Until friday night, p.20
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       Until Friday Night, p.20

         Part #1 of The Field Party series by Abbi Glines
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  I didn’t mind getting a late slip in exchange for putting off going to class. But I knew Coach would have me running suicides after practice if he got word I was late. That was protocol for a player being late to school.

  “I need to grab my notebook,” I told Gunner.

  He shoved a notebook at me. “Use this one and run,” he said before breaking into a run himself.

  I followed behind him. When practice was over, I wanted to go home and be alone. Last night I hadn’t been given room to think. They had all meant well, but being by myself was what I wanted right now.

  Gunner opened the door to our first-period class and stepped inside. Mrs. Sentle glanced up at us and frowned, then motioned for us to take a seat. “Glad you could join us, boys” was all she said.

  I sat down beside Gunner, who found an empty desk first. He glanced at me and smirked. “Told ya.”

  “Hey, West,” a blonde I didn’t know said as she turned to smile at me.

  Gunner chuckled beside me. “The news you’re a free agent again is out.”

  I ignored them both. If I was to prove to Maggie that I loved her, then girls like this one weren’t going to help. I shot Gunner an annoyed glare.

  He just laughed harder. Asshole.

  I Don’t Like Attention



  This was something I had to face sooner or later. I couldn’t avoid West. That wasn’t possible or fair. Not going to my locker for the first three periods had been tough. It was time I faced reality. Although, he wouldn’t actually be there this time because of his schedule, so I wasn’t really facing anything yet.

  Moving through the crowd, I could feel people watching me. It had been that way all morning. Several girls had called me a bitch and a whore. The general consensus was that I was a horrible person for breaking up with West just after he lost his father. Part of me agreed with them.

  When I finally reached my locker, I opened it quickly only to have it slammed closed by a hand with long red fingernails. The metal door just barely missed my hand as I jerked it back. “You are low-life scum,” a female voice hissed in my ear. I knew that voice. I had expected her to confront me at some point today. I just hadn’t expected her to do it like this.

  I turned to face Raleigh. She was glaring at me with something close to triumph.

  “You’re a coldhearted bitch,” she said loud enough for everyone around us to hear. People got quiet, and I knew we had an audience. That was just going to make her worse.

  I didn’t respond to her. She was angry because she cared about West. She wanted to be furious with me and to have a right to be. This was her chance.

  “Nothing to say? What? You’re gonna be silent again?” she asked, then shoved me in the chest until I fell back against the locker behind me.

  She pointed her finger in my face, and I wondered if she planned on clawing me with it next. “You weren’t good enough for him. You’re a freak. Just. A. Freak.”

  Right before her pointy nail touched my face, she was jerked back.

  “Why don’t you go take your crazy bitch demonstration somewhere else?” Nash said, moving her away from me and putting himself between us. “I think Maggie has seen enough to know that you are indeed fucked-up.”

  “You’re taking up for her? You’re his friend!” Raleigh yelled.

  “I’m one of his best friends. And even if Maggie wasn’t one of my friends too, I’d be doing this for him. Because West would lose his shit if he’d seen this. Attacking her ain’t getting him back, Ray.”

  “She used him!” Raleigh’s voice carried down the hallway now that everyone had gone silent to watch.

  “No, Raleigh. She saved him. When no one else could. Now take yourself far away from her before this bat-crazy episode you just had gets back to him. Because he’ll come for Maggie first to check on her. Then he’s coming for you.”

  “You’re wrong. He’ll need me,” she said, sounding convinced.

  I hated that the idea of West with her or any girl made my stomach twist in knots. I had been the one to end what we had. He would move on. And when he did, I would have to deal with it.

  Nash shook his head, then turned back around to face me. The concern in his eyes almost made me cry. I hated drawing attention to myself, but today it seemed like just breathing brought attention I didn’t want.

  “You good? Bitch is loony as hell,” Nash said with a roll of his eyes.

  I managed a nod. I wasn’t good. But that wasn’t Raleigh’s fault.

  “You look pale,” he said, frowning.

  “I don’t like attention,” I whispered, afraid people were still listening to us.

  He sighed. “Well, babe, you are going to have to deal with it for a while. I’ve heard what they’re all saying. That’s why I came to find you. See if you were okay.”

  “Thanks,” I said through the lump in my throat.

  “Get your things. I’m walking you to your next class. I’ll have Brady know you need an escort after this one. Between us, we should be able to keep you covered for a while. At least until they find something else to focus on.”

  I wanted to tell him that I didn’t need that. That I could take care of myself. But I couldn’t. Because if he hadn’t shown up, Raleigh would still be in my face, yelling at me while everyone watched.

  “Okay,” I replied, and turned back to my locker.

  “He’s going to be furious when he finds out about this. When he comes to find you, know his anger isn’t at you. It’s because he thinks he’s caused this to happen to you. He wants to protect you. He’s not going to take this well.”

  A tear escaped, and I reached up and wiped it away quickly. If only his need to protect me was something more. Something deeper. Not simply his need to have me beside him so he could cope with things. I wanted to be more to him than someone to lean on.

  “Ready,” I said as I tucked my books close and fell into step beside Nash.

  He didn’t ask me questions or mention West. We walked in silence to my next class. Once we were there, I thanked him and went inside. Eyes locked on me, so I dropped my gaze to the books in my arms and found a desk in the back. If I were going to make it through class, I needed to be where as few people as possible could look at me.

  I Want to Belong to You



  Nash walked into class just as the late bell rang. His eyes scanned the room until they found me. His frown deepened as he made his way back to where I was sitting. There wasn’t an empty seat beside me, but he stopped by a guy with curly hair and glasses and convinced him to move over before taking his seat.

  I glanced at him, and he turned his attention to me. “There was a . . . problem at the lockers . . . but I handled it, and she’s fine,” Nash whispered.

  My chest tightened, and I clenched my fists. “Explain,” I said, not giving a shit if anyone heard me. I was ready to bolt and go find Maggie. The fact that I was supposed to be giving her room was the only thing keeping me in my seat.

  “Raleigh cornered her at her locker.”

  I didn’t need to hear any more. I stood up and started walking for the door.

  “Where do you think you’re going, Mr. Ashby?” the teacher asked.

  “I’m sick,” I replied before opening the door and stalking out. I should have found out more from Nash. Like if Raleigh had touched her. But my instinct to go find Maggie and check on her was stronger.

  I started toward Maggie’s class when the door reopened behind me.

  “West, wait,” Nash called out.

  “Going to find Maggie,” I replied, not stopping.

  “She’s fine. I took care of it,” was his response.

  “Did Raleigh touch her?” I asked, my voice rising with the thought of anyone hurting Maggie.

  Nash didn’t respond, and I knew I had my answer.

  “She was taking up for you in her crazy-ass way. The females in this school have come to the c
onclusion Maggie is the enemy, since she broke up with you. Surely, you’ve heard the talk today. It was bound to happen. Someone was going to confront her.”

  That made me stop. “What?” I asked him incredulously.

  “What do you mean ‘what?’?” He looked confused. “What are they saying?”

  “The girls?”

  I nodded.

  “Shit about Maggie. She’s not responding to it; she’s keeping her head down. I walked her to class and texted Brady to get her after and walk her to lunch. The buzz will die down soon enough.”

  “Wait.” I stopped him as my stomach twisted and anger pulsed through my veins. “Are you saying that people have been talking shit to Maggie all day about this? Because of me?” Nash nodded.

  “Motherfucker!” I roared, and broke into a run toward Maggie’s class.

  “I thought you’d have heard them!” Nash called out.

  If I had heard them, I would have shut them down. What did he think I was doing? Letting them talk about Maggie? Seriously? Did my own friends not even realize I was in love with her?

  I stopped at the door to the classroom she was in and took a deep breath. My emotions were all over the place. I hadn’t meant to cause her any pain, yet that was all I seemed to be able to do. She had run from me because I’d acted like an ass. I was clinging to her and not even taking into consideration the fact she had her own demons to face. She needed me, and all I had done was take from her.

  I was ready to be her shoulder to cry on. I wanted her to lean on me for a change. I wanted more.

  Jerking the door open, I searched the room until I found her in the back, looking like she was ready to crawl under her desk.

  “Can I help you, West?” Mr. Banks asked.

  “I need to see Maggie, please, sir,” I replied, tearing my eyes from her to look at him.

  “Uh, well, um . . . okay. But please be quick,” he replied.

  I turned my gaze back to her. If I could plead with a look, I was doing it. Slowly, she stood up and made her way toward me. Her eyes were on the floor, and her hands were fisted together in front of her. She was nervous. I never wanted to make her nervous.

  When she reached me, I stepped back and let her walk out into the hallway before closing the door and giving us the privacy we needed.

  “Are you okay?” I asked, fighting the urge to reach out and pull her against me.

  “I’m fine,” she replied in a whisper.

  “I’ll handle Raleigh. She won’t bother you again. I swear it,” I said fiercely.

