They're changing the rules...
College Quarterback Preston Rush is living the dream. He's leading his team to the National Championship and days away from earning a 'first round draft pick' label. When he meets Little Bo Peep at a Halloween party, he thinks he's scored big. Instead, he wakes up in a jail cell with the corseted beauty. Because of him, she's in trouble and when he discovers her true identity, he realizes, his nightmare is just beginning.
The always shooting-for-perfection Priscilla Winslow can't believe her good deed has cost her a soccer career. Even though she knows it isn't Preston's fault, she can't forgive him for the disaster that is her life. She just wishes her damn body would get the message. Every time she sees him, it's all she can do not to kiss him.
When everything crashes down around him, Preston will have to decide if doing the right thing is worth losing it all.
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||2 MB|
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By Shae Ross, Candace Havens
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Leigh Kraushaar
All rights reserved.
I'm going to kill my sister. Strike that. First, I'll shave her bald, then I'll kill her.
White ruffles billow around my legs. I'm following my best friend Jace to the entrance of the Rathskeller bar. It's the night before Halloween and thanks to my sister Cate, who stole my badass ninja costume and left me hers, I'm dressed as Little Bo Peep. Despite the fact that I haven't worn a dress in years and Cate doesn't wear anything unless it's fringed, feathered, or sequined, she thought this "stripper on her way to a carnival" look would work for me.
Double doors burst open, blasting the night air with riotous sounds from the crowd within. Anxiety bubbles in my swampy stomach as we sidestep the gang of sweaty men that are laughing and stumbling out. "Hey, look, it's Cinderella," one of them calls in a tone of drunken euphoria. I locate the source — a stocky cowboy, grinning at me from under the brim of his Stetson. I keep moving, contemplating whether the pocket square tucked in his jean jacket is a costume or his everyday swag. When I pass him, he turns and walks backward, opening his hands over an impressive beer belly. "Aw, where ya' goin'? I got your Prince Charming right here."
Jace loops her arm through mine and nods to his gut. "You need to reacquaint yourself with a mirror, my friend." His buddies roar, nudging him toward the parking lot, and I mutter over my shoulder as Jace tugs me toward the entrance, "Then one of his grandkids needs to school him on the difference between a nursery rhyme and a Disney character." I blow out a breath then instantly suck it back as Jace reaches for the door handle.
"Wait!" My palm slaps the door, and she pauses, staring at me with an expectant look. "I can't do it. I'm sorry. I thought I could but — I just can't." I spin and lunge toward the parking lot but she catches the hem of my dress with a firm stomp. My corset tightens, pinching my ribs, and I jerk to a stop.
"Priscilla! Get your ruffled butt back here."
I grab a fistful of fabric and yank. It springs loose, sending me staggering. I'm trying to make my getaway, but it's like moving with a tent strapped to my waist. No wonder Little Bo Peep couldn't find her sheep — she couldn't fucking move. Jace pivots, squashing my split second of freedom with her other foot. Frustration rumbles up my throat and I glare at her, but she's unfazed.
Reddish-blonde bangs sweep low on her brow, enhancing the twinkle of victory in her blue eyes. Trying to maneuver around Jace when she's on a man-candy mission is like trying to sidestep the Great Wall of China.
I twist and thrust my palms out. "Seriously, do you know how humiliating this is for me?" She puckers her lips and looks me over. The satin bodice I'm wearing is tight enough to enhance even my modest bustline, and my skirt is hiked up in front, curtaining over white hose.
"You oughta be owning that corset like Madonna in the eighties."
I sigh and flick a string off the faint rise of cleavage. "I'm going to lose more than my sheep in this get-up."
"Exactly. This is your big chance. When's the last time you kissed a guy?"
My brain spins, trying to come up with a memory, but the wheel is ticking to a slow stop on capital letters. Bankrupt. I got nothing. Pink lips press out a long beeeep. "Captain's log, Stardate 2015 — let one man boldly go where no man has gone before. Step outside the Priscilla Winslow untouchable box and let the Enterprise land ..." Her costume sparks under the stream of streetlight as she speaks with head-bobbing conviction.
I scowl and interrupt her rant. "I'm sorry, but it's really hard for me to take life advice from someone dressed as a tube of processed meat." My hand wands over the blue cardboard frame hanging from her shoulders. "What made you want to be a can of Spam for Halloween ... and I don't get the whole outer space theme."
"I'm sending Ian a message: fresh meat," she says, twisting proudly. "How could he resist? I sprayed the coat of glitter so that I'd stand out."
"Well, you are nailing it, sister."
"Damn straight. Mr. He's The One is behind those doors. Suck it up, Buttercup, we're goin' in."
Jace has been my best friend since freshmen year. We play soccer for South Eastern University in Detroit. On move-in day she marched into our dorm wearing big sunglasses, carrying a vintage bowling bag, and followed by her twin brothers, Sweeney and Tucker, who were carrying a refrigerator-sized box. Just the necessities, she had said, winking as they headed out for another one. When a lizard poked its scaly face out of her "Holiday Lanes" bag, I managed to cover my shock with a stupid smile, nodding along with her enthusiastic chatter as she readjusted the tiny headband around Rasputin's arrow shaped skull. In my mind, though, I was sprinting to the housing office to request a new roommate, convinced she was "gansta-crazy." But then something happened that made me reconsider. She pulled me into the hallway and introduced herself, her lizard, and her new "bestie" roommate to everyone on our floor. As I watched her, I realized she had something I don't. Jace soaks up the spotlight like a sponge and beams it back in a "proud to be loud" sort of way. I love the shadows.
