Jockblocked (Gridiron #2) by Jen Frederick

1

Lucy

January

I flip my pen around my thumb again as I contemplate my mock trial dilemma. Should we include the expert in ice formation or the co-worker? Flip. Randall wants to go with the expert because they always score well with the judges, but we all know ice is slippery. Flip. A co-worker who testifies about what a hard worker our client is would go a long way toward us winning. Flip.

Not to mention that a lay witness versus an expert witness would be far easier for our new teammate Heather to pull off. Flip.

Ugh. Heather. Practice earlier was a friggin’ disaster. This is my freshman nightmare all over again. Newcomer blows the judges’ socks off with a prepared closing she’d practiced all summer and then newcomer ends up ruining the team because she can’t perform under pressure.

That newcomer was me once. I hate that my team is suffering through this again, and I’m going to do everything I can to prevent that, even if I have to write every question of every examination and every word of every argument.

I check the score sheet again, but the numbers don’t change. I exhale heavily. Randall’s right. Historically, an expert witness scores at least two points better than an ordinary witness does. Flip.

I flip the pen again, frustrated that I can’t seem to come to a solution. I’m a solution girl. This is my thing. I assess situations, measure risks, and advise the best course. But the best course in this case isn’t clear to me. I run my hand through my hair and study the mock trial case once again. It doesn’t matter that it’s a mock trial—to me it’s as serious as it gets.

As I turn the exemplar tabulation over, a packet of aspirin lands next to my hand.

I drop my pen and pick up the packet of medicine. Looking up, I check to see if it’s raining aspirin or if someone was playing table hockey and flicked the goal across the room accidentally, but I only see the lights of the ceiling and the bent heads of the few people in the room.

“I’m worried that if you sigh again, a tornado may form. Those are some heavy puffs,” a deep voice from behind me says.

I twist to see a guy the size of a small car dwarfing the upholstered chair next to the fireplace. For most people, that chair is oversized. He fills every inch. Even beneath his long-sleeved gray T-shirt, I can see the definition in his arms and chest. I allow myself a few seconds of covert gawking. Have to get my thrills in where I can.

“Maybe I have asthma.”

“Then you’ll be out of luck because I don’t have an inhaler on me. Just the aspirin.”

“Sad. Not much of a traveling pharmacist, are you?”

He smiles, and I grip the side of my seat to make sure I don’t fall out of my chair at the brilliance of it. Some people, like my roommate Sutton, are blessed with an unreal amount of beauty. This guy is one of those people. Even his black plastic glasses make him look like the studious model in an Abercrombie ad.

Crinkles form by eyes so blue I find myself scanning them for a telltale lens, but they appear to be real.

The only real downside to this guy is that he has the look of a gym rat. Big arms, broad shoulders, V-shaped torso all scream of a guy who spends a lot of time watching himself in the mirror. Those guys just don’t interest me. They’re pretty to look at, but a huge headache to deal with.

“You’ll have to blame my mom. She’s a pediatrician and has a weird propensity for sticking those things in all of my pockets.”

“Thanks, but my headache is induced by my homework. I don’t think a couple of aspirin are going to help.” I offer him the packet back, but he waves me off.

“It’s the second week of the semester. Isn’t it too early for homework to be causing anyone stress?” He glances around the room. “In fact, I’m surprised by the number of people here. Is everyone here studying? Isn’t it Wednesday? People study on Wednesdays?”

I think the last question is a joke, but I’m not entirely sure. “First time at the Brew House?”

He gestures for me to come close, as if he’s going to tell me a secret. “Don’t tell anyone, but I’m not a fan of coffee,” he stage whispers behind a screen formed by a hand big enough to make a Great Dane look like a toy poodle.

“So why are you here?” I find myself whispering back against my better judgment, caught up in his flirtation.

“Didn’t want to go to a bar. Didn’t want to be in the library. Didn’t want to be at home. I wandered around and found this place.” He waves his hand around the room. “But now I’m worried because I feel like I should be doing something serious instead of doing this.”

He raises his tablet to show me the game he’s playing.

“I would guess at least half the room is playing that game. It was sold for a billion dollars a couple of weeks ago.”

“I’d much rather learn how you do that trick.” He tips his head toward my hand.

I catch my pen reflexively, not even realizing I was flipping it. “It’s a bad habit.”

“Nah, it’s cool.” He gets up and is at my table in two steps. “Matthew.”

He holds out his hand. When I clasp it, I’m surprised by the roughness of it, as if he does something more with his hands other than typing on a keyboard or holding a pen. “Lucy.”

“Nice to meet you, Lucy. So what’s the trick to this?” He bounces one of my highlighters in his hand.

“No real trick. I tap the long end of the pen with my middle finger and let the momentum carry it around my thumb. Like this.” And I repeat the action, neatly catching it between my thumb and forefinger.

Matthew tries it, but the highlighter goes flying out of his fingers and skitters across the table. “Shit.”

I cover my laugh as he scoots over to pick up the marker. He tries again and the highlighter zips two tables over.

“Maybe not as much force next time. You aren’t launching a rocket into space,” I advise.

“I think you’ve made a deal with the devil,” he says after trying again.

“If I were to make a deal with the devil, do you really think this is the gift I’d ask for?” I spin the pen. “There are at least a million better things than a pen-spinning trick.”

“Good point. What would you ask for?” He lifts my mug and takes a sniff, making a face when the coffee scent hits his nose. He doesn’t even like the smell of coffee? I guess he has to have some flaws.

“Is this a straight trade, so I get eternal life in hell in exchange for something great on earth?”

“I suppose so. Are there other trades the devil will make?” He reaches back to grab his Gatorade off the floor next to the chair he’s no longer sitting in. His arms are so long he doesn’t even have to rise from his seat. His shirt pulls out of his jeans, and I catch a glimpse of well-defined abs.

I avert my eyes when he swings around so he doesn’t find me staring at his body like a creepster. One look is okay, two and I’ve definitely crossed over into bad behavior. “I don’t have any direct experience with the devil, but I’d try to make a bargain that does not include eternal hell. I’m not made for that kind of punishment.”

His lips quirk up. “Yeah, you do seem...sweet.”

“The devil doesn’t like sweet things?” The words pop out before my brain catches up with my mouth.

Matthew’s lips go from half-mast to full-out grin. “He might. But I think if he had the choice, he’d pick hot over sweet.” Sultry blue eyes rake over me. “Don’t worry, you’ve got the hot part covered, too.”

This time it’s my pen that flies across the table. Chuckling, Matthew snatches it out of the air.

“Nice reflexes,” I mutter. My cheeks feel like they’re flaming. I haven’t engaged in this kind of flirting since…well, I can’t remember the last time. And with this guy? It’s totally out of character.

“I’m good for something.” He winks and hands me the pen.

Our eyes meet, and the connection between us pings and arcs, warming me as surely as the flame of the fire five feet away. The register rings behind me, reminding me why I haven’t had sex in so long. Keith, my co-worker at the Brew House, was the last person I had sex with. It was uninspired sex—so boring that I think we both fell asleep before the deed was even done. I couldn’t really blame it on him either.

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