Authors: Amy Daws
Tags: #sports novel
“What do you mean?” Dad asks.
“The meeting with Arsenal. The text message about becoming a Gunner. Your hints haven’t been subtle, Dad.”
His face lengthens as he pulls his brows back. “I’m just trying to motivate you, Cam. Nothing is set in stone yet.”
“Motivate me?” I ask with a huff. Booker leans toward me over the table, attempting to silently calm me with his thoughts. “So nothing is coming of all this?”
“I signed a non-disclosure agreement, Cam. I can’t really say anything until—”
“Until after your second…
.” He bites the last word out awkwardly and looks down at my knee. Once again, he can’t actually voice the word “surgery” and it makes my temper rise. “I’ll be able to tell you everything after we see how things turn out.”
The pressure of those words pushes me down with the weight of a thousand pounds. My head feels heavy. My hands feel caked in sludge. My stomach sinks to the floor. But my temper is pushing back against all of it. “And if things turn out badly?” My voice is quiet, restrained.
“Don’t think like that, Cam. You’re a Harris. You’ll bounce back and be better than ever. I’m sure of it.”
“And what if I don’t?” My jaw muscle ticks. My hand grips my mug, turning my knuckles white.
“What do you mean?”
“What if I don’t bounce back from this? What if I can’t play football again?”
“That’s the kind of thinking that will make your recovery harder. Just focus on the prize. Focus on being the best. You’re a Harris. You boys were made for this.”
I huff out a laugh. “This is such crap.”
“Cam.” Booker’s tone is a calm warning that Dad ignores.
“What’s crap?” Dad asks, his hazel eyes piercing me.
“How you are. All this secrecy. All this tip-toeing around shit. The added pressure. You pile it on with your empty words, and I still don’t know anything.”
“It’s for your own good. You don’t need this on your shoulders.”
“It’s there with every word you say!” I rake my hands through my hair and grip the back of my neck. “Why didn’t you come to my surgery, Dad?” I throw the question at him, catching him completely off guard. If he’s going to poke me, I’m going to poke him back even harder.
He scoffs, “I’m a busy man, Camden. It’s the end of the season. The scouts need to know what final matches to go to for recruits.”
“Bullshit,” I say, pushing up out of my chair. It scrapes along the floor and hits the wall behind me. “You didn’t come because you can’t handle anything that reminds you of Mum.”
“Camden,” Tanner’s voice bellows from the archway of the hall, jolting me out of my rage. His hair is a mess and his beard is misshapen, but his eyes have that look that tells me he’s not in a joking mood. “What’s going on with you?”
“Nothing. I’m just sick of talking about fucking football. It’s all we ever do!” I turn on my heel, determined to get the hell out of here before I completely break down like the emotional sap I am.
Tanner steps in front of my path to the hallway and places both hands on my shoulders, gripping them firmly. But it’s not to stop me. It’s not to scold me. It’s to show me that he hears me. Our eyes lock for only a couple of seconds before he nods and lets me go.
Go where, I don’t know.
HE NEXT DAY,
out laughing when I open the door and find Camden dressed in a pair of tan trousers and a pale blue button-down tucked all the way in. I think he’s going for conservative church boy, but his slacks are tailored perfectly to his muscular quads, and his metal plaque brown belt and expensive leather shoes make him seem way too fashionable to fool me. Even his blonde hair is perfectly styled off to the side, revealing the horizontal line of his undercut.
My clothes are more casual than his because I didn’t realise he was playing dress up. I’m barefoot and wearing denim leggings and a loose purple tank. At least the leggings are my hottest pair.
I glance down at the bags in his hands. “What are those?”
“Hello, Ms. Porter. I was wondering if I might call on you?”
I puzzle over his formal voice. “Don’t you need a mobile for that?”
call on you
in the old-world sense. Like…a courtship. But with all the conveniences of modern-day sex.” He flashes a smile at me.
I laugh again. “Is this how it’s going to be all night?” I cross my arms and prop myself against the door. “Because I definitely prefer Penis Number One Camden.”
“Oh hush,” he growls, pushing me aside to enter my tiny flat. “Think of this as role-playing. I’m making you dinner and you’re going to like it.”
I watch him as he sets the food on the counter and busies himself with unpacking and prepping. He looks rather good with his sleeves rolled up and behaving all domestic. A girl could get used to a Penis Number Two type maybe. But he can’t fool me. A zebra can’t lose its stripes.
He informs me he’s going to make us a steak salad; however, by make, he means arrange takeout on plates. It sounds fine by me because my cooking skills have never been my strong suit.
He pauses for a moment, and I watch his shoulders rise and fall a few times. When I’m about to ask him what he needs, he turns and rushes toward me. His lips find mine as he backs me up against the closed door. Once our movement stops, he pulls back—mouth open, nostrils flared, eyes locked on my lips— as if he had to look at me to make sure I was real. Then he attacks my mouth again. The kiss is firmer this time, fierce and spinning hot jolts through my entire body. When I’m about ready to beg him to rip my clothes off and take me right here against the door, he pulls back and murmurs, “That was too much. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry.” My voice is husky as my eyes find his.
His brow line creases with apprehension. “I just needed to get lost for a minute.”
I want to ask why but my mind won’t let me. This stuff with Camden is supposed to be casual. Sexual. Fun. Asking the deep questions will open up too many feelings. Feelings that I started to experience at Tower Park yesterday. Feelings that I need to detach from straight away.
