From school, from football—from living with roommates, my obnoxious twin brother and our older brothers girlfriend. The only person who I can talk to these days is my best friend from high school, and he’s back in our hometown and halfway across the country. Somehow he convinces me that maybe…
…Maybe it’s time to take a trip. Party. Have some fun.
That fun does not include his sister.
Long black hair and even longer legs, Tess Donahue had lost the braces and gained the confidence she never had as a teenager. She’s hilarious, pretty—and when I see her in those cowboy boots?
Stolen glances. Flirty banter. One drunk filled night.
Suddenly, my uncomplicated weekend of ‘living a little’ in my hometown becomes a lifetime being tied to the one girl that was off limits.
Release date: September 13, 2023
Print pages: 419
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How to Score Off Field
I was eleven years old the first time I met the Colter twins.
My brother Grady had been signed up to play league football because our mom didn’t think he
socialized enough, and she was sick of him sitting in his room, gaming all the time.
She wanted him to get exercise.
And meet people.
So that third week of football, she invited all the players over for a pizza party, and I remember
the team arriving, one by one, getting dropped off by their parents for the two hours my
mother had arranged—and I remember the Colters walking through the door.
Tall, even at the age of thirteen.
Tan from always being outside.
One was quiet and had braces; the other was talking and being loud as soon as he stepped foot
in the kitchen where the pizza was being served.
I’d been on the other side of the room, hovering in the doorway where the laundry room was,
too intimidated by all the teenage boys to grab a slice of my favorite—cheese, sausage, and
pineapple. Mom had ordered it specifically for me, knowing most of the boys wouldn’t want
pineapple on their pizza, but I was too chickenshit to steal a piece.
“Who’s that?” one of them asked. I can’t remember who.
Grady had looked in the direction of the kid’s finger, glancing at me over his shoulder.
“Oh. That’s my sister.”
That’s my sister…
But I mean, I was his little sister, and I was kind of small at that age. And shy.
I remember that once they’d all lost interest in staring at me, and they’d gone back to
devouring the pizzas, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the twins.
They were so cute.
Literally the cutest boys I’d ever seen in my entire life.
My face turned bright red as soon as the one in the gray tee shirt scanned the small group of
boys and caught my eye in the corner, smiling after a few seconds of awkward staring.
I was too freaked out to smile back.
That had been Drew.
I found out his name later—the one without the braces—and lay in bed that whole night,
staring up at my bedroom ceiling while saying it to myself. Drew.
I wondered what his middle name was.
He was the quiet Colter, who didn’t have much to say about anything unless asked. He usually
let his louder, more obnoxious brother speak for them, as twins sometimes do.
And I watched number twenty-nine at every game of my brother’s that I went to, silently
clapping when he blocked a play or took a hit and got back up on his feet without a scratch.
When I was fourteen, and we were all in high school, I prayed every day that I would bump into
him in the hallway between classes. But we rarely did because freshmen and juniors didn’t have
class on the same floors, and everything was separated by wings. Freshmen ate with freshmen,
sophomores ate with sophomores, and on and on and on.
Then one day when I was eating lunch, there was a commotion at the front of the cafeteria
near the vending machines, and a small group of football players walked in, wearing their home
jerseys and carrying flyers.
Drew Colter was among them.
I knew it was him instantly. He didn’t have the same arrogance his brother Drake had, and he
hung back from the group the way he usually did.
I watched as the boys walked around from table to table, handing out those flyers, smiling
down at the pretty girls and flirting.
“Oh my god, they are so. Hot.”
My friends Charity, Bev, and Tosha stopped cackling about whatever story Charity had been
sharing to stare, all of us holding our breath as the football players weaved in and out, like gods
among us, for football was the only thing anyone in this town gave a shit about.
Three tables away.
“Hey, Tess.” Drew handed me a flyer with a smile, my name on his full, pouty lips, his white
teeth peeking through.
I opened my mouth to reply, but they were already gone.
“Oh. My. God,” Charity said dramatically. “Drew. Colter. Said. Your. Name.”
I rolled my eyes, pretending to be unfazed. “I’m Grady’s sister. He has to be nice to me.”
My brother and Drew had become fast friends that night after the pizza party three years ago,
spending most of their downtime running plays, hanging out in our basement, or at Drew’s
house, swimming in his pool.
The Colters lived on a ranch, and their dad was never around, but it was a sprawling house with
a massive pool that even had one of those slides you see at the water park—it even had a pool
house with a kitchen full of snacks.
I’d only been there once when the Colters hosted a party. Mrs. Colter had wanted help, so
Mom dragged me over as an extra set of hands.
I’d refused to take my tee shirt and shorts off to get in the pool.
