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To all the cheerleaders out there who are tired of being cast
as the villains. This one is for you.
To be fair to me, I was a little drunk and pissed off. To be fair to him,
(I’d rather not), he was apparently allergic to turning down a dare,
which is how I ended up with Rhett Miller’s hand on my ass. I try to
focus on the counts my coach is calling out, but all I can think about is
the hand on my butt and the guy attached to it.
I happen to look up right when she walks in with her friends, but my
eyes go immediately to her. She stands out like a lightning bolt in a
dark sky. Hair so blond it’s almost white, ice blue eyes, and the most
perfectly shaped body, in my opinion. Enough on top and on the
bottom with a sweet curve in the middle. Fucking perfect.
“Wow,” my friend Jem says, noticing the group as well. My eyes
are only on the cute blonde, but her friends aren’t too shabby either.
Normally I would have walked right up to her, bought her a drink, and
worked my magic. Instead, I’m watching her from afar. Her friends
are loud, they’re having a good time, and damn, can they dance.
“Strippers?” Jem says, squinting and turning his head to the side as
if he’s trying to figure them out like a difficult equation as his floppy
brown hair falls into his eyes.
I take a sip of beer and want to roll my eyes. “I don’t think Maine
State University would condone that many student-strippers.” This
entire bar is full of students, since it’s close to campus and has a lax ID
“You never know,” he says, wiggling his eyebrows and taking a
swig from his beer glass. Jem’s real into craft brews right now, so he’s
pretty much insufferable whenever we go to a bar. Still, we’ve been
friends since freshman year, and he’s a good guy to have in your
corner. He’s gotten my ass out of a tight spot more than once.
The shitty lighting of the bar somehow works in her favor and
makes her look . . . well, luminous, for lack of another word. I like
words. Especially long ones. Especially ones I can use for beautiful
She throws her head back and laughs at something the tall
brunette dancing next to her says.
“What’re you waiting for?” Jem asks. Good question. I have no
I start to get up but then plant my ass back on the barstool.
“What’s wrong with you?” Jem says. This is definitely not my
normal modus operandi when it comes to women. I just can’t seem to
go up to this one. I ignore his staring and see my moment appear when
she peels off from her group and comes toward the bar.
Score. Let her come to me.
She doesn’t seem to notice me as she leans over the bar to ask for a
glass of water. The position pushes her chest up, and I stop myself
from trying to check out the view. I don’t want her to think I’m just
interested in her for her tits. Sure, those are definitely great, but it’s
the whole package that I want.
She’s tiny, probably only about five feet, but I like that, even
though she’s over a foot shorter than me. Shorter girls are usually the
spunkiest, and I have the feeling this one is no exception.
The bartender gets her drink, and as she picks it up she turns
around but stops when she sees me, her lips wrapped around the
Well, fuck me again.
“Hey,” I say. Her eyes go wide, as if I’ve said something shocking.
She coughs a few times and lowers the glass.
“Um, hey,” she says. It sounds like a question.
“I bet you can’t guess my name,” I say. Her eyebrows lift and then
draw together. I know this isn’t a line she’s heard before, which is why
I said it.
“I said that I bet you can’t guess my name. I’ll give you five
guesses, and if you don’t get it, I buy you a drink.” Her lips pull up on
one side in a smirk. Well, shit, that’s fucking sexy.
“And what if I can guess your name?” she says, leaning closer. Her
voice is deeper than I would have thought, given her stature. I’m in so
“Then I buy you a drink,” I say, giving her a wink. Instead of
smacking me, which I thought she might, she laughs just a little. I’ll
“I’m game.” I lead her over to an empty corner of the bar. Jem
gives me a thumbs-up, and I shoot him a dirty look.
“Okay, Mystery Man. My first guess is that your name is Chad,”
she says, leaning against the bar. I make a disgusted face.
“Are you serious? You really think my name is Chad? That’s the
most common name for assholes.” I’ve had plenty of experience with
Chads. One in particular beat my ass more than once in elementary
school. She chuckles again and drinks from her water. I’ve never
wanted to be a straw so much in my entire life.
“Well . . .” she says, shrugging one shoulder. I cross my arms and
narrow my eyes.
“Fine, fine. How about . . . Robert? Or some variation of that?” Ugh,
I shake my head. She bites her bottom lip as she considers me,
assessing me from head to toe. I hope I’m not found wanting.
