For the Rush (Playing for Keeps #3)

BOOK: For the Rush (Playing for Keeps #3)
11.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub







Amber Garza

Cover: Kris @ C & K Creations

Copyright © 2015 Amber Garza

All rights reserved.


This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.


For information:

Other titles by Amber Garza


For the Win

For the Game

Cuts Run Deep

Head Above Water

Falling to Pieces

Star Struck

Love Struck

Tripping Me Up

Finding Me Again

Winning Me Over

Break Free

Break Through



Delaney’s Gift Series:





The Prowl Trilogy





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To Kayleen, my strong and beautiful daughter. I adore being your mom and I love the person you are becoming. I pray you will always know how special you are. That you will never lose your spark. That you will never let life box you in, but that you will spread your wings and fly free.




I wasn’t a huge fan of the hot tub until she stepped into it. Attempting to be discreet, I slid down until the foamy warm water hit my chin, and continued to stare at her.  I’d never been into super thin girls. I liked curves, and this girl definitely had them. The black bikini she wore showed them off perfectly. I felt a twinge of disappointment when she sank into the water, obscuring her body with the bubbles. Resting her head against the side, she blew out a breath through her heart-shaped lips. Her black hair was pulled back in a messy bun, but a few strands had escaped and coiled around her face, sticking to her pale skin. When her gaze flickered over to me, I caught a glimpse of her large brown eyes.

Damn, she was hot.

Her eyes shifted away from me, and I mentally chastised myself for openly staring. But, shit, what did she expect coming in here like that? Scooting down farther, I angled my body so my shoulder was up against the jet. It hurt, but I gritted through the pain.

I’d been working out at this gym for years, but I’d only been in the spa a couple of times. The gym was a place I pushed myself, a place I sweated and grunted, endured pain.  Not a place I sat around and pampered myself like a chick. But I’d hurt my shoulder the last time I lifted weights, and my mom had suggested I remedy it in the hot tub. At first I’d scoffed at the idea, but when it didn’t get better, I decided it was a worth a shot. I knew I had to be prepared for the football game this weekend.

That’s how I found myself in the spa tonight. And this little angel was exactly what the doctor ordered. I doubted this was what Mom had in mind, but now I could think of nothing else. The girl had her face upturned, her eyes closed. Steam rose around her, moistening her skin. God, what I wouldn’t do to reach out and touch it. As if she could feel me staring, her eyelids flipped open and she looked directly at me.

“Do I have a booger hanging out of my nose or something?” She wiped a wet hand under her nostril.

“No,” I answered.

“Then why do you keep staring?” Her forward question took me aback.

I racked my brain for some witty response, but then I shrugged.
What the hell?
“Cause you’re hot.”

“Oh yeah?” One side of her mouth curved upward in an amused expression. I wondered what was so amusing about what I’d said. Then I realized she probably got hit on all the time in the spa, so I tempered it a bit.

“You come here a lot?” I asked.

“Pretty much every night.”

“Really?” This surprised me.

“Yeah. I’m training to become a prune.” She smiled, lifting her hand out of the water. After inspecting it a moment, she lowered it back down. “Not quite there yet.” I studied my own hands, noting how wrinkly they were becoming. “I know it’s a lofty goal, but I figure with enough practice and dedication I can get there. Maybe I will even become one permanently. Get my name in the Guinness Book of World Records or something.”

I liked this girl.
Chuckling, I sat up, exposing my chest. The water was becoming a little hot, and the cool air felt good on my flesh. White puffs of steam rose from my body. “So this is what you do at the gym? You don’t work out?”

“How would that help me reach my goal? I’ve got to stay focused here.” She wore an expression of mock determination. “What about you? I’ve never seen you in the spa before, so I’m guessing your goals are different than mine.”

“A little. However, now that we’ve met, I’m thinking I may want to join you in your quest.”

“Hmmm.” She gave me the once over. “I’m not sure you’re up to the challenge.”

“Why’s that?” I raised an eyebrow.

“For one, I can tell you’re ready to get out. You’re practically squirming in this hot water.” She grinned. “It’s clear that you’re burning up.”

“Maybe that has more to do with the company than the temperature of the water,” I tossed out, wanting to see how she would react to my flirting.

“Well, that could be it,” she joked back.

