From Playing for the Other Team (PG-rated excerpt)
“What did you do?” His question carried a touch of exasperated parent. It might have annoyed me in a different situation, but I was too busy freaking out, and besides, it was kind of adorable.
“Um. Turned down Nova Phillips for sex.” I kept my gaze low.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean—”
“And I told her that…” I hesitated. For some reason, I didn’t want Jasper to know how crude I had been, which made no sense, because he wasn’t exactly a prude. “I sort of accidentally told her that the fact that she’s a girl was the deal-breaker.”
“Oh Jesus, Bry,” Jasper burst out, laughing. “Yeah. You’re probably screwed.”
“Goodie. That’s what I wanted to hear.” I couldn’t appreciate his amusement at all.
“What’s done is done.” He reached out and squeezed my hand before letting go again. “It’ll be all right.”
“You keep saying that.”
“Because you keep doubting it.”
“I don’t know what to do now. I have no idea how to handle this.”
“We’ll talk about it later,” Jasper promised. “When we don’t have an audience.”
The prospect of it cheered me up a little. My mouth was dry, fear continued to tighten my chest, and the events of the previous evening still weighed heavily upon me, but at least I had one little something to look forward to.
When I propped my elbows on the table and prepared to daydream, Jasper gave me a sideways look.
“You should really draw something. Or paint or whatever. Else Miss Fisher is going to lose her patience with you.”
“You think?” I frowned at our teacher, who was currently at the other side of the room talking to some students. “She doesn’t seem too bothered so far.”
“She is; trust me. I’ve spent enough time being pushed by that lady. I know her well enough.”
I frowned. “Pushed?”
He indicated his sketchbook. “I was good in eighth grade, but then I took my first art class with her freshman year, and…she just knows how to make me better. Knew how to bring me down a notch when I got kind of cocky too.” He grinned. “She gets me. It’s nice.”
“So she’s like your mentor?”
“That’s probably not off the mark. But I’m not letting you distract me.” He pointed his pencil at the table in front of me. “Get that adorable ass in gear, sunshine.”
“I don’t know what to do.”
It sounded lame even to my own ears. Jasper rolled his eyes just like I’d expected. “If nothing else, grab a pencil and pick out something in the room to draw.”
I gathered my supplies, but not without another token protest. “I’m really bad at this.”
“Well, you’re not going to get better by whining about it,” Jasper supplied mercilessly.
I glared at him, half-playful. “What if I decide to draw the wall?”
“Go for it.” He had put his own pencil back to his paper. “In fact, spend all hour on it. It’s got so much texture. Little cracks, shadows, bumps, dents, discolorations. Not the easiest of subjects, but if that’s your pick, I won’t stop you.”
“I hate you.”
He just laughed. “You started it.”
I wasn’t quite ready to admit defeat just yet. “I’m going to draw you,” I declared. “In an anthill.”
“Go for it,” he said again, apparently unconcerned.
“Fine.” I took my pencil to the paper, realized I had no idea what an anthill even really looked like, and gave up on the idea. My gaze darted around the room and fixed on the clock above the door. Better than nothing, I supposed, and started with a few thin lines. Soon I found I was actually concentrating on the task, noticing the little details, the shadows, all that stuff Jasper had pointed out as being part of the subject I was looking at. Once I’d started looking past the mundane shape of the clock, it was, surprisingly, kind of fun.
I lost my focus when Jasper leaned over, the tips of his hair tickling the side of my neck as his chin nearly touched my shoulder. I felt myself grow sensitive to his closeness. My skin prickled under his warm breath.
“If that’s supposed to be me in an anthill, you’ve got some perception issues.”
I turned my head, but very carefully, because the movement brought my mouth in rather close proximity to his. He seemed to sense my unease and backed off, but not before I saw the glint in his eyes.
“What?” I asked.
“You’re doing a good job. Seriously, keep going.”
I did, but his expression still gave me the sense that he had some sort of evil plan I wasn’t yet aware of. Too often, his eyes flicked up at me. The more I watched him, the more worried I got.
“Jasper?” I asked eventually.
“What are you drawing?”
His mouth formed an impressively evil grin. “You.”
I wasn’t sure whether I should be flattered. Part of me wanted to be, liked the fact that he kept looking at me to do it. But my sense of unease only grew.
“And what’s so funny about that?” I demanded to know.
“Oh, nothing.” He gave me a wide-eyed look.
“Jasper,” I ground out.
“Really, it’s nothing. Well, apart from the fact that this is probably not something you’re gonna want Miss Fisher to look over and grade.”
“Oh God,” I groaned. “Please tell me you’re not…no. You are not drawing me naked.”
The evil grin was back and bigger than ever. “You mess with me, sunshine, I’ll mess with you back.”
“You don’t even know what I look like naked.”
“That’s why I’m using my imagination. If you behave yourself, I’ll make it all sexy.”
I groaned again, hid my face in the crook of my elbow as I leaned forward onto the table, and contemplated faking a sudden life-threatening fever.