Official Website of USA Today bestselling author Tawdra Kandle
Your Wildest Dreams: Keeping Score #5
I don’t do love.
I don’t do relationships.
But then Eli Tucker came back into my life.
Football is everything, but love is the only game that matters.
When Eli Tucker meets Zelda Porter on the first day of their college freshman year, he thinks she’s vaguely familiar. But he’d remember a woman like her, wouldn’t he? Zelda’s blonde, built and beautiful . . . just Tuck’s type, back when he had a type. Back when he was a football star. Back before he snapped his spine and ended up paralyzed.
Still, even though Tuck can’t run for touchdowns anymore, he knows what wins the game: Hold on tight to what matters most. Use the element of surprise to your advantage. Fight like hell for every down.
He approached our table, his eyes on me, and in those eyes, I saw something familiar: it was that same old expression of cock-surety, the certainty that he could sweet-talk his way into my Victoria’s Secret bikini briefs. Usually, I responded to that attitude with a wide smile that confirmed his assumptions. We’d play a bit more, a little sparring and jabbing, some small touches and meaningful stares. Eventually, I’d make it clear that I was available for the night, and we’d work out the details. I’d go back to his place, or we’d find some place else. And that would be it.
I could do it tonight, if I wanted. I knew that. In spite of what I’d said to Gia, if I were attracted enough to someone, all of my flimsy rules went out the window. This guy was new here, which told me that he wasn’t part of the Santori family. He might not even work here very long.
But even so . . . as he set my sparkling water and lime down on the table and not-so-accidentally brushed my arm with his chest when he leaned over, I didn’t turn my head to meet his eye. Instead, I moved away just slightly, just enough to send him the message that I wasn’t being rude, but neither was I interested.
He understood. I knew it by the way he took my order moments later, polite but no longer so flirty. I almost expected to feel disappointment, but instead I was only relieved.
We ate our salads and pizza, and we’d just ordered dessert—cannoli, the specialty of the house. Nate and Gia were arguing good-naturedly over how they took their espresso, and I was half-listening in distracted amusement.
“Tuck!” A pretty red-head, petite and slender, came bounding over to our table, her gaze fastened on Eli. “Ohmigod, I can’t believe I ran into you here. How do you even know about this place?”
“Hey, Cora.” Eli smiled at her, his face lighting up. “Ah, I’ve been coming here since I was in high school. I grew up a town over, in Franklin. How about you?”
“Oh, my roommate is from Miltonville. She drags me over here once a month because she says no other pizza is worth eating.” Cora’s gaze flickered around the table. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt your dinner.”
“Nah, we’re just about finished, anyway. This is my roommate, Nate Wellman, and our friends, Gia, Quinn and Zelda. Guys, this is Cora. We’re both education majors, and we’ve been in a few classes together.”
“I’m just a freshman, but Tuck’s been so nice to help me.” She smiled, and fuck it all, the bitch had dimples. I stiffened my shoulders and narrowed my eyes as Cora laid her hand on Eli’s upper arm and rubbed it lightly. She was totally feeling his muscles. Her small body was pressed up to his side, and if I wasn’t wrong, one of her boobs was brushing against him.
I knew I was an enormous hypocrite, and I knew it was wrong, but every fiber of my being was screaming, MINE!
“I didn’t do anything anyone else wouldn’t have done.” Eli was looking up at her, and the warmth in his eyes made my stomach turn over. “You kept me from flipping out when Professor Crazy assigned a fifteen-page paper a week before spring break. So it works both ways.”
“Yeah.” For a moment—what was for me a long, awkward moment—the two simply grinned at each other, as though the rest of us had vanished. Quinn nudged me and quirked an eyebrow.
“Well, I’ll let you get back to your friends.” Cora eased away with obvious reluctance. “My roommate’s back at the dorm, waiting for me to bring back a pizza for us.” She hitched her purse onto her shoulder. “If you ever get a craving to come over here and need a lift, you’ve got my number. I’d love to . . .” She paused. “Uh, hang out when we’re not talking about school stuff.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Eli watched Cora as she walked over to the take-out counter. And maybe I was petty, but it looked to me like she was shaking her ass as she went. Not that she had much of one to shake. But still.
The minute she was out of earshot, Gia and Quinn pounced. “Oooooooooh.” Gia gave Eli round eyes. “Tuck’s got a girlfriend!”