“How about something unusual? Fitzwilliam?” Well, that’s
flattering. It also signifies that she’s read or at least seen Pride and
Prejudice. She racks up another point in the sexy category. Bookish
girls are the best.
“Can I get a hint?” she says. She stirs her water with the straw.
Her eyes narrow. “You’re kind of a jerk, you know that?” Now it’s
my turn to shrug. She’s only just met me, but the assessment is more
accurate than she knows.
“Okay . . . something even weirder? Slade?” That one makes me
“One guess left,” I say with a triumphant smile, holding up one
She shakes her head. “I have to give you credit, this has been less
pathetic than the normal pickup lines,” she says, and I can tell that
even though I’m irritating her, underneath it all, she likes it too. I
“I do what I can to be original,” I say.
“Fine, your name is . . . Nick?” Ugh, so boring.
“Nope, I win.” I slam my hand on the bar to get the bartender’s
“Two Jack and gingers,” I say, and he goes to make the drinks. I
turn back to find her looking like she wants to toss her water in my
face. Winding her up is fun as hell, and we’ve only been talking for a
“You might be buying me a drink, but that doesn’t mean I’m going
to consume it,” she says. “I might just give it to someone else. Or pour
it down the drain in the bathroom.”
“Whatever gets you off,” I say as the drinks arrive and I push one
She rolls her eyes, but she puts down her water and picks up the
“You’re not going to get me wasted and then take me home. If
that’s what your game is,” she says before she sips. “I’m not that
“That’s not my style. I like a girl to be completely aware of
everything I do to her. Every touch, every kiss, everything.” She
freezes, and I think her drink is headed for my face, but she just snorts
and turns her head a fraction to the side.
“You’re also pretty confident.”
I sip my drink slowly.
“Not denying it.”
Before I realize what’s happening, she’s downed the drink and
slammed the empty glass down on the bar, ice rattling around.
“So, what is your name, Mystery Man?” she asks, raising one blond
I lean in and speak in her ear.
“What’s yours?” She inhales through her nose, and I can’t tell if she
wants me to move away or not. What I really want to do is nip at her
earlobe. She smells incredible up close.
“I asked you first,” she says.
Before I can answer, someone speaks.
“This is very cozy.” I look up and see one of her friends glaring at
me and standing with her hand on her hip. Clearly not impressed.
“Oh, hey, I was just, um . . .” she acts like she’s been caught doing
something bad. Very, very bad.
“Yeah, I thought the rule was no dicks tonight?” her friend says.
She has short brown choppy hair and is much taller than her blond
friend. I keep waiting for someone to use her name. I’m dying to know
what it is. Even though I haven’t told her mine.
The cute blonde turns and looks me up and down again.
“You’re right. No dicks. Bye, Mystery Man!” They flounce back to
the dance floor, and I head back to Jem, just a tiny bit rejected.
He’s tall and rugged and looks like he should be posing in an L.L. Bean
catalog while chopping wood or something. Between the dark hair, the
beard, and the flannel shirt, he’s got the look down. He’s also so tall
that it kind of throws me off at first. That and the fact that he’s
speaking to me. Usually my friend Tobi is the one picking up that kind
Then there’s the line about his name. At least it’s original. I let him
buy me a drink, but then Tobi drags me away, reminding me of our
“no dicks” rule for the night. It’s purely a girls’ night, which totally
works out for two of my friends, Willow and Carrie, because they’re a
couple. Whatever. The point is still made. For the rest of us straight
girls, we’re not dealing with guys tonight.
I go back to the dance floor, thinking that’s the end of it, but then I
feel him watching me. It’s somewhat unnerving. Every time I look
through the gloom of the bar, I find his blue eyes staring right back at
As a result, I drink to forget about the Mystery Man. And since I’m
on the small side, the booze goes right to my head, and I’m feeling
pretty sloshy. It’s great.
“I think we need to get you home,” Tobi says when I trip over my
normally steady feet for the fourth time.
“I’m fine,” I say, even though I know that I’m not really. The floor
is moving in waves.
“Leaving already?” a voice says and even though I just met him, I
know his voice already, and my face is hot to the touch.
