The Internal Struggle of Stacey-Jo Dawson

By Levey

This story stemmed from my desire to write a football romance novel where the characters actually talk about football. I've read way to many sports romance novels where its the male lead is introduced as a football player or a hockey player, but he never once talks about football or hockey.

The fictional football team the Avercion Copperheads exists in the fictional city of Avercion, Louisiana. The Copperheads replace the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC South Division (Sorry, Jacksonville). All currently active football players mentioned in this story are fictional. Any player linked to the Avercion Copperheads is fictional. Other than the Copperheads, all NFL teams are real.

I present to you, my version of a football romance novel.

Chapter One: The Problem With Attractive, Brooding Quarterbacks

When I stepped outside the back door of the Gypsy Bar intending to catch a cab and avoid a scolding from my friends, I did not expect to find a man sitting on a trashcan. Correct that: I did not expect to find an attractive man sitting on a trashcan. There was a downward curl to his mouth and a furrow between his eyebrows. I put the signs together and realized that I had stumbled across an attractive, brooding man. Which brings me to the real problem—what was I going to do with this attractive, brooding man?

I tugged at the bottom of my far-too-short and far-too-tight black, cocktail dress and debated whether or not I should just turn around and try to escape through the front entrance. However, re-entering the Gypsy Bar meant that my friends might see me and realize that I was attempting to leave Danielle's twenty-first birthday party early.

While I had nothing against Danielle (I love the girl to pieces), I didn't like her boyfriend Mason's friends. After two hours of enduring their tasteless humor and groping hands, I decided that I'd had enough of them and decided to make my escape. The bartender, Leroy, happened to be a friend of mine (a fellow Houston Texans fan), and noticing my attempts to flee, Leroy directed me to the back exit. But now, in the midst of my escape, I was faced with yet another problem.

The Problem hadn't noticed me yet.

Maybe the attractive, brooding man would ignore me and I could go on my merry way down the alley to the street. I weighed my options. If I was lucky, the man wasn't drunk enough to hit on me. I had the unfortunate blonde-haired, blue-eyed look that got me unwanted attention. However, based on that unhappy expression, it didn't look like Mr. Tall-Dark-And-Handsome wanted any human contact at the moment. Which was good. He didn't want to fuck me and I didn't want to linger—we had no business with one another.

Deciding to test my luck, I started down the alleyway, heading towards the main street. My five-inch heels clacked on the ground; the noise caused the attractive, brooding man to lift his eyes to mine.

I stopped dead in my tracks.

Blue eyes, dark hair, stubborn chin, sharp nose—I recognized him. If you lived in Avercion, Louisiana and spared even a glance at the sports news, you knew that face. Dallas Kier was a rookie quarterback out of the University of Alabama who'd been picked second round of the draft by the Avercion Copperheads to replace football legend Michel Karonda.

Two games into the regular season and already it looked as though Dallas Kier's career was on the line. Four interceptions in the game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and then the game against the Washington Redskins been a 35-7 slaughter. The two brutal loses were causing the fans, the reporters, and the coaches to question Dallas Kier's ability to lead a professional NFL team.

To be honest, I had seen all the nasty errors on the highlight reels and I'd gotten kick out of it. My brother Jaime and I had talked about it for a good half hour on the phone, laughing about how fortunate we were that the Copperheads were in the same division as the Texans. (Well, nobody said football fans were nice.)

But now that Dallas Kier sat in front of me, wearing jeans and a scruffy t-shirt and drinking a Keystone beer, I felt nothing but guilt for my comments about the screw-up rookie quarterback.

"I hope you don't get fired," I said because I didn't know what else to say.

Dallas Kier stared at me blankly for a good thirty seconds before he managed to say, "Thanks."

"It's only two games," I said. "Not the most stunning debut, but at least you get to enjoy being the underdog from here on out." I paused and, because I have no control over my mouth and I remembered my loyalty to my team, I added, "Besides, you playing for the Copperheads is good for me. The Texans are more likely to win the division."

Dallas Kier stared at me incredulously.

I felt no need to apologize for my rudeness, however. I was raised by a football family. My dad has had season tickets ever since the Texans were added in 2002 as an expansion team, and before that, Dad has season tickets to the Houston Oilers games (more like Houston Soilers) until they moved to Tennessee in 1997. So believe me when I say that I went to every single home game I could manage as a kid. My mom would always paint these ridiculous signs in an attempt to get the cameras' attention, and my brother, my sister, and I would scream insults at the opposing team. Basically, Texans football was my religion and their division rivals, the Avercion Copperheads, were the equivalent of Satan.

"Sorry," I said. "I have a no-filter speaking policy."

"Some people would call that 'rude'," said Dallas, though he didn't seem all that angry.

"I call it honesty." I glanced over at the metal door that led back to the bar, wondering if Danielle and Cassie had noticed my absence yet. "The Gypsy Bar seems like a weird place for a pro quarterback to hang out."

"The owner is my uncle."

"And he lets you sit outside and wallow?"

"Yep." Dallas held up a half-empty bottle of beer and smiled self-mockingly. "And wallowing is what I do best."

