Book 4 in the Cleat Chasers series
General Release Date: 4th January 2022
Word Count: 81,189
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Genres: CONTEMPORARY, ENEMIES TO LOVERS, EROTIC ROMANCE, SPORTS
A jock and a party girl teaming up—makes total sense, right? Actually, maybe…
Ambar Henderson is a senior communications major who has no idea what she wants to do in life. She spends most of her time working on her blog after gaining a lot of readers with a story she wrote junior year and…never followed up on. The last thing she expects is an angry jock accusing her of involvement in a scam that could shake the college to its foundations.
Jeff Maddow should be focused on his senior season of baseball and not the suspicious activity happening on the team. It’s his time to shine and get drafted, but after seeing incriminating evidence, he can’t not investigate. And his first lead is the campus blogger…who’s related to a name in the document he saw.
Ambar’s been coasting, writing about campus fashion and hook-ups rather than politics and economics, but when Jeff shows up at her place spouting wild accusations, she agrees to help him just to prove the stubborn athlete wrong.
Long nights, impassioned arguments, close quarters…both Jeff and Ambar find opposites more than attract when things heat up.
Publisher’s note: This book was previously released by Finch Books.
Convincing the hostess to let me into the second semester sports fundraiser was easier than it should’ve been. With one little promise of featuring her on my blog and bam, the young girl ushered me into the ballroom where the school’s biggest and best athletes mingled with coaches, alumni and the press.
Ah, the things people do for attention.
I tapped my pen against my lip while I took in the surroundings. It wasn’t black tie, but it was fancier than a casual get-together and I sent a prayer of thanks to my roommate who’d convinced me to wear a sleek black dress. It was a little tight and I kept running my hand down to the side to make sure my love-handles weren’t bulging out. My coordination was abysmal and I tripped over my own two feet sometimes, but at least I didn’t stand out—which was the goal.
I needed a new story to boost views on my blog or I would be shit outta luck. No views meant no affiliates, which equaled less money, and with my less-than-stellar first two years at school, I had no internships or job opportunities waiting for me at the end of the semester. The real world was knocking with graduation looming and I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to or could actually do.
But, I did have a clue about what the student body loved to gossip about more than any other topic—the latest on the hot jocks. Girls, guys, scholarships and walk-ons. Readers loved hearing about the latest flings or scandals and this fundraiser was hot-jock central.
“Ambar Henderson?” A familiar voice caught my attention and I glanced at my left to see Peyton Gentry smiling at me. “What are you here for? Sneak in for the free booze?”
“Ha ha.” I plastered on a fake smile despite the flash of hurt. Peyton and I had become friends freshman year—right in the smack of my party days—and he always brought it up no matter how much I had changed since then. “I’m here for a story, not the booze.”
“Right.” He smirked and lowered his voice. “Is it a juicy one?” He slung an arm over my shoulder in a quick hug and, while I didn’t dislike Peyton, I was glad when he removed his arm. “Heard there’s something weird going on with the volleyball team with one of their new freshmen.”
“Yeah?” I waited for him to respond, but his attention drifted elsewhere and he gave me a weak wave before heading off. “Great to see you too, Peyton,” I mumbled to myself. He was an average player on the soccer team but always managed to make himself seem bigger, better, more handsome. I snorted to myself at the headlines I would love to write someday.
Athletes and their egos—size does really matter
The bigger and not better—egos exposed
I took a deep breath, gathered as much courage as I could and walked about the event searching for anything that could be of interest. There were a couple of girls I recognized from the volleyball team, but they seemed normal, laid-back even. Each table had a large tented sign with the sport listed and it amazed me to see how much attention was given to athletes at our Division I school. Were there events like this for scholars? For those who made the Dean’s List year after year? Doubtful.
Schools spend money on sports, not smarts
Yeah, that headline wouldn’t sell shit. I derailed those thoughts and tried to ignore the tinge of jealousy weaving its way through my body. All these athletes had futures after college. They had tutors, scholarships, teams that supported them and, as someone who came from the opposite end of the spectrum, it was easy to envy them.
A loud cackle exploded near the front where the baseball players sat talking to what I assumed to be the coaches. They wore polos with the school logo, were significantly older than them and had the whole coaching vibe with the hard face and knowing eyes. Zade Willows, Tanner Johnson and Aaron Hill all wore suits and smiles and a part of my stomach fluttered. They were so handsome and such decent human beings I wished I could’ve written a million stories on them. Their faces alone would get readers. But I’d already done a story on Aaron and his girlfriend, so that well was dry. Plus, they were my friends and I refused to cross that boundary.
Moving on to another sport, I weaved through tables, trying to listen to conversations for something to spark motivation. Fifteen minutes passed without any luck and the familiar sensation of failure washed over me. How can I pass my senior classes when I can’t even write a stupid blog post without getting writer’s block?
God, I wish I could drink.
It wouldn’t hurt anyone if I snuck one bottled water and I blended in with the crowd as I approached the refreshment table. That was the good thing about being average-looking. No one really noticed me like they did my beautiful and tall roommates. I undid the cap and took a huge gulp when I felt someone staring at me.
Water spilled down my mouth and onto my dress when I found cold, unamused gray eyes narrowing at me. Jeff Maddow. He defined my perfect male specimen with his honey-brown hair styled just enough to be cool, his massive broad shoulders that went well with his defined pecs—perfectly showcased in the dark-gray dress shirt plastered across his chest. Good lord.
Shit, did he say something?
