Is it possible to meet the right person at the wrong time?
Under Pressure, an all-new hilarious and emotional sports romance by Bella Matthews is available now!
I had my friends. I had football. I had a future I was set on, until her.
Eleanor Kingston was the girl. The one I’d choose if I could, but all I had to give was
one night. My life had been decided for me, my future predetermined. There’s no room left for football or love.
If you get only one life, how hard would you fight to live it on your own terms?
I had my family. My career was set. I was back to begin the life I was meant to lead when I met him. We promised each other no tomorrow, no names, only one night. But fate had other plans. Sebastian Beneventi may think he’s protecting me, but I’m no damsel in distress.
No more running, it’s time to fight for what I want for a change.
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“Max, I get it. I’ll be back in Philly in time for dinner tomorrow night.” I glance over to my best friend, Juliette, who’s patiently waiting for me to get off the phone. “Right. Dinner is at seven. Family dinner.” I roll my eyes, even though my oldest brother can’t see me. Probably better that way. “Love you too. Okay, see you then.” I end the call and slide the phone in the pocket of my shorts.
“Finally, bitch!” Jules wraps her arm around my shoulder and squeezes right before she stumbles in her stilettos. We may have pre-gamed a little too hard with the vodka before we left the condo. “You should have told Maxie-poo to pull the massive stick from that tight, firm ass of his and relax for one goddamn night like you’re going to. You’ve been back in this country for less than two days. The Kingstons will have their hooks in you soon enough. Monday, you belong to them. Tonight, I call dibs on my ride or die.”
The two of us continue down the sidewalk toward our favorite beach bar. O’Malley’s has been a landmark here since before either of us were born. It’s one of those bars where labels peeled off beer bottles line the ceiling. If you wear open-toed shoes, you know your feet are going to be touching liquids far worse than spilled booze all night.
This place is always so crowded, it’s necessary to be at least a little bit buzzed before you walk through the doors.
It’s fucking fabulous, and I love it.
“Love you, Jules,” I tell her as we walk past the line of people outside of the bar, waiting to be let in, and right up to the bouncer she’s been sleeping with all summer.
Jules is not just pretty, she’s gorgeous. She’s five foot ten with beautiful blonde hair and stunning brown eyes. Graceful and refined, she can bring a man to his knees with one look. She’s dabbled in modeling, but nothing keeps her attention for too long. So, I’m not surprised when the bouncer—who looks like The Rock and Vin Diesel found a way to procreate and he was the uber gorgeous offspring—can’t take his eyes off my bestie as soon as he sees her strutting toward him. “Hey’ya, handsome.” She leans in and gives him a quick kiss on the cheek. “You on the door all night tonight?”
“Nope. I’ve got another hour, maybe two, then I’m off.” He leans in closer to Jules. “And you know, my favorite thing to do when I’m off is get you off.”
Jules pulls on his shirt before kissing him again as she starts to walk past. “Come find Lenny and me when you get off work, and maybe I can help you with that.” She grabs my hand and pulls me behind her into the bar.
“You ditching me in an hour, Jules?” I ask, already knowing the answer.
She smiles her megawatt smile. “Maybe two. At least you’ll have the condo to yourself. Shawn’s place is just down the street, so we usually go there.”
I don’t bother telling her that her condo is a half block from here. Not exactly what I had in mind for tonight, but oh well.
O’Malley’s has a back room where there’s always a hot new DJ spinning the
newest music. They usually have the wall open, giving easy access to the outdoor bar complete with a sand-covered dance floor. You’d think that would be the room to be in, but Jules and I love the room you step into as soon as you walk through the front doors. We have ever since we got our first fake IDs three years ago.
There’s just something about the vibe in here.
The bar is dark and packed. The lights are low, and the volume is loud. The music they play in this room is classic eighties bar music. “Sweet Caroline,” by Neil Diamond, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” by The Charlie Daniels Band, and “Lola,” by The Kinks are just some of the house faves that get every person in the room singing along. It’s a rite of passage to come to this place, and I couldn’t be happier to be here tonight.
Jules turns to me and grabs my other hand. “Listen, I’m gonna do a lap and see who we know and who to avoid. Will you get our drinks?” She spins away without another word. This is our routine. She scopes the place out, and I fight to get the bartender’s attention.
I make my way to the front of the bar on the left. It may take a thrown elbow or two, but I get there. Getting the bartender’s attention is another story. With guys twice my size standing on one side of me and a girl—whose boobs are showing so much, I think the string bikini I wore to the beach today may actually cover more than her shirt does—on my other side, I may be screwed.
