Main Playing to Win

Playing to Win

When the boy next door becomes enemy #1. Tomboy Jordan Parks is used to dealing with guys who think they’re better than her. On the ice or off, she always has to prove herself. If she wants to achieve her goal of playing hockey at the next level, she’ll have to stay focused. That means sticking to Rule #1- never date a teammate. It’s never been an issue. Until now. Asher Sloane has dreams of his own. And they don’t include hockey. Too bad his dad didn’t get the memo. If he wants to keep playing his music, he’ll have to keep playing hockey. Asher never meant to tick off the gorgeous blonde in the parking lot on the first day of school. Not only is Jordan incredibly hot, she’s feisty, fierce, and he can’t stop thinking about her. Too bad she hates his guts.
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Playing to Win

The Trouble with Tomboys #2

Stephanie Street



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18


Playing the Field

Also by Stephanie Street

Find Stephanie Street


Two years ago . . .

One three-week summer sports camp shouldn’t have spawned such a tight knit friendship—but it did. Camp Haversham in Upstate New York was where Hannah, Jordan, and Alex met during the summer before their freshman year. Like most of the young athletes who’d flocked to the training camp, they hailed from different towns and schools. They might never have met if it hadn’t been for Camp Haversham, and they definitely wouldn’t have formed their little “Tomboy Trio” if it hadn’t been for one brainless moron by the name of Noah Ackerbaum.

Noah and his crew were an obnoxious group of alphaholes who paraded around the grounds like they owned the place. Were they skilled at their respective sports? Yes. No one would deny that.

But these girls were better.

Noah and his minions were nice to the girls at the camp—particularly the hot girls—but for the most part, boys played boys and girls played girls.

Until they didn’t.

That was Alex’s fault. A phenom with the bat, the daughter of a professional baseball player hadn’t loved the idea of being segregated. She wanted to play the best—whatever gender that might be.

After Jordan kicked Noah’s butt in touch football, and Hannah took him down in soccer, it was Alex who decided they ought to have a soccer scrimmage that was boys versus girls. Noah begrudgingly agreed. From the way he’d talked it was like they were still in elementary school and kids actually used phrases like “you throw like a girl” as if that were a bad thing.


Led by the three top female athletes at camp, the girls’ team totally trounced the boys’ team in a humiliating defeat.

Well, it probably wouldn’t have been quite so humiliating if the losers hadn’t been such poor sports about it.

Hannah was putting away her equipment when Noah entered the gymnasium behind her. “We let you win, you know that, right?”

She straightened, her dark brown ponytail swinging over her shoulder as she turned to face Noah. Two of his friends had come up behind him and were snickering—a dead giveaway that Noah was going into full bully mode.

Anyone who’d ever seen any movie set in a high school knew how to spot a bully a mile away, and Noah fit the part to a tee. Tall and handsome, he might have been charming if he had any sense of humility or dignity. As it was, he was petty and crass, his sense of humor having peaked at pranks and poop jokes.

“Excuse me?” Hannah said politely. She wasn’t afraid of these guys, but she wouldn’t deny that she was relieved to see her new friends trailing in behind Noah and his gang.

“What’s going on here?” Alex asked. The tall, lean brunette stepped between Hannah and the boys, her shoulders back as her chin held high.

Jordan looked between Noah and the other girls warily before hurrying over to stand on Hannah’s other side. “You okay?” she asked Hannah under her breath. The blonde was pretty in a very girlie sort of way, almost . . . dainty. One would never guess that she rocked it on in the hockey rink.

“I’m fine,” Hannah said, not bothering to lower her voice. She waved a hand toward the guys. “Noah here was just about to explain how they let us win.” She couldn’t quite hide the amusement in her voice . . . and truth be told, she didn’t really try.

Alex gave a little huff of amusement as well. “Oh yeah? This ought to be good.”

“You’re girls,” Noah said.

“Way to state the obvious,” Alex replied.

“We’d get in trouble if we hurt you,” one of the guys behind Noah added.

“Oh, I see,” Hannah said. “So that’s why you lost. You were being chivalrous and trying not to hurt us.”

Even Jordan was laughing now, the idea so ludicrous. They’d all been out there on that field. No one had played dirtier than Noah.

“Really?” Alex said. “Is that what you think happened?”

Noah held his hands up, his head falling to the side with smarmy smirk that made the girls’ skin crawl. “Hey, you guys go ahead and celebrate your little victory. But I thought you should know the truth.”

“Uh huh,” Hannah said. “And what truth is that? That we wiped the field with your butts?”

Alex snickered. “Or that you got beat by a bunch of girls?”

Noah’s nostrils flared and his friends exchanged looks. “You know the trouble with tomboys?”

“No, please tell us,” Alex said in a flat tone that made Hannah and Jordan snort with laughter.

“You’re a bunch of freaks,” he said. “Good luck finding a guy to date you.”

Eye rolls all around.

“Thanks for the advice,” Alex said. “But if you’re referring to guys like you then I think I can speak for my friends here when I say we’re better off single.”

Noah huffed. “You couldn’t get a date if your life depended on it.”

“That’s an interesting theory,” Hannah said, her eyes narrowed as if giving it some serious thought. “I’ll have to ask my boyfriend what he thinks about that.”

Noah looked disgusted by their amusement, but at least he and his friends were backing away. He sneered at Hannah. “As if we’d believe any guy would be into that. You look like my little brother.”

Hannah didn’t seem to mind the insult, but Jordan stiffened at her side.

Alex narrowed her eyes on him. “Get out of here, losers.”

Noah scoffed as he turned to go. “Whatever. We all know we handed you that win.”

Jordan surprised them all by speaking up. “Then I guess you wouldn’t mind a rematch?”

Noah turned back, staring at her as if she’d just sprouted another head. “What?”

She took a step forward, her arms crossed over her chest. “I said, if you’re so sure we didn’t win fair and square, maybe we should have another go. The three of us versus the three of you.”

Noah’s brows drew together and he stared at her like she was nuts, but he didn’t respond.

Alex arched her brows. “What’s the matter, boys? You scared you’ll lose again?”

They laughed until the boys were gone. They didn’t stop laughing until they’d put away the rest of the equipment and were heading back to the girls’ dorm to shower.

“Thanks for having my back,” Hannah said.

“What are fellow tomboys for?” Alex said, slinging an arm around her shoulders.

Jordan dropped her voice in a terrible impression. “You know the trouble with tomboys . . .”

They all cracked up.

“What a moron,” Hannah said.

“I’m so glad you stood up to him, Alex,” Jordan added.

Alex hitched her hip to bump Jordan, who was walking on her other side. “And you. I can’t believe you outright challenged him to a rematch.”

Hannah leaned forward to grin at the blonde. “Seriously. Mad props, girl.”

Jordan clapped a hand over her mouth and shook her head. When she dropped her hand, she said, “Honestly? I can’t believe I did that either.” She turned to Hannah. “But what about you? ‘I'll have to ask my boyfriend . . .!’”

Alex laughed. “That was awesome. His face was priceless.” She looked down at Hannah. “Were you making that up?"

Hannah shook her head. "No, I really do have a boyfriend. We’ve been together since middle school."

“Wow,” Alex said. “Since middle school?”

“He’s on my intramural soccer team,” Hannah said, as though that explained anything.

“He plays for your team?” Jordan sounded alarmed. “Aren't you worried about messing up the team if something happens?”

Hannah shook her head. “Not really. I mean, we’ve been friends forever, and we're not one of the dramatic couples who are into PDA or big fights or anything. We just . . . get along well."

Alex feigned a yawn. "Wow, that sounds really . . . romantic.”

Jordan laughed as Hannah shrugged again. “It works for us. What about you guys? Any boyfriends? Crushes?”

The answer was a unanimous ‘nah.’ Neither seemed terribly put out about it.

“What a dumb insult,” Alex said. She tossed her hair back over her shoulder. “As if I couldn’t get a boyfriend if I wanted one.”

“Seriously,” Hannah agreed. “As if any of us are desperate for a guy.”

Jordan laughed. “I mean, we’ve got more important things to worry about, like school and our teams. Who even has time for a relationship?”

After a brief silence, Alex made a bold statement. “Noah is an idiot.”

“Agreed,” Jordan said.

Hannah leaned forward to look at the other two. “You know the real trouble with tomboys?”

Alex arched a brow, a twinkle in her eyes. “They’re afraid of us.”

Jordan laughed, “Exactly.”

Chapter One


Hannah: Good luck at your first day of school!

Me: Thanks. I’m more worried about hockey.

Alex: Don’t sweat it. You got this.

Hannah: You’re awesome. Don’t forget it.

Best friends were a girl’s lifeblood, right? I didn’t know what I’d do without mine. We had to work a little harder than most to stay in touch since we lived in different states, but that was okay. I knew no matter what, Hannah and Alex had my back. I could tell them anything and they’d understand.

Which was why I texted them as soon as I found out I’d made it onto the boys hockey team. Hannah played intramural soccer on a co-ed team, so she had a lot of great advice about dealing with the guys on my team. But even she’d never been the only girl on an all boys team before.

Like Alex, I had a lot of brothers, so dealing with dumb guys wasn’t a completely foreign concept, but still. I was nervous.

Me: As long as I remember Rule #1 I’ll be just fine.

Alex: groan

Hannah: Here we go…

Me: Hey! Some of us cough, Hannah would have less problems right now if they stuck to The Rule.

Hannah: Don’t bring me into this. I’m doing just fine.

Alex: As much as I love you guys, gotta go. Some of us have been in school for a week already and have stuff to do.

Hannah: Yeah, I have to go, too. Seriously, Jord, don’t stress. Everything will be amazing. You will be amazing.

Me: Thanks. You guys are the best! TTYL

Talking to my camp besties was just what I needed. Not that Alex and Hannah were my only friends, they just offered an outside opinion when I needed one. And after our experience at Camp Haversham, I knew they understood what it was like to compete with boys.

“You ready, Jordan!” My younger brother, Payton, shouted up the stairs.

“Just a sec!” I shouted back, taking one last look in the mirror. I dressed like a tomboy, no denying it, but I wasn’t built like one, for sure. With long blonde hair and an hourglass figure, no one could mistake me for a boy even in all my hockey gear. There would be no hiding my obvious female attributes on the all-male hockey team. And starting that afternoon, right after school, I’d get a solid look at being the only girl on the ice.

I fluffed my blonde curls one last time and headed down the stairs.

Payton waited, impatiently shifting from one foot to the other, holding a duffle bag and a hockey stick. Mine were already in the trunk of my car.

“Okay, let’s go.”

For all his fidgeting, Payton was in no hurry out the door to the beat up car sitting by the curb in front of the house. I’d inherited it from my older brother, Joe, when he moved out last year. Before that, it belonged to our oldest brother, Bobby, so you can imagine it had seen better days. I didn’t care as long as it ran.

