Boyfriend Bargain Page 2

No one else has this kind of stupid effect on people.

Standing on my tiptoes, I watch as Zack Morgan, AKA Z, AKA the Heartbreaker, AKA Douchebag (that one’s my own contribution to the list) strides through the ground-level basement door, dipping his head so he doesn’t bang it on the frame.

Heartbreaker. Pfft. In other words, he’s a womanizer.

That’s a moot point, though. I’m not here to discuss societal stereotypes of future pro athletes. I’m here to bargain.

Two other players—one blond and one a redhead—flank him on each side like chess pieces protecting their king. I squint. I think those guys are his…wingers?

The DJ turns down the music to announce the hockey team has arrived, and a buzz goes through the crowd as partiers clap and cheer.

The players move, the sea of people parting enough that I see the entirety of him in his full-blown glory and a tingle of something zips up my spine.

Finer than frog hair is what my southern mama would have said about him, and there’s no doubt it’s true. He’s hot as hell and it slams into you when you look at him, like a great wind in a hurricane.

Without being too obvious, I study him from the bottom of his black motorcycle boots up to the tight jeans that cling to his thighs, all the way to the fitted, super-sleek dark grey leather jacket encasing his well-built upper body. On anyone else, that jacket would come off as pretentious—like a wannabe biker—but he looks like he just stepped off a movie screen.

He’s a big-ass Viking.

I examine the six-foot, six-inch frame of the NHL’s number one draft pick. Apparently, he’s so slick on the ice that the Nashville Predators drafted him this past June, willing to wait a year for him to finish his senior year at HU.

It’s definitely not just his toned, athletic grace in the arena that captures people’s attention. It’s that face. Chiseled and firm and strong, his jaw is spectacular. And his long, wavy, dirty blond hair? Good Lord, I’ve heard jokes about “hockey hair” and how hot it is—and now I see why. My fingers itch to touch it.

His nose is rather long, fitting for his height, but there’s a slight imperfection, a small dent, which I imagine came from a hockey injury. It’s impossible to see his eye color in this dim lighting, but I already know from his online HU bio that they’re grey.

As if he senses me staring, he flicks his eyes in my direction and I stiffen, part of me terrified he’ll find me, the other part hoping he does. It was the same last week when I showed up for ladies’ night at the Tipsy Moose to spy on him. (It was right there in his bio that he frequented the popular bar, so I wouldn’t call it stalking.)

That night I sat in a back booth, sipping on a shot of smooth tequila, trying to conjure up the backbone to go up to him and introduce myself. I mean, I have to start somewhere, but I’m not a flirty person. I have balls, don’t get me wrong, but when it comes to him, nerves abound.

You have to make a move, Sugar.

With a deep exhalation, I take a step toward him just as a group of sorority girls call out his name and run up to say hi, rapt expressions on their faces as if he’s the big present on Christmas morning.

Come on…

My hands twist as people circle around him, guys too, clapping him on the back and clamoring to get his attention. I don’t blame them, I guess, if sucking up to athletes is your thing.

Doubt creeps in, and I frown, worrying I can’t compete with this kind of attention. I’m not bubbly or even a hockey fan.

He moves around the crowd and stalks into the center of the room, his gaze searching the perimeter, and even though I’ve eased back behind the column, I read the concentration in his gaze.

The rumor is, at certain parties he chooses a new girl to be his for the next month. See? Douchebag. Miss December has apparently been dumped, and he’s ready for another one if the throng of females scrambling to get to him is anything to go by. As I watch, one girl crawls between the legs of her friends then jumps up in front of him and throws her arms around his neck. She lets out a squeal, and I roll my eyes. All I need is some popcorn and this is a show.

After a few hugs, he manages to move away from them and takes up residence near the dance floor. His two friends stand next to him as he scans the crowd, arms loose at his sides, his gaze moving from one face to the next as if searching for something special, much like I do when picking out a good donut.

His attention lands on the column, and his eyes rove until they capture mine. I freeze. Crap. My body hums, and I nearly drop my cup as a jolt of adrenaline lights up my veins.


Maybe this won’t be as hard as I thought.

Maybe I can get his attention.

But then he frowns.

Wait—why is he frowning?

Am I that awful? Well, yes. I glance down at my black leggings and puffy black North Face jacket. I’m a blob in shapeless clothes, and I guess I could have actually put on party attire before I came, but this extravaganza happened right after my work shift and I didn’t have time.

“I can’t do this,” I mutter under my breath.

He’s the king of the ice, and I’m just…no one. I come from nothing. I have nothing, literally. Okay, I have fifty-three dollars in my checking account, but that’s barely enough to hold me over until my next paycheck. Thank goodness for scholarships and loans. But man, those loans are big, just waiting for me when I graduate. I twist a strand of hair around my index finger, making it into a tight spiral before letting it go.

I have to be realistic.

This crazy, harebrained idea will never work.

Plus, I don’t have time for over-the-top, testosterone-driven superstar athletes.

Until now, that is.

I have to make time.

Because Zack Morgan is the key to me getting into the law school of my dreams. He just has to agree to be my fake boyfriend.



The door to the Kappa house looms in front of me, and I toy with the idea of ditching. I hate the dog and pony show that waits for me inside.

I’m sick of it.

I know what they see—a talented hockey player with the world at his feet—but it’s not true. Nothing is true.

I push a hand through my hair. What I should do is get the hell out of here and decompress from our win tonight—which we barely pulled out of our ass.

At least I didn’t have another episode.

My gut twists as I think back to the Minnesota-Duluth game and how I lost my shit. I can’t let that happen again, not when it might get enough press that the Predators catch on.

I touch the necklace that’s under my shirt. It’s not a magic talisman, but it does keep me grounded—for now—and as my new sports psychologist says, it sure as hell won’t hurt.

I grimace. He saw my fuckup all over TV like everyone else.

I’ve been nervous and anxious during a game before, but that debacle…that was a new animal.

I feel color rising on my face. It was also embarrassing.

That night, the medics and trainers took one look at me and called 911. I came to and told them to stop. Fuck, I pleaded for them to cancel the ambulance, but they didn’t and I ended up at the ER. One EKG and a few tests later, there I was, my heart just fine. Our team lost to our biggest rival, and I walked out of the hospital and told the public I’d had a recent bout with the flu and wasn’t completely recovered yet.


Only Coach, Eric, and Reece know the truth.

Because if people discover I have real issues with anxiety, I’m done in the NHL, all my dreams destroyed.

Thus the new psychologist. The thing is, you can’t fix a guy with guilt so deep it cuts like a knife.

“Dude. You going to stand out here in the cold all night? Everyone’s waiting.” Eric winks and nods his head at the door. “Some girl is dying to get with you.”

I throw a look at him, taking in the styled dark red hair and short beard. He’s all decked out in his blue dress shirt, slacks, and loafers—his I’m gonna get laid tonight outfit. My best friend since summer training his freshman year, he’s a year younger than me and sharp as hell underneath that lighthearted playboy exterior.

“It’s just a party, man.” This comes from my brother Reece, who’s also dressed for pussy, his face angular and chiseled like mine. His blond hair is short, though, and he’s two inches shorter than me.

He and the team are the reason I decided to finish my senior year when I could have gone straight to the NHL. I want a championship for Hawthorne so bad I can feel it in my bones. We missed it last year, and damn, that sticks in my throat.

Reece gives me a come on look, exasperation on his face. “You need to lighten up. Just enjoy yourself.”

Enjoy myself?

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