Since her mom died, Amy Whalen’s been invisible—but not in the cool, superpower kind of way. Overlooked at school and ignored at home, Amy holds tight to her few constants: running, painting, and her long-held crush on soccer god, Chris Kent. But as senior year nears, Chris doesn’t just notice her, he needs her.
Amy will agree to almost anything to be with him.
Everything is great—sort of—until Luke Parker shows up for soccer tryouts and sees through every one of Amy’s defenses. When Luke decides he wants Chris’s spot on the team and wouldn’t sneeze at the captain’s jersey either their rivalry spins out of control.
It doesn’t help that Luke also wants the girl Chris kept hidden all summer: AMY.
Seven lockers down Chris Kent was making out with Cheryl, the way-too-perky head cheerleader.
I tried not to stare, but when his hand slid past her waist and over her hip, I slammed my locker shut and stormed off in the opposite direction. Not that anyone noticed. The problem? Not only was I that gorgeous jock’s secret girlfriend—I also had a secret power.
Okay, not invisible invisible. But, in the not-so-mythical land of Highschoolia where blending in equals obscurity, I rated a negative seven JD on the Jane Doe to Lindsay Lohan Visibility Scale. I’d have been the first to tell you I didn’t mind. Well, typically.
I’d made a deal with the devil… I mean the boy… and stomping away was the only thing I could do.
That boy? Chris Kent? Yeah, he and his Plan might just kill me where Advance Trig had failed. But, with my dream guy as the self-proclaimed prize, what’s a girl to do?
I’d been only too happy to sign onto The Plan. And, since tryout sessions were closed, little Miss Wave-My-Butt-Around-In-My-Too-Short-Cheer-Skirt couldn’t show up to practice no matter how much she fluttered her eyelashes.
You see, I’ve been in love with Chris Kent since fifth grade and, as senior year was about to start, he was finally all mine—well, sort of.
All I had to do was follow The Plan until after Homecoming, track the soccer team’s stats with the same dedication Aunt Susan counted Weight Watchers’ points, and not kill Cheryl. Easy, right?
But as I stalked down to the field, I fought the picture of my boyfriend’s mouth being confiscated by that social-climbing cheer captain. Again. Unfortunately, killing his public-image girlfriend fell way outside the stupid plan.
I mean, The Plan—note the capitals.
I totally got that Chris needed to get into MonroeState. After meeting with an alumnus, he’d become absurdly focused. Apparently, no matter how many years you played in the Jr. Olympics, the school wanted more. More extra curricular. Higher grades. Just…more.
Chris had gotten it into his head that matching his senior year resume to that alumnus’ would be the key to the golden acceptance letter. Homecoming was the first step. Prom King was the last. Every popularity rung in between was weighed against that alum’s perfect year.
And what was I supposed to say? Every time I tried to push, he’d answer with something like, Cheryl’s totally on board with this. Or, Cheryl isn’t arguing about not spending time with that guy she met at Ashburk Tech. So, if Cheryl could be 100% behind the charade—I mean The Plan—I should have been too.
Of course she was onboard. She was getting her popularity quota filled. Having Homecoming Queen under her belt would make her a shoe-in for Most Popular when yearbook came around. Chris said she lived and breathed yearbook slots. Best Looking was her Holy Grail.
And yet, I’d quit cross-country to become the soccer team’s stats girl so I could see him everyday. That was pretty on-board.
Of course, part of it was that my no-longer-team was filled with insanity. Not the good kind. With last year’s seniors gone, no one was fast enough to train with me and it was frightening to have a flock of backstabbers running behind you. I could run on my own, without the drama, and get bonus Chris Time. Win-win.
But Chris’s farce of a relationship with Ms. Popularity was a little too much. Especially now when he and I weren’t working at the RecCenter anymore. No more evenings together after work. No more post-camper brownie binges. No more just-the-two-of-us time.
How was I going to handle being his secret girlfriend once school started in a week? Pre-school tryout, Day One: Emotional Torment was deadly enough.
At the bottom of the hill, the soccer fields were empty except for the coaches. The older boys were too smart to show up before roll call and the younger ones too scared. What did that say about me?
Coach Sarche was already practicing his scowl while he flipped the pages of a huge, beat-up binder on an old card table. The JV coach scanned a list, making little marks next to names. Their assistant hovered nearby, looking a tad bit lost. It was clear who the Captain Kirk of this group was.
I knew I’d stand there all day before anyone noticed me—you know, the whole invisibility thing—so I cleared my throat and hoped for the best.
Coach Sarche looked at me as if I’d interrupted a Presidential speech instead of a coaches’ pre-tryout meeting.
“You the new stats girl?” He kind of growled the question.
Wow. No wonder the team played all-or-nothing hard. I was scared to death of him already. He was a legend at the school. On the field and off. His team and the student body understood his word was law. Even the parents felt it. If he ran for school council, they’d probably skip right to electing him mayor.
“Yes, sir. Amy Whalen,” I added as an afterthought since he probably had no idea who I was beyond “stats girl.”
The look he gave me held equal parts disgust and annoyance with a smidge of hopefulness thrown in.
“You know you’re here because Kent spoke for you. If you can’t count or you spend all your time doing your nails and flirting with my guys, you’re out. Understand?”
I nodded and held up my hands nails-forward for him to see the gnawed mess they were, the cuticles stained with thick, overlapping oil paints. “I also don’t flirt.”
Yeah. As if I really looked the type.
His mouth quirked before tightening into its normal flat line. “Good girl. These binders are your responsibility. Keep them current, accurate, and confidential. Anything less and you’re out.”
