Authors: Amelia James
Original Copyright 2011 Amelia James
This 2nd Edition Copyright 2012 Amelia James
Cover Art Copyright 2012 Mallory Rock
Published by Evolved Publishing at Smashwords
ISBN (EPUB Version): 1622538102
ISBN-13 (EPUB Version): 978-1-62253-810-2
Thanks to Stevie Mikayne and Lane Diamond for their editorial guidance, and to Mallory Rock for the great cover art.
eBook License Notes:
You may not use, reproduce or transmit in any manner, any part of this book without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations used in critical articles and reviews, or in accordance with federal Fair Use laws. All rights are reserved.
This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only; it may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, please return to your eBook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination, or the author has used them fictitiously.
Explicit language. I write fiction, and give my readers the benefit of the doubt, assuming they know romance fiction sex is fantasy sex, and in fantasies, we're allowed to break the rules. I believe in practicing safe sex, but my characters do not use condoms because this is a fantasy, an escape from the harsh realities of everyday life. My readers are smart enough to know the difference. ~ Amelia James
For my mother-in-law, who has provided
unending support and encouragement.
Table of Contents
"They're fighting again." Charles Austin Sinclair III looked up from his Nintendo football game toward his bedroom door. His parents' angry voices reached him even though his solid oak door was closed.
"Did she find out about another girlfriend?" Jack Wheeler moved his players into position. One more touchdown would put him in the lead.
Austin saw Jack roll his eyes right before he snapped the ball. If they stopped what they were doing every time Austin's parents argued, they would never get anything done. Jack was Austin's best friend since forever—well, since the third grade—but that was forever to the ten-year-olds.
"Yeah," Austin said, "that's what they always fight about. Girls are trouble."
"They sure like you, though."
The girls in their class often giggled and whispered things like 'so cute' and 'dreamy' when Austin was around. He would scrunch up his face and stick out his tongue in response. Annoying girls.
His parents argued in the hallway now, just a few feet from his room. He picked up the remote and turned up the volume, but it didn't help.
His defensive line jumped on Jack's receiver. "Fourth down. You gotta settle for a field goal."
"You wish." Jack faked the field goal and threw a pass to the end zone. "Touchdown!"
Austin groaned and dropped his controller in his lap. Angry voices from the hall turned his attention to the door again, and he let out a huge sigh.
"At least your dad doesn't hit your mom," Jack said, lining up for the extra point.
"Yeah, this fight will be over pretty soon."
"I've had enough, Charles," his mother yelled. "I won't forgive you this time."
Austin rolled his eyes and dramatized his father's next words.
"I won't do it again, Emma. I promise."
Jack clapped a hand over his mouth but couldn't keep the laughter from his eyes as Austin offered the perfect exaggeration of his father, his big blue eyes somehow pleading innocence and begging forgiveness at the same time.
"That's what you said the last...." She paused.
Austin held up three fingers—nope—four.
"...the last four times I caught you."
"Those women meant nothing to me. They were just... entertainment. As soon as I get bored with one, I move on to another. You know that."
"That's supposed to make me feel better?"
"I can fix this. Give me another chance."
Austin clasped his hands together and fell to his knees.
Jack grabbed a pillow and smothered his giggles.
"No more second chances," Austin's mother said in an oddly calm tone.
Austin stood up and mimicked his mother's scowl, waiting for her next line.
"I want a divorce, Charles."
She wasn't supposed to say that. She was supposed to make him promise never to do it again. Austin's lip quivered and tears pricked his eyes. Even Jack looked sober.
"No. Emma, I love you."
Austin blinked back tears as his mother sobbed. He went to the door and leaned in, pressing his ear against it.
"How can you say that after everything you've done to me? Do you really expect me to believe you?"
Austin heard her run down the hall and slam the door; then he heard his father stomp out to the garage and drive away.
His knees buckled under him and he plopped hard onto the floor. "It's not supposed to end like that."
Jack sat beside him, all humor gone from his face.
"She's supposed to come in and tell me everything's going to be all right. He's supposed to promise he'll never hurt her again. He's not supposed to leave."
Jack shuddered. "Maybe he'll come back. My dad always came back."
"What if he doesn't?"
His mom came in much later, when Austin was supposed to be asleep. She sat down on the edge of his bed and ran her fingers through his hair. "Oh, Austin, you are my heart."