After stowing his stuff, Payton hopped into the front seat, excited to finally sit shotgun now the older boys were out of the house.

“Excited for your first day?” I asked.

Payton grunted and stared out the window.

I drove to the middle school, on the whole other side of town from the high school. I only had to drive him to school and he walked to hockey practice after school.

“Seventh grade, huh?” I took my hand off the steering wheel long enough to nudge his knee. He didn’t react except to move his leg out of my reach.

Five years younger than me, Payton had started each school year by himself where I’d always had Joe, and sometimes Bobby, at my side. My older brothers could be a pain, but they’d always been there for me. I tried to do the same for Payton, but the age difference made it difficult and he’d grown into a bit of a loner.

I pulled up to the curb in front of the middle school. Payton didn’t say a word as he picked up his stuff from the back.

“Have a good day, Pay!” I called the door slammed shut. He didn’t acknowledge me, but that wasn’t unusual. I hoped he’d keep it together this year. He’d been grounded for most of the summer. We were all hoping with the start of hockey season he’d be too busy to get into trouble.

By the time I pulled into the high school parking lot most of the spaces had been filled. I drove to the front to the space we’d been parking in since Bobby started driving six years ago, knowing it would be open. Built like a tank and blessed with about as much subtlety, nobody messed with my big brother. Even though he’d graduated three years ago, people still left his spot open for Joe before he graduated and now for me.

Until today.

Today, in Bobby’s parking spot sat a sleek looking Audi.

Thankfully, the driver still sat behind the wheel. Shoving my car into park behind his, I got out, prepared to tell him to get the heck out of my spot.

“Hey! What do you think you’re doing? That’s my spot,” my voice trailed off as the door to the offending car opened and out stepped the most beautiful guy I’d ever seen. With jet black hair and deep olive skin, he had an exotic look that made my heart race.

Swallowing hard, I took in his dark eyes framed by the kind of lashes women paid big bucks for. Normally, I’d think lashes like his were a waste on a guy, but not this one. He deserved every accessory the good Lord blessed him with, if just for my own viewing pleasure.

His perfectly sculpted lips twisted into a scowl. Even his scowl was gorgeous. He could scowl on the front of a teen heartthrob magazine. They’d fly off the rack.

Then he opened those beautiful lips. “You’re spot? Funny, I don’t see your name on it.” And the words coming out weren’t so beautiful.

My mouth opened and closed in a decent imitation of a fish before I finally formed a coherent thought. “Yeah, but that doesn’t make it any less mine.”

His eyes brushed down my body, from my hair to the white tank top I wore with dark wash skinny jeans, bright red Chucks, and one of Joe’s old flannel shirts tied around my waist.

I’d never been self-conscious of my appearance before, but this guy’s wrinkled brow had me rethinking everything. Which was crazy. I’d been raised to be confident, taught to never change myself to make other people happy. If someone didn’t like me for me? Not my problem.

Squaring my shoulders, I recommitted to owning me. Jordan Parks. Tomboy.

“I say it does.”

My mouth dropped open. Hypnotic, lyrical voice aside, the words coming out of this dude’s mouth grated over my nerves like a loss on the ice. I hated nothing more than losing. Not a game. Not an argument. Not my parking spot.

Fists clenched at my side, I took a step closer to the parking lot interloper. “That. Is. My. Spot.”

Dark eyes never leaving mine, he leaned forward, obviously not intimidated by my five-nine frame.

“Not today, it isn’t.”

For five seconds too long, I let myself get sucked in by his gorgeous good looks. I might have even stared at those perfectly shaped lips. Basically, I lost it just long enough for him to think he had the upper hand.

Unfortunately, he totally did. Without a word, hot guy turned back to his car and opened the back door. He reached inside and removed a guitar case. Then, just before walking away, he glanced over his shoulder and winked.

How dare he!

Buzzing with impotent rage, I marched back to my car with visions of slashing his tires and keying the word ‘thief’ into his door. But since the school monitored the lot with cameras, I had to satisfy myself with my vivid imagination as I drove to the now only available parking spaces at the back of the lot.


Well, he better believe Jordan Parks wouldn’t let him have her spot tomorrow. No, sir-ee. I’d make sure of it. In fact, I hoped he had to lug his stupid guitar from the street.

“What’s got you in an uproar this morning?” my friend, Natalie asked, falling into step beside me once I’d made it inside.

Hannah and Alex were my camp besties, but Natalie and Kelly were my go-to girls at school.

“Some jerk took my parking spot.” Thankful for my tank top, I flapped my elbows at my side to create a breeze. Summer temperatures would soon be a thing of the past, but it wasn’t the heat outside making my armpits damp.

Natalie’s eyes widened.

“I know, right.”

“Probably someone new. No one else would park in that spot. I swear people still think Bobby’ll pound ‘em if they park there.” Natalie shuddered, but she didn’t fool me. I knew she had a mild case of hero worship when it came to my brother. Heck, everyone did. The guy was a freaking legend in these parts. At twenty-one, Bobby lived on the other side of town and went to school at the community college while playing for the minor league hockey team in the next town over. He and Joe shared an apartment, but Joe mostly lived there alone during hockey season while Bobby traveled.

“Bobby wouldn’t pound anyone,” I defended my brother. “At least not off the ice.” On the ice was a completely different story, and that’s how he earned his reputation. In real life, Bobby was a big ole teddy bear.

“Hey, what’s up?” Kelly caught up as we entered the hall where all the senior classes were located. Kelly swam for the swim team and had early morning practice. The scent of chlorine followed her around from September through the end of October. Natalie played volleyball.

Yeah, I rounded out two sets of tomboy trios.

“Some douche parked in Jord’s spot,” Natalie said.

Kelly’s eyes widened. “Must be someone new. Who was it?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen him before. He had a fancy car, though. And a guitar case.” No one carried a guitar case. We had the usual band geeks who lugged around tubas and piccolos, but no guitars. Did school bands even have guitars?

“What did he look like?” Natalie asked.

I knew she’d ask and I knew my face would turn beet red when she did.

Natalie grinned. “That good, huh? Do you see him now?”

I’d been keeping an eye out. No sign of him. “Nope. And I hope I never see him again.”

“It’s just a parking spot, Jordan.” Leave it to Kelly to be the voice of reason.

“I know. It’s just-” That parking spot represented a piece of my brothers and I missed them. I thought I’d be overjoyed about the boys moving out, but in truth, I hated them being gone. Parking in Bobby’s spot made me feel like he was still around looking out for me. And if not him, then Joe. For the last two years I’d pulled into the parking lot and held onto my identity as Bobby and Joe Parks little sister. Nobody messed with them, nobody messed with me.

But like Kelly said, it was a parking spot. Anyone had a right to park there. I needed to get over it. Didn’t mean I would. And Mr. Parking Spot Thief had just earned himself a spot on my list.


The sound of a lunch tray clattering down on the table yanked me out of a gripping description of Newton’s Laws. Which wouldn’t have been so bad except when I glanced up it was her again.

The hot blonde from the parking lot.

And she was not happy.

“Let me guess. This is your table.”

What was with this school? Couldn’t they make it easy on the new guy and post a sign with all the insider information about assigned parking spaces and lunch tables?

Blondie’s eyes narrowed. “What are you doing here?”

I blinked. “Eating?”

She stared daggers.

Two other girls, a brunette and a redhead, flanked her on either side.

The brunette plopped down. “You’ll have to excuse her. She’s had a bad-” her eyes widened as she glanced between her friend and me. “Morning.”

Blondie shot her friend a look as she took the seat directly across from me.

“You’re the one who took Jordan’s spot,” the red head asked, studying me just a little too closely. I was used to girls checking me out, but this one looked like she wanted to take a bite out of me.

The dark haired girl rolled her eyes. “He obviously didn’t know it was Jordan’s spot, Natalie.” She faced me. “You’re new, right? I’m Kelly Harris. That’s Natalie Chance. And I think you’ve already met Jordan.”

Jordan. A fitting name while everything else seemed such a contradiction. Her clothes tagged her a tomboy, but her face and body were decidedly feminine. The combination worked for her. I liked looking at her more than I wanted to.

“Parks,” Jordan added before taking a bite out of an apple.



Could it be a coincidence? Somehow, I didn’t think so.

“Whats’s your name?” Natalie asked still staring a little dreamily.

“Um.” I cleared my throat, avoiding her gaze by doing some staring of my own. At Jordan. “Asher. Asher Sloane.”

“And you’re new?” Kelly asked.

I nodded, and because I didn’t want to come across creepy like Natalie, I turned my attention to my food. “Yeah, I just moved from Minnesota.”

“Really? How do you like Chicago?”

Lakeview wasn’t really Chicago, but I noticed everyone lumped the suburb in with the larger city.

I shrugged. “It’s nice.”

“How come you moved?” Jordan asked and for some reason my heart lurched a little in my chest at the sound of her voice. What was wrong with me?

“Uh, my dad bought a car dealership here.”

Three sets of brows rose.

“That explains the fancy car,” Jordan murmured under her breath.

For some reason, I felt the need to apologize for what happened earlier, even though I couldn’t have possibly known that parking space had been reserved for her.

“I didn’t know it was your spot.”

“It’s fine.” She glanced at the uneaten food on her tray. “Actually, I think I’m finished.” She rose from the table. “See you guys later.”

Unable to stop myself, I studied her as she went to dump her tray and set it on the dish return. Her blonde hair hung like a wild mane around her shoulders and down her back. Smooth, tan skin covered her bare shoulders and toned arms. She looked strong, like an athlete. I’d never really been attracted to a girl like her before, but something about Jordan turned my crank.

“What’s her story?” I directed my question to Kelly, who seemed more likely to give me a straight answer.

“Who? Jordan? Don’t worry about her. She’s just been a little stressed lately.” The two girls shared a look.

What could be causing Jordan stress?

School? The year just started.

Friends? She didn’t seem to have any issues with these two.

Boys? The thought made my jaw clench. Which was dumb. I decided to ask.

“Stressed? How come?” I asked, trying to sound casual. As though I didn’t really care. And I shouldn’t. I didn’t even know Jordan. “Boyfriend problems?” Yeah, not casual at all.

Natalie snorted and Kelly laughed out right.

“Jordan? Boyfriend?” Kelly shook her head. “Funny.”

Natalie grinned. “Although, her issue does have something to do with boys.”

I didn’t like the sound of that. “What do you mean?”

“Jordan plays hockey,” Natalie said.

My eyes widened. “Hockey? Really?” Even in Minnesota I hadn’t known many girls who played hockey. Jordan’s hot points intensified until I thought my attraction to her might incinerate me.

Too bad she probably hated my guts.

“Yes.” Kelly nodded.

I frowned. “So, why the stress?”

Natalie and Kelly exchanged glances again, but it was Natalie who spoke up. “Jordan’s actually really great at hockey. So good, she made the guy’s team. Today is their first practice and she’s a little nervous.”

