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Perfect Couple


Page 24


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"No."
"You had a concussion?" I'd known football was rough, but I couldn't believe I hadn't heard this story before. Why hadn't somebody told me?
Of course, there wasn't a reason for anybody to tell me. Brody and I had had no link with each other until the yearbook elections on the first day of school. And even now . . . a very choice set of circumstances had placed us alone in the beach pavilion.
"Yeah, a concussion. But I recovered quickly, and the doctor was impressed," he said, like he was trying to talk me into something. "The doctor lectured my mom about it, though. A second concussion could be serious. If that happens to me, my mom's pulling me out of football completely. Don't tell anybody, because that's my secret. Only Noah knows." He shrugged. "If my mom nixed my high school career, I could still walk onto a college team, maybe, but my chances of starting would be pretty much over."
"Would you even want to play college football if you'd already had two concussions?"
He threw up his hands. I took this to mean that after a second concussion, every possible choice would suck.
I nodded. "The reporter wasn't imagining things. You're being more careful."
"I have to be. When the newspaper said I was so daring and fun to watch, it's not that I had any great talent. I just wasn't scared. And now I am. I don't care about getting hurt, per se, but I don't want my football career to end. It has to end someday, sure, but not now." He looked past me, across the pavilion and out a window to the ocean.
"You're talking like you're about to get a second concussion," I pointed out. "How long have you played football? Since your dad started coaching you in third grade, right?"
He blinked at me, surprised.
"That's what Noah told me," I explained.
"Yeah," Brody said slowly, "third grade."
"You've played football since third grade without a head injury. Then you get one as a result of a freak accident. There's no reason for you to be playing like you're about to have another."
"Yeah."
"I mean, I don't want you to get a concussion either. That would make it difficult for us to take our Superlatives photo for the yearbook, and I have a deadline!"
He grinned, which made me smile too.
I said, "But if worrying about a concussion makes you lose your magic, your football career is going to be over soon anyway. Might as well play like you mean it."
He nodded, then thought better of it and shook his head. "I don't know how to unworry about it." He tilted his head to one side, considering me. "A few minutes ago when I was trying to look at your eye and I told you to relax, you did, pretty much instantly . You just took a deep breath and did it."
"I have a lot of practice," I said. "It's a coping mechanism. I'm super high-strung."
"You?" he asked in disbelief. "You're always so calm."
"Me?" I laughed. "No, I'm not. I was able to relax when you told me because I trust you."
He watched me solemnly as he said, "You shouldn't."
Maybe he meant You shouldn't trust me with your eye or You shouldn't trust me with your granddad's car. But he was so near, I could only interpret his words as innuendo. You shouldn't trust me when I'm alone with you.
I gave him a sexy smile. I didn't have a lot of experience with this, but I attempted it anyway. I said, "Between you loving football and Mr. Oakley trying to explain it to me so I can take pictures of the games, you make even me want to play."
Brody raised his eyebrows. "That could be arranged." He glanced around the pavilion. "So, will this place work for our yearbook picture?"
I'd been hoping he wouldn't bring that up, because I didn't want our conversation to end. But maybe he did.
"Now that I look at it," I said, "no, it won't work. There's not enough light. We can't take the photo on the beach right now either, because it's too bright. All that white sand tends to mess with the camera's light meter."
Brody widened his eyes at me in fake exasperation. At least, I hoped it was fake. "Don't you have a night setting on your camera?"
"Yeah, but that slows down the shutter speed to let more light in, which means I would need my tripod. The shutter's open too long to keep the camera still if someone's holding it. The picture will be blurry. We should try again on the beach at sunset. The light will be perfect then."
"Does that mean you want to go back to the others?"
I asked, "What else would we do?"
He shrugged dismissively. But he held my gaze as he said, "Get to know each other better. We were voted Perfect Couple. I feel like I hardly know you, even though the senior class thinks you're the love of my life."
7
BRODY'S WORDS SET MY HEART beating rapidly, but I threw back my head and laughed like nothing was wrong. "You've known me since kindergarten."
He shook his head. "Not really. You look completely different today."
"You mean I look like everybody else," I said ruefully.
"No, ma'am," he said firmly, "you do not."
Speechless, I stared at him. His eyes flicked ever so briefly to my bikini top, then back up to my face. My chest and upper arms burned in a delicious way, a feeling I wasn't ready to give up just because I hadn't brought a tripod.
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