Under the lights, p.15
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       Under the Lights, p.15

         Part #2 of The Field Party series by Abbi Glines
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  BRADY

  I had been right. We had tightened the left side, and no one had made it through. Same play had ended in three touchdowns in the first half. We managed to use it and score one more touchdown in the second half. Then we’d had to switch things up a bit because the Trojans were catching on. In the end we won 38 to 17. Not a bad homecoming score. Could have been better.

  Ivy was talking to the other girls standing around about her dress and where she had gotten it. I’d heard this story about ten times now. It was grating on my nerves. Did they seriously give a crap?

  My attention moved to the entrance as Gunner came in with Serena, who was dressed like she was about to go dance on a pole. I was sure that made Gunner happy. I wished Ivy was dressed like she was about to hit a pole. At least I’d be interested in what she was saying. No, that was shallow. Damn, I needed to work on my thoughts. My momma had taught me better than that.

  “What is she wearing?” Ivy’s fake whisper was more of a loud hiss. Rolling my eyes, I mumbled an “I’ll be back.” Then I headed over to talk to West. Maggie was with him, but she looked about as excited to be here as I was. Although, she’d spent a good two hours getting ready, according to Mom. I’d talked to her after the game, and she’d wanted to tell me to make sure Maggie had a good time. She seemed to forget that my cousin was no longer my responsibility at these functions. She was dating West, who took good care of her. I was off the hook.

  “Hey,” West said with a nod. “Bottom of the third, that pass was a beauty.”

  I shrugged. “All my passes are beauties.” That wasn’t true and we both knew it, but we’d won, so it was time to smack talk. There were plenty of plays tonight I was disgusted with, but I’d deal with that later.

  West chuckled. “You running off from Ivy already?”

  I glanced back over my shoulder to see if Ivy was headed my way, but my gaze never made it to her. Instead I was instantly locked on someone else.

  Willa.

  “Oh wow, I love her dress,” Maggie said behind me.

  Willa’s blond hair was curled and hung loosely around her shoulders. Her eyes looked even bigger with the makeup she’d worn. The red lipstick on her mouth looked elegant with the pretty dress she was wearing.

  “Asa was pumped about this date. Looks like he’s happy,” West added to the conversation that I was no longer having with them. My attention was completely on Willa. I took in every detail and wished like hell I’d broken this date with Ivy. I could have had Willa by my side tonight. But bringing myself to hurt Ivy hadn’t been possible. She didn’t deserve it.

  I finally went back to her face, hoping to catch her eye, but her focus was elsewhere. I followed her gaze directly to Gunner, who was also watching her. It seemed as if the two of them were unaware of anyone else in the room. The reality of this was sinking in, and I wished it wasn’t. If they wanted each other, why were they avoiding each other? And when the hell had this happened? I had been the one to kiss Willa. I had been the one to flirt with her. Gunner treated her like one of the guys. But maybe that was the difference.

  I turned back around, unable to watch them any longer. If that was what I thought it was, then Gunner was a bigger dumbass than me. He’d brought Serena to this dance for a sure thing. When it looked like he could have had Willa.

  Chances were after tonight that Willa wouldn’t look at him the same way again. He had passed her off on me all week, and now he was at a dance with a girl dressed like a stripper. Smart.

  Asa was my friend, but Willa was mine first. He’d have to just understand. I wasn’t letting my guilt issues with breaking things off with Ivy stop me anymore. She’d already ruined my last homecoming dance.

  I Don’t Think He Has an Uncle

  CHAPTER 37

  WILLA

  Comparing myself to someone else was never my thing. I was different in my own right, and I liked it. Now that I was comparing myself to Serena, part of me was ashamed of myself. The other part was giving in and measuring myself up against her. Problem was I was losing. Bad.

  The skintight red dress she had on was so short, if she bent over you’d see her panties. I’d like to say she looked trashy, but she was every seventeen-year-old boy’s dream date.

  My dress no longer seemed so great. It took all my willpower to look away from the stunning couple they made. But I did it. I was here with Asa, who wanted my company. Gunner obviously did not. Fine.

  “Want a drink?” Asa asked, glancing at me almost nervously.

  “Sure.”

  “There’s West and Maggie.” He nodded in their direction. Brady was also with them. His back was to me, but even still, I liked the dark slacks he was wearing with the white oxford shirt. He wore it well.

  Pointing out where West and Maggie were meant that was where we were headed, I soon realized.

  Just before we reached them, there was a crash near the entrance, and everyone went silent as their attention was directed toward it. I stopped and turned like the rest of the room.

  “Where’s my motherfucking uncle!” a guy yelled at the top of his lungs. He slurred his words and stumbled, further knocking over tables and decorations as he went. “I know he’s here!” The guy continued pointing as he turned in a half circle, squinting his eyes to focus.