He kept his eyes closed. Jack lay in the top bunk, silent and still.
"You're so much like your father it scares me." She leaned over and kissed his forehead. "Please don't be like him. Don't hurt a woman you love." She sobbed quietly. "Don't make her cry."
She got up and left, never seeing the tear trickling down Austin's cheek.
He wished he
asleep, that he would wake up in the bright sunshine and find out he'd suffered a bad dream. Yet when he opened his eyes, the darkness remained. So very dark.
"Did you hear that?" He knew Jack was listening. Best friends always listened.
"Yeah, I heard." Jack looked down over the edge of the bunk. "What are you going to do?"
"I don't know." He loved his mother, and didn't want her to hurt anymore. He didn't want her to cry.
"I've never seen your mom cry like that before."
Austin wiped his tears away, forgetting Jack couldn't see him in the dark. "I have. Every time he—" The words stuck in his throat and his voice broke.
Jack's voice echoed the pain in Austin's heart. "Maybe it'll be better if they get divorced. Maybe they'll stop fighting."
"Do you think so?"
"I don't know. I hope so."
Austin sniffled and pulled the blankets up to his chin. "They're supposed to love each other." He curled up in the blankets and tried to get warm. "Dad told Mom he loved her, but she didn't believe him. She still wants a divorce."
"My dad said he loved my mom too, but he still hurt her."
"See? Love hurts. Love makes you hurt people and you get hurt too." His heart turned as cold and dark as the emptiness surrounding him. "I'm never going to fall in love."
"Hey, Jane! Heads up!"
Jane Elliot was not easily distracted, so when Ryan called her name, she ignored him. Focused, she dribbled the soccer ball down the field. Brenda set up to defend the goal, but she was just a minor obstacle. Jane gave the goalie her most intimidating snarl, and laughed when Brenda actually took a step back.
"Jane, duck!" Brenda yelled.
The back of Jane's head exploded and stars spun around her eyes. She dropped to her knees and grabbed her throbbing skull. From the corner of her swirling eyes, she saw Ryan and Brenda running to help.
"Sorry." Ryan took her arm and helped her up. "That one got away from me."
When Jane's eyes finally uncrossed, she noticed a football wobbling at her feet. She picked it up and threw it back to Ryan. "Keep your ball on your side of the field," she grumbled, relieved she could put a coherent sentence together.
"How's your head?" Ryan walked her to the bleachers and made her sit down.
"Still attached, lucky for you."
"I tried to warn you."
"I know, but once I set my mind on something, I won't give up."
She sipped the water Ryan gave her, breathed deep in between sips, and waited for the soccer field to stop spinning. Coach checked her eyes for a concussion, but he didn't see any serious damage, so he ended practice for the day.
Jane stayed at the soccer field, kicking goals to make up for the one she'd missed. It was Ryan's fault she'd missed it, but scoring points, even if just in practice, always made her feel better.
Burnt orange clouds streaked across the twilight blue sky as the sun set over the Bayfield College athletic fields. Fall in the Midwest brought short days and cold nights—and the beginning of Jane's senior year. She looked forward to finishing school and moving on to the next phase of her life— the next step toward her career goal.
She picked up her duffle bag and jogged back to the gym. Inside it was warm and peaceful, but not as quiet as she'd expected it to be.
"Oh, oh please...."
The strange voice hit her as soon as she entered the women's locker room, which should have been empty by now. The female voice, gasping and begging, came from the shower. Was someone hurt?
Jane turned the corner into the shower area and stopped short.
A girl leaned against the tile wall—not exactly begging for help. She was bent forward, her short skirt held above her waist by the young man behind her.
"Mmm... that's it, baby," she groaned. "You know what I like."
No, the girl wasn't begging for help; she was begging for more.
Jane didn't recognize the girl—all the cheerleaders looked the same to her—but there was no mistaking the ass behind her: Austin Sinclair, starting quarterback, campus heartbreaker.
His thick chocolate-brown hair stood out in all directions, as if the girl had been running her hands through it, but then it always looked like that. Tall and strong, with a smile like an angel, and deep blue eyes that promised sin, Austin could have had any girl he wanted. And he did. His devilish good looks got the girls' attention, and his boyish charm, infectious laugh and—according to the school gossip—his talent in bed, kept them coming back for more. Actually, the stories said his sexual escapades went far beyond the bedroom, so Jane wasn't surprised to find him here.