"Actually, interceptions are what you do best."

Dallas's eyes narrowed in distaste, but I cut him off before he could respond. "Does Leroy know you're out here?"

"The bartender? Yeah." Dallas frowned. "What are you doing at the Gypsy Bar on a Monday night?"

"Friend's twenty-first birthday. You?"

"As we said—wallowing."

I watched him, waiting for him to say something more, but Dallas wasn't even looking at me. He ran his thumb along the curve of the beer bottle, his eyes downcast.

"You're kind of failing as a quarterback," I said. "What happened to the accurate deep passes and ridiculous runs you used to make? I watched the highlight reel from yesterday's game and you couldn't complete a deep pass to save your life."

"Oh great." Dallas rested the bottle against his knee and lifted his gaze to meet mine. "You're one of those fantasy football girls, aren't you?"

"Excuse me," I said, folding my arms over my chest. "I don't participate in fantasy football. I think it demeans the sport to mere numbers. I'm just pointing out that you're supposed to be a running QB, but last game you acted like you had to make a pass on every play. Now, I don't know if you read sports articles, but Jimmy Haller said that last game you looked like a 'watery reflection of Michel Karonda' and as much as I loathe Jimmy Haller, I have to agree with him on that one."

Dallas Kier stared at me for a moment, his blue eyes analyzing me carefully, perhaps debating if I was worthy of a response or not. Finally, he said, "I read the article."

"Good." Now that I'd started my rant, there was no turning back. "And if I were a Copperheads fan—which I'm not—I would tell you to take that into stride and remember your good ol' college football days. I would tell you that the way you're playing right now means that you'll forever be known as the quarterback who couldn't live up to Michel Karonda. I would tell you that you should focus on your own game rather than his. Worry about Dallas Kier and Dallas Kier alone. I'd tell you that, if I was a Copperheads fan. But I'm not. It's better for the Texans if you stay a 'watery reflection of Michel Karonda.'"

Dallas snorted. "I've never met anyone with the nerve to lecture a pro footballer on how to play the game while simultaneously insulting him and his team."

I stared at him, wondering if he was offended, but there was a smile toying at his lips, so I assumed he was all right with my advice. I ran my fingers through my hair and glanced back at the metal door. "Well, it was nice meeting you, but I've gotta run."

I tried to step past Dallas, but a look of surprise crossed his face and he rose from his seat on the trashcan to stand in front of me. I stopped walking, quickly realizing that I had no hope in the world of trying to push my way past him. I scowled. I was five-foot-ten in height add on five-inch heels and the fact that he and I were almost eye-level made him about six-four in height. Average for a pro football player.

"What do you want?" I asked.

He opened his mouth to say something, but, after some consideration, closed it again. He stared at me, taking in my dishwater-blonde hair, blue eyes, upturned nose, bony shoulders, short black dress, pale skin, lanky legs, and ridiculously high heels. Dallas took his time assessing me and, after a moment, he reached his conclusion. He smiled at me and said, "What's your name?"

"SJ," I said, deciding to use my nickname.

"What kind of a name is that?"


"You got to insult me," said Dallas. "Don't I get a turn?"

"No. Now, go back to wallowing." I pointed at the trashcan.

"I'm done wallowing. You've inspired me."

I watched, silently, as Dallas finished off his beer and tossed the empty bottle into the trashcan. I frowned. "Can't you afford better beer?"

Dallas shrugged. "I like Keystone."

"No one likes Keystone."

His eyebrows lifted, but he didn't say a word. When I tried to step around him again, Dallas adjusted his position so that I couldn't pass. I decided the best course of action was to glower at him until he changed his mind and stopped trying to rile me up. After an unnerving minute of silence, he seemed to realize I wasn't going to take the bait. He folded his arms over his chest and said, "Why are you in such a hurry?"

"I'm escaping."


I jerked a thumb in the direction of the Gypsy Bar.

"That bad?" asked Dallas. "Should I tell John that his customers are fleeing through the back door?"

"I'm not fleeing the bar. I'm fleeing my friend's boyfriend's friends. Leroy gave me permission."

Dallas cocked one eyebrow and gaze me a puzzled stare.

"One of the friends is a linebacker for the St. James Roosters, and he thinks that, as a woman, I shouldn't comment on the blitz defense used against the Roosters offensive line."

Dallas shrugged. "When you get paid to play football, you get kind of exasperated when fans tell you how to play the game."

"Well, yeah—but it was his fault that the quarterback got sacked on fourth down during the game again Elderbridge North."

"You told him that?"


Dallas laughed. I hated the fact that I found his laugh attractive—deep and rumbling. The kind that set my nerves on edge and made me want to rest my cheek against his chest and feel the vibrations in his body when he laughed. And, damn my treacherous train of thought, I started to wonder what it'd be like to cup his face in my hands and run my thumbs along his cheekbones, wonder what it'd be like to cover his mouth with mine and feel the long, hard length of him against me—I really shouldn't let my imagination run away with me.

"Anyway." I tore my gaze away from his face. "I'm in the middle of escaping and you're in the way."


