Life is all about making choices. Some are complicated. Some are simple. But for eighteen-year-old Jalen Marten, none are easy. Jalen has managed to stay invisible for his entire high school career. He has a small group of friends, and it’s enough for him. He doesn’t want or crave attention from his peers. All Jalen wants is to survive high school.
Austin Suter is the hot, talented tennis player who has the entire school bowing at his feet. Girls routinely throw themselves at him, and boys like Jalen stay the hell out of his way. Austin is destined for greatness on the world stage of professional tennis.
The kiss between them wasn’t supposed to happen. Falling in love definitely hadn’t been part of Jalen’s plan.
And when Austin turns pro, Jalen begins to realize that the choices he makes will affect Austin’s life. One wrong choice and Austin’s career could be over before it really begins. Jalen is not sure where he fits, or even if he fits at all in Austin’s life. But the more complicated things become, the less the idea of being apart appeals. Love should simplify things, not complicate them.
The locker room reeked of socks that hadn’t seen the inside of a washing machine since the beginning of the semester. This place was the second worst part of my day in high school. The first was walking through the front door.
But gym class was its own private hell. I didn’t dislike sports; I just wasn’t any good at them. The kids loved to humiliate me on the court, in the water, on the field, or wherever the teacher had us. I’d been smashed in the face with a basketball, volleyball, soccer ball, and every other ball invented by humans.
Today my class was playing tennis, which was worse, because not only was there a ball, but also a racket. It increased my chances of getting hurt by tenfold. And I really wanted to survive my final year of high school and not die from embarrassment in gym class. I’d made it through the first sport of the year, soccer, by sticking to the sidelines and pretending to participate by running away from the ball.
This morning my mom came home from work as I was leaving for school, and I begged her to write me some sort of note to excuse me from tennis. She declined and told me to get more involved at school. What good was having a surgical nurse for a mother if she wouldn’t help her only kid out of a jam? And what did participating in gym class have to do with getting involved at school? I couldn’t get involved if I was in a coma or dead.
I started to argue with her, but the dark circles under her eyes and the heavy sigh that fell from her lips made me ease off. I kissed her on the cheek and told her to get some rest.
So now my only hope of not playing tennis was a freak rainstorm, and from the way the sun was shining, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I had no choice but to change, hide among my classmates, and hope Mr. Tames, my sadistic gym teacher, didn’t pick me to play.
Most of the kids were excited to be outside and acted like monkeys just released from their cages. They jumped on one another and hollered all the way out to the courts.
I hoped my quiet demeanor would help me blend into the background. Unfortunately my stellar plan didn’t work. Mr. Tames handed me a tennis racket and paired me with a hockey player named Kasey. Our first opponents were another music nerd and a regular kid. I stayed out of Kasey’s way as he raced around the court, destroying them. We won the match, and Kasey high-fived me by smacking me on the forehead. I scowled at him, because if we had lost, I could have sat down and celebrated getting out of gym class unscathed.
Our next match was against a soccer player and Austin Suter, who had been pegged as the next Wimbledon champion. At least that’s what he told everyone.
He was a pretty boy with full lips and light brown wavy hair that brushed his shoulders. Girls routinely threw themselves at him, and boys like me stayed the hell out of his way. One smoldering look from him and I’d have to walk around school with a book in front of my crotch. Admiring him from afar was the best I could manage.
“Hey, Austin,” my partner shouted across the net. “I’m going to shove this ball down your throat.”
“You’re going to be eating yours,” Austin shot back. His partner gave him a fist bump. Kasey and Austin exchanged a few more verbal warnings. I fiddled with the strings on my racket, and pretended to listen to Kasey’s game plan. Austin’s partner dutifully held his racket while Austin pulled his hair into a ponytail.
“Gentlemen,” Mr. Tames warned. “Enough trash talk. Start the game.”
I groaned and resisted raising my hand to ask to be dismissed. They spun a racket to see who served first. Austin sneered and Kasey growled.
It was supposed to be a friendly game, but the testosterone roared, and the game quickly turned cutthroat. I managed to stay out of Kasey’s way and every ball hit in my direction. I even accidentally returned one. The shot startled Austin and he missed. Mr. Tames whooped and pumped his fist. I should have taken the moment to demand an A.
“Lucky shot, blondie,” Austin shouted at me.
Kasey flipped him off and got yelled at by Mr. Tames again. The students surrounding the court yelled for someone’s head on a platter. I was pretty sure it was me they wanted served up for lunch.
The intensity of the game increased with each returned ball and I started to fear for my life when one zinged by my ear.
“Take it easy, Austin,” Mr. Tames shouted when Austin tried to nail Kasey in the balls. “Jalen, you don’t move this well when you’re playing dodgeball. The point of this game is to actually make contact with the ball. At least attempt to use your racket.”
I rolled my eyes and readied for the next point. Austin served to Kasey, who somehow got his racket on the ball and it popped over the net. The ball seemed to hover in the air, giving me time to figure out I had a bull’s-eye painted on my forehead. Austin raised his racket and connected with the ball, which connected with my face. Who knew a tennis ball felt like a giant rock when smashed into your eye socket. My racket clattered to the ground, and I covered my face to make sure my eyeball didn’t actually fall out.
Austin must have hurdled the net, because he was suddenly kneeling next to me and breathing down my neck. I tried to crawl away from him and his stupid apologies, but he caught me and helped me to my feet. Tames barked orders to set me on the bench while he went for medical supplies. Austin put his arm around my waist and I limped to the bench. The other guys hooted and hollered at me until Austin shot a scowl at them and quieted the entire gym class.
“Is your ankle okay?” Austin asked.
“My ankle is fine,” I snarled and sat down. “Limping makes my eye feel better.”
Rafflecopter Prize: A book from Teegan’s backlist
Click here or on the image to enter the Rafflecopter
About the author
Teegan Loy began writing a long time ago. Notebooks filled with ideas were stacked around the house. One day, she sat down with renewed ambition and something fantastic happened; she completed a story. (unbelievable, but true) Now most of her time is spent writing, but she takes an occasional break to go to the movies, where she imagines her stories on the big screen. She also enjoy watching hockey (love, love hockey) filling her iPod with music, and driving her daughter around town (amended…around the country) to various activites.
Where to find the author:
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6449698.Teegan_Loy
Tour Dates & Stops