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Authors: Avery Cockburn

Playing to Win

BOOK: Playing to Win
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Contents

Title and Copyright

Bonus Lads

About this Book

Dedication

Epigraph

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Epilogue

Thanks for reading!

More Glasgow Lads

Author's Note on Scottish independence

About the Author

Playing to Win

by Avery Cockburn

Copyright © 2015 by Avery Cockburn. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictionally. Reproduction in whole or part of this publication without express written consent is strictly prohibited.

Cover design by Damonza.

www.AveryCockburn.com

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Playing to Win: A Glasgow Lads Novel

Colin MacDuff has nothing. Growing up in a Glasgow slum, he learned never to trust, never to cry—and never EVER be at the mercy of anyone, especially rich men. So how did he end up half-naked at a rave with Scotland’s hottest young aristocrat?

Lord Andrew Sunderland has everything. From ancestral castle to posh prep school, he’s spent his life wrapping others around his wee finger. With a social circle full of celebrities and politicians, nothing can stop Andrew’s rise to the top. Nothing, that is, save his desire for a dirt-poor, wolf-eyed footballer whose scars and tattoos tell unbearable tales.

Colin and Andrew come from different worlds, believe in different worlds,
want
different worlds. Yet every time they touch, all worlds fall away.

Set amid the fiery Scottish-independence struggle, this searing gay romance tells the story of two men who must lose everything to win each other’s hearts.

To those who say Aye.

“Love is an infinite victory.”

- actual Yogi teabag tag

C
HAPTER
O
NE

C
OLIN
M
AC
D
UFF
NEVER
said no to a challenge. That’s why he was currently standing on his head, sucking down a two-liter bottle of Irn Bru through a jumbo pink curly straw.

There were other motivations, of course.

Truth, for instance—busting the myth that one could get hammered by guzzling “Scotland’s other national drink” whilst upside down.

Or curiosity—how would it feel to consume such a massive amount of sugar, caffeine, and orange food coloring at once?

Or even simple economics—hey, free Irn Bru!

But mostly he did it because his mates dared him. He had a reputation to uphold, after all.

“Halfway there.” John Burns, one of the party’s hosts, was crouched next to him, timing the stunt. “Liam, move the bottle closer,” he told Colin’s football teammate, a central defender whose ginger hair nearly matched the drink itself.

Colin ripped his eyes from Liam, knowing his friend would try to make him laugh, and stared straight ahead into the forest of partygoers’ feet. He tried to focus on the stereo’s blaring music and the TV’s bleeping MarioKart, and ignore how fast his brain was spinning from the rush of blood and sugar and caffeine.

“You can do it! Wooooooo!” cried the Warriors’ left back, Katie Heath. She started singing the theme song from
Rocky
, then broke off mid-crescendo. “Oh my God, it’s Lord Andrew!”

Colin choked. Bubbly liquid surged into his sinuses, searing the inside of his head.

“Drew!” John leaped up and moved toward the front door.

Spitting out the straw, Colin tumbled over, barely getting his feet beneath him in time to avoid slamming his injured knee against the hardwood floor.

“All right, mate?” Liam thumped Colin on the back, which made his head throb harder. Colin nodded as coughs ripped his throat and panic splintered his mind.

Behind him, he heard a crowd gathering around the newcomer. Colin had lost his audience—to
that fucking guy
, of all people.

“Did it work? Are you drunk?” Katie peered at Colin. “You were supposed to give us the signal so we could help you down. You gotta watch your knee.”

“Of course I’m not drunk, it’s Irn Bru!” Colin said. “And my knee’s fine.”

“It’ll get a lot less fine if you’re not careful.”

He wiped his eyes and tried to grin at her. “When am I ever careful?”

“Now would be an awesome time to start,” Katie said as she and Liam helped Colin to his feet. It had been nearly a month since the American lass’s sliding tackle during practice session had torn Colin’s medial collateral ligament, and she’d yet to forgive herself. Seeing the constant regret in her eyes was sometimes more painful than the injury. “Hey, come meet Lord Andrew,” she said. “He’s smokin’ hot, and I say that as a totally impartial lesbian.”

“Not now.” Colin tapped his chest with his fist. “I feel an Irn Bru belch coming on, and I’d hate to rift in the face of an aristocrat.” Actually, he would love to rift in the face of an aristocrat—just not this particular one.

“Okay, but soon!” Katie darted toward the door, her long dark ponytail swinging behind her.

“Gonnae try again?” Liam asked, holding up the half-empty two-liter bottle.

“Naw, I need to—”
Crawl into a hole and hide. Better yet, crawl into a time machine, travel back six months to the end of January, and run far away from Lord Andrew Sunderland.
“—get a real drink.”

Colin sidestepped through the party, keeping his back to the clump of admirers surrounding the magnetic son of the Marquess of Kirkross, and slipped unseen into the empty kitchen.

He pulled a beer from the fridge and drank nearly half the bottle before pausing to examine the label. Another posh craft brew he’d never heard of. At home it was whatever brand was discounted at Farmfoods, and always in cans.

Colin took a slower sip. This dark ale was pure quality, tasting nothing like piss. He set the bottle on the polished black-marble worktop beside the fridge, then scowled as he realized he’d dribbled a few drops down his front. At least this old Bauhaus T-shirt was dark and grungy enough no one would notice the stain.

