Cover Re-Reveal + Giveaway: Study Abroad Series by Jessica Peterson

I’m so excited to share with you the sexy new covers for the STUDY ABROAD series by Jessica Peterson!

Studying Abroad Just Got a Whole Lot Sexier…

Spanish Lessons:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks
Lessons in Gravity: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo iBooks
Lessons in Letting Go: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks

Lessons in Losing It: Amazon Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks

Aren’t those covers just 🔥🔥🔥?!! The first book in this series is FREE ON ALL PLATFORMS so start reading today!

A note about the books: The STUDY ABROAD series is a series of interconnected standalone novels. While it’s fun to read the series in order, you can absolutely read each book as a standalone.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

author-photo-1

Jessica Peterson began reading romance to escape the decidedly unromantic awkwardness of her teenage years. Having found solace in the likes of Mr. Darcy, Jamie Fraser (OMG love the gingers!), and Edward Cullen, it wasn’t long before she began creating tall, dark and handsome heroes of her own.

She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband, Mr. Peterson, and her smelly Goldendoodle Martha Bean. You can find her on Facebook in her readers’ group, Peterson’s Pupils, on BookBub, and on Twitter.

give
Jessica Peterson is giving away a $10 Amazon or iTunes Gift Card and a STUDY ABROAD Prize Pack, which includes all four ebooks in the STUDY ABROAD series!

CLICK HERE FOR RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY!

Cover Reveal: Lessons in Losing It by Jessica Peterson [Excerpt + Giveaway]

I’m so excited to share with you the cover of LESSONS IN LOSING IT by Jessica Peterson, the fourth & final installment in the Study Abroad series!

lilg

Lessons in Losing It by Jessica Peterson
Series: Study Abroad
Publication Date: June 2, 2017
Pre-Order Links: Amazon || iBooks || Kobo

Add to Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

Just friends…

That’s all soccer star Fred Ohr wants to be with Rachel Collins, the American student he meets at party in his adopted hometown of Madrid. He’s looking for the real deal—someone who’ll stick around Spain for more than a semester—so he resolves to keep her at arm’s length. Even if she is sexy as hell. Smart. And as crazy about sports as he is.

But friends don’t kiss. They don’t do sleepovers. And they definitely don’t get rug burn from having the best sex ever on the living room carpet.

Fred and Rachel’s connection is instant. Intense. He loves to cook breakfast for her. She loves it when he cooks wearing nothing but his glasses.

Only Rachel’s got a dream internship waiting for her back in the states. And Fred is lining up a contract worth millions to stay in Madrid. They’re playing with fire to keep seeing each other like this. But how can they resist when the sex is so great—really, really freaking great—and the fun they have together is even better?

Read the Series!

296914902977415132702500

Spanish Lessons: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Lessons in Gravity: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Lessons in Letting Go: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

EXCERPT
Chapter 1

Fred

Madrid, Spain

December

        It’s just after midnight, and the celebration is in full swing.  Our squad captain’s swanky flat is bursting with people and noise and cigar smoke.  The floor throbs in time to a catchy pop song; girls dance on a nearby table.  One of them keeps looking at me.

        Well.  Checking me out, really.  Her eyes devour me from my legs up to my chest, but they stop there.  She doesn’t bother to look any higher than my neck.

        I slip out of the hall and make a beeline for the (relative) safety of the kitchen.  The euphoria of tonight’s win over our rival, Barcelona, is beginning to fade, and my hip is sore as fuck from the hit I took late in the match.

        Being ogled like just another footballer piece of meat is not doing wonders for my very real desire to get the hell out of here and read Harry Potter in bed.  I bloody love that little wizard and his mates.

        I use the bottle opener on my key ring to pop the top off one of the beers I brought with me.  I take a long, hard sip, wondering if it’s too early to pull a Houdini.

       

        I felt great on the pitch tonight.  I helped the squad cinch a huge victory—Spaniards can’t keep their pants on when it comes to the Madrid-Barcelona football rivalry.  I was on cloud nine, like I usually am when I’m playing footy.

        But now?  Now I’m tired and sore as hell, and after a half dozen post-match interviews, my capacity for small talk is nonexistent.

        As a solid introvert, I like to recuperate, alone, after the craziness of a match day.  Football is really the only thing that energizes me—it’s the only thing I’ve ever excelled at—so I’ve practically lived and breathed the sport since I was fifteen.

        It’s not a bad gig.  Not in the slightest.  I may feel a bit out of place at these parties.  But I love my job, and I’m fucking good at it.  I get paid an obscene amount of money.  Not that football’s ever been about the money for me, but it’s definitely a nice perk.

        Needless to say, I’m content with my lot.  Even if I do hate these parties and the girls that come to them.

        Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever going to find the sort of girl I’m looking for—the sort who’s genuinely interested in me and not my money or my body or my career.  I’m looking for a girl who wants the same things I do.

        A girl who wants to get serious, maybe have a family someday.  Not anytime soon, of course, but I don’t see the point in being with someone if our relationship doesn’t have forever potential.

        I head to living room, which just so happens to be one room closer to the nearest exit.  I’ve been at this party for a couple of hours already; I’ve paid my dues.  Time to go home.

        I hang out in the corner of the room and quickly drain the rest of my beer.  I’m digging my keys out of my pocket when Rhys Maddox, one of my few friends on the squad and our resident golden-haired heartthrob, claps me on the shoulder.  He nods at a group of girls, all of them pretty and smiling, across the room.  “Ready to go say hello?  Laura’s friends are lovely girls.”

        Laura is Rhys’s American girlfriend.  She’s funny, she’s nice, and she’s really great for Rhys (even though he may not know it yet).  Basically she’s one of my favorite people on Earth.

        I’ve seen these girls before; they’re her American friends she’s studying abroad with in Madrid.  I told Rhys earlier tonight that I’d introduce myself.  Now I’m really regretting that decision.  Hermoine and Ron are calling my name, and my hip is killing me.

        Shit.

        “They’re pretty,” I say, feigning anxiety when really I’m just impatient to get the fuck out of here already.  “Really pretty.  Forget it.  I changed my mind.  I can’t go talk to them, not right now.”

        I’m about to turn for the door, but Rhys tightens his grip on my shoulder, turning me back toward the girls.

        “Listen, mate,” he says.  “If you can’t talk to girls after winning our most epic match yet, there’s something seriously wrong with you.  C’mon.”

        With a sigh, I let Rhys steer me toward the girls.  I just have to play nice for two minutes.  Two minutes of torture.  But at least after that I can go home.

        “Hi,” Laura says, smiling at us.

        Rhys smiles back, a big, dorky thing I’ve never seen on him before.  “Feeling all right?”

        “Yes.”  She turns to me.  “Fred!  I’m so glad you came over.  The girls have been dying to meet you.  This is my friend Vivian, and this”—she loops arms with a very pretty, dark-haired girl—“is Rachel, she really loves, uh, sports…”

        Meeting my eyes, Rachel smiles and holds out her hand.  I’m struck by the friendliness of her smile.  It’s a high-wattage, Julia-Roberts-style smile, but it’s somehow sincere, too.  Intimate.

        So bloody different from the come-hither grin that girl dancing on the table gave me earlier.

        “Hi, Fred,” she says.  Her American accent dips a little, curls at the edges; I don’t recognize it.  Southern, maybe?  “Nice to meet you.  You looked really great out there tonight.”

        I take her hand.  She gives mine a firm, warm squeeze.  My eyes flick down her body, back up again.  She’s petite—I practically tower over her—and hot as hell.  I didn’t know I was a boob guy until this very second.  Hers are…gah, they are perfect.

        Rachel drops my hand.  I blink, mentally chastising myself for ogling her like a piece of meat.  I don’t like being looked at that way, and I doubt Rachel does, either.

        Get it together.  I need to get it together.  But something about this girl—her boobs? her smile?—is making it difficult to do that.

        “Thanks,” I say. “I, um, hope you enjoyed yourself.”

        “We froze our asses off, but it was worth it,” she says.  “The energy in that stadium is ridiculous!  It was so loud my ears are still ringing a little.  Is it that loud on the field—the pitch, I mean?”

        “Oh, God, yes,” I say.  “So loud you feel it in your chest.  To say our fans are passionate is an understatement.  Other squads say it’s the toughest place to play when you’re on the road.”

        “I noticed you were limping a little after that hit you took in the second half.  If you don’t mind me asking, how do you rehab an injury like that?  Ice?  Ibuprofen?  Probably lots of rest, too, right?”

        Her eyes, dark and intelligent, are on the hip in question.  So Rachel really paid attention to the match.  I like her curiosity.

        I also like her confidence.  I’ve known her all of sixty seconds, but she’s got this lovely, down-to-earth energy that sets her apart.

        She’s obviously gorgeous, too.  Those eyes—Jesus, they make my pulse jump.

        “Yes—a combination of all three, actually.  How’d you know that?  Do you play football?”

        “Tennis, mostly, but I played a little bit of everything in high school—basketball, volleyball, soccer—sorry, football.  I’m kind of a sports nut.”  She grins, tucking her long, inky brown hair behind one ear.  “I bet you’ll have one hell of a bruise tomorrow.”

        I nod, trying not to stare at her.  Not only is she beautiful and confident, she’s also as obsessed with sports as I am.  I’ve got to be dreaming.  This girl is way too good to be true.

        “Yeah,” I manage, “this one’s going to be bad.  Been wanting to get home all night so I can have a good cry about it.”

        I pretend to wipe away a rogue tear, throw in a sniffle.  She laughs.

        The sound floods my ribcage with warmth. It’s not forced, her laugh, or fake.  I’d know; I’m an expert at coaxing belly laughs from my niece Lilli (pro tip: the peek-a-boo game goes a long way with a nine month old).

