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The Quarterback and the Ballerina, Book 1 - Paperback

The Quarterback and the Ballerina, Book 1 - Paperback

5 BESTSELLING YOUNG ADULT ROMANCES

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SYNOPSIS

He thought he knew what he wanted.Turns out, all he wanted was her.

Collette

I’d kill to be the kind of dancer my mom wants me to be, but it’s just not in the cards. I’m sick of dieting. I'll never fit into the perfect ballerina mold and I’m tired of wishing that I could.

I’m over it. I’m done trying.

I’m perfectly content to dance alone in the dark while the rest of the school is sleeping.

Ethan

Coach says our football team needs discipline. That dancing alongside a bunch of prissy prima donnas is how we’ll learn our lesson.

Only problem?

I don’t have time for ballet. Not when I’m busting my butt to be the star quarterback, the dutiful son, and the perfect student…all so I can achieve my father’s dream.

When I meet Collette, I can’t help but take notice. She’s a vision of grace and beauty all wrapped up in snark and sass. And she helps me see that my own dreams aren’t so stupid after all.

I just wish she could see that in herself. But when I try to bring her out into the light, I can feel her slipping away. Her walls are built up so high, I fear they’ll never come down. I want to love her like she deserves—but that’s just the problem.

She doesn’t believe she deserves it.

CHAPTER 1 LOOK INSIDE

When Coach Reynolds told me what he’d planned as punishment for my teammates, I’d thought he was joking. The entire starting lineup for the Oakwood High football team taking ballet lessons? He couldn’t be serious.

I stared up at the tall gray building that took up half a block in the nice area of town, my buddies piling out of the cars that had pulled up behind me. Academie de Ballet was etched in big, bold letters over the arched entryway at the top of a set of stairs.   

Coach had not been kidding. I probably should have known he was serious. In the three years I’d been playing for him, the old grouch had never once cracked a joke. Still, I’d thought he’d calm down. I figured he’d come to see reason…

“Dude, the old man has lost it.” Cooper Jenkins, our wide receiver, came up to stand beside me. At six feet he was the same height as me, but he was roughly twice the width and that was all muscle. The guy lived and breathed the weight room. Watching Cooper prance around on tiptoe amidst a bunch of petite girls was the one thing that might make this punishment almost seem bearable.

Almost.

“Can’t you talk to him?” Cooper said. “The old man loves you.”

“Yeah, Ethan,” Ryan said from behind me. “You’re Coach’s favorite little pet. If anyone can make him see reason, it’s you.” Despite his mockery, Ryan was one of my best friends. He came to stand on my other side, crossing his arms as he too took in the sight of our prison for the next three months.

Until the end of the semester, that’s what Coach had said when he’d spelled out our punishment in the locker room.

Cooper turned his glare from the building to me. “Talk to him, Ethan.”

“I tried,” I said for the millionth time. They’d been pestering me in the halls all day today, seeing if I could get our coach to change his mind. For the record, they came to me because I was the captain, not because I was coach’s ‘little pet’—whatever that meant.

“Try harder.” Cooper’s voice was as forbidding as his giant body, but I’d been playing ball with him since middle school so I knew better. Underneath all that muscle, he wasn’t all that scary. I mean, he was a little scary, but not out of control. If the coach said dance, the big guy would totally dance.

“Come on, dude,” Ryan said. “You’re the quarterback. You’ve got to have some sway over the old man. Just…threaten to quit the team or something.”

Unlike Cooper, Ryan actually was something of a wild card. He took nothing seriously, least of all football. Good thing he had mad skills as a running back or he’d have been off the team years ago. As it was, Coach threatened to cut him at least once a week.

“I’m not quitting the team.”

“Why not? You don’t need the scholarship money.” And that right there summed up Ryan’s life philosophy to a tee. He didn’t understand why anyone would do anything unless there was some sort of financial gain—or a chance to score with girls. Money and girls, that was pretty much all he seemed to care about. And maybe music, I supposed. He did have a band. But again, I was pretty sure playing guitar and forming a band were just another way to get the money and girls.

Music was really the only thing we had in common—we both played guitar. Sometimes we jammed together, and the rest of the time he just tried his best to annoy the crap out of me.

The rest of the guys were out of their cars and starting to gather around me. For a bunch of alpha jocks, none of them seemed eager to lead at this particular moment. Myself included. I eyed the entrance warily. I’d never been to the ballet, I’d never dated a girl who was into ballet, and I sure as heck never danced ballet myself. I had no idea what the coach had gotten us into. He’d been light on the details, just telling us to show up here after practice today.

Everyone was looking to me to lead the way.

“What would he do if we bailed?” That came from Alex, a linebacker. “I mean, it’s not like Coach can bench all the starters right?”