As her roommate, I was confidant she would pull me into every weird, hysterical, creepy, slightly dangerous scenario known to mankind. Naively, I thought I could help her tone it down when necessary. Ha! Fast-forward three years later and here I am, arguing with a blinged-up can of Spam, about to walk into a bar dressed as Little Bo Peep — all so she can stalk her crush.
"Oh, come on, Sil. This is one of our last chances to have fun before the qualifying games start. It's an off-campus bar. It's not like you're going to see anyone you know." She turns her wrists down, making puppy eyes, and hops with each begging word, jostling her glittered frame. "Please, please, please."
Jace has met Mr. He's The One three times already this semester. She doesn't have the best track record with men, but I have to admire her willingness to put herself out there. Especially since I can't figure out how to take the "out of office" response off my dating life. The anxiousness in my stomach melts into a heavy feeling. I swallow hard. I can do this for her. Little Bo Peep might hurl all over her dress before this night's over, but I can do it.
I pound my shepherd staff on the pavement. "All right, but stop jumping. You're blinding me with shimmer." Excitement lights her round features, and she hustles me through the door, reinforcing my decision by gushing about Ian's smoking hot friends.
Music vibrates through the brown-paneled walls as we tunnel our way down the entry hall, consumed by the pungent smell of beer and old carpet. Bearded men on Harleys cast silver-toothed smiles from a collage of pictures tacked to a bulletin board, and a massive American flag hangs above us. "Is this is a biker bar?" I ask, straining to take a nervous look into the packed room at the end of the hall.
"Only on Fridays," she responds.
Oh God. Just when I talk myself out of a queasy stomach it resurfaces. "Yeah, well, here's the thing, Jace. It is Friday."
"Yeah, but not this Friday. They're having a Halloween party."
My bullshit meter chirps, and I raise a brow, watching her fish a hand under her Spam can. "I'm positive," she whines. But in Jace's language that phrase translates to "I'm twenty percent sure," which means there's an eighty percent chance we are in a biker bar. Super.
"See," she declares withdrawing two tickets "It says, Halloween Party."
I smirk at the wilted scraps, unconvinced, as she presents them to the crossed-armed bouncers and we merge into the lively group. Here we go.
Jeering voices mix with laughter, spiking intermittently above the drone of hard rock. We trudge deeper into the swarm, passing three hockey players, a woman in John Deere overalls, a creepy mime, and a caveman, when Jace flinches. "There," she yells, pointing to a zombie wobbling out of a circle of men. A pulse of relief waves through me. I was beginning to think he stood her up. Mr. He's The One moves toward us, his eyes glowing like Christmas bulbs against the putrid gray of his face paint.
He grins, flashing red gums. "Hey, you made it." They lean awkwardly, attempting to reach each other around the Spam can, then he dips his head to the side and plants a kiss on her cheek.
"Ian, this is my bestie, Priscilla," she shouts. He nods and smiles, motioning us toward his friends. We introduce ourselves to the mixed group of girls and "smokin' hot" guys as Ian signals the bartender with two fingers. When he reaches for our drinks, Jace checks out his ass and wiggles her eyebrows suggestively at me.
"My uncle owns the bar," Ian explains, slinging the bottles our way. "Beer's on me."
"To Ian," Jace cheers, raising her bottle and an adoring look. It's hard to tell from the face paint, but I almost think I can see a faint flush on his cheeks when he returns her smile. So far, so good. Maybe the night of humiliation will be worth it after all. I chat with them for a few minutes then join the conversation with Ian's friends.
After an hour of drinking and laughing, I excuse myself for the bathroom, waving off Jace's offer to accompany me. My skirt dents and reshapes like a cotton ball, sweeping over bodies as I hold my shepherd staff out, clearing a path. This thing is actually kind of awesome. I turn into the bathroom hallway, and I'm contemplating what Little Bo Peep does with her dress when she pees, when the door to the men's room opens, and a sleek creature slides out.
"Oh," my slightly stunned voice echoes softly.
He raises his tawny head, and his gaze fixes on me. He's wearing a Chewbacca costume — furry mask, black button nose, and perma-smile lips. His head tilts, and he scratches his temple. I'm a parachute of white, filling the hallway from waist down — there's no way for him to pass in the narrow space.
"Uh ... sorry." I grab a handful of skirt and back into the wall. I lean, preparing to shimmy around him, but an odd sound escapes from behind his mask — a low Wookie-like murmur. Amusement or maybe ... appreciation? His gaze is angled down, unmoving, and I drop my head to see what he's seeing. Seconds pass as my focus adjusts in the low light.
