Until You Forgive by D.M. Davis

 

 

THE WIND WHIPS MY HAIR INTOa chaotic mess. I struggle to tame it, pulling a few strands out of my mouth and lashes while simultaneously trying to remember if I have a hidden hair tie somewhere on my body. I curse myself for not putting my hair in a ponytail before I was dragged to the practice field.

Okay, maybe not dragged. Coerced, most definitely. The blonde nymph wouldn’t take no for an answer. I figure what’s the harm. It’s just a little flag football between dorms. There aren’t even real coaches just other students, coming together for some fun.

Yet, I feel stupid. I shouldn’t be here. I don’t even know what I’m doing.

I’ve never played flag football. Soccer is my sport. It came naturally. Barely even had to try. But it’s been… a while. A long while.

Life took the wind out of that sail.

My mom…

“Hey. You’re Gabby, right?” The thin, perfect-bone-structure, making-me-feel-like-a-fat-cow blonde points at me.

“Yeah.” I’m not sure I want to admit that as she motions over my shoulder.

“You’re with him.”

Him?” My question falls limp as I turn to face the dark-haired, you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me, aren’t-there-any-fat-people-at-this-school god behind me. His smirking gaze is already on me like he’s been waiting for me, setting off tingles down my spine and fireworks in my brain.

A flashback to a paper I did on Greek mythology has Priapus, the god of virility, coming to mind.

I think I could get pregnant from here.

Down, girl. You’re not even in his league.He doesn’t look like the kinda guy who likes girls with meat on their bones and junk in their trunk.

A few guys shuffle over to him as per the blonde’s directions. Other groups gather with their designated “coach” who are students like me except with experience.

“Come on, Gorgeous,” the god waves me over, “I don’t bite.” His grin deepens to reveal dimples.

Kill me now.

“Not without a proper introduction at least.” He sticks his hand out.

I stare at it far too long without moving in his direction.

He steps away from the guys at his side, takes my hand in his, emerald eyes shining, entirely too confident. “I’m Matt. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Gabby.”

Damn, he was paying attention, cared enough to learn my name.

Heartbreakingly handsome, attentive, with devilish charm. A lethal combination.

“Are you going to bite me now?” I’m going for funny and light-hearted, but the little shake in my voice has it falling just shy of tentative.

Gah, I hate tentative Gabby. I thought I left her behind—at home—where she dwelled all too comfortably in the timid zone. Go away, timid Gabby. There’s no room for you here in my new life. My new life in college where I get to be whoever I please. No parent or older brothers reminding me I’m not skinny enough to be a proper woman and not big or tough enough to be considered one of the guys. I was just me. Always just me. Never enough and yet entirely too much.

Matt’s laugh zips me back to him, my hand in his, his head shaking. Amused at me, or maybe himself. It’s undetermined. Before I consider it further, he leads me to the group of guys waiting on him. It’s not until we’re in a circle that he drops my hand and winks.

Yep, he’s an expert flirt. He could give lessons, offer a seminar to dorky college guys. He’d make a killing.

Introductions all around. Matt nods; he doesn’t try to shake their hands or mention biting them.

Is it just me he’s being a bit nicer to?

No. It would never be just you, Gabriella Two Ton, my oldest brother’s tease whispers in my ear.

Yeah, I know. Thanks for the reminder.

“Gabby?” Matt eyes me expectantly as the others look on… waiting.

Shit. “I’m sorry. What?”

His smirk is delectable as he beats a rhythm on his clipboard with his pen. “Name. Phone number. Position.”

“Oh, um—” I rattle off my details until I get to the position part. “I’ve no idea. I’ve never played before.” I glance around and wonder why I’m the only girl in his group when all the other groups look to be evenly balanced. Maybe I could switch?

Maybe I could leave. This is voluntary, right? I can’t be locked into anything yet. It’s just an intermural league between the dorms. They wouldn’t miss me—

“Have you played any sports?” he continues, undaunted by my lack of experience.

