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DAMAGED Lucky Charm Book

DAMAGED Lucky Charm Book

A Sweet, Tayvis Inspired Romance

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Chapter One Look Inside

Stone

Senior Year

My face stung as the cool evening air whipped around me. I made a sharp left and sped down Jordan Lane on my way to Cayden’s house. The only place in this town that I actually felt safe. I flicked my gaze toward the review mirror and took in the handiwork my dad just left on my face. 

He was in a rage tonight. I was used to my dad being drunk, but tonight he was destructive. Half the kitchen dishes lay shattered on the ground when I finally approached him to get him to stop. That was the wrong move. He threw me against the wall, and I collapsed on the ground. Before I could get up, he pinned me down and punched me in the face until I almost blacked out. 

I managed to get him off me long enough to grab my keys and hurry out the back door. He didn’t follow after me, and as I pulled out of the driveway, I could make out his shadow as he stalked into the living room. I didn’t have to be there to know he was seconds away from passing out face-first on the couch like he did every time he drank.

I shook my head, wincing as my head pounded, and turned my attention to the road. Dad was an asshole, and I was finished with him. Cayden’s mom always told me that if I needed it, I could live with them. I used to just smile and nod at her offer, but tonight I was done. I was on my way to the Kings’ house to take them up on the offer. 

Cayden and I had been friends since middle school. We played ball together. We even started a podcast last year for fun. He was like my brother. He was there for me when my mom died and helped me plan for my future outside of this small town. 

All I needed was to get an offer to play ball at college—any college—and I would be on the first flight out of this godforsaken town. I would never look back. Not even if I got drafted to the NFL and the man I had to call “dad” came crawling back. I was done. 

The Kings’ familiar blue house came into view. I pulled up along the sidewalk and turned off the engine before pulling the key out of the ignition. I grabbed the packed duffle bag I kept in the back of my car for an occasion like this and opened the driver’s door. 

I pulled the strap further up onto my shoulder as I made my way up their driveway and over to their front door. I knocked a few times and waited. Finally, the door opened and Emerson, Cayden’s younger sister, stood there. Her smile slowly faded, and her eyes widened. 

She looked so beautiful while I was sure I looked like a monster. Her blonde hair was shoulder-length, and it fell in waves around her face. Her glasses were perched on her nose, hiding her green eyes that I got lost in every time I allowed myself to linger. 

Without knowing it, my gaze drifted down her yellow sundress to her legs and then her white slippers. If Cayden didn’t have the ridiculous rule that none of his football buddies could date his little sister, I would have already made a move on Emerson. 

She was perfect. 

“Stone,” she whispered as she took a step closer to me, drawing my focus back to why I was here. I turned my face, not wanting her to see what my dad had done. But she caught my chin with her hand and tipped my face so she could get a better look. “What happened?” she asked. 

The smell of her perfume and the feel of her fingertips against my skin had my heart pounding. I wanted to step back. I needed to stop allowing myself to have feelings for my best friend’s little sister. Cayden was clear that he’d pummel any of his friends if they even looked at her wrong. I needed to stop these thoughts. Right. Now. 

“Cayden home?” I asked as I pulled back and glanced behind her so I could see into the house. 

Emerson turned to follow my gaze before she glanced back at me and shook her head. “He left with my parents to go talk to a scout.”

Jealousy churned in my gut. Cayden was a football scholarship shoo-in. Two universities were showing interest in him. I was not so lucky. It felt like everything was three times harder for me than it was for anyone else. 

“Wanna come in?” Emerson asked. Her voice was soft as she stepped away from the door. She pushed her black glasses up a bit further on her nose, and her gaze was soft as she stared at me. “I can help you clean that up.” Her gaze lifted to my eyebrow, and she nodded toward it.

I reached up and gingerly touched my brow. A sharp pain radiated through my head. And even though I knew I should tell her that I was fine, I just nodded. “Okay.”

I stepped into the house as Emerson shut the door behind me. I set my duffel bag down on the ground and kicked off my shoes. 

“Come with me.” Emerson walked past me, leaving me in a cloud of her scent as she motioned for me to follow her up the stairs. 

All rational thoughts left my mind as she led me up the stairs, down the hall, and to her room. I paused, standing in the doorway, not sure if I should go in. She was halfway through her room when she turned and looked surprised that I hadn’t followed her. Her gaze met mine before she smiled. 

“The first-aid stuff is in my bathroom,” she said, motioning to the door on the far wall. “I promise I won’t bite.”

I flicked my gaze toward the door and then glanced back down the hallway, wondering what Cayden would do if he found me not only in his sister’s bedroom, but tucked away in her bathroom. 

“They won’t be home for a while.”