        “Oh, come on, you rolled around the field in apparent agony for, like, five minutes after that play.  Surely there were tears then?  Fake tears, at the very least?”

        Americans love to poke fun at our, er, theatrical response to getting injured on the pitch.  This is nothing new.  But the good natured way Rachel is teasing me about it—that is.

        I have no idea what the fuck is going on, but I suddenly want to stay at this party more than I want to dive back into The Prisoner of Azkaban.

        I’m suddenly having more fun with a real live person than I would with fictional ones.  She’s just so friendly and so gorgeous.  Clearly smart, too.

        I mean, this is usually the point in the conversation when I’d excuse myself, pleading one of three vague but believable excuses—I’m fucking exhausted, I’ve got to go to [insert football-related activity here], or so sorry, but my mum and/or sister is calling me.  My life is predictable enough that one of the three is true at any given time.

        But right now, I actually want to stick around.  See what else Rachel has to say about…well, everything.

        “I save my fake tears for weekday matches, thank you very much,” I reply.

        “Oh?” She crosses her arms.  I try—and fail—not to notice that this makes her breasts look even bigger.  Get.it.together.  “And why is that?”

        “The thing about fake tears is that they really take a lot out of you,” I say.  I notice that sometime in the past few minutes, Rhys and Laura disappeared.  Rachel’s other friends are gone, too.  Can’t say I’m not glad to have her all to myself.  “I would know, as I’m an expert.  I’ve got to prepare for days ahead of time.”

        She cocks a brow.  “Prepare?  How?”

        “Watch Titanic on repeat and practice in the mirror, obviously.”

        “Obviously,” she says, chewing on her bottom lip as her face lights up with a smile.  I really, really wish she’d stop chewing on her bottom lip, because it’s driving me crazy.  It’s making me think about how much I’d like to take that lip between my own teeth.  “So you’re German?”

        “I am.”

        “Where are you from?”

        I grin harder, hoping it will distract her from the tent I’ve started to pitch in my pants.  Fuck.  “Germany.”

        “I know,” she teases back.  “Where in Germany?”

        “The south.  A town called Weilheim in Oberbyern.  It’s in Bavaria.  Best beer in the world there.  I actually brought some bottles with me—want to grab one?” I ask, nodding my head toward the kitchen.

        Rachel looks at me.  She appears as startled by the invitation as I am.  I’m never this cool or forward with girls.  With people.  Ever.

        “Yeah,” she says after a beat.  “Yeah, I’d like that.  Everyone here is drinking this fancy champagne—someone said it was the most expensive in the world?—but I’m more of a beer girl myself.”

        “Yeah, that’s our captain, Olivier Seydoux, for you.  Only the best of the best for that bloke.”  I glance back at her as we head for the kitchen.  “So you really like beer, huh?”

        “I do.  My dad’s from Milwaukee, and my grandmother worked at one of the big breweries there.  Needless to say, my beer education started at a young age.  My high school friends thought it was so cool that my dad would let me have a beer with him when we watched college football—American football—on Saturdays.”  She rolls her eyes.  “I was so badass back then.”

        I reach inside the cabinet where I hid my stash and grab the last two beers.  “You’re not badass anymore?”

        “Meh,” Rachel says with a shrug.  She watches as I grab the key ring from my pocket and use the opener to pop the tops off the bottles.  Her eyes linger on my hands.  “Do you always carry a bottle opener with you?”

        I spear her with a look.  “You don’t?”

        “I don’t.  But!”  She rummages around in her purse, and pulls out a pair of these little foam sleeve things.  “I do always have a couple of coozies on me.”

        “Coozies?  What the hell are those?”

        “Watch and be amazed.”  She slips the first foam sleeve onto one beer—it’s printed with white letters that read BATCAVE SPRING FORMAL 2016, MERYTON U—and then the second, emblazoned with a donkey’s ass and nothing else, on the other.

        “You see,” she says, handing me the one with the donkey ass, “it keeps the beer cold.  Although we’re not drinking it cold, so I guess it would just keep the beer from getting too warm from our hands?”  She scrunches her nose.  “I don’t know.  I guess it makes sense coozies wouldn’t be a thing in Europe.”

        The scrunched nose—seriously, could Rachel be any more adorable?

        “At the very least, they keep you from getting your bottle mixed up with someone else’s, yeah?” I offer.

        She laughs, crossing one leg over the other.  Her body tilts toward mine, just a little, and suddenly the temperature in the room goes up a notch.  I haven’t been attracted to someone like this in what feels like forever.  The impulse to erase the small space between our bodies is fucking hard as hell to resist.

        “Yeah,” she says.  “I’ll take it, mostly because I got to show off my coozie collection.”  She holds out her beer.  “Cheers, Fred.  Congratulations on your win.  And on your amazing theatrical performance.”

        “Thanks.  I worked quite hard to get it just right tonight,” I say, and now I’m laughing, too.  Genuinely laughing.  I give her a little bow, my fingers brushing hers as our bottles tap on my way up.  A ribbon of heat unfurls inside my hand, moving up my arm.

        God, I want to touch this girl.  I want to put my hands on her and kiss her hard and make her laugh.

        We hold our bottles like that for a beat too long.  My gaze latches onto Rachel’s and doesn’t let go.  She’s feeling it, too—this energy, this attraction between us.

        “You’re staring,” she says with a smile.

        “Can’t help it,” I say.  “Sorry.”

        “Why are you sorry?”

        “Because I hate when people look at me like…like I’m a piece of meat, I guess.”

        “I don’t feel like a piece of meat right now.”

        “No?  Good.  What do you feel like?”

        “Like…I don’t know.”  She gives a little shrug.  “Like I’m having fun with a really tall, really cute dude at an otherwise lame party.”

        I grin.  “It is quite lame, isn’t it?  And here I believed I was the only one who thought that.”

        “Of course it’s lame.  I mean, it’s amazing, but also lame.  It all seems kinda fake, I guess—the schmoozing, the fancy champagne.”  Rachel shrugs again.  “I’m having more fun with you than I would be mingling with everyone else, that’s for sure.”

        This girl—it’s like she’s reading my bloody mind.

        Which she can’t actually do, thank God, or she’d know I am currently fantasizing about having her in my flat, naked, her eyes closed as my fingers between her legs, her mouth open, her pussy pulsing.  She’d pant, make these little breathless noises.

        The head of my dick presses against the fly of my jeans.  I close my eyes, take a deep breath.

        “You okay there, killer?” Rachel asks.

        “Yes,” I grunt.

        She laughs.  “That’s the least convincing ‘yes’ I’ve ever heard.”

        I open my eyes and look at her.  Jesus, she’s pretty.  Lit up.

        It’s weird, but something about her laugh reminds me of home.  There’s always laughter in my parents’ house; my ribs ache for days after I spend a holiday at home with my siblings and their significant others and my parents.  I miss that.

        We sip our beers.  Rachel smacks her lips and lets out a sigh of satisfaction.  “That’s delicious.”

        “You like it?” I meet her eyes.  The irises are so dark they almost fade into the pupils.  Almost, but not quite.

        “I love it.  It’s different—tastes like a wheat beer, which is probably my favorite.”

        “I’m glad.  These Bavarian beers can be a bit of an acquired taste.”  I take another sip.  “So, the sports thing—are you planning to play tennis professionally?  Maybe go into sports management or something like that?”

        “I’d really like to go into sports medicine, actually,” she says, setting her beer on the counter.  “Maybe physical therapy or something like that.  As a matter of fact, I had a phone interview for an internship at the Meryton University athletic department right before the match.”

        “That’s brilliant,” I say, and I mean it.  I never doubted her sincere interest in sports, but I adore just how much she obviously loves them.  “How did it go?”

        She shrugs again.  “I’m trying not to get my hopes up.  But it’d be really awesome if I got that internship.  My ultimate goal would be to work for a sports franchise—a team like yours—but working at the athletic department is a great way to get my foot in the door.”

        “You know,” I say, my heart skipping a beat, “if you want a tour of our team’s training facility, all you have to do is ask.”

        “Yeah, right, I’ll just ask for a tour of the training facility that belongs to the world’s most valuable sports franchise.  The facility that’s more closely guarded than the Pentagon.  No big deal,” she says.

        “Rachel, it’s really not a big deal.”  She meets my eyes when I use her name.  “If you want a tour, I can make it happen.  Easy.  I’ll ask the club medical staff to show you the ropes.  Might give you a better sense of what you’re looking for?  The club just built a new medical facility that is bonkers, and we’ve got a couple doctors on staff, plus fitness coaches, physios, even a sports psychologist.  A bit of everything, really.”

        She blinks a couple of times.  Looks away.  Looks back up at me, her hair falling into her face.  “Seriously?  You’d do that?”

        “Of course.  You’re in Madrid, for Christ’s sake, so you might as well do it while you’re here.”

        “Wow,” she says, pulling her hair back.  “I don’t know what to say.  Thank you.  This is huge for a lot of reasons—I’m heading back to the states in, like, less than a month, and if I hadn’t talked to you tonight…just.  Wow.  I’m the luckiest freaking person on the planet.  Thank you.”

        I grin.  “Not sure if you saw how great I looked on the pitch tonight—”

        “Now you’re just bragging,” she says, rolling her eyes.

        “I am.  But the squad really, really likes me at the moment, and they’ll do pretty much anything to keep me happy.  I’d love an excuse to exercise some of that muscle, especially on behalf of a mate’s friend.  The tour would be asking a small favor, nothing more.”

        “Small favor?  Fred, I can’t tell you how many sports medicine internships I’ve secretly applied to without ever hearing a peep back.”

