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***Unedited teaser chapter***

 

Prologue

 

Fawn - age 16

 

 

I need to get closer.

This was my last thought before leaving the bleachers, my gear on my back. There was no way I was going to get the shot I needed from the nosebleed section.

Knowing that, I pushed my way through fans and classmates. This assignment may have been shoved on me, but I was still going to get it right.

I hit AstroTurf, the track surrounding the field in the game against Windsor Preparatory Academy. The rich kids were killing us on our own turf, but our team still showed up and were taking it like champs. Honest to fuck, I had no idea what was actually going on on that field, and if it wasn’t for the scoreboard, I’d be completely lost. Again, this assignment had been given to me, forced onto me from the editor of the school’s paper. I’d rather be taking photos for pieces that actually mattered, but I’d already gotten the actual news assignments done for the week. Football games and other sports-related nonsense usually went to the photographers who just wanted to get into the games for free.

“Steven has mono. You’re going in for him.”

That was the last thing Doug, my editor, had said before handing me a press pass and telling me I had to make it to a game that started in fifteen minutes. The paper needed shots of tonight’s game, and needless to say, I showed the fuck up late.

Hence the nosebleed seats.

I’d dealt with worse conditions, stress. I’d been taught by the best, so pushing through all the traffic, I finally made it onto the field. The players were in a full sprint, our guys blending in with players donned in Windsor Prep’s orange and navy uniforms. Their guys were about twice the size of ours, and it wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of these dudes went on to go pro. Their flashy uniforms also made our guys look like shit, and I’d care more if I cared about the game at all. I had a job to do, get the shot and make the deadline for my school’s newspaper.

I set up my camera on the sideline, getting it ready. I could do this without the tripod but that made for a better shot.

“Hey. You!”

A man in little pants and a striped shirt sprinted over to me, whistle in his hands. He blew that little whistle, at me, and my head shot back when he crossed the sideline over to me. He pointed. “What do you think you’re doing on my field?”

I wasn’t on the field, at least not technically. I propped my camera on my hip. It hadn’t made it to the tripod yet. “I just need a couple shots of the game.”

“Well, you can take them from the bleachers.”

“I’m press.” I flashed him the badge. “I also got here late so if you could let me get my shot I’ll be out of your hair. I have a deadline to make anyway.”

Not to mention, I was completely over spending my Friday night here instead of editing photos. I’d taken quite a few over the last weekend of things that actually mattered. Needless to say, a football game against boys who looked like combat warriors weren’t it.

The ref or whatever blew his whistle again, and again, my head snapped back. That shit was fucking loud.

“I don’t care if you’re the President of the United States. You’re on my field, and I want you off—now.”

Um, rude and even more so when he got in my personal space. I must have not been moving quick enough for his liking because the next thing I knew, he was taking my tripod and getting it away from the sideline.

“What the heck do you think you’re doing,” I growled, but he didn’t stop there. He started to reach for my camera next, and I dodged. This dude was not getting his fucking hands on my dad’s camera. “Back the fuck off!”

“You will get off my field,” he started, but stopped when someone yelled from the field. The ref whipped around, me too when a player in orange and navy sprinted to the sidelines toward us. It took a second for me to realize the game hadn’t stopped, and whoever this player was from Windsor Prep still continued to make his way over.

He was a big guy, real big, tall. In fact, he was probably the tallest boy I’d ever seen, and he obviously couldn’t have been more than eighteen. I mean, we were in high school, but the closer he got, he towered over both me and the ref. All of Windsor Prep’s players looked like soldiers, but this guy looked like Captain Freaking America.

He was built like him too, broad, thick. There were bigger guys on the field, and though this guy was leaner, he still had a solid definition that distributed through his body in a way that made him just as intimidating as even the biggest guy. I mean, the boy’s thigh made mine look bird-like, and that said something considering I wasn’t the smallest girl. I fluctuated but most days the labels in my pants said size sixteen more than they did fourteen.

“What’s going on?” the player questioned. The rogue curls beneath his helmet made him appear only more beast-like. He took it off and all those curls spilled out like an angry sea. They shrouded his dark eyes, his skin a light honey tone. His complexion was a natural tan where most had to bake in the sun to get that color.

Why are you looking that hard?

That might have had to do with the fact that he was looking at me. The guy was, well, gorgeous. I definitely had eyes and could see that, his irises dusky and borderline black. He used them to peer over me, his jawline perfect, his nose straight and eyes deep-set. They flashed a couple times in my direction, and when he stepped forward, the ref put a hand on his chest.

“Get back on the field, Mallick,” the ref barked and snapped the player, Mallick, out of whatever trance he’d been in when he’d been looking at me. I didn’t know why he’d been so focused in my direction, but I found myself suddenly grateful considering the way he currently sneered down at the ref.