I shot Alex a sidelong look that made him squirm. “He can and he would if he thought we were blatantly undermining his authority.”

“The guy’s a freakin’ dictator,” Cooper said.

More like a former marine who ran this team like his own personal brigade, but he wasn’t too far off base.

“The guy lives to make us miserable,” Alex said. “It’s like he’s just looking for an excuse to ruin our lives.”

I turned to face Alex. “Maybe you should have thought of that before you threw a party the night before our first game.”

Alex scratched at the back of his head. “It wasn’t supposed to be a rager, it just sort of…got out of control.”

“Yeah, well, that tends to happen when you invite every person in our school to a house party with no parents and a full keg.”

“Okay, Mom,” Ryan said, clapping a hand on my shoulder. “What’s done is done, right?”

I shrugged him off. “Right.” I tried not to be resentful, I really did. But this was not the first time I found myself thinking how unfair it was that I was paying for their mistake. I’d been the only guy on the team with enough foresight to leave before things got crazy.

The others? They’d been caught when the cops showed up, and while the cops let them off with a warning, our coach…well, he’d sent us here.

To our very own personal hell.

“Let’s get this over with,” I said.

“That’s the spirit,” Ryan said as I led the way up the stairs to the front doors, the rest of the guys dragging their feet behind me.

“Maybe it won’t be so bad,” I added. “I mean, some pro players take ballet classes, right?”

“It’s supposed to be good for flexibility,” Cooper said.

“See? There you go,” I said. “Maybe it’ll be good for us.”

“Couldn’t we have just watched some YouTube videos or something?” Alex said from behind. “Do we really have to take classes?”

Ryan shook his head. “Have I taught you fools nothing?” He turned at the top of the steps to face the others, like he was about to make a speech. “Ballet classes are usually filled with girls, right? The way I see it, the coach did us a favor sending us here. Think of it like a field trip to hottie heaven.”

I stared at him until he looked over. “What?”

I shook my head and opened the glass door leading to a sterile foyer. It smelled like cleaning products and I had to blink as my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting. I heard distant music and looked to my right to see a glass-lined wall so anyone in the entranceway could watch the dance class in action on the other side. The guys kept filing in behind me but I paused for a second at the sight of ten leotard-clad girls bending and stretching and—

Oof!

I’d taken a step forward to get out of the doorway and ended up tripping over something in my path. “Hey, watch it!” a girl’s voice shouted.

No, not something.

Someone.

“I’m sorry,” I said as I disentangled my arms and legs from the girl who was now sprawled out on the ground. I got a flash of an oversized black hoodie and long brown curls as I reached out to help her up. She turned to face me.

Ouch! She smacked my hands away as I tried to reach for her to help her up.

“I’m fine,” she mumbled.

“Way to go, Ethan, taking out one of dancers before we’ve even begun,” one of the guys joked.

When we were both standing, she turned to face me with her hands on her hips and I fought the urge to grin. She was just so…little. And cute. Especially with that fierce scowl she wore like she was a little warrior about to do battle. “Can I help you?” she asked, though there was nothing hospitable about her tone.

“Yeah, uh sorry,” I said, gesturing to the ground where we’d tumbled. “I didn’t see you there.”

She stared at me.

“I’m sorry,” I tried again. “I really didn’t see you.”

“Nah, it was my bad,” she said evenly, looking down at her hoodie and T-shirt. I followed her gaze and felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. It took all of my will power not to leer at the sight of her obvious yet hidden curves and rounded hips. “I must have forgotten to take off my cloak of invisibility,” she finished.

Ryan choked on a laugh next to me as I dragged my gaze back up to see her watching me steadily, her eyes fathomless and unreadable.  

I couldn’t tell if she was teasing or really annoyed so I opted to ignore that comment altogether. “We’re here for a, uh…ballet lesson?” Oh man, that sounded even lamer when I said it aloud. I looked around, distinctly uncomfortable under her watchful stare. “Is this the right place?”

She stared at me for another heartbeat, her lips twitching a bit before that placid, unreadable mask was back in place. “For ballet lessons?” She moved her head slowly and pointedly to the left where the dance class was still in session. Then she looked up at a large sign above a bulletin board announcing the ballet class schedule. When she looked back at me her big blue eyes were wide with feigned innocence. “Nope, no dance classes here. This is the post office.” She shrugged. “Sorry.”

Ryan was the only one to laugh. “Ethan, I think I love this girl.”

‘This girl’ glanced over at Ryan and I could have sworn I saw a little smile.

What the…? So Ryan got a smile, and all I got was mocked? I tried not to feel jealous. I mean, obviously I wasn’t jealous. Why would I be jealous? I didn’t even know this weird little girl.