        “Secretly?”  Now I’m intrigued.

        Rachel waves me away.  Her eyes change.  They’re sad, I think.  Sad or hurt. “Long story.”

        “How does Wednesday sound?  I’ll arrange everything, and I can send my driver round to pick you up.”

        She blinks.  “You have a driver?”

        “I do.  I usually drive myself around, but it’s always nice to have someone on call.”

        “Uh.  Wow.  Sorry, sorry, I know I keep saying wow, but this whole thing is just—I mean.  Wow!  I’m speechless.  Wednesday works for me.”

        I smile.  So does she.  Bloody hell, that smile.  “Great,” I say.

        “Great,” she says.

        I try to tamp down on the pulse of warmth low in my belly, between my legs.  I want to touch this girl, take her home, but I can’t.

        Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I haven’t fooled around with girls casually before.  I’m not a monk.  But every time I’d get physical with a girl without any intention of seeing her again, I’d just end up feeling empty.  Lonelier than before.  Used, even as I felt like I was using her.

        I’m done with that shit.  I’ve been done with it for a while now.  Rachel may not have said outright she doesn’t want to get serious with a guy, but she’s moving thousands of miles away in a month’s time.  There’s no way she’s looking for forever with someone in Spain.

        I am.  Which may explain why I’m twenty-two years old and still haven’t swiped my v-card.  Yeah, I’m not proud of it, but I suppose I’m an old-fashioned sort of bloke.  I want to fall in love before I have sex; fall for someone who will stick around for the long haul.  It just feels right, I suppose.

        At this point, I’ve waited a long time to lose my virginity—so why not lose it to someone special?  Someone who really means something to me?  I think sex is sacred.  It’s important I get it right.

        So…yeah.  As attracted as am I to Rachel, I’m not interested in a casual hook-up with her.

        With a sigh, I tug a hand through my hair.  I’ve been here before.  I’ve been attracted to girls who clearly weren’t my forever, and I managed to keep it in my pants then.  I can do it again.  The attraction fades.  It always does.

        But damn if that smile of hers doesn’t make me feel fucking awake and alive and, yeah, more than a little turned on.

Chapter 2

Rachel

Wednesday

        I’m so excited for my tour of Fred’s training facility I can hardly pay attention in my one and only class of the day.  But I have some work to do—exams are coming up—and the driver isn’t picking me up until later this afternoon.  So after class I run a few errands, then head for the Reina Sofía Museum.  I’m writing a paper on this gorgeous Herman Anglada Camarasa painting that hangs there.

        I peep the painting for a bit before sitting down to write in the museum café.  It takes me way longer than it should to get going on the paper.  Now I’m not only thinking about my tour, but I’m thinking about the cute, charming guy who made it happen—Fred Ohr, soccer star and all around stud.

        Athletes are my type, and not just because I’m an Exercise and Health Sciences major.  Fred is a big guy, with thick shoulders that taper into a slender but still well muscled torso (I may or may not have Googled shirtless pictures of him when I got home from the party).  I felt like a pixie next to him.

        I liked it.  Him.  I liked him a lot.  His sense of humor.  His generosity.  The way his blue-green eyes got all squinty when he smiled.

        I noticed him even before we were introduced.  He was standing off to the side, alone, nursing a beer.  I wouldn’t say he looked sad or anything.  I mean, the guy was getting plenty of attention from girls at that party.  But I definitely picked up on some loneliness there.  I’ve felt lost at parties, too—the old cliché of being in a room full of people but feeling lonelier than ever—so I could sympathize.

        I’d like to think he felt a little less lonely after our chat.  I sure as hell did.  I actually haven’t stopped thinking about how much fun I had, talking to him.

        How goddamn hot he was.

        My memory of how Fred looked is crystal clear.  He’s handsome, but in a way that’s totally different from the rest of the guys on his team.  Guys like Rhys Maddox, who, with their smoldering gazes and cheekbones and ridiculous Euro haircuts, could easily be underwear models.

        Fred is less classically good-looking, more square and masculine.  His blond hair is cropped close to his head, and he had it combed in a hipster schoolboy swoop to one side. He’s got a hockey player nose: a little too big for his face, a little crooked, too, like he’s broken it a couple times in epic fistfights with the losers who threw him into the boards.  He was dressed in jeans and a blue sweater he wore over a white button up.  Simple, nothing fussy, but still sexy.  I remember how freaking handsome he looked.

        I liked that he was different.  The other footballers were too much for me.  Too pretty, almost.

        I’m so distracted by the memory of his smile and the zing of warmth it sent through me that eventually I give up on my paper and check my email instead.

        My heart skips a beat when I see a note in my inbox from the athletic director at Meryton.

        The internship I’ve applied to—the one in sports medicine I really want—there’s news.

        My fingers shake as I guide the mouse across the screen.  I open the email, my eyes moving over the words faster than my brain can process them.

        You’ve made it to the final round of candidates…you will receive a call for one final phone interview…please provide proof you are able to find housing in the Durham area this summer…

        “Holy shit!” I say, loud enough to make the old Spanish dude beside me look up from his newspaper.

        I sheepishly offer him my apologies, then reread the email.  Oh my God oh my God oh my God I totally wasn’t expecting this to happen.  The internship is prestigious and highly competitive.  I didn’t think I’d even make it past the résumé stage, much less the final round.

        Wow.  Now that this sports medicine thing might really happen, I recognize how badly I want the internship.  The thought of getting it and working at the athletic department all summer long makes me so excited I can hardly sit still.  I want this.  I really, really want this to work out.

        Sports medicine combines two of my favorite things: sports (obviously) and science.  Mom wants me to channel my interest in science into a career being a superwoman surgeon like her, but over the years, I’ve seen how her job absolutely consumes her life.  How stressed and overwhelmed she always is.

        I’d like a career that offers at least a little more balance.  I want to work to live, as cheesy as that overused byline is, and not the other way around; I want there to be enough room in my life for things like travel.  Books.  Kids—lots of kids—and fun.  I’ve talked to several people—doctors, physical therapists, trainers—and from what I can tell, I have a much better chance of finding that balance in sports medicine than I do in cardiothoracic surgery (mom’s specialty).

        But I know how disappointed mom will be if I don’t go the surgeon route.  And if there’s one thing I really hate, it’s letting her and dad down.  They’ve just been so good to me.  They’ve worked so hard to make my dream of going to Meryton University come true.

        Probably why I haven’t told them I’m applying to sports medicine internships.  Just the thought of having that call with mom that makes my stomach hurt.

        I blink when an IM pops up at the bottom of my screen.

        It’s mom.  Of course.  My heart falls.  I don’t know why I’m surprised; she’s always had an eerie sixth sense of when to appear so she can burst my bubble.

        I left you a voicemail this morning, she types.  I’ve been waiting for you to call back—I heard from the head of the anesthesiology team. Said he may be able to get you in for some shadowing this summer.

        I stare at the screen.  I’ve shadowed doctors in mom’s hospital before, and I pretty much hated it every time.  I can’t imagine having to do that again instead of working at the athletic department.

        I also can’t imagine telling mom I’m passing up anesthesiology for sports medicine.

        Ugh.

        Something must be up with my phone—I didn’t get any voicemails today.  Weird.  I reply.

        Maybe you should get it checked out?  It would be a catastrophe if you missed a call about an internship opportunity.

        I roll my eyes.  Of course mom would use the word catastrophe.  Like my phone dropping a call is on scale with a category five hurricane.

        I’ll see what I can do, I type.

        You need to make a decision soon. Have you applied to the research group I told you about?  They are doing some great work with stents.  This summer is huge for you.  That’s when I interned at the CDC, remember?  And I met Dr. Zhu, who got me into Yale.

        Yes, I remember.  You tell me that story every time we talk.  Couldn’t forget it if I tried.

        You don’t need to get so snippy, you know, she says.  I’m only trying to help.  You have to do something with yourself this summer, and it’d better be amazing.  I’m not paying forty grand a year for Meryton for you to end up working at a gym. You can do so much better than that.

        I’m working my ass off trying to figure it out, trust me, I reply.

        But even as I type the words, a well-worn feeling—something like panic—makes me short of breath.  Two minutes ago, I was pretty sure about what I wanted.  I wanted to get my dream sports medicine internship.  I was so excited about checking out the training facility of the best soccer team in the world.

        Now I’m not so sure.  I’m not excited.

        I’m stressed.

        A familiar set of memories moves through my head like the slides on a projector.  Mom’s grinding frustration over not getting the promotion she wanted turning into a howl of joy the day I got into Meryton (her top pick for me); how the stress she wore like this giant, heavy overcoat every day would disappear if I came home with all As on my report card; how I distracted her from another fight with dad by telling her I’d take up violin, even though I so wasn’t into music or instruments or the creepy lady who taught orchestra.  She, however, was thrilled, mostly because she’d read somewhere that playing music helps increase your standardized test scores.

        My mother is not the happiest person in the world.  I recognize that.  But when I can make her happy—when I can make her proud—it’s the best feeling ever.

        I want to see mom happy more often.  I mean, duh, I love my mom.  She’s my mom.  But her bouts of happiness never seem to last, which leaves me scrambling for another accomplishment, another achievement to wave in front of her.  I keep thinking that maybe this will be the thing that tips the balance.  This semester’s GPA or this exam score or this internship will be the thing that finally keeps her happy.

        Doing this internship at the Meryton athletic department is definitely not that thing.  As great as it feels to make mom smile, I can only imagine how awful it’s going to be if I piss her off, or, worse, disappoint her.

        I mean, maybe I should be more worried about ending up at a gym, the work-life balance I’m looking for be damned—although, honestly, what’s wrong with working at a gym?