Damn, this chick didn’t miss a beat.

“I’m Holden.” I stuck out my hand.

“Chloe,” She reached up, water dripping from her arm. Her nails had been painted red, but they were chipping. For some reason I found this endearing. Her skin was pale, almost translucent under the yellow lights shining on the spa. When I took her hand in mine it was soft and warm. I wanted to hold it all night, but I knew that would be weird. So I released it and took a seat next to her. Under the blurry water, I could make out the swell of her thighs, a glimmer of her black bikini. It was freaking hot in here, and what I really wanted was to get the hell out. But I didn’t want to leave Chloe. She was intriguing. Definitely the most intriguing girl I’d met in a long time.

She stood up suddenly, liquid cascading down her skin. I sucked in a breath, staring at her sexy body.

“Well, good luck with your training. Maybe I’ll see you next time,” Chloe spoke in her lyrical voice as she climbed out of the spa.

“Yeah, okay.” Her sudden departure caught me off guard. I wanted to ask for her number, her last name, anything that gave me a way to contact her again. But before I knew it, she’d wrapped a towel around her waist and scurried toward the girls’ locker room. By the time I called after her, she’d disappeared inside. Panic gripped me until I remembered what she said. She came here every night. I didn’t need her number.

I knew exactly how to find her again.


When I got home, Mom was lying on the couch watching one of those reality shows she liked so much. She wore sweat pants and a t-shirt. Her dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and her face was scrubbed clean. A half-drunk glass of red wine sat on the coffee table. Other than the sound of the television, the house was silent. My stomach knotted. Clearly James was working late tonight. When Mom first started dating James, I’d been happy. After years of dating losers, James seemed like an upstanding guy – an accountant with a decent job, clean cut, attentive, and kind toward Mom. I was even okay with them getting married. However, I did make it clear to James that I wasn’t looking for another dad. I had one of those, no matter how uninvolved he was.

But lately James had been working late frequently and I was experiencing a sense of déjà vu. It’s reminiscent of the months leading up to my dad leaving. His late nights turned into weekends away, and the next thing we know he’s moving to another state and bringing his new girlfriend with him. Now my dad’s a sports announcer for the Akron Avengers. When I visited him I got to attend the games for free, so that was cool. Too bad I didn’t get to visit him that often and he pretty much never came here. Perhaps one day I’d play for the NFL and get to see him more often.

Shrugging away the thoughts, I stepped into the family room. My hair was damp, and the scent of chlorine wafted from my skin. Mom hadn’t noticed me because she was so engrossed in her show. I glanced up in time to see some botoxed, plastic-looking woman fighting with another equally fake-looking woman. Was this seriously the kind of thing my mom was into? By the enthralled expression on her face, I was judging yes.

“Hey, mom.”

She flinched, clutching her chest. “Oh, you startled me.”

“Yeah, you seemed pretty into your show.” I raised an eyebrow.

She smiled. “Always makes me feel better to watch people with even more problems than I have.”

Her words concerned me. “Everything okay?”

“Oh, yeah. Fine.” She waved away my words, and reached for her glass of wine. “You know what I mean.”

I nodded, but I didn’t. Rarely did I understand my mom.

She glanced down at my damp swim trunks. “So, it looks like you took my advice.” After taking a sip of her wine, a satisfied grin swept her face. 

“And you say I never listen to you,” I joked.

“Did it help?”

I knew she was referring to my shoulder, but all I could think about was Chloe. “Yeah. It did.” I smiled.

“Good.” She set her wine glass down. “Then you’ll be all ready for the game on Friday.”

I bit my lip, hoping she was right. The door swung open behind me.

“James.” Mom’s eyes lit up. “You’re home.” She stood, moving around me.

By the time she reached him, he’d set his briefcase down by the door and he swept her up into an embrace. After planting a kiss on her lips, his gaze found mine. I narrowed my eyes, throwing him a stern look. I hope it conveyed what I meant it to. He better have been working late, because if he’s screwing around on my mom, he’s going to have to answer to me.




It was him.

The guy from the spa.

