But then she would know, my Daddy was a Heisman winner in his day. Now he runs Drake Construction with the help of Bradford Engineering, our company’s are quickly rising to the top of the Forbes list. And we’re just getting started.
It’s a hot day out here on the field for the boys to be practicing but they’re dedicated and determined to be the best again this year. I found a tree in the shade, keeping the sun off my skin. My shoulder-length golden hair is yanked up off my neck in a high ponytail. You would think I colored it due to my roots being much darker than the ends, but no, I’m just out in the sun all the time.
In a tank top and denim shorts, it’s still too hot. I need to get to the water and soak. I would rather be at the beach but Mama won’t let me go without my brothers and their friends. I might as well just have a sign on me saying ‘Big Brother Watching’ because they always are.
Sitting out in the far-field, I had my book in my lap reading while I waited for my brothers and their friends to finish practice. My friend Chelsea is studying next to me. We have found our way to the field every day with my brothers and their friends this summer to escape chores and parents before heading to the beach, but mostly we sit and watch these hot, sweaty guys play football. Not my brothers, but their friends. Their very hot friends.
It was the end of the summer and my oldest brother Cade’s senior year. Lance was a junior with me, although I should be a sophomore. I skipped a year. My name is Emma, and we make up the Drakes. My brother's friends are the Bradford’s. Adam, Blake, and Derrick. Blake is the starting quarterback for the high school varsity team and the heartthrob of the school. He is also the biggest pain in my butt. We do not get along. Then there’s Tyler, Jake, and Matt. All neighborhood kids and just as gorgeous as they come.
Every one of these boys is every girl’s dream in school. My brothers each have sandy blonde hair and blue eyes, while the Bradford boys are tall, dark, and handsome with black hair and green eyes. All of them are walls of tanned muscles and dreamy eyes that every girl seems to fall head over heels for. They made up the bulk of our football team.
We grew up together with my best friend, Chelsea. We live in each other’s pockets and have done everything together as far back as I can remember. Things changed a lot this last year though, Chelsea is withdrawing into herself. We all see it, but none of us know how to help or what is wrong. Not until today, we hadn’t seen the signs. Today is like the beginning of the end.
Blake brushes the sweat from his brow off with his arm. Squinting his eyes as he looked around at his team, he determined the call. I watch the beads of sweat roll down his glistening chest. The rippling muscles move each bead further down towards his shorts and closer to that V line. Of course, his team was the one that was shirtless. I’m not going to say I mind. My brother's friends are all gorgeous, especially Blake, but I will never admit that out loud. He is cocky enough without adding me into his flock of girls.
“Hike!” Blake yelled, catching the ball and backed up. Lining up the toss, he scans his team for the open man, finding Lance open, he throws a spiral out. Lance grabs for it only to have Derrik tackle him.
“Em! Chels! You guys have to get out here and help!” Lance yells to us as he brushes off the grass from his shorts. “We don’t have enough players.”
“Yeah, Em, come bend over and hike the ball for me!” Blake winks over in my direction and gives me his sexy smirk. Ugh, I really wish he….No! Stop Em, you cannot think that way!
“Dude!” Lance cringes then swats Blake in the back of the head. “Really? That’s my sister.”
“Yeah, I know but she knows how to hike a ball and she’s got a nice ass!” Blake grinned nodding at my brother, knowing he was right. Cade hit him this time, knocking him on his butt. I laughed, watching my brothers defend me.
I have to admit I’m a bit of a tomboy and I love football as much as the rest of my family. Being the only girl in our family, I learned to play with these boys. Since none of them wants to hurt me with a tackle, I was taught to hike the ball. Now that is the only position they let me play.
“Come on! I’ll hike the ball to Blake, you tackle Lance.” I smiled knowing Chelsea has a huge crush on my brother. “Then I can torture Blake, knowing Cade will kick his ass again.” Chelsea turned red and giggled into her book before getting to her feet.
Growing up with older brothers there were a couple of things I always knew I could hike a football as well as any boy, and I would never have a boyfriend. Ever. So I took advantage of the boys when I could. The boys in this family would make sure I died a virgin, unless I can find a way around that. So far, no luck. The best I get is to drool over my brother's friends and watch every other girl in school get to date them. At least I know I won’t get my heart broken. Chelsea and I were the chosen ones of the school. We were included in everything the boys did, but at the same time, we weren’t.