        Maybe I should be shadowing anesthesiologists; it’d look great on my med school application.  Maybe I am wasting mom’s hard earned money by not working harder.  I’m really, really lucky that I don’t have to worry about paying for college, and I definitely don’t want to be the kid that freeloads off her parents’ generosity.

        I’ve just been really busy getting ready for exams, I type.  I’ll get going on my summer plans once they’re over.

        All easy As, she replies.  At least this semester won’t be a total waste for you—those grades will help your GPA, and medical schools will love that.

        Right, I say.  That’s exactly why I came to Spain.  To boost my GPA.

        That’s my girl, mom types, clearly not picking up on my sarcasm.  I can’t wait for you to come home.  We can work on the essays for your applications together.  I already have some good ideas for the Yale essay—you know the one about rising to meet a challenge?  I figure you can talk about the research you did at the oncology center.

        I fall back into my seat with a heavy sigh.  When I think about pursuing mom’s route, I feel this surge of satisfaction at how thrilled and proud she’ll be of me if I do get into Yale.  But at the same time, my gut ties itself in knots.  It knows it’s not the path for me.  It tells me in no uncertain terms that I’m not going to be happy.

        Mom will be, though.  Maybe her happiness will be big enough and bright enough to keep me happy, too.  I don’t know.

        I do know that if I have to talk to mom for another second, I am going to fling myself down the nearest elevator shaft.

        Gotta run, I type.  Call you later.

        Good luck studying. Can’t wait to see those grades!

        I slam my laptop shut.  Shut my eyes, too, against the sudden sting behind my lids.  I swallow, hard, and take a deep breath.

        Today is a really great day.  I’m not going to let mom ruin it for me.  How often do I get to rub elbows with some of the best physical therapy professionals on the planet?  I’ll worry about my summer plans—and my future—later.

        I decided when I arrived in Spain that this would be my semester of YOLO.  And so far, I’ve done a pretty great job of living in the moment.

        This tour will be no exception.  I’m going to enjoy the hell out of it.  After that—who knows?  Maybe I’ll get lucky and enjoy the hell out of Fred, too.

***

        My heart is pounding as the driver—Fred sent a guy in a ridiculous giant black Mercedes to pick me up from school—glides through security at the gate to the football club’s training facility.  I wasn’t kidding when I said the place is guarded like the Pentagon; there are fences and cameras everywhere; there’s a guardhouse, even a couple security officers patrolling the perimeter.  I knew Fred’s team was a big deal in Spain, but it’s hitting me just how huge this whole operation is.

        And how famous.  A couple minutes ago, we turned off the highway and took an unmarked, one lane road that wound through a mile or two of arid countryside before the giant training facility came into view like a spaceship that landed in the middle of nowhere.  My driver explained that the facility “must remain hidden” so that fans and the media, and even rival football clubs, can’t get a glimpse of the players as they train.  It’s like their tactics are a closely guarded national secret or something.

        I shiver.  This is wild—the fact that I’m here.

        Wild, and really exciting.

        The driver makes his way through an orderly parking lot packed with brand new Range Rovers and sports cars with blacked out windows.  I wonder which one is Fred’s.  I don’t know him, not well, but I get the feeling he wouldn’t drive anything quite so flashy.  Just doesn’t feel like Fred—he’s more understated than that.

        Finally the driver pulls up to the medical facility, all glass and gleaming angles, and hurries to open my door.

        Thanking him, I make my way to the entrance.  I catch a glimpse of one of several practice pitches just off to the side of the building.  It’s a cold day, a little before three o’clock; the sky is clear but already darkening, the blue tinged with purple.  A couple guys are out on the field, running some pretty brutal looking drills.  I can faintly make out shouts, a bark of laughter.  I look for Fred’s tall, well-muscled figure, but I don’t see him.

        My heart falls.  He didn’t say if he’d be here or not today, but I secretly hoped he would be.

        I hope he’s here.  I really do.  He still has my coozie, for one thing, and for another, I’d like to thank him—with dinner, maybe? a drink?—for putting this whole thing together.  He doesn’t know me, and he didn’t have to help me out.  But he did, and I want to show my appreciation.

        I’d also like to make out with him, pretty badly.  It could be totally one-sided, but the attraction I felt between us practically sizzled.  I’m getting tingles just thinking about it.

        I head inside the training facility, and I’m immediately greeted by a cute woman, forty, maybe forty-five, in a snazzy Madrid tracksuit.  Her name is Valentina, and she is the first team physiotherapist—meaning she works with the best players on the team to prevent and rehabilitate injuries.

        Valentina doesn’t speak great English, so I get to practice my Spanish as she gives me a tour.  She’s warm, friendly, and very funny; she answers all my idiot questions patiently.  I have a lot of them.  Like, a lot.  Probably because I’m so enthralled by everything I see and everything she says I can hardly stand it.

        We start in the training facility’s main building, a gargantuan complex that is as big as a mall.  Maybe even bigger.  It’s sick.  Not only is there an Olympic-sized pool; there are actual treadmills and stationary bikes in the water.  We pass through an enormous gym, an indoor running track, two weight rooms, massage therapy rooms, saunas and steam rooms, and a mod, chic-looking cafeteria.  Everything is new and clean and state of the art.

        My head is on a swivel.

        Players greet Valentina as they pass us.  She asks one guy about his knee; she promises to help another with his hamstrings.  She turns to me, eyes lit up, and for the next twenty minutes tells me all about hamstrings and how to rehabilitate them and how to keep from hurting them and how they work.  Her delight is infectious; as her smile grows, so does mine, even though I don’t understand half of what she’s saying.

        How different she is from my grim-faced mother, who wears the weight of the world on her shoulders as she charges down the halls of her hospital.

        We head into one of a dozen physiotherapy treatment rooms, where Valentina introduces me to Dr. Jimenez, the club doctor, and Sebastián, the player whose ankle Dr. Jimenez repaired after Seb took a nasty spill a few months back.  They let me watch as Dr. Jimenez checks everything out; after, Valentina and Seb put together a list of exercises and stretches, cracking dirty jokes in Spanish as they go.

        After that, Valentina and I pore over her schedule in her office—she’s filling me in on what her typical day looks like.  It seems she’s got a pretty great work-life balance; she seems to have time for both work and play.  She says with two kids and a husband who also works that it’s not easy, and some days are absolute hell.  But for the most part, she enjoys her time at the facility and at home.  Her job is interesting and challenging.  She knows she is part of something bigger, something important.

        I don’t know Valentina well, but I can just tell she’s a happy person.  It radiates from her.  She is patient and kind.  She lights up when she talks about her kids, her work, her husband.

        This—finding this kind of life—this is what I want.  My own version of this kind of contentment.  Of balance.

        If I could just find the courage to go after it, instead of towing the line and doing what mom wants me to do.

        I’m asking Valentina about her post-graduate path when a familiar voice sounds at the door.

        “Enjoying yourselves, ladies?”

        I start, my pulse leaping as I look up.  Fred.

        He fills the doorway, leaning a hip against the jamb.  He’s still in his practice clothes—black compression tights underneath shorts, a sweatshirt, gloves, cleats covered in grass—sweaty and huge and smiling.

        It’s like a bullet straight to the chest.  I grab onto the edge of Valentina’s desk, hoping my legs don’t buckle as I meet his eyes.  I can smell him from here.  Soap, something simple but clean, cut with an edge of sandalwood.

        Heaven help me.

        I am attracted to Fred.  Very, very attracted.

        “Hello, Fred,” Valentina says in heavily accented English before switching to Spanish.  I am having fun showing Rachel around.  I can tell she likes it here.

        “Hey,” I manage.

        “You came,” he says, his eyes getting all squinty with pleasure.

        “This place—it’s pretty incredible, Fred,” I say.  “Thank you.  Seriously.  I can’t thank you enough.”

        “My pleasure.”  I love his weird little accent, his words flavored with a bit of German, a bit of British, too.

        He glances at Valentina.  “Are you done with Rachel yet?  I don’t want to rush you…”

        “She is very much yours now, yes?” Valentina says with a knowing grin.  She kisses my cheeks.

        Come back anytime, Rachel, she says in Spanish.  If you’re interested, we have a formal internship program you can apply to for the spring.  It is very competitive, but also a fantastic opportunity.  You are always welcome here.  Mostly because I’ve never seen Fred smile like that.

        Color creeps into Fred’s face as he laughs.  Man he’s cute.  Hot.  Huge.  He is all those things, and it is all I can do not to stare.

        He tilts his head.  “Come on, then, Rachel.  There’s something I’d like to show you.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

author-photo-1

Jessica Peterson began reading romance to escape the decidedly unromantic awkwardness of her teenage years. Having found solace in the likes of Mr. Darcy, Jamie Fraser (OMG love the gingers!), and Edward Cullen, it wasn’t long before she began creating tall, dark and handsome heroes of her own.

She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband, Mr.Peterson, and her smelly Goldendoodle Martha Bean.

Website || Facebook || Twitter || Instagram || Goodreads

give
Jessica Peterson is giving away a $25 Amazon or iTunes gift cards!

CLICK HERE FOR RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY!

Cover Reveal: Lessons in Letting Go by Jessica Peterson [Excerpt + Giveaway]

I’m so excited to share with you the cover of LESSONS IN LETTING GO by Jessica Peterson, the third installment in the Study Abroad series!

lilg-ebook-800x544

Lessons in Letting Go by Jessica Peterson
Series: Study Abroad
Publication Date: December 12, 2016
Pre-Order Links: Amazon || iBooks

Add to Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

“Ten minutes ago, I was just an American student studying abroad in Spain.  But now?  Now I’m a professional soccer player’s muse.  His good luck charm…”

Soccer star Rhys Maddox’s recovery from an injury isn’t going well—until one night with a beautiful American and a few terrible pick-up lines changes everything.  With Laura at his side, he plays smarter, runs faster, and fights harder than he ever has on the pitch.  She’s just the good luck charm he needs to turn his flailing career around.

