Rookie Moves by Alex Winters

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Campus Crush, 2

Tatum Ripley can’t understand her why her editor-in-chief has given her so many warnings about Shane Dixon, the new subject of her upcoming “Rookie Roundup” profile for the campus newspaper. After all, Tatum’s a seasoned reporter, a college junior no less. Tossing softball questions, no pun intended, at some cornfed country jock and snapping a few candid shots of the freshman cutie in and out of his uniform should be a no-brainer, right?

Shane Dixon is just a rookie on the Sycamore State baseball team. To say he’s flattered to be profiled for the campus newspaper is an understatement, and never more so than when sexy, raven-haired reporter Tatum Ripley shows up in the locker room after practice one day to interview him. Sparks fly, and soon the only question turned-on Tatum wants to ask sexy Shane is which base will they be rounding that night?

Will Tatum be able to remain professional while she profiles Shane for the student paper? Or will falling for him be the biggest “rookie move” of her burgeoning career?


Excerpt:

Shane chuckled, a soft and friendly sound, polishing off his second hot dog before wadding up his foil wrapper and placing it almost gently atop the growing pile on the cardboard tray. “Okay, but if you don’t mind me saying, for a big-time news reporter you’re not asking very many questions so far.”

“That’s all part of my devious plan,” she bluffed. She added her own hot dog foil to the pile but refrained from grabbing a second. “Lull you with boiled meat and grape soda until you don’t even realize you’re confessing your deepest, darkest secrets to me.”

Shane gave her an all-too-natural eye roll and waved a big, veiny hand. “Shit, girl, gonna take more than a few hot dogs and grape soda to pry any secrets out of little old me.”

“That right? You more of a whiskey and steak man, Shane Dixon?”

Shane glanced back at her almost shyly. “Hardly, there’re just no secrets to pry, that’s all.”

“That’s what they all say, Shane.” Tatum leaned back slightly on the bench seat behind her. She hadn’t sat in a sports stadium since high school, and only then because they let classes out early every Friday for the weekly pep rally, which had been mandatory to attend.

Shane screwed up his furrowed brow and gave her another good study. God, she loved it when he looked at her like that, soft and slow and sly all at the same time. “All? Thought you said this was your first big interview, remember?”

“I remember.” She snorted, realizing the almost glacial pace of Shane’s speech didn’t mean his brain wasn’t smart as a whip, clearly thinking twice as fast as her own! “I was just hoping you wouldn’t, that’s all.”

“Not all jocks are dumb, Tatum.”

“I never said they were.”

“Maybe not, but most girls think it, I guess. Least of all Emily.”

“Emily?” Tatum had to stop herself from sitting up and stomping her foot in sheer, blind jealousy. Who the hell was this Emily slut and why was she such a slutty old slut and what the hell had she done to poor little country boy Shane Dixon?

“My girl back home,” Shane admitted, staring at the sneakers he’d changed into before they left the locker room. They went well with his navy track shorts and the clingy grey t-shirt, to say nothing of his tube socks. His saggy white tube socks with the blue and yellow stripes at the top. She wondered, idly, if he kept them on during sex, then struggled to scrub the image, luscious and delightful as it might have been, from the backs of her suddenly fluttering eyelids. “Least of all, she was until I found out she was cheating on me with some dude where she worked.”

Tatum sat up a little straighter, hardly believing how quickly her first interview had derailed into Shane’s personal life. Yet, for the life of her, Tatum found that the more he told her, the more she wanted to hear. “No shit?”

Shane’s shoulders sagged gently. “None whatsoever.”

She resisted the urge to reach out and squeeze his forearm, veiny and sleek and dusted with a wisp of feathery dirty-blond hair. Then she went ahead and squeezed it anyway. He tensed up, just for a moment, before relaxing and offering a sweet, involuntary flicker of a smile across those ripe, plump lips. She’d never wanted to kiss anyone so badly.

“Sorry,” she murmured before releasing him and leaning back onto the bench in the midday sun. “How long had you dated?”

“Just about forever,” he practically moaned, shaking his head pitifully. “All through high school, anyway, proms and summers and spring breaks, and then the minute I’m gone off to college, bam, my buddies see her hooking up with the damn fry cook behind Bubba’s Burgers back home!”

“Are you sure they saw what they think they saw?” Tatum was still struggling not to laugh at Bubba’s Burgers, the quintessential fry shack in a place called Kernersville, Kentucky. At the same time, she could almost picture Shane’s life back home: one-lane road through town, Bubba’s Burgers the big game in town, his high school sweetheart in her pigtails and creamy sweet lip gloss.

“She was only too happy to confess the minute I called her out on it,” Shane huffed.

Tatum wished the news didn’t make her so happy, and struggled to remain impartial. “Have you made peace with her?” she asked unselfishly.

He blinked gently beneath the brim of his faded green ball cap. “Peace?”

“Have you two made up? Talked about it without being angry and hurtful?”

Shane didn’t answer right away, his gentle eyes boring into hers until she was afraid he could read her every thought. Heaven forbid! Then he asked, “What makes you ask that?”

“I’m a reporter, remember.”

“No, honestly. Most people wouldn’t ask someone something like that.”

She shrugged. “I’ve made peace with my big dumb ex finally. It made things … easier.”

“Yeah, well, I bet he didn’t sleep with half your hometown the minute you packed up your truck and drove across the state line, now did he?”

She clucked her tongue sharply. “Nothing so dramatic, no. He only slept with my roommate while I was house-sitting for my boss, so…”

Shane made a face. “Oh. Oh, my.”

“That’s one way of putting it.”

“And you made peace with him after that?”

“For myself,” she huffed. “I realized the sooner I moved on from all that drama and dysfunction, I could quit hating him every time I saw a guy with a Popeye tattoo.”

Shane snorted. “A what now?”

Tatum snorted back. His reaction, stupefied and strictly Southern, was just the tonic she needed after the past had come flaring back up, almost out of nowhere. “Oh, yeah.” She leaned forward, almost without realizing she was doing it, and tapped the taut, wiry bicep of his closest arm. “Right here.”

“Damn, and you still went out with him?”

She chuckled, hard, and punched him even harder. He smoothed the red mark absently with those long, thin fingers, making her wonder instantly what his dick might look like, then making her wonder just as quickly where that had come from. Even though she knew. Tatum knew the minute she’d seen that little flash of flesh, that inch or two of midriff the first tentative step she’d taken into the locker room, that she’d wanted to see more of him.

All of him, if possible.

She cleared her throat and sat back on the bleacher, as if distancing herself from his smooth, sexy aura. “Anyway, quit stalling and answer the question.”

Shane started to, those soft lips parting as if for a kiss. Then he frowned playfully and chuffed her on the knee with two of those big fingers. “Hold up now, this is all off the record, right?”

Series:
/series-campus-crush/