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It was supposed to be my year, but then he made a bet that I couldn’t refuse…

As a star senior on the Tiff U volleyball team, it’s been my goal to come back strong after an injury that nearly took me out of the game. But I’m Laney freaking Price, and I’m taking my shot to make it on the new pro women’s team, despite the lack of support from my father.

The problem? Cutter McCreary. He is the Captain of the Tiff U hockey team, all-around loveable guy, and a total player. And did I mention a complete thorn in my side since freshman year? Yeah…that guy. His charms don’t tempt me.

Until…a mix up with our housing situation forces us into a bit of a predicament. We were both promised a room. The same room.

His proposal? A bet. We split the room in half—for now. Whoever falls in love with the other first has to move out. The winner gets to stay.

But when strategic glances turn into late night talks, and fake kisses start to feel real, I’m finding myself without a game plan. And winning suddenly doesn’t feel like the only thing that matters.


EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: The Tomboy and The Captain

Ginger Scott

Expected Release Date: 22 February 2024

Book Series: 

Ginger Scott is kicking off a brand new college hockey romance series this week, and I have the whole first chapter from the first book in the series—the story of a college volleyball player and the captain of the hockey team who make a bet for who falls first (spoiler alert: he does).

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Chapter One

Laney Price

I’m not sure if it’s the room I smell or me. It’s probably a combination of both, though I fear I may be causing the brunt of it. Patient zero. My armpits, back, and nether regions are soaked in sweat after more than twenty trips from my old third-floor apartment to my best friend Ivy’s pickup truck on the street. 

“I know it’s August, but seriously . . . ninety-one? I hate Iowa sometimes.” Ivy kicks the front door open wide as she shuffles through with the last box. 

“You say that in the winter, too, you know. I think you just have something against Iowa.” My arms are held down by the disheveled pile of clothes I scooped up from the floor of my old bedroom. Right where my ex left them. When he moved out a week ago. Correction, when he had people move him and most of our things out. 

“Not true. I love Iowa. In April. And a sliver of October.” 

I snort out a laugh at her assessment. Ivy’s from Illinois, so Iowa—not that different.

“College students should be given at least three full credit hours for constantly moving. Bonus points for humidity.” I blow up at the hairs stuck to my forehead. They literally go nowhere. 

Stretching my pinky finger out from my grip, I manage to hook the door handle and tug the door closed behind me. How I haven’t tumbled down the concrete stairs during one of these trips to Ivy’s pickup, I have no idea. I can’t see my feet which, being five-eleven, is rare for me. I can always see my feet. I can see freaking everything. 

“Remind me again, why did Cam decide to break the lease early and not just let you stay through the fall?” 

Ivy knows why. She just wants me to bash on Cam some more because this move has been miserable. And she never liked him. Turns out, neither did I. Cam is what’s called a micromanager, and he wants a woman who likes to be managed. I could not be further from that type, if that even is a type. 

“Because I said no to his grandmother’s ring,” I grunt out as I lean into the guardrail for a short break after the first flight of stairs. I adjust my hold on my clothing. Things are starting to slip, and the last thing I want to do in this hot afternoon sun is scatter garments on the pavement thirty feet below. 

“That’s right. I forgot,” she says in a flat tone. 

“I’m sure you did,” I punch out through a laugh, rolling my eyes as I pivot to take the next set of stairs. 

Ivy warned me the proposal was coming, and thank God she did. She spotted the ring when she was snooping through Cam’s desk drawer one day while waiting for me to get dressed for our girls’ night out. The fact that I was working through the best way to end my relationship while Cam was plotting our future is proof of how far apart we were as a couple. Seems my failing to reciprocate those three little words never registered to him as a red flag. 

Truth is, I shouldn’t be half of a couple with anyone. Not believing in love is sort of a dagger to the heart of a successful relationship. I certainly have no delusions about real fairytales. I was always upfront with Cam. I liked him, well enough. At least, I liked the roommate arrangement we had going. But I would never be the perfect wife. He considered my volleyball playing a hobby. I consider it a career. I wasn’t going to follow him to Chicago for law school and give up my last year of sports eligibility. 

I suppose we made sense on a certain level. Pre-law students in mostly the same classes. Only children from divorced parents. Of course, his parents were amicable, basically friends. My father hasn’t shown his face since my thirteenth birthday, but that doesn’t stop my mom from threatening to bash it in with a meat tenderizer anytime his name comes up. And it comes up more often than it should thanks to his empty promises via phone calls and letters. 

I’ll pick you up for a birthday dinner.

I’ll see you on Christmas this year.

I’ll be at your big game. Save me a seat!

I don’t save seats anymore. And I don’t answer his phone calls. I read his letters, texts and emails because I can’t stand the way the words taunt me when they go unread. I’m never surprised, though. I’m also no longer let down. 

