn’t know he was gunning for a second confrontation. He wouldn’t play fair either. I tapped my fingers against my thigh but decided not to get involved. If he hadn’t found her already, she was probably long gone by now.
Eva’s last words flashed across my mind. Don’t bring anyone with you. A heavy sense of foreboding settled on my shoulders, and I picked up my pace.
No one tried to stop me as I climbed the stairs, and the couple making out in the hallway didn’t give a shit. My hand hovered over the lever of the second door on the right. The music downstairs was muted up here, but this was still a party house. I could be walking into a laundry room or a sex dungeon for all I knew.
If Eva called me all the way to Kappa house to prank me with a sex dungeon, I was going to leave her ass here. I gave a cursory knock, then entered the room. Light from the hallway illuminated Eva before I shut us in the near darkness. She sat on a big four poster bed in the middle of the space. Despite my response to her call for help, her face held none of the usual snark.
I crossed my arms and took a step closer. “What did you do now, Eva?”
A prickling sensation lifted the hairs on my neck, warning me we weren’t alone in the room before a quiet, angry voice behind me confirmed it.
“Why do you assume Eva did something?”
I turned, and my eyes landed on a girl hunched on the floor behind the door hugging her knees. Her long, curly hair blocked most of her face, and she whimpered miserably as yet another girl rubbed her back.
A jolt hit me as I made eye contact with the third girl, and goosebumps rose on my arms. The defiant tilt to her chin told me she was the one who’d spoken, but I couldn’t seem to find the words to answer her.
Short hair fell from her stubby ponytail to frame a face that was more interesting than pretty. Thick lashes highlighted wide eyes in a dark color I couldn’t pinpoint. She didn’t look like she was wearing make-up, which was odd at a party like this, but that didn’t stop me from staring at her full lips as she scowled at me.
She shifted to glare around me, and I belatedly remembered Eva was in the room with us. “This was your big plan?”
The bedding rustled as Eva stood. “No, Soren is part of my big plan. He’s going to get you out of here without Colt seeing you then drive you home. I’ll take Lizzy back to the dorm in my car.”
Lizzy must be the unhappy one on the floor. I didn’t even spare her a glance as the angry one’s lips pressed together before she answered Eva.
“Why can’t we all go in your car?”
“Because a bunch of people saw us together earlier, remember? The longer it takes Colt to figure out who you are the better.”
My brows rose as I finally caught up. “You’re the one who injured him?”
Both women ignored my question. Eva passed me to crouch next to the other two. “Vi, I need to you listen for once. You know I love you, and I know you can take care of yourself, but it would make me feel so much better if you’d let Soren escort you home. Please.”
I knew that tone. She’d probably gone full puppy eyes, and I could see Vi softening. Lizzy groaned, and Vi looked down at her. “You’re going to need help getting Lizzy into the dorm. She couldn’t even walk up the stairs on her own.”
What I could see of Lizzy’s face was pale in the way that meant copious amounts of puking were on the horizon. She was bigger than Eva, most were, but in this case, it posed a problem. There was no way Eva could get this girl downstairs, into her car, and into a dorm without help.
I jerked my chin at Vi. “She’s right. Why don’t I take Lizzy home, and you sneak Vi out, Eva?” That got their attention. I met Vi’s eyes, gratified to see a speculative gleam instead of outright dismissal.
She waved her free hand at me. “See? Even the jock agrees with me.”
My hackles rose a bit, but Lizzy groaned again before I could make a comment. She’d turned a distinct shade of green, and I hustled for a container. A trash can caught my eye, so I dumped it on the floor and brought it over just in time.
“Why are you even here, Eva?” I muttered over the sound of her friend vomiting.
She sighed. “Lizzy heard some of the football players might be here, and I was being a good wingwoman.”
“What about her?” I jerked my chin at Vi, who was making soothing noises at Lizzy.
“We were supposed to hang out tonight and work on choreography. When Lizzy insisted on the party, she came along.”
I nodded and made note of the information. Vi must have some connection to the cheerleaders, though I didn’t think I’d ever seen her on the sidelines. Eva adopted people from everywhere, so the options for how they knew each other were nearly limitless.
Once Lizzy stopped heaving, Eva turned her glare on me. “Look, I appreciate the input, but all I need is someone sneaky enough to get Vi out of here and to her place without being noticed. Mac is on his way to help me with Lizzy.”
I should’ve realized she’d call Mac first. They’d been friends since before college, and he was supremely protective of her. He’d be good backup, but Mac was never subtle. If the situation was as dire as it seemed, he’d have to be in charge of Lizzy, and I’d get Vi. The thought sent a little thrill of anticipation through me, but I told my dick to stand down. Even if I weren’t foregoing sex, we’d all promised Eva years ago not to mess with her friends.
I’d already heard Colt’s complaints, but I wanted to hear the details from them. “Tell me what happened.”
Vi glanced up at me while holding Lizzy’s hair. “He thought he’d take advantage of my drunk friend here despite her telling him to back off multiple times.”
I swore. Colt was an asshole, but I hadn’t realized how big of an asshole. “How did you get involved?”
“I made him listen.”