“It doesn’t help that her dad’s the coach,” Kelly added before taking a bite of her lunch.

The girls kept talking, their conversation moving to school work and their own sports. But I stopped listening, too caught up on the information they’d shared.


All guy’s team?

Her dad was the coach?


It couldn’t be. But the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach told me it just might.

And if I was right?

I was so screwed.

Blue days, I had Lakeview Singers, an invitation only choir Ms. Jackson put me in based on my previous choir experience and the fact I played guitar. No way I was the only guy at this school who played, but apparently, I was the only one who played and sang in the choir.

I found a seat on the top tier, glad for a break from my academic classes and anxious to just sing. It didn’t take long for the seats to fill, most of them occupied by girls, but I wasn’t the only guy hiding out in the back row.

“Hey, man.” A tall guy with long blond hair walked right up to me with his hand extended.

“Hey.” I stood up to grip his hand.

“I’m Jarom.” He took the seat beside me.

“Asher.” I was a little taken aback. Hardly anyone in any of my classes had taken the initiative to introduce themselves to me.

“Man, we gotta stick together in here. These girls,” he shook his head, warily scanning the clusters of girls on the tiers below us. “They want to do all this stupid crap. Dancing and-” he shook his head and shuddered a little. “Ms. Jackson’s cool, but she goes along with whatever.”

This guy was hilarious, I could already tell. “Dude, what are you doing in here, then?”

Jarom’s eyes met mine. “I’m in a band. We aren’t great or anything but Ms. Jackson’s not just a choir director, she’s a voice coach. I can’t afford lessons, and this is the next best thing.” He paused to grin. “Plus, it’s a great place to meet hot girls.”

I held out my fist and Jarom tapped it with his.

“Right on, man. So, here’s the skinny.” He pointed to a cluster of girls front and center. “The one in the middle, in the pink mini skirt? That’s Jenna. She thinks she’s the best voice in here. Tries to take charge, wants to pick songs. Very annoying. Stay away. Far, far away. In fact,” he paused and I looked his way again. “Don’t date her or any of her friends.” He held up his fingers, bent like claws, and hissed.

I was laughing hard at this point. “Got it. What else?”

Jarom pointed again, this time to a quiet girl sitting near Ms. Jackson’s piano. She looked sweet and unassuming. “She’s the real star. Sasha. Jenna can’t stand her because she’s by far the best voice in the room. And the nicest girl you’ll ever meet, but she’s just a sophomore. Let’s be real, this class is eighty-five percent women and one-hundred percent drama.” Jarom glanced at Sasha again. “I try to keep my eye on that one. She doesn’t know how to stand up for herself.”

“Right.” I could see that. From the top row, Sasha was cute. I had no doubt a girl like Jenna would chew her up and spit her out then grind her into the dirt.

“We have six guys, including you and me. Ms. Jackson likes to do men’s choir, so she’ll try and have us work on a few songs for concerts.” He gave me a look. “We have a lot of concerts.”

That was fine by me. I needed all the practice I could get.

Ms. Jackson entered the room, cutting Jarom off. “Okay, everybody, let’s get started!” She stood at the front trying to get everyone’s attention. She couldn’t be very old, twenties or early thirties at the most. And pretty. I bet there were a few guys who joined choir just because she was kinda hot.

For the first few minutes, she went over the syllabus, concert schedules, Jarom hadn’t been kidding, there were a lot, and what to expect over the next few class periods as she determined each of our strengths and weaknesses.

Then, she broke us into groups to get to know each other, so she could call us back individually to sing in one of the practice rooms. Every few minutes she’d also call out for us to switch groups.

By the time Ms. Jackson called my name, my cheeks were burning from all the female attention as we moved through the groups. Trying to shrug it off, I reminded myself it had more to do with being the new guy than anything else. Pretty soon, they would all forget I was even here.

I snagged my guitar on the way to the practice room. Ms. Jackson sat at a piano, but she spun on the bench when she saw my guitar, her eyes wide and sparkly.

“Is this okay?” I asked, pausing before sitting down.

She nodded. “Absolutely. I’d love to hear you play.”

Sitting down across from her, I cleared my throat and wished for a glass of water. I knew I could sing, but I had very little practice singing in front of other people, especially solo. More than anything, I wanted to be a singer/songwriter. So far, it was just a dream, heard mostly by the walls of my bedroom.

I avoided Ms. Jackson’s gaze as I strummed the first chord of a song I’d written over the summer. The melody came first, then the words. And for the next three minutes, I sang about dreams and wishes and all the things holding me back, each note, each lyric, a piece of me.

When the song ended, I opened my eyes to find Ms. Jackson watching me. Her mouth hung open and her eyes filled with moisture. She wore the exact expression I dreamed people would have after hearing one of my songs.

“Asher, what was that? I’ve never heard anything like that before.”

“I, um, I wrote it. Did you like it?” I thought I knew the answer, but I kind of wanted to hear her say it.

“Did I like it?” She shook her head a little. “I loved it. That was beautiful.”

“Thank you,” I said, dipping my head.

“Do you want to sing it? For our fall concert? I always leave spots open for solos or small ensembles and I think you should sing that song.” Her eyes widened. “Have you written others?”

I nodded. “Lots.”

“Wow.” She stared at me as if she didn’t quite know what to do with me. “Wow. Well, you have an amazing talent, Asher. Your voice is beautiful and if your other songs are as good as that one, I can’t imagine you won’t have an opportunity to do something really special with your music.”

“Thank you, Ms. Jackson. I really appreciate that.” I stood up. The bell had rung about a minute before.

I made my way to jazz band flying high from Ms. Jackson’s praise and the rush of performing, everything about it reaffirming music was my future. No matter what my dad said, I was going to pursue it.

Chapter Two



It couldn’t be.

Not again.

He turned and spotted me, his lips immediately pulling into a frown before they seemed to change their mind and curve into a smirk.

Another magazine cover pose for him.

What was he doing here?

And how did he make ‘jerk’ look so good? Not that I cared. I still wanted to be mad at him.

“This your spot, too?” he asked, tipping his head toward his car before reaching into the trunk.

I watched, horrified, as he pulled out a duffle bag and hockey stick.

“You play hockey,” I said, the image so incongruous to my preconceived judgments I couldn’t even wrap my head around it. After meeting him in the parking lot, I’d almost convinced myself he couldn’t possibly be as good looking as I imagined. But then I saw him in the cafeteria, once again in my spot, and I knew I’d been lying to myself. The boy was hot with a capital tsss.


Asher paused to glare at me. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Since I put my foot in my mouth like a pro on a regular basis, I replied with, “You play the guitar.”

And look like a long lost Jonas brother.

I kept that last part in my head.

“Really? I play the guitar?” He rolled his eyes in a fantastic imitation of a five-year-old as he slammed the trunk shut.

I held my breath as he took a step toward me, lowering his face so close to mine his breath brushed my cheek. “I’ll let you in on a little secret.” His voice dipped low into a seductive whisper. “I can do both.”

An involuntary shiver raced down my spine.

He turned on his heel and headed into the rink without a backward glance.

Holy smokes!

I’d never experienced that heart pounding, tingling feeling you read about in romance novels, had begun to wonder if it even existed. It did. I’d experienced it three times that day already.

I held my breath until he disappeared inside the building then gasped not allowing myself to contemplate what his presence at the rink where my team had practice might mean. I had more important things to worry about, like impressing my dad enough for him to let me start at our first game. I couldn’t let myself get distracted by hot guys who stole my parking spot.

And my breath.

Inside the rink, deep male voices echoed off the cinder block walls inside the guys locker room. As I walked passed and a wave of isolation hit me. For the last twelve years I’d played on an all girls team. Maybe I’d taken for granted the camaraderie, the sense of being a part of a team, that developed inside the locker room.

Not on this team.

At least, not for me. Each day for practice and before every game, I’d prepare by myself in a separate locker room.

But I’d made a choice. I wanted to play for the same team as my brothers. The same team coached by my dad. So, I appealed to the commission and they agreed I should be allowed to play as long as I made the team the same as everyone else, by trying out.

And I did. I worked my butt off for a spot on this team.

My thoughts turned to the conversation I had earlier that morning with Hannah and Alex about dating teammates. The stakes were high for me now. I had a lot to prove. The time had come to buckle down, focus. Hockey and school, those two things had to be my top priorities. I couldn’t let anything stand in my way. Especially, not a relationship. Which made it doubly important to remember and follow Rule #1. I absolutely could not fall for one of my teammates.

No matter how gorgeous he was.

One good thing about my dad being my coach, I already knew a lot of the players on the team like I knew my own brothers. In fact, one of them was my brother.

Joe skated over as soon as my blades hit the ice. “You ready for this?”

“It’s just hockey, Joe. I’ve been playing since I was five same as you.” I jabbed my stick into the side of his skates, tripping him up and making him laugh. No mercy in the Parks family when it came to our favorite sport.

“You meet the new guy?” I followed his gaze to the place where Asher waited for practice to start, one elbow propped on the wall in front of the bench. He already wore his helmet making it difficult to see his face clearly even without a face mask.

“At school. He took my parking spot.”

Joe snorted. “Want me to beat him up for you?”

“I know. It’s silly.”

Joe hooked his arm around my neck. “You miss us.” I knew Joe would understand. “Wanna move in with Bobby and me?”

I wrinkled my nose and pushed his arm off. “Ew. No. Even if Mom and Dad would let me, it was bad enough when you lived at home and Mom made you guys clean up. I can’t even imagine what your apartment looks like let alone the smell.”

Joe cringed. “It is pretty bad. Especially, now-”

He didn’t have to finish his thought, I knew what he meant. Now he and Chelle, his girlfriend of two years, had broken up, he didn’t bother keeping the apartment clean.

“Sorry, Joe-Joe,” I reached up to ruffle his hair.

“It’s my own fault.” He batted my hand away from his head. “So, what do you know about the new guy?” He shot me a look. “Other than he took your parking spot.”

“Not much. His name’s Asher Sloane.” And he’s hot. Not something I’d admit to my brother. “He’s a senior.”

From the corner of my eye, I saw my dad stride out onto the ice, and put on my helmet. Kevin Parks waited for no man, or woman, if you weren’t ready when he said go, you could count on skating until your legs gave out and then he’d make you skate some more. “He had a guitar.”

“Huh. A guitar playing hockey player. Classy.”

Rolling my eyes, I adjusted my chin strap. Honestly, it had nothing to do with whether or not Asher played the guitar, he just didn’t fit the profile of a hockey player I had after years of being around a bunch of meat heads. He was just too pretty.

Joe skated in front of me and set his gloved hands on my shoulders. “Seriously, Jord, it’s cool you’re doing this. I’m excited your on our team. Don’t let these jokers give you a hard time. Play like we taught you and you’ll do just fine.”

