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Most Desirable Player

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If you’re reading this, I could use some help. My best friend just grabbed my paddle at The Player Auction… and now, I have to go on a date with my ex-boyfriend.

Julian Rivers is everything a girl could want—rich and smart, with abs you can bounce quarters on and the cutest dimple I want to touch every time he smiles. But after our breakup, there’s no way I’m letting him back in my life.

There’s just one problem…

Julian’s a hockey player who loves a challenge. He always shoots to score and plays to win… and this time, he’s playing for keeps.

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Chapter One

Briana

I will do anything to get out of going to The Player Auction. My body trembles from the fear flooding through my veins, shaking me to the core. The thought of coming face-to-face with Julian Rivers again makes my insides knot. After two years apart, I have done everything in my power to avoid seeing Julian. Little things like switching classes and learning his schedule have helped aid in my efforts.

The stupid jock auction is the last place I want to go.

Sadie holds up the hot pink flyer for The Player Auction. My best friend waves the paper in front of my face as if being super annoying is going to change my mind.

I shake my head. “Nope, I’m not going to the auction.”

“You’re coming with me,” Sadie challenges. “We had a deal. You promised.”

Every spring, Strickland University auctions off the hottest athletes on campus for charity. My ex-boyfriend, Julian Rivers, star hockey player, God’s gift to women (or so he thinks), and all-around pain in my ass, is one of the players being offered up today. And I have no desire to see him ever again.

I shake my head and turn away from her. “Nope, I’m staying right here.” I pat the open space on the bed next to me. “I have tons of shows we can watch on Netflix and a quart of mint chocolate chip ice cream that’s calling my name.”

A frown tugs at her mouth as she drops the flyer onto the desk in the corner of my small bedroom. “Seriously, Briana? You can’t avoid every place you might run into Julian.”

I lean against the wall behind my bed and sigh. “Ugh, yes, I can. I’ve found ways to steer clear of him for the last two years. What are a few more months until graduation?”

I roll my shoulders to show my best friend and roommate I don’t care when in reality I do. I hate having to plan my schedules around Julian. Even though we’re no longer together he still dictates my life. But it’s better than the alternative. The thought of speaking to him makes my stomach turn.

“It’s my birthday,” she reminds me. “We agreed that we would kick off my birthday weekend with the auction.”

“I was drunk at the time,” I point out.

She blows out a deep breath and then sits at the edge of my bed. “You damn well know I want to bid on Cole Harker.”

“You don’t need to ride the hockey hottie express. Just imagine how many girls have already done that.” I stick my finger into my mouth and make a gagging sound that causes her to roll her hazel eyes at me.

“And I want to spend my birthday with my best friend. So, there’s that.”

“We’re hanging out now,” I say with a smile. “We can just stay here.”

“It’s not every day I turn twenty-two,” she coos. “Must I remind you it’s my special day?”

“Oh, I know. Your dad sent enough presents to fill our entire dorm room.”

“He always does.” She glances at the open door that leads into our shared living room, where there are piles of presents stacked along the walls.

Bags from every designer from Christian Louboutin to Chanel started arriving at the beginning of the week. For Sadie, her birthday is like the Christmas I had dreamed of as a child except on a grander scale. But I was lucky if I got a pair of socks from my foster parents.

“It’s the only way he knows how to show me he cares,” she says, her eyes downcast.

My expression mirrors hers when she frowns at the ridiculous display. She has money and every advantage at her fingertips, but she doesn’t have her dad. After her mom left him for a French banker, he poured himself into his work. Her dad runs Stark Investments, a hedge fund in New York. The Starks are loaded, like most of the students on campus, but Sadie never acts as if she has money. I like that about her. She never makes me feel like the scholarship kid. Not once has she ever made me feel less than her for not having two nickels to rub together.

When the deliveries started this week, I had braced myself for all of the boxes. I’ve shared a dorm room with Sadie since freshman year, so I knew what to expect. I’ve never received more than one gift for my birthday if I was lucky enough to get that. So, I have no idea what it’s like to wake up on my birthday and feel like a princess. But I know, from seeing the sad expression on Sadie’s face, that no amount of money or presents can make up for not having her dad here to spend the day with her.

After having nothing and no one for most of my life, the decision is simple. Sadie has been here for me for the last three years. She needs me today. So, I have to put my stupidity aside and forget about Julian Rivers. He’s not the reason I’m going to The Player Auction. I can go and forget he even exists.