Baseball player Kyle Sawyer has many labels: bad boy, delinquent, ladies’ man, fearless outfielder... Only one of them is actually true. But then sweet ballet dancer Faith Gladwell asks him to help wreck her reputation, and everything goes sideways.
Faith knows a thing or two about love, and what she had with her cheating jerk of an ex wasn’t it. When he starts spreading rumors about her being an Ice Queen, Faith decides it’s time to let a little bad into her life.
Lucky for her, Kyle Sawyer—dark, dangerous, totally swoonworthy Kyle Sawyer—is landscaping her backyard over Spring Break. Shirtless. And if she can convince him to play along, “ dating” Kyle will silence the rumors.
But Faith’s plan threatens to expose Sawyer’s biggest secret of all...and that’s a risk he’s not willing to take.
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.57(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The Bad Boy Bargain
By Kendra C. Highley, Heather Howland
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Kendra C. Highley
All rights reserved.
Badass, troublemaker, girl magnet — familiar words always followed Kyle from his locker to his senior English classroom. Or from the cafeteria to the parking lot. Or from the locker room to the baseball field. Anywhere he went, the whispers followed.
Today, it went something like, "Ooh, I know who we should vote most likely to drop out before graduation," as he walked by. Or, "I heard he banged two girls at once at North Texas last weekend. College girls, man!" Or, "Dude, I heard MLB scouts are coming to the games to watch him play."
He wished that last one were true.
Kyle zipped his hoodie up tighter, acting like he couldn't hear a word. The dark red hoodie and a pair of headphones were pretty thin armor, even if he did encourage the stories ... the lies. Suttonville High was a big enough maze of suck without letting the truth out.
And no way, no how, was he showing any sort of weakness ever again.
"Dude! Wait up!" a guy called.
For a second, Kyle stiffened. Old habits died hard. But he recognized the voice and let his shoulders relax. Cade Adams, unlike the hundreds of rich, snobby kids crowding the halls, was worth waiting for. He slowed his stride until Cade caught up, looking disheveled. For an amused moment, he wondered if Cade was running from a pack of zombified football players, then he noticed the pleading look on Cade's face. The same one he'd ignored from a half dozen other guys.
He shook his head. "Nope, still not going."
"It's supposed to be a great party," Cade said, running a hand over his hair to coerce it back into shape. It was a little too long, and curls kept springing up on his head. "First night of spring break, man. All the seniors are going."
"Everyone except me," Kyle said, quickening his pace.
"Come on," Cade pleaded. "I need to be your wingman. Just once. Your leftovers would be a feast to us mere mortals."
That's what half the baseball team said, too. But if he let someone be his wingman, they'd find out really quick that he wasn't what everyone assumed. "Sorry, not my scene."
"Fine. Okay, I get it." Cade's crooked smile didn't do much to hide his disappointment. "Just ... think about it."
He strode off, breezing through the hall filled with students in designer clothes as if his Iron Man T-shirt, wild hair, and faded jeans didn't matter to him. And it didn't — at some point last fall, Cade had become cool. Either that, or he'd stopped caring what any of them thought.
Kyle stalked to chemistry, praying he'd pass today's test. Being dyslexic turned the periodic table into a medieval torture device, even if his teacher was good about giving him tutoring on the down low. He couldn't let anyone know he actually cared about his grades, aside from passing to play baseball.
"I heard he's going out with some girl at Texas Woman's," a girl whispered to another as he walked in, as if he couldn't hear them.
"Wish I knew for sure if anyone here has a chance," said the other girl, a pretty senior who had a reputation of being a man-eater. "Because I'd ride that pony all over town."
Kyle's ears flamed up. To hide his discomfort, he rolled his neck, getting a little satisfaction out of the wary stares after the vertebrae cracked. That's right, the scary kid just cracked his back. You puny humans shouldn't try that at home.
The bell rang and he sank into his desk, adopting his typical pose of "I'm only here because the truant officer made me show up today" with his legs stretched out in the aisle. Mrs. Moody, the chem teacher, rolled her eyes. She saw right through him. And if she could, how much longer would it be before everyone else did?
During the test — in which chemical compounds morphed into ancient Hebrew right before his eyes — he couldn't shake the conversation with Cade. He felt bad about letting the guy down, especially since he hadn't been much of a friend the last few years, but he hated those parties because of the baggage that rode on them. Namely, his reputation.
Because who at Suttonville would believe that the resident delinquent, skateboard-riding, drag-racing, smart-mouthed chick magnet Kyle Sawyer was actually none of those things?CHAPTER 2
"Faith Gladwell?" The school secretary's voice was bored. "Your mother left you a package."
Faith sighed in relief. She hadn't meant to leave her ballet shoes at home, but she'd nearly been late for first period, and a tardy on her record was worse than the shame of calling for help.
She took her dance bag from the secretary and flashed her a big smile. "You made my morning."
Like magic, the secretary smiled back. "Glad to help."
That was thing most people missed about life — being nice actually worked. And with a name like Faith Gladwell, people expected nice. They wanted an angel with a sweet smile and bubbly attitude, and she was happy to oblige. Most of the time, anyway.
