Johnny Deeper: A Sports Romance (6 page)

I drink it down. “You’re one gossipy bitch, Grant.”

“And you’re falling behind the competition.”

I glance around for Douglas, just in case. “How so?”

“Word in the quad says Dougie’s already two out of three.”

Dammit.

“Are you sure?” I ask.

He shrugs. “I never assume you guys get as much tail as you claim to. I’m just passing on what I heard. Apparently, he just needs a teacher.”

“The teacher is the hardest one,” I point out. “I’m
this close
on that myself. Once I’m done, the other two are cake.”

“If you say so.” He grabs another ball and throws it without even aiming and it still pops directly into my cup. “And that’s game.”

“Your talents are wasted on that theatre degree, Grant,” I say, picking up the cup.

“Oh, please,” he smirks. “I’ve played with more balls than you have.”

I laugh. “You’re definitely right about that.”

He abandons the table. “Speaking of which, I’m going to go find Ty.”

“TMI, dude.”

“Deal with it, Johnny. Good luck at the game tomorrow.”

“Thanks.”
I grit my teeth but I let it slide as I choke down the last cup of beer.

I smash the plastic cup in my fingers and throw it towards the slumped over trash bag in the corner as my mind instantly focuses on Rose again.

That look on her face earlier was perfect. Such a delightful mix of intrigue and confusion. I can’t stop replaying the way her brow furrowed and her little button nose twitched. There’s no doubt in my mind it got her attention but there’s only one way to know for sure.

I reach into my pocket for my phone. I have to get Rose alone. It’s the only way to read her body language. In public, she’s stiff and professional — completely different from girls like Stephanie Gomez. She’ll never loosen up with me unless it’s just the two of us.

I tap out an email; short, sweet, and to the point.

 

Hello, Ms. Hawthorne. I could use some extra tutoring for class.

Can we set up a time to meet on campus this week?

Johnny

 

My finger hovers over the send button but I don’t push it. First, I delete Johnny and replace it with John.
Johnny
might be a little too informal and I don’t want to spook her again too quickly.

I send the email as I step outside onto the front porch. It’s a dirty trick, I’ll admit. If she doesn’t meet with me, then she’s a horrible teacher abandoning her student. But if she says yes, then she’s potentially inviting trouble over with a capital T. I don’t feel great about it but if Grant is right and Douglas is already two for three, then I have to pick up my pace.

I check the time. It’s only ten on a Friday night. There’s still plenty of time for me to go back inside and find a young, deserving freshman to take home with me and I’ll be one for three.

My phone chimes with a new email and I rush to swipe it open.

 

Sure, John. Come by the TA office after class on Monday.

Bring your notes!

Ms. Hawthorne

 

“Yes…”
I whisper.

“Heading home already, Kirby?”

I look up to see Douglas leaning against the banister surrounding the porch with a head full of blonde hair softly sucking his neck. For a second, a burst of anger surges through me as I see Rose in his thick arms but I quickly realize that it’s just Stephanie. I guess she found her plaything for the night.

“Yep,” I nod.

“Too bad,” he smirks.

“Yeah, too bad.” I turn away from them and thump down the porch. “See you at the game.”

“Bye bye, John,” Stephanie giggles.

I wave without looking back, still a little twisted up about that mental image. Not that I have anything to worry about, though. There’s no way Rose would ever be involved with a guy like Douglas Floyd. He’s arrogant and rude. Vulgar and loud. Kind of like…

Me, I guess.

 

 

 

Chapter 8

Rose

 

“Ooo!
Ms. Hawthorne
,” Daisy reads. “So official!”

I stare down at the football game from my seat on the bleachers. “Shut up,” I laugh into the phone, pressing it a little harder into my ear to hear her over the screaming sports fans. “Just decipher the email, please.”

“I don’t think I need to, Rose,” she says. “It’s pretty obvious what’s happening here.”

I wince. “Yeah, I was afraid of that.”

“Still going to meet with him?”

“I have to,” I say. “As an educator, I have to give him the benefit of the doubt.”

“And I would totally agree with you if the guy hadn’t already tried to slip you his banana.”

“I’ll keep it professional and we’ll stay on topic the entire time. If he tries to steer the conversation towards anything other than covalent bonds, I will stop him and set boundaries. You know?
Real talk
.”

“… Or you could just bang him.”

I roll my eyes, ignoring the comment, until my gaze falls on a familiar face a few rows away. He’s wearing a baseball cap, one that shadows the majority of his face but I’ve known the man since I was eighteen and I’d recognize that jaw just about anywhere.

Dr. Zach leans a little closer to the girl sitting beside him, obviously whispering into her ear and her shoulders twitch with giggles beneath a mane of styled, blonde hair. Even from back here, I can tell she’s young — younger than me, even. I don’t recognize her but I certainly recognize the Greek letters printed on the back of her shirt.

She’s a student.

“Rose, you still there?”

I blink, pulling my eyes away from them and back to the field. “Yeah, I’m here.”

“Dammit,” she sighs. “I thought maybe you’d actually gone and done it.”

“Nope.”

“Wuss.”

The crowd ignites with applause and I look to the field in time to see John burst through the defensive line with the football cradled in his elbow. I gasp, watching with glee as he easily rushes down the field, leaving everyone else behind to score a well-earned touchdown.

