“And…he texted me to see if I was coming to the game.”



“Since when do you care what a guy thinks?”

Down on the field, they’re doing some kind of warm-up stretches, and I move the binoculars from player to player, trying to discern which one is Jackson but unable to figure it out. “Did you google him yet? What’s his number?”

My eyes are glued to the binocs.

“Yeah, yeah, hold your horses,” Natasha has her phone out, fingers tapping away. “He’s a wide receiver, and his number is eighty-two.”

Eighty-two, eighty-two, where are you?

Ah. There he is.

Even at this distance, Jackson is larger than life. Tight pants, wide shoulder pads, his helmet is off and he’s running a gloved hand through sweat-soaked hair. It sticks up in a million directions, spikey and wild.

Black chalk or eye black or putty or whatever the heck that gunk is lines his upper cheekbones. Makes him look lethal and badass.

Beth is cracking open the program they handed each of us on the way in, thumbing through it, stopping toward the back. “Jackson Jennings Junior—that’s a mouthful,” she jokes. “Junior starter, a recruit from Texas Prep in Jasper, Texas. All-country, all-conference, all-state, all-American.”

“Dang, Triple J, them’s some impressive accolades,” Savannah murmurs.

Beth continues. “Stats: weight, two hundred and seventy-five pounds of lean man meat. Height, six three. Wingspan…” Her voice trails off as Natasha interrupts.

“It does not say wingspan—let me see that.” She tries to take the pamphlet from Beth, who laughs.

“No, it doesn’t say that.”

“Major, business economics. Economics? Huh. Who would have thought.”

“That does seem…smart.”

“He’s probably not that dumb, Charlie—give him some credit. He did get a full ride, and they don’t give those to idiots.”

Yes, they probably do. We just don’t know anyone with a full ride, so none of us can accurately say.

“What else does it say?”

“That’s about it. Just his hometown—where is Jasper, Texas, by the way?” Natasha inclines her head, and I know she’s googling away. “It’s on the border near the Louisiana state line.”

Which would explain the thick accent and horrible metaphors.

“Here’s more on him for anyone who cares,” Natasha goes on. “He’s the only child of Jackson Jennings and Suzette Sundernan—yeesh, try saying that three times in a row.”

“You can stop now.” I lower the binoculars I’ve been holding steady against my face and hold my hand out to push down the phone Natasha is holding up. A Google search is displayed on the screen, information about Jackson pulled up. “Seriously. Stop.”

“Don’t be a party pooper.”

“He helped me once. Stop getting your hopes up.” Then he invited me to a party, then he walked me home, then he invited me to a football game…

“And asked you to a football game.”

I roll my eyes. “He won’t even know I’m here. I could lie when he asks if I was here and he’d never know.”

Beth tsks. “His heart will know.”

Okay, drama queen. She’s such a romantic.

“Guys, he doesn’t like me. He likes that I give him a hard time. I bust his chops, that’s all, and he likes the chase—he doesn’t actually want to date me.”

“How do you know?”

“He literally said the words, ‘I don’t date.’ That’s how I know.”

“He did? When?”

“Okay…maybe he didn’t say those exact words, but that’s what he implied, so…”

“What guys say and what they mean are two totally different things and you know it.”

“No—that’s girls.”

“No, that’s guys.”

Why are we arguing about this?

I sigh, leaning over and looking down the row so they can all hear me over the dull roar of the stadium noise. “Haven’t you ever heard the saying, When a guy tells you what he wants, you should listen? They don’t see things in gray like we do—they see them in black and white. I mean, not a lot of mystery there with shades in between, trust me. I read the book.”

“You’re turning into a giant nerd with all that reading,” Natasha sasses.

I stare pointedly at her. “This from the girl who didn’t even bother buying textbooks last semester.”

She flips her long black hair. “I’m trying to save money.”

“You are here to read books and study. That is literally what college is.”

She points to her ears and shakes her head. “What? I can’t hear you, sorry! The game is about to begin!”

The little…

As if on cue, the marching band begins playing the school fight song, and the field is cleared for the national anthem. Everyone roars, players are announced, coins are tossed, the teams take position.

It’s all very loud and exciting with tons of pomp and circumstance, and I wonder why I don’t come to games more often.

I raise the binoculars and locate number eighty-two. Find him on the sideline, pacing, hands on his hips. A completely different aspect of him than I’m used to seeing.

This Jackson Jennings is intense. Huge. Serious. Aggressive and ready to take the field.

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