I turned my attention back to Emerson. She must have read my mind. Her smile was soft and understanding. In that moment, I threw caution out the window and walked into her room. My gaze landed on her bed. Her guitar had been hastily perched against it, and papers were strewn all over her comforter. I didn’t know a lot about music, but it looked like she’d been writing notes with a pencil. 

“How’s that going?” I asked, nodding toward her guitar as I walked around her bed and followed her into the bathroom. 

She motioned for me to sit on the toilet. I obeyed. “It’s going fine,” she said as she stepped closer to me. She grasped my chin between her thumb and forefinger before bending down so she could inspect my face. 

I tried not to, but I couldn’t help but stare at her. With her this close, I could see the different shades of green in her eyes. Her eyelashes were dark and long. She had a splash of freckles across her nose. She chewed her bottom lip, drawing my attention to her mouth. Her cupid’s bow was perfectly formed and kissable…

I cleared my throat as I straightened, breaking the connection between us. Emerson seemed unaffected as she turned to the bathroom cabinet and pulled out a red case with a white plus sign on the top. She flipped open the lid and started rifling around inside. 

She grabbed some gauze and turned toward the sink, resting her hand on the faucet while her fingers dangled in the water, and she waited for the water to heat up. She looked over at me and met my gaze before she moved her attention to my face. 

“Are you nervous for Friday’s game?” she asked as she wiped her hand on a towel and dipped the gauze underneath the warm water. 

I shrugged. “Kind of. I mean, I want to get an offer, but I don’t think I will.” I sighed as I stretched my legs out in front of me. “Some people just have all the luck.” I knew I sounded bitter, and my meaning wasn’t lost on her. I loved my best friend, but sometimes I wished I had just a little sliver of the luck that he seemed to have in spades. 

“I’m sorry,” I said as I dropped my gaze to my hand that was resting on my lap. I didn’t want to drag Emerson into my disappointing life. 

“It’s okay. I get it.” She turned off the faucet and focused on me. She leaned closer as she grasped my chin once more and tipped my face up. Then she began to dab my eyebrow with the gauze. 

I sucked in my breath, causing her gaze to drop to mine, but I just smiled with the hopes that she would keep going. 

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. 

“It’s okay. I’ll be fine.”

She nodded, but I could feel her hesitation as her hand lingered next to my face without actually touching it. I reached up and engulfed her hand with mine before bringing the gauze to my skin. 

Her body seemed to be frozen. I knew I should let go of her hand, but I didn’t want to. The closer she got to me, the more I wanted…

I wanted everything. 

But Cayden and his threats rolled through my mind. If I didn’t have the Kings, I would have nothing in this small town. I needed to focus on moving on, or I would end up like my dad. A drunken loser. 

Distracting myself with girls wasn’t in my plan. 

I dropped my hand back down onto my lap, pulled my gaze from hers, and focused on the yellow tile at my feet. That seemed to be what Emerson needed as well, because in no time, she had my skin cleaned up and a butterfly bandage affixed to my brow where my skin had split. 

I helped her clean up the bathroom, all the while forcing myself not to think about how close she was to me. I waited in her room as she turned off her bathroom light and shut the door. I was staring at her when she turned to face me. Her gaze lingered with mine. She folded her arms and leaned against her dresser. Her smile was soft, and I wondered if she wanted me to stay as much as I didn’t want to leave. 

“Thanks,” I said, my voice lower than I’d intended. Crap. My resolve to keep my distance was dissolving. I needed to get out of here before I did something stupid. 

Her lips tipped up into a smile. “Of course.”

I hesitated and then forced myself to start walking out of the room. 

“Stone?”

I paused and glanced back at her. “Yeah?”

Her expression was hard to read. She glanced around her room before her gaze landed on her nightstand. 

She crossed the space in a few strides and pulled open the drawer. After rifling around, she emerged with something gold grasped in her hand. She walked over and extended her hand as if she wanted to give it to me. 

“What is this?” I asked as I opened my hand.

“This is for luck,” she whispered. 

Her hand looked tiny against mine as she dropped the cold metal item onto my palm. When she pulled back, I saw that she’d given me a gold four-leaf clover keychain. 

“What is this?” I asked as I brought it closer to inspect. There was an inscription in a language that I couldn’t read. 

“It’s the keychain my grandfather bought the day he met my grandmother in Ireland. They were married for sixty years before they passed away in each other’s arms. He told me that it would bring luck to anyone who had it.” She smiled up at me. “I figured you could use a bit of luck.”

My fingers curled around it as I brought my gaze up to hers. “Thanks, Emerson.”

She shrugged before folding her arms. “Of course.” She chewed her bottom lip. “You deserve good things, Stone Walker.” 

I clenched my jaw in an effort to stop myself from saying what I wanted to say. After what felt like an eternity, I met her gaze. “You do, too.”

She smiled before nodding. “Thanks.”

