Olivia Dawson doesn't make mistakes. Unless those mistakes are a tall, broad-shouldered, cocky baseball player named Devon Miller. Devon and Olivia have been competing in their engineering classes since freshman year, and he seems to want nothing more than to get under her skin and shake her confidence. Unless you count that one time when he got under more than just her skin
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Gamma house was filled with bodies sweating out the gallons of beer and vodka consumed over the last hour. The mood wasn't jovial. In the last week, the baseball team had lost two of their players to a steroid scandal.
The stench filled my nose, making me want to simultaneously vomit and run. Neither of which I could do. I glanced at the red cup in my hand. The level of beer hadn't changed since Paige shoved it at me before getting distracted by her boyfriend, Jayce. I was only at this stupid party because of a bet we made last semester. Talk about feeling totally out of place. My fingers tightened around the plastic, spilling warm beer over the rim. She'd brought me to the one frat on campus I hated being around.
Rumors were running rampant that one of the baseball players had been arrested, another rushed to the hospital. I didn't pay much attention to rumors — or the baseball team, for that matter. And my mood soured more than usual after someone spilled red wine on my new cream shirt less than ten minutes after I'd entered the house. The wine spread like blood across my chest, highlighting my average bust-size even more.
"Wow, be still my heart. The great Olivia Dawson has blessed us with her presence." Devon Miller glanced into my still-full beer and shook his head. "Seriously, Liv, you need to live a little."
"Fuck off, Devon." I shoved the cup toward him. Bet or no bet, I wasn't staying in this dump any longer.
"Wait," Devon called behind me during a break in the too-loud music. He caught up to me when my hand hit the doorknob. "Just wait. I didn't mean to piss you off."
I dropped my head. Pissing me off was one of Devon's specialties, one he'd been perfecting since freshman year. The last thing I wanted was to spend time with Devon Miller. Two and a half years of having almost every class together was more than enough. That, and the way we met. Despite our mutual indiscretion, I still shuddered at that memory.
"This year hasn't started off great, and I need to blow off some steam. I seem to recall you had a certain skill at beer pong. But that was a few years ago. I'm sure a freshman could kick your ass now."
I turned around to stare into his dark-hazel eyes. Those same eyes I'd lost myself in once before. The first time I met him at a freshman mixer, I fell for his easy charm and into his bed. Stupid tequila.
"Come on, Olivia. Play one game. What've you got to lose?"
"To you? Nothing," I snapped.
"Losing to me seems to be one of your best skills."
I huffed and turned away from him.
"You can't still be pissed at me," he said before I could step away.
I spun back around. "I should've introduced Maggie Fielder for her lecture, not you."
"Why? Am I not good enough?"
"She's one of the top female engineers in the country. It should've been a woman who introduced her." Of course I was still pissed. We'd both pitched our reasons for introducing Dr. Fielder, and for some dumbass reason the head of our department, also a man, picked Devon.
"And you beat me out for the Donnell scholarship. I'm not angry about that."
My arms fell to my sides. He had a valid point. We'd volleyed wins back and forth over the last few years. Still, there was more to it than that.
"So don't play against me this time. Team up with me so I can finally beat Chuck and Barry. They've been wiping the floor with everyone tonight."
"What's in it for me?" I asked. Beer pong did sound like fun, and I didn't want to ring in the new semester studying in my room.
"Besides the pleasure of my company?"
"Try again." I turned completely around and crossed my arms over my chest. Since our first engineering class together, he'd made it perfectly clear what he thought of me: that I was in the wrong field. It probably didn't help that I answered the prof's questions before he could and I got them right. Our first class became a back and forth battle of knowledge. I won. I never thought the word "arch-nemesis" would apply to anyone in my world ...
Until I met Devon.
"Fine, the pleasure of taking Chuck and Barry down." He leaned in closer. Beer wafted off his breath. "And I'll put in a good word with Dad."
My breath caught in my throat. It was no secret that I wanted to interview at JenCar Aerospace for an internship. I'd applied at the beginning of the fall semester, but I didn't even get a call. Paige and I reworked my resume for two months, and I'd sent it in right before the holiday break. They would be calling potential candidates in the next week or so. I had to be one of them — and Devon's father was a top engineer at JenCar. A word from him would at least get me in the door. But was it worth selling my soul?
No, I'd get there on my own. I didn't need Devon's help. I'd do it on my own, like always.
"Not necessary," I said. "What else do you have?"
He raised his eyebrows. "Fine." His gaze drifted toward the ceiling until a smile erupted over his lips. "You're taking Lit with Dorchester, right?"
I nodded. Dorchester was a notorious hard-ass who didn't care what your major was and expected every student to be fluent in old English. I'd avoided filling the requirement for as long as possible.
"I took it last fall. And I still have my notes. I'll give them to you. Deal?"
That was too good to pass up. Dorchester didn't use the same syllabus, but the notes would be invaluable. I couldn't afford my GPA to drop even half a point. "You know I hate you, right?" I said for good measure.
