Play Dirty (Make the Play #4)

BOOK: Play Dirty (Make the Play #4)
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PLAY DIRTY

 

Amber Garza

 

Cover: Matt @ The Cover Lure

Copyright © 2016 Amber Garza

All rights reserved.

 

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.

 

For information: ambergarza.com

To my readers. Thank you for allowing me to live my dream.

 

JOSH

 

“Dude, why don’t they get a room?” I mutter under my breath. “None of us want to see that.” Tugging my baseball cap further down my forehead, I turn away from Hayes and Ashley who are going at it in the quad during lunch.

“Sounds like someone’s jealous,” Nolan says with a slight chuckle.

If it was anyone else, I might pop him in the mouth. But I’d never hit Nolan. “I’m not jealous,” I hiss, stepping away from him.

“Then why do you care?” He presses. “So Ashley and Hayes are making out? They’ve been together for months.”

“Don’t remind me,” I say. My mind replays the conversation I had with her at the first fall ball game. The one where she confessed to me that she loves Hayes.
Loves him.
What kind of crap is that? Ashley doesn’t fall in love. At least that’s what I told myself when we were together. Now it seems that I was wrong. She is the kind of girl who falls in love. Just not with me.

The sound of Ashley and Hayes’s sloppy kiss is like nails on a chalkboard. I want to claw my own ears out. It’s disgusting. Why do they have to do that here, anyway? It’s like they’re purposely flaunting their love in front of me. 

When my gaze travels over to them again, I turn up my nose in disgust. A shadow casts over my shoulder, a sickeningly sweet scent enveloping me.

“Ugh,” Talia groans by my side. “They’re so gross.”

“You didn’t think he was gross when you were going out with him,” I say bitterly. Sometimes I hate Talia. I blame her for my break-up with Ashley, even though I know that’s not fair. It was both our faults, but I’ve never been a fair guy. So why start now?

“I didn’t say that
he
was gross,” she clarifies, crossing her arms over her chest. “I said that they’re gross together. He’s sweet and cute. She’s the annoying one.”

I pause, dumbfounded. “Did you just say he’s sweet and cute?”

Her cheeks redden. As I study her face, the truth comes at me like a fast pitch. “You want him back.” I don’t say it like a question, because it’s not. She doesn’t need to say a word. Her desire for him is written all over her face. And it’s puzzling. She was the one who broke it off. The one who acted like he was beneath her. “What changed?” I ask.

She blows out a breath, her shoulders rising and falling. “I don’t know.” Her gaze is still trained on Ashley and Hayes as if she physically can’t tear it away. Glancing around, I realize that Nolan left. Probably didn’t want to deal with Talia and all her drama. Usually I’d be with him in his effort to ignore her, but now my curiosity is peeked.

“Man, you’d do just about anything to stick it to her, huh?” I shake my head. “I gotta say, I didn’t realize you hated her so much until this year.” Talia and Ashley were best friends until the weekend before senior year started. That was when Talia and I made out at a party on Old Man Willis’s property. Hayes and Ashley found us lip-locked on the ground near the barn. Even though it’s been six months since then, they haven’t made up. In fact, they hate each other even more now than they did then. I wish it was because Ashley was still upset about our break-up and Talia’s part in it, but she couldn’t care less about either of us. All she thinks about is Hayes. He’s become her whole world.

“This has nothing to do with Ashley,” she spits out venomously, turning her back on them.

When I peer over, I’m grateful that their lips are unattached now. Not that it’s any better. They’re still touching, laughing, and acting all lovesick. “Then what is it about?”

She throws me a dumbfounded look. “Hayes.”

I chuckle. “You like him again?”

Lifting her hand, she twirls a strand of hair nervously around her finger. “He was the nicest guy I ever dated. I don’t think I realized how good I had it until I saw him with Ashley.” Her gaze finds them again and she points. “Look at them. I’ve never seen her so happy.”

“Man, you are ice-cold,” I say, annoyance rising in me again.

Startled, her head swings toward me. “What?”

I shake my head. “I know you and Ashley aren’t friends anymore, but you seem really upset about her being happy.”

“I told you this isn’t about her,” she snaps.

“It sounds like it is.”