“Thanks, Joe.” The sincerity in his eyes threatened to bring tears to my eyes. Thankfully, he broke up the moment by returning to his usual pain in the butt self.

“I’m not going to take it easy on you, though, just because you’re a girl and my sister. As team captain, it’s my job to make sure we play to win. No slacking.”

I pushed his shoulder. “When have I ever been a slacker?”

Joe laughed as he skated away from me to center ice where everyone else waited. Everyone except Asher.

And me.

Two outsiders.

Dad blew his whistle. “Line up!”


I watched Jordan flirt with one of the guys on the team and tried to ignore the stupid pang of jealousy making my heart feel heavy in my chest. At least, until the guy skated away and I got a good look at his face. Joe Parks. Her brother.

The relief I felt was just as stupid as the jealousy.

I wasn’t here to pick up a girlfriend. I wasn’t even here to play hockey. I’d shown up to practice for one reason and one reason only, the deal I made with my dad, the one where he let me keep pursuing my music if I kept playing hockey.

Pushing thoughts of my dad to the back of my mind, I focused instead on Jordan. I’d been right. Seeing her in hockey gear and skates was way hotter than it should have been. Hockey uniforms weren’t sexy. At. All. But I knew what it took to play against guys like the ones on this team and the fact she could keep up with them?


I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. Which was how I ended up beside her on the goal line when Coach began calling out drills.

“Stalking me, Sloane,” she asked.

“I showed up first every time today. Maybe you’re stalking me.” Coach blew his whistle and we both took off. Jordan had to be at least six inches shorter than me, but she was fast. We reached the goal line within nano seconds of each other, slid into a hockey stop, turning quickly to go back.

Once we’d all returned to the start, Coach blew his whistle again and we skated backward.

“Why would I want to do that?” she asked, keeping her voice low.

Why indeed? I knew a lot of girls found me attractive. I didn’t miss the way Jordan’s eyes widened when I got out of my car this morning. I liked the idea of her being attracted to me.

“You tell me,” I said, giving her my best smolder.

Her mouth dropped open before she could catch herself. She schooled her features into a bored mask. “Does that really work for you?”

I winked. “All the time, gorgeous.” I hadn’t meant to add that last part, it just slipped out.

She made a disgusted sound and I laughed.

“Something funny, Sloane?” Coach yelled over the noise of everyone’s skates.

“No, sir!”


As my coach and Jordan’s dad, I did not want to be on Coach Parks’s bad side. Putting my head down, I focused on skating. After a few seconds, I glanced over at Jordan. She caught me. I widened my eyes with a grin. Instead of smiling back, she scowled and it occurred to me, for some reason, I cared.

Coach blew his whistle again. And again. Back and forth, we completed warmups, skating forward, backward, forward again but jumping the lines, then with the puck. Jordan skated as though she had something to prove. With her shorter legs, she had to work harder to keep pace with me and I wondered if she’d done any speed training. My dad could be a bit of a fanatic. He sent me to every kind of training for speed, strength, agility. He even made me do yoga.

Little did he know I had no intention of pursuing hockey after high school. His dreams of me playing at the next level were just that, dreams. I’d play by his rules until I graduated, but then I had every intention of following in my mother’s footsteps straight to microphone. All without worrying about my dad and what he wanted.

I didn’t hate hockey. I’d been playing long as I could remember. The hockey stick felt like an extension of my arm. Like a basketball player dribbling the ball, handling the puck required skill, practice. And like basketball players, some had better skills than others.

Jordan knew what she was doing.

“You’re good,” I murmured just loud enough for her to hear as we crossed the line.

She shot me a dirty look. “For a girl, you mean.”

I shook my head. “I’d never say that.”

Girl or not, she had to be good to play for Kevin Parks even if she was his daughter. He didn’t have the winningest record in the state for nothing.

We were teammates and I hated that we’d gotten off on the wrong foot. That meant we needed a truce.

“Hey, I’m sorry about earlier. I didn’t know that was your spot. And at lunch, too. Can’t you cut the new guy some slack?” We’d just finished the last of the skating drills. Around us, everyone breathed hard. If you didn’t sweat off five pounds at hockey practice, you weren’t doing it right.

Jordan bent slightly at her waist, sucking air. She lifted her head, settling her gaze on me. Her eyes moved from the top of my head, over my face, down my neck and shoulders until they stopped.

Her eyes flew to mine.

“You’re left handed.”

I glanced at the offending hand before meeting her blue-eyed gaze again. “Yeah. So?”

“I’m left handed.”

I’d noticed, but still didn’t understand what she was getting at.

“Don’t you get it?” She clenched her jaw, shaking her head just a little. “How many left-handed players do you think there are on this team, genius?”

Frowning, I wondered where she was going with this. “Not many.”

“That’s right. Not many. Only three including you and me.”

She slung the words like mud and they hit me, splattered across my face. There were two left handed positions on the ice at a time.

We might be teammates, but every week, Jordan and I would be in competition for the same spot. And from the look on her face, if I hadn’t already earned the title, I’d just become public enemy number one.

Chapter Three


Usually I didn’t wait for my dad after practice. I had my own car and he had things he needed to do before he could leave. I waited just outside his office door until he glanced up from his computer.

“Hey, pretty girl,” he rose from his desk and walked around it with his arms outstretched.

“You probably don’t want to hug me, Dad.”

He wrapped me in a familiar hug. “I’m not scared.”

I held him tight, basking in the security of his embrace. I needed it after today.

“What’s the matter, kiddo?” he asked, planting a kiss on the top of my head before pulling back to search my eyes.

I shrugged, wishing I knew the answer myself.

Dad frowned, placing his hands on my shoulders. “You worried about something? Did something happen at school today?”

I shook my head.

“You’re worried about the team?” His expression hardened. “Did anyone give you a hard time today? The new guy? I saw the two of you talking.”

“No, Dad. Nothing like that.” Asher kind of was the problem, but not in the way my dad thought.

“Then, what?”

I bit my lip, glancing down. But Dad wasn’t having it, chucking my chin until my eyes met his.

I shrugged again. “I just-” How could I explain how I felt, how much I wanted this? Playing hockey had been my dream all my life. I knew he understood, but- “Asher. He’s left handed.” He already knew, of course.

“Ahhh.” Dad’s eyes narrowed. He took a step back and crossed his arms over his chest, visibly changing roles from ‘Dad’ to ‘coach’. For a long moment, he studied me with an expression I recognized. He wouldn’t tell me what I wanted to hear, he’d tell me the truth whether I was ready or not.

“I told you when you asked me to help you talk to the commission, I couldn’t give you any special favors, Jordan. You’d have to earn your spot on my team, same as everybody else. I make the decision before every game about who will put us in the best position to win and they start in games. But that doesn’t mean anyone will ride the bench all season. You know as well as I do this is a demanding sport. I need my bench to be just as strong as my starting lineup.”

I nodded, because I did know. “But, Dad-” I swallowed hard against the emotions clogging my throat. “Dad, if I don’t start, what are my real chances of getting noticed by anyone? I want to play at the next level. I don’t want to be done when I’m too old to play in the junior league.”

Dad reached a hand up to the back of his neck and sighed. “I know, sweetheart, and I think you made the best decision to get you there by coming to play for me. But, Jordan, I have nineteen guys on this team who deserve the same shot you have. Asher included. I can’t show you any special treatment even if I want to do just that. But what I can do is give you the best training and coaching I know.”

“I know. I just-” I sniffed, rubbing the back of my hand under my nose.

Colleges didn’t look at second string. They wanted the best. And the best started. Justin Painter, the only other left handed player on our team was a bruiser, perfect for left side defense, leaving left wing to me. Until Asher showed up. Now it would be a competition every week for the starting position. Dad would never put me in the defensive position, I didn’t have the build. But I had what it took as a winger, fast, tough, smart. I knew the game of hockey inside and out. You didn’t have to be left handed to play on the left side, but it provided a clear advantage, one I’d planned to exploit.

But now?

Now, I’d have to work doubly hard to earn my spot. I didn’t fear hard work, I’d put in the time, but would it be enough?

Dad took a deep breath. “Look, I know what you’re thinking, but you can’t worry about Asher or anyone else. All you can do is play your game, do your best, and I’ll be really honest, honey, if your best doesn’t cut it to start on my team, then you aren’t ready for what’s out there.”

That hurt and did little to calm my anxiety.

“Jordan, look at me.” He waited until I did. “You have the one thing I can’t teach these other guys, and that’s heart. You want this, so go get it. Work harder than anyone, listen to what I teach you, and the rest will take care of itself. Okay?”

I nodded and he hugged me again. I inhaled his comforting scent. I’d always been a daddy’s girl. I used to love sitting on his lap as a little girl while he watched hockey on the television. My love of the game intertwined with my love for my dad.

“Thanks, Daddy.”

He squeezed the breath from me making me laugh.

“I’ll see you at home,” he said, releasing me to sit behind his desk again while I headed toward the door. “Hey, Jord?”

I turned to face him. “Yeah?”

“I love you, kiddo. As important as this is to you and as much as you want it, hockey isn’t everything. Don’t forget to live your life while you pursue your dreams.”

“I love you, too. And I’ll try.”

Dinner used to be my favorite time of day, when everyone finally got home and we sat around the table talking and joking. I’ve always loved the sense of security when we were all together. I didn’t love change under most circumstances, but especially when it came to my family. First Bobby moved out, then Joe. Now they only came around on Sunday afternoons for Mom’s pot roast and to use the washer and dryer. I’d see Joe everyday at hockey practice, but it wasn’t the same as it used to be when we were younger. With only the four of us at the table, the silence just felt awkward.

“How was the first day of school?” Mom asked, her eyes flicking between Payton and I.

The scowl on my younger brother’s face answered well enough. Mom looked at me.

“Oh, um,” I stammered. “It was fine. Good.”

Mom set her fork down on her plate. “Fine? Good? That’s all I get? How were your classes? Did you see Natalie and Kelly?”

Okay, we were sharing. I liked it better when the older boys were around to make a joke of everything.

“Classes were fine. I have some homework. Natalie and Kelly were there. I don’t have any classes with them, which kind of stinks.”

Mom picked up her fork again. “Well, that’s okay. You’ll have an opportunity to meet new people.”

“Not many new kids when you’ve been going to the same school since kindergarten, Mom.” Except Asher who I’d run into more times than I wanted.

“We have a new guy on the team,” Dad spoke to Mom but winked at me. “His name’s Asher.”

I narrowed my eyes. What was he up to?

“He’s new at school, too, isn’t he?” Dad held back a chuckle.

I rolled my eyes. Dad got a kick out of teasing me.

“A new boy at school?” Mom asked, overly interested. “What’s he like?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. I didn’t talk to him much.”

