Silk and Shadows

By: Lauren Landish

I grin, the cold dismissal just as hot as the fire. “Brat, don’t talk about things you don’t know. You have no idea who I’m fucking or how I get them in bed with me. Unless you want me to show you?”

She flinches, but I’m not sure what I said that zinged so close to home. I replay the words over in my head. Maybe she does want me to show her? That can be arranged, for fucking sure.

Whatever it was, it set her off in a way our previous verbal blows didn’t. She’s gone all-business on me. “Word is, you need my help so you don’t fail and get kicked off the team right when they need you most. The world is bigger than Xs and Os, so stop with the bullshit and let’s get started. Twenty-seven minutes now. You in or out?”

The words are on my lips to tell her to take her orders and shove them up her gorgeous little ass. I’m behind on my GPA, but I’m not stupid. English is just mind-numbingly boring for me, always has been. Some people write epics on paper. I write mine in a different way. Doesn’t help that my teacher has a hard-on for Paradise Lost, which is the most long-winded pain in the ass of all time. I’m not knocking school, but I didn’t come to college to wax poetic. I came because I know my life’s path. I’m going to make my mark on the field. Football doesn’t last forever, and I’ll have my degree for when that time comes, but my legacy with the pigskin will always be my greatest joy. I just need a little help to get through this rough patch, which is why I finally came to terms with Coach’s orders to get a tutor.

The staring contest is fierce, but she wins easily. Fuck, this minx is killing me, verbally castrating me and challenging me at every turn. Who’d have thought that would be so damn sexy? “In.”

She tries to hide her smile, but I can see it tickling her full lips. “Good. Now that I have your attention, let’s get a few things clear.” She holds up a finger, demonstrating ‘one’, but all I see is the blush pink covering her short nails, feminine but functional. “You’re going to show me some respect. Out there on the field, you might be the king. But that doesn’t mean a damn thing to me here. You obviously need help, and I’m going to help you, but only if you’re here on time and don’t waste mine.” She points to the floor, making sure I get the point that I should be at the library at the arranged time. She sounds uppity, like someone’s said that to her before.

“Two.” She holds up a second finger. “The cover story Erica and Coach Jefferson came up with is ridiculous, but I guess it’ll work if there are any questions or suspicions. But it is fake. I’m not fucking you and we’re not dating. But I won’t be made a fool of either, so don’t go flaunting your groupies around while telling folks we’re together. Be discreet and I’ll do the same.”

“Three.” A third finger pops up. “Uhm . . . never mind. I think that was all I have. Questions?”

Her words cut, irritatingly bossy, so I revert to what I know. I grab her hand, bringing her still upheld fingers higher in the air and laying a soft kiss to each fingertip before giving her a hard look. “I think you’re confused about the situation, but I agree we should be clear. I know this is stupid, and I hate that it’s come to this, but I’ll do any-fucking-thing for football, even pretend to date some girl I don’t know, who’s already busting my balls, just so I can stay on the field. I do need help, but I don’t need to hear shit from you about what a dumbass I am. Trust me, I already know, and your talking down to me ain’t gonna help a damn thing.”

She yanks her hand back, holding it to her chest like my kiss hurt her. Her eyes search mine, and I don’t look away, forcing myself to stand up to this little spitfire brat.

She looks down first. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be insulting . . . at least, not about your intelligence.”

I’m surprised at her apology. I didn’t think those words would ever pass her lips, if I’m honest. Though she didn’t apologize for thinking I’m some groupie-fucking manwhore. But that didn’t hurt nearly as much her thinking I’m stupid. I tilt her chin up, meeting her eyes again. “Apology accepted. I’m sorry for being late. Won’t happen again.”

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