The Comeback Pact Paperback
The Comeback Pact Paperback
- Sports Romance
- Hero and Heroine Make a Pact/Agreement
- Cinnamon Roll Hero
He’s everything she hates… So, why can’t she say no to him?
Introducing Book 1 in the Warner University Bulldog series...
THE COMEBACK PACT is a spicy sports romance novel with all the feels!
West Brooks stands for everything I despise. He’s a meathead jock whose silence says it all: He only cares about himself and his football season.
So, why can’t I say no when he offers me his help?
I should run the other way. I should tell him exactly what I think of him for ruining my life. Instead, I agree to his terms because he might be the only person who can get me what I want.
The closer we work together, the better chance I have at breaking down Kenna Knowles’ impossibly thick walls.
She has to see that we’re perfect for each other, that I’m not the person she thinks I am. Because the more time I spend with her, the more I realize she might be the only one to see the real me, the me I keep hidden behind this Bulldog jersey.
However, just when I think I’m getting somewhere, my past decides to make things worse, and all hope may be lost.
I might be the best player on the field, but I have zero chance of winning this pact…and most importantly, this girl.
Chapter One LOOK INSIDE
Chapter One LOOK INSIDE
If my life had a theme song right now, it’d be “Sunshine” by OneRepublic.
Sweet baby Jesus, I’m back.
I almost skip through the pool area to Coach’s office, the chemical smell of chlorine assaulting my nostrils in the best way. God, I missed this. I missed the echo my teammates give off in this cavernous room. The way the divers’ splash into the water sounds like an orchestra coming out of surround sound speakers.
A little bit of sunshine…, I sing inside my head, trying to keep my footsteps steady even though all I want to do is dance with joy.
The note in my hand feels like a hot poker zinging electricity up my arms and into my chest. A rush. A surge. A feeling I haven’t been that familiar with these last few months because of the damn football team. Bulldogs, my ass. They suck. No loyalty. No strength. I hope they—
“Kenna!” a voice shouts.
I take a deep breath, evening out the Niagara-Falls worthy waterfall of anger that suddenly overtook me.
Welcome to the eighth wonder of the world…McKenna Knowles’s rage.
I have issues of the mad kind. The injustice variety. The kind that makes you want to spit swords and slice through dumb, asshole jocks.
I lift my hand to wave at the teammate who called my name, plastering a smile on my face, and for a few seconds, it feels like everything is back to normal. I’m at the pool. Soon, my hair will smell like chlorine again.
Then her gaze flits, almost imperceptibly. A quick peek. A tiny slide of the eye, really…
And my world comes crashing down again.
I clasp the note in my hand and turn around, stomping toward the locker room. Things will never be the same, but I wish I didn’t have to wear my past on my face for everyone to see.
Unlike the pool area, the swim and dive team locker rooms are quiet, secluded. Just what I need. I lean against the door, taking a deep breath. My mom’s new recurring words hit me. “They don’t mean it. Curiosity is normal.”
Yeah, well, curiosity killed the cat, and I’m about to grow claws à la Wolverine.
As usual, the anger doesn’t get me anywhere, so I close my eyes and do my breathing exercises. That’s right. I’m that kind of screwed up. I’m a twenty-one-year-old college student who needs to utilize breathing techniques for anger, depression, anxiety… You name it, I probably got it.
A little bit of sunshine…
A little bit of sunshine…
I keep repeating the OneRepublic lyrics until they come out fast and happy again. No matter what, I have this note. No matter what, I’ll be back on the dive team as of today. This is what I’ve been waiting for. The only thing I’ve been striving for.
Mission fucking accomplished.
It’s almost like a puzzle piece clicks into place, and I’m off again, skipping for good measure.
Fake it ’til you make it and all that jazz.
Nothing should break me from this good mood. I’m getting my old life back, and that’s all I want.
A few steps away from Coach’s office, I spot movement from the corner of my eye. I drag my gaze from Coach’s short, blonde hair pulled into her usual half-up do, Bulldog-blue collared shirt, and khaki shorts to the small frame staring into her locker. Her long, thin arm resting on the metal.
“Girl!” I shout, bursting with excitement again. This time, it isn’t even manufactured. “Did you get my texts?” My voice goes up several octaves, shocking even me.
Laney jumps, and I laugh.
She doesn’t match me, though. Her face drains of color as she glances at me, and my stomach squeezes.
