Cutters versus jocks.
Small town girl versus big man on campus.
Love at first sight versus lust you can’t fight.
Can anyone win when you don’t play your heart out?
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Elizabeth Marx Books
On the idyllic campus of Indiana University, Little-Libby-Nobody runs into Band-Aid, All-American-Athlete, and fireworks explode. Libby and Aidan spiral into a collision course of love at first sight versus lust you can’t fight. As the game plays out and their affection grows, they soon realize that labels like cutters and jocks can’t keep them apart.
But when Libby and Aidan find themselves in trouble they have to confront the reality of where they each fit in the others’ world. Libby believes superstar jocks don’t take cutters to Rose Well House, in the center of campus, at midnight and pledge their undying devotion beneath its sparkling dome. And Band-Aid imagines there’s no place for a pregnant, small-town waitress in his bull-pen or the major leagues. What happens when worthy opponents refuse to play their hearts out?
WE SHOULD BE WOO’D AND WERE NOT MADE TO WOO
A Midsummer’s Night Dream
Do you believe in love at first sight is an illusion? Madonna’s lyrics funneled through the speaker system. I tripped going up the stairs into the alcove, as I caught a glimpse of him. Never before has a single person made such an impression on me. And no guy, with the silky nod of his head, has overwhelmed me with a gaze that seemed to penetrate me, all the way to my soul.
Weren’t there supposed to be fireworks, violins, and rose petals at a time like this? It was just my fortune, since I had bad luck fermenting in my blood, that my awe-struck moment was illuminated by the glare of college football on a television screen, the crunching of peanut shells under-foot, and stale stout stabbing my senses.
It was the fall of my junior year. I had avoided any such entanglements since I’d enrolled at IU. It was Saturday night, at McCreary’s, a bar that sits in a commercial strip mall right down the way from the movie theater on the mall side of Bloomington. As if a saloon from the Wild West, the wide plank floors are marred and scuffed. And watch where you walk, because peanut shells litter the floor. Poetry, profanity, and phone numbers whittle the wooden walls. It’s patrons are a mix of cutters and college kids. McCreary’s had some of the best sandwiches in Bloomington, with names like Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, and Call of the Wild.
Vicki and I had just seen a movie, and right then I was so dumbfounded I couldn’t remember the title.
The second I walked into the bar, I was informed that we were playing pool in the Hoosier Room. McCreary’s four pool tables sit at the four cardinal points in little alcoves cordoned off by half walls.
Vicki and I worked together at the Waffle House. While I went to class and the library, she said she’d take a pass on anything past primary. She’d only come to Bloomington to escape her small-town parents who thought marijuana was a seasoning added to brownies.
I had no desire to play pool, but I agreed because there was no talking Vicki out of something once she set her mind on it. Case in point, her hair was chartreuse right now, popsicle green, with a white lighting streak running down the side of her bangs.
We stepped into the tiny niche and one of our opponents greeted us. The lookout was tall and muscular, with dirty blond hair. His teammate was positioning his long athletic frame over the table, looking at his shot. When he heard the introductions, he looked up. He brushed his dark hair away from his blue eyes and took in Vicki, his eyes seemed to fill his face, but he didn’t sneer, which is what most jocks did when faced with Vicki. It wasn’t that she wasn’t pretty; it was just that she was a lot to take in all at once. And once she started talking, it was hard for most people to listen, because her voice reminded you of a mouse trying to swallow a hurricane.
The jock nodded in greeting, and then turned toward me. His lips crinkled into a lopsided smile, and he beamed me with his killer blue eyes. I felt like I had walked straight into a beam of electrified male energy. The dimple in his chiseled cheek was so deep he could use it as a trap, and I didn’t doubt that he’d caught quite a few gals in that crevice alone.
Researchers say that we can judge the attractiveness of another person in .13 seconds. I knew he was someone I would never forget. It wasn’t just his physical appearance that ensnared me, but his eyes lasered on me like he wanted to sharpen his ego on my bones. His presence was so calm, cool and collected that I took two steps back. The hair all over my body stood up, and then knotted. I tried to blink. I couldn’t. My eyes were Super-glued on him. Vicki and the other guy were speaking, but I couldn’t hear them because blood was boiling in my ears like a thick pot of chili at the Waffle House right before Saturday afternoon kick-off.
I shook my head and told myself this wasn’t real. Love at first sight was a physical response, simple attraction. Some might call it lust. I forced my eyes away from him and listened to the introductions. His friend’s name was David, I thought. I couldn’t be sure because I was locked into a clear box with the guy leaning on his pool stick, and someone was sucking all the air from the confined space. I wanted to panic breathe.
“I’m Aidan,” he said.
I put my hand out, but when his hand came into view, I pulled mine back. His deep tenor stroked my consciousness. I was certain that he could read the nature of my attraction on my flushed face. He didn’t need the ego boost. I swallowed down my instinct to make a run for it, extended my hand again and said, “Elizabeth.”
“Elizabeth is a beautiful name.” His words were the third lure. I was a goner. “Everyone calls me Band-Aid.”