Sixteen-year-old Claudia Waring has never kissed a boy. Never been popular. Never been to a hockey game. All that's about to change. Assigned to tutor Chris Winslow, a prank-loving, gorgeous hockey player, Claudia's perfectly planned life immediately veers off course. And she kind of likes it. But as fun as Chris is, she knows she'll never fit in his world.
After his latest prank lands him in hot water, Chris has to get serious about school or lose hockey. Not an easy thing for someone as carefree as the defenseman. The biggest problem, though, is how much he wants to help his cute, buttoned-up tutor loosen up a little. But while confidence has never been a problem for him, around Claudia, Chris is all nerves. Why would a girl as smart as her ever fall for a jock like him?
|Product dimensions:||4.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)|
|Age Range:||12 Years|
Read an Excerpt
By Cate Cameron, Alycia Tornetta
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Cate Cameron
All rights reserved.
"Claudia, you need more extracurriculars," Mrs. Davidson said firmly. She was a guidance counselor, among other things, and said almost everything firmly. "Your marks are excellent, and they'll probably be enough to get you into most schools. But you want more than 'probably,' don't you?"
I absolutely wanted more than "probably," and I wanted more than "most schools," too. I was looking for guaranteed acceptance to the engineering program at the University of Waterloo, the best engineering school in the country. That was my goal, and I was very goal oriented. But there had to be some other way to reach it.
"Maybe I should look at the list again," I suggested. I wasn't athletic, and the school didn't offer much besides sports, but there had to be something. Something else.
Mrs. Davidson handed the sheet of paper across her desk again. "We're a small school," she said. I wasn't sure if she was trying to be soothing, apologetic, or just realistic. "There are limited options. Student government is already full, and you said you weren't interested in the environment. So tutoring is a good option for you."
Okay, for the record, it's not like I hate the environment. I'm interested in it. I'm an environmentalist, even. But the club at our school was fairly radical — they were always talking about making a stand and getting arrested in the name of progress and a lot of other things that would not appeal to my dream school. So the Young Environmentalists club was out. "I just don't think I'd be all that good at tutoring," I tried.
"That's unfortunate. A lot of schools — Waterloo included — are looking for students who are strong communicators as well as strong calculators. Taking part in tutoring would show that you can share your knowledge, not just accumulate it."
Maybe it's because I'm an only child, but I'm really not that big on sharing. Unfortunately, it wasn't looking like I had much choice. "Okay." I sighed. "Tutoring. Alicia's doing that thing with the elementary students — is that where you'd put me?"
"Well, no," Mrs. Davidson said. "That program is full, and we actually have a need a little closer to home. A senior student is having some trouble with both the advanced functions class and chemistry. With your excellence in both subjects, I think you'd really be able to help him out."
I squinted at her suspiciously. "Which senior student?"
Her smile was too bland to be trusted. "Chris Winslow. Do you know him?"
Like she'd said, it was a small school. But even if it had been bigger, I still would have known Chris Winslow. He was pretty impossible to overlook. "The hockey player?" I squeaked.
She looked down at her papers quickly, but not fast enough to keep me from seeing her smirk. She was enjoying this.
I wasn't. "I really don't think I'd do well with Chris Winslow. I mean, he's — He needs — I don't think —"
"You'll do very well," Mrs. Davidson said firmly. "The world is made of all kinds of people, and to be successful in it you'll need to learn how to get along with everyone, not just with those who are serious and academically inclined."
"Okay, so that's something I should work toward. Fine. But baby steps, right? I mean, going from 'serious and academically inclined' to Chris Winslow? That's a pretty extreme transition."
"You've been resisting all my efforts at baby steps for over three years. You only have eight months left in high school. Eight more months to try things out while you still have a safety net. Once you leave this school, and this town, you'll find that people are much less forgiving. This is your chance, Claudia. I suggest you take it."
"Chris Winslow," I said dully. "Functions and chemistry." Then I saw my way out. "He'll never agree to it. All he cares about is hockey, and girls, and beer, and goofing around with his friends. He's not going to want a tutor."
"He's the one who asked me for help," Mrs. Robinson said gently. She glanced out her window as if something had caught her eye, then stood up from behind her desk and eased past the filing cabinet to get a better look at whatever it was. "Oh," she said.
I stood up, too, and looked over her shoulder. "Holy ... Well — holy cow," I said.
She turned to me. "Indeed." She took a deep breath and gusted it out like she was doing a breathing exercise. "Could you please go find Ms. Walker and let her know about this? I'll go down and try to ... I'm not quite sure. Try to control the situation."
"Yeah, okay," I said, and started for the door. It had been strange to see a small herd of cattle on the school's front lawn. Stranger still to realize that they weren't the usual black-and-white kind. Instead, these cattle were black and yellow. Brilliant, almost neon yellow.