“Woo-hoo!” I shout, clapping my hands with the rest of my peers.

The crowd chants his name and John takes notice. He does a little dance in response and the ladies around me scream even louder for him.

“Just think, Rose,” Daisy teases. “That could be
your
end zone.”

I grunt. “Stop that.”

“Sorry. It’s kind of hard to stop once I get going…”

I watch him dance a little longer before he’s forced to stop and resume the game. My smile stretches wider, reacting to his silliness and I think of his profile. John Kirby is a strange one, that much is obvious. I thought I had him figured out, but now, I’m not sure what to think of him.

I’m more tempted than ever but I’m not about to tell Daisy that.

I look towards Dr. Zach again and pause, realizing that he’s gone… along with that girl he was with.

Definitely tempted.

 

Chapter 9

John

 

She’s nervous.

Rose didn’t even glance at me the entire lecture today. Her eyes would scan the room, as she always does, but right before they’d finally hit me in the front row, they’d veer off in the opposite direction as if one look would turn her to stone.

Then, right after she dismissed us, she bolted out the door before anyone else could. She usually sticks around in case someone has questions.

So, she’s nervous, and the only possible explanation I can think of is our little tutoring session.

I’d be lying if I said this didn’t excite me a little.

I step off the elevator onto the fourth floor, right down the hall from the TA office. The door is open; I can already hear the gentle sounds of keys tapping through the silent corridor. I slow down my stride, nearly halting before peeking around the door frame inside.

Rose sits at the desk, her eyes squinting at the monitor through those adorable glasses and I admire her for a few moments before knocking on the open door.

“Hey, Ms. Hawthorne.”

She glances up and smiles. “John, come on in.”

Her posture is stiff. Knees crossed. Even her voice sounds stilted and rehearsed, like a damn secretary. She’s obviously determined to keep this meeting as professional as possible… and that turns me on a little more.

I reach for the door knob to close it and she raises her hand to stop me.

“Can you leave that open?” she asks. “It can get pretty warm in here. No windows or anything…”

“Sure.” I let my fingers slide off the door and I sit down in the chair across from her. It squeaks loudly as I lean back and I feel one of the four legs wobble beneath my weight. The science department must pawn whatever broken equipment they have onto the poor TAs. Even the computer looks about ten years outdated.

“So…” She folds her hands on her lap. “What exactly do you need help with?”

I chuckle. “Honestly, it’d be easier to list off what I
don’t
need help with.”

“Oh, it can’t be that bad,” she says, smiling. “You aced your quiz last week, so you must be following the basics, at least.”

“I aced it? Really?” I feign a little surprise. “That’s awesome.”

She reaches for the textbook on the desk. “We’ve already gone over Atomic Theory one-on-one, so you
should
have that down.”

“I do,” I nod. “Atoms. Very tiny.”

“And you didn’t have trouble identifying the parts of the nucleus or their charges…”

I stare across the desk at her, finding myself completely entranced. She obviously loves teaching this stuff. Her voice steadies the more she speaks, abandoning any nervous edge she had before but she still avoids looking me directly in the eye for longer than a second.

“Is it coming easier?” I ask her.

She pauses. “Excuse me?”

‘Teaching,” I smile. “You don’t seem nearly as pink up there anymore.”

“Oh…” She nods and fidgets in her chair. “Yeah, it’s getting easier.”

“I can tell.”

Her throat clears as she flips through the textbook. “Okay, so—”

A ringtone calls out from her bag and her cheeks turn red at the sudden 90’s pop song invading the tiny room.

“Sorry—” she says, reaching into her bag and silencing it.

“You can take that, if you need to.”

“No, I’ll call her back later.”

“Her who?”

She hesitates. “My sister.”

“You have a sister?” I ask. “Older or younger?”

Her fingers twitch and she slides the textbook off the desk onto her lap. “Younger… by about three minutes.”

I raise a brow, genuinely interested in the idea that two versions of her exist in this world. “You have a
twin
?”

“Yep,” she nods. “Let’s try and stay on topic, John. I’m sure you have other classes to prepare for…”

I lean back in the shrieking chair. “No, actually. I’m wide open today.”

She holds her breath as she skims the book in her lap. “How about Stoichiometry? Would you say you have a firm grasp on that?”

“Are you all right, Ms. Hawthorne?” I ask. “You seem
stressed.

“I’m fine,” she says, looking down to hide the blood invading her cheeks. She must like it when I call her that.

“Are you getting enough cardio? A little bit of exercise three times a week significantly reduces stress—”

“John…” Rose closes her textbook and sets it back onto the desk. “What are you really doing here?”

I shrug. “I need extra help in chemistry.”

“I really don’t think you do,” she says, staring at me. “In fact, I think you’re following the lectures just fine and one glance at your transcripts proves that.”

I bite my cheek. “You checked my transcripts?”

“You’re in the top two percent of your graduating class,” she says. “You have a 3.98 GPA. With grades like yours, you’re the one that should be tutoring.”

I lean forward and flash a wink, grasping at any hope I have of turning this moment around. “I’d be down for some role-playing, if you’re into that kind of thing...”

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