Keeper (Alpha Athletes #2)

By: Violet Paige
Chapter One


I pulled a pair of sunglasses over my eyes. I didn’t want anyone to know I was still fighting a bloody hangover. Fuck, it probably didn’t matter. The opinions were out there. The judgements about me had already been made. I stumbled through the revolving door and threw a hand toward the sky to block the glare from the sun.

Shit. Rio was a fucking sauna.

“Bloody hell,” I grumbled.

The bus gushed with a puff of diesel exhaust. I coughed and tossed my bags onto the different piles. One set was going to the stadium with us for practice, while the other would be delivered to our rooms in the Olympic village.

Since when did South American winters include a massive heat wave?

“Lach, nice of you to show.” I heard the wanker’s voice before I saw his smug face.

I scowled at Alex Conley. “What the fuck do you care?” I spit.

“Didn’t say I did.”

He was dressed in a full three-piece suit. His hair was slicked back and his face was clean shaven. I could smell the cologne rolling off of him. Did he think we were headed to a photo shoot? Prick. He turned his back to me and climbed on the bus. Even his shoes were shiny. I looked down at my trainers.

Ever since the team picked up that arrogant asshole, he and I had fought as if we were still rivals, not teammates. It was hard to put aside our differences for the games. “For the good of the country” didn’t apply when I had to share colors with that arse. There would always be bad blood between us.

My phone buzzed. I pulled it from the back pocket of my jeans and wiped the screen clean with my T-shirt to read the first alert that popped up. Fuck. My name was plastered everywhere. I scrolled through the posts before shoving the cell in my pocket again.

I was the last one on the bus and took a seat in the back as the driver closed the doors and the wheels jerked forward. I kept my head down. I’d already heard the guys muttering about my epic night out. The fucking press had followed me everywhere I went.

And then there were the pictures.

Let’s just say they involved drinks and certain body parts.

My head throbbed every time the driver took a sharp turn. Fuck. I couldn’t remember how many pints I had last night. Enough to give me one hell of a headache.

There had been at least three bars, and I closed down the club inside the hotel. I leaned my head against the tufted headrest. There was enough photo evidence on social media to prove it.

Rio de Janeiro was one big party. That was my plan. Party through the next three weeks. Enjoy the booze. Blow off steam. Fuck around. It was all the same to me.

I wasn’t here because I wanted to be. I didn’t give a shit about the Olympics. But my agent, Rick, convinced me my brand depended on me being here. He wanted me to care that I had a brand to protect. I had sponsorships. And if Lachlan Kenzie wasn’t at the summer games, I could kiss several of those contracts good-bye. England’s rock star keeper had to be seen on the world’s football stage, or my sponsors would be pissed. Rick pressured me into agreeing to this damn media circus.

So I flew to Rio. I stayed at the team hotel for a few nights. And I got on the bus.

By the time we pulled up to the stadium, my stomach growled. I skipped breakfast, coffee, and sleep. But the girl had been worth it. I didn’t know her name. I only knew she could fuck like a wild banshee. I left her sleeping while I grabbed my bag and headed to meet the team.

There was no reason to see her again. Practices started today. We moved into the village this afternoon. There would be more girls. I didn’t need to get tangled up with only one. I never did.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed women. Correction—I fucking loved women. My first year in the league, I learned just how much women loved me. After that, I didn’t see the point in getting tied down. Why choose one when I could have a hundred? Why limit myself? I never had to sleep alone. And I never dealt with the shit my mates did. No one nagged me. No one begged for phone calls. I didn’t get an ear bashing if I forgot her birthday. No—I had the perfect fucking scenario.

The bus lurched to a sudden stop. My head whipped forward.

“Son of a bitch,” I muttered.

I looked outside the window at the stadium. It was enormous. The oblong building spanned several blocks. It was going to hold 78,000 screaming fans once the games began. These weren’t any kind of fans. They weren’t the same people who showed up at track, or the wanderers waiting on rowing and sailing results. These were football fans. Rabid, obsessed people who traveled around the world to cheer for their teams.

The guys in front of me stood up, ducking their heads as they exited the bus.

I trailed behind, hopping to the ground from the last step. The flags from around the world fluttered overhead. I knew this moment was supposed to resonate with me. The blokes around me seemed to take a minute to soak it in. I could see their eyes mist. I saw them take deep breaths when they spotted the British flag. I huffed. I wasn’t into the sentimental shit. I played football. Just give me my damn kit and boots and let me out there.

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