I was twelve that year and flat-chested, and I didn’t want anyone looking at my skinny, pale
legs. Besides, my mom would only allow me to wear a one-piece, and I considered it dorky and
childish, and it was embarrassing.
So I’d stood there baking in the Texas sun, watching Drew and his glistening skin while he
bobbed in the blue pool water.
“He doesn’t have to be nice to you,” Bev had pointed out. “His brother isn’t.”
“Drake Colter isn’t nice to anyone he isn’t dating,” Tosha pointed out.
“Drake Colter doesn’t date.” Bev laughed.
“Exactly.” Tosha made her point with a loud laugh, and I glanced over at the boys to ensure
they hadn’t heard us.
But they were already gone, and I picked up the flyer, my eyes trailing over the words THE
GRIDIRON CLUB NEEDS YOU!
The Gridiron Club was the name of the football boosters who raised money to pay for the lights
on the football field, keeping the concession stand stocked, and put the team in fancy new
uniforms every season.
“They’re fundraising for a team that’s not even part of the school.” Bev snorted. “Lame.”
I folded the flyer and tucked it in my lunch box.
I knew I wouldn’t get to go to the fundraiser unless my parents planned on attending, but I kept
it anyway—because Drew had handed it to me personally.
He’d said my name.
We never spoke, and he remembered my name!
I would take that flyer and doodle his name on it alongside mine.
Drew + Tess.
Tess Donahue + Drew Colter.
Tess Mirabelle Colter.
Tess Mirabelle Donahue-Colter.
Opened my diary that night and wrote:
Dear Diary, it’s me again.
Drew and his buddies came into the lunchroom today and gave me this flyer. Okay, so it
wasn’t to me specifically, but he handed it to me and said, “Hey, Tess,” and I thought I
was going to die.
He is so cute!!!!
I still haven’t said anything to the girls about having a crush on him. I don’t want them to
think I’m out of my dang mind. He’s a Colter, and Colters only love one thing—football.
Homecoming is coming up, and Mom said I can go this year with Bev, Charity, and
Tosha, but I don’t want to go if Drew isn’t going, which I doubt he is ’cause he isn’t
dating anyone I don’t think.
Grady is going—obviously—with Beth Newman. I can’t stand that B. She’s so rude and
treats me like I’m a kid and she’s only a year older. My brother is an idiot with horrible
taste in girls and do you think he takes my advice? No. Because Beth Newman has big
boobs and laughs at every stupid thing he says. I think she caught me rolling my eyes at
her but whatever.
Well, Diary, I should get to bed.
I have tennis lessons in the morning, and Mom said I can’t skip even though it’s going to
be hot as Hades. I don’t know why, it’s not like I’m going to play professionally.
Xx Tess, age 14
I folded up the football flyer covered in hearts and doodles and our names, tucking it neatly into
my diary and locking it away.
“I’m beginning to think I’m single because I never forwarded those chain letters I got in high
I’m the last man standing.
My three brothers have girlfriends, including my twin—the guy no one ever thought would get
himself relationshipped has gone and got himself a better half.
Talk about ironic…
I was always supposed to be the one in a relationship, not Drake. Everyone knows he had zero
interest in dating! He’s the one who never wanted to date the same person twice or sleep with
the same person night after night. Drake wouldn’t go on dating apps to find love. He only went
on the dating apps to pretend to be me.
Now look at him, gallivanting around campus like a pig in shit when he intended to find a
girlfriend for me.
The universe is a fickle mistress.
No. The universe is a bitch.
Still, I can’t be bitter, can I?
I am happy for the miserable bastard.
What?! I am!
I don’t have it in me to be anything but—he is my brother, after all, and not just my brother; he
is my twin. Honestly, I’m happy for the asshole even though he went behind my back and lied
to me and his girlfriend—before she was his girlfriend (obviously).
He was trying to help you out.
But he did it without tellin’ you…
He told you. You just didn’t take him seriously. You thought he was lyin’ when he was telling the
truth, then you accused him of lyin’ once you found out he was sneaking around.
Because I didn’t actually think he was out there dating people and pretending to be me.
Anyway. I digress. No sense in getting all bummed out about it. Plenty of people are single, so
it’s not like I’m the only one. It’s just, you know—I feel ready? Yeah, yeah, I know. Love finds
you when you’re not looking for it, or so my brother—who has now become the expert on
love—keeps telling me. He considers himself living proof.
I sigh, shoving my sneakers into my black duffel bag before slinging it over my shoulder. My
phone pings with a notification as I push through the gym’s front door.
It’s Grady Donahue, my best friend.
Grady and I have known each other since middle school when we played Little League football.
