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Making a Play

Abbi Glines

  To my niece, Olivia Potts, who reads these books before they ever hit the shelves. I can’t ever tell you how proud I am of you. As your second year of college begins, soak in every moment and make memories that will last forever.

  This Field Is Mine—Might Want to Remember That



  The view from the back of the pickup truck was pretty damn sweet. Like every Friday night, the bonfire was blazing, music was pumping, and the people I’d grown up with in this town were all here. Most importantly, my cousin, Nash, was here. Smiling, with his arm around Tallulah, who I credited for helping him find himself after his injury. He’d coached tonight at the game. He couldn’t play, but he had been there on the sidelines, yelling at us, cursing like a fucking sailor. Made me grin, thinking about it. The win had made it perfect.

  Losing a defense coordinator after only a few games could have been bad, but Dace hadn’t been liked by anyone. His ass belonged in jail. Nash taking over his place on the field had been the best thing Coach Rich could have done for us. It made the team complete with Nash out there again.

  “Ryker,” a female voice called from below. I turned my gaze to the ground and saw Nova Cox grinning up at me. She’d been flirting for a few weeks now, and I’d been letting her work for it. She was smoking hot. A transfer last year from someplace in Tennessee. I couldn’t remember where. She’d told me, but I hadn’t paid much attention. This year, so far, had been pretty wrapped up with getting Nash out of the damn, dark hole he’d crawled in after he was told he’d never play football again.

  Shifting my gaze once more just to be sure he was good, I caught him kissing Tallulah with her arms around his neck. He was fine. More than fine. He’d battle his demons for a while still. I’d never seen someone die, but he’d seen death up close. I’d still need to keep an eye on him, but for now he looked pretty damn happy. I could ease off some of my protecting him and let Tallulah change his world.

  It was time I enjoyed my senior year. So far it’d been shit. Nothing like I had imagined. I loved playing football, and I knew it was going to be what paid for my college. But it wasn’t my life. Not like it had been for Nash.

  I wanted something more. I just wasn’t sure what that was yet. But I wanted a life that meant something. Made me feel like I had made a difference.

  “Come down from your throne and party with the rest of us,” Nova cooed up at me, batting her long eyelashes that I would bet about fifty bucks weren’t real. Her creamy-mocha skin looked really damn attractive in the moonlight. With a shrug, I walked to the tailgate and jumped down right in front of her. She giggled, and it wasn’t annoying. That was a plus.

  “That beer?” I asked, reaching for her red plastic cup.

  She scrunched her nose up. “Ewww, no. It’s a margarita. Blakely brought two gallons of some mixed up.”

  I let go of the cup. That shit sounded nasty. “I need a beer,” I told her, and turned back to the keg on the truck bed to get me some.

  “Rumor is you don’t want Blakely here, but Nash made you let her come for Hunter’s sake,” Nova said.

  Girls and their gossip. I didn’t like Blakely. She’d hurt Nash when he was down. But it was the second best thing that happened to him, getting rid of her, Tallulah being the best. I shrugged and took a drink. “Don’t care if she’s here or not.”

  That was the truth. As long as I wasn’t subjected to talking to her, I was good. I’d never thought much of her when Nash was with her either.

  Nova moved in closer to me and made sure to press her breast against my arm. She liked her chest size and made sure to push those things up so everyone else could see them and admire them too. I wasn’t complaining. She was welcome to press them on me if she wanted.

  “You seem more relaxed tonight. Not so uptight and tense. I like this side of you. I haven’t seen it since last spring.”

  I lifted my left shoulder slightly, one for an acknowledgment of her words, and the other to get a rub on those boobs she was pressing on me. They seemed real. She wasn’t stuffing the things when she jacked them up. I hadn’t been sure how much of her was fake. She had the lashes, and I knew that hair was too damn perfect to be all hers. It looked good on her, though.

  “I’ve been preoccupied with Nash. But it seems his luck has turned.”