I’d been calling and texting her all morning. I wanted my dive partner to be the first to hear my amazingly incredible news, and I was even hoping we might tell Coach together…
“Kenna, hey,” she says, glancing down. She drops her hand from the locker and then stares inside it like there’s a tunnel to Narnia she can crawl toward.
Life won’t be the same again. You just have to make the best of it.
I plaster a smile on my face, even though I don’t feel like it. Laney’s my best friend. We went to high school together, won state together in synchro diving, and then we both got accepted to Warner University three years ago to dive for the Bulldogs. Up until the incident, she was also my roommate. She would never not answer my calls or messages. “I have great news,” I try again, echoing the rambling messages I left on her voicemail, but it falls a little flat.
Her whole face is in the locker now, a bright-red blush creeping up her neck. “Yeah?”
Warning bells go off in my head.
I stop my slow steps toward her. Something’s not right. It’s almost as if she’s avoiding me like I’m the putrid-smelling D&D nerd that tried hitting on her at Starbucks our freshman year.
My fingers curl into my palms, the note in my hand crinkling. She was there at my hospital bed. She freaking was there after my first surgery, and my second surgery, and—
The door to Coach’s office swings open with a creak, and I turn toward it. She gives me a big smile. “McKenna. How great to see you!”
I return her smile. I’ll deal with Laney later. Who knows? Maybe a guy she was seeing broke up with her. Or maybe she had a bad practice.
The world doesn’t revolve around you, McKenna.
The excited grin that grows on my face isn’t fake. “Coach, I’m so happy,” I singsong.
She ushers me into her office and shuts the door. As usual, manila folders are piled everywhere. She calls it organizational chaos, but to me, it just looks like stacks of folders and papers strewn about with no purpose whatsoever. She moves them around on her desk, but honestly, it doesn’t look like there’s a reason for her madness. She just transfers everything from one side to the other, almost like a nervous tic.
“I’m so glad you wanted to meet,” she says. Her fingers flex, and she finally peers up to meet my gaze.
I see it there: nerves. Apprehension.
But that’s okay because she doesn’t know what I’m holding in my hot little hand. The piece of paper that’s about to change everything.
My foot taps against the tile of its own accord. It feels like if I don’t rein it in, it might grow wings and take off tap dancing out of pure joy.
Coach takes a deep breath and opens her mouth, but I don’t let her get a word out.
Okay, maybe the world does revolve around me. At least for right now.
“I got it,” I tell her, slapping the note down on her desk and sliding it over like it’s the missing page of some historical treasure. The words written on this note are valuable, just not drape-myself-in-gold-and-diamonds valuable.
Honestly, it’s even more.
She glances up, and I nod, smile pulled so taut the muscles around my mouth start to ache.
“McKenna…” She sighs.
I open the note for her. “It’s all right here.” Once I get it unfolded, I point at my doctor’s poorly scrawled signature. “She’s okayed me to dive, Coach. I’m back.”
The area behind my eyes heats. I’ve been trying to tamp down the emotion that’s been building like a pressure cooker ever since that day six months ago, and it feels dangerously close to boiling over now.
All of the pain I endured—physically, emotionally, mentally—it all comes down to this moment. The one I worked so hard for.
Coach picks up some manila folders again, taps them against the surface of her desk, then moves them back to the other side, her fingers flexing and straightening. Is that a…tremble? A shake?
For a moment, my heart stops beating. Then I go cold. A metal box slams around my heart, and I sit back.
“McKenna, I agreed to meet with you because I’ve come to some difficult decisions lately.”
I want to tell her that I don’t think she knows what difficult actually is. It’s unfair, but the bullshit I’ve had to go through these past months because of a bunch of reckless douches makes me want to scream into the abyss for eternity.
“I got the note,” I tell her, feebly. This doesn’t look like it’s about to go my way.
“The truth is, you’re out of practice, Kenna. You haven’t been able to get into the pool for months. You’re out of shape. We don’t know where your conditioning is. You know as well as I do that time off can severely hurt athletes. You’re such a good diver—”
“Were, you mean,” I say bitterly, not meeting her eyes. Instead, I flick imaginary lint off my athletic pants.
She huffs, leaning back and crossing her arms as if I’m the one who’s doing something wrong here.
“I know you can come back from this, but not this season. Not right now. I was able to keep your scholarship in place.” She leans forward again, her arms gesturing as if that was a feat in itself. She’s quiet for a long time, and she doesn’t talk again until I peer up to meet her eyes. “We can’t hold it forever, though,” she says, gaze teeming with sympathy. “This note is a good step. It gets you back in the water. But the reality is, I can’t put you on that platform, and deep down, you know it.”
