Nathan knocked on Coach Durham's door and waited for the man to acknowledge him. "Nathan Scott. What can I do for ya?" he asked in his booming voice, looking up for just a second.

Nathan walked in and sat down across from his coach. He dropped his backpack on the floor beside him. "Hey, Coach. I just wanted to say thanks again for your recommendation on my behalf," he said.

"For all the good it did," Whitey said, still looking down at the paperwork in front of him.

Nathan cleared his throat and wiped his palms on his knees. "Actually, Coach, I've changed my mind. I've decided to go to High Flyers."

Whitey lifted his head and looked Nathan in the eye, slowly sitting down in his chair. "Is that so?" he asked.

Nathan nodded his head. "That's so."

"Do you know why I wrote you that recommendation for High Flyers, Nate?" his coach asked him.

Nathan scoffed. "Because I'm good," he stated.

"No," Whitey said simply. "You are good, Nate, but that's not why I recommended you."

Nathan shrugged one shoulder. "Then why?" he asked.

"Because you need to work on being a team player," Whitey told him. "This game isn't just what you can do for you; it's about what you can do for your team. And I don't want next years team captain to be hoggin' the damn ball every time he walks out onto the court."

Nathan's eyes snapped up to Whitey's. "Captain? Really, Coach?"

Whitey nodded. "You've got technique, Nathan. Now let's work on bringing your heart into the game."

Nathan stood up and extended his arm over Whitey's desk. The older man reached his hand out and Nathan shook it excitedly. "Thanks, Coach!" he said.

Whitey nodded his head. "Don't disappoint me, Scott."

"I won't," Nathan assured him.

"And have a good six weeks."

777

"Nathan, please…"

He threw his hands up. "What do you want from me? You kissed another guy!" he reminded her angrily. "And not just any guy, but a guy that I despise!"

"I know. And you'll never know how much I regret that. I'm sorry," she said for the thousandth time.

"Well, I'm not sure that's enough," he said quietly, firmly.

"Nathan—"

"I'm going to High Flyers," he interrupted her. "I leave in two days."

Her downcast eyes lifted to his. "Oh," she said in a small voice. "That's great," she said, knowing that it was great for him. It just wasn't great for them. "This is a really good opportunity for you."

"I know it is. And that's why I changed my mind. I need to concentrate on my game. So, for now, we're going to have to be put on the back burner. I have a lot of thinking to do over the next six weeks. Hopefully I'll have decided what I want to do by the time I come home," he said.

She nodded her head. "I'll be here waiting for you when you get back," she assured him.

777

"Hey, great game, Scott," one of his High Flyer teammates said to Nathan as he walked past. Nathan grinned at him and nodded. "Thanks, you, too," he said.

"I know," Jason replied, keeping up his pace. "See you in the caf?"

"I'll be there," Nathan said as his friend left the gym. For the last six weeks, Nathan had been working with professional trainers and coaches perfecting his skills, and teaching him the benefits of playing as one of a team as opposed to trying to be a solo act on the court. While he'd be eternally grateful for all of their help, it wasn't what he was going to remember most about his summer. "So…" he said, turning back to face the girl standing in front of him. They were the only two left in the gymnasium now.

"So…" she repeated.

"I guess this is it," he said.

"I guess so," she agreed, chewing on her lower lip uncertainly. She laughed nervously, not wanting to say good bye. "I never thought I'd be so thankful for electrical difficulties," she said. The girls' gymnasium, which had just finished being built a few weeks before the debut season of Female High Flyers was supposed to take place, suffered afire and had been a total loss. So the young men and women had had to share the space that had originally been reserved for the men. It was then that Nathan had met the girl standing in front of him. He'd been immediately drawn to her, and had suffered endless ribbing from his teammates because of it. They'd given him heck, telling him he was here to concentrate on basketball, not girls. But that quickly changed, as they all realized just by watching her play that she was his female equal as far as basketball was concerned.

Nathan sighed thinking just how fast the weeks had gone, and how much he was going to miss her. He reached for his right hand and pulled a ring off his finger. He pulled her hand out and placed it in her palm. "For you," he said softly.

"Oh, Scott," she said breathily. "I can't," she protested. "It's your High Flyer's MVP ring. You should keep it."

He shook his head. "I want you to have it," he insisted.

"But—"

"I want you to remember this summer forever," he said.

She laughed again. "Trust me, I'll never forget this summer," she assured him, looking down at the ring in her hand. She closed her fingers around it and gave it a squeeze.

"Neither will I," he told her.

She lifted her eyes to his again and timidly took a step toward him. She brought her arms up around his neck. He felt his gym bag slide off his shoulder and fall to the floor as he looked down into her eyes. "I'm going to miss you," she whispered, just before his lips touched hers. She pressed her whole body into his, letting him know just how much she was going to miss him. He wrapped his arms around her waist and tightened his hold on her. As she opened her mouth for him, he swept his tongue leisurely inside, as if he had all the time in the world to stand there and kiss her. Just like their whole summer had been, there was a sweetness to their kiss. He gently brought one of his hands up to the nape of her neck, and tried to bring her even closer, but it wasn't possible. Finally, he pulled away from her, leaning his forehead against hers. There was no heavy breathing or trying to catch his breath, as there had been no urgency to the kiss. Just a longing. "I'm going to miss you, too, Hales," he whispered softly.