"You've made that clear. Although I still don't know why. I'm pretty lovable." He offered his hand. "What do you say? Partners?"
I slid my fingers across his and squeezed hard. "Partners. But only for this one game."
Devon laced our fingers together, tugging me behind him as we maneuvered the obstacle course of bodies. I didn't want to think about his skin against mine. Or how letting myself go for one night had almost ruined me, but the rush of the memory my freshman year filled my head. The challenge, the alcohol, the feeling of his lips against mine, our bodies pressed together. I shook my head, wanting nothing more than to erase that miscalculation. It almost cost me Henry, even if I did lose him in the long run. I wasn't about to make the same mistake.
I should've said no to the game. But the lure of his notes was too much. Besides, Paige was right. I spent too much time on my own. It wasn't that I didn't like people; it was just easier to stay focused on my goals without any distractions. I talked to people in my classes, but I didn't hang out with them outside of class. Not that I had a lot of time. If I wasn't in class or studying, I was at my job. Paige was the only person I hung out with who had nothing to do with engineering or serving steaks.
Devon let go of my hand as we stepped into the old Victorian's dining room, where the ping pong table was center stage. Chuck and Barry stood at one end. Two of the guys from the basketball team were at the other. Judging by the empty cups and the way the basketball players swayed, they were losing badly.
"We got next game," Devon shouted. He leaned down and whispered in my ear, "Chuck and Barry are stone cold sober. Let's change that."
I nodded. Why was I doing this? I hated Devon. But taking down Chuck Mathis and Barry Acklin was worth dusting off my beer pong skills. Besides, I'd promised myself more fun, and beer pong definitely qualified. Live a little was my motto for the new semester. I watched and waited, wishing the woo-girl behind me would tone it down a notch — or five. Every single time someone made a shot, she screamed at the top of her lungs.
The game ended with Chuck and Barry on top and only two of their cups drained. Devon and I stepped to the table, and I went into rules mode. I moved around to the end Barry and Chuck had no doubt occupied since the party started.
"Challenger's choice. We get this end." I smiled. Unseating them meant getting inside their heads.
Chuck bowed with a grin. "Of course. We don't need to be on this side to win."
"Or to lose." I glanced over my shoulder at Devon.
Chuck slapped Barry on the shoulder and laughed. "Devon, where'd you get this girl?"
"Not a girl, hotshot," I said, stepping up to him. Why men were never called boys but women were still girls irritated me. One prof learned that the hard way after calling me "little girl" in front of the class. The dean and I had a nice discussion about it, too. "Haven't been a 'girl' for a very long time."
"Watch it, man. She'll eat you up and spit you out." Devon put his arm around my shoulders. It took every ounce of my strength not to shake it off.
"Oh, she's a ringer?" Barry asked.
Devon squeezed me closer. That was enough to push me over the edge. I elbowed him in the ribs. Chuck and Barry started laughing as they moved toward the other end of the table.
"Don't do that again," I whispered at my partner with my back to our opponents. "Keep your hands to yourself and your focus on the game."
"Like when I'm on the mound," he said with his hands in the air.
One of the football players set up the cups, ten on each side, in a triangle. The woo-girl poured beer three-quarters full into each red cup. Someone else brought both teams white plastic cups with fresh water.
Chuck shouted for silence and the crowd complied. Barry spun in a circle with his arms out. Chuck followed suit, announcing the rules. "Gamma house rules, lady or no lady." He bowed. I rolled my eyes. "The rules are simple. Last cup loses. The losing team has a chance at redemption. Now" — he put his hands on the table — "what's the bet?"
"We lose, I do your laundry for a month," Devon said, mimicking Chuck's pose. "We win, you make us dinner."
What? I opened my mouth to protest, but it was too late. Barry and Chuck had already agreed.
Barry flipped a paddle, catching it smoothly and pointing it at me. "Ladies first."
I took the ball and tossed it into a cup on the edge of the table. The key to winning was to get the hard shots out of the way while still sober. Unfortunately, it wasn't just my tactic; Chuck and Barry had the same idea. Going up against two baseball players probably wasn't the best idea, but Devon was a pitcher. His aim was perfect. I also had the advantage of four older brothers, who'd taught me how to play and to win. Nick and Trevor had probably started teaching my two younger brothers, since they were both in high school now.
My vision was getting blurry after downing three cups. Despite my skill at beer pong and other drinking games, I wasn't much of a drinker. Occasionally, Paige and I would have a girl's night, which always included a bottle of wine, but I hadn't been to a real party since sophomore year. I'd made it a point to concentrate harder on my studies after my screw up. Even more so after Henry left.
"You okay?" Devon whispered. His warm breath caressed my neck and I leaned into him.
"I got this," I whispered back. The next shot was mine. I closed my eyes for a moment. When I opened them, my focus returned. There were only four cups left on their end, three on ours. I took my aim at the one closest to Chuck. It was right in front of his crotch. If I missed, maybe I'd hit him in the family jewels. I started giggling.
