Finally, senior year of college. I decided to follow in my Uncle Blake's footsteps in every possible way. My family is the most important thing in my life. I've got my boys, part of them are my family and the rest are friends that I was lucky enough to have close to me growing up. I'm the star quarterback at UCLA, beating my uncles records into the dust, which I try to remind him about every time I see him. This usually ends in a family football game at the family's field to prove me wrong.
I've got the girl, Leighton, my high school sweetheart. After getting together in our senior year, we decided to give the long distance thing a try. We're going along okay for three years now, with a few bumps, but she's at college at NYU, on the other side of the country. You know the out of sight, out of mind mentality really does exist. She's a nice girl, from a nice family and it's all just.... nice. I just seem to end up feeling empty lately and my world feels like something is lacking.
I've watched my Dad and uncles, I have heard them say it was fireworks and that there was this electricity of excitement when they met the women in our family. I've seen that chemistry they talk about, it really does exist. I have to believe that's the reason I'm feeling it's not the distance that's been causing this emptiness between Leighton and I for the last year. Nice just isn't what I want anymore.
The breaks just aren't long enough to get there with her. We might get there eventually but I don't know if we will get that chance. I don't want to lose a shot of finding that chemistry I've seen all my life in those so important to me. In the meantime, what she doesn't know won't hurt her and I can get my uncertainty out of my system. There's a lot of women to discover here and I plan on discovering as many as I can, just like uncle Blake did.
I've got everything I could ask for. Looks, talent, money, girls dropping their panties as I walk by, my grades are impeccable and my game is gonna take me to the pro's. I'm the king of the campus. I've got it all, so why do I feel like I'm screwing it up?
"Heads up!" Sawyer yells out as I throw an amazing spiral out past him.
He races to catch it and just gets his hands on it in front of the girls right before it hits Emery. Her hands cover her face as she braces for the hit. He catches the ball, jumps over our cousin and rolls over the ground.
"Jerkface, you almost kicked me!" Emery yells, tossing her water bottle at Sawyer. He catches it, tossing the ball to Harper, Emery's older brother.
"If he had broken your nose it would have been an improvement, Em!" Harper teases her. She knows he doesn't mean it though, when he kisses the top of her head and walks back toward me. Emery in turn sticks her tongue out and grins.
This is our family's favorite pastime, football. If we aren't playing it, we're watching it. We've grown into a huge family over the years and we seem to only get bigger but as my grandma Georgia says family isn't built with blood, it's built with love. We have plenty of that in this family and if one of us is in trouble, celebrating or playing ball, everyone comes running.
Our family lives and breathes football. Uncle Blake, and Uncle Derrick played with Uncle Breyden on the Niners until they retired several years ago. All of our friends and family who were on different teams across the country gather off season and everyone comes home, here on the west coast. Uncle Matt and Aunt Chelsea run McConnell Sports Management. Of course, everyone in the family and all our friends use them. Matt, having thirty years in the business, is the best manager out there.
Uncle Lance, Sawyer's dad and Uncle Cade are the lawyers of the family. Uncle Cam and Lance's daughter, Bri, are working with them now since we're a lot for only two lawyers to handle. Uncle Cade and Aunt Isabelle, Maddie, Harper and Emery's parents, run Drake Construction now with Uncle Beckett working the renovation side and my dad, Adam Bradford, running Bradford Engineering with Emma, Blake's wife. There's a lot more family than that too.
Grandma Georgia and her husband Jim have retired up at the vineyard in Napa. The family owns a large spread of land up there, with cottages, and a mansion for everyone to come home over holidays and special events. Grandma Viv and Grandpa Alan are in San Diego at their spread by the beach. We gather at one or the other several times a year.
My cousins and I are the up and coming rookies for next season. Sawyer Drake, Landon Stafford and Harper Drake, we decided to go to the alma mater of our parents. As did many of the other cousins in the family. We live in the frat house that Matt and Blake own and live with several other jocks from the football and baseball teams.
It's only recently we added the baseball team to the house. We did it because they're family. Ashton Finch is the only non-family at the house. A mysterious loner first baseman who keeps to himself. Nice guy but really quiet for our group. Wyatt Segler is the baseball star, Dillon and Bailey Segler's son. Down to earth and pretty cool he plays 3rd base and has one more year to go. With a retired golden glover and a batting coach for parents, the guy's amazing on the diamond.
Yes, I watch the game
Then there's the rookie, Roan Tateman, the relief pitcher and new kid on the block. He chose to move out here and live with his Uncle Dillon through high school. I guess New York was more for his Dad, Reese Tateman, than the kid. There's a little bit of a rift there, so my family has taken him into the fold.
My family and the Segler's go back a ways. The royalty of football and baseball tend to hang out. At least we do, and have since Matt took them on twenty years ago. Grandma loves it. She loves having her house full of all of us, kids, grandkids and now great grandkids thanks to Bri and Maddie. Bri has been married to Kincade Brewer, Jake's adopted son, for a good year and just had her first kid. But Maddie, well, I love the twerp but she screwed up. Now, she's forgoing her second year of working at B.E. to have a baby. Alone. Guess she follows in Aunt Quinn's footsteps.
I tossed the ball out again, this time Harper ran for it. The guy never misses the ball. He spins quickly and throws it back to me. Man, he's got an arm. I swear he could have been a quarterback if he wanted to, but Harper likes the receiver position. He's fast and agile just the right speed and combination of wits to get through the traffic and get those touchdowns. That boy has some fast legs. I'd have serious competition with him if he ever changed his mind. He's a dual threat, just like Uncle Blake was in his day.