She groans. “You don’t get it because you have no idea what it’s like to care about someone. To you everyone is expendable.”

In the past, I would agree with her, but now I’m not sure. Ever since Ashley and I broke up, I can’t stop thinking about her. Seeing her with Hayes has only made it worse. At first I thought it was a pride thing, but then I realized that I didn’t feel this way when Emmy and I broke up. It bothered me when she ended up with Chris, but only because I can’t stand the guy. Not because I wanted her back. And once Ashley and I got together, I never gave Emmy a second thought.

But I haven’t found a girl to replace Ashley. No one holds a candle to her.

“You don’t know me as well as you think, Tals,” I say.

She narrows her eyes. “I hate when you call me that.”

“I know.”

Huffing, she crosses her arms over her chest and storms off, mumbling under her breath. I choose to believe she’s saying nothing but flattering things about me.

Not wishing to hang out in the quad spying on my ex, I head into the cafeteria. Nolan and Chase sit at the end of our usual table. Dropping my backpack on the ground, I slide onto the bench next to Nolan. Then I take out my lunch bag and open a bag of chips. Nolan swallows a giant bite of his sandwich. The guy always eats swiftly, as if every meal could be his last.

“What was going on with Talia?” Nolan asks, lifting his sandwich in preparation of another bite.

“Oh, you know, the usual.” I have no intention of sharing with the guys that Talia wants Hayes back. I prefer only sharing things that don’t make me look like a loser.

Chase nods, fistbumping me. I return it, unsure of what I said to earn me a fistbump. “I was wondering when you’d get back out there.”

Taking a bite out of a chip, I furrow my brows. After swallowing it down, I say, “What are you talking about?”

“C’mon, man. You’ve been hung up on Ashley for months. We can all see it.” When he glances around the table, the other guys avert their gaze, appearing uncomfortable.

Is that what the guys have been saying about me? My stomach tightens. “I’m not hung up on Ashley,” I lie, angry that I’ve been so transparent. “And I’ve hooked up with plenty of chicks. What the hell?”

“Sorry, man,” Chase mumbles. “I didn’t know.”

“Well, I have,” I say firmly, wiping greasy fingers on the thigh of my jeans.

“Yeah,” Nolan says, finally chiming in to defend me. He must have finished his sandwich. “He’s been with chicks way hotter than Talia and Ashley.” I clamp a hand on Nolan’s shoulder, grateful for his support. Then again, I’m not surprised. We always have each other’s backs.

“So you and Talia aren’t hooking up?” Chase asks.

His question gives me pause. “Why do you care?”

He shifts on the bench. “Just curious.”

“Do you have a thing for Talia?” I ask.

“She’s hot, man.” Chase shrugs. “I’ve been trying to get with her for months.”

“Give it up, dude,” Nolan says. “She’s still into Hayes.”

My head swivels toward Nolan so fast I fear I might get whiplash.
How does he know that?

His gaze meets mine, his face scrunching up as if reading the question in my eyes. “What? It’s obvious. She’s always staring at him and crap.”

All eyes are on me, and my body warms. There’s no way I can let everyone think that both Talia and Ashley want Hayes instead of me. I have a reputation to maintain, after all. So I shove down the embarrassment at Nolan’s statement and force a laugh. “If Talia’s into Hayes, then why has she been trying to get with me ever since our kiss?”

Betrayal flashes in Nolan’s eyes. “You never told me that.”

I shrug. “It’s not exactly newsworthy. A chick wanting to get with me? It’s just another day, man.”

Chase laughs, but Nolan furrows his brows. “Then why is she always staring at Hayes and following him around.”

“She’s not staring at Hayes. She’s staring at Ashley. Those two still have some serious issues to work out,” I explain.

Nolan nods. “I guess that makes sense.” He doesn’t sound convinced and it pisses me off.

I hate that Ashley’s made people doubt me. I’m Josh Easton. I can get any girl I want, and the guys used to know that.

“So you are getting together with Talia then?” Clearly Chase has a one-track mind.

“I’m not gonna get tied down to her,” I say. “But I guess there’s no harm in givin’ her what she wants.” Remembering how Talia was daydreaming about Hayes earlier, my insides knot. I don’t know how I’ll get her to go out with me, but I have to. My reputation counts on it.

