Isabelle Oster has dreamed of being a prima ballerina her entire life, so whenthe only male dancer backs out of the fall production, she’s devastated. Without a partner, she has no hope of earning a spot with the prestigious Ballet Americana company. Until hot jock Garret practicing stretches in one of the studios gives Izzy an idea, and she whips out her phone. But does she really want this badly enough to resort to blackmail?
All-state tight end Garret Mitchell will do anything to get a college football scholarship. Even taking ballet, which surprisingly isn’t so bad, because it means he gets to be up close and personal with the gorgeous Goth girl Izzy while learning moves to increase his flexibility. But Izzy needs him to perform with her for the Ballet Americana spot, and he draws the line at getting on stage. Especially wearing tights.
Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains a bit of blackmail, a lot of sarcasm, and an ending guaranteed to melt your heart.
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||2 MB|
|Age Range:||12 Years|
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Garret Mitchell grabbed a towel from the bench and wiped the sweat from his eyes before heading to the locker room. It had been a refreshing eighty degrees when football practice started at six o'clock in the morning, but it was at least ten degrees hotter now. He lived in West Texas, after all, and there were still a few weeks of summer before school started.
Coach Comstock popped his head out the door of his office just as Garret was about to pass. "Come see me when you're done."
Not sure why the coach wanted to talk to him, he showered and dressed quickly, ignoring the other guys as they laughed and fooled around, snapping one another with towels, spraying shampoo at one another, and making a mess of the locker room. He hung up his gear so it could dry before their second practice that evening. Two-a-days were never fun, but putting on wet gear made it even worse.
He approached the office and stopped in the doorway.
"Come on in, Garret," Coach said, and waved toward one of the chairs in front of his desk.
Coach Gibson, their trainer and assistant coach, stood. "You looked good out there today. No pain or stiffness in your arch or heel?"
"Nope. Everything feels normal."
"Excellent. It's good to see you out on the field again." Coach Gibson pointed at Garret's foot. "May I?"
Garret nodded and dropped into the nearest chair to take his shoe off.
"Your orthopedist cleared you to play, right?"
"Yes, sir. He cleared me for all activity."
Coach rotated his ankle from side to side, then extended and flexed his foot. "You had good speed out there, and your starts were quick, but Coach Comstock and I agree that you still look hesitant on that foot."
Garret stiffened. Surely they weren't going to bench him, were they? He couldn't afford to lose any playing time his senior year or he'd never get a scholarship offer. "I feel great, Coach."
"I'm sure you do, but that doesn't mean there isn't more we can do to get you back to maximum performance."
He raised a brow. "Like what?" He was willing to do almost anything to get the scouts to notice him.
"Well, lots of stretching."
He was already stretching several times a day, but he'd make time to do it more if it meant getting a college scholarship. "I can do that."
"Also," he said, meeting Garret's eyes, "we think you could really benefit from taking ballet lessons."
"You're joking, right?"
"No, we're very serious. It's an excellent way to improve strength and flexibility."
Garret grinned. "So which one of you is going to be my ballet teacher?"
"Very funny. I've already talked to one of the teachers at the dance studio here in town."
He leaped out of his seat. "No. No way. Absolutely not. I'm not going to a dance studio with a bunch of seven-year-old girls in tutus."
Coach leaned back in his chair and folded his hands over his ample stomach. "You ever heard of Steve McLendon?"
"Sure. He's a nose tackle for the Jets."
"And he takes ballet lessons. Did you know that the Dallas Cowboys installed ballet bars outside their locker room to help the players stretch properly to cut down on injuries?"
Garret narrowed his eyes, still not sure this wasn't a prank. He glanced into the hallway, but none of his teammates were hanging around. Was Coach serious?
"Are you saying you're going to put bars on the wall here? Because I don't think the guys on the team are gonna go for that."
Coach pulled his feet off his desk and sat up. "Look, Garret. You've got a real shot at getting a scholarship to play college ball, but the scouts will know you got hurt last year, so they'll be scrutinizing your every move to make sure you're back to 100 percent. You need to prove to them you're still the best tight end in Texas and that there won't be any lasting repercussions from the injury. This is the best way to make sure you can do that."
"Can't I just work more with Coach Gibson?"
He shook his head. "Ballet is the best way for you to improve flexibility and even increase your speed. We can probably arrange for you to have private lessons."
Garret sighed. If, and that was a big if, he agreed to do it, he'd have to figure out a way to pay for it. "Let me think about it." His dad would freak if he found out he was taking ballet lessons.
"I guess that's fair. But I need an answer after practice tonight. You have to start right away if we're going to be able to make a difference before our first game."
Garret nodded and went back into the locker room. The rest of the team had already left, which was fine with him, because he didn't want to have to make up excuses about why he couldn't eat lunch with them. He'd be eating peanut butter and jelly on crackers at home until his next paycheck came in. That was, if his dad even bothered to pay him this week.