Laura Bennet begins her semester in Madrid with plans to ditch bad habits and worse boyfriends. But when she unexpectedly gets caught up in Rhys’s A-list life, her plans are put on hold.  Who wouldn’t skip class to fly on a private jet with a studly Welsh footballer?  It’s a no brainer, or so she thinks.  Turns out Rhys’s glamorous lifestyle hides an obsession with appearances—an obsession that makes her totally miserable. Determined to take back her happiness, Laura decides to dump Rhys and tackle a “Spain Bucket List” on her own.

But Rhys isn’t letting his good luck charm go without a fight. He’s spent his entire life trying to earn his way into the big leagues, and he’ll do anything to win—even risk his carefully crafted image to help Laura with her bucket list. Will he be able to let go of his ego? Or will he and Laura ultimately let go of each other?

Read the Series!

2969149029774151

Spanish Lessons: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Lessons in Gravity: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

EXCERPT
Chapter 1
Rhys
August
Madrid, Spain
It’s just after nine A.M., and the air is thick with arid heat. The Spanish sun, a white-hot pinprick in a huge, cloudless sky, bears down on my face and shoulders. I’m only on my first lap around the football pitch, and already I’m sweating bullets.
As if my recent performance—or lack thereof—hasn’t made these training sessions brutal enough, now I’ve got hundred-plus-degree heat to contend with. When I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to escape the near constant drizzle and shivery damp of Wales. But now that I’ve lived in Spain for a couple years, I’d give my left nut for one of those rainy Welsh days.
A drop of sweat lands in my eye. I wince, wiping it away with my shoulder. I wince again at the low throb of pain in my left leg. It radiates down my hamstring and settles in my knee. Motherfucker. It’s been more than a year since the surgery. My knee should be feeling better. Much better.
It’s not. It hurts. But then again, so does everything else. My legs, my lungs. I feel sore. Tired. Worn out. Not an auspicious way to start the season that’s supposed to save my career. My play has been absolute shit for months now, pretty much from the moment my surgeon cleared me to play again. I’ve got to do better.
I pick up my pace, trying to push through the pain. I don’t care how much it hurts. I’m not going down. Everyone—fans, media, my teammates and managers, people back home— keeps waiting for me to follow in my infamous father’s footsteps. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, they whisper behind my back.
I can’t end up like him. Not with so many people back home depending on me. He let them down, but I won’t.
I pump my legs harder, faster. I’m the first one on the pitch this morning— practice doesn’t usually start until ten—in the hopes that some extra dedication will make up for my embarrassing performance as of late. I can’t help but think that maybe this will be the practice where everything changes. Where I play like the superstar I want to be, the superstar everyone thought I’d mature into when Madrid first traded for me. Maybe today is the turning point.
But judging from the stringent burn in my quads, it’s not looking good.
“Ah! Mon petit chou! My little cabbage, what is he doing all alone on ze pitch? So very early today!”
I start at the sound of a familiar voice. I close my eyes in an attempt not to roll them. The last person I want to see right now is Olivier Seydoux, our squad captain. Yes, he’s my closest mate on the team, but he’s also a pain in the ass. It doesn’t help he’s got the entire organization—managers, trainers, even the kit men—calling me “little cabbage”. I honestly have no idea what it means, but I do know I hate it.
“It’s not even nine thirty, and already you’re busting my bollocks,” I yell across the field, turning to face him. “Who pissed on your croissant this morning, you smelly Frenchman?”
He stands by the goal, a shit-eating grin on his face as he tugs at the zipper of his jumper. The sun glints off his bald head, making his coffee-colored skin burn copper in the strident morning light. I get why half the women in the world want to bang Olivier’s brains out. He’s tall and has magazine-cover good looks, and is one of the best strikers in the league.
That doesn’t mean I have to be nice to him, though. Not today.
“Ah, ze little cabbage, he is feeling very sensitive today, eh? Is it ze women troubles?” he says, jogging over to meet me.
“Listen, mate, I live off boiled chicken and broccoli and go to bed at nine every night. What woman in her right mind would sign up for that?”
Olivier falls easily into step beside me. “You are a footballer! You ’ave a little blond manbun! From what ze womens tell me, zey love you and your ’airs very much.”
“No time for girls,” I grunt, trying to keep up as Olivier quickens his pace. He’s a full head taller than me, and his stride is enormous. “I’ve got to focus on my footy.”
“Fo-kus. What a boring F word. I zink you should fo-kus on a better one. Like—”
“Frozen yogurt?” I almost jump when I see Fredrik Ohr’s giant blond bulk trotting behind us. His German accent, usually quite slight, thickens when he’s out of breath. “And is training starting early now? Where did everybody go?”
“No, our petit chou is fo-kusing on his footy, so he comes early to the pitch,” Olivier replies. “But I think he should fo-kus on other things, too.”
“Frozen yogurt really does it for me,” Fred says. “Sometimes it’s the only thing that gets me through that last hour of training—knowing I will have a giant cone of vanilla chocolate swirl on the way back to my flat. It’s like my good luck charm.”
I blink. “Seriously?”
“Seriously. You should try it.”
“I’ll do anything at this point to find a good luck charm. Do either of you know a shaman? Maybe a practitioner of voodoo?”
“Me, thinking of having ze naked fun with my lady is very motivating,” Olivier says. He spins around to face us, still keeping pace even though he’s running backwards.
“I wish I could find a lady to have naked fun with,” Fred says.
“You wish you could find a lady, period,” I say.
“Ha bloody ha,” he replies. “But it is true. You know I am fucking shit at talking to girls. They’re just so…pretty. And they smell so good. I sniff their perfume, and poof! My brains spill out of my ears and I forget how to speak.”
“Maybe you should give my pick-up lines a try,” I say, smiling.
“Thanks but no thanks, Cabbage,” Fred huffs. “I think silence works better.”
“Silence definitely works better,” Olivier says.
We round a corner of the pitch. My legs feel like lead weights. Keeping up with the lads didn’t used to feel so hard; I used to be one of the fastest guys on the squad.
I am one of the fastest guys on the squad. I just…I don’t know. For a while I thought it was my knee that held me back. I mean, it definitely hurts. But I’m starting to think that the pain is part of a bigger problem.
I’ve got to keep pushing. Maggie’s waiting on the education I promised her, and she and mum are still living in Splott, the inner-city ward in Cardiff where I grew up. Mum refuses to leave until her sisters and all my cousins can leave, too. No one else is going to get them out of there.
It’s up to me. It’s up to me to get the help Aunt Kate needs with her elevenyear daughter, who requires round-the-clock care. And then there’s my cousin Will, who is too much like my father for his own good and really needs to go to rehab, but no one can afford to send him. My cousin Rachel is expecting her first kid, my other cousin Lydia just dropped out of school to help support the family but can’t find work—
God that’s a lot. But considering my aunts helped to raise me after my dad left—considering how dirt poor they all are—taking care of them is the least I can do. We are one big, unhappy family.
“You all right, Cabbage?” Olivier asks.
“Stop showing off.” I wave him and his backwards running away. “I can outrun your ass any day, backwards or forwards.”
Olivier smirks. “Not with zat bum knee of yours.”
“I’m going to jam this bum knee into your bollocks. Then we’ll see who’s faster.”
“I put my money on Cabbage. Meaning no offense, Olivier,” Fred says.
“None taken.” Olivier turns his attention back to me. The beautiful bastard, he hasn’t even broken a sweat yet. “I know you ’ave worries about ze future, Cabbage. You ’ave much talent. You will get your rhythm back, I know it. Maybe ze womens, zey will ’elp you find it? I ’ave been in love before, and I played my best footy zen. Sometimes, ze love, it can focus you. Remind you of ze love you felt for football before all ze moneys and ze crazy parties.”
I shake my head. “Not worth the risk. You saw what happened with Alessandro—he fell head over heels for that Italian chick, what’s-her-name, and now he can’t pay a football club to take him.”
“She was really hot,” Fred says.
“Idiot, that Alessandro,” Olivier says. “In my mind, it is up to ze man to decide whether ’e will be distracted by love or inspired by it. If you are with ze right woman, you will make ze right choice.”
I glance over Olivier’s shoulder at the mountains in the distance. Spain may be hot as Hades, but it is a beautiful place, especially if you’re taking it in from the practice pitch of the most valuable sports franchise in the entire world. I used to dream about training here. When I was thirteen and skinny and living with my two aunts and five cousins in a tiny, run-down flat, I’d spend hours imagining what it would be like to play for Madrid’s famously dominant squad. I remember wanting very, very badly to be a part of something so special.
Wanting to right the wrongs my father made on this very pitch. Now I’m here. Building a career in professional football is so much harder than I ever imagined it would be, but I still don’t want to lose my place—I don’t want to leave. I have too much to lose.
And I am a very sore loser, if the number of red cards I have is any indication.
“Heads up, lads, gaffer’s coming out,” I say, nodding at the lean figure in smart trousers and a scarf making its way towards us.
“Oh, Christ,” Fred says. “I wonder what William Wallace is going to bludgeon us with today.”
I bite back a grin. Our manager’s elegant outward appearance hides a very angry, very feisty Scotsman with a mouth that’ll put hair on your grandmum’s chest.
“Bring it in, ye tits, it’s time to get goin’!” he shouts.
