Gods of the Gridiron, Book 1
Sports Romance, Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 28, 2020
They don't call him Ares for no reason!
Travis Redmond, the ram of a running back for the Atlanta Gladiators, may be a lot of things—hot-headed, arrogant, rash—but a cheater isn't one of them. Until cheating is the only option he has to save his brother, Tucker, from the clutches of a dangerous criminal mastermind.
When his impulsive actions get him an UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT penalty and he ends up suspended and back in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas, the last person he expected to see again was Skyla Larson, his former classmate from Brevidge High.
Skyla isn't the shy girl he remembers from Biology. She's changed after a decade and man, is she scorching hot now… and with the sass to go along with it too! Sly little Sky’s got a few secrets of her own, including a particular person she's investigating as Atlanta’s assistant district attorney.
Their reunion and bar-side banter are short-lived though as these two suddenly find themselves running for their lives...and falling in love on top of that!
Love has poor timing, especially when they have everything to lose including their hearts… The “god of war” may have found something worth fighting for—the mighty Aphrodite of his.
Travis Redmond sat at the bar, beer in hand, feeling like the biggest loser in the NFL. He’d gotten formally suspended this time after he’d pulled his helmet off and gone nose to nose with a player on the field, during a game, in front of eighty-thousand plus fans.
Yeah, he’d been wrong. Yeah, he’d been angry. Yeah, he’d been throwing the game...intentionally. And Pollux Reed had called him out for it. But dammit, he had no idea what Travis was going through and why he’d done what he had. He was tired of the talk behind his back and when Reed had mumbled that bullshit under his breath, Trav had seen red and went at him before he could even think.
He’d only been playing for the Gladiators for a month now and he was being scrutinized, his motives questioned—like they’d been before he’d gotten traded from the Stallions. But no one understood what was happening, what a shit-show his little brother had gotten the two of them into. There were some dark and shady men at the center of this whole scandal, and if Travis didn’t play his cards right, Tucker’s life was at stake. He had to do what they said, had to subtly throw the games, had to keep the facade going. The alternative was unthinkable.
For now, Travis was simply biding his time and looked back over to Hank, the bartender of Gunslingers, the current bar he was in, here in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas. He’d needed a break from all the heat he was in, back in Atlanta, using the excuse to come out and visit his family and catch up with his former teammates.
Tonight, Trav was meeting up with a friend he used to play with on the Stallions—his former QB, Judd Gilbert. He’d be heading back to Georgia in a couple days’ time.
Travis checked his phone again, all too aware of the eyes that kept coming back to him. He was as inconspicuous as a famous football player and record-breaking running back could be in his backwards ball cap and shades, despite that it was so dark in the place that he could barely see. The tight Nike t-shirt and jeans probably didn’t help. Judd hadn’t texted him back, although Travis had been at the bar for about twenty minutes now, waiting.
“Is it true? Were you throwing that game like they said?” Hank asked, leaning over the half-empty bar top, polishing a beer stein.
“What the fuck do you think?” Trav grumbled and looked around. “You know me. You know I ain’t like that!” It hurt that people had no more faith in him than they did...even if it were true.
“I know, but it sure don’t seem that way. You shouldn’t have fumbled that ball, Trav.”
“What do you do for a living?” When Hank paused, Trav buried the hatchet. “You pour fucking liquor into glasses. Why don’t you do that and stop telling me how to do my job? When you bust your ass on that field every Sunday, then we can talk. Until then, shut the hell up.” Travis looked away, his heart hurting at the acid dripping from his lips. He had to make this seem legit though or Tucker was a dead man. They’d warned him and warned him and warned him. And Tucker was in their grasp now. They could put a bullet through his head in the blink of an eye if Travis acted suspiciously. They’d already sent him a pinky toe in the mail. He assumed it was his brother’s but couldn’t verify it for a fact. They could be bluffing, but he knew them too well; they hadn’t bluffed prior to now.