I wasn’t sure how long we stood there, staring at each other, but I realized that if I didn’t leave right then, I wasn’t sure I was ever going to. I slipped the keychain into my pocket and made my way out of her bedroom. Just as I stepped out into the hallway, I glanced back at her. She hadn’t moved. Instead, she stood there, watching me walk away. 

* * *

One Week Later

“I don’t know what’s wrong with Cayden King tonight but thank goodness for Stone Walker. If he wasn’t on the receiving end of those throws, the Panthers would have lost tonight.” The announcer wasn’t shy in his assessment as his voice boomed through the stadium. 

I glanced over at Cayden as I squeezed the water bottle, spraying a stream of water through my face mask and into my mouth. Cayden’s shoulders were tight as he stood there, listening to coach shout at him. Something was up with him tonight. This wasn’t the same quarterback that had carried our team to the semi-finals. 

I handed the water bottle back to the water girl and made my way toward Cayden, lingering as I waited for coach to finish yelling. Cayden nodded, and Coach turned and focused on another player, so I took that break to walk up to Cayden. 

“Hey, man,” I said as I laid my hand on his shoulder. “Everything okay?”

“I’m fine,” Cayden said as he shrugged off my hand and walked away. 

I watched him retreat, wondering if I should follow him, but then I shook my head. Cayden needed to get his head in the game, and me talking to him wasn’t going to help. He’d turn it around. He always did. 

Cayden only got worse as the game progressed. I nearly threw out my shoulder trying to leap to the side to catch his throw. My body was sore by the time the final horn sounded and a cheer erupted in the stands. The Panthers won 21 to 14. Coach clapped me on the back as I made my way to the sidelines. Through my helmet, I heard his words of praise, and the team surrounded me to lift me up on their shoulders. 

I could see Cayden standing in the distance. His helmet covered his face, but his body language told me that he was pissed. I just hoped he wasn’t pissed at me. 

After Coach talked to the team, we ran off the field and into the locker room. The chatter was loud as we changed out of our football gear and into street clothes. There was a party tonight, and invites were being thrown around. I nodded when Spencer asked me if I was going. He then turned his attention to Cayden, who hadn’t said a word as he changed. 

When Cayden didn’t answer, I shot Spencer an apologetic smile. Spencer just shrugged and wandered off to talk to someone else. The silence between Cayden and I was deafening even though the noise around me made my ears ring. 

“Everything, okay?” I asked as I sat down to pull on my tennis shoes. 

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Cayden said as he straightened and slammed his locker shut. 

“Dude, we all have off nights. It’s not that big of a deal.”

His gaze whipped to mine. There was a fire in his eyes that I’d never seen. “This was the game I was supposed to dominate. All the scouts were here tonight.” He mumbled under his breath, “Not a big deal…” 

“They can’t judge your ability from one off night.” 

He scoffed as he shoved his feet into his shoes. “Yeah, right.”

“Stone!” Coach’s voice cut through the noise. I turned to see him standing in the doorway of his office next to a man in a Polo shirt. I’d seen this man before. He was the scout from the University of Texas.

I glanced at Cayden, whose jaw clenched when he glanced in Coach’s direction.

“Cayden…” I started, but I didn’t know what to say. 

He grabbed his backpack and slipped his arm through one strap. “Go, Stone. I’m not surprised he wants to talk to you. You played amazing tonight.” He turned and walked away from me. 

I thought about calling after him, but there was no point. He was mad, and there was nothing I could do to change that. I raised my hand to Coach to let him know I heard and quickly finished tying my shoes. Then I stood and hurried over to join him and the scout from Texas—Cayden’s number-one school pick. 

I left the locker room that night with an offer to play for Texas. It came with a full-ride scholarship and a living stipend. 

I drove to the Kings’ in a daze. Never had I thought I would get noticed, much less scouted. I pressed my foot down on the gas, my excitement getting the best of me as I drove. I couldn’t wait to share this news with the only people on the planet who seemed to care about me. 

I pulled into the spot that Mr. King had told me I could park in and climbed out of the car. I stuffed my keys into my front pocket as I crossed the yard and jogged up the front steps. I moved to open the door just as Mrs. King pulled it open. I startled and stepped back, confused as to why she was greeting me at the door. 

“Stone, come on in,” she said, her voice monotone. 

“Um, thanks,” I said. I studied her as I stepped into the foyer and kicked off my shoes. 

Mrs. King closed the front door and then turned to face me. “We should talk in the kitchen.”

My stomach was doing flips. All I could do was nod as I followed her. Mr. King was leaning against the countertop with his arms crossed and a stern look on his face. 

This wasn’t good. 

“Hey, Mr. King,” I said, my voice coming out hesitant and unsure. 

“Stone,” he said. He nodded to me and watched as I sat down on the barstool Mrs. King motioned for me to sit on. 

“Everything okay?” I asked. 