I kicked Payton under the table. He looked up, ready for a fight. I widened my eyes at him, praying he’d understand my silent communication to join the conversation and save me.

“What about you, Pay? How was your day?” I asked when he remained quiet.

“And he plays hockey?” Mom asked as though I hadn’t even spoken to Payton.

I shot my brother a dirty look, but he just grinned. “Yeah, he plays hockey. And he’s a senior. That’s about all I know about him.” That and he wanted to steal my starting position.

Darn, Asher Sloane!

“Did you know his family moved into the Cunningham’s house behind us?”

My fork clatter to my plate. “No way.”

Dad nodded, continuing to eat as though he hadn’t just dropped a bomb on my dinner. “I didn’t make the connection until last night when I went over everyone’s registration paperwork and noticed the address.”


My teammate/enemy was also my neighbor.

For the next two hours, I avoided my favorite place, my bedroom. Being the only girl had it’s benefits, the best, having my own room. It served as a haven away from my brothers when the got on my nerves, a place to secretly stalk Shawn Mendes on Instagram without getting teased. In short, I loved my bedroom.

And suddenly, because of one Asher Sloane, I also feared it.


Because it faced the Cunningham’s old house.

Asher might have been on my last nerve, but I couldn’t deny the guy intrigued me. He had his good looks. He played hockey. And who didn’t like a guy who played guitar?

Which was why I didn’t want to go in my room. I knew if I did I’d be tempted to stand at my window to try and catch a glimpse of the new family who practically shared our backyard.

Who was I kidding?

I didn’t want to see his family.

I wanted to see Asher.

So, I stayed downstairs and worked on my homework at the table. Then, I took my time in the shower, shaving my legs and giving my hair a good wash until the steam filling the bathroom grew so thick I could barely see.

With my shower finished, I couldn’t put it off any longer. I had to go into my room or spend the rest of the night in a bath towel. After slipping through the door like a thief in the night, I tiptoed over to the window. I left the light off and made sure to stand to the side because getting caught half naked by my new neighbor would just be the perfect ending to a perfectly crappy day.

I loved this time of evening, when the sun set and the oranges and reds softened to pinks and violets. My bedroom still felt warm from the afternoon sun. I wrapped my towel more securely around my body and with one hand while standing to the side, opened the window just enough to allow a slight breeze into my room.Only the breeze didn’t come alone, it brought something with it.

Mesmerized, I dropped to the carpet below my window.

At first, I only heard the guitar. Then, as my ears adjusted, Asher. It had to be him. I didn’t recognize the melody or the lyrics, but his voice. Even after such a short time, I knew his voice.

The music stopped. I waited. He began again, repeating what he’d just sung only to cut himself off again. For the next thirty minutes, I sat under my window in my dark room wearing nothing but a damp bath towel, straining my ears to hear every note, every lyric.

I could listen to him forever.

“Asher!” a man’s voice called and my heart raced as though I’d been caught eavesdropping.

“Yeah!” Asher called back, his voice clear and a lot closer than I expected.

I rolled to my knees and peeked enough to see Asher’s long strides carry him across the yard to the back door of his house. The dark silhouette of a man filled the opening. He stepped aside allowing Asher to cross the threshold before closing the door.

Glancing down, I realized I still wore my towel. I hadn’t even gotten dressed. I’d been so engrossed listening to Asher.


The boy who threatened my chance at achieving my goals.

I needed to get a grip.

It didn’t matter what he looked like. Or if he had the most amazing voice. Because my new neighbor had become my number one enemy.


“How was hockey practice?” Dad called me in from the backyard where I’d been working on a new song before dinner.

My step-mom, Shari, wanted us to eat dinner together as a family. I didn’t mind except it usually turned into an inquisition.

Typical. My first day at a new school, my senior year no less, and all he cared about was hockey. I had to leave my friends behind and start a new school so close to graduation because of him. You’d think he’d be a little sympathetic. But no. Not my dad.

“Fine,” I replied. I pushed a pile of peas around my plate hoping it would make them disappear. If I could get away with it, I’d slip them onto my baby brother’s high chair tray. At ten months old, Caleb would eat just about anything you put in front of him. It didn’t even have to be food.

“And how about school?” Shari asked, forcing a cheerful smile. “How was your first day?”

I liked Shari. She had a way of softening the rough edges my dad developed after my mom left us when I was two years old. Shari and I weren’t necessarily close, but I figured we needed her. It had been an adjustment when Dad married her five years ago and even more so when Caleb came along. But Dad seemed happy.

“First day was good.” If it had just been Shari, I might have told her about the incident in the parking lot with Jordan. She would get a kick out of it. Dad would ask too many questions which would lead to him realizing Jordan was Coach Parks’s daughter. He’d tell me not to aggravate her to stay on Coach’s good side.

Everything revolved around hockey with him.

“You’re lucky to have a spot on Kevin Parks team, Asher. Don’t take it for granted. This is an incredible opportunity for you. You’re a talented athlete.”

Clenching my jaw against the disrespectful words aching to get out, I stared at my nearly full plate. We’d had this discussion before. Dad wanted me to play hockey. I wanted to pursue my music. He hated everything about my love of music, and refused to acknowledge any amount of talent I might possess.

Like I said before, I didn’t blame him. But just because she chose music over us didn’t mean I would turn out like her and do what she did. She hurt me, too. I’d never make the same mistakes as her. Sure, I’d make my own, but that was life. Right?

Hockey wasn’t my passion.

Dad had to stop playing competitive hockey as a sophomore in college because his leg got crushed in a car accident. He could walk, but he couldn’t skate, not enough to play hockey.

Somehow his dream for himself had become his dream for me. It sure wasn’t the dream I had for myself. Not even close. I knew Dad wished I’d inherited his love for hockey rather than Mom’s love of music, but I didn’t.

“Don’t worry, Dad. I haven’t forgotten our agreement. May I be excused?”

Dad frowned, but nodded.

I put my dish in the sink and went up to my room.

What a day.

I flopped on my back on my bed and let my thoughts turn Jordan once again. I hadn’t been able to get her off my mind.

I knew from what her friends had said at lunch, she’d likely show up at the same hockey practice as me, but it had still been a shock when she arrived in the parking lot outside the rink.

I hardly knew what to do with the wave of attraction I felt. Despite being a raving lunatic that morning, everything about her hit me in all the right ways. If she hadn’t been screaming at me, I might have asked to walk in with her.

Seeing her at lunch had only reinforced the physical attraction. I liked the way she dressed. Kind of edgy. A lot sexy. It was obvious she had no idea, which just added to her appeal. And her hair. So soft and feminine.

During practice, I’d had to skate my butt off to keep up with her. I admired her determination, her drive. She was fierce. The girl could play. Everything about her effort on the ice testified her love of the game.

Even the fear in her eyes when she realized we’d be competing for the same position on the ice told me Jordan’s passion for the sport far exceeded my own.

I wanted to reassure her I didn’t care about hockey, and she could have the starting position without any kind of competition from me, but that wouldn’t fly. My dad expected me to do my best which meant working my tail off to start in games. Either that, or I knew he’d make good on his threat to my dreams.

And I just couldn’t let that happen.

The next day at school, I gave into the temptation to yank Jordan’s chain and showed up to school early to park in her spot again. I shouldn’t have done it and it made me a douche for sure, but I wanted to talk to her. We were teammates. And even though we’d be competing for the starting position, we still had to play as a team.

I leaned back against the trunk and waited.

About five minutes later, Jordan came barreling into the parking lot. By the expression on her face, I’d done the exact wrong thing if I wanted to make amends. I just hoped she’d forgive me since I’d scared off two different people who tried to park in the spot next to me so she didn’t have to go all the way to the back.

She parked, jaw set, and avoided my gaze as she got out of her car.

“Jordan! Wait!” I called, chasing after her. She didn’t even hesitate, just kept going. Well, what did I expect?

I couldn’t move very fast with my guitar case banging against my legs, but I still caught up. Walking backwards in front of her I got an eyeful of just how angry I’d made her.

“Jordan, I’m sorry. I was just messing around.”

She moved to side-step around me, but I got in her way again.

“Come on. If I really meant to be a jerk, I wouldn’t have saved you a spot next to me.” I gave her my most charming smile.

Stopping short, she planted her fist on one hip. “If you didn’t want to be a jerk, you should have parked in the other spot and let me have mine.”

She was right, of course. “But that wouldn’t have been as funny.”

Her lips flattened into a thin line.

I put up my hands between us, signaling my surrender. “Fine. I’m sorry. It was just a joke. I do want to talk to you, though.”

She started walking again. “Too bad. I don’t want to talk to you.”

Before she could go too far, I caught hold of her wrist. She stopped with a gasp, her eyes wide and mouth open.

Maybe I’d been the one to go too far.

I dropped her wrist. “Sorry.” I ran my fingers through my hair, irritated with this whole situation. “Listen, I don’t know what the big deal is about your parking spot, but I won’t park there again. I just wanted to talk to you and was trying to be funny.” I made a face. “Epic fail. Message received. But come on, we’re on the same team. I don’t want to fight with you.”

She didn’t say anything, just stared at me long enough, I felt my ears get hot. Finally, she lifted her chin and took a step toward me, the top her her head barely reaching my chin.

“Teammate or not, hockey is my life,” she said, poking my chest with her finger. “Don’t mess with me or my game. Got it? We are not friends.”

Good hell, she was gorgeous.

Heart in my throat, it was all I could do to nod.

“Good.” She jabbed me again for good measure before spinning on her heel and walking away.

Convinced she was wrong, I waited until she disappeared to start down the hall in the opposite direction to put away my guitar. We were teammates and if I had anything to do about it, we wouldn’t just be friends, we’d be more.

Chapter Four


I’d only met Asher Sloane twenty-four hours ago and already he drove me crazy! Just who did he think he was, anyway? Parking in my spot. Trying to take my place on the team. Well, he could just go right back where he came from!

“Wow. Two mornings in a row?” Natalie asked, eyes wary.

“Ugh! It’s that Asher guy. He’s determined to ruin my senior year.”

Natalie frowned. “What, did he park in your spot again?”

“Yes, but you were right. It’s a stupid parking spot. It’s the fact he did it just to make me mad.” He said he did it to be funny, but I didn’t believe him. The guy was out to get me.

“Why would he want to do that?”

I shrugged. “Because he’s a jerk? And I hate him?”

Natalie made a face. “You don’t even know him. How can you hate him?”

“Stop being so reasonable!”

“Who’s being reasonable?” Kelly asked, joining us with wet hair and a fresh face.

Natalie rolled her eyes. “I think the real question is who’s being unreasonable.”

“You’re supposed to be on my team, Nat.”

Natalie threw up her arms. “I am. I’m just saying, give the guy a chance. He’s only been here one day.”

“Really? This again? What did he do this time?” Kelly shook her head, clearly exasperated.