I pivot around slowly. Mostly so I don’t tip over and make a fool of
“Yes, now go away. I don’t want to guess your name and I don’t
want to tell you mine and I just want you to go away.” I point my
finger at him, and he just sort of smirks, which makes me madder. I’ve
had a shitty few months and he’s not helping. Sometimes I have an
even shorter fuse when I drink, and this guy is pushing my buttons for
“You looked great out there. You a dancer?” he says, completely
ignoring what I just said. Tobi appears to want to see how this goes
down more than she wants to leave. Traitor.
“Cheerleader,” I say, as if it’s any of his business. Of course, when I
say I’m a cheerleader, I watch his reaction. Guys are almost always
thrilled when they find out you’re a cheerleader. Like you said you’re a
porn star or something. Yeah, those two things are exactly the same.
Fucking perverts. I’m no one’s spank bank material.
“Yeah, I am. And stop ogling me like I’m a sexual object.
Cheerleaders are athletes, not porn fetishes. I’ve busted my ass my
entire life to be able to do what I do. I bet you wouldn’t even last one
practice.” I have no idea where that came from. I’m blaming the
“Yeah?” he says, raising one dark eyebrow. “Is that a dare?”
“Sure, why the hell not?” I’m probably not going to remember this
tomorrow, or see him again, so what does it matter?
“Okay, then. Challenge accepted.” He smiles and then I think tips
an imaginary hat. Before I can figure out what the crap that means,
“Fucking weird,” I say.
“Amen,” Tobi says, taking my arm and helping me get out to her
I’d almost forgotten (yeah, right) about Mystery Man until the
following Monday night when he just waltzes into the gym like he owns
the place. My jaw pretty much hits the floor.
Tryouts happened at the end of last year, but they had a second
round for anyone who missed the first. I’d gotten on the squad with no
problem, since the talent level is several notches below what I’m used
to. On my old squad (hate calling it that) at Texas University, the
whole team had a standing back tuck, but here it’s less than a third.
It’s been a lot to adjust to.
I came here for a reason. I just keep repeating that to myself. I
came here for a reason.
“Wow, I can’t believe he showed up,” Tobi says as we stretch out
on the mats. He’s wearing a tight black shirt and loose black pants that
swish when he walks. His arms are on full display, and I definitely
didn’t see all those tattoos on Saturday night since his arms had been
covered. I have a serious weakness when it comes to tattoos. Yum.
He strides right up to Coach and shakes her hand as if they’re old
friends. Tobi and I both lean closer to hear what they’re saying. His
back is to us, so I can’t hear what he says, but he makes Coach laugh.
She pats him on his ample shoulder and says, “Let’s see what you’ve
And then he executes (of course) a beautiful standing tumbling
pass, ending with a full twist, landing with his feet perfectly together.
What the actual fuck? He stands up and looks right at me, grinning like
he’s won the lottery.
My mouth gapes open, and Coach claps her hands. Jesus Christ, it’s
like real live Bring it On.
“Now, you’ve never cheered before, correct?” Coach asks him as
she adjusts her glasses. I look around the room and everyone else is
paying attention. The Mystery Man shakes his head.
Coach writes something down on her clipboard and tries to hide a
smile. She’s excited, I can tell. My old squad had one head coach and
five assistants. Here there’s only one assistant who’s a grad student
and former squad member. Coach Simmons’s claim to fame is coaching
a few high school squads and working two years at another tiny college
in the state. She’s nice but just doesn’t have the skills that someone
with more experience in different places would. That’s mean, but it’s
honest. I’m already plotting to see if I can help with choreography,
since it’s one of my strong suits.
Mystery Man towers over her and even though she’s got at least
fifteen years on him, somehow he’s the one who looks older.
“Well, it’s a lot more than just tumbling, but you’ve at least got
that. How about you hang out with us this practice and we’ll see how
fast you learn?” What the hell is this shit? She’d never do that for
anyone else. Granted, with that one pass he’s cemented himself as the
best male tumbler on the team. I can do the same pass, but my legs
aren’t quite as straight and my feet aren’t as tight as his. Although, I
will never, ever admit that to him. I’d rather eat glass.
“Sounds good,” he says and jogs right over to me, plops down on
the mat, and starts stretching.
This is not happening. I can’t put my finger on why he pushes my
buttons so much. He isn’t that much of an asshole. Sure, he’s cocky and
confident, but that’s tolerable. It’s just . . . the way he is drives me
Hot and bothered and crazy.