Even luckier was the fact that thrift-shop clothing was all the rage just now, which meant Colin’s wardrobe didn’t trumpet the fact he couldn’t afford designer-wear like—

“Drew!” John’s voice rang out. “Gonnae fetch us two lagers while you’re in there.”

No no no.
Colin spun on his heel, tweaking his injured left knee, and hurried to the sink, putting his back to the kitchen door. Perhaps by doing the washing up he could make himself invisible. People like Lord Andrew always ignored the “help.”

The sink was empty, so he snatched two clean serving bowls from the chrome dish drainer, then turned on the hot water.

High-pitched laughter greeted his ears as Andrew entered the kitchen. “No,
you
are too much!” he shouted to someone in the foyer.

The refrigerator opened, and Colin heard the clink of beer bottles. Hands trembling, he focused on scrubbing nonexistent food off the bowl.

Please don’t look over. Please don’t notice me.

“Oh. Hello there.”

Fuck.

Andrew drifted into Colin’s peripheral vision, setting the beer bottles on the worktop. “I don’t believe we’ve met,” he said in his oil-smooth voice, devoid of a Scottish accent despite his family being one of the oldest in Scotland.

“Why don’t you believe it?” Colin asked, rinsing the bowl so thoroughly, one would think the dish soap was toxic.

“It’s just an expression.”

Colin slammed the bowl onto the dish drainer, then turned to face him. “But do you believe it,
Adam
?”

As their eyes locked, Colin felt the same head-to-toe, hot-cold rush that had gripped him the night they’d met six months ago, when Andrew had used a fake name and disguise. The next time Colin had seen that face was weeks later, in a TMZ post about Lord Andrew Sunderland’s grand coming-out announcement.

Now that silver-blue gaze scrutinized Colin, evaluating, measuring…remembering?

“Of course we’ve met,” Andrew said softly. “In a sense.” He swept one hand through his strategically tousled golden-brown hair and extended the other toward Colin. “My real name is Andrew Sunderland. Friends call me Drew.”

“Then I’ll call you Andrew.”

The toff’s polite smile widened into a radiant grin. “I’m glad we meet again. You were hard to forget.” He swept a glance down over Colin. “Especially with those tattoos.”

Colin turned away to dry his hands on a tea towel, and to hide the effect Andrew was having on him—again. “Why are you here?”

“John invited me. We’re mates at University of Glasgow. So, forgive me, your name again?” he asked, stepping forward to halve the distance between them.

Colin wanted to back away, but that would look ridiculous. Andrew matched his own six-foot-one height, but he looked pure slim in that tan blazer. Not intimidating in the least. Just really fucking gorgeous.

“This party,” Colin said, “is for people who helped John move into Fergus’s flat today. Lovely of you to show up after all the work’s done.”

“I wanted to help, but unfortunately I’d an event to attend.”

“The annual meeting of the Useless Friends Society?”

Andrew shook his head sadly. “No, I canceled my membership after our last gala, when everyone ‘forgot’ to pay the serving staff.” He posed with finger quotes up, as if awaiting applause.

“Colin MacDuff.” He bit down on the words. “Is my name.”
It’s in your phone’s contacts, or at least it was.

Andrew snapped his fingers. “Yes! Colin. You were on the tip of my tongue. Your name, I mean,” he added with a flirtatious flick of his brown lashes.

I was on more than the tip
, Colin thought, his mouth watering at the memory of a darkened warehouse corner. Of techno music pumping, warm hands roaming. Of a hotel-room key slipped into his pocket, a fragile promise breathed into his ear:
See you soon.

“I didn’t catch your surname, however,” Andrew continued. “I would’ve remembered that. The MacDuffs were once Earls of Fife, until the fourteenth century, when the male line failed and the title passed to a Stewart, I believe.”

Colin felt his eyes glaze over. Not from boredom at the history lesson—in fact, he was relieved Andrew didn’t quote
Macbeth
to him, like most people did when they learned his surname. His focus was blurred instead by the scent of Andrew’s cologne and the memory of how it had lingered on Colin’s shirt collar.

“Have you ever visited MacDuff Castle?” Andrew asked, running his fingers down, then up, the pearlesque buttons on his white dress shirt in what seemed a nervous gesture.

“Doubt they’d let me in,” Colin said.

“Oh, anyone can go. It’s in ruins. Completely fallen to pieces.”

“In that case, it sounds like my sort of castle.”

Andrew laughed, a loud and inelegant chortle for one so sophisticated. He turned and opened two of the three beers he’d fetched from the fridge, then handed one to Colin. “To falling castles.”

“Aye.” Colin tapped his bottle against Andrew’s, then examined his face as they sipped. Aside from the lack of glasses and stubble, it was exactly how he’d remembered it. High, swooping cheekbones, razor-straight nose, and soft, firm lips. All perfectly proportioned and symmetrical, right down to the shape of his nostrils and earlobes. The sole flaw, a beauty mark in the center of that left dimple, only underscored his face’s perfection.

“How’s your knee?” Andrew asked. “You’ll be back on the pitch soon, I hope?”

Colin hesitated, reluctant to let down his guard by talking about the injury. “It’s much better. I’m able to run again, nearly every day. Lucky for me I got hurt in June, so I’ve not missed any league matches.”
Just last week’s charity friendly match that turned the Warriors into international gay icons.
“Our manager hopes I’ll be playing by the start of the season in September.”

BOOK: Playing to Win
7.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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