He looked at Mrs. King before turning his attention to me. “Well, Stone. You should probably know that none of the scouts have any interest in Cayden.”

My face fell. I frowned. “What?”

“All of the scouts. They’re done with Cayden.”

“Oh my gosh.”

Mr. King picked up the coffee mug next to him and took a sip. “Trent from Texas told me that he gave Cayden’s spot to…you.” The way his voice lingered on the last word and the way he was staring at me made my skin crawl. 

There was an expectation in his voice that I didn’t like. “So…” I didn’t want to accuse Mr. King of asking me to give up my spot for his son. I worked my ass off tonight. I deserved this chance. 

“You know how hard Cayden has worked to play for Texas. That’s his dream team. One night shouldn’t define his future.”

“Mr. King, are you asking me to turn down the offer?” I was done dancing around this topic. He needed to fess up to what he was asking. 

His eyes widened before he shrugged. “I just think you should remember what this family has done for you. Where your loyalties lie. If you are a true friend to Cayden, you would do what is right.”

My blood began to boil. He wanted me to walk away from my future because Cayden was more deserving of the offer. His words felt like a sucker punch to the stomach. I expected my dad to beat me because that was who he was. I never expected Mr. King to do the same. 

“I worked hard for that spot, Mr. King. If Texas saw something in me that they didn’t see in Cayden, that’s on them.” I pushed my hand through my hair as my anger boiled hotter and hotter. “I’m not giving up my future. If Texas wants me to play for them, then that’s where I’m going.”

Mr. King’s face had turned a deep red. He looked as if he were about to explode. No longer wanting to stand here and listen to his words, I headed down the hall to their guest room. 

“Get out!” Mr. King’s voice reverberated off the walls. 

I stuffed my clothes into my duffle bag and then shoved the strap up onto my shoulder, not caring that I couldn’t zip the bag closed. “Way ahead of you,” I mumbled as I walked past him to the front door. I grabbed my shoes on the way out. 

I didn’t stop until I was in my car. I slammed the car into reverse and spun my wheels in the gravel as I backed up. I drove until I could no longer see our small town. Then I pulled over and punched the steering wheel as Mr. King’s words kept playing through my mind. 

I rested my forehead on the steering wheel and closed my eyes. Adults sucked. People sucked. Family sucked. Everyone eventually left me. 

I leaned back in my seat and closed my eyes before I sighed and put my car into drive and made a U-turn. I had my ticket out of this town, I just needed to focus on keeping it. 

Fifteen minutes later, I pulled into my dad’s driveway and turned off my car. I grabbed my bag and got out. Dad wasn’t home when I scouted out the house, which I took as a blessing. I showered and climbed into bed. 

One thing was for certain, I’d rather be here with my dad’s fists than at the King’s house with their passive-aggressive manipulation. I flipped to my side and grabbed my phone off my nightstand. The screen lit up as I swiped it on. I found Emerson’s name in my contacts, and my thumbs hovered over the keyboard as I contemplated what I would say to her. 

And then I shook my head. I wasn’t going to say anything to her. The truth was, I was messed up in more ways than one. It would be best if I just disappeared from her life like the Kings wanted me to. 

I turned my phone off and set it back down on the nightstand. I needed to forget about them—about her. 

It was the only way I was going to be able to walk away come graduation. It was the only way I was going to be able to move on

DAMAGED Lucky Charm Book

Paperback, Hardcover, or Special Edition available while supplies last.

Will NOT come with stickers or swag.

Damage is minimal but may consist of damage to corners/cover, damage to foiling on front, wrinkled/damaged pages. Books are readable. 

“When we’re dating, you are mine. Even if it’s fake.” 

I thought my luck was about to change when my best friend found me an apartment to sublet in the heart of Nashville, TN. As an aspiring singer, this is where I need to be in order to finally get discovered. I’m ready to start my new life until I discover my new neighbor is none other than Stone Walker.

Super Bowl winning, NFL receiver.

Stone cold fox. 

My high school crush.

And my brother’s ex-best friend—emphasis on the ex. I know I should probably tuck tail and run, but I don’t. If Stone can handle this new living arrangement then so can I. Besides, neighbors don’t have to talk to each other. Until my best friend comes up with a plan. I should fake date Stone. After all, I have the talent, the drive, and the music. All I need is the visibility.

And Stone has that in spades.

I thought he would reject the plan, but he’s surprisingly on board. Now he’s showing up at my gigs with flowers and kisses me until my head spins and my knees go weak. And when he scores a touchdown and dances just for me? I want this relationship to be real. But falling in love wasn’t part of the agreement. Stone walked way from our family once and I don’t think I’m strong enough for him to do it again.

TROPES

  • Football Player/Singer
  • Fake Relationship
  • Older Brother's Ex-Best Friend
  • Neighbor
  • Unrequited Love
  • He Falls First and Harder
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