I know it doesn’t make sense. It will, trust me.
Playing football with my brothers brought about two things in our lives, major competition between us and massive jealousy from the other girls in school. I ignored the last one because I wasn’t interested in any of the guys and pissing the girls off was just payback for what I knew they would do to me during the school year. This was all due to Blake and his never-ending teasing, flirting, and riling he enjoyed doing to me. I wasn’t a kid that usually got bullied, but I wasn’t the best at sticking up for myself. My brothers always did that. Chelsea was a different story.
“Chelsea Reardon! What do you think you’re doing down here!?” Uh oh. That was never good to hear. “Get your fat ass home right now and get that house cleaned up. What part of that pea-sized brain were you thinking with? Why would you think you could come here and laze around with these boys?” Her mother’s voice angrily boomed across the field.
First of all, Chelsea wasn’t fat by any means. She’s a perfect size 5, everything from her shoes to clothes to height. She dances for hours every day. She is solid muscle, toned and trim, but still has a curvy butt that gets every guy's attention and a modest chest. The girl still manages to eat everything in sight and never gains a pound. She has curly long blonde hair and big blue eyes. Porcelain skin and not a blemish in sight. She’s perfect. Obviously, I’m a tad jealous, not really, but you get it.
“Bye, Chels.” I softly said as she quickly raced off the field.
“I don’t see why you insisted on coming out here. None of them boys are interested in the likes of you.” Her mother continued to loudly ridicule her as Chelsea ran off embarrassed, once again. “You mean nothing to those boys, you hear me. Now get in that car.”
“They’re my friends, Mama.” Chelsea cries softly.
“They feel sorry for you, is all. None of them really care about you. Who would?” The bitter woman wasn’t hearing it.
“But Mama?” Chelsea tried again to get her mom to understand, but she wasn’t listening to her.
“Is Chelsea okay, Em?” Lance walked over, concerned for my friend. When her mom backhanded Chelsea across the face, I jumped as my eyes widened, as much surprised as frightened. I swear I felt the harsh pain burning on my own cheek. The tears welled up in my eyes as Lance wrapped his arm over my shoulder. He had seen it too. No one had ever hit us like that. To see that was a cold reminder that not everyone was like us.
The boys all came closer then, watching as poor Chelsea climbed into her mom's old Jeep. I could see Chelsea cover her face and didn’t look back at us. I knew she was embarrassed. She wasn’t family, but she was the closest we all had to a sister.
“I really hate to see her leaving this way.” I spoke with a trembling voice. “Of course, she means something to all of us; we want her here.”
Each of the boys mumbled in agreement. I glanced up at my brother and gave him a pleading look. They protect me. I need them to protect her too. Lance glared off at the parking lot, watching as Chelsea got into the car with her mom. There was something in his eyes that day I hadn’t seen before. He cared about Chelsea more than any of us knew.
A week later, I was hurrying down the stairs to head to a study session and stumbled into a meeting between all my brothers and their friends. They were huddled together around the kitchen table. It looked intense, so I quickly hid around the corner and listened in.
“I tried to see her, but her Ma wouldn’t let me.” Blake grumbled. Of course he tried to see her. Blake sees Chelsea as a little sister. He’s even got a nickname for her, Jelly Bean. She’s the only girl I know that Blake has a nickname for. “I even brought her a bag of Jelly Beans. I thought it would break the wall down. Her Ma wouldn’t even take the Jelly Beans to my Jelly Bean.”
“We tried too.” Cade and Tyler nodded along with Derrick. “We couldn’t get past the dragon lady either.”
“I thought Emma would be able to see her, but Chels’s Ma slammed the door in her face.” Lance tells them. Rubbing my nose at the memory of the door almost hitting me, I lean my head against the wall and close my eyes. It hurts me to know we can’t help her. “The woman has her claws into Chelsea. She’s too scared to do anything against her Ma.”
