Chapter Twelve


Riley opened the door to the cafeteria before I could get to it. “Let’s eat!” she said in her bright, cheery tone.

I was starving. This morning Fandora’s new boyfriend had come out of her bedroom while we were getting ready to go. His eyes had scanned my body, and then he’d gotten that creepy grin I’d seen before on her boyfriends. “Fandora didn’t tell me her daughter was so f**king hot” had been his oh-so-intelligent words.

“She’s also too young. Jail bait¸” I had replied in a warning tone. Then I’d hurried out the door with Krit. Luckily, he had gotten to eat his bowl of Frosted Flakes. Me, not so much. I was still moving slow, and getting ready took me longer than it normally did.

“You coming to the game tonight?” Riley asked me.

That was all anyone talked about today. The football game. I was so sick of hearing about it. Rock’s name was always attached to the conversations. He wasn’t getting to play the first five minutes, and everyone was panicking.

I felt guilty about that but didn’t know why. It wasn’t like I had asked him to miss his practice and come to my house. But he had. And he had also been sure not to approach me today.

I was certain he was going to try to speak to me when I got off the bus this morning, but he hadn’t. My words had sunk in. Hadn’t taken much for him to figure out I wasn’t worth it.

“Doubt it,” I replied, standing in line for food. Fandora had made sure to apply for free lunch for Krit. She hadn’t bothered for me. However, the school system had added me too since they could see we came from the same home. I never let her know. I was afraid she’d take it out on me.

“You can ride with me,” Riley said hopefully.

And leave Krit at home? No way. Not with a new guy hanging around the trailer.

“Can’t tonight,” I replied, wishing she’d drop it.

She sighed. “Fine. Might as well give up my hopes of you and Rock Taylor anyway. I was going to live vicariously through you, but it looks like Noah’s got his attention now.” She snorted. “Not surprising. Look at her hanging all over him.”

Why I turned my head to look, I do not know. Maybe to prove that I had been right about Rock Taylor. For whatever reason, I turned to see Rock sitting at the end of his table like the king of the world, with Noah Miller leaning on him and laughing at whatever he was saying. The other football players also filled that table, with girls much like Noah sitting in their laps or beside them. This was what I expected of Rock Taylor.

He was smiling like he didn’t have a care in the world. He had Noah’s br**sts against his arm and her long legs wrapped around his like she was trying to hold on to a moving target. When he lowered his head to whisper something in her ear, his gaze met mine.

For a brief moment he paused. Something flashed in his eyes, but he blinked it away quickly, then moved his eyes back to Noah and continued to make her giggle.

Yuck. Just yuck.

“That’s his speed. He likes them fast and cheap,” I told Riley, trying not to sound jealous.

Riley didn’t reply at first. I was thankful because I needed a moment to figure out why my chest hurt. Rock had never been mine. It made no sense that I cared he was with Noah.

“Yeah . . . I was just hoping for a moment that he wasn’t like the others,” Riley finally said.

“Me too,” I whispered before I could stop myself.

Riley gently squeezed my arm. “You’re so much prettier than her. And you have class. He missed out.”

My eyes burned and I hated that. But Riley was a good friend, and she was trying to make me feel better. It was sad that any devotion or encouragement I got from someone made me emotional. But it was rare. So when it came at me, I always felt weepy.

“You’re coming tonight,” Davey Marks said as he broke in line to wrap his arm around Riley’s shoulders and grinned at me. “Both of you. I’m not going to this testosterone-filled barbarian thing by myself.”

Davey was one of the only other real friend I had at school. He was short. I’d guess he was five nine, maybe. He wore thick glasses and had freckles all over his body and face. But he was always smiling and happy. He was also brilliant. He’d be the valedictorian our senior year. I had no doubt. The guy was a genius.

“I thought you’d be in the library solving world hunger,” Riley teased him.

He rarely came to the cafeteria for lunch. He really did spend it in the library or doing extra-credit work for one of his advanced classes. Last year we saw each other more, but this past week Davey had been scarce.

