Davey walked up the steps toward us, drawing my attention off my brother. Davey had gone to get “rations,” he had said. I had to hold my side because I couldn’t not laugh. He was carrying three nachos and cheese, three hot dogs, three bags of cotton candy, and what looked like an assortment of candy piled on top. There were bottles of soda sticking out of both his front pockets. I assumed he had one more in a back pocket.

“You buy out the refreshments?” Riley asked, standing up and taking things from his hands.

“Not exactly. But I tried,” he replied.

I took the items she handed me, and we managed to fit them around us. There was no way we were going to eat all this, but I knew Krit and Green probably would. I was going to save Krit a nachos and cheese and a cotton candy. He’d be up to check in soon enough.

“Whatever we don’t eat we can give to the bottomless pits Trisha brought with her,” Davey explained.

“Thank you, Davey. You didn’t have to buy us all this food,” I told him. I knew his parents were generous with him and gave him spending money so that he didn’t have to work a job and could focus on getting into Yale. Still didn’t mean I expected him to do something like this.

He winked at me. “I got two hot dates tonight. I must feed them well so they’ll come back with me again.”

Smiling, I reached for a hot dog and took a bite. It had been a long time since lunch and I was hungry. I wasn’t going to turn this down.

Before I could finish the hot dog, people jumped to their feet and cheered. I heard hoots and hollers. Different players’ names were shouted from the stands. I watched in fascination as they shook little pom-poms on sticks. Riley reached down and pulled me up.

“They’re running out onto the field. Show some school spirit,” she yelled over the noise. I chewed up the last bite and let her pull me to my feet. She was going to have me yelling for another reason if she tugged any harder.

I saw above the heads in front of me and through the shakers as a football player ran through a large paper banner that said WE ARE #1 in the middle of it and had players’ names all over it. I couldn’t tell who was who from here. They all looked alike to me.

Riley cupped her hands over her mouth and called out something I couldn’t hear. Stomping started, and the players looked up at the crowd and did fist pumps.

“Number ten,” Riley called out to me.


“He’s number ten,” she repeated.

I knew who she meant, but I still asked. “Who?”

She rolled her eyes at me and laughed, then looked back out at the field.

After the other team came out, Mr. Presley, the music teacher, sang the national anthem. Then the crowd screamed again before we could all sit back down.

Once everyone was settled again, I searched for Krit’s blond head. He had moved to the fence, closer to the players. He was okay.

Then I gave in to the urge and looked for number ten.

Covered in pads, he looked even more solid and massive. His helmet was in his hands as he sat on the bench. When the guys took the field and Rock was left behind, the crowd started booing. Rock didn’t look back at the sound. He didn’t encourage it. Just kept his attention on the field.

“PUT IN TAYLOR!” and “LET THE ROCK PLAY!” were just some of the things being shouted from the stands.

“Coach is going to make everyone angry. Wonder if he survives five minutes of playing time before he puts Rock in.”

“LET MY BOY PLAY!” a voice called out, and I turned to see a balding man with a beer belly scowling at the field. He looked nothing like his son. He was shorter than Rock, and he looked like he didn’t take care of himself. His hair needed washing, and his shirt was faded and stained.

Turning back around, I looked out at the field. That man reminded me of the kind of men Fandora brought home. Did Rock have a bad home life? Was this man a good dad?

“They say he missed practice Wednesday. Wonder why?” Riley said, stuffing her face with nachos.

“Krit missed the bus. He brought him home,” I told her before I could stop myself. I just didn’t want her to think he’d missed practice because he didn’t care.

Riley stopped with a chip at her mouth and turned to look at me. “No way,” she whispered.

I just nodded.

Her eyes were wide with amazement. “Ohmygod,” she responded, before shoving the cheese-covered tortilla chip into her mouth.


We won. By two touchdowns. One of those had been mine.

But none of that seemed to matter at the moment.

