The Love Playbook

By: Suze Winegardner

Dear Reader,

Thank you for supporting a small publisher! Entangled prides itself on bringing you the highest quality romance you’ve come to expect, and we couldn’t do it without your continued support. We love romance, and we hope this book leaves you with a smile on your face and joy in your heart.


Liz Pelletier, Publisher

For Rick, who's been fruitlessly trying to get me to love Tom Brady for years. I love you. (But not Tom, sorry.)

Chapter One

Lucas Black ran down his street like his hair was on fire, trying not to overthink the phone call he’d just had with Coach. He told himself not to get his hopes up, but he was beginning to realize that it wasn’t hope that had him running to his new high school football field: it was a need to feel alive.

To feel…anything, really.

This could be his chance to feel normal again. To prove to himself that he wasn’t a complete and utter failure, because the past few months had been a total shit show for both him and his mom. And it had been all his fault.

Being the new transfer to a small town hundreds of miles away from his friends—or the people who used to be his friends—was definitely not how his senior year was supposed to go down, and it was sucking balls. Seriously sucking balls.

This was supposed to have been his year, his time to reign at school, his time to officially announce that he was going to play football for the college that had been pursuing him for nearly four years. He was supposed to be living his best life. Kicking names and taking ass.

But no. Of course it hadn’t happened like that. Basically, it had all gone to shit.

And as all if that wasn’t bad enough, he was also late. He hadn’t wanted to explain to Coach that his mom’s car had its wheels stolen two nights after they’d arrived and that he had no way of getting back to school, so he’d shoved some gear into a bag and taken off running.

Coach had called him in for a practice. Normally he wouldn’t have been allowed to play for a couple of months after transferring schools, but Lucas had gotten lucky. Someone was either hurt or sick or hadn’t made the right grades, and the team was desperate to fill the spot. An opportunity like this was all Lucas wanted. A chance to feel like himself again—something he hadn’t been able to do since his mom and he had changed their names and run away across the state. A chance to feel at home in his skin again. A chance for a fresh start.

After that, all he wanted was to get decent job—something that wouldn’t interfere with school or football—and then he’d keep his head down and just try to keep everyone happy. Especially his mom. He’d have a little money to help get them by, and he’d have football again. That was all he needed to get through this shit show of a senior year.

So Lucas Black ran. The fact that he still had fairly decent sneakers when everything else had been taken away was some kind of blessing. Maybe his only blessing. He ran, taking the most direct route he could to the high school football field. Practice started thirty minutes ago, and he’d promised to be there as soon as possible. He couldn’t be late. No brand-spanking-new-just-arrived-in-town player ever wanted to be late for their first practice.

Hillside was about to find out what real football was all about.

He ran down his street, past the convenience store with the metal grating over its windows, past the burned-out car that had been there since before he and his mom had arrived in town, and past the black sedan with the people inside. The car that everyone in the neighborhood seemed to know was the undercover cop car.

He counted his steps as his feet pounded the dirty, overgrown sidewalk.

One two. One two. One two.

He remembered what his life used to be like, before everything fell apart. He couldn’t shut down the memories: the clunk of the floodlights, the crowd singing the fight song, the sound of the band, the cheerleaders, the smell of hot dogs and fries and funnel cakes.

One two. One two. One two.

The residential area gave way to boarded-up strip malls, more litter, and boards. He leaped over a fire hydrant as if he was jumping over a sliding tackle by a cornerback.

He inhaled deeply, and in his mind, he was running on the field. He caught an impossible ball, tucked it under his arm, and ran. Blood pumped around his body as his situational awareness processed the imaginary play like a slo-mo replay. He saw every player on the field, every move, every thought that flickered across the safety’s face as he made up his mind to try to intercept Lucas. Too late, though. Way too late, buddy.

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