Catching the ball right in front of the cheer squad, I grin giving them a wink and receiving soft giggles from several of the girls in response. I smirk or wink at just the right time and I can make any girl melt. Looking down at my watch, I see my time is up and I've got to get to class. I whistle to the guys and toss the ball to them and grab my bag. As I head off a few of the cheerleaders chase after me. What can I say, I'm a Bradford. Dark hair, bright green eyes and yes, I'm a well built, solid steel and sex appeal, good looking guy.
"Aiden, we're having a welcome back party tonight, are you gonna come?" The brunette asks with a sexy pout as she rubs up against my arm. Her hands stroked up and down my bicep tracing my tribal tattoo that wraps around my thick bicep and I know exactly what she wants from me.
"I'll come if you do, sweetheart." I'm game for a little party tonight and I'm sure the guys will be too.
I move on toward the door to the business administration building and the girls then strut past me. Trying to get my attention and running right into a curvy little thing with a wild mass of auburn curls as if she wasn't even there. Her papers drop out of her hands and flutter around the walkway.
"Watch where you're going!" The red headed cheerleader glowered at her, walking right over the girls papers and heading away into the building. She didn't even pay attention that she stepped on the ringleted beauty's fingers.
Yanking her fingers up and shaking them out, she stood up and looked fierce and fragile at the same time. Her big brown eyes narrow on the back of her nemesis's head and her small fists clench at her sides. I've had my share of my fingers being stomped on, I know exactly how bad it hurts.
"Oh, because I'm the rude person who walked into you and knocked your stuff out of your hands!" The petite brunette with the gypsy curls and sultry eyes grumbles as she kneels back down to pick up her stuff.
I don't like it when people treat others badly. It's not the way I was brought up. Yes, I can be an arrogant prick but I don't purposely try to be hurtful and rude to people. I was brought up with manners. If I don't use them, I know my grandma Georgia is the first person that will kick my ass and right behind her is my Uncle Blake.
Frowning, I kneel down to help her out. "Hey, sorry about that. You okay?"
"I'm fine. You don't have to help me. I've got it." She doesn't even look up at me until we're both on our feet and then it's like I'm glued to the spot and can't move away from her. It's a straight up punch to my gut.
What the fuck?
She's beautiful. Long dark curls with just a hint of red that roll down her back, big, heavy lidded brown eyes flecked with gold giving them this amazing depth. Her bottom lip is just slightly bigger than the top, giving her a pouty look.
She's small like most girls around me, curves that remind me of those old 1950's pinup models that my grandpops loves. She's got a glow about her but not a bit of makeup on her and she just seems natural, normal like my cousins. But she's not related to me and I don't know her... yet. But I will.
"I'm Aiden... Bradford." I hold out my hand hoping she'll give me her name.
She looks down at my hand then back to my eyes. It takes a minute before she mutters a response. I don't catch it, but it's like she already knows me by reputation. It's possible, I've gotten around the female population at this school and others nearby in the last three years. I know she's not one of my many one night stands. I would have remembered her. I hope I would anyway.
For a moment, I think she's going to say something more but instead she just turns and walks away.
"That's a pretty sight." I mutter more to myself than anyone around me as I stare at her curvy rear end swaying just enough that I know she's not trying for attention. It's just as natural as the bounce of her curls. I'm stunned and just smirk as Harper comes up behind me.
"Come on, we're gonna be late!" He punches my arm and gets my attention. I look at him and have to shake my head to get my brain to work again.
That's so weird, I've never been affected that way
Scanning the quad again as we walk, I locate the Gypsy that caught my eye. She moved fast for her size and was already a good distance away. Her eyes are darting around the courtyard. She seems nervous, scared even. Meeting my eyes she pauses, it's one of those long seconds, where it's like neither of us can look away. It's over as fast as it happened when she breaks the connection and looks off nervously where the red head disappeared. As if by talking to me put her in a spotlight. I know I tend to attract attention everywhere I go, but no one has ever been scared of it. It comes with being a Bradford. I've never had a girl avoid me because of it though.
Her eyes seem to zoom in on something and she tenses up. Turning around, I see who it is. Sebastian Mattox, star baseball player and a royal pain in my ass. The guy is my main competition for the ladies around here and a total jerk. He treats women like they're disposable. I go through a lot of women but I try to end it on friendly terms.
Sebastian looks in my direction and waves, like we're friends or something. We aren't friends, I barely know the guy. His dad played with Nate Segler, who runs a huge baseball club on the west coast and works with Uncle Matt. I know who the guy is and we run in the same circles, but that's it. I draw a line with getting friendly with the enemy.
I turn back to the girl only to see she's staring at him then me. Did that prick do something to her? I start to step back in her direction to get her attention and I'm taken completely off guard when I'm grabbed by my face and kissed. It was like being shoved into a hot tub and drowning unable to get out. All overwhelming, wet and sloppy. Not my preference for a kiss.
My body jolts with shock before I grabbed the culprit by the waist and set her aside. The redhead, of course. I don't like pushy girls. If I'm interested I'll make a move but I don't want to be assaulted on my way to class.
Harper and Landon come to my aid, dragging me off teasing me all the way. "Damn boy! Get a fucking room!"
What the hell was that?
"Bradford! You coming tonight?" Mattox is walking behind us grinning.
I look around and spot the curls still watching. The look of sheer panic on her face stops me from responding. Her brown eyes go wide, I can see the light in them making her eyes look gold, a bit catlike and gorgeous. Her smooth skin goes pale and suddenly she turns around and hurries off. Mattox's hand is on my shoulder and I'm stuck. I can't go after her.
The gypsy has gotten away