Since halftime, when we had run to the locker room and I’d looked up into the stands and seen Trisha’s blond hair, I had been going on adrenaline. She was here. And I was taking her home. I’d beg Marcus or Dewayne for their car. I just couldn’t let tonight end without seeing her.

My touchdown had been simply because I wanted to show off for her. Get her attention. She’d made me play better. I had come alive once I knew where to look when I turned around to see the crowd. Every time, she’d been there. In the same spot. And I had f**king loved it.

The guys were all heading to the field house, and that’s where I was supposed to be headed too. But she’d be gone before I got out of there. I couldn’t chance this. Tonight was my night. I was on fire. No more playing games.

“Take this,” I yelled at Preston, and tossed him my helmet.

“Go get her, tiger,” he called after me with an amused tone.

His obnoxious comment only made me grin. I was riding on my high. She couldn’t tell me no. This time I wouldn’t let her.

Shoving through the crowd and nodding thanks to people telling me I had played a good game, I kept my eyes on Trisha. She didn’t see me headed toward her. Good. I didn’t want her to have time to run.

I got to the bottom of the bleachers just as Trisha’s nerdy guy friend led the trio down the steps. His eyes locked on me and he frowned. I knew he wasn’t a fan of me, but I could fix that. If he was Trisha’s friend, I’d make sure he liked me.

“Trisha.” When I called out her name, she stopped studying the steps. Her head jerked up and her baby blues showed her shock. Then her confusion. God, she was gorgeous. The crazy kind of gorgeous. “Let me take you home. Buy you dinner. Whatever, just don’t leave. Stay. Wait for me to get done in the field house,” I begged her. It sounded like begging. I was desperate. The moving crowd stopped, and I felt all their eyes on me. I was drawing attention.

She glanced around at all the people who were now watching her. Waiting on her response. Maybe I was putting her on the spot, but I needed her to say yes. To give me a chance.

Just as she opened her mouth to say something, my dad appeared in front of me, blocking my view of her. I tried to step around him so I could watch her. She was about to say something. His hands grabbed my shoulders, and he shook me. He was pissed. “You’re late for f**king practice and have to sit out for five minutes, and now you’re out here instead of in the field house! What the hell, boy? Get your ass in there. Don’t throw shit away for that.” He waved his hand toward where Trisha was standing.

Rage pounded in my veins and I clenched my fists. “Give me a minute,” I said, meeting his glare with one of my own.

“NO! Fuck that!” He grabbed my arm and tried to move me. I didn’t budge. The old man forgot that I’d outgrown him a long time ago. He might catch me off guard and shake me in front of everyone, but hell if he’d get me to move at his command.

I jerked my arm free. “I said give me a minute,” I repeated calmly, knowing people were watching me.

“You gonna throw this away? For a chick? Prove to everyone you’re white trash like your momma? That what your plan is, boy? Because I won’t keep you if that’s what you’re planning on.” He spat, and his nasty onion-and-beer breath made me sick.

I ignored him. I wasn’t fighting with my old man in front of the town. “Please, Trisha. Wait for me.”

My dad was roaring dumb crap, and I blocked it out, waiting while she took in the scene in front of her. Then she nodded. It was a small nod, but she nodded.

My heart soared. I couldn’t keep the grin off my face. “I’ll be fast. Just don’t leave. Please,” I called out, and she nodded again, looking somewhere between horrified and surprised. I turned and headed for the field house. My old man was behind me, still bitching. I ignored him and jogged off.

Dewayne’s dad was headed our way, and he looked even angrier than my dad. He patted me on the shoulder. “Good game, kid,” Mr. Falco said, before walking past me. Then he said to my dad in a commanding voice, “That’s enough. Stop yelling at the boy like that or I’m calling the cops. He’s done nothing wrong.”

I hurried on inside, ready to get showered and changed. Trisha Corbin was waiting on me. Hot damn!

Dewayne was walking out of the showers with a towel around his waist. “You get what you wanted?” he asked, smirking.