Travis pulled his shades off and looked around, narrowing his eyes at the onlookers, almost growling like a cornered dog. Yeah, it’s me fuckers, Travis fuckin’ Redmond! In the flesh, he wanted to shout but took another sip of beer instead, back home and up to no good, he thought to himself.
Just then his phone beeped and he checked it, seeing a text from Judd.
Judd: Hey, man. Sorry, I’m gonna have to bail tonight. Jerica is running a fever and Gemma thinks we should take her to urgent care. FML. I really hate this. I’ll call you tomorrow. Maybe we can do lunch before you head out on Thursday?
Well, shit! Trav was on his own tonight...in a bar he didn’t even wanna be in. His night just kept getting better and better.
Travis texted back with: No worries, man. Hope she’s alright. Talk tomorrow.
He replaced his phone in his back pocket and looked at the opening door, seeing that it was raining out now as an impeccably dressed redhead with a giant umbrella stomped in, huffing.
Trav’s eyes narrowed as he tried to place her. That face, mouth, and skin tone… He could swear he’d seen them before. When she looked up, her blue eyes grazed him robotically before zeroing in on the bartender.
“Excuse me, do you have a phone I could use?” she asked and got a scoff from Hank.
“Payphone’s in the back, lady.”
She sighed heavily and closed the dripping umbrella, swiping her black heels on the giant rug at the entrance of the door. She was clad in a striped, heather-gray pant suit with a cream silk top. She rifled through the big leather bag on her shoulder before tucking her unruly, long curly hair behind her ears. He heard her grumble, “Fuck,” as she pulled out a wallet and runaway coins began to bounce onto the floor with little pings here and there.
Travis understood; his day was just as shitty.
He decided then to move off his seat and assist her. He stepped forward and bent down to retrieve the three quarters, five nickels, and four dimes that had fallen out of her wallet. As her sapphire blue eyes fell to his, the woman’s jaw literally dropped as she recognized him.
He was used to this. Being a professional athlete got a man all kinds of attention; some wanted and others not so much. He wasn’t sure of the attention here but hoped she didn’t draw too much his way. The heat of the chaos he’d already generated himself was creating steam around him and he wanted to hug a wall at this point.
The shock on her face quickly turned to scorn. Great! She not only recognizes me, she hates me. No scoring for me tonight.
“Here, you dropped this,” his voice plunged in annoyance as he thrust the fist full of change forward.
“Keep it! No one asked for your two cents anyway.”
Ouch! Feisty. Well, she was a redhead after all.
“It’s actually $1.40 to be exact,” he smarted.
“Hmm, you could probably use it more than I could right now, Mr. Redmond.”
He rolled his eyes. Maybe she was a jaded fan or the wife of an opposing player. Either way, he wasn’t taking her money, to hell with her.
He slammed it on the bar top because his temper was the shortest thing on him. “You’ll need it for the fucking payphone,” he grated out even as she turned her back to him and walked in the direction of the phone and bathrooms. “Ungrateful bitch,” he mumbled under his breath.
Travis sat back down at the bar and continued to nipple his beer, looking up at the television that hung on the back wall. It was set to SportsCenter, so he kept his eyes locked on it, listening to the play by play of past Sunday’s games. The sportscasters began arguing predictions of the coming games, evaluating the players and their stats, and then started to debate Travis’s future with the Gladiators. Again, anger seized him. What the hell did they know? His head coach, Greg Cavanaugh, and the owner of his team, Jerry Taylor, hadn’t talked about cutting him. He was only suspended for two weeks, and it’d been for taunting, not throwing the games.
Travis sighed and leaned back on the bar stool. His guilt might be enough to kill him; the team didn’t deserve to be done the way they were, nor his teammates. Travis wished things could be different, but there was nothing he could do. He couldn’t go to the cops, he couldn’t discuss it—with anyone—and he couldn’t allow them to fire him. He had to keep this up. Had to continue to keep his brother alive.
“Can I have a water please?” Joy! The stuck-up lady was back.
“Does this look like a Waffle House?” Hank snorted.
