Hooked by Love (Bellevue Bullies #3)(3)

By: Toni Aleo



When Markus starts to laugh, I glare back at him and he shrugs. “She’s funny.”

“Shut up,” I mouth before turning back to her. “No, No Dating Diane.”

Her face lights up as she perks up. “Ha! That’s funny.”

“I try,” I say with a grin. “But anyway, the Bullies are throwing a party tonight if you want to come.”

“Oh, yeah. I’m coming already.”

Surprised by that, I ask, “You got invited?”

She shoots me a little kitten grin that goes straight to my groin. “Yeah, by some dude wanting to sleep with me. No biggie, though. I’m going for the free booze, not the sex.”

She is very blasé about it, and I like that. Most girls would be creaming their panties at getting an invite from one of the guys on the Bullies. We are royalty around this campus—being regional champions gets you that respect—but this girl doesn’t care one way or the other.

Nodding my head, I grin. “Cool, I’ll save you a beer, then.”

“Cool, yeah, I’ll come take it off your hands. I like beer.”

“Cool.”

“Cool.”

But I don’t move. Instead, I stand there, my eyes getting lost in hers until Markus clears his throat. “Let’s go, bro.”

“Yeah,” I say, remembering we have to leave. “Use that money wisely.”

She looks down at the two bucks and fist-pumps. “Yes, I can finally afford that Airhead I wanted.”

“Only if it’s green.”

“Duh, that’s the only good color,” she said simply, taking a dollar in each of her hands and waving them in the air. “I got a dolla, I got a dolla, I got two dollas, hey, hey, hey, hey.”

My face breaks out into a grin as I nod. “Cool, see you tonight, No Dating Diane.”

Pausing, she grins back at me. “Till tonight, Lame Line Larry.”

I unlock the doors to my car and climb in after Markus is already in his seat.

“She’s different.”

“Yeah,” I say, stealing one last glance at her. She’s watching me, her eyes dark and full of desire. I hadn’t noticed that before, and seeing it now hits me straight in the gut.

“She’s hot, too.”

I nod. “For sure.”

Markus laughs and I tear my gaze off her to meet his. “What?”

“Nothing, you’re all googly-eyed.”

My brows furrow and I realize my heart is pounding against my ribs. What the hell is wrong with me? “I don’t get googly-eyed.”

“Sure you don’t,” is his opinion as I back out of my parking space, deciding there is no reason to dignify his accusation with a response.

Because I don’t get googly-eyed.

I’ll also never admit that I glance back at her one last time.

Just one more time.

Just in case she doesn’t show up tonight.

Nope, I’ll never admit that.





Well.

Wasn’t he interesting?

And hot.

Like superhot.

Watching as he pulls out of the parking spot, his blue BMW’s rims flashing in the sun, meaning his daddy has money, I drink him some more. The hard lines of his face, the stubborn chin covered in dark stubble, the way his thick, dark hair dusted his ears in an unruly way. I can’t deny I’m attracted to him. He has great bone structure, excellent lips, thick and full, and he’s big. Not break a doorway with his shoulders kind of big, but he is strong. With one glance, I know he is a hockey player. He’s built like my brothers, and you only get a body like that from being on the ice twenty-four seven.

Yes, I know it’s weird I know that.

But being from a hockey family and growing up with the sport crammed down my throat, I can spot a hockey player from a mile away. I grew up with three of them and traveled with hundreds of them. But when his eyes met mine again, a grin picking up at the side of his mouth, the thoughts of years upon years traveling all over God’s green earth for hockey tournaments with stinky boys were gone, and butterflies went nuts in my gut. His eyes were dark green and full of all kinds of naughty things. One look in that boy’s eyes and it was safe to say he was one thing:

A player.

I have seen his breed of man plenty of time. Thankfully, I have learned over the years to keep my heart out of reach. Being around hockey players all the time not only means I can pick them out of a lineup. It also means I have dated my fair share of them and had my heart broken too many times to count. You would think I would have learned. I didn’t, but really, that doesn’t matter. It isn’t like I’m in the market for a boyfriend. And even if I were, I know I wouldn’t be in the mood to try to change him. I don’t have time for that. I have my eyes on the prize. I left my family up north for school in the south for a reason, and it’s to live my dreams.