“He parked in her spot again.” Natalie pumped her eyebrows at Kelly.

Kelly’s lips split into a grin. “Did he, now?”

“What’s that supposed to mean,” I asked.

Kelly flipped her hair over her shoulder. “It means he’s a delicious piece of eye candy and he’s flirting with you.”

My jaw dropped. “No, he isn’t! How could you say that?”

Kelly glanced at Natalie. “She’s in denial.”

Natalie nodded, agreeing wholeheartedly.

“I am not! And it doesn’t matter anyway. He’s my teammate.” I took a second to relish the satisfaction of shutting them both up. “And you know the rule, no falling for a teammate.”

“But you’ve thought about it.” Natalie said. “You’ve thought about it or you wouldn’t have brought up the rule. Admit it. You think he’s GOR-geous.”

I inhaled a deep breath filled with long-suffering and reminded myself I’d been friends with these two for a decade, too long to turn my back on them for being such complete ninnies!

“It doesn’t matter if I think he’s good looking.” And heaven only knew, I did! “He’s my teammate, and a parking spot thief.”

Not to mention he had a beautiful singing voice and had it out for my starting position on the hockey team. But I couldn’t reveal my secret, that I’d become an eavesdropper and a self-doubter. That kind of negativity didn’t deserve a voice.

“And he’s hawt!” Natalie sighed.

I threw up my hands. “I’m outta here. You two are hopeless. See you at lunch.” I walked away to the sounds of their snickers, couple of traitors!

We’d just see about them and their theories. Asher Sloane would never be interested a tomboy like me, although the thought did send a thrill of excitement through me so strong I shuddered. Parking in my spot for the second day in a row had to be his idea of mind games. That’s all there was to it.

Determined not to let Asher get to me, I pushed all thoughts of him to the back of my mind and tried to focus on school. Getting onto a college team wouldn’t be easy, even more so if I didn’t keep up with my grades.

By lunch I needed a break. Anxiety about running into Asher again threatened to choke me. Thankfully, Natalie and Kelly sat alone at our usual table. I heaved a sigh of relief. But where was Asher? I found him sitting with Jarom and a couple of his friends. They were in a band. It made sense Asher would make friends with them.

“I see Asher didn’t want to take his life in his own hands by crashing our table again today,” Kelly teased.

I set my tray down and scowled. “Can we please have a conversation that doesn’t revolve around Asher?” He’d been consuming my thoughts since the day before. I didn’t want to talk about him anymore.

Kelly shrugged. “Sure, what do you want to talk about?”

“Ooh, I know! Why don’t we talk about the transfer student from Lakes High?” Natalie grinned.

Kelly whirled on Natalie. “How did you hear about him?”

“How did I not hear about him? Who is he?” I asked.

“He’s not quite as good looking as your boy, Asher, but whew!” Natalie fanned herself with her hand. “He is fi-ine.”

Kelly rolled her eyes. “Yeah, if you’re into arrogant jocks.”

“What’s this arrogant jock’s name?” I asked Natalie because Kelly’s poopy face put me off.

“Jared Oliver.”

Wait. “Haven’t I heard that name before?”

Natalie nodded excitedly, but Kelly’s expression gave me the real answer.

“Wasn’t he the guy-” I started to say.

“Yes,” Kelly cut me off. “Let’s talk about something else. How about this, Natalie kissed Finn over the summer and didn’t tell anyone.”

Natalie gasped, her face turning bright red. “How do you about that?”

“Wait. You did kiss Finn over the summer? Nat, what the heck? How could you not tell us?” Someone scrape me off the floor! This was big news. Big.

“No one was supposed to know.” Natalie looked close to tears. “How did you even find out?” she asked Kelly.

Kelly crossed her arms over her chest. “Why are you keeping secrets, Nat? We’re best friends.”

Natalie jumped to her feet. “Are we, though?” she cried, a single tear rolling down her cheek. “Because best friends don’t blab things they know nothing about!” Without another word, she stormed out of the cafeteria, leaving her lunch tray and Kelly and I both gaping after her.

“What in the world just happened?”

Kelly’s shoulders drooped. “I shouldn’t have brought it up like that. It’s my fault.”

She wasn’t wrong. She shouldn’t have, but I had a feeling I understood why she did. Natalie liked to tease us about boys and there must be something I didn’t understand going on with Kelly and this Jared dude that Natalie knew about.

“Did she really kiss Finn?” I asked, my voice barely above a whisper. Finn was Natalie’s older brother, Charlie’s best friend. She’d had a crush on him since third grade, but Finn and Charlie graduated with Joe so they were older than us.

Kelly nodded. “Yeah, I heard about it from Angie. They were all at a party this summer. I don’t know the details. Angie didn’t, either. I just know it happened.” Angie was Kelly’s older sister, even older than Finn and Charlie, but they all went to school together in Champaign at the University of Illinois.

“And the transfer student?” I asked.

Kelly shook her head and rose from her seat. “I’ll see you later.”

What the heck was going on around here?


Thank goodness for Jarom. Because of him, I didn’t have to be the loser with no one to sit with during lunch. He introduced me to the other two guys in his band, Bash and Adam and then proceeded to give me the who’s who of the senior class in his unique and hilarious way.

“Who you starin’ at, bro?” he asked out of the blue.

“What do you mean?” I replied, startled. Of course, I’d been watching Jordan, not at all realizing I’d been so obvious about it. I felt bad for the way things went down earlier and wondered exactly what I could do to fix it. Other than parking as far away from her ‘spot’ as possible.

Jarom sat back in his chair with a smirk. “I knew you had your eyes on someone.”

“Who?” Jarom’s friend, Adam, spoke up. Adam was kind of quiet and looked exactly like you would think a guy in a high school garage band would. He played the guitar and wore dark skinny jeans, black shirt, and a leather jacket. His dark hair hung low over his brow making so he constantly reached up to brush it out of his eyes.

“Nobody.” No way I’d admit anything to these clowns.

Jarom squinted at the table where Jordan sat with her two friends. They seemed to be having an intense discussion and I kind of wished we were close enough for me to eavesdrop.

“Jordan?” he guessed.

I snorted. “Jordan? Yeah, right. She’s on my hockey team.”

Jarom’s brows pulled low and he leaned onto the back two legs of his chair to peer around the table beside us to get a look at Jordan where she sat with Kelly and Natalie across the room.

“Seriously?” he asked.

I kicked his chair almost making him lose his balance. “Dude! What are you doing? Stop staring.”

Jarom sat forward and grinned. “You do like her.”

I shook my head, ready to deny it to the death.

“Good luck with that,” Adam said.

“Yeah, man,” Bash agreed. Bash played the drums and where Adam was all things dark, Bash looked like he just stepped off the plane from California. Bleach blonde hair, blue eyes, white shorts and a baby blue shirt. Since he sat down, he’d been tapping out rhythms non-stop using pencils, utensils, even his fingers.

“What do you mean? Not that he’s right.” I jabbed my thumb at Jarom who just smiled.

Bash sat forward, leaning his elbows on the table. “Jordan Parks may be smokin’, but I’ve never seen her with a single guy at this school. Not once.”

“I don’t think she’s ever had a boyfriend,” Adam added.

Jarom glanced Jordan’s way again. “It’s a real tragedy.”

I didn’t know how I felt about these guys talking about Jordan being hot, but it wasn’t good. “Why not?” I hesitated to ask, but only for about a split second. These guys had information and I wanted it.

Jarom shrugged. “I’m not sure. But I think it might have something to do with the fact she’s hella intimidating. Have you seen that girl? Her biceps are bigger than mine.”

I glanced at Jarom’s arms and figured it didn’t take much.

He followed the direction of my gaze and frowned. “Not cool, man.”

I grinned, already knowing him well enough to know I hadn’t offended him.

“Not only is she intimidating, so are her brothers. Bobby Parks is a freaking legend at this school. Nobody messes with him or his.” Adam shuddered.

Of course, I knew about Jordan’s brothers. Bobby was twenty-one and played in the minors. Joe was nineteen and played on the same team as Jordan and I. Joe seemed cool, but then, I’d never given him reason to hate me.

Yeah, I guess I understood what my friends were getting at.

“Okay, so dudes are too chicken to ask her out, but hasn’t she ever liked anyone?” It kind of slayed me she’d never dated anyone. A girl like Jordan should have guys hanging all around her. Not that it hurt my feelings she didn’t.

All three guys shook their heads.

“Not that I’ve ever heard,” Bash said.

Jarom narrowed his gaze at me. “What about you, man? If you don’t have a thing for Jordan, then what? You got a girl back where you came from?”

I hadn’t really talked about where I moved from or why with these guys, but I hadn’t tried to hide anything, either.

I shook my head. “Nope. No girlfriend.” At least, not anymore. “Not interested in the long distance thing.”

All this talk about Jordan and girlfriends had my fingers itching to play my guitar.

“Listen, I’m gonna go play my guitar. I’ll catch you guys later.” Reaching for my bag, I got ready to leave.

Adam snorted. “You sound as bad as me. Maybe you should join our band.”

I rolled my eyes, not taking him seriously. “Right.”

But Jarom sat up straight, his mouth dropped open. “That’s a great idea. You should totally join our band.”

I sat back, glancing at Adam and Bash to gauge their reaction. They didn’t seem at all wigged out by Jarom speaking up for the three of them.

“You guys barely know me.” I’d never been part of a band. I’d always imagined a solo career. Like my mom. “You don’t even know if I can sing.”

“Yes, I do, man. I heard you singing yesterday. The door to the practice room wasn’t closed all the way. You can definitely sing.” Jarom watched me with hopeful eyes.

Adam made a face. “He’s been talking about it ever since.”

“Look, I can sing, but even just hearing you sing one song, I can tell you’re better.” Jarom really wanted this, I could tell.

“So, how would it work?” I couldn’t believe I was actually considering it. I had no idea when I’d have time to practice or how I would explain it to my dad, but I wanted it.

Jarom nodded, the start of a smile curling his lips. “Right on, man.” He sat forward, bracing his elbows on the table. “We can work things out, but you’d be our lead, Bash on drums, Adam, guitar. I play piano, but don’t tell Ms. Jackson.”

Pulling my chin back, I stared at him. “You play piano?”

“Dude, shh. Seriously, don’t tell anyone. Ms. Jackson will make me accompany the choir if you do.” He glanced around dramatically. “With you and Adam on guitar and us singing.” He shrugged and kind of let the implication hang there.

“My dad’s not super supportive of my music.”

The three of them exchanged glances.

“Yeah, we get that. None of our parents are either.”

“And I have hockey.” I’d quit hockey today and spend every day practicing with these guys, even if they were terrible. My dad would have a fit and disown me.

Jarom nodded. “Maybe we can work something out with Ms. Jackson during advising or something. I’m not sure. But we’ll do what it takes to make it happen. We don’t have any gigs right now, but I think if we work we can audition for some local shows.”

