It’s not like I didn’t know football.
I’m not going to pretend like I’m one of those girls who doesn’t know a thing about football. I grew up in a big football area and I went to one of the biggest football schools in the country, Mater Dei. It’s a Catholic institution, and it’s one of the powerhouses of college football.
I grew up around the sport. My father watched it, my uncles watched it, everyone I knew watched football. Going to the game on Friday nights in high school was practically a social requirement, even for borderline dorks like me.
I just didn’t love football. I didn’t wake up every morning wondering about the game, wondering about the moves managers were making, wondering what the players were thinking. I didn’t live and breathe football like so many people did. It was fun to be a part of that screaming mass of intense students, don’t get me wrong, but I just didn’t really care all that much one way or the other.
Which I guess is a long way of saying, I knew who Gibson Evans was the second he walked up to me that night.
It was the summer between junior and senior year, and I was living in an apartment off campus with my best friend, Harper. I had an internship at a local sports medicine lab, and she was doing some admin work for the local government.
It was our summer of fun. We had it easy. Our responsibilities were few, our rent was cheap, and all we wanted to do was hang out and have a good time.
That was how we ended up at some random house party early in August. I had no clue Gibson was going to be there, or that the guy throwing the house party was an ex-player alumnus. All I knew was that there was cheap beer, lots of people our age, and an excuse to dance.
I didn’t want Gibson to come up to me. I didn’t want him to smile that cocky grin, that sort of look that made you feel like he knew you, really knew you, and he liked what he knew. He had these eyes, blue as a Husky’s or something like that, just absolutely piercing. I heard one girl describe them this way: “If eyes could fuck, I would want Gibson’s eyes to get me pregnant.”
That was pretty accurate, I had to admit.
I’d never seen him up close before. He was tall, easily over six feet tall, and covered in muscles. Tattoos snaked their way up along his arms, and he had this swagger about him. People stared when he walked by, and it seemed like everyone was constantly watching what he was doing. The party seemed to revolve around Gibson.
I’d never spoken a word to him before. He was just that mythical athlete, considered one of the best quarterbacks in the country, an untouchable god on campus. I never saw him out of his uniform, actually, until that night.
Until he looked at me and smiled across the living room and then walked right over like it was no big thing.
I didn’t freak out. Like I said, I didn’t really care all that much about football. My heart was hammering in my chest, and I felt nervous in a really strange way, but it wasn’t because he was an important athlete.
It was because he was the most attractive man that had ever so much as looked at me.
Harper stopped talking mid-sentence and stared at him as he stopped right in front of me.
“I don’t know you,” he said, smirking at me.
What an asshole.
Did that normally work?
He was looking at me like I was some strange alien invading his space. It was this cocky mix of control and arrogant confusion, like I didn’t belong or something.
I was flustered when he first smiled, but I was annoyed as soon as he opened his mouth.
“Sorry,” I said. “I don’t know you, either.”
Harper let out a choked laugh, because of course I knew him. Everyone knew him.
That only made his grin get bigger, though.
“I’m Gibson,” he said. “I just meant that I know everyone else here, except you.”
“I’m Avery,” I said. “Nice to meet you.”
“Same.” He stepped closer to me. “I don’t mean to be too forward. I’m just so used to seeing the same faces at these parties.”
“I know what you mean,” I said, although I didn’t. “This is my friend Harper.”
He barely glanced at her. “Hey,” he said, before looking right back at me.
“Hey,” she managed to say.
“Listen, come dance with me,”
I laughed. “Seriously?”
“Seriously. Hear that? Sounds like the DJ just got here.”
There was a booming bass line coming from the basement, and I noticed that a lot of people were slowly filtering toward it.
I wasn’t drunk, but there was something so intoxicating about him. Maybe it was the way he stared at me like I was the only girl in the room, or maybe it was his reputation. Gibson Evans was a bad boy, and everyone knew it. The media played it up even, loved to talk about how he came from a rough neighborhood and was practically raised by his grandmother. Gibson’s parents were too drunk to take care of him, so he had to learn to take care of himself.