  “Shit,” Asa muttered.

  I almost asked him who that was when I saw Gunner step in front of him and grab his upper arm. It all fell into place then. That was Rhett Lawton, Gunner’s brother. I hardly recognized him from six years ago. He looked more like a man now. He was calling Gunner his uncle to out him in public. The dirty secret the Lawtons were keeping was something Gunner wanted to remain a secret. Rhett should too, but it didn’t look like he wanted to.

  “I don’t think he has an uncle,” Asa whispered. “Dude must be hammered or stoned.”

  “I’ve got to go,” I said by way of explanation as I hurried toward the exit Gunner was pushing Rhett through while he railed on and on loudly about his uncle.

  I think Asa called out “Wait,” but I ignored him. I had to help Gunner.

  Rhett was taunting him when I reached them, asking for an allowance.

  “Shut the fuck up,” Gunner growled at him, completely frustrated.

  I opened the door and met Gunner’s gaze. No words were needed. He understood I was there to help. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his truck keys. “Go get my truck. It’s parked in the left parking lot near the sign.”

  He threw me the keys; I caught them and nodded.

  “Who’s she? Are you dating my uncle? He’s fucking loaded.”

  “Jesus, Rhett, shut up!” Gunner ordered, jerking his brother hard until he was far enough away from the door that his voice wasn’t carrying inside.

  “Everything okay?” Brady’s voice stopped me as I turned to go get the truck.

  “Yeah, peachy fucking great. Can’t you tell?” Gunner snarled in response.

  Brady shifted his gaze to me. “You leaving?”

  “Going to get Gunner’s truck.”

  He held out his hand. “Give me the keys. I’ll go get it.”

  I looked to Gunner for direction and he nodded. He probably wanted Brady away from Rhett’s mouth. So I tossed him the keys and gave him the directions that Gunner had given me.

  Once Brady was out of earshot, Gunner sighed. “What the hell are you doing, Rhett?”

  Rhett jerked free of Gunner and threw his hands up in the air. “I’m coming to see the crown bastard prince! What does it look like?”

  Gunner winced, and I wanted to go slap my hand over his brother’s mouth. Asshole.

  “I’m taking you home,” Gunner said as he glanced back at the door to make sure no one else had followed us out.

  “Do I still get to live there?” Rhett asked in his drunken sarcastic tone.

  Gunner ignored him and turned his attention to me. “Will you go make my excuses? I can’t go back in there.”

  “Yes,” I replied just as the doo
r opened and out walked Asa, Serena, and Ivy, all looking for their dates.

  “Shit,” Gunner muttered.

  “I got this,” I assured him, and hurried toward them.

  Ivy was surveying the area for Brady. Serena was glaring at me, and Asa looked concerned. “Brady has gone to get Gunner’s truck so he can take Rhett home. He’s had a little too much to drink. Why don’t we all go back inside and let them deal with Rhett.”

  “I’m not taking orders from you. I don’t even know you,” Serena snapped in a haughty tone.

  “Go inside, Serena. She’s helping me. Jesus you’re a bitch.” Gunner raised his voice enough that Serena snapped her head back as if he’d slapped her.

  “Fuck off, Gunner” was her response before she turned and strutted away.

  “Are you going to need Brady to help you get him home?” Ivy’s question was more of a whine.

  “No,” he snapped, and she beamed as if this was the best news she’d heard all day and went back inside.

  I walked over to Asa. “They’re good now,” I told him.

  He nodded, and we started to walk inside when Gunner’s voice stopped me.

  “Stay with me.” His eyes were pained and lost. He needed me and that meant something.

  Staying with him meant standing up my date. But could I tell him no when I was the only friend he had who knew the truth? Absolutely not. I also couldn’t tell him no when I knew he wanted me with him. The smart thing for me to do would be to stay with Asa. Be a normal teenager and focus on my goals. The reason I came back here.

  That didn’t matter. Gunner had become more important to me than all of that. Facing that now was the only thing I could do.

  I looked up at Asa. “I have to stay with him.”

  Asa glanced at Gunner, then back at me, before he nodded and walked inside. He was disappointed. I’d seen it in his eyes.

  Gunner’s problems were bigger than losing your date to the dance.

  Get in the Truck, Rhett

  CHAPTER 38

  GUNNER

  Seven times I’d called his sorry ass. Not once had he answered or returned my call. Yet he shows up at the homecoming dance to yell shit about me being his uncle like a lunatic.

  “There’s Brady,” Willa said, coming up to stand behind me. I should have let her go back inside with Asa, but I had needed her. Having her close helped. She knew the truth, and she was there as my center. Tonight wasn’t going to get easier, and I didn’t want to face it alone. I needed Willa with me. Having Willa there meant I could face anything. She calmed me and reassured me just being close. In my life there had never been someone like Willa. I think I knew that as a child. She was special. The kind of special you only get once.

