Your sneak preview of Follow Your Heart #1: Your Best Friend's Boyfriend, published by Scholastic books, continues below!
"Forget about my brother," you say. "Peter's a real team player . . . because he can't develop a personality of his own." You immediately regret dissing your brother like that -- the two of you actually get along pretty well.
Mike stares up at you for a second, looking blank. "Team player," he repeats. He chuckles. "No personality of his own, yeah." He laughs again, a low rumble that doesn't make him sound very bright. "Team player," he says again, shaking his head.
"Peter has a personality," Sally says from her seat very close to Mike on the bench.
You glance at Sally sharply. She seems annoyed, her lips in a tight line. Sally only meets your eyes for a second before she looks away.
"Not that I care," she adds.
You narrow your eyes. The crush Sally had on your brother had better be history. Nothing ever came of it in reality, but you had to suffer through hours upon hours of Sally going into hyperdramatic mode over how it was breaking her heart that Peter barely knew she was alive. It had just been creepy trying to give Sally advice about how to snag your own brother, and you felt greatly relieved not to have to listen to her whine about him anymore when her crush just fizzled out and she got busy with the fall musical.
Unbelievably, Mike is still laughing at your joke about your brother. He's obviously not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree. Still, you find yourself unable to hold that against him -- he's just so good-looking! You're glad you didn't show him the photo, though. He doesn't seem like the type to appreciate art.
Sally tugs playfully at the corner of Mike's ear. "You think that's funny, huh."
"It was the way she said it," Mike replies, pulling away from Sally's pinch and nodding his head toward you. "Your friend's funny."
"Anytime I can harsh on my own family for your amusement," you say, "just let me know."
Mike rewards you with a smile, and something inside you softens, a sudden, dangerous stirring of emotion. Why is a genuine smile on a handsome face so powerful?
"Not that it matters, really," Mike says. "We'll get even in the playoffs next week."
"Hey," Sally says to Mike, "you think Walt would like her? I think maybe Walt would work."
Mike shrugs noncommittally, unscrews the top of a water bottle, and pours the warm leftovers out on the grass.
"Who's Walt?" you ask. "I don't know if I like where this is headed."
"Cute guy on Mike's team," Sally says. "The one with the blond floppy hair?" She turns to scan the soccer field, but quickly turns around again. "Gone."
"He went to the diner," Mike offers. "Where we're going."
"He's just your type," Sally tells you. "I think you're his type, too. Mike won't mind if you come with us. Right, Mike?" She nudges him and he shrugs again, and then Sally faces you. "Come with."
"My type, huh?" you repeat, mulling over the offer. You have a vague recollection of a reasonably cute blond guy who kept having to push his long, sweaty hair behind his ears while he was hanging back on defense. Your basic impression of him was of tallness, skinniness, and paleness. Which, yeah, you've been known to crush on willowy guys before, especially if they're smart.
But why do you get the feeling that you might have a new type . . . dark, compact, and athletic with insanely beautiful blue eyes and maybe a little less brain, for instance? Of course, that type will be at the diner, too. . . .
"Yeah, okay," you decide. "I'll come."
The diner near the mall is a big roadside chrome palace, and it's as busy as ever, filled with all kinds of people from around town, with more than a few tables of Clearview and North Cliff kids. Mike charges right into the diner, heading toward a round corner booth where four Eagles in their blue uniforms are having burger feasts. You and Sally hurry after Mike and slide into the booth after him.
You recognize the guy across from you as Walt -- he looks better now that his hair is dry. Already deep into their postmortem of the game, the soccer jocks don't really stop their conversation when you arrive. Walt just turns to include Mike in what he's saying. "We lost it in the passing game," Walt continues. "If there's any chance that Jamie thinks he's going to score, he won't let go of the ball, even if he's triple-teamed."
"We just got tired," Mike argues immediately. "Did you see Lyon out there? He's got great moves, but he's so out of shape -- he was like huffing and puffing before halftime."
Why can't you stop looking at Mike's bicep as he leans forward on the table? It's just an arm , really, isn't it? You see guys' arms every day . . . why are you so mesmerized by Mike's? He scratches his nose and even that light flexing bunches up the whole bicep, pulling his sleeve taut.
Mike orders a burger, exactly matching his teammates' meals. Sally gets an Oriental chicken salad with mandarin oranges and the dressing on the side. You're just in the mood for a basket of fries and a Diet Coke.
"And you, Dan, man," Mike says, pointing a pickle at the shorter, freckly guy on his right, "what was up with you today? What, were you just daydreaming out there?"
Dan just snorts a little and shakes his head. "Do you want to talk about your great play? Peter on the Stallions blew right by you."
You wince, flashing on the frozen image you caught in your camera.
Mike clenches his jaw and pokes at a piece of lettuce on his plate.
"She's Peter's sister," Sally pipes up, and all the boys turn to stare at you. "But we were both rooting for you guys today."
"Speak for yourself," you tell Sally with a smile.
"Ooh," Walt says. "We're fraternizing with the enemy."
You laugh and reach for the ketchup as the guys go back to their soccer chatter.
Sally leans really close to your ear. "Aren't soccer players adorable?" she whispers. Then she sits back and gets a dreamy expression on her face while staring out the window.
Odd. For some reason, you got the feeling that she wasn't necessarily talking about Mike.
"Yeah," you reply. "They are."
Then you try to focus on what the guys are talking about.
"I wasn't daydreaming," Dan continues, "but how are you supposed to react when defense gets off a whopper of a kick like that? How could I have seen that coming?"
"By staying alert," Packer answers.
Mike nods. "Packer's got a point."
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