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Spiked by Love

By:Toni Aleo

Spiked by Love

Bellevue Bullies

Toni Aleo

Chapter One


“Push! Push! Push!”

My shorts are going up my ass, and I’m sweating like a whore in church, but it doesn’t matter when I’m on the volleyball court. This is my home. My why. When I was younger, watching my dad play hockey, I always wondered why he lived and breathed it. It’s cold, people are always trying to knock you into a wall, and you’re attempting to get a small little puck past a huge goalie. I would get so frustrated watching him play, but he loved it. He adored it, and soon I fell in love with the game too. It’s kind of hard not to when it’s all I know. Everyone we know is either a part of the National Hockey League or the Nashville Assassins. They’re either in the organization or they play for the team. Growing up as an Assassins kid, you’re bred to bleed purple and black. We all wear our daddy’s numbers on our backs. We go to every game. We all want to be them.

I was a black sheep for not playing hockey. But in my defense, my auntie Elli gave me a volleyball at a backyard party, and I was done for.

Elli Adler isn’t really my aunt by blood, but my mom always says you choose your family, and she’s right. I am closer to the Adler family than I am to my own aunts. That’s not anything against my aunts—they’re wonderful, but they were so much younger than my mom—Mom just tends to hang out with her best friend rather than her sisters. Her sisters are twins, and it was hard to get a word in edgewise with those two. In a way, Elli is like my mom’s twin. They grew up together and, to this day, still do everything together. They added in Fallon Brooks, another hockey wife, and the three of them live their best lives. Though, I’m pretty sure all us kids are about to boycott Elli since she is trying to make everyone carb-free.

I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to take away carbs, but I’m pretty sure there is a special place in hell for them.

Not my auntie Elli, though. She’s the most amazing, sweetest, strongest woman I know. She loves hard and is hell-bent on teaching us to love ourselves, no matter what. To choose ourselves. She is awesome like that and has always taken credit for my love of volleyball. When I was a senior in high school, I was offered a scholarship to six schools, and she told everyone it was because of her—she gave me the volleyball. But my mom would fire back that it was because of my grades. The two of them weren’t wrong. Not only am I talented, I’m wicked smart. Problem is, I make snap decisions and hardly ever think anything through. Instead of taking one of those scholarships, I decided to travel. I lost a lot of the offers, but it was okay because I always wanted to go to the University of Bellevue.

I always wanted to be part of the Bullies.

And here I am.

It’s my senior year, and I’m ready to kick some major ass.

I move on the court, calling plays and pushing my team. I have been the captain of the Bellevue Bullies’ volleyball team for two years now. I love it. I love my team; I love my girls. We aren’t ranked yet, but I feel this could be our year to make our mark in the NCAA. It’s my goal, at least, to get my girls in position to be the best they can be. I set the ball for my hitter, and she spikes it perfectly and with ease. We meet in a huddle, patting each other, and then I high-five my hitter, who is also related to me in a really drawn-out way.

But that’s how life is when you’re associated with the Nashville Assassins. You’re someone’s aunt, cousin, uncle, brother, next of kin, sleeping with this person, Grandma’s dog.

Yes, that makes no sense and is completely irrelevant, but that’s how it feels most of the time.

Angie Paxton, my hitter, is my mom’s sister’s husband’s great-niece. We’re cousins? Not sure, but she’s one cool-ass chick, and I love her dearly. I get to take credit for giving her a ball. So, no wonder Elli likes to brag. It’s fun. Angie is way better than anyone I’ve ever met. She is so smart and has great hands. She’s good and tall and can knock the hell out of the ball.

We are even roommates in our dorm—my doing since her mom, Lucy Paxton, wouldn’t let her stay on campus unless she roomed with someone she knew. Apparently, Lucy knows the trouble her brothers got into when they all went to Bellevue. They’re legendary around here, the Sinclair brothers. All of them went to Bellevue, and all went first round in the draft. They all still play, though the middle one, Jayden Sinclair, who is also the captain of the Assassins, is out with an injury.