“Look, if you could just tell us where we’re supposed to be—”

The door to the classroom opened behind me. “What are these guys doing here?” a girl’s voice asked. Suddenly our little band of brothers was surrounded by the leotard-clad girls we’d been watching through the glass. They were eyeing us with curiosity as they headed over to the girl in the hoodie, whose gaze hadn’t veered away from me.

“I don’t know,” hoodie girl said. “They say they’re here for a class.”

“We are,” I said, not loving the way she said ‘they say’ like we were suspect or something.

“Really.” A pretty, tall blonde stopped beside the tiny warrior in the hoodie, turning in our direction with a sniff. “The most prestigious ballet academy in the Northeast, and we’re now opening enrollment to…these people?” Her gaze moved over the lot of us and she pursed her lips when her gaze landed on Ryan beside me with his too-long hair and ripped jeans.

“These people,” Ryan repeated softly. Turning to me, he said louder, “You were right. Ballet dancers are a bunch of stuck-up—”

“I didn’t say that,” I interrupted, my eyes seeking out the little brunette. “I never said that.”

“Why not?” the brunette said. “It’s true.”

Ryan laughed and I couldn’t stop a grin, especially when the snooty blonde rolled her eyes in irritation. “Ugh, Collette.” The blonde turned to her with a sigh. “Don’t encourage them.”

So mystery girl’s name was Collette. I mentally filed that away.

One of the other girls, shorter but no less skinny than the rail-thin blonde, stood on the other side of Collette, partially hiding behind her as she eyed us. Her eyes lit on Cooper and her plain features turned pretty when she smiled. “Hi, Cooper.”

We all turned to Cooper, whose expression hadn’t changed. It rarely did. He was glowering at the timid, petite girl with the bun that looked painfully tight.

“You know him, Eve?” Collette asked.

Before Eve could respond the blonde turned to Collette. “Better question, how do you know them and why did you let them in?”

I took a step forward, ready to stand up for Collette, but I should have known she didn’t need my help. “I didn’t let them in. They walked in. This isn’t a high-security fortress, it’s a school. And as for how I know them…” She shot me a look. “I don’t. One of them just ran me over.”

I let out a huff of exasperated amusement. “I told you, I didn’t see you there.”

She opened her mouth to respond but the blonde beat her to it. “How could you miss her?”

As if her taunting tone weren’t enough of a clue, I heard some of the girls beside us giggle. I looked over to see Collette hugging the hoodie tighter around herself, a splash of color in her cheeks.  

“What are you guys doing here?” The question came from one of the girls to my left.

Before I got a chance to explain, a woman’s voice came from behind us. “I invited them.”

My heart pounded as I swiped my phone on and read his text. 

Ethan: I think I see you. You’re the only person crazy enough to wear a hoodie in seventy degree weather. 

My cheeks heated as I glanced around. When I didn’t see him, I furrowed my brow. 

Me: Where are you?

“Who are you texting?” Olivia asked as she craned her neck to look at my screen. 

I tipped my phone toward my chest and shook my head. “No one,” I lied, knowing full well that my reaction to his text was most likely giving me away. 

Olivia rolled her eyes. “Yeah, okay.” Then she nudged me with her shoulder. “Please tell him that I expect him to introduce me to some eligible guy.” She dipped a chip into the cheese and then stuck the whole thing in her mouth. 

My phone chimed again. Thankfully Olivia was engrossed with eating so I took what time I had to look at his message. 

Ethan: I have eyes everywhere

Me: Okay now that’s just creepy

I got a clown face emoji in response. Laughing under my breath, I started to type more but he beat me to it.

Ethan: Hey, did you know you’re wearing our rival’s colors? Try not to get into any fights up there. 

I looked down at the sidelines but it was packed with marching band members and cheerleaders. I spotted some jerseys too, but not Ethan’s dark hair or familiar build.

The guys next to me were laughing over something and then they were pushing and shoving and…yours truly got an elbow in the shoulder.

“Oh man, sorry,” the blond next to me said.

“No biggie.” I forced a smile. 

His friend shoved him again and I was unceremoniously bumped again. 

“Yo, cut it out,” blond guy shouted at his friends.

He gave me another apologetic wince. “Sorry, my friends are idiots.”

The last shoving contest had spilled the guy’s popcorn on the ground and I was leaning over to help him pick it up when my phone dinged again.

I focused back on my phone as soon as the guy beside me turned away. The eagerness to see what Ethan had written was making me feel ridiculously girly and giddy and…if I wasn’t careful, I’d start getting giggly.

I never did giggly. I was so not a giggler. 

Ethan: Are you here with someone?

BOOKS INCLUDED IN BUNDLE

  • The Quarterback and the Ballerina
  • The Running Back and the Prima Donna
  • The Wide Receiver and his Best Friend's Little Sister
  • The Kicker and the New Girl
  • The Fullback and his Best Friend

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