I’m already on my second cup of coffee and still no sign of Troy Alexander, the star of the Rushmore Rebels football team, who I have to interview for the school newspaper. I almost strangled Blake when he gave me the last-minute assignment. It was only his promise to be my bitch in next week’s LARP event that convinced me to step in for Ludwig, the dude who usually covers the sports section of the paper.
Football and jocks are not in my orbit, so I spent the last twenty minutes learning as much as I could about the Rushmore Rebels’ quarterback. People seem to regard him like a god, and honestly, no one deserves to be treated as such. He has an okay average, winning more games than losing them. This year is different though. He’s a senior, and most of the time, that’s when the players really try to give their all. But Troy seems to have lost his steam, not really going the extra mile when he should. That’s according to the notes I got from Ludwig, of course. I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference if I watched a game, which I haven’t.
Since the jerkface is late, I snoop his social media profiles. I can’t gather much from Facebook unless I’m friends with him, and there’s no chance I’ll send a request, not when his Instagram feed has plenty of photos that paint a picture of who Troy Alexander is. It’s clear the guy has acquired a taste for high-adrenaline sports, from skydiving to mountain climbing. Some are quite intense and dangerous, such as extreme snowboarding. I wonder what his coach has to say about his quarterback’s new hobby.
I swallow the last drops of my coffee, already debating if I should go for a third cup, but when I can’t stop bouncing my legs up and down, I have my answer. I’m already jittery as hell; inhaling more caffeine is definitely a bad idea.
The coffee shop’s doorbell chimes, earning my attention. But it’s not Troy coming in, only a couple of sorority girls wearing their matching pink hoodies with their house’s emblem embroidered on them.
Clenching my teeth, I check the time. Fuck. He’s forty minutes late. It’s safe to assume he stood me up. I lost track of time, or I wouldn’t have waited so long. Great.
I’m busy texting Blake, telling him he owes me big time, when someone drops onto the chair opposite mine. It’s Troy, looking hotter than Hades in casual jeans and a T-shirt. Golden hair, golden skin, and a face that belongs on the cover of a magazine. He’s sex on a stick, something I wasn’t prepared for. His Instagram pictures don’t really do him justice.
“Hi, you must be Ludwig’s replacement. Have you been waiting long?” He smiles as if he didn’t already know the answer to that.
I pick my jaw up from the floor, hoping he didn’t catch me drooling, and frown. “How did you know who I was?”
“You look like the type who works for the paper.” He shrugs, then eyes the two girls who entered the coffee shop earlier, giving them a wolfish grin. They were already ogling him, but Troy’s attention sends them into a fit of giggles.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I snap.
Troy faces me again, sporting an innocent expression. “Are you that unaware of the vibe you give off?”
I lean back, crossing my arms over my chest. “Enlighten me.”
His lips curl into a smirk while his eyes dance with glee. “Your T-shirt with the paper’s logo. That’s how I knew.”
Heat rushes to my cheeks. I had completely forgotten I was wearing it.
“But you also have the nerd look about you,” he continues, renewing my irritation with him.
“Nerd look, huh? Could it be my glasses?” I push the frames back up my nose using my middle finger.
Troy quirks an eyebrow. “Probably. Can we please make this a quickie? I have places to be.”
I scoff. “You have some nerve. You’re the one who was forty minutes late!”
He flinches as if my outburst surprised him. “Gee, I’m sorry, okay? I had to deal with a situation. I’m here now, so fire away.”
Flaring my nostrils, I grab my phone. “Is it okay if I record this?”
“Sure. Go ahead.”
“So, Troy, when did you decide not to give a fuck about football anymore?”
He doesn’t answer for a couple of beats, narrowing his eyes. “Excuse me?”
“I mean, your performance in the last game was half-assed at best, and you only won because the other team was awful.”
A humorless laugh escapes his lips. “So, this is how it’s going to be, huh? I’m late a few minutes, and you’re going to pull the heinous bitch card.”
I try not to wince at his name-calling, but if I’m going to succeed in this profession, I can’t let assholes get under my skin. “Oh, sweetie. It’s cute that you think I’m asking tough questions because I’m mad at you. But we both know the truth. You messed up royally in the previous game. What was your excuse? Did you also have to deal with a situation then?”
Troy’s face turns ashen, and his jaw clenches tight as he shoots daggers from his eyes. I notice his balled fists on the table and how his breathing is shallow now. Boy, I got to him good. I feel kind of guilty. You never know what issues people are dealing with.
He stands up suddenly, almost toppling his chair over. “We’re done.”
