From Playing for the Other Team (R-rated excerpt)

SH_PlayingForTheOtherTeam_coversmBecause I was busy luxuriating in the memory of what it had felt like to kiss Jasper like I meant it, it took me a while to realize the voices had faded. Then there was a knock on the door.

I sat up just in time to meet the eyes of Jasper’s sister. I had never talked to her or anything, but I knew her from sight, having noticed her walking into or out of the school with Jasper on occasion. She was slightly darker-skinned than Jasper, with huge brown eyes and dark brown hair that came all the way to her waist.

“Hi,” she said, leaning against the door frame.

“Hi,” I responded lamely.

“My brother hasn’t had much luck with guys.”

My mouth dropped open at that non-sequitur. “Uh…okay.”

“I’m just saying. He’s dated a couple of real jerks. And I’d like it to be known that the next guy who messes with him is gonna get my foot up his ass.”

I stared, fascinated by this delicate, doll-like creature who was maybe a hundred pounds soaking wet, wore a lime-green tartan skirt with black knee socks and pink sneakers, and was threatening me with all the cold-bloodedness of a professional hitman. Just as I finished the thought, she gave me a sunny smile.

“I just wanted to mention that because I noticed my brother looked kinda upset just now. So I hope we understand each other.”

I finally found my voice again. “He’s the one who doesn’t want me,” I grumbled.

“Oh yeah?” She narrowed her eyes at me. “Why’s that?”

“Why’s what?”

“Well, you’re his type. So how’d you manage to screw it up?”

This conversation was beginning to feel distinctly surreal. Where the hell was Jasper, and why hadn’t he warned me about his tiny hitman sister? I stood and tried to surreptitiously look over Missy’s shoulder to check the corridor, but apparently I wasn’t very good at surreptitious.

“He went to sit in the stairwell,” she told me pointedly. “He does that when he’s upset. So it’s just you and me, buddy.”

I stared at her. “How old are you?”

“Fifteen. I’m a freshman. Focus.” She stretched out one hand toward my face and snapped her fingers.

“Oh what?”

“My brother. What. Are. Your. Intentions?” She punctuated each word with yet another snap.

“I…nothing. I mean, I like him. I mean, he’s the one who…” I threw up my hands. “Fuck, I don’t know, okay?”

“Don’t swear,” she said sternly.

“Sorry,” I muttered. I took a deep breath in an attempt to get it together. “He’s the one you should be asking. I like him, and I’m not trying to fu—”

She cleared her throat.

“Screw him over,” I finished. I was usually much better about not swearing, but at the moment, my mind felt like a soggy sponge. And Missy wasn’t anywhere near done with me.

“So here’s the deal, pal,” she announced as she folded her arms. “You harm one hair on his head, and your life is over. I will find you. You won’t know what hit you. I have ways to—”

“Missy,” Jasper’s voice cut in on her speech. She turned and cocked her head. He put his hands on her shoulders and gently but firmly led her back into the hallway.

“I was only looking out for you,” she said.

“Thanks. Go do your homework.”

“Will you quiz me on my French vocab later?”

“Yeah, I can do that,” Jasper sighed. “Now go.”

“While we go get ice cream?”

“Don’t push it,” he growled, and she tittered as she walked off.

“She’s…um, nice,” I managed.

“She’s channeling Liam Neeson.” Jasper stepped back into his room and calmly closed the door. “Last year, in eighth grade, she had to do this career-assessment thing, and apparently her result was elementary school teacher. She was totally horrified. At supper she announced she was having an early midlife crisis, and the next day she decided that she was going to be a bounty hunter.”

“I can see her pull that off,” I croaked.

“Yeah.” Jasper’s mouth formed a small but fond smile. “She made Mom enroll her in Jiu Jitsu and Krav Maga. If she keeps that up, she’s going to be pretty scary one day.”

“She’s already plenty scary.”