“I did that during break. I’m good to go for lunch today. Mrs. Barnaby said I needed to attend more school functions, like football games, and socialize with other students more. I need to be more well rounded.”

Mrs. Barnaby was the counselor. She had to bring Davey off the ledge of being the ultimate overachiever every year . . . several times.

“Trisha can’t go,” Riley said in a pouty voice.

Davey’s eyes went wide. “What? You gotta be kidding me! It’s what this town worships. It is our god, Trisha. Do you not know this? Rock Taylor is a demigod. We should all bow to him in worship.”

This time I laughed. He was joking. When Davey got carried away poking fun at the world around him, it was hilarious.

“Sorry. I hate to not come worship at his altar, but I have to hang out with Krit tonight.”

Davey waved his hands wide like this was no big deal. “The Kritmeister! Bring him too! And that friend of his. Turquoise, is it?”

“His name is Green,” I replied with a laugh.

“Yes, young Mr. Green with the weirdest name in the world except for Krit’s. Bring them both! We will watch the demigod trash the other team and yell like we all give a shit.”

Taking Krit out might be good. Fandora would be thrilled we were out of her hair. She’d probably be happy with me for taking Krit somewhere. Might get me on her good side long enough for my ribs to heal up.

“They’d like that. If you’re sure. We would need a ride,” I told him.

“YES!” Davey punched the air. “My dad is letting me take the minivan. So we will party like rock stars. Might even get some burgers afterward.”

This would be good for Krit and me. Even if it was Rock I’d have to be watching on the field all night. I could deal with it.

That little whatever it was had ended. I could go back to being invisible to Rock Taylor.

Chapter Thirteen


She didn’t look at me again. Fuck!

I’d had her attention and I’d blown it off. Whispering to Noah had screwed that shit up. Trisha didn’t glance my way one more time. Not even a peek. She had taken a seat with her friends. Instead she kept laughing and talking to Riley and the nerdy guy who had shown up in line and made her smile. I hated him. Didn’t know him, but I hated that she smiled so easily for him.

Noah kept slipping her hand up my thigh, and I had to grab her hand and squeeze to get her to stop trying to cup me right here in the damn lunchroom.

“Why are you stopping me?” she whispered in my ear.

Because I wanted to watch Trisha and see if she looked at me again. I wasn’t f**king it up this time. Playing games with someone like her was stupid. I knew better than that. I’d just been so pissed about her blowing me off and pushing me away.

“Not here,” I replied, watching Trisha cover her ribs and laugh. The laughing was hurting her. Dammit. Her eyes danced as she looked at the nerdy guy. Did she like him?

“Let’s go somewhere, then,” she said, trying to wiggle her hand free of my hold.

“Not now.”

Damn, she was getting on my nerves already.

Trisha distracted me by standing up. Several guys turned to look at her. She was oblivious, though. She continued talking to Riley, and then walked with her over to the trash cans. I moved Noah off me and headed over to her. I wasn’t sure what the hell I was going to say, but I had to get her to look at me again.

Riley she stopped talking midsentence when she saw me over Trisha’s shoulder.

I had to say something to Trisha or she’d leave. “Trisha.”

Her body tensed and I hated that. I didn’t want to be the one who she tensed up around. I wanted to be the one to make her smile.

Slowly she turned around to look up at me. Those bright blue eyes I dreamed about looked guarded. “Yes?”

What now? It wouldn’t make sense for me to apologize about Noah. I had nothing to apologize for. Not really.


“I’m going to go,” Riley said, and Trisha glanced at her.

“Wait on me.” The pleading in her voice wasn’t hard to miss.

Riley nodded and dropped her gaze to the floor.

“How are you?” I asked, needing to say something.

“Fine, thank you” was the only response I got.

I needed to get her to talk to me. But how?

“You coming to the game tonight?” Shit. Had I seriously just asked her that? As if she didn’t have bigger issues than coming to the football game.