"Olivia?" Devon asked when I stumbled a bit. His arm wrapped around my waist, flattening my body into his. It was such a sexy body. I wondered how much it had changed over the years. He definitely had more muscle. "I think you're a little drunk."
I pressed my lips to his ear. He shivered, tightening his grip on my waist. "I got this."
"Will you two just get a room already?" Chuck slurred, finally losing his sobriety. "Or were you planning on giving us a show?"
Devon's grip loosened as I pulled free of him. What was I thinking? I wasn't, and that was the problem. Finish the game. Leave the party. That was my goal. No, win the game then leave the party. Alone. Not with Devon Miller. I wasn't walking that path again.
The cup came into sharp view and I nailed it easily. Chuck lifted the drink, draining it. Barry missed his shot, but Devon didn't. We had three cups, they had two. I was determined to make it one. Devon handed me the ball, his fingers lingering over mine. Maybe it was the alcohol, but his hazel eyes pierced through me. I wanted to run my hand through his ginger hair, just to see if it was as soft as I remembered. He raised his eyebrows.
Two cups left. I just needed to get one. Devon would finish them off. I aimed at the cup closest and tossed the ball. It hit the edge, rolled around it like a golf ball, before falling into the beer. I threw my hands in the air, celebrating my awesome shot, then threw them around Devon. Partners hugged their partners. There wasn't anything more to it. Except I could feel his breath quicken, could feel his heart racing. Could feel his muscles clenching. It was hard to let go, but we had a game to finish. We had a bet to win. Besides, it didn't matter how good he felt. I hated him.
Barry didn't miss, and I drained the beer like it was water. Beer was never my favorite thing. It was better than coffee, though. I wondered if they made coffee beer. What would that taste like? My incoherent thoughts drifted, each piling on top of the other. And I didn't see Devon's shot.
How could he miss? He threw a tiny baseball at a tiny mitt at eighty miles an hour. How could he miss a giant cup full of beer? I wanted to scold him or smack his ass or something. I turned to do just that when I heard a splash. There was a beer pong ball in the last cup. Chuck had made the shot. I looked at Chuck, then back at the ball floating in the beer, then back at Chuck.
I took the ball from the cup, then drained it. "You're going down, Mathis."
"Olivia," Devon said somewhere far, far away.
I didn't care what he had to say. This wasn't over. Losing wasn't an option. I tossed the ball toward the other end of the table. It bounced before landing in the cup. It fucking bounced.
Chuck and Barry threw their arms in the air as several onlookers slapped their backs. We'd lost. I never lost at beer pong. I turned toward my partner. He shrugged, but that wasn't good enough. I wanted more.
I wanted to win.
"Redemption," I shouted. That shut everybody up. "Double or nothing. We win, we're even. We lose, Devon does your laundry for a month and I do it for another month."
"Oh, we're on," Barry said. He stumbled back to the table, but not before locking lips with a woman who wasn't ashamed of her body. Good for her. It made me a little jealous I couldn't be more like that. Chuck kissed a pretty blonde on the cheek. She wasn't nearly as drunk as he was. Or as I was, for that matter.
Ten minutes later, the game was over. Devon held me up as I celebrated not doing Chuck or Barry's laundry. But they weren't done. They hadn't lost all night. There was no way those guys were going down without a fight. We started another game. We may have won. We may have lost.
I couldn't remember.
The sun crept through the blinds, hitting my eyes with such intensity I turned my face into the pillow. Henry's arm draped over my body, and the heat of his bare chest seeped through the thin shirt I wore. I relaxed against him. It had been so long since he'd held me like this.
Like a year.
Every muscle tightened. Who was this guy snuggling me? I didn't want to open my eyes. I didn't want to know where I was. And I certainly didn't want to know whose arm was holding me. No, not at all. This was a dream. A horrible dream. I'd stepped into someone else's life and this wasn't mine. Because I did not do things like this. I did not sleep with guys I didn't know. I did not wake up in strange beds. I did not wake up and not remember what had happened the night before. Well, not since freshman year. Oh God, not since I got drunk at the Gamma house party my second week of school and woke up in Devon Miller's room.
My eyes shot open. The stark white walls were bare, but I knew a dorm at Westland when I saw one. The single bed across the room was disheveled but empty. At least there wasn't another witness to my shame. I oriented myself the best someone who was pinned down could. My internal GPS kicked in. The sun was breaking through so I was on the east side of the building. That meant the bed I was trapped in was on the north side of the wall. I mentally scanned the campus layout. Only one dorm faced that direction, Donaldson. My head drummed as the hangover settled in. Donaldson was also the jock dorm, and I was at Gamma house last night, which was the jock frat. Hot breath danced across my bare neck.
Excerpted from "Game On"
Copyright © 2017 Lynn Stevens.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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