Someone had dyed the cattle. And it probably wasn't a coincidence that the local hockey team's colors were black and yellow. Probably not a coincidence at all.
* * *
It was really hard to pay attention to whatever Dr. Stanis was talking about. I mean, it was always hard to pay attention to her — she was nice and everything, and clearly into her subject, but math just wasn't my thing. It didn't matter how excited she got about it, it was still all random numbers and symbols to me. So even on a good day it was difficult to keep my mind on her lessons. But on this day? Pretty much impossible.
We'd rigged up cameras, of course. Two phones propped up on the dashboards of cars parked by the front lawn, and a video camera taped outside the window of the second-floor history classroom. I was stuck on the opposite side of the building, so I couldn't actually see any of it live, but the guys with classes facing the front had promised to record as much of it as they could, once they were done playing innocent and were able to join the crowd of onlookers. So I'd be able to watch it all, eventually. But I wanted to know what was going on right then.
"Chris?" Dr. Stanis said gently. I hadn't even realized she'd been standing next to me. Hadn't realized she'd left the front of the classroom and was circulating around, offering help. "What's the first step going to be?"
I looked down at the numbers I'd copied off the board, then up at her. "Maybe I should make another guidance appointment? I could take a tech instead."
She shook her head. "You can do this, Chris. And if you want to go to university instead of community college, you will do this. You'll at least pass this course. But you need to try."
I nodded. We'd had this conversation before. This was actually her second year as my math teacher, so you'd think she'd have a pretty good understanding of my ability. Or my lack of ability, more like it. But she was an optimist. I guess for someone as smart as her, it would be kind of hard to understand how someone else could be so stupid. "Yeah," I said, because there wasn't much else to say.
But I wasn't getting rid of her that easily. She pointed at the page again. "So. What's the first step going to be?"
I stared at the page. Integration by substitution. That was what we were doing. Integration by substitution. I figured I had a fifty-fifty chance of being right. "We substitute?" She didn't answer right away, so I quickly said, "No, we integrate?"
"How do we know if we even need to substitute?" she asked patiently.
"Oh, the list!"
"Good, yes. Is this function on the list?"
"Give me a minute," I said, and started sorting through my notes. There was a list of functions, somewhere, somewhere ...
"Find the list, see if this function fits, and I'll be back after I help Amanda," she said, and left my desk to go harass the girl a couple rows over. Not that she was harassing. She was helping, or trying to. But she didn't seem to realize just how hopeless I was.
My phone vibrated then. We weren't supposed to have them in class, but short of a full-body search, there was no way to keep students from carrying them in. But if I got caught looking at it, Dr. Stanis would take it away, and it'd be a pain to get it back. So I eased it out of my pocket and glanced at it in my lap.
The text was from Tyler MacDonald, who'd been my best friend ever since we both came to Corrigan Falls to play hockey for the Raiders. There are yellow-and-black cows at school, it read.
A second later, the phone vibrated again. Tell me u didn't have anything to do with this.
Yeah, Tyler was my best friend, but he was pretty serious. When I pulled pranks, I left him out of it.
I glanced at the teacher to be sure she was still busy and quickly texted, Stop distracting me. I'm trying to learn.
There was no response, but I could picture Tyler's frustration all the same. Too mad to type, probably.
I grinned, and the bell finally rang, and clearly I wasn't the only one who'd been doing a little undercover texting, because the whole class surged for the door and headed toward the front of the school.
I know, they're just cows. Really not that exciting. But Corrigan Falls is a quiet place, except on game nights. So livestock at school, especially when the livestock was wearing Raiders colors, was worth seeing.
I worked my way out of the school and toward the front of the crowd, even though I was tall enough to have a good view from the back, and found Tyler wrapped around Karen, his girlfriend, both of them watching the cows like they thought the animals might start doing tricks. When Tyler saw me coming, he shook his head. "If you get caught for this, coach will bench you. Guaranteed."
"Of course I don't know what you're talking about," I said.
"Of course," Karen agreed. She was smirking a little, so I figured Tyler couldn't be all that mad. The two of them are usually on the same wavelength about things.
Then Karen's eyes widened, and she turned back to the cows really quickly. I wasn't too surprised when I heard a familiar voice from beside me.
"Chris," Mrs. Davidson said. She was kind of cool, as guidance counselors go, but probably not cool enough to truly appreciate my genius on this one.
So I gave her my best innocent look. "Hey, Mrs. Davidson! Cows!"
Damn. She had a pretty good stare, like she could see right through me, right into my nasty little prank-pulling soul. But she couldn't get me in trouble if her only evidence was soul-vision. "Where'd they come from?" I asked, still innocent.
She sighed. "That's an excellent question, Chris. Where did they come from?"