Without realizing it, I've lifted my skirt high enough to expose the lacy tops of my white hose and, worse than that, my pink underwear. Nice, Priscilla. Heat rushes up my neck. I blink slowly, and a moment of contemplation settles between us. Long legs shift, jangling the metal from his ammo belt. I huff out a nervous laugh, shove the fabric down, and hold my breath, waiting for him to pass.
He sidesteps, easing by slowly with his back to the wall. I should stop staring — look down, or up, anywhere else — but I really want to see more of his eyes. My sweaty grip tightens around the staff as his shaggy feet skim the toes of my Converse high tops. A swirl of blue gray settles over me. Holy shit. His eyes are ... mesmerizing ... and I'm completely absorbed. I stand in front of him, soaking up the silvery stare, calm, yet deep at the same time — like an overcast day in August, when the sky is so still you can feel the warmth under the clouds. The corners of his lids crinkle, and I imagine his smooth smile expanding under the mask. I curl my fingers, fighting the impulse to reach up and peel it off. God. If I react this way to just having seen his eyes, imagine what his face must look like ... and the rest of him. My gaze drops to his chest. It's broad and his stance is firm and my hearts jumps at my next realization. He's taller than me — by more than just a few inches. I raise my gaze to his and match the smile I see spreading under the mask again. He nods slowly, as if he's reluctant to break the connection, and when he speaks his smooth voice lingers, haloing around my head.
"Peep," he says.
"Chewie," I respond.
Another smile. Another breathless beat. I straighten, turn, and step slowly toward the women's restroom, my skirt rustling a faint swoosh over his furry legs. I'm listening for movement behind me, but there's nothing — just the distinct feeling of his presence. I pause in front of the door and give in to the urge to look back.
He's centered in the hallway where I left him, watching me. I smile, and his torso leans left, as if he's going to fall over. He lifts a paw and thumps his heart twice. Moaning echoes, filling the hallway with an animalistic groan. I smile, push the door open, and disappear through it, erupting into a fit of laughter.
God. I must be drunk — I'm flirting with a mohair galaxy rebel, but he seemed kind of hot to me. Maybe my mom is right, and I either need to start dating or seek out a good counselor to help me deal with my "daddy anger issues" — her diagnosis, not mine. Recalling her words scrapes my nerves raw. I blink the thoughts away, drying my hands and exiting the bathroom.
The bar seems hotter and more congested as I weave my way through the masses. Then again, maybe it's because I'm looking for someone now. I don't know what I'm going to say to him when I find him — I'm not the greatest when it comes to approaching guys and introducing myself. And by that I mean I never do it unless Jace is leading the charge. I swallow over the dryness building in my throat and recall her words. Step out of the Priscilla Winslow box. If I could just see what he looks like without his mask on. It's not often I meet guys that are taller than me, and something about him seemed sweet and funny. I can always bail at the last minute and keep walking if I can't work up the nerve to say anything when I find him.
A dull object jabs my thigh, and I turn into the wide grin of a guy wearing a wiener-dog costume. From the chest up, he's a floppy eared Dachshund. From the waist down he's a hot dog. "Hey, It's Mary's little lamb!" he exclaims.
He thrusts his hips, swiveling in front of me. "Want a bite?"
My shepherd staff hooks the protruding pink tip. "Vegan," I respond, sweeping his wiener away.
"Let me know if you change your mind."
"Okay. Be sure to hold your breath," I call, ducking behind a Dracula.
I'm taking the long way back to Jace, still searching for the tall shag carpet when a draft of air flutters over my arm. Someone's propped open a side door, and the temptation of cool air prickles the sweat on the back of my neck. I'll just hop out for a minute, and then I'll get back to my wooly Jedi fantasy. I step gingerly over the rock that's wedged under the door and emerge in the shadows of an alley.
The temperature drop seduces a welcome rise of gooseflesh, and I lift my hair, stretching into the night breeze. Chrome flickers beside me, and I turn to inspect a long row of motorcycles. Not a biker bar, my ass.
My minute is up — I should really go back inside. I drop my hair and start to turn, just as an angry voice chops the night air. Peering cautiously down the alley I see two men dressed as pirates. They're growling at a third man who is half hidden behind a dumpster.
A grunt erupts, followed by swinging limbs. Ice floods my veins, and my heartbeat suspends as the shadowy figures curse and struggle. Jesus! Thick punches land between sharp gasps, and I grit my teeth harder with each sound. I need to get help. I spin for the door, but a flash of tan fur stops me. Chewie? I squint at the dark silhouettes. It is him. My pulse fires like an assault rifle.
"Hey!" I yell. They either don't hear me or they're ignoring me. I lunge for the door, step into the hallway, and fumble with the lever on the fire alarm. The siren pierces my senses like a blade, and I dive back to the alley with the deafening howl pounding around me.
Adrenaline surges as I run. Chewbacca is on his knees, pulling one of the guys down, but the other pirate is angling a leg, about to slam it into his head.
"Hey!" I wind my staff and let loose a full-force swing. My elbows jerk to a painful halt as it connects with the taller pirate's upper arm and he stumbles.
Excerpted from Rush by Shae Ross, Candace Havens. Copyright © 2016 Leigh Kraushaar. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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