  Her hand slid across my chest as she turned toward me. “He seems happy.” Her voice had dropped to a sexy purr, and it was nice. She rolled her assets over my chest as she moved to stand in front of me. I spread my legs slightly in my stance so she would easily fit up against my body. Attraction with her was not an issue, and I knew she could feel it against her stomach. No way she could miss it. A small grin spread over her full lips, and I decided it was time to taste them. See if this was going to be as fun as it was promising.

  Leaning down, I took a slight nibble on her lower lip and pulled its juicy plumpness into my mouth to suck it before going in for a full taste test. The sweet margarita was mixed with the mint from her gum, and it worked. It was girly and sexy.

  I rested my hands on her hips and pulled her closer to me. She wiggled against my arousal and thoughts of taking this back into the woods and away from the whole damn field party’s viewing pleasure sounded like a wise idea.

  “Ohmygod, just get a damn backseat somewhere. No one wants to see that.” Blakely’s familiar, annoying voice was like ice over my head, but I only broke the kiss. I kept Nova up against me.

  “This field is mine. Might want to remember that.” The threat in my tone was cold. I wanted it to be.

  Blakely tossed her long blond hair over her shoulder and rolled her eyes. “I’m with Hunter.” She said it as if it made her safe. Dating the quarterback was the only reason she was here. At least she knew it. But Hunter was a junior. He wasn’t originally from here, and we played well together on the field, but he was not one of my boys. This wouldn’t save her ass if she pissed me off.

  “Don’t give a fuck,” I replied. “If he wants to leave with you, he can, but he won’t stop me from sending your ass off.”

  She opened her mouth to say something more, but Nova interrupted her. “Looks like he’s already gone. Running.” Nova sounded pleased. “Guess he was waiting until you walked off to make his escape.”

  I turned to see Hunter in a full-out sprint, headed toward the clearing where everyone parked. Nova wasn’t exaggerating. The dude was moving. I doubted he was running from Blakely. I was more than positive he’d been looking forward to getting laid tonight. Blakely was well known for being easy.

  “What the fuck?” Blakely’s tone, however, did make me smile. Whatever his reasons for running, she wasn’t happy about it.

  “Damn, bitch, what did you do to him?” Nova drawled, enjoying this a little too much. Girls could be vicious. In a fight, though, I knew Nova would take Blakely out fast. She may not be from around here, but I could tell by the way she carried herself that she was not a female you wanted to tie up with. She’d lived a much different life from me. Her parents weren’t around much. From what she said, I knew her grandmother had raised her. Once she’d mentioned her dad being in jail. I didn’t ask her any questions, because I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear the answers. My home life was a fairy tale compared to hers.

  Blakely glared at Nova, and I watched as Nova straightened, then turned from me to Blakely. Nova cocked her head to the side, and the threatening gleam in her eyes made me a little nervous. “You want some?” she asked with no emotion. Then she crooked her finger at Blakely in a come and get it way.

  Holy fuck.

  The fear in Blakely’s eyes quickly replaced the anger. She backed up a step and shook her head. “No. Jesus, what’s your issue?” Her tone was a bit shaky as she tried to keep her cool
. I felt a little sorry for her, and that was surprising even to me. Blakely spun and stalked off, walking faster with each step down the same path Hunter had just taken.

  From the looks of how fast he’d been moving, I didn’t think he’d be there when she arrived, unless he had been getting something from his car.

  Nova’s shoulders relaxed, and she turned back to me with a seductive grin as if nothing had happened. Her eyes were like caramel, and before this moment, I’d thought they held a kindness and warmth. Now I saw the fight there. I wondered where that came from.

  “I’m not against finding a backseat. Your truck doesn’t have a big enough one, though,” she said, then took her fingertip and ran it down my chest until she reminded me exactly what I had been feeling before our interruption.

  This was going to be easier than I’d expected. Nova had been tossing it around willingly, from what I’d heard, but it had all been college guys. I was the first guy her age that she seemed interested in. I figured college guys had probably taught her a lot.

  “Where’d Hunter run off to?” Nash called out in my direction as if I had been the one to send him running.