I nod and let the tears slip down my cheek. Feeling arms wrap around me, I look up and see my Mama. She's a rock for me. Always understood my connection to Chelsea. I’m the only girl in a family of boys. It’s not exactly easy. I needed that female friend to be around. Someone to complain about all the boys with, someone I can be a girl with. That’s my best friend Chelsea. Mama and Georgia understand and encourage this.
“We’ll get her back sweet pea. We’ll bring our Chelsea home.” Mama assures me, holding me close and rocking me.
“I don’t know, Mama. It just seems like no one can even talk to her.” We’ve all tried and can’t get past her Mom.
“You just leave that to me and Georgia. We’ll do what we can.” Mama seems to know something that I don’t but then she is an adult, maybe there’s something more going on that we are not aware of.
I just hope they can get through to her
That last year of high school changed us all. Some for the better and some not so much. That would be me. When I got the quarterback position, I became a god on and off the football field. Or it felt like it most of the time. There wasn’t a girl on this campus that didn’t want a night with me. Okay, there were two, Emma and her best friend, Chelsea. Emma is my best friend's sister and a royal pain in my ass. She made sure I knew she didn’t like me too. Boy, did I know it, and it only made me try harder to get her attention. Something about that one girl that wants nothing to do with you that can just drive you nuts.
She did that to me.
Emma and Chelsea were always together, which meant they were always with us. They were part of our group whether they wanted to be or not. They were invited to all the parties, went to all our games, sat at our table, and we made sure no guys ever asked them out. They were known at the school as under the football team’s protection, the chosen ones. It didn’t stop some of the girls who wanted to cause them trouble though. It was usually the same group of girls who were jealous of them who gave the girls a hard time. It was all because of the attention we gave the two.
When we walked the halls, people parted like the Red Sea. We never got stuck in the congestion of bodies, they all moved out of our way. On our way to and from class, we would meet up with Emma and make sure she got to class on time. Not that we had to worry. She was a good student, so was I. We were well matched in every subject.
Emma stood at her locker, her hand resting on the latch staring at her feet. She was definitely pissed off, I had to think back wondering if I had done anything to her lately. Grinding her teeth because she was furious, I realized it happened again. Walking up beside her with Lance, I could tell immediately she was ready to blow. Now there was nothing sexier than watching Emma lose her temper. The way her face flushed and eyes lit up her entire face, her tight little body burst with energy. The only thing I ever want to do when she gets this mad is kiss her, instead I just piss her off more just so I can keep seeing her this way. Usually by kissing someone else. Today would be no exception.
“Em, you’re gonna be late, let’s go.” Lance said softly in her ear then nudged Emma to move, but she didn’t move. “Em?”
“I can’t move! That bitch glued my hand to my locker.” Emma growled softly.
Damn Blake, not the time.
“Who Em?” Lance frowned at her hand, dropping his backpack he started to gently pull at her fingers.
“Who? Who do you think? Courtney!” Emma turned her eyes on her brother, outraged that he didn’t know then she turned her glare onto me.
Oops. That would be my fault. Shit!
I blew off Courtney Friday night because I wanted to see Emma. She looked so cute at the game cheering us on. I finally managed to con Emma into wearing my jersey, something she had refused to do all season. That’s probably what set Courtney off. She had asked weeks ago to wear my jersey. Again I blew her off for Emma. Yeah, this was definitely my fault. So the girls were all upset at Emma because she was wearing my shirt, that’s no reason to glue her hand to her locker.
I knew it was more than that though. The cheerleaders had a party after the game, and Lance was taking Emma home first before heading that way. I wanted to spend some time with Emma without all the clingy cheerleaders hanging on my jock. I thought if I went to theirs with them, no one would think anything of it when we didn’t show up, so we stayed at the Drake’s house playing video games. Apparently, Courtney isn’t as dense as she pretends to be.
“Why are you glaring at Blake, if Courtney did this?” Lance didn’t always put it together why I spent as much time at their house as I did. “Blake, what did you do this time?”
“I didn’t do anything!” Not exactly the truth but close enough.
“Courtney blames me for Blake blowing her off… Again.” Emma spun her head around and raised her eyebrows at me as if she was daring me to argue with her.