Wow. Jarom had bigger dreams than I expected. I kind of thought they just messed around for fun, but from the expressions on all their faces, I’d underestimated them.

“Yeah. Okay. I’m in.” And I’d deal with my dad when the time came, which would hopefully be way, way in the future.

All three guys sagged with apparent relief.

“Awesome.” Jarom stood, his fist extended.

And just like that I’d joined a band.

Chapter Five


I didn’t see much of Asher the rest of the first week of school and everything seemed to be falling into place as it should. No one parked in my parking spot. Asher sat with Jarom and his friends at lunch. Natalie and Kelly apologized and made up after squabbling at lunch. And after practice that first day, we seemed to form some unspoken agreement to skate on opposite ends of the rink for drills. During scrimmage, since we played the same position, we never scrimmaged on the same team and we never had to go against each other.

Instead, I battled Leo Jessup.

Play to win.

“Oomph.” My shoulder hit the wall. Leo’s huge body pinned me for a split second before he backed off, grinning.

Too bad Leo wanted to maim me before we could even play our first game.

“Idiot! We’re on the same team.” I’d been going home with sore shoulders from all the body checks into the wall. Leo outweighed me by at least fifty pounds and he seemed to get a kick out of smashing me. The first couple days, I thought he just played a physical game or maybe he wanted to make a point to the new girl, but now, I kind of thought it might be his own special brand of flirting.


“Dude, what is your problem?” From out of nowhere, Asher skated full speed at Leo. They crashed into the wall. “You trying to get her injured before our first game?”

Leo untangled himself from Asher with a smirk. “Got a thing for her, man?” he said, skating away backwards making an obscene gesture.

Asher didn’t even glance my way before skating after him to join the game again.

It started and ended so fast, no one else even noticed. Guys pushed each other around all the time. However, for the rest of practice, Asher made it his business to hit Leo any chance he got. By the end, other guys began to notice and run interference. I half expected Dad to step in, but he let them play. You had to be tough to play hockey. Fighting came with the territory.

However, I didn’t need some new kid fighting my battles.

I went to the locker room and changed to drive home like always, but instead of getting into my car, I waited beside his.

Guys trickled out of the building. If any of them noticed me standing there, none of them said anything. I only hoped Joe would be the last guy out like usual. This conversation didn’t require any brotherly interference.

I figured half the team had gone home before Asher came walking out. My heart beat faster at the sight of him, which only made me angry. I didn’t want to be attracted to him.

Asher caught sight of me, his eyes lighting at first, but then his brows pulled low. “What did I do now?” he asked.

“I have three brothers. I don’t need another one.”

“You think that was me being brotherly?”

The way he said it made my cheeks flush. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t need you or anyone else protecting me. I can take care of myself.”

Asher shook his head as he stepped around me to open the trunk of his car. He tossed his gear in the back with more force than necessary and slammed the trunk shut.

I stood in front of the driver’s side door. Asher strode toward me, his jaw clenched. How did he manage to be so pretty and masculine all at the same time?

“That guy was out of line.” Asher braced a hand on the roof of his car and leaned close.

“My problem. Not yours.” He smelled good after his shower. With three brothers I’d become more familiar with masculine scents than I wanted, but Asher used something I’d never smelled before. I liked it.

“You’re my teammate,” he countered.

“So is Leo.”

Asher frowned. “He’s not acting like it.”

He might be right, but that didn’t change anything. “I don’t. Need. Your. Help.” I punctuated each word with a jab to his chest with my finger.

His frown deepened. “Fine.”



It occurred to me how close we were. My hand still touched his chest. I brought it back as though he’d burned me.

I nodded. “Good. I’m glad we cleared that up.”

His lips twisted with the beginnings of a smile. “Me, too. Now, are you going to let me in my car or not?” He gestured to his door, the one I still blocked.

Mustering as much dignity as I was capable of, I walked to my own car. It wasn’t until I started the ignition I noticed Asher hadn’t moved to get into his own car. Instead, he stood there, still watching me. I probably should have felt creeped out, but I didn’t. His eyes followed me out of the parking lot and I gasped at the wave of emotion passing over me from the heat of his stare.

I didn’t want to like Asher, but no way could I deny my attraction.

“It doesn’t matter,” I admonished myself out loud. We were teammates. And enemies. I couldn’t have a crush on Asher Sloan.

No crush didn’t mean I couldn’t love his music. Over the next couple of weeks, it became my ritual to shower after dinner and sit under my open window in shorts and a sports bra while icing my shoulder while listening to Asher sing and play his guitar. He went outside every night. And after just a few weeks, I already dreaded the colder weather that would soon keep him from unwittingly serenading me.

We still had another couple of weeks before our first game. Practices became more intense and so did the pressure to play well. Leo let up a little on the ice after Asher laid into him, but the look in his eye said we weren’t finished.

Things weren’t only tense on the ice, they were rocky at home, too.

“Jordan, take your plate up to your room,” Dad said one night as I went to sit down in my usual chair at the dinner table.

“O-kay,” I murmured, backing away from the table. I hadn’t noticed earlier, but the air in the dining room felt thick with tension. My little brother sat with his head down, his hands in his lap. Dad’s jaw twitched and he fisted a napkin in his hand. Mom’s worried gaze flicked back and forth between father and son.

Tempting as it might be to sit at the top of the stairs and listen to the drama unfold at the dinner table, I didn’t. Whatever was going on with Payton, I wished he’d figure it out. I hated seeing him get in trouble. And I didn’t know how much more my parents could take.

I closed my bedroom door to block out the raised voices downstairs. I looked to my window, but doubted Asher would be outside this early. I didn’t think he’d realized we lived so close to each other yet. He definitely hadn’t caught me listening to him, but that could be because I didn’t sit there and stare at him through the window. I made sure to remain out of sight, content to hear him even if I couldn’t see him.

Which said something about his singing, because not looking was a sacrifice. I’d never considered myself boy crazy before, but the boy next door had quickly become an obsession.

I even found myself watching for him in the halls between classes, before and after school in the parking lot, and I’d cast enough glances his way during lunch to have drawn the attention of my two best friends.

Not that it mattered. I would never date Asher Sloane. Even if he wasn’t completely out of my league as far as looks went, we were teammates. I needed to think of him as the enemy. I’d been paying attention during practice. Asher played with effortless determination, his movements graceful and efficient. He played intuitively, anticipating his opponent’s next move. I hated to admit it, but he played better than me.

But that just made me want it more! And I knew I’d made the right decision to join my dad’s team. They played at a higher level, forcing me to up my own intensity. Everyday I improved my skills, learned something knew, or performed in a way I didn’t know I could.

Voices rose from downstairs again and then nothing. I held my breath, waiting until Payton’s feet pounded on the steps, before opening my door.

Payton’s shoulders hunched as he stomped down the hall toward his room. I reached out, stopping short of touching him as he passed me.


“Leave me alone, Jord.” My heart broke at the defeated tone in his voice.

He turned into his room while I watched, wishing I knew what to do with my little brother to make him stop breaking our parent’s hearts.

“Love you,” I called out, just as he slammed his door shut behind him.

No longer hungry, I abandoned my dinner in favor of a shower. I should honestly shower before dinner, but Mom knew how hungry we all were as soon as we got home and always had dinner on the table. The boys showered at the rink, so I was the only sweaty one most nights or I don’t think she’d have been okay with me waiting. One stinky person she could handle, four of us would have been overwhelming.

I took my shower and returned to my room to get dressed. As I pulled on a pair of gym shorts and an over-sized t-shirt that once belonged to one of my older brothers, I debated if I should keep eavesdropping on Asher.

Who did it hurt? He didn’t know anyone listened. Would he care if he knew? Maybe he should stay inside if he didn’t want anyone to hear. Right?

Unable to resist, I grabbed my government textbook and lifted the window before sitting on the beanbag chair I’d hauled up from the basement just for this purpose.

Like clockwork, Asher’s voice floated through my open window. For the last few days, he’d been working on the same song. I’d come to the conclusion what I heard every night was him in the actual process of writing songs. Even though he repeated snippets of the same song over and over again, I never seemed to tire of hearing him sing.

Tonight, however, he started something new. A haunting melody coupled with powerful lyrics about misunderstandings, lost dreams, and wishes on stars.

My government book lay unopened on my lap as Asher’s song slipped through my open window and wrapped itself around my heart.

I might be determined not to like the boy, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t love his song.


By the start of the third week of school, I’d begun to feel better about moving. My classes running smooth. I’d made a few friends. Joined a band. And I hadn’t had any negative interaction with Jordan. In fact, I hadn’t had any interaction with Jordan. And if I were being honest, that lack represented the only blemish on an otherwise bright outlook.

Jarom talked to Ms. Jackson about practicing during lunch and advising twice a week which ironically we had with Ms. Jackson who fully supported our desire to spend the period working in a practice room.

Until Friday when she called me over to her desk.

“Hey, Asher. I’ve been looking over your transcript and realized we need to go over a few things. Why don’t you pull a chair around so you can see the computer screen?”

I did as she asked, rolling a chair from the bottom tier around to sit a couple of feet away from her behind her desk.

“So, here’s a copy of your transcript.” A table appeared on the screen with my name at the top. She scrolled down to the end of the table and stopped. “This list at the bottom is everything you still need to do to graduate. You can see you still needed a math class, language arts, government, and science.”

“Looks about right. Is there a problem?” Glancing away from the list on the screen, I caught Ms. Jackson staring at me. I smiled and she looked away, clearing her throat. I tried not to let it go to my head when her cheeks turned pink. She wasn’t the first teacher to blush in front of me.

Not wanting to embarrass her any further, I focused on the screen, giving her a chance to collect herself.

She cleared her throat again. “Yes, actually.”


“What is it?”

Mr. Jackson smiled, firmly back in teacher mode. “You see, Lakeview participates in a program in conjunction with a non-profit organization that strives to teach students more than just academics. I talked with Mr. Allen, the principal, about the requirements for you since you’re already a senior and everyone else has been working on this since freshman year. He agreed to let you complete this packet,” she handed me a stapled sheaf of papers.

I flipped through it.

“Don’t worry. None it is graded. You just have to do it. And it shouldn’t be hard, but if you do have any trouble I can help you or any of your other teachers. All your classmates have had to do them as well, so you can get help from them if you need it.”

Time consuming busy work. Perfect. I didn’t have much of a choice, though.

“Okay, that’s fine. I’ll work on it. Is there a due date?”

Ms. Jackson shook her head. “No, just as long as it’s done by graduation. But I wouldn’t put it off. Chances are you really won’t be in the mood to work on it this spring.”

I smiled. “Right. Good advice.” I put the packet into my backpack, prepared to not look at again until I absolutely had to. “Thanks-”

“Oh, wait,” she stopped me, her face turning red again. “I’m sorry. The packet is only part of it.”