“She said she’d wait for me. I need a car,” I told him. “I thought about asking Dad, but he’s pissed and yelling about me sitting out the beginning of the game and shit. Your dad is putting him in his place right now.”

Dewayne opened his locker and pulled out his car keys. “Take it. I’ll ride with Marcus to the party.”

I caught the keys to his Mustang.

“Thank you. Seriously. Anything you need, tell me,” I told him.

“Get your ass out there before she leaves,” Dewayne replied, then started getting dressed. I headed for the showers.

It was the quickest shower of my life.


“Holy crap! That’s Dewayne Falco’s dad telling off Rock’s dad,” Riley whispered beside me.

“Forget that. Did you really nod your head yes at Rock?” Davey asked, looking horrified.

I had. I had told him yes. He’d run out here to see me. Gotten in trouble with his dad, and his dad was yelling mean, awful things about him. Rock’s eyes had stayed on me, pleading with me to say yes. What was I supposed to do?

“He was . . . determined. And I was afraid his dad was going to take a swing at him,” I admitted.

Davey scoffed. “What, and break his hand on his son’s wall of muscle? Puh-lease.”

“It was romantic,” Riley said all dreamily. “I would have jumped off a bridge for the man if he’d asked me. He was ignoring his nasty father and completely captivated by you.”

“Shut that crap down, Riley,” Davey muttered, annoyed. “It’s Rock Taylor. When has he ever been serious about a girl?”

Riley shrugged. “He’s never gone after one like he is going after Trisha. If she hadn’t given in, she might have completely ruined his football career. He’s missing practice for her, and now he’s risking getting in trouble with his coach and dad by breaking the rules and running out here to get her to go out with him. I think she’s different.”

Why did I want to believe that so much? I was weakening.

“He was with Noah the skank today. What changed?” Davey asked.

“Don’t know, but let her make her own decisions. Back off,” Riley scolded.

Then she looked at me. “Want us to wait on you? Or are you really going to let him give you a ride?”

I had Krit and Green with me. “I can’t leave Krit and Green,” I reminded them. “I’ll just stay and talk to him.”

Davey sighed. “Great. We get to wait until this train wreck is over. Oh joy. I wanted a burger.”

Riley glared at him. “Shut up, Davey.” Then she looked at me. “I’ll go get Krit and Green. You go wait on him outside the field house.”

I did as I was told and walked slowly toward the field house. What was I going to say to him? Why was he so determined to get me to talk to him? Davey was right, where was Noah? I assumed they’d be together tonight. Unless they really did finish things in a closet somewhere in the school.

The jealous burn in my gut frustrated me. I had nothing to be jealous of, but I was anyway.

The doors opened and Dewayne Falco stepped out with Marcus Hardy. Both of them looked over at me, and Dewayne nodded. Marcus smiled as if he knew a secret, and then they headed to the parking lot.

I fidgeted with my hands and finally stuck them in the front pockets of my jean shorts. I glanced back at Riley and Davey to see that my brother and Green were back with them. Krit’s eyes were trained on me as he was talking. He liked Rock. I wondered how he would feel about this.

“You stayed.” Rock’s voice startled me, and I swung my gaze back around to see Rock walking toward me. His dark brown hair was damp, and it looked like he had run his hand through it to style it. His jeans hugged his h*ps and thighs just right. The way the black T-shirt he was wearing accented his muscles made the whole effect perfection. And he wanted me to go somewhere with him.

“I said I would,” I replied.

He grinned. “Yeah, you did. But I wasn’t sure.”

I pointed back at Krit. “I have to go home with him. Make sure he’s okay and everything. I can’t go anywhere with you.”

His smile fell, but he didn’t look angry. He was thinking. “I didn’t know he had come too. I get that. Can I take you both home, then?”

“Why?” I asked. I didn’t understand him at all. What did he get out of taking me and my brother home?

A crooked grin tugged at his lips. “Because I like to be near you.”

I wasn’t expecting that. My heart reacted like a girl and went all fluttery.

That same swoony girl inside me replied, “Okay.”

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