The Game Changer by Jaqueline Snowe
General Release Date: 5th October 2021
Word Count: 76,673
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
FRIENDS TO LOVERS
Greta Aske has a lot on her mind, and a string of bad dates has her giving up on men, at least for the time being. Her life contains a little too much drama, meaning she needs a break and to save money and get good grades. The perfect solution presents itself—pretend to date the campus playboy. That’ll keep the guys away for sure.
Aaron Hill is desperate to save his baseball career because, with his dad fighting cancer, he damn well knows he can’t ask for a single penny from his parents. Baseball is his past, present and future, so when a scandal threatens his chance in the MLB, he turns to his best friend for help. A fake relationship will keep him out of trouble. It’s perfect, really. Greta’s taking a break from dating and Aaron needs to focus on training.
Nothing could go wrong…as long as neither falls for the other. But when lines are crossed, what’s real and fake blurs and the two are forced to face their fears. Could Greta be the game changer Aaron needs?
Reader advisory: This book was previously released by Finch Books.
Action movies are full of shit, feeding us fake information our entire lives. For instance, when a fight breaks out in a bar, there’s no Mark Wahlberg look-a-like to rescue the damsel in distress. Second the sound of flesh hitting flesh is repulsive and meaty. There are no wooshes or bangs or ka-pows. Nope. It’s just disgusting.
I cringed at the smack and crashing of a fist meeting the face of my date. That’s right. I always picked the best of the best when it came to dating and tonight was no different. Todd, who had blood dripping down his eye, chin and nose, had made the bold decision to ask me out. I’d accepted, like a fool, and would live to regret this night for all eternity.
“Where is my money, Todd?” The broad-shouldered man with a beard longer than my hair pummeled his meaty fists into my date’s face. “Where the feck you keepin’ it?”
No response. Burly Guy didn’t like that. He grunted, swung his arm back past the table and hit Todd square in the nose. What happened in my past life for me to witness this?
No one got up to help. No one moved. They all watched with half-smiles on their faces and I knew in the pit of my stomach I needed to get the hell out. Like, ten minutes ago. I slowly slid my trembling hand into my purse to find my phone, but Mr. Burly heard me. He whipped his face toward mine, the terrifying glint to his eyes making me gasp. I gulped, the fear suddenly very real.
“You know this fecking asshole?” he barked at me. Countless gazes followed his voice and now stared at me. They wanted a show and I was so not the person for the role. My chin trembled as I shook my head.
“N-n-no. I j-just met him tonight.” I clutched my phone to my chest. I would use it as a weapon if necessary, although I had no fucking clue what damage I could do on this beast of a man.
He ran his fat tongue over his lips and studied me. I stood stock-still, my spine straight as a rod. “I think it’s time for you to go, doll. My boss ain’t gunna like me lettin’ ya leave, but your blonde hair don’t fit in here. Get the feck out and don’t come back.”
I nodded, glancing one more time at Todd. My gut screamed to get out, but I had been raised Catholic. Do I leave my epic failure of a date to get killed? Do I call the cops?
Mr. Burly thought I took too long and put his grimy fingers around my wrist. I squealed, yanking it out of his touch.
“Get gone, girl.” He kicked open the door and threw me outside. I stood on a rundown street with one streetlight working correctly. The others flashed and made a high-pitched buzzing sound that sent chills down my spine. “Fuck. Fucking. Fuck.”
I called my best friend with shaking fingers and snot running down my face. Oh, did I mention I had blood on me that wasn’t my own? I gagged, looking at the splatters. The phone rang and rang again. I loved Callie to death, but if that bitch didn’t answer right then, I would get her for it. Big-time. Because what the fuck? It appeared the downward spiral my life had begun a month ago still had a way to go before hitting pure rock bottom. Nothing topped this story, as long as I got home alive.
“Give me my fecking money!” A booming voice traveled through the closed door. My longtime sixth sense had sent warning after warning all day and I’d chosen to ignore it. This is my own damn fault.
I gripped my phone tighter and took a deep breath. Count to eight. Make a box with your breathing. It did me no good and my fingers still shook. After three failed calls to Callie, I called the other number I knew by heart. Aaron Hill answered after the first ring with his obnoxious and playful voice.
“G-spot, what’s crackin’? Finally calling me for a booty call?” His voice had the power to make me smile and roll my eyes simultaneously. This was not that time.
“I need you to come get me.” My voice shook as the shouting picked up. Why had I let Todd convince me this place was cool and a ‘real biker bar’? Standing alone on the dark country road made it feel more like a place where girls went missing than a legit biker hangout. I fell for it. Dumbass.
“Where the hell are you?” His good-natured tone shifted and I imagined his steel eyes going dark. “It’s past midnight. Shit, G, are you alone?”
“Uh, pretty much.” I sent him the address while still on the phone. “I texted you the place. I’m calling in my favor.”
“Jesus, Greta.” He let out a string of cuss words. “Why the fuck are you all the way out there?”
“A date gone bad.” Shame filled my chest, regret chasing it. The feelings had my throat closing. Tears weren’t far behind.