  After I’d avoided her for days, she had every right to ignore me and go back inside. But she’d stayed. She’d chosen me over Asa. Over that stupid dance in there. Willa made me feel like I had somewhere I belonged. Once Rhett had, because even though my parents weren’t that fond of me, he’d loved me.

  Now having my older brother, who used to fight my battles, throw me out there like he had tonight hurt. Willa made it hurt less. She eased it. Even before Brady had gotten out here, she had been helping me. She hadn’t stood and stared at the scene.

  “Thanks,” I told her.

  “Anytime” was her response. She was there. Again, something I’d never had before.

  Brady pulled the truck up beside us. I started to give Brady an excuse to get him to go back inside when Willa walked over to him.

  “Ivy is causing a scene. I told her you’d be right back. Go ease that over, and I’ll help here. Ivy won’t listen to me.”

  Brady turned his gaze to me as if he wasn’t sure he should leave me alone.

  “Go on. She’s right. Crazy bitch came out here yelling and shit.”

  Brady nodded. “Okay, sorry about that. I’ll be back in a few to see if you need me.”

  “Thanks,” I said, knowing I’d be gone before he got back out here.

  The doors opened again, and this time West, Nash, and Ryker all stepped outside. Shit, the whole crew was coming to help. “Help with that,” I whispered to Brady, and he gave me an understanding nod.

  “Get in the truck,” I said in a lower voice to Rhett, and started moving him closer to the passenger door Willa had opened for me.

  Rhett bumped into Willa, and I jerked him back. “Watch out!”

  Rhett started cackling with manic laughter. “You like her. That’s so sweet. Did you know he was my uncle? He’s a bastard, but he’s loaded.”

  I started to yell at him again, but Willa spoke first.

  “Yes, I know, and from the looks of things, you pissing him off is stupid. Get ahold of yourself and don’t make him your enemy. You need an allowance.”

  Rhett’s eyes went wide, and for the first time all damn day I laughed.

  “Who the fuck are you?” he asked, slurring his words more and more.

  “I’m Willa Ames, you idiot,” she retorted.

  Then he smiled. “Willa Ames all grown up.”

  I knew that smile. He might be drunk, but he was attracted to her. Who wouldn’t be? Willa was beautiful. And she was putting up with my drunk brother for me. I had been her choice when she’d been given one, and it made me feel deeper for her than I’d ever felt.

  “Get in the truck, Rhett,” I demanded, pushing him toward the now-open passenger side.

  “Wait . . . I thought you moved away.” He was still stuck on Willa.

  “I moved back.” The way she gave him annoyed, short responses was funny.

  He gave her a flirty smile that he even pulled off well when he was drunk. “I might need to stay around town a little longer.”

  “You might not have a home to stay in if you don’t get your drunk ass in my truck now,” I added with more force, and shoved him until he stumbled and had to grab the seat to keep from falling.

  “Yes sir, Uncle, sir. You sure got real bossy with all this power.”

  I glanced at Willa, who rolled her eyes at his comment. I needed that little touch of humor right now. She was keeping me from losing my shit. I owed her.

  When Rhett finally climbed up in my truck, I wanted to ask Willa to get in too. I wanted her with me. I didn’t want to ask her to miss the entire night, but going back to that house with Rhett like this sounded terrifying.

  But could I bring her into this shit? Was that even fair?

  No.

  Before I could even say anything, she opened the back door on my extended cab and climbed inside. She didn’t ask me or wait to be invited. She was just going. My chest felt full. It was an odd sensation I wasn’t accustomed to.

  I wanted to say thanks again, but I couldn’t at the moment. My tight chest was making my throat feel weird. So I climbed into the driver’s seat and got us away from the school parking lot before Rhett did something else stupid.

  “We going to your castle?” he asked as he laid his head back on the seat.

  “What’s your deal? Do you think I want this? That being our grandfather’s bastard is a good thing? Jesus, Rhett, stop focusing on how this affects you.”

  He laughed again, and I really wanted to stop and push him out, then take Willa somewhere alone so I could kiss her again. This time I wasn’t running.

  “Isn’t everything always about you?” Rhett snarled.

  I had no idea what that meant. I shot him a glare and turned onto the road that led to our house.

  “Every time I wanted something, Mother always said no if you couldn’t have the same. So Dad didn’t get it. I missed out on all kinds of shit because of you. Now I know why. The damn money was all yours.”

  Gripping the steering wheel tighter, I slammed on the breaks and threw the truck in park.

  “My entire life I’ve spent trying to please a man who would never accept me. A man I thought was my father. I was a kid, Rhett, and I wanted my father to love me as much as he loved his other son. Nothing I
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