This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
“There’s no way you’re keeping me off the team.”
“There’s no way you’re getting back on the team, Chase.”
Under the peak of his ball cap, Coach Varis’ black eyes dare me to argue.
Anger vibrates through me like an electrical current grounded at both ends. I push back from his desk as we stare each other down.
“You can’t keep me off. The donors won’t let you.”
“The donors?” Varis scoffs. “They don’t want you. You quit three weeks into last season with zero explanation.”
“I know my scholarship’s gone. But I need to be on this team. So just tell me what I have to do.”
Varis reclines in his chair like he’s a king holding court instead of the coach of a varsity track team. “You might be the fastest kid I’ve ever seen, but this isn’t high school. Every one of my freshmen is more responsible than you. How do I know you’ll put the team first?”
I blow out a frustrated breath. “I guess you have to trust me.”
“That worked out so well last year,” Varis comments dryly.
His attention is pulled to something behind me. My fists clench as I turn to follow his gaze.
The girl hovering in the doorway looks only vaguely familiar. Her blond hair reminds me of honey and it’s tucked into the tidiest ponytail I’ve ever seen. She’s flat chested but her legs seem to go from the ground right on up to her chest.
She’s dressed like anyone else on the track team in a purple t-shirt and black shorts. Her running shoes, though, look like they cost as much as my rent.
“I’m sorry to interrupt, Coach.” Her heart-shaped face is worried. “I wanted to talk to you about my spot on the team. You told me to come see you after practice.”
Varis nods. “We’re done, Chase,” he says, dismissing me.
But I can feel my hope fading fast.
The girl’s gaze flicks to mine before leaping away again.
I stomp out the door, pulling up a few feet outside. Begging for my spot is hard enough on the ego, but it never occurred to me he’d say no.
“Ariel, I told you. Your times were fast enough last year, but something’s happened to you this summer. We have a new crop of freshmen and I can’t cut you any more slack.”
“But Coach, running is what I do. It’s all I do.”
“I don’t believe that,” he says, more gently. “You’re a talented girl with a bright future. Maybe you should explore other pursuits.”
He talks to her differently than he talks to me. Probably because she’s a girl. Or maybe her parents write big, fat checks. She doesn’t need to win over the donors because her people are the donors.
“Chase! Get in here.” Coach barely raises his voice. It annoys me he knew I’d still be here.
When I stride back in, the girl hasn’t moved. Varis’ expression says he’s up to something.
“Work with Ariel for the next two weeks. Neither of you trains with the team. If Ariel can take a minute off the 10k she ran today, you both have spots for the rest of the season.”
“But Coach—” she starts.
“You’re tying me to this?” I stab my finger in the air without waiting for her to finish. “No fucking way.”
Coach smiles grimly. “You want to run? I’ll hold spots for both of you. Two weeks. Now get out of here before I change my mind.”
“This is a varsity sports club, not a goddamn charity, Chase. Out!” Varis thunders.
I comply, but my fist slams into the doorframe on the way.
My lungs suck in a deep breath and I study the bricks in the hall painted our college’s signature purple.
When I turn, I find big blue eyes trained on me. Their owner is standing a safe distance away like she thinks I might lose it.
“I’m not sure this is a good idea,” she says.
“Do you even know who I am?”
“You’re Chase Owens. You won the national 10,000m title and broke the record as a freshman. You’re pretty much God’s gift to distance running. At least as far as this school is concerned.”
“You left out the part where I fell off the face of the earth last year.”
She folds her arms across her chest. The thin gold bracelet on her wrist looks simple and expensive. “I’m Ariel Hastings— What?” she asks as my expression changes.
“Your name is seriously Ariel. Isn’t that a Disney princess or something?” I should be used to weird names. After all, we’re a couple hours from LA, where people name their kids after warlords and fruits and shit.
“Most people call me Ari.”
“I don’t need to call you anything, princess, because we’re not training together. In fact, we’re done.” Varis’ door is closed but I shoot it a dark look anyway. “I don’t know who swapped out Coach’s meds, but I’m sure as hell not going to babysit you for two weeks while you work on your turnover.”
Without waiting for her reaction, I turn and stalk down the hallway and out into the sun, shoving my hands in the pockets of my jeans. This is the last thing I need.
My life’s a fucking joke.Rrrruff!
A vicious dog barks.
Again. Louder, like it’s closer.