She asked like she really wanted to know, but I wasn't going to get sucked in that easily. Still, it wouldn't hurt to help her out a little. "There's a dairy farm just past the trees, isn't there? I wonder if they came from over there. Maybe they broke through the fence."
"Broke through the fence and dyed themselves yellow?"
"Well, I guess they probably didn't dye themselves, no."
"So maybe somebody helped them through the fence."
"Huh. Well, yeah, I guess. You're right." Some people like being told that they're right, but apparently Mrs. Davidson wasn't one of them, because her expression stayed stony.
"I wonder what they were dyed with," she said.
I frowned. "I bet it's something safe. Like, something that wouldn't hurt them. Maybe food coloring." I turned to Tyler. He'd be pissed off, but he'd back me up. We were teammates. "Does that look like food coloring to you, Mac?"
He gave me a dirty look, but then nodded grumpily. "Probably just food coloring, yeah."
"And I wonder why they're all collected on the lawn like they are," Mrs. Davidson said. "Seems like cattle usually roam around a little, don't they?"
"Maybe there's some sort of mystical force at work," I suggested, but she didn't seem impressed. "Or maybe somebody poured something on the grass to make it taste better. Sugar, or salt, or ... I don't know, Mrs. Davidson, I really couldn't tell you much about what cows like to eat. But maybe there's some of whatever it is on the grass right there."
"Maybe there was a path of it leading in from the forest," Karen said. She hadn't been part of the prank, but she was clearly having fun with the cover-up. "Somebody could have come last night and laid a path and nobody noticed it this morning." She looked from Mrs. Davidson to me. "Right?"
"I don't know," I said firmly. We all needed to remember that I didn't know. "But I guess that would make sense, yeah."
"Can I see your hands, Chris?" Mrs. Davidson said. Not aggressive or anything, just like she was a little curious.
So I lifted my hands. Clean and pink, no trace of artificial yellow. "I don't know if you'll be able to catch people that way," I said. "Whoever did it could have worn gloves, right?"
"Right," she said. Then she smiled. "Chris, you're a leader at this school, aren't you?"
"A leader? Uh —"
"Yes, you are. Don't be modest. And I think as a leader, you need to take some responsibility for things that happen here, don't you?"
"Take responsibility? Like how?"
"Like getting these cows back where they belong. Making sure the fence is in good repair. I'll drive over and let the farmer know what's going on, and I'll ask him to put out buckets and a hose and some rags so you can wash these cows and get them back to their natural color. You can take the cattle back now, on your lunch hour, and wash them after school today."
"Oh, no, I can't. I mean, the lunchtime thing, sure, I can do that. But I have practice after school. Maybe we could just wait until it rains on them?"
"I don't think the farmer should be asked to milk black-and-yellow cows until the next time it rains. I'll call your coach and let him know why you can't make practice."
That didn't sound like a good idea at all. "Uh ... well, Tyler can probably tell him. I know how busy you are, and Coach can be hard to get hold of. You don't need to worry about it."
She raised an eyebrow. "I have his cell number, Chris. I speak to him fairly regularly. I've never found him hard to get hold of."
"Huh. Well ... he must really like you. That's nice, isn't it? He picks up for you, even when he won't pick up for his players."
"So he'll be happy to hear from me, even if I am giving him some bad news."
This wasn't going well at all. The Corrigan Falls Raiders are an OHL team, semi-pro junior hockey. Technically, the team wasn't connected to the school at all. But we had the bad luck to have a coach who thought it was really important for all his players to get an education. "Wait. Bad news? Just that I'm going to be late for practice today. That's all. You're not going to tell him something else, are you?"
"Well, I should possibly talk to him about your grades, too."
This conversation was going in a lot of different directions and didn't seem to be taking a straight line in any of them. "Uh, wait. You said you'd set up a tutor." I'd asked her if I could just drop functions and chemistry, but the school's so small there isn't a lot of choice in any given period. She couldn't find a way to make my schedule work without those courses, not if I still wanted to get the credits I needed to go to university. Which I still kind of did, even if I was pretty sure I'd end up flunking out my first year.
"That's right. And I think I have someone in mind. But I don't want to waste her time if you aren't committed. So, Chris, I need to know you're going to follow through with it."
She knew me too well. "I plan to," I told her honestly.
She smiled, but her eyes were sharp. "I think I'd like a little more than that, Chris. Tell you what. These cows get home safely and get washed, and I get good reports from your tutor that you're making a genuine effort? And I'll hold off on calling your coach. But any problems with the cows, or with the tutoring? I'll not only call him, I'll ask him to bench you until your attitude improves. Clear?"
"But — the cows — you don't — that could have been anybody!"
Excerpted from Playing Defense by Cate Cameron, Alycia Tornetta. Copyright © 2016 Cate Cameron. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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