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Cookie O'Gorman

“Don’t you mean bad girl?” I muttered.

Becks shook his head. “I don’t get it. What’s the big deal?”

“The big deal is Hooker set me up with a chick.”

Becks shrugged. “Could be worse.”

Frowning, I sent him a glare. “I’m serious.”

“Me, too. Sal, these things happen.”

Was he joking? “These things happen. That’s the best you’ve got?”

“Well, it’s true.”

“Wer—?” I threw up my hands. “—Sag es mir, Becks, sag es mir sofort, denn ich will es wirklich wissen.”

“English, please, Sal. I have no idea what you’re saying.”

And I had no idea I’d slipped into German; that only happened when I was upset. “Who exactly does this happen to?” I repeated.

He shrugged again. “To you, apparently.” When I went to pinch him, he laughed and jumped back.

“This isn’t funny.”

“It’s pretty funny, Sal. I, for one, think—”

Before he could complete that thought (and most likely earn himself another pinch), Roxy Culpepper and Eden Vice stepped into our path. The way they eyed Becks was enough to darken my day, but watching Roxy cock her hip, nearly popping the thing out of socket, was at least entertaining.

“Hey, Becks,” Roxy said, giving him the head tilt and hair twirl. “Nice shirt.”

“Yeah,” Eden said eagerly. “The cut looks great on you. And that’s like my favorite color.”

Becks and I both gave his white Hanes a dubious once-over.

But unlike me, Becks didn’t roll his eyes. Oh no, that’d be too impolite. Smooth-talking, woman-loving charmer that he was, Becks simply tucked his hands into his pockets, flashed them a wink and said, “Thanks, I’ve got four more just like it at home.”

They laughed like a pair of hyenas, and Roxy reached out to run a hand over Becks’s scruffy cheek.

“I see you’re still keeping with tradition.” As her fingertips lingered at his jaw, I had a real urge to smack her hand away—or stick gum in her hair, but I thought that sounded a little too grade school. Best stick with the smacking. It was considerably more adult. “Think we’re going to win tomorrow?”

“You know it,” Becks said.

“Oh, Becks, it’s senior year. You have to win.” Eden gave his other cheek the same treatment. “You just have to.”

“I’ll do my best.”

“You’ll win,” Roxy said with certainty, hip out so far I was shocked to see it was still connected to her body. “Score a goal for me, okay?”

I glared as the two slinked away, but Becks couldn’t have looked more satisfied with himself.

Watching him watch them was so not my idea of a good time.

Shifting around, I said, “Becks, how do you stand it? They come up to you and pat you like a dog. It’s degrading.”

“Is it?” Becks was still looking after Roxy and her amazing swaying hips. I swear that girl was born double jointed.

“Yes,” I said. “It is.”

Becks’s tone was dry. “I feel so used.”

Rolling my eyes, I walked away just as another girl came up to fondle his face.

Due to a rumor started last year, it was now acceptable for people to come up and pet him out of the blue. When Becks had first told me about the ritual—how he’d stopped shaving three days before a game to avoid bad luck; he’d read it in some sports article—I’d written it off as superstition. But then again, last year was our first season going 23-0, so what did I know? Personally, I hated the five-o’clock shadow. Not because of the way it made Becks look—believe me, Becks was a stunner with or without the facial hair—but people thought it gave them the right to touch him. And everyone had at some point or another.

Except me.

That was just not the kind of thing best friends did—and even if it was, I didn’t have the cojones to do it anyway.

“Wait up, Sal!”

I slowed. “Finally got away from all those adoring fans?”

“Don’t be like that,” Becks said, sidling up to me. “They’re just excited about the game.”

“Yeah, right.”

“What’s really bothering you? And don’t tell me it’s the fan thing, I know you too well.”

He was both right and wrong.

“It’s just…I can’t understand what gave her that idea,” I said, going with the least complicated of the two things bothering me. “My mom, I mean. What’d I do to make her and Hooker think...well, you know?”

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