She glanced over at Riley. “Yeah, Krit and I are going with some friends.”

So she was coming. Okay. I had to change my plans.

“Rock, you ready to go find a closet to finish what we started?” Noah wrapped her arms around mine and whispered loud enough for everyone to hear her.

And just like that, Trisha’s eyes went wide and she forced a smile that wasn’t real. This was not going well at all. Why couldn’t I stop being a guy for a f**king minute and not screw shit up?

“You better, uh . . . get back to that,” Trisha said, then turned and hurried off. Riley glared back at me, then rolled her eyes before closing in fast behind Trisha.

“Why were you talking to her? Who is she, even? Those clothes sure have seen better days. Someone needs to tell her they don’t fit anymore.” Noah’s catty tone didn’t win her any points with me.

The nerdy guys stopped in front of us, his disgusted gaze on Noah. “She’s class. Something you couldn’t possibly comprehend,” he said. Then he looked at me. “And something you’re not good enough for.”

Then he walked off.

Noah let out a high laugh. “Seriously? That dork just said that to us? About her? Puh-lease. She wishes.”

No, I wished. Fucking hard.

Shaking Noah loose, I stepped away from her. “I’ve changed my mind, Noah. Tonight’s not good for me,” I told her, then left her standing there. She’d recover soon enough. I just didn’t have time to care.

Dewayne walked up beside me and slapped me on the back. “And he’s off the horse again, folks. Trisha Corbin has got him all kinds of f**ked up.”

I didn’t respond to him. Dewayne was typically a smart-ass. He liked to say shit to fire you up. And unlike Preston and Marcus, he could take me on. I glared at him and headed for my next class.

“For what it’s worth, she didn’t take it well when she first saw you with Noah. Girl’s face went pale, and I think it hurt her. So maybe you’re onto something. Just don’t try to make her jealous. That’s not her style.”

I hated it when Dewayne was right.


The crowd was already loud, and the game hadn’t even started. There were big paper banners that the cheerleaders had made lining the fence. The stupidest one I saw was ROCK WILL ROCK YOU! I mean, seriously? It takes the whole team. I’ve watched football before. Rock couldn’t win the entire game for them.

Krit and Green had taken off with some other friends once we got here. I told him to check in with me every thirty minutes. He’d rolled his eyes and muttered, “Whatever.”

This wasn’t something he had ever gotten to do. I knew it was a big deal to come and hang out with friends. It was a normal thing that most kids did, but we were limited. Seeing as our mother was crazy.

I searched the crowd until I saw his blond head in a group of guys I’d never seen before. They seemed older. “Who are they?” I asked Riley, concerned.

“Calm down, mama bear. They’re in his grade. That tallest one with the oddly impressive gun show for a thirteen-year-old is Dewayne Falco’s little brother, Dustin. He’s the big shit in his grade. Apparently, when Krit picks friends he goes big.”

I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of Krit hanging out with Dewayne Falco’s brother. “Maybe I should go get him,” I said, chewing on my bottom lip.

“And make him hate you? I don’t suggest it. And Dustin Falco never gets in trouble. The Falcos are good people. Their dad owns Falco Construction. I’ve met his mom. Really sweet. She came in the office last year to drop off some pain medicine for Dewayne when I was working in there third period.”

Okay, fine. Just because Rock and Preston slept with every woman on earth didn’t mean Dewayne did. I was being judgmental again. Ugh. I wish I didn’t do that.

“Okay. You’re right. I can see him, anyway. He’s fine.”

A pretty redhead walked up to them, and Dustin Falco slipped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her against him. Not sure I liked that, either. That seemed way too familiar for eighth graders.

“You sure he’s Krit’s age?” I asked as he kissed the girl’s head.

“Yeah, I’m sure. That’s Sienna Roy. She’s Dustin’s best friend,” Riley explained.

How did she know this? And they so didn’t look like friends. “How do you know all these people?”

She shrugged. “Small town. I’ve gone to church with Sienna Roy most of my life.” Copyright 2016 - 2024