“Soccer. Volleyball. A little softball.”

“Can you throw? Catch? Run? Ki—”

“I can kick,” I interject, wanting everyone’s focus off me. Not his, but it’s not… He would never. Gah, I can feel their eyes judging me, trying to figure out why he’s so focused on me. I want to melt into the field and disappear. But maybe take him with me.

He nods and makes a note. The rest of the guys give their details and preferred position. I look around, anywhere but at him. Don’t stare.

It’s not long before we’re back with the rest of the group, stretching, warming up, then running a few laps—my favorite. Not. Running and me have never been the best of friends, hence why I played goalie in soccer.

How translatable are those skills in football?

I get lost in the mix and move farther and farther away from my group as we return to the sidelines.

“Trying to escape?” Mr. Sexy Pants’ road-worn, radio-ready voice tickles up my neck.

I shiver and catch his smirk as I pivot to face him. “If I say yes, would you let me off the hook and remove my name from the roster?”

He chuckles. “Not a chance, Gorgeous.”

I stifle my shock. Is he teasing me? Making fun? The god of virility wouldn’t think I’m gorgeous. He wouldn’t even notice me at all. I shrug, playing it off. “It was worth a shot.”

I heard some of the girls giggling over him. He’s a freshman like me, but he seems to know everyone, feel comfortable here, whereas I feel like a fish out of water—on this field and on this campus.

“Come on.” Ushering me forward, he pulls two other guys from the bunch as we make our way to the end of the field. He tosses the first guy a football. “Show me what you got.” He points down the field. “Aim for the goalposts.”

“Just punt it?” the lanky dark-haired guy asks.

“Yep.” Matt folds his arms and tips his chin down the field.

The guy steps back, takes a few steps, releases the ball and misses. “Shit.”

“No worries. No pressure. Try again,” Matt calmly instructs with no judgment, pretense, or expectations.

Lanky kicks it the second time, making it about forty yards.

The next guy kicks it a little farther.

Then it’s my turn.

All eyes on me, I take the ball, get a feel for it. It’s different than a soccer ball, but the motion is the same—or looks to be based on what the two previous guys did and what I’ve seen on TV. I might have even kicked a football with my brothers when I was little, but honestly, I don’t remember.

I step back a little more, eye the goalpost, then the ball, point it to where I want it to go, take two steps and dropkick it on the third. My foot makes perfect contact at the desired angle; my leg follows through as the ball soars in the air with a sweet spin, picking up speed and arch.

That felt good. It’s been too long.

“Damn,” from Matt.

“Holy shit,” from Lanky.

Second Best just scowls. I shrug and glance back just in time to see the ball bounce in the endzone. I didn’t quite make the goalpost, but it was close.

A whistle from the sidelines has me flashing to a beefy guy talking with his buddies. If I were to guess, it’s about me.

“Move along.” Matt waves them off. “She’s ours.”

Ours?He doesn’t even know me, and he’s claiming me? I want to hug him and run in equal measure. “Who are they?” I ask as the big guy smiles, giving us a chin nod, his eyes lingering on me before he turns and saunters off with confidence I’ll never be able to muster.

“That’s our school’s quarterback, wide receiver, and center.” He circles me, his gaze assessing as I turn to face him. “That had to be a sixty-yard kick.”

“Is that good?” I’m sure I can kick farther, but it was my first attempt in years.

“Is it good?!” Lanky chuckles.

Second Best shakes his head. “Forty-five yards is an average punt. The NFL field goal record is currently sixty-four yards. I’d say your kick was pretty damn good.”

Huh, maybe there is something I’m good at. Though I doubt my dad would be proud. He wants a daughter, not a tomboy, or a wannabe. I never wanted to be his son, and he certainly never treated me like a princess. I only wanted to fit in, and doing traditionally boy-type things seemed to be the way to his heart… His approval. Or so I thought.

Turns out, he only wants grandbabies from me. Someday. That’s all I’m good for.