Olivier turns back around and starts to sprint. I take off two steps behind him, pumping my legs harder, harder, my lungs burning as I pass him just as we reach coach at the top of the pitch.
Olivier arches a brow as we hustle to a stop. “See?” he pants. “We just talk about ze womens, and already you run faster.”
“Women?” coach says. “What fecking women are you two bawbags gettin’ on about?”
“Bawbags?” Fred asks.
“Scrotums,” Olivier replies.
“Oh,” Fred says.
“It’s nothing,” I say, turning to coach. “We weren’t talking about anything. What’s on the schedule today?”
***
A few hours later
Fred comes flying down the touchline, his bright orange singlet flapping against his beefy build as he dodges Sergio. He almost decks Ignacio before passing the ball to me, the shouts—most in Spanish, a few in incomprehensible Scots—of the lads and our coaches filling the air as I move toward the goal. My pulse throbs in time to the frantic refrain inside my head: don’t mess this up don’t mess this up please God don’t mess this up. We’ve got a big match in two days against our rival team in Madrid, and I’d like to prove to coach that I’m worthy of quality playing time.
I see Olivier waiting from the corner of my eye. He darts across the pitch, trying to elbow aside two very big, very insistent defenders. Sweat drips into my eyes and makes them sting. The sun is so hot I feel like I’m being roasted inside an oven. I’m exhausted; I keep waiting for the coaches to blow their whistles and end this interminable practice session, but so far, no dice.
I remember, vaguely, how much I used to love playing footy. Just playing for playing’s sake, running around the muddy pitch in Splott with my mates and a halfdeflated football. I lived and breathed the game because I loved it, almost as much as I loved my mum and mashed potatoes. Football was an escape. When I was on that pitch, it didn’t matter that I was poor, that everyone thought I’d end up in the gutter, just like dad. All that mattered was how I played—and because I played well, I felt important. Wanted. Strong. Some nights I couldn’t go to sleep because I was so excited about playing football the next morning.
Now it’s all I can do to drag myself out of bed when I have to play.
Panic electrifies my limbs as I dribble the ball closer to the goal. It’s just so hard to focus; so hard to clear my mind and let my instincts take over. I’m trying, I really am, but I can’t do it.
I bloody hate it.
Frustration blurs my vision before I’m even in the box. The voices of my mates and the managers press in on me, my feet stumbling beneath my unsteady stride. I try to forget the slight twinge in my knee and keep going.
It’s getting harder and harder to just keep going.
In the split-second that Olivier manages to untangle himself from the defenders, I launch the ball across the pitch, aiming it a little in front of him. I watch, heart in my throat, as Olivier leaps into the air, scrunching his eyes shut as he anticipates nailing a solid header.
The ball soars more than two meters behind and four meters above his head and hits the sideboards with an audible thwack. My heart drops; my face burns.
Shit.
The pass wasn’t even close. It was awful. Not worthy of an amateur, much less Madrid’s Great Welsh Hope. (That’s what the press called me when I first came to Madrid. The Great Welsh Nope has appeared in a headline or two over the past few months. I wish I could say it didn’t rankle.)
Coach holds his hands behind his head and blows out his cheeks. The lads look away. Fred claps me on the back, telling me to keep my head up. I feel like burying it in the grass.
I bungle one drill after the next. My passes are laughably inaccurate. My attempted goals soar above or past or way outside the net, so much so that our goalie, Alexsandr, yawns not once but twice as I work inside the box. My footwork is messy and my speed is nonexistent.
The whistles sound. Training ends. I hit a new low—this is the lowest I think I’ve ever felt on the pitch. I make a beeline for the showers and don’t say a word to anyone in the locker room. I can’t wait to hole up in my penthouse suite—my flat is currently being renovated—and lick my wounds in private.
I’m doing everything I’m supposed to. I’ve rehabbed my knee, I put hundreds of hours of in at training, I take care of my body—all in the hope that my hard work will pay off, and my luck will change.
How bloody long do I have to wait for my luck to change?
It won’t be long before I’m benched, or, worse, cut from the squad altogether. William Wallace’s patience with me is wearing thin; there are countless other lads rearing to take my place, and prove their talent. My agent has gently warned me that if I don’t show improvement in the next few matches, I may not have any future at all in football.
So much rides on me turning this thing around. And time is running out.
Chapter 2 Laura
A Few Days Later
Madrid, Spain
Maybe it’s the man bun.
Maybe it’s the tattoos that cover his arms from neck to wrist and curl beyond the collar of his jersey.
Maybe it’s his baby blue eyes. Or his ferocious, angry-Welshman style of play. Or the way his lips twitch into a confidently wicked smirk—oh, that smirk, it slays every vagina in a thousand mile radius—after the ref makes a call that shouldn’t go his way but does.
I don’t know what it is about Rhys Maddox, studly soccer superstar, that’s got me reaching inside my yoga pants while I watch the highlights from this afternoon’s game. All I know is that he does it for me in a big, orgasmic, toe-curling way. Yeah, he’s having a rough season, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s smoking hot. I bet his skin audibly sizzles upon contact.
My hand slides lower, my middle finger dipping between the slippery lips of my sex. Jesus, I’ve been watching these highlights for, what, three minutes, and already I’m this hot and bothered? Rhys has to be my most potent celeb crush I’ve ever had. I love a good celebrity crush. It’s pure, delicious fantasy.
Orgasms are the name of my game this semester, and fantasy Rhys is all too happy to help me out there. The hookup culture back at Meryton University bred this kind of sick double standard when it came to sex. I always got the guys I was with off, but they never, ever returned the favor. And I finally realized that I’d been so obsessed with what turned on my boyfriends, I had no idea what actually turned me on. So now I’m doing a little—okay, a lot—of masturbating to figure out what I do and don’t like when it comes to fantasy, touch, and…well, pleasure.
I suck in a breath as the tip of my finger grazes the slick, swollen nub at the top of my sex. Sensation, tight and hot, bolts through me. My finger strokes my clit again and again, circling, slow, insistent caresses that have my back arching off the fluffy expanse of my giant hotel bed. My apartment for the semester won’t be ready for another few days, so my parents put me up at this five-star spot in the meantime. It’s ridiculous, I know, but I wasn’t about to turn down two nights at Madrid’s ritziest hotel.
I watch Rhys slide tackle a guy on TV, sweat pouring down his face as he rips off his shirt when the game ends. My eyes settle on Rhys’s bare chest and torso. He’s got a leanly chiseled body, broad shoulders that move into a sculpted chest and washboard abs, his smooth, tan skin slick with sweat. An athlete’s body. A trail of dark blond hair arrows down the flat plane of his stomach, disappearing into the waistband of his shorts.
Yum.
Even in his anger he moves gracefully, forcefully, the muscles in his biceps bulging as he clasps his hands at the back of his head in defeat. Digging his teeth into his bottom lip, he yells something to no one in particular.
Something that looks a lot like fuck.
I almost come, the first stirrings of my orgasm slithering through my body, tightening the muscles in my legs.
Fuck me, I plead.
My eyes flutter shut and Rhys is there. Shirtless. Sweaty. Smirking his deadly smirk.
With pleasure, love, he murmurs in his gorgeous Welsh accent.
My orgasm hits me hard, a wave of potent, throbbing sensation.
I smile. I’m getting there—I’m figuring it out, my sexuality, my likes. I’ve come more in the past few weeks than I have in the past few years combined.
I’ve always had a boyfriend. I wouldn’t say I’m boy crazy, and I don’t intentionally seek out long-term relationships. But I dated a guy pretty much all through high school, and when we broke up my freshman year of college, I kinda fell into another relationship with the brooding music major down the hall. We split sophomore year. A week later, the cute dude I’d flirted with at a fraternity mixer showed up at my door, and a week after that, we were exclusive.
I don’t regret dating any of those guys. Well—maybe I regret the music major, he was pretty douchey. But now that I’m single for the first time in, like, forever, I recognize how much of myself I sacrificed while I was in those relationships. I’m a bit of a people-pleaser, so whatever I thought my boyfriend at the time wanted, I made sure to give it to him. I put aside my own needs—orgasmic and otherwise—to make sure he was happy.
My boyfriends never got me off like this. But delicious orgasms like the one I just had are, like, the best thing ever. Way better than fumbling my way through a hookup in a frat house.
Speaking of orgasms, the one I just had was good. Really, really good.
I close my eyes, let out a sigh of contentment.
My semester of self-love and sexual awakening is off to an excellent start.
***
After a post-orgasm nap and shower, I make a quick call to my bestie for the restie, Emily. She’s studying abroad, too, but she’ll be in London for a full year; her classes don’t start until late September, so she’s still at home in the states.
“Why hello you world traveler,” she says after picking up on the first ring. “I miss you already. How is Madrid?”
“I mean, I’ve only been here for a couple hours. But already I’ve had some awesome cheese at the airport and an orgasm, so I’d say Madrid is pretty great so far.”
“An orgasm? Cheese? Holy shit, who are you? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you touch a piece of cheese, much less eat it.”
I laugh. “It just felt like the right thing to do. New semester, new city, new me. Or something like that.”
“I approve of this new you. I still can’t believe Mr. Frat Star never made you orgasm. I mean, you went an entire year without coming.”
“And I mean to make up for lost time, believe me. I’m going to come twelve times a day, and eat so much cheese I develop a lactose intolerance.”