Hopefully he’ll give up once the season gets started and then he’ll
go away, and I can go back to not fantasizing about what that beard
would feel like scraping against my skin.
“I thought you were a figment of my drunk imagination,” I say, as
he drops into a middle split and proves that not only is he a talented
tumbler, he’s flexible too. I try not to stare and imagine all the ways he
could twist himself up. So not relevant right now.
“No, Freya, I’m completely real.” I start when he says my name.
How the crap does he know my name?
I shoot Tobi a look, but she’s just watching the two of us like you
watch animals circling each other on a nature special, waiting to see
which one will draw blood first.
“Are you stalking me now? Is that how you know my name?” He
rolls his eyes and tips his neck from side to side to crack it.
“No, it was easy. I have my sources.” Ugh, this guy is really
annoying me. It’s a shame he’s so good looking. I do whatever I can to
keep my eyes off his tattoos. They’re bold and colorful, but I don’t look
closely enough to figure out what they are. I’ve never dated a guy with
tattoos, but the appeal has always been there.
“Whatever. Do I get to know your name now?” I can just ask
Coach, but I’m not going to give him the satisfaction.
“Nope, you’ve gotta guess.” I’m about to tell him where he can
stick his guesses when Coach starts practice. She beams at us all and
rocks from foot to foot.
“Okay, everyone, we have a new face. This is Rhett, and he’s going
to be observing for the next week. I know we already had tryouts, but
we’re sorely in need of strong bases and tumblers, so I’m making an
exception. If you don’t like it, you can go and run laps. Got it?” I’m the
only one who seems to consider running laps. And I seriously hate
“Okay, let’s begin with conditioning.” She gives us all an evil smile,
and we groan.
Well, she knows my name, so that little game is over. I’ll have to come
up with another way to play with her now.
I try not to stare as she stretches in just a tank top and a pair of
athletic shorts. I don’t need much imagination to see that she has a
rocking body. Curvy and toned at the same time.
And her name. Freya. After she’d the bar left with her friends, Jem
figured out who they were. Jem’s one of those people who can get
information out of anyone, and you wouldn’t even realize he’d gotten it
until after you’d told him. I always tell him he should be a lawyer or
something, but he scoffs. Jem has one ambition and that’s to have a
Of course, then I looked her up on Facebook, but I couldn’t get
much because we weren’t friends. So then I searched for the meaning
of her name and laughed so loudly when I found it that I’m pretty sure
my neighbors heard me.
Freya. Fucking sexy name, and it suits her perfectly. It means
“lady” and is the name of a Norse goddess of love, beauty, war, and
death. So perfect. She looks just like a Norse goddess.
I wasn’t too worried about the cheer practice. I mean, I knew what
cheerleaders did. I watched a few videos on YouTube to prepare.
Yeah, I could totally do that, sure. Granted, if I hadn’t been doing
jiujitsu and break dancing for most of my life, I would have been
completely screwed. Poor Freya. She had no idea when she dared me,
which made this all the more sweet.
She’d been miffed to say the least when I actually showed up. Her
face when I busted out that tumbling pass was priceless. I wished I
could frame it and put it on my wall.
I’d emailed the Coach on Sunday and had asked (humbly) if I could
come and try out, even though I’d missed the deadline. I also (not so
humbly) listed my qualifications that would hopefully gloss over the
fact that I had never cheered before. Some guys in high school had
called it “gay”, but if lifting up half-clothed girls in very particular
places is gay, then sign me up.
She’d emailed me back right away, and I could smell the
desperation. Hmm. They must be short of guys, which wasn’t
surprising. Still, this didn’t mean that I was going to join the team. I
was just going to prove Freya wrong and then that would be it.
Hopefully I could get out after I’d seen her naked. Man, did I want to
see her naked.
The first practice is . . . eye opening to say the least. Since it’s just
the beginning of the season, we’re still working on conditioning, but the
rest of the team has already started cheering at the football games.
I have a lot to learn. From learning how to base, to catching, to
choreography and motions, to moving from one formation to the next
without bashing into someone. My brain overloads real fast with all the
new vocabulary. What the hell is a cupie? Everyone’s super nice and
patient with me, and I catch on pretty fast. With some stuff, at least.
They all make it look effortless, and it definitely is anything but. I’m
starting at square one, and I feel like they’re all speaking a language