Author: Suze Winegardner
Title: The Love Playbook
Publication Date: November 4, 2019
Publisher: Entangled Teen Crush
When Avery Stone learns her dad will be fired if his high school team doesn’t make the playoffs, she has to get her head out of her day planner and do something—anything—to help him win. Even if it means secretly coaching the team’s newest player, who seems to have more game than skill.
Lucas Black just transferred to Hillside with a fake name and a big secret. The MVP of every team he’d played on since he was seven—not to mention the MVP of every post-game party—he can’t understand why since arriving at Hillside, he’s been unable to catch a single. Freaking. Ball.
Until…Avery. Amazing, kind, generous, and crazy-freaking-hot Avery.
As Lucas goes from zero back to hero and Avery struggles with just what Lucas means to her, she inadvertently sets them on a collision course with Lucas’s secret…a secret that could take down not only Lucas but her father too.
DISCLAIMER: This Entangled Teen Crush contains a football player hotter than the Texas sun, hotel cuddles, and a steamy makeout session in the rain.
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“You videoed me?” he asked, surprised, and…what was the other thing? Surprise and warmth, was it? She’d videoed him playing football. Only his mother had done that before.
“I thought it would help you get fixed,” she replied, instantly deflating every hope he didn’t know that he’d had. “Do you want to see?”
“Be right back,” she said flying through the swing door. It swung slow enough that he saw her running up the stairs two at a time.
He grinned. He liked her. He had no earthly reason why, but he liked her. She seemed so open, like she wasn’t afraid of anything. Yet, there were obviously things she was scared of. He could see it in her eyes. It was the same look he’d seen in the mirror these past four months or so. But hell, all that aside, he just wanted to touch her so bad. To touch her, to kiss her. What was up with that?
She blew through the kitchen door again holding her phone aloft. She jumped up so she was sitting on the marble counter and patted the spot next to her.
He hesitated for a second, and jumped up beside her, ignoring the throb in his head the sudden movement had produced. She was swiping to get to the right spot. “There.” She handed the phone to him, and peered over his shoulder to watch with him. Her chin almost touched his shoulder. If he moved it just a tiny bit, would she jerk away or rest her chin on him? He didn’t want to risk finding out.
On the video, the crowd was chattering as they came out of the huddle, but as soon as the players took their positions, there was silence. He heard Lexi say “here we go,” as Colin took possession of the ball.
It was embarrassing at how out of place he’d been for Colin’s throw, but even more so, when freaking Avery said in disbelief, “Oh my God, he caught it.”
He gave her a look. “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
She pressed her lips together and returned her attention to the small screen.
Wow, he was fast. He was back on form again. A small part of him remembered his legs pumping, and the entire belief, no certainty, in him that he’d reach the line.
And then the defender hit him. There was a crack as their helmets made contact. It was a totally illegal tackle. He watched as his head snapped back and forth with the impact. Wincing he looked away. “Okay, I’ve seen enough.”
“It was bad,” she agreed. “What did your mom say?”
“She was a little freaked,” he said slowly, “I’ve never been hit like that before. Speaking of…do you have any Advil I could use? I didn’t bring mine with me.”
“Sure. Let me go find my bag.” She slid off the counter and ran off again, and instantly he felt the lack of her next to him. It was like the sun had gone behind a cloud, and oh my God, I can’t believe you’re thinking in freaking poems. His eyes widened and he shook his head at himself. What was the matter with him? It must have been the bang on his head. Shit, maybe it had changed him? How could it not have? He slid his finger on her phone to the moment of impact. He played it over and over. Watching his head snap back and forth. A dizziness came over him just watching. Truthfully, the impact scared him a bit. He went to set the phone down where she’d left it, but then picked it up again to watch the footage again. He really hadn’t ever been hit that hard ever before.
At his old school, everyone had protected him, he was the golden one. Someone had always watched his back. The whole team protected him at all costs on the field. Not so much when the game was over though, as he’d found out.
“You’re going to look for that Safety all the time now aren’t ya?”
He looked up from the phone. She stood leaning against the doorjamb, holding the swing door with her foot. She threw the small bottle of pills at him. “Sorry it took so long. Colin had taken them out of my bag.”
He caught the bottle, thanking God that he didn’t fumble it, popped the cap off and took two dry, lobbing them into his mouth, and tipping his head back.
Avery offered him a sip from her iced coffee, even though there were three sweating cups full of caffeine just a reach away. It felt…intimate. He took the cup, touching her fingers as he did. The kitchen grew smaller as he lowered his mouth onto the straw that had so recently been in her mouth. He sucked down the cold liquid, unable to drop eye contact with this girl he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
He had to shake this…crush?...off.
He gave the coffee back. “What did you say?”
“I said I’d found the Advil in—”
“No before that,” he said, making a winding-back gesture with his finger.
She took a sip of her coffee, and something twinged deep in his stomach. A tightening as he watched her lips touch where his had been. Jesus. Christ. Knock it off.
“Oh, I said you were going to start looking for the guy checking you now.” She plopped down on the dining room chair that was obviously excess to needs in the actual dining room, so it sat against the counter, next to the microwave.
She was probably right. The second cardinal rule of receiving was to keep your eye on the ball, though, not the opposing player who was looking to snap your head off with a fucking illegal tackle. Speed was supposed to take care of that player. But yeah.
“That’s why you can’t play again until you’re 100%. If you have any headache, any tension, even any tenderness from your bruises, you’re going to be hyper-aware of anyone coming near you. I’ve seen it before. A lot of times. You’ll not make the play because your subconscious is scared. And your subconscious would be right, too, I should say.”
Thinking about it, that was what had happened to Jake Rodder—Henderson High’s QB when Lucas had been a freshman. He’d been sacked so bad he’d broken two ribs just from the weight of a linebacker jumping on him. He flubbed a bunch of passes the games after. He should have taken some time off maybe, and then he wouldn’t have been benched. He blew a breath out. “I never thought about that. I’ve seen it happen, too.”
Not for the first time, he realized that Henderson’s coach hadn’t really “coached” them much at all. He’d taken the top players and just let them play, with little guidance. In the past week, it had become clear to him that he didn’t have a good technical foundation to fall back on. And Avery seemed to know more than he did about actually playing football. How was that even possible? How was a coach’s daughter who’d never played better than a 5A high school head coach?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Suze Winegardner is a British YA writer, currently living overseas with her military husband, and lovely Lab. She loves Buffy, Fray Bentos pies, Archer, cheese, and the serial comma. Wait - Cadbury Flakes too. And naps. Wait, what was the question? Anyway, she thinks her life is chock full of hoot, just a little bit of nanny...and if you get that reference, she already considers you kin.
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