I hear Em munching on something. I smile. She always eats when she’s on the phone, usually something bizarre and condiment-oriented—oyster crackers, cornichons, mustard on a spoon, an oyster-cracker-and-cornichon sandwich dipped in mustard on a spoon.
“What about making a bucket list for your semester in Madrid?” she says around a mouthful of her condiment of the day. “You know, writing down all the things this ‘new you’ wants to do. Come, eat cheese, go to all the museums in Madrid or whatever. Could be a fun thing for your newly-single self to do. Maybe keep you away from the boys for a bit. It’s about time you started treating yourself better and getting healthy again.”
I nod. Back at Meryton, my people-pleasing streak bled from boys to my body, too. Part of being the perfect girlfriend is—was, it was—being perfectly pretty. Which of course meant having the perfect body. I do not jest when I say I lost my entire sophomore year to the treadmill; I think I lived off hard-boiled eggs from the dining hall salad bar and iced coffee that year. It was not fun, and it definitely wasn’t healthy.
“I like this bucket list idea, Em,” I say. “I like it a lot. I don’t know what else I want to do besides eat and come, but I’m sure I can think of a couple things.”
“Awesome. Listen, I gotta run, Luke is calling me—”
“Say hello to him for me,” I say. Luke is Emily’s longtime boyfriend; they met at freshman orientation and have been inseparable ever since. Even if he is a little full of himself—his dad is a senator, and Luke is confident he’ll follow in his footsteps—I like him, mostly because he seems to make Em so happy. They have plans to take the world by storm after we graduate: Luke is going to run for office, and Em is going to be his economic policy advisor. I mean, how cool is that?
“Of course,” Em says. “But I’m glad you got to Spain safely and that you’re doing you, literally and figuratively. Keep it up. And call me! Love you.”
She makes a kissing sound. In my head I can see the crumbs that always stick to the screen of her phone when she does this. A wave of homesickness washes over me.
“Love you too, Em.”
I head down to the hotel bar for a bite to eat. Our program warned us Madrileños like to eat late, but I’m still surprised to find the bar empty at a quarter til eight.
The bar itself is swanky to the max. Dark lacquered furniture is scattered around the high-ceilinged space, and the walls are covered in antiqued mirrors that blur my reflection into a sexed-up version of my jet-lagged self. The lighting provided by gilded sconces and crystal chandeliers is low and soft, almost like candlelight. I feel seriously underdressed in jeans and a white top, but I’m too hungry to care.
The bartender politely pretends not to judge me for ordering a Midori sour. My mom, a bourbon drinker, says they are “stupid cocktails stupid preteen girls with fake IDs order”, but my Auntie Janice and I respectfully disagree. Hey, it’s the first drink I’ve (legally) ordered; the drinking age in Spain is eighteen, which is fine by me as I turned twenty last February. Glancing at the menu, I order what I think is some sort of ham sandwich. My Spanish is a little rusty, but I’m proud of myself for not taking up the bartender on his offer to speak English with me.
“No gracias,” I tell him. No thanks. I’d like to practice my Spanish.
He grins. “Vale,” he says, which he then explains is Spain’s awesome mashup of “cool/okay/yes/let’s do it”.
“Vale,” I reply, grinning back.
Maybe, in addition to coming and cheese, I should make it a point to learn to speak Spanish fluently this semester.
Sipping on my Midori sour—I know it’s not cool but yikes is it good—I start to think about all the fun things I want to do while I’m here. I’m going to try octopus and maybe ride a moped and of course I want to learn flamenco guitar and I’d really like to do some community service (maybe with kids?) and I am going to masturbate twice a day to Rhys Maddox…
A list. Em was so right. I need to make a list—a bucket list, if you will—of Fun Things I Shall Do While in Spain.
A spark of excitement catches in my chest. I grab a cocktail napkin from the bar and dig a pen out of my tote bag. Holding the corners of the napkin between my thumb and pinkie, I begin to write.
MY SPAIN BUCKET LIST
  •  Orgasms. Keep having them. Keep exploring what I like sexually.
  •  Go see Rhys Maddox play in real life.
  •  Learn to speak Spanish fluently.
  • Eat carbs, cheese, and weird things like octopus.
  • Buy jeans in a bigger size without wanting to die.
I turn the napkin over.
  • Community service—tutor kids? Do literacy work?
  •  Tour of Madrid on a moped (preferably a pink one). 
  • Go see flamenco guitarist/learn how to play?
I stare at that last bullet point for a while as I slurp the last of my cocktail. There are a million other things I want to do, I just can’t think of them at the moment.
Another Midori sour will probably help. So will getting my food. I’m starving. It’s been a while since I ordered—I wonder if service is usually so slow in Spain?
Setting my glass on the bar, I look up in the hopes of waving down the bartender. I jump when I see a guy standing next to me; I’m so startled I knock my pen to the floor. He must’ve sidled up when I was lost in thought writing.
“Pardon me,” he says, ducking to grab the pen. His British accent is crisp, cutglass. It sends a shiver down my spine.
He stands, holding out the pen, and meets my eyes. His are blue, a shocking, urgent foil to his deeply tanned skin.
“Here you are,” he says.
My stomach drops to the floor with a squish. A starry rush fills my head.
I know those eyes.
I know that face. I also know the tattoos that peek through his starched white shirt, unbuttoned at the neck.
Oh God.
Oh God.
Ohmigod ohmigod I am going to scream don’t scream don’t pee yourself play it cool ohmigod this can’t be happening don’t pee please don’t pee you are in public ohmigod.
It’s the real Rhys Maddox. And in the space of three heartbeats I am more turned on by him than I ever was by his fantasy counterpart.
Chapter 3
Laura
It’s like something out of a dream. I reach out in slow motion and take the pen from his hand, my heart hammering inside my throat. This can’t be happening. My first night in Madrid and I run into the super hot fooballer I’ve been crushing on all summer?
I mean, what are the chances?
“Thanks,” I breathe. He smells delicious. The musky, clean scent of his cologne fills my head, surrounds me. A familiar heat tugs at the place between my legs. Whatever cologne he’s wearing, I want to swim in it.
“Sorry to startle you,” he says.
“It’s all right,” I say, my face burning.
A beat of silence passes between us as his eyes search mine. I’d like to think the silence is heated, filled with sudden, passionate longing, but I know that’s just wishful thinking on my part. I’ve been getting off on this guy for a couple months— back home, I started watching Madrid matches after I was accepted to the study abroad program—so of course my brain is going to short-circuit to all things sex when I see him in real life.
But those baby blues…goodness they slay me. Their translucent color is warm, liquid, less slate blue than warm-Caribbean-sea cerulean. They seem to glow in the low light of the bar.
My face is so hot I’m worried I might faint. Thankfully the bartender appears; Rhys clears his throat and turns to him.
While they chat, I check Rhys out from the corner of my eye. He runs a hand through his thick, dark blond hair. Tonight he’s wearing it loose, and it falls with Prince Charming-like elegance away from his face, grazing the top of his collar. His jaw and neck are covered in golden-hued stubble; his profile is strong, handsome, marked by a boyish, pert nose and invitingly full lips. I watch his lips move as he talks, transfixed by their softness, bowled over by the curiosity to know what he tastes like, how he kisses, if he’s as good with those lips as he is in my fantasies.
As if his face weren’t gorgeous enough, he’s dressed to the nines. Nothing fancy—jeans, white button down, navy blazer, sneakers—but the way he wears it all makes for a devastatingly perfect whole. The jeans hug his thick, muscled thighs in just the right places. His shirt and blazer fit him so well, so snugly, they must be custom made. His woven red belt matches his pristine kicks, making him appear at once casual and sexily slick. A monogrammed Louis Vuitton roller suitcase is drawn up beside him.
And don’t even get me started on the tattoos. I can only see them when he moves just so, peeking from underneath the sleeve of his blazer or the collar of shirt. A hint of script there, the bottom half of a star here. There’s something tantalizing about only getting a glimpse of his tats. Like, even though I’ve seen him shirtless and I know what they look like, I’m turned on by the tease.
I also can’t help but think his tattoos are somehow incongruous with his polished, almost preppy outfit. The tats say bad boy, but the custom blazer says well-to-do businessman who also happens to be super hot.
So which one is Rhys—the bad boy or the businessman? Is he both? Neither?
I really, really want to find out the answer. Which is ridiculous, because— hello!—he is Rhys Maddox and I am an American nobody.
I’ll just have to settle for a little after dinner sesh with fantasy Rhys. Not a bad gig, considering he makes me come, hard, every time I ask him to. I should actually thank real Rhys for providing such excellent inspiration for hours upon hours of orgasms.
Rhys orders a porterhouse steak I don’t remember being on the menu to go, and vodka on the rocks to sip on while he waits. No well liquor for this guy—he asks for Belvedere.
I watch him reach for his back pocket, pulling out a wallet that matches his suitcase.
I should thank real Rhys.
My pulse thumps, and the idea appears, fully formed and insistent, inside my head. I shouldn’t—I mean, yeah, this is my chance, I’ll never see him again, but it’d be weird, wouldn’t it?—I can’t just come out and say—
“I got it,” I blurt, reaching around my chair for my bag.
Their gazes—Rhys’s and the bartender’s—snap to my face.
“I’m sorry?” Rhys says.
“Your drink.” I pop open my wallet and dig out my debit card. “Your dinner, too. Everything. All of it. I want to pay for all of it.”
I’m about to pass the bartender my card when Rhys holds up his hand.
“That’s kind of you, but I can’t let you do that.”
I manage to wiggle around him, placing my card in the bartender’s hand.
“Too late,” I say. “Let me buy you a drink.”