Awesome. I sat back in the chair and waited.

Ms. Jackson cleared her throat, something I realized she did when she was nervous. “Another part of the program requires a certain number of hours of community service-”

My eyes bulged. Community service? What the hell!

Ms. Jackson noticed my expression and hurried to reassure me. “It’s not as bad as it sounds, I promise. And I have a project in mind I think you might enjoy.”

“Okay, what is it?” I didn’t want to be a jerk, but come on. Community service? Wasn’t that for delinquents?

“Basically, it’s mentorship for a student over at the middle school. You would go over there during your flex period twice a week and share your talent for music.”

Music didn’t sound so bad. “So, I’d what? Teach guitar or something?”

Ms. Jackson nodded. “Yeah, if you want. Or you could sing. Piano. Whatever the two of you decide. As long as you provide a positive role model with a focus on music. Twice a week for the semester and you’d have all your hours finished before Christmas. How does that sound?”

“Perfect.” I rose from the desk, ready to join the guys in the practice room and forget all about Ms. Jackson and graduation requirements and lose myself in making music. “Thanks, Ms. Jackson, that sounds kind of fun.” Or at least better than picking up garbage on the highway.

She stood up as well. “Great. I still need to meet with someone from the middle school to determine which kids will participate in the program. I’ll let you know when I know. How does that sound?”

“Sounds good. Thanks again,” I said and then made my way to the practice room.

Jarom, Adam, and Bash worked on one of my songs. Once they found out I wrote my own music, they begged to hear some of it. We’d chosen three to begin working on together, adding harmony and including percussion. Jarom had the idea to work on a few songs until we had them the way we wanted them, then put them up on YouTube. I didn’t know about all that, but I loved how the first song sounded once we put it all together.

“Man, this sounds so good,” Adam said when I walked in.

“I can’t believe you aren’t already doing gigs.” Bash shook his head from behind his drum set. “What’s holding you back?”

“I told you guys, my dad.” I slung my guitar strap over my shoulder and played the first chords of the song they’d been working on while I talked to Ms. Jackson. “I like what you did with that last part, Adam. Let’s start from the top. I want to hear it again. I had an idea.”

Happy to not discuss my dad and his lack of support for my passion, I went right into the song.

“Whoa, that sounded so much better.” Jarom held out his knuckles.

I tapped them with mine. “We practice a few more times like that and then I say we record it.”

“This is going to be so epic,” Jarom said.

I didn’t think so at first, but now, I kind of thought he might be right.

After school, I found myself walking slowly toward the exit. I hadn’t tested Jordan’s patience by parking in her spot again, but since I had to take my guitar case in every day, I tried to arrive early enough to get a close spot. That morning, the space beside Jordan had been available and I’d taken it.

My eyes scanned the sea of heads bobbing down the hall toward the door leading to the student parking lot for her particular shade of blonde. Since the incident at practice with Leo, I’d told myself Jordan didn’t want anything to do with me and I needed to leave her alone. Easier said than done. Apparently, I’d become a bit obsessed with a certain tomboy.

Finally, I saw her several feet in front of me and quickened my pace until nobody separated us. I followed her out the door to the parking lot where the noise from the hall dissipated and a quiet sound reached my ear.

Chapter Six


I’d fallen asleep the night before with Asher’s song stuck in my head. At different times during the day, I’d caught myself humming the tune, a happy little distraction from the turmoil I’d been experiencing worrying about my little brother. Thank goodness for Friday!

With Asher’s melody running through my mind, I burst through the double doors, immediately shedding some of the tension I’d been carrying around since the night before.

“Hey!” Asher’s voice, accompanied by his hand on my shoulder, pulled me to a stop in the middle of the school parking lot.

“What’s your problem?”I asked, pointedly glaring at his hand me.

He dropped it like I’d burned him. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have grabbed you like that. I was just-” He ran his fingers through his hair.

“Just what?” He’d scared the crap out of me, grabbing me like that out of nowhere.

“You were humming,” he said.

I rolled my eyes and moved out of the flow of traffic leaving the parking lot toward my own car. “That’s a federal offense or something?” I said over my shoulder.

Asher pressed his lips into a thin line and followed me. “No, but piracy is. You were humming my tune and I want to know where you heard it.”



Heat flooded my cheeks. My neck. My whole body. I busied myself with putting my backpack in my car while I tried to come up with something to say.

“I, um, how do you know I didn’t just make it up?” I squeezed my eyes shut with my back to him and hoped he wouldn’t press me.

“Because I listened for more than a couple of bars, Jordan. You hummed the entire first verse and chorus of the song I wrote in my backyard last night.”

I opened my eyes to find him standing in front of me, hands on his hips.

I bit my lip.

“Mind explaining how that’s possible?” he asked.

He’d caught me. I’d have to tell him the truth. But how? And how humiliating. Why had I never considered the eventuality of this moment?

“Uh,” I stuttered.

Asher hooked his thumbs in his belt loops and waited, one brow lifted, for me to explain myself.

Furiously, I tried to come up with something less stalker-ish than I listen to you sing every night through my open bedroom window, sometimes in a towel.

I settled for, “I heard you.”

His mouth dropped open. “What? How could you have heard me?” His eyes widened as though he’d just thought of something. “Were you spying on me?”

Oh, gosh! It sounded so terrible when he said it like that!

I closed my eyes and shook my head. “No,” I hedged. “Not really.”

He stared at me, clearly perplexed. “Not really? What does that even mean?”

My cheeks burned as though they’d been dipped in lava.

“I live in the house behind you,” I blurted.

Asher opened his mouth and then closed it again before changing his mind one more time and asking, “You what?”

This sucked so bad!

I repeated what I’d told him. “I live in the house behind yours.” And since he still seemed a bit confused, I continued. “My bedroom faces the back yard.”

His mouth snapped shut. He regarded me for a long, awkward moment.

“I’m sorry,” I blurted again. Actually… “I’m not sorry I heard you.” His eyes narrowed. “I’m just sorry for listening without your permission.”

He didn’t say anything for so long, I suddenly became aware of where we were. The parking lot had thinned considerably in the time we’d been talking. Most of the remaining cars belonged to athletes who stayed for practice. Only a handful of people still walked to their cars. Everyone else had already left.

“Let me get this straight. You live,” he paused until I met his gaze again. “In the house behind mine and you what?”

I waited for him to fill in the blank or at least offer me some options, but he didn’t. Instead, he just stood there, his brows lifted expectantly.

I decided to give into my embarrassing fate. “It was an accident, hearing you the first time. I’d just gotten out of the shower,” his lips parted just the slightest bit. I could have probably left that particular detail out of my story. Whatever. “My room was hot and so I opened the window. That’s when I heard you playing your guitar.”

“When was this?”

“The first day of school,” I whispered.

He blinked. “And you’ve been listening,” he left the question open.

“Pretty much every day while I do my homework,” I admitted, my cheeks blazing with the heat of the sun.

Slowly, so very slowly, his impossibly long lashes lowered to his cheeks before lifting again. “You’ve been listening to me sing every night and I didn’t even know?”

I nodded, the movement jerky. He had every right to be upset. I’d invaded his privacy by eavesdropping. I should have closed my window when I heard him that first time and resisted the temptation every day after.

My heart raced as I waited for him to say something. Anything.

Our gazes held for what felt like an eternity. In that time, Asher’s expression went from angry to curious to something else entirely.

My heart beat faster.

His perfect features softened, one side of his mouth lifted. He stepped so close our bodies brushed. I thought about backing away from him, but my feet wouldn’t work.

“I’m flattered,” he murmured, his voice low.

Heat flooded my body at his closeness, but I couldn’t forget. We weren’t friends. “Don’t be.”

His eyes lit with amusement. “You were humming my song. You must like it.”

Liked it? I freaking loved it.

I shook my head. “Lots of annoying songs get stuck in my head.” I ticked a few off on my fingers. “The Song That Never Ends. Let it Go. Gangnam Style. Anything by Taylor Swift.”

His lips twitched. “I like Taylor Swift.”

“You would.”

Asher chuckled low under his breath and took a step away from me toward his car. “I concede. That round goes to you.” He shook his head and chuckled again. “See you at practice.”


I got into my car hoping I appeared more confident than I felt. Jordan had been listening to me sing? Every night? She lived in the house behind ours? My mind raced with the implications. The possibilities. Hell, I’d never fall asleep in my own bed again knowing she slept less than a hundred yards away.

And what about my evening jam session? Would I be able to play wondering if she listened? She had no idea the effect she had on me. I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about the idea of us together since the moment I laid eyes on her. Now, I knew we were neighbors, and she’d been listening to me sing and play. All I wanted was the chance to show her what could be.

But would she give me that chance?

I laughed to myself again. Jordan wanted to like me, I knew it. But she wouldn’t let herself.


Did she still hold it against me? Those first couple of days when I parked in her spot? Or did she hold a grudge because of that day at practice when I mistakenly tried to defend her from that jerk, Leo? He still bugged her at school. I wanted to pound him.

I parked at the rink and hurried inside to change. Coach Parks took practice seriously. His teams won because he made them put in the work. I’ve always worked hard at hockey. I had to or I’d have to answer to my dad. Maybe I needed to not worry about Jordan. Or girls in general. I had school, hockey, my own music, not to mention Jarom’s band. Adding a relationship seemed kind of crazy. Not that it even was an issue.

Still, should I give up on her? Call me romantic, but I believed in relationships. Love. And while I’d never lacked for female attention, no one had ever made me feel the way Jordan did.

I tried to ignore her during practice, but she didn’t make it easy. I loved watching her skate. I couldn’t get enough of how tough she played. Jarom hadn’t been kidding, Jordan was hella intimidating.

Still, neither of us needed the attention we’d draw if I gave into temptation to skate beside her during drills. I’d want to flirt with her.

I snorted to myself. Her dad and brother would appreciate that, for sure. I couldn’t risk my own position on the team by ticking them off because I had the hots for Jordan.

Didn’t keep my eyes from finding her, however. Her blonde ponytail made her easy to spot. She played with intensity, her passion for the game evident every time she stepped onto the ice. What she lacked in stature, she made up for with quickness and stealth.

Of course, Jordan had already left by the time I reached my car in the parking lot. We didn’t live far from the rink, but this time instead of turning down our street, I took the road before it, curious to see where exactly Jordan lived. Sure enough, her beat up car sat in the driveway of the house directly behind mine.

What were the odds?

Not wanting to get caught behaving like a stalker, I continued home. Shari’s mom-mobile and Dad’s sleek sports car took up the driveway, so I parked on the street.

“How was practice?” Shari asked with a bright smile when I walked into the kitchen.

“Good,” I replied with a smile at Caleb who sat in his high chair. His little feet kicked and his hands waved as he blew spit bubbles at the sight of me. What a cute kid.

“Can I get