I’m desperate, panting as my legs turn over. One stride, two, four.
A bell rings and my eyes fly open. A multitude of tiny connections in my mind make the fear recede.
I’m in my room at school. The light streaming in the unshaded window is warm, bright.
I reach for the phone buzzing on the nightstand. My heart thuds in my back against the cool sheets.
“It’s noon. You gonna be here anytime soon, lad?” A familiar Scottish accent comes over the line.
“On my way.”
I drop the phone and there’s quiet again.
The bad dreams fade into the background, where they’ll linger until I fall asleep tonight.
A hand reaches across my body to tickle my chest.
I don’t need to look over to know she’s there. It’s Saturday. She’s always there.
“Stay in bed.” Ashley leans over me, pressing her mouth against mine. Her kiss tastes like the vodka she mainlined a few hours ago.
I roll away, figuring she’ll get the idea. Instead she wraps her arms around my back and curls into me. Drags a finger down the side of my abs. It might seem casual but it’s calculated. A careful move designed to entice me to fuck her again.
I indulge for a moment, playing it out in my mind. She’d climb on top, those exceptional breasts begging for my hands, her mouth curving wickedly. Her tight little body would take my cock. I’d grab her ass in my hands, thrusting up into her to show her I was the one calling the shots in this particular freak show.
My dick twitches. It’s more easily swayed than the rest of me.
I push Ash off and stand, tugging on jeans and a shirt before jerking open the bedroom door.
“We never spend time together, Chase.” Ash’s voice is two steps behind me on the stairs. “I want to feel like we have something in common.”
“We do. I have to leave in three minutes and so do you.”
Ash knows better than to think we’ll ever be more than a way to pass each other’s time. Last night was the same game we’ve played for a few months. She came to my work. I took her home. I fucked her in my truck, in the hall, and in my bed.
It’s what I need. To escape from my life for a few minutes or hours.
Plus, she lets me put it anywhere I want.
The contents of the fridge include a carton of apple juice, a half-eaten bowl of mac and cheese, and something fuzzy that probably didn’t start out that way. Chugging half the juice, I ignore the alarm bell in the back of my brain saying this is not breakfast. The last time I ran track I would’ve been more careful about my eating habits.
But then, I also would’ve been up before noon on a Saturday.
“Are you at least going to offer me some?” Ash asks as I set the carton on the counter.
“Knock yourself out.”
“Looking good, Ash.” We turn to find my roommate Spence leaning against the doorway. He’s not only awake and dressed but wearing a shirt with buttons, which probably means he’s going to a funeral.
“You too, Spence,” Ash purrs. “You know, I always forget how much you two look alike.”
“Yeah, except for one difference. My dick’s way bigger.” Spence winks and I let out a snort.
Ash pats him on the shoulder. “I doubt that, sweetie.”
Spence and I are as different as coconut water and whiskey, but there is a physical resemblance if you don’t get too close. He’s a couple inches over six feet, while I’m just under. His short hair’s dirty blond, while mine’s darker. But we have the same square jaw and almost-green eyes, and that’s what most people notice.
He’s also one of the only people who can make me smile.
“Later, Spence.” I grab my keys off the hook and press Ash out the door ahead of me.
“Yeah. See you in a week.”
“Going to visit the fam, remember?”
Spence is from Boston industrial money but made his own mark playing online poker. His parents don’t love his lifestyle choice, but if I were them I’d be glad he was in school instead of chain smoking in some Vegas bar and fucking everything he could catch. I’m consistent with my tastes, but Spence is a revolving door of debauchery.
“I found some entertainment for you while I’m gone.” Spence holds up a flyer for a Greek party.
“Thanks but I’m working tonight.”
Spence makes a face. “Lemme think. Scottish sausagefest or young, hot co-eds? Some of those girls are bendy. I’m leaving it here in case you change your mind.”
I chuckle as I head for the door.
After dropping Ash off, ducking out of the kiss she tries to pin on me as she slides out of the truck, I continue to my destination.
The Arch sits on the edge of campus. The bar is technically called Archetype but rumor is Tor, who owns it, got sick of replacing all the bulbs. Now only the first part is lit.
By anyone’s definition it’s a dive. Fortunately for Tor, some devout regulars make appearances at least three times a week. A handful of transient students looking for an alternative to the preppy clubs downtown also drop some cash there on the weekend.
I park in the back and let myself in the staff entrance.