  She shrugged. “She cares about you. She was defending you.”

  No. Raleigh cared about herself. This hadn’t been about me. She’d seen an opening to attack Maggie, and she’d taken it. “If she cared about me, she wouldn’t have touched you. People who care about me would protect you. Like Nash.” Maggie lifted her gaze to meet mine. Her eyes reflected so many of the same emotions I was trying to deal with. “I didn’t want to hurt you.”

  “I know. But I was hurting you. I wasn’t being what you needed.”

  She broke our eye contact as she glanced down the hallway. “You just lost your dad, West. I should have been more sensitive.”

  Screw not touching her. I reached out and covered her hand with mine. “You were right. I was using you as a way to cope. I wasn’t giving you anything in return. I was obsessed with having you beside me. Knowing you were mine. That wasn’t helping you. That was my trying to own you.”

  She didn’t respond. But she didn’t move her hand away either.

  “We started this because you could listen and understand what I was dealing with when no one else could. Yes, you became my crutch. I wanted to be near you to draw from this amazing strength of yours.”

  She sniffled but didn’t look back at me.

  “Things changed, though. Yes, you became someone I could lean on, but you also became more than that. I looked forward to hearing your voice, seeing your smile, and, God, listening to you laugh. I love the way you laugh. All of those things became things I loved. I would have never . . .” I stopped. What I needed to say I wanted to make sure I said right. I didn’t want to screw it up. This was important. This was my chance to fix all I’d messed up.

  “That night we . . . when we slept together. Maggie, I—” I needed her to look at me. Reaching over, I slid a finger under her chin and turned her face until her eyes met mine. “Maggie, I knew I loved you then. I didn’t tell you because my emotions were so raw that night. I didn’t make love to you because I needed comfort. I made love to you because I wanted to be as close to you as possible. Because, although I had lost my dad, I had been given you. Someone who made me feel whole inside. Who gave me a reason to smile every day. And I let myself go a little insane with my need to hold on to you. I don’t want to possess you, Maggie. I want to belong to you. I’m willing to give you all the time you need. But you have to know I am in love with you.” I dropped my finger from underneath her chin and moved my hand away from hers.

  She didn’t say anything as her wide eyes filled with tears. It took every ounce of willpower I could muster to leave her there and walk away.




  He loved me.

  Everything he said was more . . . It was what I needed. The sadness and ache that had taken up permanent residence in my heart were lifted. West Ashby loved me. I wasn’t just someone he needed to get through his loss. I was more than that.

  “Wait,” I called. He’d walked off behind me, and I turned around to see he’d only gotten halfway down the hall. He stopped, and for a second I wasn’t sure he was going to look at me. When he finally did, his eyes held hope. So much hope I could see it from where I stood.

  I called out to him again. “I didn’t want you to wake up one day and not need me anymore. I wouldn’t have been able to survive that kind of heartbreak. I wanted more. I fell in love with you, and it terrified me.”

  He started walking back to me, his long strides determined as he kept his eyes locked on mine. When he reached me, he cupped my face in his hands and stared down at me. “Thank God,” he said fiercely before his lips covered mine.

  I clung to his shoulders as happy tears slid down my cheeks. His thumbs brushed them away as our tongues collided and we held on to each other as if it were the last time.

  “You’re not real good with the giving-her-space thing, are you?” Brady’s voice startled me, and I pulled back and glanced over West’s shoulder to see my cousin looking more amused than anything.

  West grinned, then pressed a kiss to the tip of my nose before sliding his arm around me and turning to look at Brady. “Apparently not,” he drawled as he smirked at my cousin.

  Brady laughed and shook his head. “As long as she’s happy,” he replied. Then his gaze met mine. He was looking for an affirmation from me.

  “I’m very happy,” I assured him.

  He nodded then moved his gaze back to West. “Show me that you deserve her.”

  West’s arm tightened around me. “I will.”

  “Good. Because I can’t go kick Raleigh’s ass, but I can kick yours.”

  This time it was me who laughed.

  Tonight I had a date with West. A real date. The kind a couple goes on. The kind we’d never really had before.

  It was only slightly awkward when Uncle Boone asked West where we were going and reminded him to take good care of me. I think I preferred sneaking out of my window to that. West didn’t seem bothered by it, though; he seemed pleased more than anything.

  As we drove down the road, he patted the seat beside me. “Scoot over here.”

  I did as I was told and happily moved to sit as close to West as possible.

  “You haven’t asked where we’re going,” he said as he put his hand on my leg.

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