Excerpt I Promise You by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Sep 182020

I Promise You by Ilsa Madden-Mills

From #1 Amazon Charts and WSJ Bestselling Author Ilsa Madden-Mills comes an all-new swoony romance between the football hottie and the mystery girl he kissed years before…

Dillon McQueen: Babe. I promise. You want me.
Serena Jensen: Um, who are you?

There’s a legend at Waylon University: the first girl you kiss freshman year at the bonfire party is the one you’ll never forget. She’ll crawl under your skin. She’ll spark a passion so fierce you’ll burn the world down to possess her.

You might even put a ring on it.

But…timing is everything. That kiss can go horribly wrong. She might run in the opposite direction. And boy, did Serena run.

Dillon is Waylon’s hotshot quarterback with something to prove. All he wants is to graduate and make it to the NFL. What he doesn’t need is to finally meet the mystery girl he kissed at the bonfire freshman year. Isn’t it enough that she’s haunted his dreams for more than a thousand nights?

Fate laughs in his face when he runs into the plucky girl at the Piggly Wiggly. Surrounded by his entourage, he’s got all the Oreos in his cart; she gets revenge by buying every six-pack of his favorite beer.

Obviously, that legend is a curse. She’s not his type and hates him. Worst of all, how can she not remember him when she left a Serena-shaped hole in his heart for the past three years?

So why can’t he stop trying to win her?

Will this quarterback score the girl or make the biggest fumble of his life?

Author’s Note: I Promise You is a complete stand-alone college sports romance. Expect hot football jocks, strong women with pluck, a tell-it-like-it-is Nana, deep feels, fun banter, and a sigh-worthy happy ending. No cheating or cliff-hangers.

*Also read I Dare You, I Bet You, and I Hate You, ALL STAND-ALONE COLLEGE FOOTBALL ROMANCES.