I smirked down at her, no way was I going to argue. My Mama didn’t raise me a fool. I know better than to try and lie about this one. I knew she was bang on the money with her reasoning. Damn that look in her eyes is making me hot.
Not the time, Blake, tame it down.
“Blake didn’t blow her off for you.” Lance laughed at the utter absurdity of it and managed to get one of her fingers freed. “He came over and played COD with me all night. And got his ass kicked.”
“Then the two of you camped in my room with me until I agreed to make you brownies. I know what happened, moron. That doesn’t mean his bleach blonde bimbo can think logically.” Emma winced as he got another finger free, but I could see the skin tore and she was bleeding.
“Not my bimbo, baby. I’ve got better taste.” I corrected her but I’m getting the feeling she isn’t listening as Lance pried off another finger and I could see Emma tear up. Emma never cries, ever. I touched her gently on her back and started rubbing circles to soothe her.
I didn't like this. A simple prank was one thing, it was another to make my girl bleed. Yes, my girl. Nobody touches her, nobody messes with her. Not even me, not yet. I haven’t gotten the guts to tell her, much less tell Lance that I’m hard over his sister. I don’t think he’ll like that and I know she won’t. I’m not ready for her. I have a lot of growing up to do before I can handle her.
“When I see her, I swear I’m putting baby oil in her shampoo bottle and tripping her skanky ass in gym class.” Emma cringed as Lance worked another finger.
“Feisty this morning, baby? I like it. Don’t worry, we'll take care of her.” I let my lips brush against her ear just so I could smell her hair. I wanted to kiss her to make her feel better, but I knew I couldn’t. Not only would Lance kill me, but most likely Emma would damage some favorite body parts of mine. Ugh, she is torturing me but seeing her hurting was way worse right now. Courtney went over the line this time.
“This is your fault!” Emma growled at me and I could only grin back at her knowing she was right. I’m an ass, I know it. I think she knows I like her. She looks so hot when she’s mad. “I should glue your dick to your leg!”
“Thinking about my dick, baby?” I smirked even though what she had in mind sounded really painful.
“Don’t encourage her!” Lance said with a smile on his face as he got her last finger free. “Go to the nurse and get a bandaid then get to class. I’ll deal with Courtney.”
Sometimes my best friend just likes to egg Emma on just to see how far he can take it. Sometimes he goes too far. Blake has always provoked Emma into arguments, but lately, it’s gotten to be more than just wanting to rile her up. I’ve caught the way he looks at her. I’ve noticed him watching her when she’s not paying attention. I know he shows off just a little more on the field when he knows she’s there. As Emma heads off towards the office, we head to our first class. Blake laughs walking backwards still watching Emma at the far end of the hall.
“Stop checking out my sister, man. That’s just weird and wrong.” I haven’t quite figured it out, but I think Blake has a thing for Emma. He’s a good guy most of the time, but he really needs to keep it in his pants. There might come a day when he figures out how to do that and be ready for something with Emma, but it’s not gonna happen now. She’d castrate him first.
“She ain’t my sister. And no offense, dude, but your sister has gotten hot this summer.” Blake smirks at me and nods. “Besides, she likes me.”
“Gross.” A shiver runs through my body at the thought of them together. Ew, no way. “And no she doesn’t like you. She wants to glue your dick to your leg, where does that say she likes you?”
Nodding, he sends me a quick grin. “She’s thinking about me. That’s a good step.” Blake says and spins around on his heels.
“Yeah. Because thinking about destroying a part of you that you tend to enjoy says love.” I shake my head. I don’t get his logic.
Blake only laughed as he rounded the corner and ran into the tiny blonde that’s been avoiding everyone lately. Both of us grab for her as she’s about to topple over. Chelsea is sturdier than she looks, but she’s still so much smaller than we are. Her tiny five foot frame is surrounded by our six two bodies of iron. We have always been afraid of breaking her.
“I’m good. Sorry, I wasn’t looking.” Chelsea smiled softly up at us, but kept her hair over one side of her face. I noticed the faint bruise was still on her cheek despite the makeup she tried to cover it with. I’m still really worried about her. Stroking my hand down her arm, I gave her a tight smile.