“Goddamn it. I’m on my way. Stay on the phone with me. I swear, I’m going to wring your neck. I hate this shit.” A door slammed—he’d just gotten into his car. After a minute of silence, he sucked in a breath. “Are you at Dirty Matt’s? Please say no. Tell me no, right now, Greta.”
The neon signed mocked me, Dirty Matt’s, blinking over and over. “I’m at Dirty Matt’s.”
“Jesus Christ.” His deep voice got so low, so calm, I made a vow to end all my plans for dating. His anger and disappointment in me were well deserved.
I gulped. Ever since my childhood best friend Callie had found love the year before, I’d wanted to try it. She’d fought it, but seeing how damn happy she had been all year and how she’d grown into herself had motivated me. I was damn happy for her and in no way jealous. I just yearned to have the closeness she had with her boyfriend, Zade.
Okay, so all the longing and searching had led me to a series of bad, awful and miserable dates. Not one had clicked. Not one had ended with the promise for more. And, not one has ended with a guy acting like a gentleman. Apparently, I had a stamp on my head that read, I tend to date losers. And, now, I could add I dated felons. It was the only explanation I could muster why Todd had brought me here, and why they’d beaten the shit out of him.
“I’m twenty minutes out and I’m beyond pissed at you. You know the rep this place has? Do you?” His deep voice held nothing but rage and worry. I closed my eyes and leaned against the wall. I had known about the reputation, but I’d wanted an adventure. Todd rode a motorcycle. He had tattoos and looked as good as sin. I wanted, even an inkling if possible, of the happiness Callie felt. Is that so bad?
Yes. I shivered.
Aaron’s shaking voice pulled me from my self-pitying thoughts. “Greta! Did you know and still go there?”
Shit. He was past mad. “Yeah.”
“Why? Tell me why. I know shit hasn’t been great for you recently, but stop with this self-destruction crap. I can’t watch you do this.”
The squealing tires informed me he was close. His dark SUV sped down the road on a mission, the headlights showcasing how wretched this place looked. He pulled up to the spot right in front of Dirty Matt’s and threw open his door. He stormed out, his anger evident on his handsome face.
“You asshole,” he said, yanking me into his arms. “You worried the hell out of me. I lost ten pounds on the drive here.”
“Aaron,” I managed to squeak out before he pressed my face into his chest. “I’m okay.”
“Just, let me be.”
So, we stood like that for at least three minutes. His ridiculously large frame towered over me, but not in the way Mr. Burly back there had. Aaron was different. His body was sculpted from hours and hours in the gym. My arms barely fit around his middle, but I tried anyway. He squeezed me one last time and broke our hug. His gray eyes still held on to some anger, but relief took over. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, G.” His lips turned white while he glanced at the sign. “Now, get in the car.”
I obeyed, not foolish enough to piss him off even more. He opened the passenger door and glared at me until I buckled myself in. Without a word, he shut it and pinched his nose walking to the driver’s side. His cologne clouded the car, the pleasant aroma of wood and leather comforting my nerves.
My body shook, the adrenaline wearing off. Aaron must’ve seen, because he turned on the heat despite the high July temperatures. I understood him well enough to let him stew. We had been close for over two years, but last year things were different. His dad being diagnosed with cancer had made the Aaron we all knew and loved change and we had grown closer and closer. Callie was my girl for life, but I couldn’t envision a future without knowing Aaron would be there. He understood me, respected me and pushed me to be better. He was allergic to feelings and emotions while I was forever giving up on men. Our friendship worked.
He drove the silent, dark path back to campus, one hand on the wheel and the other repeatedly making a fist. I blamed myself for his anger. He had enough to worry about and now picking me up… Remorse filled my chest and my eyes stung. “I’m fucking sorry. I’m an idiot. I don’t know why I went there. I wanted to have an adventure or something.”
He nibbled on his bottom lip, keeping his expression blank. Shit. Instead of remaining silent and letting him deal with it, I’d decided to ramble. Rambling was a favorite sport of mine and I couldn’t stop.
“He had a motorcycle…”
“I thought he would be a winner…”
“I want what Callie and Zade have…”
“I didn’t realize he was a felon or something and would get the shit beat out of him…”
“I had no fucking clue I would get manhandled…”
“Excuse me. What did you just say?” His jaw tightened.
“I didn’t have a clue—”
“No. You said manhandled. Someone hurt you?” His grip on the wheel tightened and I swallowed, loudly.
“Not hurt, no.” I tucked my arms further into myself. A bruise had already formed and Aaron was in no state to know that. “Forget I said anything.”
“I swear to God, Greta.” He pulled off the road and stopped the car. He shook, his large frame tight with pent-up rage. I wanted to crawl into a hole. Pissed-off Aaron could scare the boogeyman into retirement. “Don’t fucking lie to me. Are you hurt?”
About the Author
Jaqueline Snowe lives in Arizona where the ‘dry heat’ really isn’t that bad. She enjoys making lists with colorful Post-it notes and sipping coffee all day. She has been a custodian, a waitress, a landscaper, a coach and a teacher. Her life revolves around binge-watching Netflix, her two dogs who don’t realize they aren’t humans and her wonderful baseball-loving husband.
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