The guy appeared to grow three sizes, like legit, and he was already tall. He pressed that broad chest against the ref’s, his finger up. “You looked like you were about to put hands on that girl.”

I blinked. What the fuck?

I exchanged a glance between the two, this Mallick guy literally up on this ref, and I definitely noticed when he took a step back. The ref did, a grown fucking man before he brought his whistle to his mouth. “Back on the field or I’m throwing you out of the game.”

“I fucking dare you, bro.”

The whistle blew, and the ref called it, throwing him out with a wave of his hand, and my jaw dropped. Mallick’s did too, then suddenly, a few more guys from his team were sprinting toward the sidelines. The game was still going, by the way, the three additional players totally leaving the field.

“What’s going on?” one of them called, the first to get to the sidelines, and the other two Windsor Prep players flanked behind him. One of the two was leaner like Mallick and the other was one of the more bigger guys on their team. Actually, he was easily the biggest guy on this whole damn field and literally looked like a man-boy. What did they feed these dudes, steroids? The guy who got here first gripped his helmet, his hair blond behind it. “Wolf, why aren’t you on the field?”

“This shitbag just threw me out of the game,” Mallick barked. His name was Wolf apparently. I found that unusual, but as I was in the middle of this shit, I just continued to keep my mouth fucking shut.

“And you will be too, Prinze, if you, Reed, and Ambrose don’t get back on that field,” the ref yelled to the guy who spoke to Mallick. He did this quick, and needless to say, he didn’t stick around. The ref blew the whistle, then headed back toward the game. The two guys behind Prinze yelled “bullshit.” Mallick obviously felt the same way, but he didn’t fight it when he stormed off the field. He flew past me, but I noticed that he glanced my way before he did.

I wanted to say sorry for… well, I really didn’t know what I did. He didn’t have to go to bat for me, and I definitely hadn’t asked him to.

Instead, I held my camera, watching on as he severed his gaze from me. He shook his head before heading toward the track and had to pass our fans in the stands to do so. A few of them yelled at him while he did, the crowd amped.

“You think your shit don’t stink, Mallick! Why the fuck would you disrespect the ref like that and on our turf,” one of them called before throwing a bottle at him. It hit Mallick’s helmet, glass exploding, and Mallick immediately cut a look in that direction.

My breath stopped, everything stopped, and even a lot of shouting in the crowd. It was like time had stopped in that moment, that long, agonizing moment.

I wished it would have lasted.

Because time moved too quickly after that, Mallick throwing his helmet…

Mallick disappearing in the stands.

The dude scaled the bleachers, actually scaled them, and my heart ceased to function when the crowd screamed as a boy the size of a lion grabbed hold of the guy who’d thrown a bottle at him.

No, not a lion… a wolf.

Nothing but pure unadulterated rage could be described as Wolf brought the guy up and drove his fist down so hard the man’s head jerked back. A woman in the crowd shrieked, the stands exploding, and Wolf’s teammates (who’d returned to the field) doubled back. Prinze, Ambrose, and Reed ran toward the stands. They ran to Wolf who was clocking that guy who’d assaulted him over and over.

Oh, my God.

It was like I was frozen, ice freezing both my limbs and body. Wolf’s three teammates entered the stands too, and one of them managed to get Wolf under his arms. The name Prinze on his back, he held him while Ambrose and Reed tried to keep the fans away. With the three boys coming onto the scene and stopping Wolf, I thought this was over. It should have been over.

It may have been had someone not hit Prinze.

The guy, a fan, had come out of nowhere, and he punched Prinze right in the arm. It was the only hit the guy got before Prinze let go of Wolf and started pummeling the guy who hit himself. Prinze socked the guy over and over, and unrestrained, Wolf continued to wail on the guy who’d thrown the bottle. That guy wasn’t moving, clearly passed out but the blind rage hurled Wolf’s fists. He didn’t stop, and Ambrose and Reed found themselves in a similar fight. Fans were tackling them, and my hair blew across my face as orange and navy uniforms suddenly zipped past me.

The boys’ teammates.

They came… in droves—all of them. The entire Windsor Prep team had left the field to aid their teammates, and once they did, that gave license for our guys. Our team’s red and black uniforms zoomed past me too, and the ice bath hit again. Chaos literally happened in front of my eyes.

The bleachers, the goddamn world, exploded in what had to be only a few minutes, seconds. There were players fighting players, players fighting fans, and my camera hung deftly from my fingers. I nearly dropped the most important thing in my entire goddamn life. My father’s camera was irreplaceable, literally the most important thing to me.

Knowing that, I lifted it, nutting the fuck up. This wasn’t the story I came for, but it was here and…

My shutter flicked quickly, anger and rage in front of my lens. I had no problem capturing the fight, nor the story’s central focus. I stayed on Wolf Mallick.

And I didn’t let go.

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