He’s not playing anymore. In fact, he isn’t even attending a big university like I am. Instead, he’s
working a full-time job, renting his own apartment, and paying his own bills.
My heart squeezes.
I’m looking forward to the same independence.
Grady: Dude, what are you doing this weekend?
He gets straight to the point. No ‘good morning’ or ‘hey man’ or ‘how’s it goin’?’ as foreplay for
this conversation, no mincing words the way I do when I’m trying to get information from
Me: The usual? Hanging out.
Grady: You should come home. I’m having a bachelor party for Lucas. You should be here.
Lucas Jones is another of our buddies from home. He’s working for his dad’s construction
company and got engaged to his high school sweetheart last year. Must be getting ready to tie
the knot if they’re having a bachelor party.
I heard buzz about it but wasn’t invited to the actual wedding.
Me: Bro, wouldn’t it be weird to show up when I’m not going to the wedding?
Grady: Dude, they barely invited his grandma to the vows. They’re keeping it small. Told you this
a 100 times.
Yeah, he actually has told me this one hundred times, but I’m still not the kind of dude who
shows up when I haven’t been invited, bachelor party or not.
Grady: You can afford the flight. Just come home for the weekend. I know you’re burned out, so
give yourself a break. There are no classes on Monday.
Correct again, I am burned out—from the new relationship my brother is in, from football, from
practice, from the gym, from games, from the weight of my family legacy bearing down on my
I do need a fucking break.
I'm not sure going home will be the break I need, not if I’m still surrounded by noise and
Me: How do you know we don’t have classes on Monday?
It’s a holiday, and most universities aren’t holding classes.
Grady: ’Cause Tess is home from school.
Tess is his little sister, and I can almost hear Grady picking at his teeth with a toothpick.
Southern boy to the core.
Me: I have to think about it, I guess.
Grady: What’s there to think about? You already said you weren’t doing nothin’ this weekend.
Me: That doesn’t mean I want to hop on a plane and fly to Texas, bro.
Grady: So you’d rather be lying on the couch with your hand down your pants instead???
Me: It’s cheaper.
Grady: Don’t make me laugh. We both know your mama would pay to fly you home. When’s the
last time you saw her?
I don’t know.
But that’s not unusual for out-of-state students who live hundreds of miles from their parents
while attending school. And it’s not like my schedule is wide open.
Just so happens that right now, it is.
Me: Yeah, but for one weekend?
Grady: Yes, for one weekend. Don’t act surprised. I told you about this, so you knew it was
coming up. Drake RSVP’d already.
Me: He did?
That surprises me. Normally, my twin is shit at getting back to people unless they’re asking him
a question to his face.
Me: What did he say?
Grady: What do you think he said? He said ‘piss off I have better shit to do.’
Grady: I know for a fact YOU do not have better shit to do. LOL
Me: Screw you, dude…
Grady: You wish.
Grady: But for real. Get your ass on a plane. You can stay with me. Most of the guys will be
here. It’ll be a blast, and who knows, you might meet someone.
Me: Uh. I’m not dating someone in Texas.
Grady: Who said anything about DATING?
Single September. Only me October. No Man November.
Don’t Date December… Yay me, I’m nailing it.
“You said Drew was coming this weekend?” I regard my brother from across the table at the
Mexican restaurant where we’re having lunch—his treat—and the burrito gets stuck in my
throat at the news Drew is coming to town.
My childhood crush.
Not that my brother knew that. In his opinion, Drew was like a brother to him. It would never
occur to him that I might have harbored fantasies about him since we were in middle school.
Fantasies I kept secret from him, but not my best girlfriends. They all knew I had a mad crush on
him and never let me forget it.
But that was then, and this was now.
I’m older, wiser.
Not the naive little girl who practiced conversations with him in my bedroom mirror. “Hey
Drew, how’s it going?” and “Oh me?! I’m so good. Like, totally doing great.”
I’m over him.
How can you have a crush on a guy you haven’t seen in four years, if not more?
The last time I was in the same room as Drew was at my brother's high school graduation party,
and even then, we were mostly on opposite sides of the room. He nodded at me a few
times—said hello when he got there, obviously—but other than that…
He had as little interest in me back then as I have in Brian Flanders now, the nerdy tech geek
who works in the computer lab on campus and stares at me uncomfortably every time I go in
And unfortunately, I need a lot of assistance.
“Are you listenin’ to a thing I say?” my brother asks, giving me a jostle under the table with the
toe of his cowboy boot.
We live in Texas, and cowboy boots and sneakers are interchangeable, though I stopped
wearing mine around town the day I left for college.