His light gray eyes were framed by perfectly dark eyelashes and, God damn, those cheekbones were enough to make me forget my own name. He blinked and tilted his head to the side with impatience as he approached me. “Ambar Henderson, how the hell did you get into this event? You are neither an athlete nor a sponsor.”
“I have my ways.” I jutted out my chin and ignored the sweat pooling down my back.
“Did you sneak in? No, wait, let me guess. You bribed someone.” He smiled like it was a joke, but his tone made it clear he was not happy. “I should call security.”
“Really, Jeff? Come on.” I hated how my fingers shook when I ran them through my hair, trying to act nonchalant. “I didn’t bribe anyone.”
“I wouldn’t put it past you.” He brought up a glass of champagne to his mouth and held my gaze as he took a sip. It was annoying to be attracted to someone who thought so little of me, but, alas, that was life.
“What do you care if I’m here? I’m not bothering you or anyone for that matter.”
“False.” He finished the glass and took a step closer to me. For one stupid second, I wondered what it would be like to feel his full lips against mine, but the look on his face sobered that thought. “You are a known campus blogger who finds out information about people to get views. You’re no better than a tabloid magazine for a college. Athletes have enough to worry about with how hard we have to work. They should feel safe here, celebrating and networking, not worrying about being featured on a girl’s pathetic blog to get attention.”
“You know that’s not what I do, Jeff,” I defended myself but my voice lost its gusto. “I’m here for ideas…more like motivation. Nothing more.”
“Right.” He shook his head and tensed his jaw as he scanned the room. “Motivation to find out who’s sleeping with who? Who has a better batting average when they’re in a relationship versus being single?”
I gritted my teeth and willed my skin to not turn red. My cheeks burned when I attempted to defend my reasoning for writing those blogs. “It was for entertainment, Jeff. Plus, the stats didn’t lie.”
He gave me a look like many of my professors had. Disappointment. “Do you ever think about writing something credible or for a good cause?”
“The story about Hilly and Greta was—”
“Fine, sure.” He waved a hand in dismissal and gave me a look that made me feel even smaller than my just-over-five-feet frame. “But you could actually spend time writing stories that matter. Not dumbass pieces that exploit athletes and encourage cleat chasers to come after us.” He pressed his lips together and let out an aggravated sigh. “Stay away from my team, Ambar.”
Then he stalked away to the front of the room, his stiff shoulders telling me everything I needed to know. He wasn’t a fan of what I did or who I was. It wasn’t news, but his words hit one of my deepest insecurities. What am I even doing with my blog? My life?
God damn it. Find a story! I finished the water and tossed the bottle into a trash can when a familiar deep, masculine laugh caught my attention. That’s my Uncle Martin. My mood lifted instantly and I headed toward him. He was dressed in a three-piece suit and had his hand on a shoulder of a middle-aged man I didn’t recognize. He finished telling a joke—a specialty of my favorite family member—before he noticed me and ushered me over. “Ambar Henderson.”
“Martin Rhett,” I replied, mirroring his hugging stance and smiling into his chest when he wrapped me in a bear hug like he had since I was a child. “I don’t even know why you’re here, but I’m so glad.”
“Business partners in the community. We love supporting athletes!” He kept his arm around me and introduced me to the gentlemen around us. “This is my favorite niece, fellas. She’s a senior this year and is a hell of a writer.”
Various hellos and greetings echoed around me and I relished my uncle’s words. A hell of a writer. He never made me feel stupid or unremarkable. He’d encouraged me my entire life and seeing him at the event gave me the necessary boost of confidence.
“Nice to meet you all,” I said, looking all five of them in the eye and shaking their hands. There was a brief moment where I faced the direction of the baseball table and met Jeff’s gaze, but I forced myself to not stare or think about why he was watching me. “Anyone have a good story for me? I’m looking for a topic on my senior project and could use some ideas.”
“Ah, my girl is always working.” Uncle Martin laughed and led me away from the group with a smile that had taken years to practice. Once we were out of earshot, he changed his expression. “How did you get into the event, Ambar? I thought this was for athletes only.”
“See, the thing is… I was on my way out.” I gave him a cheesy smile. “Lunch next time you’re in town?”
“Of course.” He pulled me into another hug. “Stay out of trouble, okay? You have four more months of college and I don’t want anything more to happen. You know?”
Like my little drug and drinking binge freshman year?
Or my academic probation?
“I know, I know.” I frowned and felt every ounce of shame in my bones. “I’ll head out. I really did come for ideas. Nothing more.”
“I believe you. Now go through the side door. I’ll cover for you.” He indicated the large black double-doors and winked. “While I can’t condone you sneaking into an event, it does bring me joy to know you do have a little Rhett in your blood.”
“See you later, Uncle.” I smiled and snuck one more glance around the ballroom before leaving. It didn’t mean anything when Jeff continued to stare at me with an unreadable expression on his face. If anything, he should’ve been happy I was leaving his precious party. Ugh.
Jeff Maddow should pull the stick out of his own ass to get a better batting average.
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About the Author
Jaqueline Snowe lives in Arizona where the ‘dry heat’ really isn’t that bad. She enjoys making lists with colorful Post-it notes and sipping coffee all day. She has been a custodian, a waitress, a landscaper, a coach and a teacher. Her life revolves around binge-watching Netflix, her two dogs who don’t realize they aren’t humans and her wonderful baseball-loving husband.
You can take a look at Jaqueline’s Website and Blog and you can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
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