“Hey, Scrappy,” Connor said as I approached the center of the field where the guys were gathering for practice. He stepped in front of Skyler with his arms outstretched as if to protect him from me. “It is my job as offensive tackle to protect our quarterback at all costs, even if it’s from our own players.”
“Very funny, Connor.” I rolled my eyes but caught the tiny smirk on Skyler’s face and the way his eyebrows raised just slightly before he forced an expressionless mask. “I left my boxing gloves, and my evening gown, at home.”
“Darn it,” Jayce said, sidling up next to me and wrapping his arm around my waist. “I really, really liked that dress.”
I could almost hear the growl from the back of Skyler’s throat and saw the way his eyes narrowed at Jayce.
“I’ll let you borrow the dress if you like it so much.” I bumped Jayce away with my hip. “I didn’t realize that’s what you were into.”
“Ooh!” Connor taunted. “She got you.”
“We can play dress-up together if that’s what you want, babe.” Jayce didn’t take the hint that I was rejecting his advances, but I couldn’t resist teasing him just a little bit more.
“So, you think just because I dress in guy’s clothes,” —I held up my football helmet, “That I like guys who dress up in girl’s clothes?”
“Whatever turns you on, babe.” Jayce raised his eyebrows.
“Okay, let’s get started with practice,” Skyler called out, a trace of anger in his voice. We all gathered closer and waited for instructions. “Most of you are going to run the perimeter of the field four times. Jayce, you and I are going to have a little chat. You, too, Jonnie.”
“Y’er in trouble,” Connor said, but took off at a decent pace. The other guys chuckled or shook their heads or patted Jayce on the shoulder as they started off down to the end of the field. Aiden led the pack. What a change from the first day of practice. I couldn’t help smiling.
Skyler cleared his throat after everyone else was out of earshot. “Jayce, I know you think it’s funny to make suggestive comments to Jonnie, but I doubt she welcomes your advances.”
“She knows I’m joking,” Jayce said, wrapping his arm around my shoulder. “We’ve been poking fun at each other for years.”
“Well, I’ve noticed your joking has become a little more inappropriate and I don’t think any of us want a sexual harassment charge on our high school transcripts. Am I right?”
Jayce dropped his arm from around my shoulder and stepped away from me. “Dude, not cool to say crap like that.”
“Jayce, you know I’m not gonna make that kinda claim, but Skyler’s right.”
“Woah, can I hear you say that again?” Skyler put his hand to his ear. “Did you just say, ‘Skyler’s right?’”
“Whatever.” I pushed Skyler’s shoulder and fought the desire to wrap my arms around his waist.
“I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable, Jonnie.” Jayce lowered his gaze and shuffled his cleat against the turf.
“I’m fine, seriously.” I reached over and wrapped my arms around Jayce. Funny how it was okay to give a hug to the guy I didn’t like but not okay to hug the guy I was in love with.
Woah, did I just think that? Was I in love with Skyler? My jaw gaped as I caught Skyler’s gaze, but I shook it off and continued what I needed to say to Jayce. I shifted so I could look up at the hunky lineman beside me.
“But you need to know that I’m not interested in you as more than a friend. I hope we can go back to the way we were back when I was flat chested and had short hair.”
Skyler choked on the water he was drinking, and I bit my lips to keep from laughing. It was kind of fun to have such an effect on Skyler. He sputtered for a moment and coughed a few times, but Jayce ignored him.
“Yeah, I kinda figured you weren’t interested in me about the time you asked Aiden to the homecoming dance,” Jayce said.
“That really made a statement, didn’t it?”
“So, is he, like, your boyfriend now?” Jayce asked. Now it was my turn to cough and sputter.
“Um, no, we just like hangin’ out,” I said, clearing my throat. “I don’t currently have a boyfriend.” I glared at Skyler and he narrowed his eyes at me. Thankfully Jayce didn’t seem to notice our exchange.
“I think it’s time we get warmed up,” Skyler said, stretching his hamstrings. “Run the perimeter with me?”
I wished Skyler was talking to just me, but unfortunately Jayce took off at a casual pace with us. Was Skyler purposefully running this slow? We fell in step about five feet behind the rest of the pack, and Jayce instinctively started racing rather than running. He was a track star in the spring, like me, but with a much more competitive spirit. Within less than a minute he had pushed past the rest of the team.
“You know what I like about football practice?” Skyler asked. I suspected I knew his answer already. “I get to be with you, and no one questions it.”
“We get to run together like we’ve done for years,” I said in agreement.
We settled into our usual pace in companionable silence.