Once the bartender is finished serving the double Ds, I yell out, “Excuse me,” and wave the cash in my hand before dropping it back down on the bar and blowing out a
I’m getting one night of freedom before I’m summoned back home. One night before I become another cog in the Kingston empire. The position my brother offered me in the family company is my dream job, but it comes with strings . . . My family is overbearing on a good day, obnoxious on a normal one, and I can’t even describe how they are on a bad day.
And now, I’m going to be working with them every day.
One of the reasons I moved to another country to go to college was to take control of my own future. My own life. Now, I’m voluntarily placing control over my career into my brother’s hands. But tonight is mine to control, and I might be clinging to that.
I need one more night before I go home and face them all.
Please don’t let my one night be a total wash.
“Want some help?” A sexy voice asks, coming from the guy standing next to me.
I turn my head and get my first look at him since noticing the overall height of the group of guys he’s with.
I nod my head. “Apparently, you need to have your boobs hanging out if you want to get his attention.”
This guy is tall. Well over six feet, maybe six-five or six-six. His dark hair is messy, like he’s run his hands through it too many times. His blue eyes are crystal blue, and whoa, momma, is he built. He looks familiar, but I can’t place him right away. “Yes, please. I’d love some help.”
He leans forward on the bar and calls out for the bartender, who immediately turns around.
What the hell? Am I invisible?
When the bartender leans his elbows on the bar and asks, “What can I get for you?” I’m partially relieved and partially annoyed.
I yell across the bar, “One Jack and Coke and one Corona and lime, please.” Once he walks away, I turn to fully face my helpful stranger. “Thank you.”
The bartender comes back, and my new friend drops a twenty down before I can, then pushes my drinks toward me. “Jack and Coke and a beer. You here with someone?”
I glance around the room, looking for Jules. “I am. My best friend and I came together.”
A giant ginger of a man throws his arm around Mr. Mysterious. “So did this handsome guy. It’s his birthday too. Wanna give him a present?”
The handsome guy throws an elbow in the ginger’s side. “Back off, Murph.”
Murph backs up into the rest of the group they’re with, and the other three turn around.
I glance around at the giants surrounding these two and realize precisely why Mr. Mysterious looks so familiar. One of those giants is Declan Sinclair. The championship-winning quarterback for the professional football team my family owns.
I quickly clock them all.
Brady Ryan is here. He’s the quarterback for the Kroydon University Crusaders. He’s most likely going to be up for the Heisman this year. Last season, he threw for
4,500 yards, 310 completed passes, 402 attempts, and 23 touchdowns.
That makes the ginger giant Aiden Murphy, who averages 12 tackles per game and 1.8 tackles for loss per game.
I’m guessing, judging by who the others are, that the dirty blonde military-looking guy is Cooper Sinclair. He was a force to be reckoned with as a tight end in high school before he decided to forgo college and his potential football career to go into the Navy. I probably wouldn’t know this if his father wasn’t the head coach for my family’s football team.
This brings me to my mystery hottie.
I know there’ll be a file sitting on my desk with his information when I start work next week. I’m the numbers girl. Analytics are my jam. I’m kind of a savant. For the past three years, my brother has asked my opinion on players’ stats. The first time, I was only in my first year at Oxford, and I began unofficially working for the team.
Now that I’ve graduated, it’s official.
And working on stats for the scouting department is at the top of my to-do list.
I shake myself out of my stupor and try to shut off my computer-like brain. I told Max once that I think like the terminator. It all just comes to me like a computer read-out—name, height, weight, stats. I don’t have an eidetic memory, but my brain is pretty amazing.
When this guy smiles, it transforms his entire face. “I’m Bash.”
“Elle.” That’s all I give him, not ready for the night to go the way it would if this group of guys knew who I am.
The bimbo from my other side bumps into me, causing me to trip and fall into Sebastian as Jules’s whiskey sloshes down the front of my shirt. “Sorry,” I utter as Sebastian steadies me with both arms. I slam back Jules’s Jack and Coke before dropping it back on the bar.
Crystal blue eyes travel up and down my body before settling on my face. “I was wondering if you were the whiskey girl or the beer girl.”
I push the lime down into my bottle of Corona, holding my thumb over the lip before I put it to my lips and drink. When I pull it away, I lock eyes with his. “I’m the beer girl. The whiskey was for courage.”
Sebastian turns and orders two more Jack and Cokes before passing one to me. He clinks his glass with mine. “To courage.”
“To courage,” I toast. Maybe this night won’t be a total wash after all.
Bella Matthews is a Jersey girl at heart. She is married to her very own Alpha Male and raising three little ones. You can typically find her running from one sporting event to another. When she is home, she is usually hiding in her home office with the only other female in her house, her rescue dog Tinker Bell by her side. She likes to write swoon-worthy heroes and sassy, smart heroines with a healthy dose of laughter thrown in.