I Bet You (Page 40)
It’s true. If I’m with a girl, it’s at my place and on my terms. But she’s different.
“Well?” he presses. “Who’s the girl?”
“Ah…” My eyes go to the bet board on the wall. The bet isn’t there, but it may as well be. Every guy on the team knows about it.
I scratch my jaw, not sure what to say.
I decide to play it off.
“I helped Penelope with her car. Flat tire. It was late…” My words linger off.
I turn back to my locker, hoping like hell he doesn’t ask more questions.
“Her tire? Again?”
Again? I toss a look at him over my shoulder. “Yeah. Why?”
He darts his gaze away but doesn’t say anything.
I frown. “What is it?”
He scratches his head. “Nothing. Just…she had a flat last week outside of Sugar’s.”
A spark of jealousy flashes through me at realizing he knew something about her that I didn’t. “I got her a new tire, so it won’t be flat again.”
I study his closed-off face—which is weird. Blaze is an open book. In fact, usually he never shuts up.
I face him, giving him my full attention. Something is off. “So when was this? Did you help her?”
He fidgets, moving from one foot to the other. “A while back. I was just driving by after hanging out at Cadillac’s and her car was in the parking lot and…” He stops.
“It was late so I pulled over. Archer was with her.” He shrugs. “Not a big deal.”
My spine straightens. He’s buried the important part in the middle of that. “Archer? What was he doing there? Was he changing her tire?”
He chews on his lip. “He was drunk…” His voice trails off and my hands clench.
“Spit it out, Blaze. What happened?” I’ve taken a step toward him and he holds up his hands. “I know exactly how Archer is when he’s drunk. He’s belligerent as s**t. Did he hurt her? Threaten her?”
“Hang on, dude. She was fine. Archer was just messing around and left as soon as I showed up.”
I picture Penelope alone with Archer in a parking lot at night and anger simmers. My jaw tightens. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Look at you—you’re jonesing to rip his head off right now.” He shakes his head.
I rub my jaw, scrubbing at my unshaven face. I look at the bet trophy, and my teeth snap together. I’m so sick of this s**t.
He shrugs. “Just let it go, man. We have a big game this week to focus on. It’s homecoming. Put everything else aside. Nothing else matters.”
A few minutes later I’m on the field with the rest of the team as we run through some scrimmages. The offense gets in the huddle, and I call a play, a new one we’ve only used a couple of times. We clap and line up, getting into formation.
Archer reads the line and calls his defensive play. There’s a bit of indecision in his voice as he yells out a change, and they move around, adjusting to what they think we’re going to do.
The ball is snapped and I do a fake pump then hand it off to Blaze, who runs past the defense and straight in for a fifty-yard touchdown.
We celebrate and I’m pumped.
Coach yells out his approval and tells us to run another one.
We get in a huddle, and I call the play—the same one, but we line up differently. My eyes are on Archer, watching as he reads us and calls his formation then changes his mind and runs back and forth along the line of scrimmage, telling his guys what to do.
“Get your s**t together, Archer,” I call out.
He sends me a glare. “Just snap the g*****n ball.”
My f*****g pleasure.
The ball is snapped and I catch it, smooth and easy. I fake a throw and although the play calls for me to pass it off, I see an opening in the defense and take off running. Typically, I don’t run a lot even though I’m fast. If a defensive guy tackles me or lands on me wrong, it can hurt like hell—or worse.
But I didn’t get to be number one in the country for nothing. I take my chances when I see them—and I want to rub it in Archer’s face.
My offense catches on and tackles the line that comes for me.
With a quick sidestep, I dodge the slower guys and dart to the right. The field is wide open and adrenaline pumps as my feet smack against the green turf. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a shadow behind me, looming fast. Archer. He’s one of the fastest guys on defense, plus he never took his eyes off me. Makes sense he’d be tailing me.
I see the goal line. Must get there.
I’ve gone at least thirty yards, enough for a first down, and I realize I’m not going to make the touchdown, so I aim for the sideline to get out of bounds.
Just as my feet cross the white line and the play is done, my shoulders are shoved and a foot is kicked in my lower back. I can’t stop the momentum as I plummet down on the turf. My head bangs inside my helmet as it hits the ground. F**k. I’m jarred for a full five seconds. Blinking, I turn over and stare up at the sky.
Archer’s face blots out the sun. “I beat your a*s, quarterback.”
I swallow, mentally taking inventory of my body. I’m okay, although my head is rattled. I didn’t lose consciousness, so odds are it’s not a concussion.
I whip my helmet off and toss it over to the side, gasping in air. I hear running and, in my periphery, see Blaze up in Archer’s face.
A couple of the other defensive players jog over, and they join the shouting match. The offensive guys are next, and pretty soon it’s a shoving match. I push myself to standing, swaying a bit. Coach blows his whistle for us to settle down. I shake myself off, blinking as I focus on Archer, who’s danced off toward the other sideline.
Anger ignites as rage sweeps every cell in my body. I march toward him.
Blaze is next to me, gesticulating wildly as he tries to talk me down. Dillon is with him, repeating everything Blaze says. “Dude, don’t freak out. He’s just showing off. You shouldn’t be running anyway…”
I ignore them. My fists curl as my equilibrium returns. I’m so g*****n sick of him. I was fine and dealing with his s**t until Blaze said he was flirting with Penelope.
He’s never getting near her again.
Stalking, I reach the sideline and grab Archer’s shoulder, spinning him around. “Take your helmet off,” I bite out.
He smirks. “You gonna cry about the late hit? Maybe if you could win a bet then your game might improve.” He laughs and looks around at the other players. “Oh wait a minute—word is your girl is dating some other guy. She left you at Cadillac’s. Saw it with my own eyes.” He pouts. “Does that make poor little Ryker sad?”
Rage boils. “Take. It. Off.”
He shrugs and looks around the field nervously, his gaze landing where Coach Alvarez is, but I already know Coach is watching. The man knows when someone has taken down his quarterback. My guess is he’s letting us vent for a few. He knows how tense we’ve been.
Archer twitches, his head fidgeting as he looks back at me. “Get over yourself,” he hisses. “It’s just a game. Penelope Graham is just a game.”
“That he can’t win,” one of the defensive players says under his breath.
Enough. I put my hands on Archer’s helmet and tug it off his head.