The second book in Ginger Scott’s angsty Varsity series is out this week, and I have a sneak peek for you.
I hand June my beer and roll down the sleeves of my sweatshirt to cover my chilled knuckles. I hug myself to keep the midriff of my shirt from blowing up in the cross breeze as I cut in front of the fire. The warmth feels good, and it pushes enough color into my cheeks to inject more of that confidence I’ve been missing into my spine. I catch Tory mid conversation with Lucas and Cannon, and something about the way I march up must signal to the other guys that they should leave. They split without me even having to ask.
“You wanna tell me why you’re living with your dad?” I cross my arms over my chest and stare at his smirk. Shit, his eye is pretty fucked up. The bruise is worse on his cheek. He can tell I’m staring at it, so he reaches up and touches it lightly with the tips of his fingers.
“It doesn’t hurt anymore. I almost forget it’s there sometimes.” His hands drop down to his pockets and he lowers his gaze to the ground, glancing back up at me with his eyes more than his face. “Hayden did not like that you had my sweatshirt. That’s basically all there is to that story.”
His gaze lingers on me as he chews at the tip of his tongue, his lips curved with a hint of a drunken smile.
“You drive after a few?” I jut my hip out and stare at him with judgement this time.
“Just one beer. I’m fine,” he says.
My eyes haze and I hold them on him until he has to look away.
“What? Fine, okay maybe two. And I just rolled up to McCaffey’s house to haul down the keg. No main roads. And I’m sleeping here, so just…don’t worry about me, birthday girl.” He leans forward and touches the tip of his finger to my nose then walks away. I’m left there all alone, wondering how I got here, to a place where I’m both livid that he belittled me and care that he’s upset with me. This is Tory D’Angelo. I walk away from him, not the other way around.
Determined and pissed, I follow in his path and slide up next to him at the keg, waiting while he fills a cup. I partly expect him to give the one he’s working on to me, but he doesn’t, instead turning to make space for me and holding his hand out to signal it’s my turn as he takes a long gulp. Seems that the old Abby and the old Tory are both making appearances tonight.
“Where’s your boyfriend?”
He says it with such animus. This rivalry brewing between them has to be about more than just me. Hayden has been struggling with guilt ever since his parents’ relationship blew up. He feels like his lack of action made everything worse, but I have tried to tell him it didn’t—it only postponed the inevitable.
I finish filling my cup and take a few steps back, opening space up between us so that people can get through.
“Hayden’s at work. He know you packed up and moved out?” I take a slow sip, smiling with my lips against the cup.
We stare at one another while two freshmen come up and fill their cups between us. It’s amusing to watch them blush and act out on Tory’s benefit. So hungry for attention.
“Ladies,” he says, throwing them a bone.
“H-Hi,” one of them says while the other giggles. They’re barely fifteen. No way they’re finishing a whole beer. I wonder if the daycare camp bus dropped them off here by mistake.
“Careful, ladies…he’s all talk,” I say, shrugging with one shoulder as I cash in my win.
The two girls rush away, whispering to one another. Tory and I just gave them a story to tell for the rest of the year. He’s the hot guy and I’m the bitch.
“All talk, huh?” He tips the rest of his beer back, chugging it in one smooth movement then tosses his cup to the ground. I hold my ground, even though he’s getting closer, even though people are watching us, even though I shouldn’t. I’m daring him right back, and a little part of me wants to. It’s the beer thinking.
Tory runs his finger up my cheek then tucks my hair behind my ear. He leans in and dips down, pausing at my ear as if he’s about to share a dirty secret. My body tenses and shivers run up and down my skin. I straighten my posture and shift my feet slightly, hoping he doesn’t notice the nervous movements. With his lips close enough to my skin that he could taste me if he wanted to, I listen to only his breath. It’s warm.
“You look absolutely beautiful.”
His mouth hovers there, dangerously close to me for a full second that feels like several more. He backs away, letting his eyes seer into mine as he straightens up tall and begins to walk backward, leaving me where I stand—frozen and oddly heartbroken.
I have zero comebacks for that. Worse, I can’t rectify how badly it turns out I wanted—no, needed—to hear it. Mr. All Talk just said the perfect words, and a tear is forming in the corner of my eye. I hate crying, but I’ve suddenly realized how absolutely miserable I have become. My life is a mess, and I’m trying to make it better by being some guy’s girlfriend because as messy as I am, he’s worse. This is co-dependency at its absolute worst.
“You alright?” June slides her arm through mine and I quickly brush the back of my hand over my eyes and nose.
“Yeah,” I say, smiling at her—performing. “Just cold. Let’s get some of that fire, yeah?”
She grins then escorts me to a flat log parked near the open pit, a perfect spot for me to curl up my legs and think. So far, this isn’t the girls night I pictured, but maybe it’s the girl’s night I need.