“I heard you.” I bite into the burrito I’ve taken off my plate and chew thoughtfully. “Drew is
actually flying home? For just the weekend?”
“How’d you convince him to do that?”
Grady just shrugs.
Grady always shrugs. It’s his lazy way of giving a noncommittal answer or not answering at all.
“I think he needs a break.”
“A break? From what?”
Another shrug. “School. Drake. Drake and his girlfriend. Football.” He rattles off the many
reasons Drew Colter “needs a break.”
“That’s pretty much everything.”
“If you ask me, I don’t think he wanted to play football in the first place, but you know how his
old man was. And he can’t escape it, not with every single Colter playin’ it.”
“So he’s flyin’ home,” I state matter-of-factly. “When does he get here?”
“Thursday. He’s skipping his Friday class.” My brother picks at his taco, removing half the
lettuce. “Can you do me a favor?”
And here it is.
Grady needs something.
“I should have known you asked me here so you could ask me to do something for you.” Buying
me lunch? Come on now, how transparent could the guy possibly be?
“That isn’t true. I wanted to see you anyway, and this gave me the perfect excuse.” His smile is
charming, so I smile back.
“Can you grab him from the airport?”
I throw down my napkin. “Grady, no!” Leaning back, I cross my arms, pouting. “No.”
“Come on, sis. I have to work. And he’s your friend, too, you know.”
I would not call a childhood crush and following him around like a puppy dog a friendship. The
guy could barely tolerate me, his twin brother even less so. The pair went everywhere together,
along with my brother and Lucas and all the other football meatheads who traveled in packs.
They ate together. They hung out together. They practiced together. All their free time was
spent together. They lived and breathed for that game, and the Colters still do.
Football is in their blood.
Their daddy played, and the twins’ older brothers both play.
They’re like one of those famous football families you see on television—the kind where two
brothers play on opposing teams, and the cameras always pan to the momma and daddy sitting
there cheering. Or cringing.
That’s the Colters.
I never got the feeling that Drew cared as much, but nonetheless, it sounds like he’ll play
professionally anyhow. Whether he likes it or not.
I sigh, nibbling at my burrito. “What time?”
Ugh! “Honestly, could you have chosen a more inconvenient time? That’s right smack in the
middle of the damn day, Grady Donahue.”
“I didn’t choose it. He did. Calm down. If you don’t wanna do it, that’s fine. I can see if Sissy
Lancaster has the time.”
Oh hell no.
Sissy is the best friend of Lucas’s fiancée and always has her claws in fresh meat—and even
though Drew grew up around here—and even though I have no feelings for him anymore, that
doesn’t mean I want Sissy Lancaster picking him up from the airport.
“You and I both know if Sissy picks him up from the airport, he’ll never be rid of her.”
That’s the truth.
“So?” My brother snorts. “He probably won’t want to be rid of her.”
Grady says it so nonchalantly—as if he wants to get stabbed with the end of my spork.
I’m not jealous. I’m not.
Like I said, I haven’t seen Drew in ages, and in that time, I’ve dated plenty of other people.
“Do you not like her?” he asks smugly.
Um, does my brother not know I had a crush on his best friend at one point in our lives…
because he’s acting like he does, but it’s hard to tell by the expression on his face.
“Of course I like her. Everyone likes her.” Which is slightly annoying, but I’m too polite to say so
“So I’ll just have her pick him up, then. She did offer.”
I stop chewing the burrito and gulp it down. “She offered? Oh. Well then, I mean. Why are you
asking me, then?”
Inconvenience me even though someone else can grab him from the airport?
“Because. Once she gets her claws in him, he won’t be able to escape, and I’d at least like to
give him the option.” Grady laughs.
As if it were so funny that Sissy was way more charismatic than I, and sexier, and better with
guys and probably people in general. If there was a party, Sissy was there.
Sorority girl, president of her house.
Rich parents. Pretty hair, nails, and skin.
She’s probably never had a zit in her entire life, I’m convinced of it, and she’s always wearing
the perfect outfit.
I live my life in cute joggers and gray crewnecks and, well, have a zit festering on the tip of my
nose that is going to be the bane of my existence once I get my period.
Let me go to the airport and fetch the guy I used to have freaking dreams about. The guy who
kept me up at night, who I wrote in my journals about.
Shit, where are those things?
What the hell did I do with them once I moved to college…?
“Tess. You’re doing it again.”
“Not paying attention.”
“Sorry. I was thinkin’.”
“Thinking about…grabbin’ Drew from the airport on Thursday?”
He’s tapping on the table now with the blade of a dull butter knife wrapped with the other
His brows go up, and he stops tapping the wood surface. “Really?”
“Yeah. Why not?” ...
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