Shit. Maybe I went too far.
Fuck. I knew today was going to be hell. I can always count on everything going wrong whenever I have to meet my mother. Sometimes I suspect she’s a witch because she sure as shit can hex my life. We had our monthly lunch at an upscale private club, during which she spent the hour downing martinis and picking on my sister, Jane, and me. Well, she mostly enjoys criticizing Jane. It’s her feeble attempt to act motherly.
I can handle Mommy Dearest’s harsh words, but poor Jane takes everything to heart. The more Mom talks, the more my sister shrinks into herself. It pisses me off. I was late for my interview with that shrew from the paper because I’d had to undo all the damage Mom had done to Jane.
I can’t believe I let that Lois Lane wannabe get under my skin. To be fair, I had already been on edge. I should have just rescheduled the damn meeting. What I shouldn’t have done is storm out of the coffee shop like a coward. No wonder my blood is still boiling.
Who does she think she is to judge me like that? I doubt she knows anything about football or even attended the last game. She’d have been with Ludwig, and I’d have remembered a face like hers. Too fucking pretty and doesn’t even know it. Damn it. She had to go and be a bitch.
Coach Clarkson already gave me a tongue-lashing for sucking last Saturday. I had fucked up. My head wasn’t in the game, but explaining why wasn’t an option. Sure, if the coach knew the truth, he wouldn’t have given me such a hard time. Only I’d rather people believe I slacked off for no good reason than them know it was the anniversary of Robbie’s death. No one knows, not even my closest friends. What would they think if they knew I’d let my brother die?
I can’t go back to the mausoleum I call home in this state. I don’t want to be alone right now, and I have too much pent-up aggression that needs to go somewhere, so I shoot a quick text to Andreas, telling him I’m headed to the gym. He’s always game for a workout. The guy has an infinite supply of energy. He’s like the Energizer Bunny, a comparison that suits him well in more ways than one. The fucker is a damn Casanova and has probably banged his way to New Zealand and back.
When I park in front of the upscale warehouse-style gym, my anger has decreased by half. I spot Andreas’s Bronco two spots to my left. No surprise he’s already here. He, unlike me, lives right on campus in a shared apartment with Danny Hudson, a freshman who will probably take my place as the new QB next year.
I grab my duffel bag from the trunk and head inside the building. It’s the middle of the afternoon, and the place is pretty packed. It annoys me to work out in a full house, but beggars can’t be choosers.
I quickly change and then head to the gym’s main room. Andreas is spotting Danny at the bench press when I find them.
“Dude, who stole your cookie?” he asks.
I roll my eyes. Everything out of the guy’s mouth is related to food or girls. “It’s one of those days. I had lunch with my mother and Jane earlier. You know how those events usually go.”
“Like eating sawdust?” Danny chimes in.
“How is Jane doing? I haven’t seen her in months,” Andreas asks casually, not even glancing in my direction.
He knows he’s not allowed to get near my sister or entertain any ideas about her. She’s still in high school, for starters. Also, she doesn’t need to get her heart broken by the most notorious manwhore on campus.
“Jane is fine,” I reply through clenched teeth.
“Whoa. You don’t need to bite my head off. I was just asking.”
“You look pissed,” Danny pipes up. “Are you still sour about your talk with the coach?”
“Nah. I’m over that,” I lie. I hate that I screwed up, but wallowing in it won’t help either. “He had the right to chew my ass. My current mood is in part to blame on a fucking nosy reporter from the school paper.”
“Wait. I thought Ludwig was a buddy of yours.” Andreas arches his eyebrows.
“He couldn’t make it, and his replacement was a fucking bitch. She dared to ask when I stopped giving a fuck about football.”
“Wow. That’s savage.” Danny chuckles. “Your charming skills didn’t work on her?”
“I wasn’t myself.”
“Please tell me you put the bitch back in her place,” Andreas retorts angrily.
I take Danny’s spot on the bench. “That’s what I should have done. Instead, I left.”
Andreas whistles. “Troy Alexander avoiding a confrontation. That’s new. Are you sure you didn’t sleep with her and forget to call the next day?”
“Unlike yours, my bedroom doesn’t have a revolving door. I remember my hookups.”
He shrugs. “If you say so.”
“Can we drop the subject? I didn’t come here to gossip like a fucking sorority girl.”
A wicked grin appears on Andreas’s face. “Speaking of sorority girls….”
He proceeds to tell us about his latest sexual escapade, not sparing us any details, but I tune him out. No matter how much I want to forget what happened in the coffee shop, I can’t get the Lois Lane wannabe out of my head.