They had no clue he was there.
Freshman football game. One of Carissa’s stupid, bitch, up-her-own-ass girlfriends had a brother who played.
But they weren’t there to watch the brother play. They were there to say mean crap about the freshman cheerleaders.
All but Carissa. She didn’t talk much. She smiled a lot. She cheered and kicked and flipped around better than any of the others. But she wasn’t a talker.
But now, her friends had stopped saying bitchy things about the cheerleaders.
Now they were talking about him.
“I’m so gonna go there. Jenessa said he rocked her world,” Brittney spouted.
“I would go there just ’cause he’s hot,” Theresa declared. “God, he wears jeans better than any guy in school.”
“You guys are gross. He’s a total loser,” Marley stated. “He barely says anything. Just wanders around school, brooding. Doesn’t have any friends. He doesn’t even hang with the stoners or hoods. And he totally knows how hot he is and uses it to get into girls’ pants. It’s lame.”
“I’m not gonna date him, just get laid by him,” Brittney replied. “My dad would have a conniption if I brought someone like Carson Steele home. He’d get me, like… a chastity belt or something.”
Peels of giggles.
Carson tipped back his head and looked up through the bleachers.
The girls were all turned to each other, not paying a lick of attention to the game, but Carissa was leaned forward, elbows on her knees, eyes to the field, mouth shut.
She wasn’t even smiling. Definitely not giggling. And the graceful line of her jaw was kind of hard.
Fuck, but she was pretty.
“Jenessa said he,” Theresa’s voice lowered, but not by much, “went down on her. Like, put his mouth right between her legs and everything!”
“Totally gross,” Marley murmured.
“Hard… lee,” Brittney returned. “God, I’d pay him to go down on me.”
“He’d take your money, seeing as he could probably use it,” Marley told her. “Can the guy wear anything other than jeans and T-shirts?”
“I’ll give him money if he gives it and gives it good and then goes on his way,” Brittney shot back.
“I think I already weighed in on the jeans, but Marl, seriously, it would be a crime to put anything on that hot bod but one of his skintight tees. Lush.” The last word out of Theresa’s mouth was like a breath.
“You do know, he’s a person,” Carissa put in.
“What?” Theresa asked.
“Carson Steele. He’s a person,” Carissa announced.
“Yeah. A person of the male persuasion that Jenessa says has a really big dick,” Brittney replied on a giggle that was met with Theresa’s giggles.
“I’m sure,” Carissa said coldly. “He’s also really smart. He’s always getting picked for the Beat the Brains Team when Mr. Robinson does games in his class. He knows everything about history, so no one ever beats him. And he might not have a lot, but he’s also got a job so he doesn’t get given everything, which isn’t a bad thing. At least that’s what my dad says. And Theo and his jerk friends were being mean to that kid with all that awful acne and Carson just walked over to them crossed his arms on his chest, and they scattered. Didn’t say a word and they took off. That was cool, and it was a cool thing to do. And Theo and his friends don’t do that kind of thing anymore, not if Carson is around.”
“Does Aaron know you have the hots for Carson Steele?” Brittney asked bitchily.
“I don’t have the hots for him,” Carissa returned sharply, and Carson felt his gut lurch. “I just think he’s a nice guy. And he doesn’t deserve some girl pretending she’s into him just to get in his pants. He’s a person. He has feelings. And if you did that, Britt, that wouldn’t be cool.”
“Goody-two-shoes,” Brittney muttered.
“Maybe, but I’d rather be that than be mean,” Carissa fired back immediately.
“All right, calm down, I won’t play with Carson Steele,” Brittney replied.
Carissa didn’t say anything. She looked back to the field.
“I need a Coke,” Theresa decreed into the tense silence. “Does anyone else need a Coke?”
“Coke? Are you crazy? There are more calories in a Coke than there are in a piece of chocolate cake,” Marley stated.
“That’s not true,” Theresa returned.
“I’ll go. Get a diet. Anyone?” Brittney asked, rising from the bleacher.
“I could get a diet,” Marley said.
They all rose, except Carissa.
“Riss? You wanna come?” Theresa asked.
“I’ll stay here, save our seats.”
Carson looked to the rest of bleachers. They weren’t even half full, and there was no one anywhere near the bitch girl crew.
“Okay,” Theresa said quietly.
“Whatever,” Marley muttered.
They took off.
He watched her lean further forward and put her jaw in her hand, her eyes to the field.
He wondered if she was thinking about him.
He figured she wasn’t. She was cool, she’d had his back, but he would be the last thing on her mind.
He studied her, wishing he knew what she was thinking.
And as he studied her, knowing she had her eyes to the field but her thoughts somewhere else and they didn’t look happy, suddenly he remembered about her sister.
Everyone knew about Carissa Teodoro’s sister. It was a long time ago, but what happened was so ugly, no one forgot.
Freak accident. Tragic. Even his dad flipped out about it.
She’d been a little girl, riding around on her tricycle in the driveway. Folks were over at her parents’ house. Not a big party but enough people a little girl got lost. A couple left, no one knew she was behind the car. They couldn’t see her in their rearview, ran right over her. Crushed her to death. Right in her own driveway.
If that hadn’t happened, the sister would be a freshman. If she followed in Carissa’s footsteps, she’d be a freshman cheerleader.
He remembered his dad going on about it. Remembered it even if he’d only been about six at the time.
It wasn’t something you forgot.
Looking at her from below, her face soft, her thoughts somewhere else, he figured she hadn’t forgotten either, and he wondered if she sat at a freshman football game thinking her sister should be cheerleading. He wondered if it crushed her to think those things.