I tried to sidestep Dallas again, but this time he reached out and caught ahold of my hand. I stared down where his fingers curled around my palm. His hand was so much bigger than mine. And warmer. My skin tingled where he touched me, causing a slight shiver ran up my spine. It took all my strength to lift my head and meet his eyes.

"Do you always try to run out on your friends' birthday parties?" There was something soft in Dallas' eyes that I couldn't figure out, like he wanted to say more, but something was stopping him.

I frowned. "Do you always sulk outside bars?"

"Of course. Alleyways outside of bars are much nicer than inside bars. There's a lot less stares."

"Ah," I said. "Are the Copperheads fans not being supportive?"

"Would you be a fan of a two loss start to the season?"

"No. But the fans shouldn't give you a rough time of it. It wasn't all your fault."

The smile returned to Dallas' face. "Are you feeling bad for me?"


Dallas rubbed his thumb against the palm of my hand. Tingles shot through my skin and I tried to focus on Dallas' face instead of the feel of his skin brushing against mine.

"Are you trying to seduce me?" I asked, because, really, what else could I say at that point?

Dallas laughed. "Do you want me to seduce you?"


The word came out before I could really consider the situation. The instant I said it, I wanted to take it back—I had just agreed to be seduced by the goddamned Copperheads quarterback. And, by the heat in his eyes and the desire pooling in my stomach, I didn't think we were going to stop with just seducing.

"You're not subtle at all," said Dallas.

"Shut up."

I'm not sure who kissed whom. We both leaned forward at the exact same time and, when our lips met, the blood in my body started pounding.

I'd never been kissed by a pro quarterback before—especially not an attractive pro quarterback who had spent the night brooding over his possibly failed career and didn't want to be left alone right then. I knew, of course, that Dallas Kier was only using me for comfort. He was having a shitty couple weeks and he wanted a distraction. Personally, I don't like being used by other people. If it were any other day, I would have stepped away from the kiss and slapped him or used my pepper spray—but this was a pro football player and he was hot and Leroy had made me two margaritas and, as much as I hate to say it, I was attracted to the goddamned Copperheads quarterback.

His mouth was on mine, lighting my whole body on fire. Some small part of my mind murmured that he was a Copperhead and to do this was like a betrayal to my Houston family, but the kiss was so heavy and so deep. My stomach was twisting in excitement as our mouths worked in unison.

I pulled back for a second, to get a gasp of air, and I saw the brilliant, wild look in his blue eyes.

"How was that?" he asked.

"I shouldn't be doing this," I murmured.

He grinned. "Probably. But I'm having fun."

"I'm having fun too. But I still shouldn't be doing this."

"Well, okay then."

He started to release me, but before he could step away, I wrapped my arms around his neck and started kissing him again. And he kissed me back. His tongue ran along the inside of my mouth, causing me to shiver in delight and curl my fingers into his soft, black hair.

His hands were moving over my body, starting at the shoulders of my skimpy dress, his thumbs tracing hot circles over my exposed skin. Then, his right hand dropped down to my waist and lower still. My own hands went on an adventure of their own. They slid down his back and underneath his shirt to his abs—and boy, let me tell you, Dallas Kier has some nice abs.

He pulled away from the kiss and my eyes snapped open. His face was still incredibly close to mine and he was grinning wickedly. We were still intertwined—one of his hands on my ass and the other in my hair as my hands traced the muscles underneath his shirt. Neither one of my moved.

I broke the silence. "Well damn. If you played football like you kiss, you'd be second in the division."

Dallas raised one gorgeous eyebrow. "Second?"

"After the Texans."

He pressed his mouth to mine again and his hand slid down to my bare thigh. He paused only to murmur against my mouth, "I'm only kissing you to stop you talking about the Texans."

"Good plan." I pulled his lips back to mine.

His hand slid up my thigh a little higher and I breathed in sharply. I could feel him hard against me and I realized that at this rate, I might end up doing Dallas Kier, screw-up rookie of the week, in a back alley outside the Gypsy Bar.

Dallas must have had a similar line of thinking, because he pulled back just enough to say, "Your place?"


"I don't want to end up fucking you in a back alley."

I laughed. I couldn't help myself. I leaned forward so that my cheek rested on Dallas' shoulder and let my body tremble with laughter.

"What's so funny?" Dallas' arms grew tighter around me.

I tilted my head to the side and grinned up at him. "You wanna fuck me in a bed?"

"Would you prefer the back alley?"

"A bed is good." I tried and failed to suppress my smile.

"So your place?"

"Only if you don't mind prying suitemates."

"Mine then."


And that is the story of how I hooked up with football legend Dallas Kier—this was back before he was a legend, obviously. But I know, I know. You're not here for the story of how I hooked up with him. You're here for a full story. With all the gory details. And I'll give it to you. But for right now, let me spend a moment remembering all the good times Dallas and I had that night. Because damn that was a good night.

Fun Fact: Dallas Kier's situation as Michel Karonda's replacement was inspired by a conversation I had about what would happen if Tom Brady retired from the New England Patriots.

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