“I can think of another place you could get lost.” I pull him into me and slide my hands up his firm back.
“No, Indie. I’m determined to be your Cock Number Two.” His face is boyish and innocent again, like a child who wants to win the big game.
I huff an exasperated laugh. “You just like a challenge.”
His brows waggle, lifting his pensive expression from before. “That I do. Shall we begin?”
He grabs my hand and leads me to my small table where he pours me a glass of red wine from the bottle he brought over and pops the tab on his Guinness. When he hands me the glass, I slide myself up on top of the table and watch the sexy Camden in the Kitchen Show.
Cheerier now, he flips a bottle of dressing and tosses a bag of arugula behind his back, making a proper spectacle of his work. Rolling my eyes, I say, “Of course you have a flair for the dramatics. You’re a footballer through and through.”
He quirks a brow. “Are you saying footballers put on a show?”
“Well, not all, but some definitely do. It’s so funny how you guys flail wildly and make a big scene whenever you get tackled.”
He tsks and leans back against the counter, crossing his arms over his chest. “Indie, I know you’re incredibly smart, but please allow me to educate you about my sport.”
His dress shirt pulls at the biceps and I suddenly picture him shirtless—ink on display, abs rippled just how I know they do. His slacks are bulging, revealing what I know to be plenty of—
“Up here, Specs.” My eyes shoot up to find him watching me with an amused expression on his face.
“I’m listening,” I state defensively.
His eyes crinkle, clearly pleased by my objectification. “Our pitch is huge. Over one hundred yards. And there is only one ref and two linesmen to keep up with twenty-two players over all of that space. You absolutely have to call attention to something that happens. Not dramatising a tackle could cost you the foul call you deserve. And drawing a foul is a vital part of strategy.”
“But some get penalised for over-dramatising,” I state, revealing I may know more about football than I care to admit.
He slants his eyes and approaches me, tucking himself between my legs. My wine glass presses between us again, just like that other time in my kitchen.
“In my world…” He brushes his lips along my jaw, pushing my loose strands of hair with his nose before whispering in my ear, “…that’s called passion.”
I turn my face to kiss him, but he pulls back before our lips can connect. “Come now, Specs. I’m here to pamper you tonight. Not tell you all the reasons why football is the best game in the world.”
By the time he plates our salads and refills my wine, I feel warm and fuzzy all over. Having him here makes me that way.
We’re sitting across from each other at my table when I blurt out, “So do you want to talk about what happened to you earlier today?”
He shakes me off. “I’d rather talk about you. I feel like we do a lot of talking about me.” I half smile and he continues, “The Penis List. We didn’t really discuss it in full detail. It’s very…peculiar.”
I give him a rueful smile. “Yeah, I am a bit of a head case. I thought you’d have sussed that out by now.”
“I’m aware. But lucky for you, the crazy ones are usually the most fun.” He winks and then adds, “So tell me how it came about. Why would you think you need a list? You’re smart, gorgeous, fun. You could have hundreds of blokes if you wanted. Why the need for a guideline?”
I try to conceal my grin. “Well,” I begin, “I told you how I skipped a few years of school, right?”
“Yes,” he replies.
“Being three years younger than all my classmates at an all-girl boarding school was pretty awful. All the girls were getting their periods and wearing C-cup bras. I didn’t even need a training bra until I was fourteen.”
“Your tits came in just fine.” He shoots me a creepy smirk that has me shaking my head. “I would have liked to have been your classmate in school, though. All that hair, those glasses, and boobs…You would have had trouble getting rid of me.”
“Anyway, perv, remember how you wanted me to tell you dirty stories about things that went on at my school?”
His mouth falls open. “God, yes. There are stories, aren’t there? You were holding back on me.”
I wince. “I don’t think they’re very interesting myself. But having been all girls with limited supervision in the dorms created some interesting use of free time. The older girls were so hyper-sexualised and curious, they experimented with each other—”
“Stop,” Camden says, silencing my words. “How old were you at this time?”
I shrug. “They were probably fifteen, so I would have been twelve.”
“God, this would be so much better if it happened in University.”
“Sorry to pummel your fantasy. Anyway, I wasn’t in the same place they were in…both in maturity and in puberty. I think they kind of targeted me for that.”
He frowns. “What happened?”
“Well, a few of the older girls convinced me to sneak out of the dorms one night. They said there was an abandoned school bus in the woods that other girls were star-gazing from at night through the busted roof. I was going through an astrology phase and I guess it felt nice that they noticed. So I went with them.
“I crawled up the bus steps all excited for stars, but walked in on a bunch of kids all having sex instead. Like, right next to each other and everything.”
“Good grief.” Cam’s disgusted face is comforting. It took me a long time to realise what those kids were doing wasn’t the normal way to go about having intercourse. I thought I was alone in my repulsion at the time. “So what did you do?”
“I was only twelve and still so underdeveloped and naïve that I just started bawling. I ran out of there and never spoke to those girls the rest of my years at that school.”
“Kids can be the worst kinds of sods.”
“I remember thinking that if that was how normal people behaved, I didn’t want to be normal. I couldn’t imagine losing my virginity that way. After all of that, it was so difficult for me to open up to girls. I didn’t have a single true friend until I met Belle in med school. It even took some time for me to share all this nonsense with her. But once I did, she helped me see that it would be better to have a game plan to empower me instead of me being scared of the unknown.”