The Love Playbook by Suze Winegardner
Publication Date: November 4, 2019
Publisher: Entangled Teen Crush
When Avery Stone learns her dad will be fired if his high school team doesn’t make the playoffs, she has to get her head out of her day planner and do something—anything—to help him win. Even if it means secretly coaching the team’s newest player, who seems to have more game than skill.
Lucas Black just transferred to Hillside with a fake name and a big secret. The MVP of every team he’d played on since he was seven—not to mention the MVP of every post-game party—he can’t understand why since arriving at Hillside, he’s been unable to catch a single. Freaking. Ball.
Until…Avery. Amazing, kind, generous, and crazy-freaking-hot Avery.
As Lucas goes from zero back to hero and Avery struggles with just what Lucas means to her, she inadvertently sets them on a collision course with Lucas’s secret…a secret that could take down not only Lucas but her father too.
DISCLAIMER: This Entangled Teen Crush contains a football player hotter than the Texas sun, hotel cuddles, and a steamy makeout session in the rain.
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Avery was worried about Lucas. He’d zoned out several times on the way to the hospital, and she was thankful he’d held it together until they arrived. She hauled him out of the car, and he laughed and then groaned. It was almost like that one time when Blaine had got drunk and called her to come pick him up. She’d wanted to kill him. But she was just worried about Lucas.
She slipped her arm around him, ready to support him if he needed it. He sent a look in her direction, but he still leaned against her and put his arm over her shoulders.
She sat him in a chair near the door and hurried over to the woman behind the desk.
“What can I help you with, sugar?” the lady asked.
“My name is Avery Stone, and—”
“Why of course you are, Sugar. I recognize Coach’s daughter now,” she broke in, grabbing for the glasses swinging on a cord around her neck, and putting them on the end of her nose.
“There was a bad tackle at the game. One of the players, Lucas Black, got hit really bad. My father told me to bring him here. I think he might be concussed or something.” She pointed to Lucas, who was sitting with his head cradled in his hands.
“All right, sweetheart. You did the right thing. Take these.” She stood and shoved a clipboard with a bunch of forms at her, and then called into the office behind the desk. “Dylan. Git the wheelchair.”
Obviously her tone inspired Dylan to hustle. In seconds, Lucas was being wheeled away. The woman nodded after Dylan and Lucas. “You can go with him, Sugar.”
Avery didn’t know what to do. She looked at her car parked under the overhang. She wasn’t blocking anything, but she really wanted to park it properly somewhere. Instead she clicked her remote to lock the doors, and scurried after them. Then she stopped and turned back.
“Is Mrs. Black working tonight? She’s new. A nurse.”
“Tonight and every night. You want me to call her?” The woman reached for the phone.
“She’s Lucas’s mom. She probably needs to fill out these.” She held up the clipboard.
“I’ll have her find you.”
The doors swung behind her, and an empty corridor stretched before her. “Lucas?” she called softly, not wanting to disturb anyone. “Lucas?”
She walked slowly past the rooms on either side trying to peek in without actually peeking in. Then Dylan backed out of a room with the empty wheelchair.
Avery held the door open for him and double-checked that Lucas was actually in the room. He was. Oh my God, he was.
The man in the room with him had taken Lucas’s sweatshirt off, and put him in a neck brace. He was totally naked from the waist up. His skin was tan, and smooth, and…she looked away. Seeing him like that, and having weird thoughts about his skin, for God’s sake, felt like she was doing something very wrong. She cleared her throat.
Lucas turned his head slightly and squinted at her, then smiled.
“Family only,” the doctor said.
Avery took half a step back, but Lucas interrupted.
“She’s my sister.”
“Are you parents coming?” the doctor asked without looking up.
Lucas closed his eyes.
“The…um, yeah. The lady at the desk outside said she’d call…our mom.” Avery said. She could see Lucas grin, even though he hadn’t opened his eyes.
“I’ll be back. He needs an MRI and a CT. I’ll come get you when we can take him up.”
Suddenly they were alone in the room, and Lucas was half naked. She tried not to notice. “Your sister?” she asked taking a chair and scooting it over to the bed.
“Well you look a little young for me to say you were my mom, don’t you think?” he replied, missing the point. “Anyway, he bought it, and you’re here.” His voice trailed off into a whisper. “You’re beautiful, you know. I’ve never met anyone like you. So good, and generous. You’re helping me and”—he swallowed, closed his eyes for a second as if trying to concentrate—“you don’t even know me.”
Shame prickled her cheeks. She wasn’t helping him out of the goodness of her heart. She was helping him because he was the only one who had a shot at helping her dad. Her reasons were entirely selfishly. Suddenly it didn’t feel great.
“You know you’re concussed, right?” she asked. “You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“Yeah, that must be it, I guess.” He half-turned on his side, and then on his back again. He groaned.
Avery leapt up. “Can I help you? Do you want me to make the bed flatter? Or more upright? What’s wrong?” she asked as he continued to move around.
“Can you make it go up? My head is pounding when I’m lying flat like this.”
Avery looked toward the door, as if a professional would come in and tell her it was okay to move him. No one came. “Okay.” She looked around for the controls and found them on the wall above his head. She leaned right over him and pressed the upward button. Success. The head of the bed slowly elevated.
As it did, she realized that as she reached for the control, it was bringing his head up to within inches of hers. Why hadn’t she just gone around to the other side? The bed stopped moving.
“Better?” she asked. “I think that’s as far as it goes.”
“Much, much better.” His voice was steady. She looked down and his eyes were clear. For a second she could see herself as if she were having an out of body experience.
She, Avery Stone, was virtually on top of a half-naked football player she barely knew. His chest was actually touching her…well, her sweatshirt, but that small detail didn’t account for the way her heart rate had kicked up. The room was silent, but she could swear that there was no way he couldn’t hear her heartbeat the way she could.
Before she could say something funny to diffuse the sudden weird tension, he reached up and kissed her. A small kiss. An almost imperceptible kiss. On her lips. He pulled back as if waiting for permission, or maybe a slap. She could stand up, sure she could. She could make a joke, she could claim he was having a near-death experience.
In the second she stared at him, her brain went into overdrive.
Pro—he’s hot, he’s a football player, he’s half naked, did I mention he was hot?
Con—he’s a football player, he’s injured, worse—concussed, I don’t want a boyfriend, I don’t have the time, I’m supposed to be helping my father.
Pro—I really want to kiss him.
Her mouth dropped open as if to say something, but no words came out. She leaned down a few inches more, and his hand snaked up and stroked her face.
Her frantic thoughts turned to static, as his mouth opened as her face neared his. His eyes closed.
“—CT scan, and a…” The door swung open and the doctor stopped talking.
Oh my God.
Avery jumped up, her hand covering her mouth. The physician stood there with a nurse, both of whom were gaping at her.
Oh my God. The doctor thinks we’re siblings.
She couldn’t look back at Lucas. What was wrong with her? What had happened?
She ran for the door. “Sorry,” she said as she rushed past.
“See you sis!” Lucas called, before groaning with the exertion.
She didn’t look back. She just ran.
Meet The Author
Suze Winegardner is an ex-pat Brit who quells her homesickness with Cadbury Flakes and Fray Bentos pies. She thinks her life is chock full of hoot, just a little bit of nanny. And if you get that reference, well, she already considers you kin.
When not writing, Suze loves to travel with her military husband, and take long walks with their dogs.