With no one holding me back.

Shaking my head, or really, shaking away thoughts of Lame Line Larry, I put my guitar back in my case. But then I pause, reaching for the dollars he threw in there. Smiling, I take them, tucking them in my pocket before placing my guitar slowly in its case. I run my fingers along the strings, an untuned melody coming from the box that holds my Martin X series, and I smile. My mom got it for me before I left for Nashville. Telling me to follow my heart and kick some ass.

I am going to do just that.

Shutting the case, I lock it before standing up and looking around campus. People are everywhere. It is a busy day, the first full week of school, and I am starting to get into the groove of things. One thing is for sure, though, I like it here. It is a big change from Princeton, New Jersey, my hometown, but I am finding my way. I’ve only been here a week, and in that week, I went to all my classes, performed at three open mics, shot three videos, and even wrote two songs. Oh, and I was invited to one of the biggest parties of the year, according to my roommate.

Apparently, I’m not invisible here.

Apparently, it doesn’t matter that I’m not a boy here. The guys actually like it.

Apparently, there is more to life than hockey here.

And I’m pretty sure those reasons are why I am totally, unabashedly in love with Nashville, Tennessee.

It wasn’t a hard decision to move here when it was time to choose a college. I had one dream and one dream only, and Bellevue was my ticket to it. Despite my twin brother having a full ride to Boston College and my parents wanting me to go with him, I decided to go elsewhere. Like always.

No matter what my parents said, I always wanted the opposite. I wasn’t the star child like my twin Matty or my older brothers, Seth and Laurence. Never had been. When Mom was pregnant with me, they didn’t see me hiding behind my monstrous brother on the ultrasound. Because of him, they didn’t find out about me until a month before her due date.

What a surprise.

Not.

I was the unwanted child; I know this. One, I’m not a boy. Two, I don’t play hockey. And three, I actually have a mind of my own. Oh, and I’m sarcastic. Very sarcastic. Drives my dad nuts, but I’m always begging to stand out. Not only am I the shortest of the family at a modest 5’5”, but my brothers are all over 6 feet. Even my mom is tall. It’s like Matty sucked up all my height and added it to his. It wasn’t fair, and I always got overlooked. Why sign me up for dance when we have two tournaments in one weekend? Why buy me a Barbie when Laurence, Seth, and Matty all need new gear? Who cares if I don’t want to go to tournaments or games? What I wanted didn’t matter, only the boys.

Nope, I was always the afterthought. Always put on the back burner for hockey. My mom tried, she did, but with four big personalities like my dad and my brothers, we couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

But things are about to change. I am on my own, I am making my own decisions, and it is time to live my life.

I know they wanted my hopes and dreams to lead me to Boston College, but that place had nothing for me. I want to be a singer, a songwriter, something other than the add-on to Matty Haverbrooke. Yeah, I know I could live my dreams there, play at some coffee shops, but that isn’t enough for me. I want to be in the heart of music. I want to live and breathe the industry. And what better place than the music capital of the world? No, I am home now and I am ready to do this.

Ready to live the life I want.

The life where I come first. I matter.

And it was hard to ignore how I felt under that guy’s gaze. It felt like I was all he saw, and that was awesome. I wasn’t just the girl you slept with to get closer to her family. No, I was just some girl, leaned up against a tree, playing a tune. Hey, he liked me enough to tip me. It was only two bucks, but that’s a start! I might have to frame my two bucks, just so I never forget this moment.

The moment when I was Avery Rose Haverbrooke. A singer. Against a tree.

Hey, it has a ring to it.

Setting my guitar down, I pull the two bucks back out and take a quick picture, sending it to my mom with the caption:



Some dude tipped me for singing.



Before I could even pick my case back up, a text came through.



Mom: Because you are awesome! Whoopin it up!



Rolling my eyes, I laugh.



Me: Mom, what is whoopin it up?

Mom: I heard it on that Housewives show. Is that not right?



This woman… Gets rid of her last two kids and starts watching trash TV and eating bonbons. I wouldn’t want it any other way, though. My brothers have run her into the ground, and I know I wasn’t easy to raise.

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