“For what?” he replies. “Winning? Because we didn’t win today. I was complete shit out there, as a matter of fact.”
His accent dips, softens, when he says shit. It comes out sounding more like shite. My heart skips a beat.
I like it.
“No,” I say, swallowing. “Not for winning.”
He looks at me, the skin around his eyes crinkling as he narrows them. God he’s gorgeous. “Are you a football fan?”
“Not particularly.” My face is going up in flames again. I turn to the bartender. “Another drink for me, too, please,” I say. Eff, I forgot to use my Spanish.
“Then why do you insist on treating me?”
I watch the bartender scoop ice into a short, wide glass. “Because.” Because I want to thank you for all the orgasms. “Um. It’s a way of thanking you, I guess?”
“Thanking me?” he says. He nods his thanks at the bartender as he grabs his vodka rocks. “For what?”
He’s looking at me, I feel it. I resist the urge to pick up my bucket list napkin and fan myself with it.
The words are out of my mouth before I can stop them.
“For the good times,” I say.
My eyes flick to his. Oh, he’s definitely looking at me. But his eyes have changed. I could be imagining it—who am I kidding, I’m definitely imagining it—but they’re alive in a way they weren’t two minutes ago, the blue shaded with a spark of something warm. Interest, maybe? Amusement?
His perfectly kissable lips part, like he’s about to say something. But our food arrives, and suddenly we’re surrounded by a phalanx of waiters. His dinner is ready at the same time mine is, naturally, even though I ordered mine half an hour before.
I pick at the french fries on my plate and watch the waiters fawn over Rhys. Would you like us to have this sent up to your room?, one of them asks, pointing to the tidy boxes of food on the bar. I’ll have all our sauces sent up as well, another adds, snapping at a busboy.
“Actually,” Rhys says. He sets his wallet on the counter pulls out the bar stool next to mine. “I think I’d like to eat here, if that’s all right?”
I almost choke on a fry. Uneasy silence settles over the bar, and it hits me that Rhys is waiting for my response—not the waiters’.
“Um,” I say. “Sure. Yeah. Yes, of course.”
“Brilliant.” Rhys sets his glass on the bar. His elbow brushes mine as he places a napkin on his lap. I think I’m going to have a heart attack. “But first, an Instagram.”
“An Instagram?”
“Yes.” He pulls his phone from his pocket and snaps a quick picture of his fancy steak and fancier drink. I notice he makes sure to include his designer wallet in the shot. “I get a lot of likes on food pictures. I’ve got eleven million followers, but I’m hoping to bump it up to twenty. Sponsors really love it when you have a big following like that.”
“Oh,” I say. “Right. Makes sense.”
“So,” he says, pocketing his phone again. “What good times are you talking about? I’d remember if we met.”
“We haven’t,” I say.
“I know.” He sets his knife down and crosses his right hand over his left, offering it to me. “I’m Rhys.”
“I know,” I say, trying not to smile. “I’m Laura.”
I take his hand, noticing the fat gold Rolex on his wrist. I grip his hand firmly, trying not to squirm when I realize how clammy my palms are. He grips me firmly, too. I appreciate that. I think it’s a little patronizing when guys handle you like you’re made of glass.
His skin is warm, his enormous hand swallowing my own. His touch is confident, sure.
I want you to touch me like that all over.
“Laura,” he repeats. “Tell me more about these good times. I’m intrigued.”
“You shouldn’t be. It’s really not that great of a story, Rhys.” Reese—it’s pronounced like the candy. Saying his name out loud, in public, feels weird.
One side of his handsome mouth kicks up as he chews his steak. “Somehow I doubt that, Laura.”
“Let’s see how much liquid courage that’ll give me,” I say, nodding at my fresh green cocktail, “and then maybe I’ll tell you.”
He cocks a blond brow at my glass. “What is that? A sour apple martini?”
“Worse,” I say. “It’s a Midori sour.”
“That is worse,” he says, laughing.
The sound of his laugh—genuine, deep, pleased—makes me smile so hard I feel it in my eyeballs.
It makes me relax. “Midori sours may not be cool,” I say. “But they are delicious.”
“As delicious as you?” he says, his smile morphing into a devilish little smirk.
“Wow.” I sip my cocktail. “Wow, Rhys, that was pretty terrible.”
“It was, wasn’t it?” He laughs again. “Sorry. I’m complete rubbish at pick-up lines. Like, embarrassingly awful at them. I should probably put in some practice before I send another girl running from the building like it’s on fire.”
“You’ve sent girls running?”
“Well, no.” He meets my eyes. “But it’s only a matter of time. You were tempted to run, weren’t you?”
I bite my lip. “If the bartender didn’t have my credit card, I would’ve been out the door ten minutes ago.”
“I wouldn’t blame you.”
“How about this?” I say, straightening in my chair. “Practice your pick-up lines with me. I promise not to judge.”
“No you don’t.”
“You’re right, I don’t, I’m totally going to judge you and tell all my friends how terrible you are at getting laid. But I paid for your dinner, so I think that’s fair.”
“Agreed.” Rhys sets down his knife and fork on his plate. He turns to me, resting one elbow on the bar and the other on the back of his chair. His blue eyes dance. “Ready?”
“Ready.”
“And you promise not to laugh?”
“Promise.”
“All right.” He clears his throat. His face is a mask of mock-seriousness. “Hey girl, do you know karate? Because your body is kickin’.”
I suck in my cheeks to keep from laughing. Not at the line, but at him, because Rhys is trying not to laugh, too.
“Hey girl. Do you work at Starbucks? Because I like you a-latte.” He leans in. “Get it? A-latte?”
“I do,” I manage. “Keep going. The ‘hey girl’ part is amazing.”
“I know. It never works.” He takes a sip of his cocktail. “Hey girl. Apart from being sexy, what do you do for a living?”
“Total winner right there.”
“Isn’t it though?” He wiggles his eyebrows. “Hey girl. I love every bone in your body, especially mine.”
I bend over, clutching my waist.
“Hey girl. Is your mom a baker? Because you’ve got some nice buns.” That’s it. I can’t take it. I burst out laughing, and Rhys does, too. He hands me a napkin to wipe the tears from my eyes.
“Thanks,” I wheeze. “That was awesome.”
“Awesomely awful, you mean,” he says.
I blink the last of the tears away. Rhys’s blurry face snaps into sudden, devastating focus. It’s like I’m seeing him—the real him—for the first time all over again. He’s so freaking hot it makes my stomach flip.
I look away. “Amazing or not, your pick-up lines made me laugh harder than I have in a long time.”
“Then it was worth the embarrassment,” he replies. “You’ve got a beautiful laugh and even better smile. You should show them off more often.”
I drain the rest of my drink. I can’t meet his eyes.
I mean, seriously. If you look past the glitz and polish of Rhys the soccer star, there’s a pretty charming dude to be found.
We talk, we laugh some more. I tell him that I’m studying here for a semester. He tells me about his favorite places in Madrid I should try out. Restaurants, cafés, shops.
When I finally check my phone, I’m surprised to find it’s almost eleven.
“Yikes,” I say, pushing back from the bar after I ask for the bill. My stool wobbles. “It’s way past my bedtime. I should get going. I have a lot I need to get done before classes start this week, so…”
Rhys stands. He takes my elbow in his hand and gently helps me to my feet. Ribbons of warmth unfurl inside me from this place where skin meets skin. His fingertips linger on my bare arm.
I look up at him. Whatever was in his eyes before—the interest, the amusement—it’s back, stronger now, and he makes no effort to hide it.
“I’ll walk you up to your room,” he says. My pulse leaps. My hand shakes as I sign the bill.
“Why are you staying here? At a hotel, I mean.” I nod at his suitcase. “You have a place in Madrid, right?”
Rhys pulls up the handle on his suitcase with a snap. “I do. But my flat is being renovated at the moment, so I come here when I need a break from the noise and the mess. Plus I’ve done a few commercials for this hotel chain. They comped me a suite.”
“Ah,” I say, starting to walk away from the bar. “Must be nice.”
“Wait! Don’t forget your napkin. Looks like you put a bit of work into it.”
Shit. In my hot-soccer-player-stupor, I’d forgotten about my bucket list. I whirl around and grab the napkin, stuffing it into my purse before he can get a closer look. I don’t know why, but I don’t want Rhys to see it.
“Jotting down some thoughts?” he asks, cocking a brow again. A tiny voice inside my head says tell him. Tell him how you’re determined to live a little this semester. Tell him the list is all about becoming the happy, healthy girl you want to be.
But I don’t. Rhys may be a charmer, but he’s also a guy. A really rich, really good looking guy who obviously cares a lot about appearances. The flashy Rolex and porterhouse steak and Instagram are all proof of that. I’d feel silly, telling him I’m trying to care less about superficial stuff like that; telling him I’m looking for happy and healthy and self-induced orgasms instead. I can imagine him rolling his beautiful blue eyes as he pumps the brakes on our fun, flirty conversation.
I also feel like I’d be passing judgment on Rhys’s fabulous footballer lifestyle. I don’t know him; I don’t know what his story is, where he comes from. I’m sure he has his reasons for living the way he does, just like I have my reasons for putting together a wine-and-cheese heavy bucket list.
Reasons I don’t feel like sharing with Rhys Maddox at the moment.
“It’s nothing,” I say, zipping up my bag. “Just a little project I’m working on. C’mon, let’s head up.”
Rhys smirks again, a devilish, knowing little thing that sends a shiver down my spine. “Let’s.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

author-photo-1

Jessica Peterson began reading romance to escape the decidedly unromantic awkwardness of her teenage years. Having found solace in the likes of Mr. Darcy, Jamie Fraser (OMG love the gingers!), and Edward Cullen, it wasn’t long before she began creating tall, dark and handsome heroes of her own.

She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband, Mr.Peterson, and her smelly Goldendoodle Martha Bean.

Website || Facebook || Twitter || Instagram || Goodreads

987.png
Jessica Peterson is giving away 2 $10 Amazon gift cards!

CLICK HERE FOR RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY!