After the Game (Page 21)

“They’re living here taking care of her grandmother,” I told him, although I knew he already knew that.

“Not what I meant, and you know it.”

I didn’t say anything to that. We were running, not talking. He needed to stop being nosy and focus on his own love life. Mine was off-limits.

“You suck at hiding things. It’s going to come out,” he finally said when I didn’t say anything.

“Nothing to hide,” I lied.

He laughed. “Sure.”

I picked up speed in hopes of getting home and safe from his questioning faster.

“Gunner’s gonna find out. Then all hell will break loose. Might as well tell me now what you’re thinking. You’re my best friend. I’m not going to turn on you.”

Out of everyone, I never really expected West to turn on me. He was closer to me than he was Gunner. There was also Maggie, who was going to take my side in this. And there was no way West wouldn’t be on Maggie’s side.

“Right now there isn’t anything to find out. After we win the championship, then things may change.” That was all he was getting out of me.

“You need to do a better job of hiding it, then. Because at this rate you’re gonna get found out and you’ll have Gunner to deal with. We need him to win.”

He’d have his followers too. People who would side with him and turn on me. That would split the team, and we would be over. I had played this scenario in my head a million times, it seemed. I knew how it went and how it ended.

“I’ve got this under control,” I assured him.

“The way you were looking at her house, it didn’t seem like it.”

Point made. I had to back off for now. I could talk to Riley on the phone and see her when we could get out of town on weekends. Just for the next two weeks. Then I’d be free.

“Noted,” I replied. Luckily my house was in sight and this conversation could be over.

We ran up to the sidewalk in silence and slowed as we got to the door. Just before my hand touched the knob to go inside, West said one more thing. “Even if Rhett didn’t do it, she was still only fifteen. He shouldn’t have been alone with her.”

I paused. I knew Rhett had done it. But he was right. Even if he hadn’t, the situation was still bad. Rhett had no business with her, and everyone knew he was sleeping with other girls in our grade. Serena, to be exact. It wasn’t like he was above it.

“Yeah. I know. But he did it” was all I said before going inside to the smell of biscuits and sausage.

“Your house always smells like food. I love it here,” West said as we walked to the kitchen.

“That’s because you only come at mealtimes.”

“When it’s not a mealtime, it smells like cookies.”

I laughed as we entered the kitchen to find Mom in her apron and Maggie putting butter in biscuits. She glanced up and made eye contact with West before smiling.

“Smells good, Mom,” I told her, ignoring the lovebirds and going to the fridge to get the milk.

“You two stink,” she replied. “Have a good run?”

“Woke me up,” I said.

West chuckled and sat down. I didn’t look his way, but I could feel Maggie studying the two of us. She was good with body language and would have this figured out soon enough.

“Ivy came by yesterday. I forgot to tell you when you got home last night. She left you some cinnamon rolls. I put them in the fridge.”

My mom knew my issues with Ivy, but she reminded me to be kind to her. The girl was hard to shake when you were kind, though.

“She needs to stop that,” I said with an annoyed grunt.

“I like the brownies,” Maggie replied, sounding amused.

“Well, you can have them,” I told her.

“You gonna share with me?” West asked.

“Of course. I can’t eat them all.”

I rolled my eyes at their attempt at humor and fixed my plate before my mom could. “Thanks for cooking,” I told her, then sat down to get full after burning all those calories.

“Do you think she’d send some of that caramel pound cake her mom makes?” West teased.

I ignored him.

“Wouldn’t hurt to ask,” Maggie added.

“All right, you two, stop giving Brady a hard time,” Mom said with a smile in her voice. She patted me on the back.

I doubted Riley would ever send me food, and I was good with that.

Look for Thomas



It was after lunch when my phone rang. I was just about to take Bryony to the park. Brady’s name lit up the screen and a smile crossed my face. Just seeing his name made me smile. I was getting too into him. This could end badly, and I could be hurt.

“Hello,” I said, stepping outside away from my family’s ears.

“Hey, what are you up to today?”

“Well, Bryony and I had a picnic in the backyard and now we are getting ready for our outing to the park. I also need to pick Mom up some milk and eggs at the grocery store.”

Talking about my daily routine with him was a little awkward. As casual as I tried to make all that sound, it felt as if I was describing something so foreign to him he wouldn’t get it.

“Sounds like a full day. Not too cold for a picnic with the sun out, I guess,” he replied. It was the kind of response one made when they didn’t know what else to say. He understood nothing of having a kid to take care of.

“What have you been up to?” I asked, trying to change the subject to something else.

“West woke me up to run this morning, then we ate breakfast and watched the game video from Friday night.” He didn’t tell me what he was going to do next. Not that it was my business.

“I haven’t been running in the morning in two years,” I replied, remembering when I had once been on the track team. I’d enjoyed it. Part of me missed it.

“Maybe one morning next weekend you could go with me. That is, if your parents could watch Bryony.”

He wasn’t thinking about the fact that we’d be seen. He forgot that often. “We might need to wait a couple weeks. When we aren’t hiding the friendship thing.”

He was silent a moment. I always wondered what he was thinking when he did that.

“Is that what we are?”

What kind of question was that?

“I’m not sure I follow you,” I replied.


Oh. We’d kissed. Had that changed everything? Did kissing make it different? I was rusty with the dating thing. Guys confused me in general.

“I’m not sure we can ever be more,” I said. Had he forgotten the biggest barrier that stood between us?


Apparently he had forgotten. So I stated the obvious. “I’m a teenage mom and you leave in six months to live your dream at the college of your choice. Anything more would end anyway. Friends is the safest thing for us.” Or for me. Because when he left, I’d be the one struggling to make life work. He would never know any of that.

“Can we say for now that we will work things out as they come? Because I’d like more of last night. And the day we spent together was the best time I’ve had in a long time.”

My face flushed and my heart fluttered. Brady Higgens liked me. He wanted to see more of me, and he wanted more kissing. I agreed with all of that. The problem was he’d only gotten a taste of me. Just me. Not Bryony, and the two of us were a package deal. She’d always come first.

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