He sat a few tables over in the cafeteria surrounded by a rowdy group of guys. Even though I’d only met him once I’d recognize him anywhere. His tousled dark hair and rich brown eyes had made an impression on me. Not to mention that our meeting in the spa left hardly anything to the imagination. If his rock hard abs and well-defined arms were an indicator, then he spent a lot of time in the gym. Scouring his table, I didn’t recognize any of his friends. Of course that wasn’t exactly surprising. I’d been at this school a total of three weeks and I hadn’t met a ton of people. When he smiled at one of his friends, warmth spread through my belly. I remembered the seductive way he’d grinned at me in the spa. Shoving my sandwich away, I plucked up my water bottle and took a sip, hoping it would cool me off. Just thinking about Holden had caused heat to rise inside of me as if I was in the hot tub right now. Chatter swept around me as everyone at my crammed table talked over one another. I couldn’t catch an entire sentence, just a word here and there, fragmented phrases with no rhyme or reason. Biting my lip, my eyes locked on Holden again, and I contemplated heading over to him.  I mean, what would be the harm? Wasn’t he the one who came on to me? He called me hot, right? And he’d made it clear he wanted to see me again. I was about to slide off the bench and walk over to him, but apprehension filled me. One conversation didn’t mean I knew the guy. He could be a total jerk. Maybe he hit on every girl he saw. That was the problem with being the new girl. It was easy for someone to deceive you. And trust me, it had happened to me plenty of times. So before I went rushing over to him, I needed a little more information.

“Hey, Jazzy.” I nudged Jasmine in the ribs to catch her attention. She’d been facing the other direction, deep in conversation with Gianna. “Tell me what you know about Holden.”

Jasmine whipped around to face me, her long dark hair swishing around her shoulders. “Holden Reece?”

I shrugged. We hadn’t shared last names.  Lifting my arm, I pointed in his direction. “The guy right there?”

Jasmine’s caramel colored eyes followed my gaze and she nodded, an incredulous look on her face. “Why do you want to know about Holden?”

The odd way she was behaving made me wish I’d never asked, but there was no backing down now. “Um…just because we met last night at the gym and I was curious about him.”

“No way.” Her mouth dropped open. “And you talked to him?”

“Yeah, we talked for a little while.” An involuntary smile leapt to my lips. I wiped it away quickly, but Jasmine caught it.

Her eyebrows shot up. Reaching behind her, she latched on to Gianna’s arm. “Chloe has a thing for Holden Reece.”

Gianna’s neck snapped toward us, her high ponytail swinging with the movement.

My stomach twisted. “I do not. I was just curious about him.”

“They met at the gym the other night,” Jasmine shared with Gianna.

“Really?” Gianna’s eyes widened. “Did you tell him who you were?”

Irritated, I furrowed my brows. “And who am I?” I knew exactly what she was insinuating, but I wanted to make her say it out loud.

Gianna glanced around our table wearing a look of discomfort. “It’s just that Holden Reece doesn’t mix with girls like us.”

“Girls like us? And what kind of girl would that be?” I pinned my new friends with a challenging stare. I’d only known Gianna and Jasmine a few weeks, but already I felt pretty close to them. One of the perks of moving so much was that I’d learned at an early age how to make new friends fast. My dad was in construction management, and it seemed that every couple of years his company sent him to a new area to oversee the development of a subdivision. Luckily I could bring my tenor saxophone with me anywhere, and my musical talent gave me an in. The band gave me a place to belong. But on the flip side, it also set me apart. It labeled me.

Jasmine sat forward, elbows on the slick cafeteria table. “What Gianna is trying to say is that Holden is the quarterback of the football team. He dates the cheerleaders and popular girls, not the band geeks.”

And there it was. The label I hated so much. I wanted to be mad at Jasmine for even saying it. Only she was in the band too, so I knew she wasn’t making fun of me. No doubt she’d been called a band geek for years just like I had. In fact, she and Gianna seemed to wear the label proudly, like a badge of honor. All of their friends were in the band, and they didn’t seem to mind at all. And the truth was that the band kids were fun. I should know. I was a senior and had been in band since sixth grade. But as much as I loved music and loved my friends, I hated being defined by it. I was more than just a girl in the band. There was so much more to me than that one thing. And for a few minutes in the spa the other night it seemed that Holden had seen that. He appeared to be truly interested in me. Would it really make a difference if he knew I was in marching band? Glancing back at his table, my chest tightened. This time I saw what I’d missed before. I saw Holden’s football jacket, the tanned, blond girls hovering around his table. It was clear that all the guys with him had the same build, the same athleticism, the same charm. They were all jocks. Not one band kid in sight. As sad as it was to admit, I knew my answer. Of course it would make a difference. This was high school.