But it was getting harder. Wings were heavy and really hard to keep from dragging on the ground. Especially when you dated one of the most popular guys in school — and you weren't sure you wanted to be with him anymore.
She hurried to the drama room, dodging past other students as if it were all a dance. Everything was a dance to her, especially now with her big break on the horizon. The musical was in two weeks, and they'd be starting dress rehearsals soon. After Mr. Fisk had learned she was classically trained in ballet, tap, jazz, and hip-hop, he'd insisted she try out for the lead in Oklahoma!
"You're a triple threat, dear," he said in his drawling theater voice. "We knew you could sing, and you can certainly act ... but you can dance? Well, between all that and your girl-next-door demeanor, and you're perfect for Laurey. I can just see you pirouetting in the dream sequence. Perfect!" He'd snapped his fingers and strode off, shouting for the costume designers to come take her measurements, not even waiting for tryouts to be finished.
The lead ... she still couldn't believe Mr. Fist had picked her. Mom was thrilled. Dad had taken to singing "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top" at random intervals. Even her older sisters had called home to say congrats.
Cameron, though, had frowned and asked how much time the rehearsals would take up. "Will I be able to see you?" he'd asked. "Or will the musical take up all your time?"
Some people would call that sweet. Faith called it "smothering slowly," especially since she knew he wasn't really missing her, but a warm body to coo at his football stories and let him stick his hand up her shirt. She'd almost told him, nicely, that he could keep himself perfectly good company, given what he really wanted out of her.
So much for nice.
She hummed as she skipped through the halls. Getting the lead in the school musical was one more box checked for her high school bucket list. Only two marks left:
Get accepted to NYU's musical theater program.
Have sex with a guy she loved.
Her mother would need smelling salts if she ever peeked in Faith's diary, but what she didn't know wouldn't give her a stroke. Dad? Well, he'd lock her up and go shopping for chastity belts.
Faith snorted. That image was way too easy to conjure up. Dad probably knew someone who made chastity belts. He hadn't even let her get into a car with a boy alone until she was sixteen. S-E-X wasn't spoken of.
Faith slowed in front of the drama room, feeling a little pang catch her heart. Her family loved her. They loved her dreams, her dramatic streak, and even her feet, ugly from years of dance. Still, she knew they worried about her. The baby. The one most likely to turn out wild.
And they hated Cameron.
Funny thing was, she was starting to see why. Every time they went out now, his hands got a little more aggressive, and he couldn't understand why she was reluctant to go past second base after dating for six months.
She didn't have the heart to tell him it was because she was waiting until she really fell in love ... and that she didn't love him.
God, that was going to be a horrific conversation, wasn't it?
"Faith! Wait up, you long-legged gazelle!" Violet Moore dashed after her, cursing the fact — loudly — that she was five three and friends with a girl who was five nine. "George Washington on a pogo stick, you walk fast."
She chuckled. Violet's ponytail was coming lose from its elastic and her face was red. "How long have you been trying to catch me?"
"Since you left the office!" Her best friend paused to suck down air. "I wanted to make sure you can still meet after school to get ready for the party."
"Yep. I'll be there at three thirty."
"Good, because I'm seeing my hair stylist at five."
Faith's eyes widened. "You're really going to do it?"
Violet swung her ponytail. "Hell yassss. Tell your mom we'll send her the hair for the foundation."
"Sweet!" Faith grinned. "I can't wait to see you with short hair. It'll match your height."
"Aw, shut up, Amazon." But she smiled. The smile faded fast, though. "Great. Asshat at eleven o'clock."
"Yeah. I'm going to blaze before I say something that'll land me in jail." Violet gave her arm a squeeze. "You need to turf him. And soon."
"I know." She sighed and turned. Cameron was muscling his way past a group of freshmen to get to her. "I'll ... I'll do it after the party."
"Good girl. Later!"
Violet left a vapor trail, racing away before Cameron reached Faith. "Why'd she run off?"
"Class." Faith hid a cringe. "She was asking me to help set up for the party."
"Getting the weekend started right!" he crowed, throwing a possessive arm across her shoulders and pulling her against his side. "You'll be ready at eight, right?"
"Yeah." Her heart sank. "I'll be ready."CHAPTER 3
The ball came hurtling down in a perfect arc toward left field. Tristan yelled that he had it, but Kyle waved him off, running hard and laying himself out flat to catch it. The front of his body slammed into the grass and slid, but he cupped his mitt around the ball. "Got it!"
"Sawyer, save the diving catches for games, okay?" Coach Swanson yelled. "That goes for you, too, Murrell! That ball was Sawyer's, and I don't need any heroes on the practice field!"
Tristan rolled his eyes, grinning as Kyle peeled himself off the turf. "Nice grass stains."
Kyle looked down. The front of his practice jersey was one big swipe of green. Just the way he liked it. "You know me. Not happy unless I'm filthy."
"That's what all the girls tell me!" Tristan called as he drifted back to his spot about sixty yards away.
Kyle pretended to brush dirt off his knees to hide his flush. "What's your mom say?"