I guess I should be grateful that I fell in love with volleyball before my dad had a chance to ruin it too. Bobby Price walked away from his family in Pittsburgh to live the beach life and make the pro tour out in California before his knees got too old. He’s got his own brand of sunblock now, and those checks paid for a lot of travel team play for me. Funding my passion was the least he could do since he couldn’t be bothered to show up or volunteer to coach like so many of the other volleyball-playing parents on my teams. 

When I went down with a shoulder injury last season, a small part of me expected him to finally step up, or at least swoop in with some motivational speech or advice. A shoulder injury is what took him out of the game in college. He got his second chance thanks to the beach tour, so I suppose his comeback dulled his ability to feel empathy. Clearly, being of his own flesh and blood doesn’t matter.  

I give the garments weighing down my arms one final heave into the back of Ivy’s truck as she slides the last box into place and flips up the tailgate. 

“I can’t believe we have to do this all again, only in reverse.” She chuckles while heading to the driver’s side. 

“At least it’s the first floor at your place. I mean, unless you want to give me your master suite.” I shoot my friend a grin as I climb in the passenger side. 

“You’ll prefer the first floor. Right by the laundry. Better water pressure.” 

I stare at her profile while she starts the engine and eventually she meets my gaze. 

“You made that last part up,” I challenge.

“Yeah. There’s no way I’m giving up that bedroom. Even for you.” She reaches over and pats my thigh, then shifts into drive to take me and my life’s belongings to my new address, right across from the laundry room. 

Unloading is a lot easier than packing, and in less than an hour Ivy and I have every box stacked at the foot of the bed and most of my clothes hung in the small walk-in closet. Her old roommate left behind a queen bed and one dresser along with some pretty wild pink curtains and a lot of hot-pink LED lights. As long as I have the basics, though, I’ve got all I need until graduation. Hopefully, by then I’ll be planning my next move to one of the start-up markets for the new pro volleyball league. 

“You’re sure Matt is going to be cool with me taking the room?” Ivy shares this place with her brother. They’ve been trying to find someone to fill the empty room—and take on a third of the bills—for a few weeks. He’s been out of town for the last week, living his best summer with one last hurrah out in California. He got invited to some influencer camp for “wannabe frat boys,” as Ivy says. Her brother is actually pretty decent at the social media marketing thing, though. He went viral with a few posts on our college hockey team last year. I’d love for him to work something up for me this season and maybe up my profile before the pro draft. 

“Oh, I told him. Not that he reads his damn messages. I swear if it’s not a hashtag or mention on some social account, he doesn’t consume it.” She rolls her eyes. “Seriously though, he is going to be so relieved. He literally has interviews lined up to find a new roommate this week. He was starting to freak out with rent coming due. Speaking of . . . rent’s due Tuesday.” She puckers her lips and holds out an open palm. I let her linger for a few seconds, but before she makes the actual grabby motion, I give in.

“All right, hang on. I have cash like you said.” I snag my wallet from the bare mattress in my new room and pull out the four hundred bucks I took out this morning. It’s a steal compared to what I was paying with Cam. 

Ivy leaves me to unpack on my own, and after about two hours, I have most of the basics in place—workout things folded in the drawers, toiletries organized along with makeup. I bought a new comforter and pillow set, so the bed actually looks inviting, and I’m about to throw in the towel for the evening and collapse face first into it when Ivy raps on my door and pushes it open wide.

“Don’t you dare think you’re getting out of drinks at Patty’s.” She bends down and picks up the sneakers I just took off and set by the door, then tosses them on the bed. 

“Aw, Ives, I’m beat! Raincheck?” I flop down on my ass to untie one of the shoes, knowing my friend isn’t really big on no for an answer, especially when it comes to free drinks. I promised her I’d pick up the tab if she helped with the heavy lifting today. My shoulder is pretty much healed, but the last thing I want to do is set myself back by overdoing it with a few moving boxes. 

“And throw a new shirt on while you’re at it. Maybe swap out that bra too. You look . . .” She swirls her finger in front of her as if trying to conjure the right word.

“Like I’ve spent the day moving my shit from one place to another?” I respond, slipping my foot into my shoe and lacing it. 

“Yeah, like you moved here from an alley. Like that.” She snaps and leaves my room. 

“That’s not exactly what I said,” I holler after her. Her snicker echoes down the hallway and back at me. I scowl but also sniff the sleeve of my shirt.

I take her advice and toss on my favorite cotton bralette and my Team USA crop shirt. I twist my hair up into a messy bun and splash a little water on my face both to wake up and to bring a little color back to my cheeks. 

Patty’s is two blocks from the house we’re renting, which makes getting home after a few drinks a lot easier. And now that I’m sliding onto one of the stools and feeling the cold curve of the mug in my hand, I’m a lot less irritated at my friend for dragging me out tonight. 

The Bears preseason game is on every TV in this joint but one—the tiny set boxed in between the mixed drink bottles behind the bar. While Ivy hits the restroom, I manage to convince the bartender to tune it into the volleyball World’s match going on right now, and I’m finally beginning to relax. I blow on one of the tater tots from the basket I ordered and test it with the tip of my tongue. 

