I Bet You (Page 48)
He follows my eyes. “Not sure you’ve ever been to see me here. I’ve got quite the collection.” A sigh slips out of his mouth. “It was tough not being there for all your adventures.”
But he’ll be there for Cyan’s.
I tamp that feeling down, and really, it doesn’t have the bite it usually does.
“I’m proud of you, you know.” He tilts his head toward my graduation picture. “I was never as smart as you.” He chuckles. “You definitely got that from your mom. Remember how she got you doing the word of the day when you were little?”
He leans on his desk, his eyes on my face, and I know he’s trying to suss out why I’m here, what I could possibly want—but even I’m not sure of that.
There’s a cross-stitched piece of art framed on his wall, and I stare at it, feeling my eyes water. Cora made it, I’m sure. She’s always working on things like that. It’s big, about eight by ten, and has hearts on it with a stick family of five—and I guess it’s all of us. In the middle is a caption. Live love, breathe love, give love.
I chew on my lip and hug my backpack.
A tear has made its way down my face, and I swipe at it. I take a breath, the words lingering at the periphery of my mind, the ones it takes having your heart broken to really understand.
“I miss Mom…so much…” I stop and take the Kleenex he gives me.
“I know, love.”
I suck in a breath. “It hurts that you found someone so fast and then started a whole new family…”
“I understand.” His voice is soft. “I didn’t plan on it. I came back for you, and in the meantime, I met Cora. Love works like that sometimes, comes right out of the blue and you see that you didn’t even realize everything you’ve been missing.”
I nod and think of Ryker.
“She’s my second chance, I suppose. I love her more than anything—just like I love you. Unconditionally.”
I let out a shaky breath. “You’re really trying. You got me a car, that interview with the book agent…” My voice drifts off.
“I’m sorry it didn’t work out.”
I wave him off. “No, it didn’t, but it’s good for me. I may get shot down a hundred times before I figure it out.”
He agrees. “Whatever you do with your life, you’re going to be amazing, Penelope. Vivien raised a kind, beautiful person.” He pauses. “I want to be a good dad to you. I want to be better than I was when you were little.”
I nod, my eyes watering again. “And I do want to be part of your family. I want it more than anything.” I whisper the last bit, and he makes a noise in his throat as if he’s overcome. He comes back around the desk to wrap me up in a hug, and I hang on to him—maybe for the first time ever.
And everything with Ryker and the bet…I hug my dad and let it all go.
Archer and I sit side by side in Coach Alvarez’s office. Just the sight of him makes me want to jump up out of this chair and pounce on him again, like I did last night when I showed up at his door.
I smirk. I got some good hits in before the RAs and house manager managed to pull me off. I crack the knuckles on my right hand. I guess I shouldn’t have hit him with my throwing arm, but I wasn’t thinking straight. Not after Blaze showed up at Maverick’s and told me everything that happened at the library.
The first thing I did was try to find Penelope. She was my first concern. Her. All her. I just wanted everything to be okay between us.
Coach lets out a heavy sigh and considers both of us.
He’s angry, I’m fuming, and Archer’s just pouting.
“Well, boys. That’s quite a story you’ve both told.” He leans in over his desk, arms folded. “Let me be sure I have it right.” He levels his hard gaze at Archer. “Take your hoodie off, son. That’s just disrespectful.”
Archer’s jaw grinds but he whips it off. He shoots a look at me. “With all due respect, sir, all you heard was Ryker’s story when he came tattling to you this morning. I didn’t make him take the bet or blab about his sexual exploits to the entire football team.”
Coach jerks to his feet and points a finger at Archer. “Don’t you give me any f*****g lip, boy. You and I and everyone on this coaching staff know you’ve been wrangling to win that trophy any way you could. It doesn’t take a genius to see your games. You wanted to be captain and you got it. You wanted to antagonize Ryker and you got it. And now you’re messing with the daughter of one of my best friends. It’s time to shut the f**k up and listen.”
Archer pales as his mouth opens then shuts.
I nod. “Guess you didn’t know that little tidbit, did you?”
“Shut up, Ryker,” Coach snaps, but I don’t even care. I’ve got the taste of victory in my mouth, have ever since I woke up this morning and knew I had to do something before this spun out of control and ruined Penelope’s trust in me forever. I mean, I don’t think she’ll ever give me a shot again, but at least I can try to fix this mess for her.
I went to Coach’s house at six in the morning when he was barely out of bed and hadn’t even had a cup of coffee. I was haggard, exhausted from getting almost no sleep, and desperate. In the past three years, he’s been more of a father figure than my own dad, and maybe it was that thought that spurred me to sit down at his kitchen table and let it all out. Archer and his games, the flat tire, the bets—how I feel about Penelope.
Little did I know he was also Penelope’s dad’s coach years ago. Apparently, they still play golf together.
He listened, cursing a blue streak with each revelation.
And now here we sit.
Waiting for judgment.
He hitches up his pants and glares at both of us. “It ends today. We’re going to put this behind us and never speak of it again. If there is even a breath of it anywhere on social media or as gossip, you will be suspended from the team,” he growls. “This schoolyard nonsense is for babies. And not a f*****g word will you speak to each other unless it’s you look nice today or may I buy you a sandwich kind of s**t. Do you get it?”
I nod. It’s all I want. A real team. “Yes sir.”
He looks at Archer, whose lips are tight.
“Speak!” Coach says, making him flinch.
Archer swallows. “Yes sir. I understand. Does this mean I can still be captain?”
Coach glares at him. “Neither of you are captains. Not until you prove me wrong by your conduct. Feel me?”
“Good.” He comes around the desk. “Now, let’s go talk to the team.” Coach stalks over to me. “I’m giving you point on this, Ryker. Say what you want to your teammates and get it all out.”
I give him a brief nod, and we walk out. I know exactly what I’m going to do.
“You make a better Madonna than Madonna,” Charisma tells me as I plop down in the student section of the stands. I preen and strike a pose for her, my big cross earring dangling against my neck.
“Do a turn so I can see,” Margo calls out a few seats over.
I have a little room, so I do a pirouette in my black tutu and hot pink lace crop top, a consignment store find. The edges of the shirt are scalloped, and it comes to just below my titlets. A long black beaded necklace with a heavy cross pendant dangles to my navel, and a studded chain is wrapped around my waist and hangs down. On my feet are black booties with lacy socks.