  I shrugged. “Been preoccupied. Don’t give a fuck where the QB went. But my guess is getting the hell away from his date.”

  Nash rolled his eyes at me, but I could see he was trying not to laugh. I smirked at his attempt, and that got a grin out of him.

  “If the two of you are done with your humor, we can go find a spot . . . alone now,” Nova said, placing a hand on my left cheek and turning my face back in her direction. She was brave. No self-confidence issues with this one. That was for damn sure.

  “Okay, yeah, I got a place,” I told her, and shot one more glance at Nash. He was watching us with amusement, and I saluted him before taking Nova and walking away.

  Nova was fun. There were times I saw the way Nash looked at Tallulah or she looked at him, and I wanted that. Or I thought I did for a moment. Then I remembered that I was living the life right now. I didn’t have time for that kind of shit. I didn’t need to use my truck. There was an empty barn waiting on us.

  I Didn’t Fit in That World, But I Was Happy in Mine



  Make this fast. If you are listening, God, just please let it all go so quickly it can’t be painful. You didn’t hear the last couple prayers I shot your way, but maybe you could make up for it now. Today would be perfect.

  The hand on my shoulder didn’t startle me. I knew it was Hunter. My twin brother. If anyone was dreading this more than me, it was him. I could see the worry in his eyes. I didn’t have to hear his voice. But then I’d never heard his voice. I read his emotions well. The anxiety pulsing through him was even in the gentle squeeze on my shoulder. It had been elementary school since we’d gone to school together.

  He was angry at our mother. Not because he didn’t want me here, but because he feared what this would be like for me. His face had been red as he’d yelled words I couldn’t read quickly enough, but I did catch a couple of curse words when my mother showed up with me and my things at our father’s house Friday night. He had gotten in Mom’s face, and Dad had pulled him back. It had been so ugly.

  That night he’d sat with me in my new room in our comfortable silence. Both of us reading a book, not needing to do anything more than be near each other. I knew he was scared for me. My earliest memories were of Hunter protecting me. He sat with me because it was all he knew to do. He thought Mom had caused me emotional pain, and he was trying to make it better. Just by being there.

  The doors to Lawton High School stopped us, and I turned my head to look at Hunter. His jaw was fixed in a clenched position. His eyes serious and determined. He reminded me of someone about to go to war. I reached out and patted his hand.

  “I am going to be fine,” I said, hoping I hadn’t talked loud. I didn’t use my voice around anyone outside my family. When you can’t hear yourself, it’s intimidating. Although Hunter swore I sounded fine and my words were clear, I also knew he’d lie to me to protect me.

  He inhaled deeply and let his gaze take in the surroundings, as if he was ready to pounce on any sign of danger. The idea of me going to a regular high school was scary for both of us. But if I was going to keep Hunter from being a complete wreck, I had to act confident. I didn’t feel it, but I could act it.

  “I’m a text away.” He said the words, knowing I could read his lips easily. I’d been doing it for most of our lives. Some people’s lips were hard to read, but not his. I knew him as well as I knew myself. When we were in a heated discussion and talking too fast for me to read his lips, he’d sign. But most of the time we talked with our voices when communicating.

  I nodded, not wanting to use my voice anymore with the other students rushing past us. I saw a guy stop and slap Hunter on the back. I couldn’t see his mouth clearly from the angle he was at, so I wasn’t sure what he was saying. Hunter was forcing a smile and saying something. I could see his head move with the motions. The guy was taller than Hunter and had the most amazing blue eyes I’d ever seen. His brown skin was beautiful, and the big smile he flashed my way showed a set of perfect white teeth. He was a nice guy. His eyes said so. I was good at reading faces, expressions, especially eyes. They were the window to your soul, if only someone looked closely.

  “I didn’t know Hunter had a sister. Nice ---- you. I’m ----” I got most of his words. I could piece together what he meant. I didn’t get his name, though. It wasn’t something I was familiar with. Naz, maybe? That would be extremely unique if it was. But somehow I doubted it.