She has avoided all of us the last couple weeks. I know Emma had been talking to her on the phone, but Chelsea was so embarrassed over what happened, it’s like she didn’t want to see anyone. We only knew that it was her mom keeping us at bay because all of us tried to see her. The witch thinks she can pretend she didn’t hit Chelsea but she can’t deny what we witnessed.
All of us saw it. We could only watch her mom hit her in pure shock. The way her head fell, the hard smack we heard, it made my blood boil. I knew Chelsea’s home life wasn’t that great, but I never thought she was getting hit. Seeing that the bruise wasn’t fading fast was telling me she wasn’t getting fed well either.
“Jelly Bean! Where’ve you been?” Blake scooped her up and squeezed Chelsea in a big bear hug.
He had a way of letting her know that we were here for her but without pushing her. He held her tight not seeing her cringe that his arms were too tight around her. She didn’t say a word, Chelsea loved Blake and wouldn’t dare tell him no. He was her family, her protector at least at school. Chelsea had no one else to watch out for her and Blake took that role seriously. Not having a sister, Chelsea had been made Blake’s adopted sister. No one, but Blake felt that way about her.
“I’ve been busy. Dance camp last week, remember? I have to go guys. I’ll see you.” Chelsea pulled out of Blake’s arms, but fell back into my chest.
“Damn! I missed seeing you dance again, Jelly Bean? You gotta tell us, Chels, so we can be there for you.” Blake was just as loyal to the girls as they were to him.
Chelsea nodded her head as I wrapped my arms around her waist and looked down at her. I’ve missed seeing her around the house these past weeks. She’s been skittish at school ever since that day on the field. We all saw what happened, we all wanted to help but she won’t trust us. She never said anything to us. We’re honestly not sure what a bunch of teenagers can do to help.
Looking up at me with those big blue eyes, she pleaded. “I have to go, Lance.”
“Okay, sweetheart. I’ll give you a ride home if you want it.” I offered her in an effort to get some time with her.
I wanted to get her alone. I wanted to talk to her and make sure she didn’t have any other issues at home. I was getting really worried about her. She only gave me a tight nervous smile and turned around without answering me. She quickly headed down the hall we had just come from and hurried on her way like a scared little bunny. I will have to find her after school if I want to see her. She isn’t going to come to me willingly.
“Don’t think about it. She’s okay.” Blake whispered as we watched her turn the corner.
“I keep seeing her mom hit her.” I swallowed the huge lump that was lodged in my throat and felt helpless. “I just wish she’d come to me. Trust me.”
“I know, man. We all do. Just keep that door open for her. When she’s ready she’ll come to you.” Blake slapped my back and headed to class. I just wish there was more we could do.
Rounding the corner, I rested my back against the cold brick and breathed. I had been avoiding all of them since that day on the field weeks ago. My mom had been so mad. It wasn’t always that way. Things were hard at home. My dad is gone, he just walked out a year ago and Mom and I are just barely getting by. She works graveyard shifts most of the time since she lost her job at Bradford Engineering and relies on me to take care of the house. Sometimes I just want to be a kid though.
I had to drop out of dance classes at the end of last year. We couldn’t afford it anymore, but I didn’t tell anyone. I let everyone believe I was still going but I wasn’t. It broke my heart to quit but I still practice when no one is around. My mom leaves for work by eight at night and I dance at home until midnight every night. I am up by five for school and out of the house before she gets home, so I have only a couple of days to deal with her stress and I have told no one about any of it. As my mom’s problems have gotten worse, I seem to pull further away from my friends.
None of them would understand anyway.
The Bradford’s and the Drake’s are my closest friends. They have no idea what it’s like to struggle with money. Bradford Engineering is the largest structural engineering company in the country and Drake Construction builds some of the most amazing homes I’ve ever seen.
Both are multi billion dollar companies and my friends are beyond set for life. I, however, am not. College has been a dream that is quickly becoming out of reach for me, while my friends are filling out enrollment applications, I am searching for a job. Anything to get away from my life in this house, anything to get away from her.
The years that come would test and change each one of us. As we face struggles and successes, we discover our own way and who we can rely on to be there. Sometimes it’s the thing right in front of us that blinds us the most.