“C’mon, I’ll pay for a soda. I—”
“Give her a damn water, Hank, and quit bein’ a dick,” Travis scolded with yet another scowl, getting one in answer. Hank huffed but did as he was told. “You’re grumpy tonight and it’s showing.”
“Yeah, and with no damn help from you. You’re supposed to be the town hero, Travis. You’re really disappointin’ us lately.”
Yeah, that makes two of us, buddy, he thought but spoke instead to the mysterious redhead who’d sat down two stools from him. “You sure you don’t need somethin’ stronger?”
“I don’t drink.”
“Figures,” he mumbled and sipped his beer again.
“Yeah, well maybe if you didn’t drink so much, you could keep your damn hands on the football.” The redhead smirked, and Travis frowned over at her. Who did she think she was, talking to him like that? What Hell had she come from to torture him like everyone else was tonight?
“Like you’d even fuckin’ know,” he retorted back. She probably didn’t even watch football, he bet. She just went along with what the man who’d put that big rock on her finger told her to do.
Travis rolled his eyes and looked back at the TV, getting nothing else out of her for a minute. As soon as this beer was done, he was saying, “Fuck off” to all of ‘em and getting the hell out of Dodge while the gettin’ was good.
The redhead rifled through her giant bag once more and sighed at the cell phone in her hands, drawing Travis’s attention again.
“Fuck,” she mumbled under her breath and threw it back into her purse.
Trav’s brows went up in question, but she looked away quickly, as if his stare was abhorrent. She’d be pretty if she would stop being such a cunt. There was something about her though that, again, made him feel as if he knew who she was.
“You from around here?” he finally asked, curiosity getting the best of him, and moved lithely onto the stool beside her. He was curious by nature; he couldn’t help himself.
“Yes, unfortunately I am,” she responded, running a hand through her mane of red hair.
“Unfortunately?” he sassed. “What? You too good to come from ol’ San Antonio?”
“No,” she smarted back and rounded on him. “But I certainly wasn’t hoping to run into you again.”
Again? When the hell had he run into her in the first place? He hadn’t slept with her, had he? If he had, he was certain he would’ve remembered a set of tits and a pair of legs like hers.
He grinned. “I don’t reckon I know you, darlin’.”
“Oh, yes, you do,” she retorted hotly and took a sip of her water. “You just don’t recognize me. I mean, it’s been almost ten years since we graduated.”
Holy shit! He’d gone to high school with her? Who was she?
He looked her over and tried to rack his brain. High cheekbones, great tits, curvy hips, porcelain skin... Nope, he was drawing a blank. But then again, he’d been hit one too many times in the head since high school.
“Got a name, Fireball?”
“Yes, Travis Redmond, I do. Too bad you don’t remember it.” She huffed, and he couldn’t help but laugh at this woman’s audacity. He was certain he would’ve remembered a sexy, feisty redhead; this lady was unforgettable.
“You’re gonna make me work for it... Ok, fine. Maybe it’ll be fun.” His grin was like the cat that ate the canary for a moment before he spied her engagement ring again. Damn! She was engaged, he’d forgotten. Too bad too, because he could’ve had loads of fun with this sassy, little ginger. Each one he’d ever taken to bed had truly been straight fire and tonight, he needed that kind of fire to forget all his problems.
“Oh, I—” she stammered as she went to remove the ring from her finger. “I—I’m not—”
“Sure. And I’m not one of the NFL’s leading running backs.”
“No. Actually. He—he, uh—”
“Sure, he did.” Travis went to turn, annoyed by the woman’s sudden separation from her fiancé on his account.
“He was fucking his secretary. I just found out yesterday. It’s one of the reasons I’m here. Along with work. I needed to get away.” She blushed, her face as red as her hair. Tears hit her blue eyes. “The affair is big news now. The media got wind of it this morning,” she mumbled, looking down.
“Bummer.” He understood how the media took a story and ran with it. “So, your fiancé a politician or somethin’?”
“He’s the mayor of Atlanta.”
“No shit!” She lived in Atlanta too? “Wait, ain’t he a bit old for you?” The mayor was, indeed, an old dude.