  This was the moment I could use my voice or nod and smile, then let Hunter explain why I wasn’t talking back. I wanted to be brave enough to talk, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Besides, I wasn’t positive what he said his name was.

  Hunter was talking again, his head turned toward the guy, Naz or whatever. I saw the guy’s eyes widen as Hunter explained I couldn’t hear. He seemed unsure, and I knew he would inevitably feel awkward. Hunter was good at dealing with that, too. Again I wasted my thoughts on wishing my mother hadn’t met Lou and decided to move to California with him. I’d missed my dad and Hunter, but I also missed the security of the life I’d had with Mom in North Carolina.

  A stunning blonde walked up beside the guy, and he put his arm around her waist. Her gaze moved to me, and I prepared to get the pitied, annoyed, impatient glare I knew from past experiences with beautiful girls like her. Instead the pure, genuine kindness in her eyes took my breath away a little. I was normally good at reading people quickly. I’d seen her outward beauty and assumed the worst. She glanced at Hunter a moment as he said something to her, then her eyes softened before she walked around the guy she was with, to get closer to me.

  “Hello, Aurora. I’m Tallulah. I’m so happy to meet you. Do you have a phone? We could exchange numbers. You can text me if you need any help today finding things. Or want to hide in the library with me. It’s my special place.” She signed all of that. Perfectly.

  She’d shocked me twice now. I liked her. The first relief I’d felt since waking up this morning knowing what I was about to face. I reached for my phone in my jeans pocket and handed it to her. She did the same. We quickly added our numbers in each other’s phones. When I handed hers back, I then signed, “Thank you. I could use a friend. How do you know how to sign?” I had to ask. It was rare, unless one had a family member who was deaf.

  She beamed at me. “I spent a lot of time reading. Alone. For most of my life. I’m not very social. I taught myself how to sign three summers ago with two different books I checked out of the library. I also watched YouTube lessons. Then I volunteered at an after-school daycare for the hearing impaired in an underprivileged area. I found out about it on a Google search. I went to read to them three times a week that summer. Until they had to close due to lack of funding.” When she signed the last, she seemed heartbroken. Her eyes were so sad. She was a walking contradiction
. How was someone who looked like a Barbie doll not social?

  Hunter’s hand touched my arm, and I looked up at him. “We need to get to the office to get you all checked in. You can text Tallulah and meet up with her later. Y’all can be recluses in the library together.” He said the last bit with a grin. A relieved, very grateful grin. He was surprised by Tallulah too. I had the feeling he didn’t know her well, although he seemed to know her boyfriend.

  I turned back to Tallulah. “I’ll text you if I get lost,” I signed.

  She held up her phone, then said, “You better,” with her mouth, realizing I could read her lips.

  I felt Hunter’s entire frame relax. He’d been strung so tight all morning. I grinned up at him, understanding. He winked, and we headed into the office. Dad had said everything was transferred this morning. He’d come by on his way to work to fill out the paperwork and check things out. He had drilled Hunter with so many things last night, I had finally stepped in and begged him to stop. Hunter was already worried enough. He didn’t need any extra stress.

  I could do this. They all needed to calm down. I hadn’t wanted to be put in the hearing-impaired school when they moved me to it in second grade. I wanted to be with Hunter. I had cried for the first two weeks because I missed him. We had rarely been apart, and he had been my security blanket. But then life was easier. I learned more. I caught up with where I should have been academically. I’d fallen behind at the regular school, and this new school became my second home. My family.

  When our parents divorced and Dad moved here, taking Hunter with him, four years ago, I’d once again fallen apart. But I had agreed with them that I needed my school. I was too scared to do anything else. I didn’t know Hunter’s world anymore. I knew he had a lot of friends. He was good at football. Girls liked him.

  I didn’t fit in that world, but I was happy in mine. My thoughts now went to Denver. We hadn’t broken up, but I knew the distance was going to make it inevitable. He was my first and only boyfriend. We had been together since seventh grade. He had been there for me when Hunter moved away. Then we’d slowly become something more than friends. Leaving him had been hard too.