I nodded again. Piece of cake. I’d been tracking our team—okay, mostly Chris—in my head since junior high. Binders were just a formality.
“Other than that, you’ll be fine.”
And with that, I was dismissed. He turned his back and barked orders at the assistant as boys began drifting down from the school.
One of the things that made our soccer team so great was that the coaches placed squads by ability, not grade. So, if you were a freshman and could dribble circles around a junior, you got his spot. It made for a seven-year state championship dynasty. It also made for some nasty feuds passed down from one brother to the next.
The guys circled up, eyeing each other as Coach Sarche handed me the roster sheet and started calling names.
Abrams. Here. Anderson. Here.
The litany went on for three times as many boys as spots. Guys bounced and juggled balls, showing off skills and keeping themselves busy.
Nervous glances shot toward the gym door faster than Beckham acclimated to the LA lifestyle.
“Friedman,” Coach bellowed. “Where the hell is Kent?”
Chris’s best friend eyed the lower fields where cheerleading tryouts were just getting Rah-rah-rambunctious. Ambling up the hill, Chris glanced at the cheerleaders again before raising his hand and jogging the rest of the incline.
“Hey, Coach.” Chris slid past him to file in with the other guys.
Even in the throng of baggy soccer shorts and school T-shirts, Chris stood out. It was like watching a movie star try to blend in with a group of math teachers. He had a body to rival an MLS player—taller than most guys with a lean cut, strong legs, and slightly broadened shoulders.
Not to mention, sun streaked blond hair and Starbucks green eyes.
“Kent, do you know what time tryouts start?”
Coach Sarche threw his clipboard down in my general direction.
“That’s right. Eight. Can you explain to me why it’s—” He glowered at his watch and raised a red-hazed glare to meet Chris’s eye. “Eight-oh-seven and you’re just joining us?”
“Sorry, Coach. Mrs. Carr asked me to carry the cheer team’s tumble mats to the lower fields. I didn’t think you’d mind me giving them a hand.”
Coach ran his hand through his thinning hair and glared at his watch again.
“Any more helping the ladies happens on your own time. Run laps while I finish roll call.”
Without a word, just a quick wink at me, Chris took off around the field, his hand sweeping along the edge of the netting as he passed behind the goal.
“Where the hell is my clipboard?”
I snatched it off the ground and handed it to Coach before easing into the background again.
And on it went. Coach shouting names. Boys shouting ‘here’. Chris running laps.
Very distracting. Laps that is.
The list came to an end and Coach jerked his head toward me in what could only be considered a command for attention.
Thank goodness I’d counted the boys there out of curiosity before he’d started.
“There’s seven more guys than names on the list.”
He ran his hand though his hair again, giving it a sharp yank before dropping his arm and studying the boys. “Whose name did I not call?”
Six hands rose slowly. Very slowly. And yeah, only six. I glanced around wondering who the coward was.
“You better have a darn good reason why you didn’t sign up ahead of time like everyone else.”
The crowd surged back, guys shifting away from un-signed-up friends.
“You.” Coach pointed at an unfamiliar boy. “Name and excuse.”
I glanced at the new guy, pegging him for a goalie because of his height. He probably had two inches on Chris. He was as lean, but where Chris was all golden, he had dark hair that almost flopped into his eyes.
I expected the new kid to stutter a reply and hope Coach moved on to the next tardy applicant. Instead, he answered as if there wouldn’t be any shouting coach-wise.
“Luke Parker. We moved here two days ago. The school said to just show up.”
The small circle surrounding New Kid Luke Parker shifted farther away from him. Some in awe, most in horror.
Coach slammed the clipboard against his leg and practically snarled, “Did they?”
I think it was the “sir” that stopped him. “What position do you play, Parker?”
The team—using that well-honed collective instinct—all glanced at Chris as he passed the corner cone on the far side of the field.
“Well, Parker, that slot is all but filled.”
“I’m sorry, sir.” Luke Parker’s mouth twitched into a lopsided grin, the right side hitching his lips a tad bit higher. “I thought this was tryouts.”
I didn’t think boys did things like gasp, but the whole group sucked their breath in as one and then, under the stillness, a voice whispered, “Damn.”
“Parker, do you want to join Kent in laps, son?” Coach sounded angry. But something about the way he rubbed his hand across his jaw, hiding his mouth, made me think he was more than a little amused.
“I’m not afraid of work, sir. But I do play left forward.”
“I’ll decide if, when, and where you play. Hand your waiver form in to the stats girl and make yourself scarce until it’s time to show me what you’ve got. Everyone else who isn’t signed up, get your waiver in today.” Coach waved me forward without looking my way. “Which reminds me. We have a new stats girl. Paperwork, sick calls, all your numbers go through her. You have an issue with grades, she needs to know. If you think you might be sick three weeks from now, she needs to know. Any questions?”
I held my breath. Eyes flickered over me and back to Coach.
“Fine.” Coach slammed his clipboard down on the card table. “Line up behind the cones at midfield.”
As the guys began to drift away, one set of eyes rested on me longer than that blink of a moment and I knew who they belonged to before I raised my own to meet his. The new kid.
Luke Parker obviously had his own superpower. He could see invisible objects.
COMING IN OCTOBER
I’m really excited to put this book out! It’s the first of my YA Romances/Issue/RomComs that includes my Golden Heart book SECRET LIFE. Both books are coming out this fall.
Thanks to everyone asking, When!?!? 🙂
SECRET GIRLFRIEND is at the proofreader now, then it will get formatted and sent out into the world. So, the answer for book one is — SOON! Hopefully within 3 weeks. *crosses fingers*
Check it out on Goodreads HERE.