Home > A Rival's Kiss (Fulton U Rivals #3)

A Rival's Kiss (Fulton U Rivals #3)
Author: Maya Hughes

 


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CHAPTER 1

 

 

WILLA

 

 

If I knew crossing over into enemy turf would be this fun, I’d have done it long ago.

A biting wind whipped through the football stadium and the temperatures plummeted during this blisteringly cold afternoon game in Pittsburgh. In December. Rowdy fans cheered and stomped, vibrating the concrete beneath my feet. I’d abandoned the yellow plastic seat behind me after almost having my molars shaken loose during the last interception.

My phone buzzed—again. I dropped my head back and stared up at the darkening sky. This had to be the tenth text from my parents since Maggie and I had gotten to the game. Only this time, the name I didn’t want to see flashed on the screen. If my brother saw me in enemy territory decked out in borrowed St. Francis U’s gold and orange, he’d kill me.

Walsh: Are you at the game? Why didn’t you tell me it was STFU night?

St. Francis U, which the administration tried and failed to get people to abbreviate as SFU, but no such luck, was on the other side of the state from where my whole family lived. As a football player at our school, Fulton U, my brother had taken the campus rivalry way more seriously than he needed. Right now, surrounded by the enemy I was freer than I’d been in a long time. Not being under the vigilant eyes of my brother or parents made it worth the two-hour flight.

As much as I wanted to ignore him, if I didn’t answer, he’d bombard my phone all night. Maybe I should block him. But then he’d probably drive across the state to rescue me. Or worse, rat on me to our parents that I hadn’t answered the phone, which might lead to a statewide emergency alert and me never being out of their sight ever again.

Me: Yes. What does it matter?

The stadium music blared during the TV time-out. The large screens played videos meant to pump up the crowd, not that they needed them in the St. Francis U section.

Walsh: Seriously, Willa?

Walsh’s protective streak was stifling on campus, but at least there we didn’t live in the same house. In high school no one was even allowed to look in my direction without his say-so.

To my right a couple guys peeled their shirts off, stomachs and faces painted, as they screamed the STFU fight song in between glances in my direction. Stupid and drunk and outright flirting with me. Walsh would hate it, which made it even more awesome.

Me: It’s not a big deal. I’m fine.

Empty cups rolled along the concrete, being crunched with each jump. Not that the guys around me were as loud as the ones a couple rows above.

Walsh: Just stay away from the STFU section

The people around me cheered and some beer splashed my face. Popcorn rained down over me. I shielded my head and tried to keep from having a concession stand in my hair.

Me: Will do

What Walsh doesn’t know won’t get me in trouble.

“Out of the way!” Maggie wedged herself past the big guy practically blocking her seat. Her mass of curly black hair poofed out around her shoulders like a scarf. Her huge curls had always gotten her attention, ever since we were five years old. Dark hair and light blue eyes were a killer combo.

She handed me a hot chocolate from her cup carrier and one of the two foil-wrapped hot dogs balanced in the middle, along with condiment packets.

“I’ll go next time.”

“You’re damn right you will.” She unwrapped her hot dog, doused it in mustard, and bit into it, spreading the spicy, yellow sauce all over her lips. “Those lines are crazy.” She pushed her green wool cap higher with the back of her hand, which moved some of her hair into her face and covered a chunk of it in mustard.

I handed her a napkin. “Or maybe we’ll get lucky and we can eat overpriced food outside of the stadium when the game ends.”

“We’ve got eight minutes left in this quarter, which means we could be here for another three hours. So I’m seeing at least one more overpriced food run here in our near future.” She rubbed the napkin on her cheek and pickle relish joined the mustard impressionist painting on her face. “If my parents weren’t paying for this whole weekend, I’d be pissed.”

“You have food all over you.” I waved my hands at the growing mess on her cheek. “And when aren’t your parents paying?”

“With anything but their time.” She wiped at her lips and smeared even more mustard into her hair. “Did I get it?”

“Did you dip your fingers in it? You’re making it worse.” I grabbed the napkin from her and wiped the mess from her hair as best I could. “What exactly are you trying to do?” I shoved some of her hair up under her hat and out of her way.

“I’m trying to eat. I’m starving.” She took a bite and spoke through semiclosed lips. “We didn’t have time to grab anything to eat after we finally got checked in to the hotel.”

“This is what happens when you don’t have me around.”

“That’s why it would be so great if you transferred.” She launched forward, flying at me with her hands full of food like she was coming in for a hug.

I grabbed her hot chocolate before it spilled all over my jeans. “No hug. No way.”

Around us, hands shot into the air and people cheered, spraying even more of their food on the floor.

A time-out was called and things simmered down for a bit.

Football fields were my second home growing up. I knew the rules, the plays, the players. With my brother being one, it was easy to pick them out amongst the crowd. The muscle development was more overall than with gym bros who only focused on biceps and always skipped leg day. Stockier guys, leaner guys, broad shoulders, whatever the position called for.

Down front, in the first rows was a squad of players. It looked like there was a quarterback, center, some linemen, and maybe defensive end or tackle. One lineman was bigger than the rest of the guys, but not that much taller. His hat wasn’t STFU or Pittsburgh, but he watched the field like Arnold in sentry mode in Terminator 2.

Maggie sipped her hot chocolate, eyeing me the whole time. “Are you still thinking of transferring?”

“Maybe.” I stared out at the field, excited that I would be able to do this all the time with Maggie if I did, but a ball of dread grew as I thought about how the transfer conversation would go. “You know my parents will lose it if I even tell them I’m thinking about it.”

“You can’t spend the rest of your life trying to keep them from freaking out.”

“Keeping them from worrying has been my top priority for as long as I can remember.”

“Which is why sleepovers at my house were always so much fun.”

“Gotta love your parents’ date nights and fully stocked bar.” It was also why gin and I were not friends. Anytime I smelled it, my stomach did somersaults and I got prepuke watery mouth. “Transferring isn’t about Walsh though.”

“Your parents want what’s best for you. They’ll understand why you need to transfer. Darlington U has the best damn language program in the country—hell, maybe the world. You’ll get to be a Darling.”

The formerly all-girls school was now coed, but still best known by the nickname Darling U, hence the fact that graduates were often referred to as Darlings. Setting aside that cringey term, the school’s language program was one of the best in the country, tucked into a western PA college that was just barely considered a university thanks to the few graduate degrees they offered in Abenaki, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, and Russian. In the shadow of STFU, only those in the language learning circles had even heard of it.

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