“Hey, Gorgeous.” Matt grazes my arm. “You with me?”

No. And please stop calling me that. You’re messing with my head.“Yeah.”

Some guy runs over, giving me a nod before handing a tee to Matt, whose gaze flashes to me. He licks his lips, then places the tee on the grass and sets the football on it with a slight lean. Coming to his full height, which is still at least five inches taller than my 5’10” frame, he eyes me speculatively. “You good?”

“Um, yeah. You just want me to kick it?”

“Yep. Give it your best. We can work on form later.”

Form. The idea of his hands on me getting me into position the way he moved the ball flashes before me. I turn my focus to the football as my cheeks heat up. Yep, my dirty mind is going full-on Girls Gone Wild—Spring Break Edition.

Focus. People are watching. He’s watching.

I line up behind it, stepping back.

“A little more,” Lanky urges.

So, I step back until he nods, then to the left two steps. “I’ve seen this on TV. I’ve just never done it.”

He nods again. “Natural stride, no stuttered steps, then kick the hell out of that ball, darlin’.” Lanky winks.

Natural steps. No stutter. Pulverize ball.

Natural steps. No stutter. Pulverize ball.

Ignore them. Ignore him.

Natural steps. No stutter. Pulverize ball.

A couple of deep breaths, I rock back and forth on my feet, walk, then quicken my last few steps—a run but not quite. Hips open, leg swinging, foot pointed and locked, I make contact, loving the thwap and whoosh as the ball takes flight. I concentrate on my follow through, a small hop to keep the momentum going, kicking leg swings up and quickly down. A few more steps, I come to a halt and track the ball, counting in my head the hang time.

I’m sure I’m counting too fast, but look at that baby fly.

I shake out my leg. I should have stretched more. My hips are tighter than they used to be. I need to work on that.

But, you know. Cardio.

“You okay?” Matt motions to my leg.

“Yeah, I’m good.” I’ll be sore later.

He smirks, shaking his head as the ball flies through the goalposts. “Yeah, you are, Gorgeous.” His hand presses to my back. “Damn good.”

I keep Gabby in sight for as long as I can before she disappears around a building. Whatever Jen is saying is going in one ear and out the other. I keep nodding, a bit in shock of what just happened. I don’t think these guys have any idea of the magic we just witnessed on this practice field. Magic in the form of a striking brunette with killer blue eyes and a million-dollar leg.

Mark my words—she’s pure magic.

I’m not the only one who noticed. Deke, our quarterback; Trent, our wide receiver; and Nate, our center; all noticed. Nate in particular. They might have moved along when I told them Gabby was all ours—I really meant mine. I didn’t miss them hanging back, watching her make that field goal.

She said she can kick.

She wasn’t lying.

But I don’t think she realized what an anomaly she is. A female kicker. A female football kicker.

The glint in Nate’s eyes was unmistakable. It won’t be the last time we’ll be seeing him.

I need to stake my claim before he does.

Before any of these other assholes do. Afterall, she’s here because I asked Jen to invite her, and I only agreed to help out because it was a chance to meet the long-legged beauty I spotted a few days ago.

“You heading home?” Jen draws my attention with a hand on my left pec.

“Yeah.” I’ve thought of taken all Jen has to offer, but… she’s a little too easy for my taste.

She bites her lip, moving in closer, her tits rubbing against my chest as she shimmies. “Sure I can’t entice you to join me for lunch and dessert?”

She’d make a savory snack, but a brunette with killer legs has my attention. I’m not good with multitasking. “I can’t. Raincheck?” No reason to burn this bridge. Never know when I might feel like crossing.

“Sure.” She hides her disappointment behind a fake smile. “Thanks for helping out today.”

“Not a problem.” My pleasure, actually.

After helping her load up all the equipment in her car, I head home. I’m not sure I’ll tell Fin about my discovery today, but I do know I’ll be thinking a whole hell of a lot about my kicker.