Excerpt I Promise You by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Freshman Year
There’s a universal truth at Waylon University: the first girl you kiss freshman year at the annual bonfire party is the one you’ll never forget.
You might even put a ring on it.
That kiss can go horribly wrong. She might not want you. She might run.
And because you kissed, you are screwed.
The ridiculous legend—the warning—swirls around in my head as I saunter around the crackling fire, my eyes surveying the party in the meadow. The crowd of students is thick and mostly drunk, some headed to the barn for games, others dancing as a band plays on a stage. Here’s some truth: I’m kissing no one tonight. I’m not the superstitious sort, but I’ll admit to a good sense of self-preservation.
I shake off an insistent blonde in a Theta jersey who’s been tailing me since I got here.
“Not tonight, sweetheart,” I tell her with a lazy smile when she latches onto my arm again. She’s hot, all long legs and big tits. “Find me tomorrow.” After this legend crap is null and void.
“Sure, baby. Call me. I stuck my digits in your back pocket.”
Of course she did.
She gives me a blinding smile, strokes my arm, and flounces off.
Some of the guys from the team call my name, motioning me over as they stand next to a keg. I head that way and am almost there when—
I stop and my body tenses when I see her.
This girl.
I do a double take.
What the…
An unseen hand strokes down my spine.
She dances alone in the midst of a crowd. Flickering light from the nearby fire glitters over her body, half of her in a dusky shadow, the other draped in glowing illumination. Tanned, slender legs bend as she twirls in a short red mini skirt and black military boots. Swinging her hips, she holds her long hair up as she sways. There’s a dandelion tattoo on her nape.
Her breasts are small but pert as they push against a white crop top with suspenders that snap to her skirt. “Not my type,” I murmur to myself, taking in her petite frame.
“Get over here, rookie!” comes from one of the guys, and I wave them off, still watching the babe.
Screw that legend. It can’t be real, and my type or not, I’d like a taste of her.
I maneuver her way, moving through the crowd—
“Dillon! Let’s go, man. The guys are asking for you,” comes from Blaze as he grabs my shoulder and drags me to the group of football players. He hands me a beer and grins broadly. “We’re gonna get a group together to enter the rope pull contest. Those Kappa guys are built like tractors, but we can take ’em. You in?” He pops an eyebrow at me.
“Mhmm,” I reply, my gaze back to the girl as yet another guy approaches her. She’s like a damn magnet. She gives him a withering glare then prances off and settles closer to the stage. Off limits, her body language declares.
Vicious girl.
She knows what she wants, and it isn’t those guys.
“I thought this kid was focused. He looks dazed,” Ryker murmurs. He snaps his fingers in my face. “Freshman, get your eyes off the girl.”
“Done,” I say, looking at him.
Ryker chuckles. “It’s your first bonfire, but don’t be fooled. Remember: if you see a girl you like—”
“Run as if there’s a three-hundred-pound linebacker on your ass. Don’t engage. Do not get leg-shackled,” I repeat, recalling the warnings the upperclassmen gave us at their dorm room.
A deep laugh comes from Maverick. “There’s weird juju in this part of the woods.”
I let my gaze drift back to her. “Meh, she looks harmless to me. Starting to think you tell all the freshmen that so you guys can pick out the hot girls for yourselves.”
Maverick looks at me, and whatever he sees on my face makes him smirk. “Let me tell you a story, kid. I kissed a girl freshman year at this party, and the next time I saw her, she was dating our kicker. Weird, man, just strange how she’s always in my head. I’m telling you, don’t get sucked in. Not worth the headache.”
“Uh-huh. Sounds like she found something better.” I grin.
Maverick smirks. “But as the legend says, it will come back to haunt you, Dillon, somehow, someday. Wiccans used to live on this land, and they specialized in love spells. The ground we’re standing on is where they lived, where they did their sacrifices. Some say they’re buried in the woods—”
Someone snorts in the background, and I roll my eyes. “Seriously? Come on. There’s no legend, is there? This is a prank and you pull it on all the freshmen.”
Maverick mimics dusting his hands off. “Alright, why don’t you test it and we’ll find out? Just remember, once you kiss her, it’s branded on your heart, some kind of soulmate thing.”
“I call bullshit,” I say on a scoff.
He nods. “Swear. Go to the library on campus. It’s in the history books about Magnolia. They called themselves the Daughters of Venus. You know who Venus is, right? Roman goddess of love, desire, and fertility.”
Unease curls in my gut. If these guys aren’t kidding… “Venus?”
He nods.
“But the legend itself isn’t in these books? Just the history of the wiccans?” I need specifics.
Maverick raises a brow. “Do you really want to question hundreds of stories from former Waylon students?” His broad shoulders shrug. “I avoid all girls at the bonfire now.”
Okay, I lied before. I am superstitious. Athletes generally are. Sawyer, another freshman, likes to eat a piece of the grass before he takes the field. If it’s turf, he kisses it. And me? Before every game and at halftime, I kiss the tops of my hands as I walk out of the tunnel. It started my senior year in high school, a silent greeting sent up to my brother in heaven. The tradition brought me a prep school state championship. Some scoff at athletes performing repetitive tasks before they play, but it gives me a measure of control and confidence that I’m going to have a kickass game. My motto is, if you believe your ritual gives you a topnotch performance, then why not do it?
“Alright, you convinced me.” I pull out the phone number the Theta tucked in my pocket, crumble it up, and toss it in the fire. It’s extreme, but hey, I’m leery of all and any repercussions from the legend.
An hour later, I’ve had a couple of beers and leave to grab another round for us when I see her again, still dancing. I stop and stare as she dips down then snaps back up as she slings her hair. She moves like a pro. Stripper? Nah.
I’ve imagined her before, like in a fantasy.
Another lingering look at her and my skin hums, the beat of the nearby speakers pounding, syncing with the thrumming rhythm of my heart. I swallow thickly and nerves fly at me, the same way I feel as I look down a football field with the ball in my hands.
I set my drink on the ground and walk her way. I’m behind her in ten seconds, wondering what the hell is happening.
Don’t even talk to a girl chimes in my head, but I ignore it. I can’t resist the temptation. What’s wrong with just having a little conversation?
“Hey,” I say softly.
She doesn’t hear me.
“Hey!” I call.
She turns to me, her lips curled in a smile, and my stomach does a weird flip. An errant thought flies through my head—Wish I could see the color of her eyes—yet I don’t need the light to see the teasing quality of her smile.
Ah, I get it. She’s beautiful. She’s used to guys coming up to her. Right.
But I’m different. I’m the one she’s been waiting on.
“Hey?” Her voice is husky and low as she tilts her head, eyes peering deep into mine.
The hairs on my arms rise.
I pick you whispers through the right side of my brain while simultaneously my left side yells Danger, danger.
I kick the negative thought down as I lean down, my big hands awkward as I cup her face and brush my lips against hers softly.
Holy shit, what have you done my brain yells.
She lets out a startled sound as we pull apart.
That’s it, I tell myself, just a little taste and I’m not going to take it any further, but I do, ignoring that voice as I go in and slant my mouth across hers again. My tongue twines with hers, crushing her soft, pillowy lips under mine. She tastes like cherries, rich and sweet. There’s a moment when she hesitates, then she melts into me, a whimpering sound coming from the back of her throat as she parts those luscious lips.
The kiss burns a hole right through me and blood rushes to my groin. I’m in over my head—Who cares?—and I groan, deepening our connection. My hands slide down her cheeks, her throat, then to her arms at her sides. Our joined breaths mingling, I trace my thumbs over the rapid pulse in her wrists. My head swims with images of her body draped on top of me, her fingers tracing my heart as she counts the beats of my pulse—
A cry comes from her as she breaks away. “Jerk! Don’t do that.”
“You liked it.”
“What? No.”
“I’m Dillon.”
“Um, I don’t care. Step away.”
“What’s your name? You got a number?” Dillon McQueen does not give up easily. When he sees what he wants, he goes after it. He also sometimes talks about himself in the third person. “Are you a freshman? I play football. Quarterback.” Usually that’s enough to catch a girl’s interest.
She shakes her head, looking almost surprised as she touches her lips briefly. Then, she flips around.
“No, wait! Don’t go!” I say, reaching out for her, but she’s gone, daring one look over her shoulder as she disappears into the crowd of people.
I take off after her, navigating through the throng, jostling into dancers. One of them, a big barrel-chested guy, shoves at me when I bump into him. I fall on my ass. Heart pounding, I scramble back up, dirt and grass on me as I dart through the crowd and look around. My height gives me a decent vantage point, but she’s vanished.
Off in the distance, the football guys hoot my name, then chant Venus over and over.
Well, hell.
Legend 1, Dillon 0.
(End Excerpt)

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