Nolan guffaws, nudging me in the side. I grin at him, but inside I’m still seething from his earlier remarks about Talia wanting Hayes. 

The bell peals, and a flurry of activity ensues around me. Chase and Nolan round up their lunches. I throw my trash in the nearest bin, then I snatch my backpack off the ground.

“See ya tonight at practice,” Chase says, preparing to walk in the opposite direction.

“Let’s hope you can actually throw,” I joke, but Chase’s face darkens.

“Don’t worry about it, man.” Without smiling, he turns around and walks away.

Nolan laughs, but his discomfort is clear. I probably shouldn’t have said it. But it’s the start of our spring season, and I’ve been looking forward to this for three years. Senior year is supposed to be my time. Cal and Chris are finally gone, and it’s my chance to shine. Too bad Chase can’t pull it together. He’s ruining it for all of us. The other guys worried that when Cal left we’d have trouble, but I always assured them that we didn’t need Cal.
Man, I hate being wrong
.

 

 

***

 

 

When I head out to the parking lot after school, I spot Talia and Heather talking near Talia’s car. Nolan’s words from earlier run through my mind. No matter how much she’s lusting over Hayes, I know I can get her to want me again. I’ve been told that once I turn on the charm, I’m irresistible. Determined, I march up to Talia and Heather who are talking a mile a minute. They sound like chipmunks.

“Hey, Tals,” I say without thinking. The talking stops, and Talia turns a death stare on me. “Sorry,” I say as sincerely as I can. “Talia.”

Her lips twitch at the corners as if she might smile, but she doesn’t. This is going to be harder than I thought.

“What’s up, Heather.” I grin at her, and her cheeks color. Too bad I’m not trying to get with her. Seems she’s an easy target.

“Hi, Josh.” When she speaks, I’m reminded of why I’ve never gone after her. I wince at the high-pitched noise reminiscent of a picalo pete firework.

“What’s going on, Josh?” Talia asks, obviously confused at my presence, which I guess is understandable. We talk every once in awhile, but I don’t normally seek her out.

“I was hoping you and I could talk,” I say softly.

Heather raises a brow at Talia in way that tells me I had her pegged correctly. Jealousy paints her face. Talia bites her lip, appearing more wary than Heather. “Okay. Talk.”

Wow. Warm reception.

Hesitating, I glance at Heather. Sensing that she isn’t wanted, she backs away. “Talk to you later, Talia.”

Talia opens her mouth in protest, but I don’t let her speak. “Let her go,” I say, stepping between them. At the gesture, Talia’s eyes widen. I move even closer until I have her backed up against her car. “I wanted to talk to you alone, anyway.” My tone lowers, so she catches my meaning.

Her gaze crashes into mine, her mouth pursing. “What are you doing?”

Reaching out, I gently touch her face. “What does it look like?”

She inhales sharply, her chest rising and falling swiftly. I like that I have this effect on her, and it gives me hope that this will work. Once the guys see me with Talia, it’ll confirm what I told them. It’ll put me back on top. Besides, what Chase said is true. Talia
is
hot. And she’s a good kisser. This could be fun. Subtly glancing around, I wonder if Chase and Nolan are out here right now. As I scour the lot, I don’t see them, but I do spot Ashley’s bright blond hair. She’s walking past, hand in hand with Hayes. Both of them glance over, their foreheads scrunching at the sight of me hovering over Talia, my palm resting on her cheek. Talia must notice too, because the change in her is undeniable. She no longer seems appalled. Her body stills, and then ever so slightly she leans into me. Our chests touch, and her face presses into my hand.

That’s when it hits me.

The way to get Ashley back.

It’s so simple. Ashley’s only going out with Hayes because he offers her stability. He committed to her, which was something she never thought I would do. I’m known as a player, as a guy who doesn’t do relationships. But what if I prove to Ashley that I can be like Hayes?

When I look at Talia, I can tell she’s thinking the same thing. Hayes and Ashley were both shocked to see us together. Could we turn that shock into jealousy?

BOOK: Play Dirty (Make the Play #4)
4.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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