Competitive Heat

Men of Iron Horse 8



Noble Truce rolled her eyes as overrated football star Finn Kipling strolled into Iron Horse Bar & Grill, looking like he owned the place. The six foot-three, short brown-haired, green-eyed, muscular quarterback was all ego, trailed by groupies, wannabes, and who-give-a-shits. He was seriously not worth the beer she was forced to serve him and his band of merry followers.

I should’ve called in sick.

She clenched her jaw, stunned by just how many people still adored him after the kind of year he’d had. He sucked. Big time. He threw more interceptions than she could count and was sacked so much she couldn’t believe every bone in his body hadn’t been permanently displaced.

Not to mention, all men like him want to do is talk about how great they are and screw anything with a hole and heartbeat.

No, thank you. Been there. Done that. Never again.

“Why the mega eye roll?” Claire Buckman asked, sliding up alongside Noble as they both waited for drinks at the bar.

Noble drummed her fingers in a quickening rhythm on the dark wood countertop, apprehension rising. The memories of the mistakes of her past were never far away. It didn’t mean she wanted to spill her guts up all over the floor. “What eye roll?”

“The one where you caused the wind to change direction,” Layton Goldman said with a snicker.

“We all saw it the minute”—she changed her voice to sound like Marilyn Monroe—“Finn Kipling entered the bar.”

Claire and Layton sighed, fanning themselves.

Noble rolled her eyes. Again. Her friends had zero taste. The mere mention of his name churned the acids in her belly enough to make her want to gag. Finn was no longer the type of man she wanted anything to do with, even though he didn’t look half bad. She wasn’t interested in jocks. They were arrogant and selfish.

They’re jerks.

The room darkened around her, swallowing her up within its cold, suffocating grasp. Her hands grew sweaty as she fumbled with her serving tray, thinking back to her time in college. She’d given her heart and virginity to River Knight, star quarterback. He had shown her exactly how much he cared about her. She could still feel the burning gazes of everyone on the football team as she stepped from the room where she’d given everything to the man who betrayed her. River stood by the door, holding it open, wearing a smug look. He’d shared personal details about her with his teammates—how wet she was, how tight she was, he’d even made up things, too—dirty, nasty, unspeakable things. Her reputation was ruined. All because he was the star quarterback and she was just a regular student who’d stupidly fallen for his lies.

She cringed.

“See!” Claire cheered, pointing a determined finger at Noble. “There it is again.”

“Why do you dislike him so much, Noble?”

“My guess,” Jace Burnette started, placing drinks on her tray, “Noble had a groupie-styled one-night stand with him and he never called back.”

A switch flipped in her head, tearing her from her wayward thoughts. “So not what happened,” she grated, collected her drink-covered tray and headed back for the table she was tending.

“Excuse me?”

She turned and the smile that once coated her face slid down like a fast-moving avalanche. The cold chill that raced up her spine shot out to every limb, making her fingers tingle. Her stomach sank to her shoes as her eyes drifted over his face, suddenly feeling as though she were once again making her walk of shame. Whispers and snickers echoing like ghosts, forever haunting her.

Gritting her teeth, she swallowed down the bitter memories. “Can I help you?”

Finn Kipling smiled as if he were auditioning for some teeth whitening commercial. “My friends and I would love a round of beers.”

“Great. I’ll send someone over.”

She headed straight to her table to drop off her customers’ drinks, then she bolted for the bar, shouldering past Finn, not looking back. Even though she wanted to. His flawless olive skin, deep penetrating eyes, soft smile, and body that left a massive shadow over hers, played at the parts of her womanhood she’d wished would shut the hell up. She wasn’t blind, and she sure the hell wasn’t a saint; she just couldn’t get caught up in a man like Finn.

Even if he does smell like the deep woods after a crisp rainfall. So damn sexy. She groaned. What the hell’s wrong with me? Finn Kipling sucks.

“Who is waiting on Kipling’s table?”

“Not me,” Claire said. “My shifts ending and I have to go pick up my daughter.”


“Sorry, babe. I can’t. Sam asked me to—”

“Seriously? No one wants to wait on—” Noble pursed her lips. “You know what? Never mind.”

She was sure one of the girls would’ve jump at the chance to cover a football star’s table, but no. They were busy, had plans, or just didn’t want to. Her luck sucked.

Locking her jaw tight, she turned and stalked toward Finn’s table, the one loaded with all the types of people she loathed. People who had no clue about how the world really spun. People who didn’t care who they trampled on their way to the top. Selfish asshats who never considered how their actions could destroy others around them.

Drinks and food. That’s it. Then they’ll be gone.

I hope.