Plunking down on the bench, he pulled out his phone. He typed "football + ballet" in the browser and hit enter. The first article compared the similarities of football and ballet, and how ballet could help improve not only flexibility, but also speed, agility, and strength. Pretty much all the things the college scouts would be evaluating him for. The list of NFL players they mentioned who did ballet included Hall of Famer Lynn Swan, Cowboy's legendary running back Herschel Walker, and Al Toon, who he hadn't heard of before, but had been a wide receiver for the Jets.
Maybe there was something to this, but if the guys on the team ever found out, they'd give him so much grief. Brinson wasn't the sort of town that welcomed innovation. Nothing had changed here since long before he was born. If he agreed to try ballet lessons, he'd have to keep it a secret from everyone.
Opening up another window for a new search, he typed "benefits of ballet for football players." One article named a bunch of ballet moves he didn't know but said it could lengthen leg muscles and increase hip flexibility, which helped prevent injuries.
He clicked off his phone and stood.
You had to be willing to take risks to get the reward. He just hoped he wasn't risking too much.
Getting a scholarship was his one and only shot to get out of this godforsaken town, and if taking ballet lessons could help with that, he'd man up and do it.
He passed the athletic offices, and noticed that coach was still there. He stopped in the doorway.
"All right. I'll do it. On one condition."
"I'm not taking a beginner class with a bunch of three-year-old girls in pink tutus. I want the private lessons." He'd have to find time to work extra shifts at the salvage yard to pay for them, but that was the only way he'd do it.
"I think we can arrange for that, but the tutu is non-negotiable." He paused. "I'm serious. They're mandatory for all dancers."
No. Hell, no.
Coach burst out laughing. "You should see the look on your face."
Without saying a word, he turned and walked out. You had to love a coach with a sense of humor. Not.
There were girls everywhere. Girls of all shapes and sizes, filling every inch of space.
Maybe this hadn't been such a good idea.
A cloud of competing perfume smells hung in the air, making it difficult to breathe. He was lucky they even had a boys' bathroom in the place.
His sweat pants and T-shirt were too casual compared to the fancy dance clothes surrounding him, but he wasn't about to wear anything like the girls wore.
Is the hallway getting smaller?
He pulled at the collar of his T-shirt and spun in a circle. Coach had told him to meet someone named Jenny at nine o'clock today, but there wasn't anyone manning the front desk, and he had no idea where to find her.
What if I run into someone from school?
"Are you Garret?" a short woman who looked to be about the same age as his mom asked.
"I could tell by the deer-in-headlights look on your face." She held out her hand. "I'm Miss Jenny."
"Garret Mitchell." He shook her hand.
"It's nice to meet you, Garret. We're going to use Studio Three." He followed her, relieved to be leaving the crowded hallway.
She led him into a small studio, and he sighed in relief when she pulled the curtains across the large one-way window facing the hallway. When the curtains were open, they couldn't see out, but everyone else could see them.
"We don't get a lot of football players." She pointed toward the window. "I don't want the girls to get distracted."
"Thank you, ma'am. No offense, but I don't really want to be seen here."
"I understand you're interested in ballet as a way to gain more flexibility for football, but you're going to have to take this seriously. The only way it will help you is if you give it the same dedication as you do your football training."
"Yes, ma'am." He agreed — it definitely wasn't worth it to put himself through this if he wasn't going to see a significant improvement. No way was he going to do this for nothing.
"I'm going to start out by showing you some stretches, and then we'll go over the five ballet positions."
He nodded, wondering what sort of things she was going to show him. He was an athlete, and a damn good one, so this couldn't be too complicated.
"Okay, stand with your feet parallel to each other, then, keeping your back flat and your heels on the floor, bend forward and touch your palms to the ground, then slowly roll back up."
She demonstrated, and it looked easy enough. He attempted to do it, but with his back straight, he could barely get his hands down below his knee caps. And the back of his legs were on fire.
"O-kay," she said. "Are you feeling the burn?"
"Yep," he managed to grunt.
"So for now, just do the best you can." She bit back a smile. "You'll need to practice the stretches I'm showing you as much as possible to increase your flexibility and lengthen your muscles. At home, at school, anywhere you have a bit of extra time. The more often you do it, the better."
He stood up and sucked in a breath. "Yeah, I can see where that would help."
There was no way in hell he was going to do these stretches in public. She might as well ask him to wear a tutu to school. He did the stretch a few more times, all the while wishing she would move on to the next one, which had to be easier. Surely, she was going from most difficult to least, because he didn't want to consider the alternative.
"Next, let's stretch our arms."
Yes! He was right. This one was easy, as were the others they did on the floor.
But then she said, "We're going to do some barre work now."
Leading him over to the wall, she said, "Prop your leg up on the barre like this, and be sure to keep your back straight and your leg in line with your hip."
