Chapter One

Win and Bill would kill me if they knew. Knew what, you might ask? That I was training Brian Nelson. They would both drive down from their colleges and personally murder me. Maybe they would team up or maybe it would be a competition for who got to our little farm first, but one thing was for sure: they would murder me.

Okay, maybe that's a tiny bit dramatic. They wouldn't murder me. They would certainly not be happy though. They would call me on the phone to chew me out. On the Christmas holidays, they would glare at me. It would take a while to get over.

Especially if Hawley won the scrimmage.

It's not like I had gone to Brian Nelson's house and begged him to let me train him. I hadn't even suggested it; Jimmy Ott had. And it was a secret that only Jimmy, Brian, and I knew. And I would take it to the grave because if Win and Bill or my dad and Curtis or anyone in the town of Red Bend found out, the grave is exactly where I'd end up.

Let me explain a little something about Red Bend and Hawley. We've been enemies since…the beginning of time. Hawley has more kids and more money than Red Bend, so naturally they have more people on their team and they've always been a little bit better. The last time that Red Bend had won against them was when Win was a senior and Bill was a junior. Bill's senior year hadn't worked out quite well enough, though, and Hawley had won. And Brian Nelson had even played in that game and he had been one of the ones laughing at Bill because he had cried when Red Bend lost. If Bill ever found out I was training him…

Well, let's just say that Win would be furious and there would never be a word in the English language to describe how angry Bill would be.


I looked over at Brian. "Huh? Sorry."

He gestured to the weight set behind him. "I'm done lifting."

"Start painting," I said, gesturing around to the walls. "We'll run when Curtis takes Dad to his physical therapy."

Brian obeyed immediately, something that never ceased to impress me. At first, he'd been a total jerk to me and he'd even walked out his first day of work. But then, he'd…changed. He was nicer and he made me laugh and he… I guess you could say that he actually respected me, strange as it may sound.

And I respected him, too. He was easy to talk to and he never made fun of me. He'd even apologized for participating in laughing at Bill that night and had admitted several times that I was a harder worker than him and that my brothers were great football players.

Dad came in before he and Curtis were supposed to leave so that he could take a look at what had been done. The barn was mostly painted now, though a few spots still needed it, and the floors were swept and it smelled pretty decent for a barn. He still found a way to throw in a couple of insults, though, and I was relieved when I heard the truck pulling away.

"Come on," I said, throwing a grin in Brian's direction.

We went out to the heifer field and did some tackling drills first. And then, after some running drills, we were so beat that I flopped down right there on the field and looked up at the clouds in the sky.

"Oof," Brian said as he fell down next to me. "I am ready to rule preseason."

"I'm ready for my legs to fall off," I said and we both laughed.

"I really want to thank you for all of this," he said seriously.

"What, the football field?" I joked. "Think I could be an NFL groundskeeper?" I grinned.

"I'm serious. For training me. And for talking. It's been real important."

"Don't worry about it," I said because I could think of nothing else to say. We laid there in silence then and after a while I started dozing off – it was just so peaceful. Birds were chirping and the air wasn't as hot as normal and something just put me at ease. Brian rustled around on the grass and then – and I hate having to retell this part – he kissed me.

His lips were actually on mine and I was brought out of my serene thinking period instantly. I mean, if you're going to kiss someone whose eyes are closed – meaning they can't see you coming – you have to warn them. But Brian didn't warn me and it startled me so much that I sat up quickly and ended up hitting his nose with my face.

There was blood and I ran around finding a rag and ice. It was the most embarrassing thing ever and I absolutely hated it. Brian laughed about it, though, and said that it was okay and it didn't hurt that badly. I couldn't laugh about it, though. I was completely mortified. I mean, I'd been having feelings for Brian since two weeks into our training sessions and he had shown me that he had feelings for me, too. And how had I reacted? I'd almost broken his nose. He would never try to kiss me again.

"I'm so sorry," I said for the millionth time as we reached his truck. The bleeding had finally stopped, but he still held the bag of ice in his hand.

He smiled. "Don't worry about it. It doesn't even hurt anymore. I think maybe you hit a nerve or something – I'm kidding," he added quickly when he saw my face. He laughed. "Lighten up, D.J. It's fine."

When he finally drove away, I watched him go. Win and Bill would hate the fact that I was training Brian Nelson. But what would my brothers say if they knew that I had feelings for him?