Labels and social statuses were everything here.

The bell rang out, causing chaos to ensue around me. There was a flurry of motion as students stood, gathered belongings, threw away their trash from lunch, said good-bye to friends and headed for the doors. After Gianna and Jasmine got up, I spun around and slid off the bench. After tossing my empty lunch bag in the trash, I snatched my backpack off the ground and flung it over my shoulder.

“All right. See you girls tonight.” Jasmine threw Gianna and I a wave before getting swallowed up by a sea of students.

“I’m off to math.” Gianna curled up her nose in a look of disgust. “See ya at practice.”

I nodded as she joined the crowd. Sighing, I geared up for the long afternoon of classes and homework, just to return for marching band practice tonight. Don’t get me wrong, I loved music. There was nothing more soothing to me than pulling out my shiny saxophone and getting lost in a song. But marching band wasn’t like that. We were still learning our show, so tonight would be three hours of marching and receiving our drill.

Guess it was time to join the herd of cows…uh, students…excuse me. But it felt like a herd of cows with how they all moved in the same direction, careful not to step on one another. For the millionth time I was grateful it was my senior year. I’d never felt cut out for high school. I didn’t like playing the game. The truth was that I was comfortable in my skin. I liked who I was and didn’t want to change. My parents had always said I was a free spirit. But high school threatened that. It tried to box me in. I wanted to spread my wings and fly free, but in school everyone was trying to pin my wings back and hold them there.

Stepping into the crowd of students, I felt as if I was giving in. A part of me was tempted to run the other direction, to go out a window or something. Anything to feel like I was my own person. That I was making my own decisions. But I knew that would be irrational, so I took a deep breath and stepped in line with the other kids.

My backpack jostled against my spine with each step. The overpowering scent of cologne slapped me in the face. I glanced around, wondering who had gotten into their dad’s medicine cabinet this morning. When my gaze rested on a boy with overly gelled hair, I knew I had my guy. The way he glanced at the girl to his right confirmed it. Clearly, he was working hard to impress her. Coughing, I turned away, praying I’d get out of here soon. If not, I was afraid I might choke to death on his cologne.

“Watch where you’re going,” a loud voice boomed to my left.

I flinched, my head swiveling. A large guy with dark hair and eyes loomed over a smaller guy.

“S-s-sorry,” the smaller guy responded, pushing his glasses up his nose. I recognized him as one of the boys in the band. Preston, I think his name was.

My heart pinched when I saw Holden walking next to the rude guy. So my earlier assessment of him had been correct.

“What? I can’t understand you past all the st-st-stuttering,” Rude Guy said.

I rolled my eyes, disgusted. The guy was like something out of a bad teen sitcom.

Preston attempted to move away from him, but not before Rude Guy shoved him from behind. Preston tumbled to the ground, his backpack slipping off and his glasses dropping from his face. No one tried to intervene to help Preston. Holden and Rude Guy walked away as if nothing had happened. Students stepped over Preston as if he didn’t even exist. As if he was as insignificant as a twig or leaf.

I elbowed my way through the other students until I reached Preston. Reaching down, I picked up his backpack while he re-positioned his glasses on his face.

“You okay?”  I asked.

His head snapped up, a surprised expression painting his face. “Um…yeah. Fine.”

“That guy was a douchebag. Don’t worry about him.”

A small smile flickered on Preston’s face. “Yeah,” he breathed out.

After he stood up, I thrust my arm out, holding out his backpack. “Here you go.”

“Thanks.” He appeared stunned, as if no one had ever been nice to him before.

“No problem. Preston, right?”

His eyes widened. “How’d you know?”

“We’re in band together. I’m the new girl.” I stuck out my hand. “Chloe.”

His hand was cold and clammy when he folded it around mine. “That explains why you’re being so nice,” he said. “Cause you’re new.”

“Nope,” I corrected him. “I’m being so nice because that’s how I am.”             



BOOK: For the Rush (Playing for Keeps #3)
11.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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