After the Game (Page 2)

He was right. My cousin Maggie had changed him. He no longer used girls and tossed them away. Seeing him with Maggie made me want that too. A girl who I wanted to be near. A girl who made me smile just at the sight of her. A girl like Willa, who was now with Gunner, and I didn’t stand a chance. Nor would I even try because they were happy together. I had never really seen Gunner happy before. Willa seemed to make him that way.

“Ivy isn’t it, you know? She deserves to be that girl for some guy. I’m just not that guy. Getting her to see that, however, seems impossible.”

“Ivy is the purest case of clingy there is,” West said, then slapped me on the back. “This is my stop. Be tough. She’ll move on eventually.”

I felt like that was my fault too. The way people looked at Ivy as a desperate girl unable to let go. I had let her hang on so long she had become just that, and it was all on me. If I had been fair months ago, this wouldn’t be an issue. But I had made the situation worse by letting her still believe there was an us.

Gunner’s laughter caught my attention, and I turned to see him with his arm around Willa’s shoulder, smiling down at her like she was his only source of sunshine. I should be happy for them. But I wasn’t. I wanted that. I had thought Willa would be that for me. Again, though, my fault. I hadn’t really made a move with Willa and had let go of Ivy. Had I expected Willa to just hang around while I figured out what to do with my girlfriend? Apparently. I was a dumbass.

Willa turned her gaze and it met mine. She smiled. Not the flirty smile I got from most girls, but a friendly one. The kind that a girl gives a guy when she sees him as a friend and wants nothing more.

I retuned the smile and nodded to Gunner before ducking into my next class and away from their lovefest. I wasn’t a bitter person before now. But seeing them together was getting to me. Daily. It was the reason I had finally cut Ivy free. At least I had them to thank for that.

Asa Griffith and Nash Lee were sitting in their seats already. Both looked amused at something on Nash’s laptop. I headed over to them and took a seat across from Nash and behind Asa.

“Hey, Brady,” a blonde I’d seen before but had no idea what her name was said as I sat down. She did a fluttery finger wave.

“Go there for me,” Asa said as he turned to see who was talking to me. “She’s got a body. Test it out and tell me all about it.”

I could tell from here she had a large chest size. That was all Asa was worried about. I looked at him and away from the girl. She wasn’t the first female to suddenly start speaking to me. I’d been getting this all week. But I just couldn’t do that to Ivy yet. She was still showing up with red, swollen eyes.

“More to a girl than her body,” I told him under my breath.

He raised his eyebrows as if he were shocked. “Really?”

He was kidding, but it was still an a*****e thing to say.

“Then you won’t care about what Nash got in his e-mail this morning,” Asa said, shooting a grin toward Nash.

I was afraid to ask.

“Hey, I didn’t ask for it. She sent it on her own,” he said in defense, as if he needed to justify whatever it was.

“But you’re sure as hell gonna watch it over and over,” Asa smirked.

Nash’s dimples popped and he shrugged before closing his laptop and stowing it in his book bag. “I’m a guy and she’s naked. Hell yes, I’m gonna watch it.”

I didn’t ask who it was because now I had a mental image playing in my head of what they were watching, and I didn’t want a face to go with it.

“Y’all seen Riley around town? I saw her yesterday with some kid in a stroller. Like a little kid. She was leaving the park.” Asa was frowning like he knew this wasn’t good news, but he thought he should share it. We all didn’t want to see Riley around. She was trouble. And Gunner was finally happy.

“Yeah, I saw her with the baby a couple weeks back. Her parents must have had another kid. Think she’s getting homeschooled. Mom said her grandmother has Alzheimer’s and her parents moved back to help take care of her.” I had come home complaining about Riley being back in town, and Momma had straightened me out real quick.

“Sucks for the Lawtons. They’ve had enough s**t this month. Riley showing back up ain’t helping,” Asa said.

“I ain’t so sure I feel sorry for the Lawtons. Rich-people problems don’t really compare to dealing with Alzheimer’s,” was Nash’s response.

As much as I hated it for Gunner, I had to agree with Nash. They had their problems, but obviously so did Riley’s family. Wasn’t their fault that their daughter was a liar. I could hate her and also feel bad for her parents. They’d been through a lot too. But a new baby was a good thing. That had to have come just in time to help heal the mess Riley had made with her lies.

My Little Sister?

CHAPTER 3

RILEY

Rain. Seriously? It had been all sunshine when I had strolled Bryony to the park. The rainstorm came out of nowhere. And my mother wasn’t answering her phone. It wasn’t like she could leave Grandmamma at home to come get us anyway.

At least there was a cover on the stroller. I was going to get drenched when I moved out from under the minimal shade of this tree, but Bryony should stay somewhat covered.

“Wain, Momma!” she squealed, reaching her hands out to feel the drops. It didn’t seem to be a bad thing for her. She liked it. This was an adventure. I tried to think of things like this as a new memory to make. Something to experience. It helped me deal with otherwise stressful moments. Before Bryony, I didn’t think that way. I got all upset over everything. Little things were a big deal. Like not being asked to prom by the guy you wanted or your best friend flirting with your boyfriend. Drama that seemed pointless to me now.

When she was placed in my arms, my world tilted. My life would never be the same, and all the pain that had led to her arrival in this world was gone. Just like that. I no longer cared about the past. I just cared that she was mine. Who her father was and what he had done meant nothing. Not now. Not ever.

I had my daughter. She was healthy. It became the only important thing in my life. Sleepless nights became a special time for us to bond. Endless crying when she didn’t feel good became a chance to learn how to make her laugh. That was what mattered. The two of us.

“Yes, it’s raining, baby girl. Let’s see how fast we can get home,” I said with a cheery tone.

She clapped in response, and I pulled my hoodie over my head to fight off the wetness for at least a few minutes before running toward the sidewalk that led to my grandmother’s. It wasn’t so bad. The fall air smelled good damp. It reminded me of my childhood. Those were good memories, ones I wanted for Bryony. Although we wouldn’t be able to stay in Lawton. As much as I missed the town that had been part of me, it no longer accepted me. For now we would make our home here. Keep to ourselves and enjoy life. But it wasn’t permanent.

A truck slowed beside me, and I kept jogging. I didn’t turn to see who it was. I had a mission.

“You need a ride?” a familiar voice called out. I still didn’t turn my head. I’d know Brady Higgens’s voice anywhere. The hateful looks and words that I remembered from him kept my gaze straight and my feet moving.

“Jesus, Riley, it’s pouring and the baby is getting all wet. At least get in for her sake. She’s gonna get sick.”

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