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Everyone thinks Carter is a jerk, even his teammates on the football team. The guy runs the locker room like they’re in the military, scowls at everyone on and off the field, and never, ever socializes with anyone at FU High. If Mallory had known any of this, maybe she wouldn’t have hid in his car that night after the Championship game but she was on the run and it was the first car she came across that was unlocked. But she didn’t know and now Carter won’t let her leave.
He says she’s a hassle but every time trouble comes around, Carter’s the first one to defend her. For a guy who says he hates people, he sure is nice to Mallory. She doesn’t know what to make of it, or him. He’s a wildcard, but, then again, so is Mallory. Perhaps the two of them are meant to be together. Carter seems to think so.
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“I can’t believe football season is over,” Fast comments, his arm slung over his girlfriend, whose name I can’t bother to remember. The two are attached at the hip, nearly literally. The only time I see Fast by himself is in the locker room and even that happens only because he thinks we are all hot after her. I couldn’t be less interested. If it’s not about football or my car or the one other hobby I have that no one deserves to know about, then it’s not important.
“You’re all coming to my place, right?” shouts Ben. “Except you, Carter. I’m not expecting you.”
He says it with this hope attached to the end as if I’m suddenly going to change and climb into the car with one of these guys. The confetti from the post-championship celebration crunches under my feet as I stride silently toward my car. I used to host the parties but the shit got old quick. I did it to keep an eye on the guys but the season is over. They can do what they want. I don’t give a shit anymore.
“Carter, man, come on. It’s our last game together. We should at least have a beer.”
“You guys have a great time. Feel free to send me the bill for the booze.”
A huge cry of cheers fills the parking lot.
“Least you could do, man,” bellows Josh.
I lift my middle finger up and keep walking. The car unlocks itself as I approach. Girls? Who needs them when you have a 325 horsepower engine under your grip? I toss my bag in the virtually non-existent backseat and am about ready to climb into the driver’s seat when I hear a muffled yelp.
“What in the fuck?” I flick on the flashlight feature on my phone and wave it in the back. A pair of frightened eyes appears for a half second before a hand comes up to shield the light. “Who the fuck are you?”
No one, and I mean not even my grandmother, who is probably the only female of worth on this whole godforsaken planet, sits in my car. I once had a supermodel with some thirty million followers crawl into the passenger seat thinking—well, who the fuck knows what she was thinking? It was a dumb move because I had her bodyguards haul her ass out of it immediately by threatening to expose to the press that she still had white powder stuck to her nose. The paps got a picture of her being dragged away by her own people and it’s the top picture when you search her name. Serves her right for touching my baby, which is why I’m nearly struck dumb that another asshole had the audacity to break into my ride and rub their sweaty, smelly body all over my custom leather interior. I reach down and flip the front car seat forward. “Out. Get the fuck out of my car before I call the cops.”
“Wait. I can explain—” she begins, struggling into a sitting position, still covering her face. I make out a ratty T-shirt falling halfway off her shoulder and wonder if she’s trying to seduce me. Not gonna work.
“Do I look like I give a rat’s ass about your explanation? I don’t care if you’re running from an abusive boyfriend or from the police. I’m not the white knight type. I’m the type that gives your sorry ass a boot even when you’re already down, so get out of my car.”
The abrupt rejection surprises me into silence for a second. “Yeah, that’s not acceptable. Get out.”
I drum my fingers on the hood of my car. I’m not a fan of laying hands on a woman. My dad’s an asshole but even he would find that act despicable. My grandmother would rise from her sickbed and beat me over the head with her bedpan and that was after pouring her warm piss down my back—so I can’t exactly reach in and drag this girl out. Worse, I think she fucking knows that.
“I’ll give you a hundred bucks to get out right now.”
“You heard me. Ten thousand dollars in a black satchel. Small bills, non-sequential as well.”
“You think I carry around ten grand in small, non-sequential bills?” I gape at her.
She shrugs, still keeping her hands up to block the light—or maybe to block my view of her. “Not my problem if you don’t. I’m fine in the backseat of your car. You’re the one who wants me to get out and are offering to pay me. I’m telling you the price. Isn’t that the way the world works?”
That last part comes out bitter. Real bitter.
“Hey, Carter, something wrong with your car?” I spin around to find Fast behind me. His girlfriend is craning her neck, trying to spy on the situation. I slam the car door shut.