I don’t know if Angie will stay here for long. She only wants to go to school here until she can get into this program that is opening up in South Carolina. Don’t get me wrong. I love nerdy shit, especially stuff that deals with my major, but the shit she’s into is way nerdier than my cup of tea. She starts to talk about it, to try to convince me to go with her to the program, but I’m pretty sure I mirror how my best friend looks when I start talking about my major. With that glazed look and wanting to die from boredom. I have no clue what she is talking about, but it has to do with something about alcoholics or something. It’s complicated, but to her, it’s awesome and she’s excited.

“Great set,” Angie throws my way, and I smack her hand.

“Couldn’t do it without you.”

She beams at me, her deep green eyes blazing as she brushes back her highlighted brown hair. We set up again, and I want to groan when I see my coach is serving. I hate his serves. They’re rough to set because he puts a weird spin on the ball. It’s my job to stop the spin so that Angie can knock the hell out of it. As we set up, I crouch down, watching him, and a wave of emotion washes over me.

I can’t believe I almost gave this up.

I almost chased a guy to Texas for a life of uncertainty. Yes, the appeal was there and it would have been fun, but I have it all right now. I can do all the impulsive and crazy things when I finish my job here. I can have love later, even though I so desperately want to be in love. It is not that I can’t be alone, that’s fine, but watching my mom and dad and how much they love each other… I want that. I want that die-for-you kind of love. I wanted it so bad with my ex, but I knew from the jump I didn’t have it. I was trying to shine a turd, and no matter how many people told me so, I wouldn’t listen.

I think it had a lot to do with the fact that my best friend was engaged. He’s only twenty, and I’m twenty-four, and it bugged me that he was getting married and I wasn’t. So, I tried to make something out of nothing. Yet now, Asher is coming home, newly single. It’s a good thing I didn’t follow Taco, my ex. If I had, I wouldn’t be where I am. I would have disappointed a lot of people, and I see that now. Before, I didn’t.

Because of this, I have a new plan. Hang with Asher a lot since I haven’t lived in the same state as him for three and a half years, and I’ll more than likely move when I graduate. Help my team win, graduate, and then find a job in my field of sports psychology. It’s the same field Angie is in, but her focus is geared more toward addiction, while mine is more about anxiety and depression. Our specialties tie in since addiction usually arises for people with anxiety and depression, but I have no desire to go to the program she is pursuing. That would add two more years to my study, and I’m ready to work. I’m ready to help people because it can be rough on athletes. We both know this. Not only are we Assassins kids, but both our dads suffered from addiction. My dad’s was from being injured and getting hooked on pills, and her dad’s was alcohol. It’s hard being a professional athlete and coming from where we do. It only makes sense that we want to help athletes like our fathers.

It’s a good plan, and I’m ready to execute it.

Coach throws the ball up and serves it hard to our libero. She passes it up to me, and of course, it’s still spinning. Her passes fucking suck ass, but she is fast, and I can make any ball hittable. I slow the ball, setting it for Angie, and she jump hits it to their back row. Soon, we’re in an intense volley, and it’s what I live for. Angie and I are all over the court, setting and spiking the ball left and right. My team moves with us, picking up the slack, but when Coach jumps up, spiking the ball on our libero, she misses it.

We all groan as Katie lets her head fall back. “Ugh. Sorry.”

“Water break!” Coach exclaims, which really means, “Everyone else get water, and Katie, come here.” I pat her back, squeezing her shoulder. “You got this. It’s okay.”

She doesn’t look convinced as she walks toward him, while the rest of the team heads to the bleachers where all our stuff is. I sit down beside Angie and reach for my phone as I guzzle my water.

When I see a text from Asher, my face lights up.

Asher: Landing in an hour ten. Don’t be late.

Me: How are you texting me when you’re on a plane?

Asher: I got the Wi-Fi to text you.

Me: Aww, shucks. You paid $8.99 to text me?

Asher: I’d pay more…to make sure I have a ride.

Me: Ass.

When he sends me a kissy face, I laugh just as Angie leans into me. “I didn’t know you had a boyfriend.”

I give her a blank look. “I don’t. It’s Asher.”