"Bastard!" But Tristan's tone was cheerful. "What, you gonna marry that ball, or throw it?"
Kyle stood, noticing their pitcher was waving at him. Kyle wound back and threw it past his cutoff man at shortstop, straight into the pitcher's waiting mitt. The shortstop tossed up his hands. "Dude, I'm right here. Stop throwing past me!"
"Batting practice!" Coach shouted, and the assistants herded them all to the dugout. "Sawyer, you first, since you seem to have some pent-up energy."
Tristan opened his mouth to make some other smart-ass remark, but Kyle grabbed his bat and headed to the batter's box before he could say anything. Sure, he had a rep to protect, but it got old, listening to all of them talk about his "love life" as if it were a legend in the making. It made his insides squirm, knowing how hard they'd laugh if they knew it was just that: an urban legend.
He swung his bat a few times, then stood ready, waiting for the pitch. A slider, a little high. Kyle let it go by. "Ball!"
"Oh, shut up, Sawyer."
When the pitcher wound up again, Kyle knew it would be a fastball, probably low, but not too low to swing at. The ball came flying toward him, and Kyle swung with full power.
Crack! God, how he loved that sound. The ball sailed over the pitcher's head, and it had good distance. It flew over the fence, and the guys on the bench groaned.
"Home run," Coach said. "Dennings, throw him a changeup. That fastball was a grapefruit, kid."
Kyle stepped back into the batter's box, waggling the bat a bit. Knowing it was a changeup didn't help. He had to see it, understand the trajectory, before he could decide to swing.
The guy wound up, then threw. Kyle saw it go wide and turned his body. The ball smacked into his hip, sending a bolt of numbness down his leg.
"Sorry," Dennings said. The sheepish expression on his face was more than enough to let Kyle know it wasn't on purpose.
Coach let Kyle take a seat after that, sending a sacrificial freshman up for a turn. Tristan turned to him as soon as he sat down. "You going to Vi's party tonight?"
Kyle shook his head. "Other plans, man."
"Please tell me it involves a couple of college girls and a pillow fight."
"I don't talk." He raised an eyebrow at Tristan. "I like to give you guys something to wonder about."
"Must be something good." Tristan heaved a sigh. "Wish I could come with."
Kyle snorted. His date was with a lawn mower. He doubted Tristan would find that exciting. "Sorry ... this is a one-man job."
And, for as long as he could keep the con running, that's all it would ever be.
The sound of a lawn mower wasn't a song of boring chores. No, it was his future. Kyle smiled as Avenged Sevenfold blared through his earbuds, barely drowning out the Toro's motor. He loved spring ... and he loved the work that came with it. He might not get the periodic table, but he could turn someone's lawn into a green carpet of awesome.
His dad called it a gift. Kyle couldn't disagree. He understood plants better than people sometimes, and definitely more than words that rearranged themselves on the page without warning. If anyone at school figured out his love of gardening, though, he'd never hear the end of it. That's why he drove the black Charger his grandpa had given him for his seventeenth birthday to school, and why his beloved Toyota pickup with ninety thousand miles on it stayed hidden inside their six-car garage so their snobby neighbors wouldn't complain.
He laughed as he made a turn around the Denkhoffs' lawn. They had great grass, and a big-ass yard surrounding their big-ass house. He could charge thirty bucks to mow it and Mrs. Denkhoff didn't even bat an eyelash. None of his customers did, not when they found out he could work a form of alchemy that resulted in "best lawn in the neighborhood" awards and the envy of their neighbors.
The air had a little bite to it, but he could tell it would warm up fast this week. March was always like that in North Texas. Some years it was fifty degrees and raining. Some years it was ninety degrees and humid as hell. From the blue sky above, Kyle knew the weekend would be gorgeous, probably low eighties and sunny.
He had pushed the mower around the bend at the side of the house when the lady next door waved at him. She looked vaguely familiar ... wait — she was the woman in those TV ads about the children's cancer center. That's right — she ran the Gladwell Foundation. Dad was a fan and donated money to it every year.
He powered down the mower and took out his earbuds. "Did you call me, ma'am?"
"Are you Kyle?" she asked, breathless.
She stood atop the retaining wall between the yards, making him crane his neck to look up at her. God, he hadn't broken one of their sprinkler heads or something, had he? "Yes, ma'am?"
"Thank goodness. Sherry tells me you're good with yards. I'm having a benefit tea in my backyard in a month, and we have some serious problems with our grass back there. Well, that's not true. We have serious problems with everything back there." She smiled. "I'm Michelle Gladwell, by the way. I think you go to school with my daughter? Faith?"
If he did, he didn't know her. There were seven hundred students in his senior class. Kyle shrugged. "Yeah, I guess we do."
"So, would you have time to take a look? At the grass I mean?"
He barely choked back a laugh. What, was she worried he thought she meant Faith? Sorry, lady, your daughter's virtue is safe with me. "Is tomorrow morning okay? It's already getting dark, but I have plenty of time to get started this weekend."
Excerpted from The Bad Boy Bargain by Kendra C. Highley, Heather Howland. Copyright © 2016 Kendra C. Highley. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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