Home > Jock Row (Jock Hard #1)

Jock Row (Jock Hard #1)
Author: Sara Ney

Scarlett

“No offense, Scarlett, but if you didn’t feel good when I invited you to come with us tonight, you should have said something. Now I feel terrible.”

Tessa—a girl I lived next door to in the dorms freshman and sophomore year and remained friends with—flips her perfectly coifed hair, eyeing up my soft sweater, the one I always wear when I’m getting over a cold, or sick, because it’s cozy, oversized, and comforting. It’s more appropriate for a bonfire or night at home than a college party, and when Tessa shoots me that sympathetic face—lips turned down at the corners, eying me skeptically—I manage a soft laugh.

“Trust me, I’ve been home for the past few weekends—I needed this night out.”

Two to be exact, couch surfing and binging on random TV shows, consuming copious amounts of hot tea and chicken noodle soup.

“Are you sure? Because if you’re not…”

“I’m fine—that’s why I wore this sweater. It’s going to keep me toasty warm tonight so I don’t catch a chill.”

The last thing I want is her changing her plans because of me.

“But that sweater…” Tessa worries her bottom lip, chewing off some of the lipstick. “It gets so warm inside those parties…maybe just take the scarf off? And the jacket?”

Fingering the gray, cable knit length around my neck, I breathe in the merino wool that’s the only thing keeping my neck warm and my cough from coming back.

“My scarf? What’s wrong with it?”

“Nothing’s wrong with it, but we’re going to the baseball house—you know, on Jock Row.”

When she says Jock Row, her voice changes, fills with this weird wistfulness and a playful giddiness, like we’re heading to some magical place. We’re not.

Jock Row: the off-campus housing block where student athletes live and party. Similar to Greek Row, each sport has its own designated apartment or house, spanning an entire city block. They study together, play together, live together. Hell, they even eat together in a special cafeteria I’ve only heard whispers about, with super special, healthy jock food.

How nice for them.

I remember listening to her talk about it in the dorms when we were new students; she’d babble for hours about wanting to date an athlete, explaining which ones she thought were cute, trolling them online. Crushing hard, wondering what it was like to date one but never having the lady balls to go to one of their parties.

Well, we have the courage now.

Tessa still has the same stars in her eyes when she talks about it, still has that same breathiness in her voice.

In a way, I don’t blame her, because the guys on Jock Row?

They aren’t boys—they’re a different breed of student body altogether.

These boys don’t compare to the guys from back home that I’m used to flirting with: the gangly, juvenile boys I grew up with who went to college but still haven’t matured—they are nothing like the boys of Jock Row.

Not physically.

Not mentally.

These guys? They’re men, with actual responsibilities and obligations. They work hard and play hard.

Bigger.

Brawny.

In peak physical condition—probably the best shape they’ll ever be in their lives.

Cocky.

Quick.

I’ve seen them in action on the baseball field; I know the team is good, and damn, they look good, too.

Smell good.

How do I know? I got close to one once, rooting around for a beverage at the football house one weekend a while back. A big, burly player cut me off in line at the keg, leaning over to grab the beer tap with his meaty fingers, and I accidentally caught a whiff—a long, deep whiff, one that ended with an internal ‘ahhh’ that only comes when we appreciate something truly delicious.

Obviously, being a warm-blooded female, I checked out his upper torso, muscular forearms, and thick neck in the process—like every other female in the room with a set of functioning eyes had been doing.

Every female, like Tessa and her roommate, Cameron, who’s still in their bathroom primping.

I know what these two want: they’re hoping to sink their hot pink talons into some unsuspecting athlete. They’re older, wiser, and more confident. They’re also wearing less clothes.

Tonight, Tessa has been prattling on about the baseball team’s catcher. She bumped into him earlier this week on campus and has been social media stalking him since. Discovered that if she timed it just right, he’d be walking out of the science building at the same time she’d be walking out of the international studies building.

Guess I can’t fault her; I’ve laid eyes on the guy a few times myself and don’t blame her for fawning over him. He’s dark, broody, and extremely good-looking, plus Latino to boot.

Muy caliente.

“Please trust me,” Tessa is saying. “I’m no nursing major, but I know this: if you wear that outfit to the party, you’re going to have a stroke, and there won’t be anyone there to revive you.”

“You don’t think there will be any pre-med students there?”

“Pfft, nooo—they’re probably studying right now.”

“Thank god—saving lives takes some learn-ed learning.”

She doesn’t get my joke.

“I’m serious, Scarlett. You’re literally going to die if you wear that. Plus…”

Her sentence trails off, blue eyes—the color of ocean breeze contact lenses—raking up and down my body for the second time. Cringing when they reach my scarf.

She hates my outfit but is too sweet to tell me.

“Do you not like my outfit?”

“It might be freezing outside, but it’s not going to be cold inside—the house is hot, and the guys are hotter.”

I wrap the scarf tighter, giving her arm a gentle pat. “We’re walking there and it’s freezing and I’ve been sick—I love you, Tess, but I’m not jeopardizing my health for one party.”

I forgot how caring her blue eyes could be, and I’m surprised to see her blink with all the mascara clumped on her lashes, mouth downturned. “What about your sniffles?”

“The worst of my cold is over.” I fake a cough. “Can we go? Otherwise I’m going to end up reading at home.”

“Don’t do that! You’ve turned into such a hermit since you got your own apartment.”

“Nerd alert!” I tease, pointing a finger at myself. “I just bought a new book, and I’ve been waiting for it to release for nine months—nine! That’s a damn eternity in romance novel years. You’re lucky I dragged myself off the couch,” I protest, head tilting toward their bathroom. “What is taking Cameron so long?”

“One of her hair extensions was loose. She had to add extra adhesive.”

“Ah.” I nod knowingly—as if that makes any sense.

Lucky for me, Cameron chooses that moment to come sashaying down the hallway as if she’s on a fashion runway, thumbing a long strand of platinum blonde hair, curls sprayed into submission. The rest of them lie in silky waves, and I briefly wonder how she’s going to walk the entire way on those four-inch heels.

Dark eyes, glossy lips, and black dress, Cam is ready to hit the Row.

Finally.

She halts when she sees me, pointing an accusatory finger at my boots. Practically hisses. “You are not wearing that outfit. It’s butt ugly.”

Tessa pipes up. “Save your breath—if we make her change she won’t come out with us, and I haven’t seen her in ages.”

“Aww, you are too sweet.” I wrap an arm around her slim waist, squeezing her in a side hug. “I kind of missed you two weirdos.”

***

Oh shit.

They were right—I’m sweltering and this entire outfit was a terrible idea.

Why didn’t they try harder to make me change into something new? I swear, Tessa is an abysmal friend.

I’m dying. I am going to have heat stroke.

It’s hot as Hades, the hundred bodies overcrowding the small space creating a blasted inferno, despite the freezing temperatures outdoors.

I pull off my jacket. Have no choice but to loosen the scarf clinging to my perspiring neck, a second skin, damp with my sweat.

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