• • •
The roar of the crowd was deafening. The Stallions were up by six, but the opposing team had the ball with three minutes to go.
Charlotte turned wide eyes on me. “This is insanity.”
“If they make it to the end zone, it’s going to be even worse,” I warned.
The Stallions were heavy favorites this year, and losing their first game would have been a huge upset. The crowd was screaming out their defensive chants, reminding the players on the field of the pressure that was on them.
That was one thing I didn’t miss about playing football—the constant pressure to win.
Somewhere between playing in high school and when I played in college, the fun went out of the game for me. I wasn’t sad at all for my football career to be over, and neither was my body, which had been battered and bruised through my entire adolescence. Not that I could ever share that with anyone in my hometown. That was akin to blasphemy in a football town. You either played football, or wanted to be playing.
“I want one of those giant pretzels,” Charlotte said. “I’m going to go now while everyone is watching this. There’s no line.”
I had to laugh at her indifference to the game. There we were in the middle of a nail-biter, and she wanted a pretzel.
“I’ll go with you,” I said, taking her hand in mine.
“You sure? Don’t you want to see what happens?”
“I’m good,” I told her as we stood up and headed down the bleachers. “I’ve seen enough football games to last me a lifetime.”
As we walked down the metal steps, she wrapped her free hand around my arm and pressed herself against my side.
“Is this how high school was for you?” she asked. “Friday-night lights and all that?”
“Yeah. Duke and I played. We even went to college on scholarship.”
“It was all right.” I shrugged. “Paid for college.”
“You miss it? All the hype? The attention?”
“Not really.” As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I half expected lightning to strike me where I stood.
“What about the cheerleaders? I’ll bet they were all over you.”
“There were a few,” I said with a chuckle. “I had some good times underneath these bleachers.”
“Is that right?”
A spark of jealousy flickered in her eyes, and before I could say another word, Charlotte tugged me underneath the bleachers, her pretzel forgotten.
Her lips were on mine before I could even register what was happening. The stomps and screams coming from above us grew louder with each tick of the clock, but all I could do was concentrate on the beautiful woman pressing her body against mine. Her lips and tongue were doing their damnedest to erase any memories of high school make-out sessions under the bleachers that might have been lingering in my head.
And it was working.
I grabbed one of the metal support rods above my head and steadied us as I wrapped the other arm around her waist. You’d think after our morning with the maple syrup, she would have had her fill of me, but here we were, making out under the bleachers like two sex-starved teenagers.
“You forget about them yet?” She smirked at me when we finally broke for air, both of us trying to catch our breath.
“Baby, they were never even a memory.” I dropped a last quick kiss on her lips. “Now, let’s get that pretzel and get the hell out of here.”
The crowd thundered overhead as Luke grabbed my hand, pulling me to the edge of the bleachers where people were already pouring from the stands.
“Shit,” he mumbled. “Game must be over.”
“Does that mean the concession stand is closed?”
He laughed when my stomach grumbled. “How is that even louder than the people around us?”
I shrugged. “Special talent, I guess.”
Luke led me by the hand as we blended into the crowd, weaving through the mass of people heading back to their cars. Here and there, I caught people looking at him from the corner of their eyes, their expressions half-adoring, half-confused—probably because they were trying to make out which twin he was.
Our earlier conversation about football came to mind. He’d really downplayed it, I knew, but it had to be no small thing to get a full ride to college, especially for a school as high profile as A&M. And in a town like this? It would likely make him some kind of god. Still, he took it in stride, smiling at the people around him and ignoring their grins of approval and adoration.
“What happened after college?” I asked when we finally made it through the thick of the crowd.
The concession stand was just in front of us, and Luke pivoted to look at me.
“You said you went to A&M for college. What did you do after that? I mean, what did you major in? Did you always want to run the distillery?”
His face twisted for a minute, but as we came to the front of the little snack shack, he smiled and waved at the girl behind the counter who was tossing out the leftover hot dogs.
“Jill,” he said. “Hey.”
She blinked up at him, and when she realized who he was, she blushed. “Hey there.”
“Got any leftover pretzels, or did you toss those out already?”
She nodded and headed for the case where five giant golden-brown pretzels twirled on a silver rack. Taking a paper tissue, she grabbed one and held it out for him.
“Hell of a game,” she said. “Almost like when you were playing. ’Cept, of course, if you’d been out there, we would’ve won.”
She nodded toward the back wall, and my gaze followed hers to a row of framed jerseys. Okay, so apparently downplaying didn’t quite cover it.
Five jerseys hung from the white cinderblock wall, all displayed under a bright yellow light. In the very center were two that read “Wilder,” one I assumed with Luke’s number and the other with Duke’s.
“It was a great game. They gave it all they had,” Luke said, seemingly oblivious to my revelation. “What do I owe you?”
Jill shrugged. “On the house. Would’ve gone in the trash, anyway.”
We said our good-byes before joining the crowd still streaming to the parking lot. When I took a bite of the salty hot dough, Luke frowned at me.
“Don’t you want some mustard or cheese?”
“And sully the perfect taste of this pretzel? Not on your life.” I gave him a playful shove and took another bite, thinking over what to say next. I knew what I wanted to say.
Don’t take me back to the inn. Let me stay at your place tonight, and tomorrow night too. And then we can just go our separate ways and have this fun memory to take with us.
Still, it felt too forward. I couldn’t exactly invite myself into someone else’s home for the weekend, and even if I could . . . wasn’t that a little too serious for something that we both agreed was a fling?
I shook my head, trying to recall what Luke had been saying, but it was no use. “Huh?”
“I said, can I give you a ride to the inn?”
“Oh, yeah, that would be great.” I followed him to his truck, listening to the chatter around us as people rehashed the game.
“What were we talking about?” he asked as he got behind the wheel.
I settled into the passenger seat. “I asked about college. What did you major in?”
“For the distillery?”
His face twisted into a frown. “Not exactly.”
“What does that mean?”
He glanced at me from the corner of his eye, his profile and square jaw looking as fine as hell, even in the darkened interior of the truck. “I’ll tell you, but first you have to promise that you’re not the jealous type.”
“Jealous?” I laughed, but my stomach tightened. “What do you mean?”
“You know what jealousy looks like. Promise me you can contain yourself.”
“I think I can manage.” I rolled my eyes, but secretly I was wishing I was anywhere else right now.