“Practicing for me later tonight?” 

I drop the crispy snack from my fingers and cringe at the sound of my mortal enemy’s voice. Cutter McCreary has been a pain in my ass since our freshman year at Tiff University when he led the charge for his precious hockey team to take over our locker room. I swear he did it because I refused to give him my number the night before at a party. He swears it was in the works all along. 

Thing is, I know guys like Cutter. They aren’t used to rejection. And when they get it, they act out. And our coach was promised our locker room was safe from budget cuts days before it was ripped away from us. Cutter’s response to that? He said the locker room wasn’t cut. It simply changed ownership.

Asshole. 

“Shouldn’t you be figure skating or some shit?” I give him side eyes. His chest puffs up with a silent laugh. 

“Cute, Laney. But nah, we just won our scrimmage against Northeastern. I guess you couldn’t get a seat for tonight’s game. Tiff hockey sells out and all. We don’t have all those open seats like you guys do.” 

I meet his glare and tighten my lips to keep my words inside. Do not engage, Laney. That’s what he wants. 

Cutter’s been the captain of the hockey team since his sophomore year after his older twin brothers were drafted. He’s obnoxiously confident, drowning in dimples, and literally the face of Tiff U. It helps that this town is hockey-crazed, and the team—and fine, Cutter—are good. Three-time conference champs. But so are we. And unlike the hockey team, Tiff women’s volleyball has been to nationals. We’re expected to go again this year, my year. Nobody talks about that, though. 

“You know, Cutter . . . I bet it keeps you awake at night wondering what your so-called fans would think if you couldn’t skate and swing a stick at the same time.” I twist in my seat and cover my chest with folded arms just as Ivy walks up behind him. 

“Oh, great. I leave you alone for thirty seconds and you’re already picking a bar fight,” she says, slipping into the space between Cutter and me to grab her beer. She gives me a stern look as she backs away, which irks me because why would any so-called bar fight be my fault and not his?

“What?” I huff.

She purses her lips before bringing her mug to her mouth and taking a slow sip. Cutter chuckles and raises a hand to get the bartender’s attention. “Pitcher for the back. Make it two.”

Half a dozen of his teammates stream in and head toward the back tables, and the clack of pool balls being racked breaks through the pulse throbbing with heat in my ears. I blink a few times and will my attention away from my nemesis for a beat, but then his pitchers are delivered, giving him an excuse to slide from his stool and brush against my thigh with his bulky and admittedly hard body. 

With one palm flat on the bar top, he bends down and leans into me, his breath warm at my ear. I shift my gaze to take in the sharp line of his jaw but keep my head still. My molars gnash together and I fantasize about turning with a hefty right hook so I can punch him in the dick. 

“You know I am up all night, Laney. But it ain’t because I’m thinking.” The soft chuckle that slips from his lips and blows against my ear sends shivers down the left side of my neck. My shoulder scrunches up out of rote reflex, and I hate that he sees it. I wait until I hear his teammates cheer at what I assume is his presentation of two pitchers of beer before I shift in my seat and glance over my shoulder. The pub is filled with adoring fans, most of them women. And they’re all clamoring for Cutter’s attention. It’s nauseating. 

Ivy bumps her elbow into mine to draw my attention from the back of the room. 

“You know he fucks with you like that because he’s attracted to you, right?” She smirks through a sip of her beer and twists her finger in one of the blonde ringlets that frame her face. 

“Yeah, I know. Boys pulling pigtails and all that. It’s all so basic. And I hate how much attention and funding and resources and—”

“Yeah, yeah. It’s a man’s world and female athletes work just as hard, blah, blah,” Ivy cuts in. 

I frown at her and she sighs.

“Sorry. It’s not that I don’t agree with your position. It’s just that I’ve heard it so many times, and I lifted a lot of heavy shit today so I was hoping to maybe enjoy some drinks without a lesson on the patriarchy. If that’s all right.” 

She shrugs and holds her mug toward me. I stare at it for a few seconds then lift mine and clank it against hers. 

“Deal. Just promise me one thing.” I lift a brow.

“What’s that?”

“You won’t start dating a hockey player while I’m living with you.” I give her a hard stare because Ivy is as much a playboy as Cutter. 

She snorts out a laugh after a few seconds and answers, “That’s a deal.”

We both drain our mugs and slam them down on the bar, and I wave down the bartender for another round. He swaps our glasses out and Ivy starts to laugh. 

“What’s funny?” She’s not drunk yet, so something must genuinely be tickling her. 

“Nothing, it’s just that . . . I’ve already hooked up with most of the team anyhow. And I don’t like seconds.” 

I shake my head and muse over her proud sexuality. Cutter McCreary might not be the biggest player at Tiff after all. 

“Baseball players are hotter,” I add. 

We toast to that, and don’t mention the men’s hockey team for the rest of the night. I just keep looking at them—at him, really. And his stupid hot face and even hotter body. That’s the beer talking, though. 

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