She made it look so easy. He hooked his heel over the bar, but he wasn't even able to straighten his leg, let alone touch his hands to his toes like she had. Dang. How is she doing that? His leg was straight, but there was no way he'd be touching his toes anytime soon. Maybe his shin, if he really applied himself.
He wiped his face on his shoulder. How can a bit of stretching be making me sweat so much? He needed to get with the program, and fast, if he was going to impress the scouts.
Garret glanced at the clock and hoped he would survive for another twenty-five minutes.
Once the last dancer left the room, Isabelle Oster flipped off the lights in Studio Six and headed for the staff room. She flopped onto the couch and put her feet up on the coffee table. Though she had more summer reading to finish before school started, she wasn't ready to head home yet.
The door opened and Lauren Sanborn, the ballet company director, swept in. "I'm afraid I've got some bad news for you, Izzy."
"How bad?" she asked, trying to imagine the worst thing Lauren could say. Maybe they hadn't raised enough to pay the deposit for the fall production. Though she hated to ask her father for money, she'd do it if it was absolutely necessary.
She blew out a deep breath. "Texas Northern has an out-of-town performance in November. On the weekend we're performing Sleeping Beauty. So they can't provide us with a prince to dance with you."
Izzy's stomach dropped and she jumped off the couch. She'd made it through the preliminary steps to join Ballet Americana, and the fall production was supposed to be her final tryout. "What? No. Everyone is going?"
"I'm afraid so."
"We'll just have to change the date, then."
Just like that, all of her plans for the future fell apart. Her one chance to show them how well she could dance with a partner. She'd already sent them recordings of her solos, which had gotten her through the first round of cuts. Ballet Americana was unique with their company tryouts. Instead of making the dancers come to them to audition, they preferred to attend a production and watch them in action.
Lauren put her hand under Izzy's chin and met her eyes. "Izzy, we've already put down the deposit for the auditorium. We can't change the date."
She blinked back tears. Why did she have to live in the middle of nowhere? Oh yeah, because her father had needed uncontested territory to get elected to the state senate.
"I know you're upset, but surely we can get one of the other girls to dance the prince's part."
Izzy shook her head. "But we won't be able to do the lifts." Lauren knew as well as she did how important the lifts were. Especially for someone like her, who was taller than the usual ballerina. She flopped back onto the couch.
They'd been planning the fall production for months. They'd agonized over the choreography all summer and had done their best to show off Izzy's strengths and minimize her weaknesses. And it had all been for nothing.
"Don't worry, sweetheart. We've still got plenty of time to make some changes to the choreography. We'll make it work." Lauren patted her shoulder and stretched. "I'm outta here. You should head home, too."
Izzy didn't move from her place on the cushions.
She could probably talk her father into paying to fly someone in to dance with her, but she didn't want to have to resort to that. The whole point of being invited to audition for Ballet Americana was that it wasn't something her father could buy for her. She had earned it herself, and she would not give that victory to him.
Somehow, she'd find another partner. There was no other option.
She took a few deep breaths to push back the nausea in her stomach then stood and flipped off the light and headed toward the front exit.
That's weird. Light shone around the closed curtains, but there weren't any classes scheduled in Studio Three this late at night. That's where they usually taught the preschool classes and private lessons, because it was the smallest studio. She stopped and moved back in front of the window. There was a small space between the curtain and the edge of the frame on the right side. After glancing around the hallway to make sure no one was around, she looked through the gap. Jenny was in there with ...
No freakin' way. Garret Mitchell. What was Mr. Football doing in her dance studio?
His light brown hair was short, like most of the football team wore it, and he was tall. Well over six feet. She'd reached her current height in seventh grade, and it had been a long, painful wait for the boys at school to catch up to her five foot, seven inch height. Still, she was relieved when she stopped growing, because if she was any taller she probably wouldn't ever be a principal dancer with a premier ballet company.
Jenny manipulated his legs and feet into something approximating fifth position. He's taking ballet lessons?
Once he — sort of — mastered that, Jenny had him go back to first position, but he tried to force his toes too far out and lost his balance, nearly falling over. Izzy slapped a hand over her mouth to prevent a laugh from escaping. For a moment, she thought about getting out her phone and recording him, but that would be too ...
On second thought ... Maybe, just maybe, it could work. Yanking her phone out of her purse, she crept closer to the window and clicked record.
OMG. This was too good to be true. She could make a ton of money selling this to the highest bidder at school. Sliding the phone inside her bra, she waited for them to finish. The door started to open and she took a step back against the wall so he wouldn't see her right away.
"So you'll practice at home every day, right?" Jenny said as she entered the hallway with Garret right behind her. "Especially the stretches."
"Yes, Miss Jenny." He looked up and caught Izzy's eye and stopped as if he'd crashed into an invisible wall. His eyes narrowed and he tilted his head. "Do I know you?"
They didn't exactly run in the same crowd, but she'd thought he'd at least recognize her. They'd attended the same school since kindergarten.
Excerpted from "Offsetting Penalties"
Copyright © 2017 Ally Mathews.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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