“You sounded like you drank turpentine. Wasn’t sure if you’d come,” Tor comments when I pass the open door to his office.
“Don’t I always?”
I don’t need to ask to know I’m doing inventory before bartending tonight. The long shifts keep my hands busy, if not my head.
I take the sheaf of papers and pencil off the hook and lower myself onto a crate in the storeroom. Tor’s old-school, and inventory involves a pencil. I think he does it to punish me.
“You might want to lay off the drink if you’re going to be running anywhere fast,” Tor says, coming up behind me.
I put down my pencil before I’ve made a mark. “Varis won’t let me back on the team. I tried, Tor.”
Despite the age lines that crease his face, the look in his eyes is sharp as a hawk’s. “Did you tell him what happened last year?”
“I’m not looking to advertise it.”
Tor grunts disapprovingly and I hold up my hands.
“Hey. Coach wants a second mediocre season, I’m not gonna be the one to convince him otherwise.”
Tor pulls himself up to his full height. “Daniel Chase Owens. If you want my support to stay in school, you will find a way back on that team.”
It’s been a while since Tor tried to make me do something, and this command catches me off guard.
I turn back to my work but the old man grabs the pencil out of my hand and tosses it to the ground.
“There’s no point hiding out here until you get this sorted. Go home and put your damn brain to use. Lord knows you have one. Amos can cover for you here.”
Tor vanishes without waiting to see if I’ll comply.
If I’m not in school, I’ll be headed someplace worse. Tor and I both know it. Though I’m not sure the old man would have the balls to actually send me back, he surprises me sometimes.
Especially when he thinks it’s in my best interests.
Giuliana Cassetta: My face is full of tears, I never cried like now with a book or even a movie. I loved every single chapter. I truly don't know what to say, I'm out of words and my eyes hurt from crying. Such an bittersweet story, it's so wonderful. One of my favorites for sure. Keep it up!
Alex Rushmer: Chapter One: Not much is happening in this chapter, but I was absolutely fascinated by the depth of your character development. I love how you just sat there with the reader and explored Eddward. Usually, that sort of thing gets boring very fast, but this was actually really cool! He's so unique ...
Grapes Are Juicy yes!!!: I give this novel FIVE STARS ! This novel is worth reading from the beginning to the end! The plot and conflicts in this story are very smartly integrated. The language facility is a little odd , but i guess this was done on purpose, given the novel's set era. Other than that, this should definit...
Jennifer Sibley Jannise: So, I originally read the book because my daughter asked me to. However, I read it in 2 days and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is well written and thought out. If the author writes and publishes any more books, I would definitely read them.
brettylee: The narrative is slick yet punchy. Life, Family and Friends I believe is the core message so it’s easy to relate to. It’s surprisingly action packed. The author does a good job at keeping you guessing. Just when you think all is right, whack, the unexpected happens. The dialogue is energetic and ...
ynez2005: I LOVE THIS BOOK SOOOOO MUCH!!!!Though you really need to make another book,more Princesses!!! Whoooo!!!Girl Power!!!Mabey it could even be Devona's BFF???That would make it even better!!!Plus can you pleeease make Akki come back,together with Thea and Authur amd the whole family is back!Other th...
JONANNA: As an avid reader it is not often I say that about a book. The plot is what was different and the twists where unexpected. This book is defiantly a page turner and enjoyable read. I can't wait to reread this novel after a little editing to finish off the shine on this wonderful novel.
Ruby0h: Overall I thought your story was really good! It drew me in right away and kept me interested as the story progressed. I loved the character of Kayla being inserted into this story, and the way she affected and shaped the life of the original story into something totally new and interesting. I lo...
emmaneal74: I loved this booked. Would definitely buy it when published and read it again. The story flowed in such a way I just couldn't put it down. I was never confused about the characters or their roles in the story which can happen sometimes with so many lead. I'd recommend this to anyone wanting to r...
rudyoxborough46: An action-packed, mystical adventure awaits anyone wishing to read this novel. I’m amazed at how well you’ve managed to flesh out the characters in this book, and I hope to read more of your work.I’ve read books about goblins and elves and all that mumbo-jumbo before, and most accounts of these c...
Marijana1: The melancholy present throughout this story has the power to influence and etch into the minds of the readers, to stay there and refuse to leave even after they have finished reading the story. This is a deep, powerful story, making the readers wonder about everything – about love, about their e...