She shrugged. “I guess it doesn’t matter much anymore, does it?” She smirked sarcastically, and Travis’s eyes fell over her face.
She had a light dusting of freckles, which her foundation covered, rosy cheeks, an aquiline nose, and no-nonsense blue eyes. And in that moment, she looked as run-down as he did. He took pity on her and felt bad for calling her a bitch behind her back.
“Hank, get us two shots. Make ‘em lemon drops.”
“No,” the pretty woman protested, shaking her head. “I can’t. Really.
“Oh, c’mon. Have a drink with your old classmate. We’re celebrating a reunion. Just a round or two. It won’t hurt ya. Besides, there ain’t enough liquor in those things to even get you good and buzzed.”
She cocked her head, trying to get him to understand, but he persisted.
“Just one. Maybe two. I swear, I’ll get you home in one piece.”
“Oh, I know exactly what you’ll try to do, if you’re anything like what you were back in high school. But my car needs a tow and the wrecker’s gonna be a while, so I’ll have one, maybe two with you. But I am not going home with you, Travis.”
“Deal!” Travis grinned and motioned for Hank to get the shots. “But I gotta ask? Have we slept together before?”
She shook her head dramatically. “I’d never sleep with you. Not in a million years.”
“Right, but you’ll sleep with the damn, old-ass, bald guy you were engaged to,” Travis snorted. The woman didn’t confirm nor deny the accusation but she sure as hell was gonna marry the asshole, so there was that.
“So, you gonna tell me your damn name so I can get reacquainted with you or continue to keep me guessing?”
She laughed, like genuinely laughed, and Travis was taken by how beautiful she was as her face lit up.
Wow! How had he forgotten a woman who looked like that?
“Skyla?” Travis was combing through every neuron to try and remember this lady, but he couldn’t place her to save his life.
“I wore glasses, had braces, was overweight,” she elaborated. “Skyla Larson from Bio.”
“You’re fuckin’ kidding me!”
Travis was literally dumbfounded as he recalled the chubby, strawberry blonde he’d had Biology with. The girl he remembered was shy, practically mute, and tripped over her own two feet constantly.
“No way! You are not.”
“Am too.” Skyla’s brow rose.
Travis’s eyes roved over her. She’d honed that fleshy pubescent body into a slender masterpiece, taken those ugly-ass glasses and braces off, and now she was fine AF, and he told her so. “Damn! You’re smokin’ fuckin’ hot now, Skyla. What’d you discover? P90X.”
She rolled her eyes but gave him a smile. “Thanks, Travis. That means a lot coming from you. But not only did I discover P90X and clean-eating, I also grew the fuck up… unlike some of my classmates.”
Travis laughed. Damn, this was entertaining and got his mind off the fear that his life had become since his brother had come to him six months ago, pleading for five million dollars and protection. “You grew up alright.” Travis’s eyes focused on her big breasts, and he remembered that she did have those in high school—Braces, buck teeth, and big tits. It was starting to come back to him now. “You were never sarcastic though, and I can’t say I like that about you.”
“Good thing I don’t give a shit what you like.”
“Burn, baby.” He smirked. “Is the rest of you as scalding hot as that tongue of yours?” He gave her a crooked grin.
“Wouldn’t you like to find out?” she asked and thanked Hank for the shots he placed before them.
“Yes! I would indeed,” Travis answered and raised his shot after Sky grabbed hers. “Here’s to reconnections.”
About the Author
Shanna Swenson is an award-winning finalist in the Fiction: Romance category of the 2020 International Book Awards for her books Abundance and Return to Abundance. She's known for writing endearing adult romance novels that showcase the healing power of true love in the face of tragedy.
She's a dreamer turned author who does cardiac ultrasounds by day and creates fictional worlds every spare chance she can. Shanna started writing at the age of fourteen and has always loved dynamic characters. She's fascinated by the unknown, is a Cancer with a capital "C", and has an eclectic taste in music, movies, and books.
When she's not writing or reading, she's working out, taking photographs, or hanging out with her own "knight in shining armor."
You can find her on BookBub, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Goodreads.