Page 6

Closing the bathroom door behind me, I stepped back into Jude’s room, stopping in my tracks almost immediately. This was not the same room I’d left thirty minutes ago. I had to double check the photo of the two of us he had decorating his dresser to assure myself this was, indeed, Jude’s room.

The room was clean, almost sparkly clean. The bed was made; the corners had even been pulled tight and folded over. There wasn’t a single article of clothing decorating the carpet or any flat surface like there was just a while ago. The mess was gone, but it had been exchanged for something almost as offensive in my opinion.

Orange and white crepe paper twirled from the ceiling fan to the corners of the room. Human sized poster boards gleaming with orange glitter with the number seventeen, Go Ryder, or Syracuse #1 were plastered at least three to a wall. Someone had called the ra-ra police on Jude and he was going to be over the rainbow pissed when he saw.

Walking tentatively across the room I didn’t recognize, I slid open the top drawer of my dresser and shoved my toiletry bag back inside. Jude and I tried to switch weekends, so I was at his place every other. Instead of just lending me a drawer of his for my stuff, he’d gone out and bought a whole dresser just for my use. The gesture had rendered me a rare speechless.

Sliding the drawer closed, I took another investigation of the room. The picture of us caught my attention again. Taking a few steps closer, I understood why. A shatter line ran diagonal across it, cutting Jude from me almost perfectly. Lifting the picture, I ran my finger along the line, suppressing the shudder.

“Sorry about that.”

I startled, the picture slipping from my hands and cartwheeling into the corner of Jude’s nightstand. The glass fractured one more time, but didn’t shatter.

Sure I’d cry if I continued to stare at the fractured photo at my feet, I spun around. Only to wish I’d stared an eternity longer at that cracked glass.

“I accidentally knocked it over earlier when I was cleaning,” the tall, lean girl in an orange and white cheer uniform gliding around Jude’s room said, not looking at me.

“Who are you?” I asked needlessly, crossing my arms. I already knew.

“Adriana,” she said, offering nothing else as she carried an overflowing laundry basket of folded clothes over to Jude’s dresser. “You know, no one’s allowed in the player’s room pre game except for their Spirit Sister,” she said, pulling open the top drawer before she began stacking Jude’s underwear inside.

Two emotions hit me right then, watching Adriana Vix‌—‌a girl who was doubly as tall and pretty as me‌—‌pawing all over my boyfriend’s clean underwear as she layered them away. There was anger‌—‌pure and raw‌—‌likely the kind Jude felt. And there was something that clenched my throat and heart tight, feeling like both might break.

“I’m his girlfriend,” I replied, trying to let the anger speak. “I’m allowed any time I want. You can run that by”‌—‌I pointed at the signs‌—‌”number seventeen if you don’t believe me. And what the hell is a Spirit Sister? Other than the obvious,” I finished, appraising her before curling my nose.

She was copper skinned, dark haired, and had these grassy green eyes that almost glowed against the contrast of her dark skin. Her legs were so long her cheer skirt appeared more like a pair of panties than a skirt, and as Tony had so ardently put it, she had huge tits. And apparently had no problem letting the world know those tits on a leave-nothing-to-the-imagination level.

“Each one of the cheerleaders is assigned to one of the football players. One of the top performing football players, because there aren’t enough of us to cover them all and what’s the point of waiting hand and foot on the benchers anyways?” she explained, sliding Jude’s top drawer closed and moving to the second one down. Folded and pressed shirts went into that one, color coded even.

“I’m the captain of my team, and Jude’s the star of his. We were an obvious match,” she said, smiling into Jude’s clean shirts.

It was impressive how appealing ripping out clumps of this chick’s shiny dark hair was. I even recognized there’d be consequences, possibly even an overnighter in prison. And I didn’t care.

“Obviously,” I deadpanned, narrowing my eyes as she moved to the next drawer, stacking the three only pairs of pants Jude owned. “So what? As Spirit Sisters you get to clean their rooms, do their laundry, bake them brownies, that kind of fifties housewife shit?” Ah, there it was. That temper I needed to rise so I didn’t choke on my words in front of this exotic Barbie.

Turning around, she dropped the empty laundry basket on the floor. “And whatever other needs they might want taken care of,” she said, her smile telling the whole story.

I felt my fists balling, bracing for impact. I had yet to be in a cat fight, but I felt one coming on strong.

“Listen, Adriana, wasn’t it?” I said, coming around to the foot of Jude’s bed, standing as tall as I could. She still towered a solid half foot above me. “I know the game you’re playing. I’ve seen it played a million different times and a million different ways. But let me save you the suspense on the outcome of this little one you’re trying to manipulate.”

I took another step forward, crossing my arms because I didn’t trust them not to think of their own accord and land a punch right between those pretty green eyes. “You will lose. Jude is with me and I’m with Jude. The end. You can ask him if you need further explanation.”