My stomach clenches. All of the work I’ve done, and it feels like Coach just tossed it in the toilet and flushed it.
“But Laney,” I say half-heartedly, my heel digging into the tile at my feet. I’ll use any excuse at this point.
“Laney’s been partnered with Taylor. They’ve been practicing together for a while now, and they’ll be diving synchro together this season.”
Laney…and Taylor? No wonder she didn’t even want to look at me.
Coach beckons someone forward through the glass window of her office, and I turn to see my best friend standing outside the door, her dark hair wet to her shoulders. She steps in, and my heart sinks when the door closes behind her, the lock clicking into place with finality.
“You and Laney have been partners for a long time, so she wanted to be here when I told you.”
I turn back around to face Coach.
Did she? How righteous of her.
“I’m really sorry, Kenna,” Laney’s unsure voice sounds from behind me.
I shrug, not knowing what else to do or say. Everything that comes to mind sounds angry and bitter.
“It was my decision,” Coach says. “You were out of commission, and Laney needed a partner for synchro.”
The world just kept on spinning… Leaving me behind.
After several moments, I ask, “What do I need to do to get back on the roster?” The truth is, I can sit here and feel sorry for myself, or I can do something about it.
Coach finally picks up the note that only a few minutes ago I’d thought was my golden ticket. She reads through everything. “This is great, Kenna. Really. You can come back and practice with us starting immediately. Let’s see where you are physically and make a plan from there. I want you back on this team.”
She stands abruptly and moves over to my side of the desk. Laney steps out of her way as I gradually get to my feet. Coach places her arms around me, squeezing slightly. She smells like pool chemicals with a hint of fruit.
I’ve had a Coach hug before, and it was better than this. Stronger.
Everyone thinks I’m going to break.
“I’ll make it back on the team,” I vow, speaking the words aloud so she hears them, too.
“You will,” she says, stepping away, her hands squeezing my shoulders.
Her smile thins. “Kenna, I need you to have realistic expectations.”
Oh, realistically, I understand exactly what happened here. They gave my spot to Taylor. If I don’t have a synchro partner this year, who am I going to dive with? It takes months and months of training with a partner just to sync up. Laney and I had been partners for years. We were practically twins up on the platform.
“You’ll see,” I tell her.
Right now, I have no idea how I’m going to pull this off, but I don’t care. I can’t come this far and just stop.
She nods, and I spin to leave the office. Laney steps out of my way, but her footsteps follow as I march through the locker room.
“Kenna?” I don’t slow down. “Kenna!”
Nope, not today. Today I get to be the best friend whose heart got stomped on.
They’ve been practicing together for a while now…
She never said a word. I sprint past the pool and practically lunge out of the double doors. Instead of breathing in chlorine-free air, I smack right into a wall of muscle and inhale the scent of sweet cedar.
Strong hands on my shoulders right me, and I’m so angry that I turn a scowl at my savior. When I see who it is, that scowl deepens.
West Brooks. All-star football player. Big man on campus that all the girls fawn over right along with the rest of the stupid jocks. He’s drop-dead gorgeous with dark hair and green eyes. He’s always wearing a stoic face that says he’s miles above everyone else, his prominent chin shoved into the air like he’s a god and we’re all just his puny servants.
I don’t care who he is. If he wears a football jersey at Warner’s, he’s my enemy.
“Fuck off,” I growl, shoving away from him. Not sure if I’m actually mad at him because he’s here to witness my little meltdown or because I had the momentary thought that he was good-looking. Or maybe I’m just projecting my hatred for Laney onto everyone else.
One of the jersey chasers hanging onto the crook of his elbow laughs incredulously as I walk away. “Well, that wasn’t very nice.”
Well, it’s all I can muster from someone who belongs to the team who completely ruined my life.
Digital Signature vs. Signed By Author
Digital Signature vs. Signed By Author
*PRINT BOOKS ONLY
Digital Signature is for customers outside the US who still want a signed copy, but do not want to pay shipping from the United States. These copies ship from a printer in the UK. They have a page digitally signed by E. M. Moore.
Signed By Author is for those who want a personally signed copy by E. M. Moore. They ship from her home in the US. International customers can still purchase these copies, but shipping will be calculated automatically and will be more expensive.