Adriana’s lips pursed for a moment before they flattened back into that waxy smile. “You don’t do his laundry, you don’t clean his room, we all know you don’t put out, so what good are you to him? A man has needs. He might be yours today. But what about tomorrow?” She leaned into his dresser, her fingers playing with the corner of it. I didn’t want her fingers running over anything of Jude’s like that.

“All right, let me put this in stupid people terms,” I said, steepling my fingers under my chin. “Stay away from Jude or I will, figuratively and literally, kick your ass. With a smile,” I added, plastering one on.

Arching a pair of the most meticulously sculpted brows I’d seen, Adriana clucked her tongue. “You want to know what happened to the last girl that stood in my way?”

Not really, but I couldn’t resist. “What?”

She lifted a shoulder, gliding across the room towards the door on those damn never ending legs. “I don’t know. I never heard anything about her again after I landed her man,” she said, peering back at me. “She was drowned in my wake. You better hope you can swim if you go up against me.”

This bitch was lucky I was letting her leave in one piece. “Like a damn fish.”

By the time I’d weaved my way through thousands of fans to get to the seat saved for me every home game, my anger and Adriana hate hadn’t dimmed even in the slightest. I knew had I shouldered into Miss Vix here, that cat fight that had eluded me for eighteen years would have come to a head.

Side-stepping down the front row, carefully balancing my popcorn and hot chocolate, I found a familiar face in the seat next to my front and center one.

“Hey, you!” Holly shouted above the crowd at me, grabbing the popcorn from me so I could get myself situated.

“I didn’t think you could make it,” I replied, giving her a sideways hug before taking my seat. Syracuse had yet to take the field, but we were seconds away, judging from the eardrum bursting volume in the dome. Jude leading his team out on the field to the adoration of thousands, that spandex forming and highlighting the muscles of his that deserved to be highlighted… well, it was a sight I never wanted to miss.

Keeping my eyes locked on the tunnel home team charged out of, I nudged Holly’s leg. “Your mom agreed to watch little Jude for a night?”

“It took some creative convincing, and I had to agree to frost her hair for free for a year, but yeah, she agreed. Plus, I had to perm like a dozen heads of old lady hair at the nursing home in town to afford the airfare,” Holly said, tossing a piece of popcorn into her mouth. “This is my first night off, and judging by mom’s lack of enthusiasm to watch her only grandchild, it will likely be my last for a while, so I’m letting my hair down tonight, girl. “ Weaving her fingers through her hair, Holly mussed it, then threw her head forward, giving it a rip-roaring shake. “Fair warning,” she added, when she swung her head back up. Her long blond hair had just achieved an inch and a half of height.

“Just make sure you use a condom this time,” I said, smirking at her from the side. “And you don’t crawl onto anything that remotely resembles Sawyer Diamond.”

“Not funny,” she said, shoving my arm.

“How is Mr. Diamond?” I asked, not caring, but guessing she had the scoop since we lived in a town where everyone knew everyone else’s business.

“Don’t know. Don’t care,” she answered. “However, I find a great deal of satisfaction in knowing every time one of his friends enjoys a fine piece of ass, he’s getting lucky with nothing other than the soft side of his hand.”

I laughed, holding out my hot cocoa. She took it, shooting a smile my way.

After learning she wasn’t Jude’s love child’s mother, I was able to look at Holly in a neutral light. And I’d grown to like her. A lot. Our looks weren’t the only thing similar about the two of us‌—‌our personalities were so similar she often said the exact thing I was about to. Only Holly was braver in her delivery. What I was too chicken to act out, Holly did without a second thought.

It was a trait I wanted to sharpen.

The visiting team erupted from their tunnel, welcomed by the booing and bantering of almost the whole dome. Holly even joined in, lobbing a few pieces of popcorn onto the field.

And then the flags of orange and white, followed by a backflipping, high kicking cheer crew I hated as a whole based on principle, burst out of home tunnel. I didn’t need to consult the number on his chest to identify him when he sprinted out of the tunnel. Jude had a particular brand of swagger, even in a run, that I’d be able to identify fifty years from now.

“I swear that man swaggers in his sleep,” I yelled over at her.

“Yeah, but Jude’s swagger is justified, not manipulated. He moves with that strut because he knows how to make a woman throw her head back in bed. And he knows it,” she said, tipping the hot cocoa back.

“Yes, he does,” I mumbled, lost in the sea of noise.

The stadium went wild, screaming, chanting, and bowing as their hero led his team onto the field. In barely two months of college play, Jude had already become a legend. He played on a whole different level than the rest of the college boys. He played like he was a god. And his fans worshipped him accordingly.

Shooting up in my seat, grabbing Holly up with me, I bounced, hooted, and hollered with the best of them. So much so, I already felt hoarse when Jude took his spot on the sidelines, right in my line of sight. The coach was talking to him, but Jude looked back, his eyes finding me right away. The benefits of calling the front and center seat for your girlfriend, I suppose. He waved at Holly, then winked at me, which I answered with an air kiss. His grin split his face mask before he turned his attention back at his coach.


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