Welcome to the last midweek tease of 2016. Hard to believe another year has slipped by so quickly. To one and all I wish a happy, healthy, and successful New Year. Thanks to the lovely and talented Angelica Dawson who makes this blog hop possible each week, and to the other writers who give me the opportunity to read bits and pieces out of my area of expertise. You never cease to amaze me.
This morning, my offering will be even tamer than usual as I share with you the beginning of my newest novel, Prove It! This was written as a Christmas present for my eldest granddaughter who’ll be 16 in January. It’s a YA suspense–not your usual cup of tea, but I hope you’ll enjoy it anyway.
High school sports can be more dangerous than you think!
Ivy Hill’s track star, Liam Howard, has his future all mapped out: date Hannah Connors, win the New Horizon scholarship, get a spot on the next Olympic team, and then go to medical school. Sounds simple, especially when he’s well on his way to achieving his dream. But someone else has other plans. Ignoring the most recent threatening note, Liam goes out for his regular practice run and is struck by a vehicle and left for dead.
Hannah refuses to believe Liam will never walk or run again, especially when she learns the person behind the accident may be her own track coach. Working with Erik Jenkins, Liam’s best friend, she searches for proof, but Erik vanishes on his way to see the coach. Now, it’s up to her, Liam, and their friends, to find Erik and the evidence they need to put a hit and run driver behind bars. But time may be running out for both Erik and Liam as someone tries to finish the job they started, regardless of collateral damage.
Here are the opening paragraphs:
“I don’t care who’s behind this,” Liam Howard lied angrily, unable to keep his frustration hidden from his best friend. Dropping the phone onto the desk, he yanked his t-shirt over his head before picking up the handset once more.
As different as any two people could possibly be, he and Erik Jenkins had been inseparable from the first day of their sophomore year, drawn together by circumstances beyond their control when they were both chosen to attend Ivy Hills.
“No one’s going to scare me out of competing. I need that scholarship money. My whole future depends on it.”
“Damn it, Liam, if you don’t take this threat seriously, you won’t have a future. This is nothing to joke about. You aren’t an ostrich, even though you can probably run as fast as one,” Erik answered, his voice, even as tinny as it sounded over the phone, conveyed his concern. “Burying your head in the sand won’t make this go away.”
“Tell me something I don’t know. I’m not ignoring the notes; I’m just trying to put them in perspective. They started last spring and other than a few annoying pranks this fall, nothing bad has happened. Someone’s messing with my head, and I won’t let them take this chance away from me. I can’t,” Liam insisted, even though they were doing just that since the most recent note had scared the crap out of him, and he couldn’t stop thinking about it.
He tried to swallow his discomfort. Talking to Erik, who was a doom and gloom kind of person at the best of times, was making matters worse.
“I know you think it’s one of the guys, and I’ll admit some of the students can be jerks, but I can’t believe this is a real threat. It’s just someone trying to yank my chain. It happens all the time.”
“Bull! This is more than routine bullying, and you know it. We get to walk the hallowed halls of Ivy Hills each day, only because of some archaic rule in their charter that insists two boys from the community have to be admitted each four-year cycle. If they could amend that rule, believe me, they would.”
“Maybe that’s true for some of them,” Liam conceded, his heart heavy, knowing how Erik had struggled to make friends these past three years, but it was about to pay off for both of them. “But I can’t see anyone on the track team being involved in something like this. They’re all decent guys.”
“So you say, but since September, your lucky shoes have vanished, your locker was vandalized, your warm-up jacket ripped to shreds, and at your last race, someone filled your water bottles with vinegar. That’s not funny; it’s just plain mean. Who but someone on the track team had access to your stuff? I can’t even get in there, and I’m your best friend. If you’d poured that vinegar on your face, you might’ve blinded yourself.”
“You need to pay closer attention in science class. Vinegar may be an acid, but it’s a mild one. Would’ve been incredibly painful, but wouldn’t have done any permanent damage. Besides, my nose works fine. The minute I opened the cap, I knew it wasn’t water. The smell was too strong to ignore. I’ll admit losing the shoes was a pain and having my locker trashed does bother me, but the coach replaced the shoes a couple of days ago, Caleb gave me some water after the race, Dooley repainted my locker, and Josh is helping me get a new jacket. It’s definitely not someone on the team. They’re as upset by the pranks as I am.”
“Are you willing to stake your life on that? You’re so focused on winning that scholarship next spring when we graduate, you’re ignoring the danger here. For years, freebies, like us, were pretty much ignored, because none of them rocked the boat. The silver-spooned darlings won all the awards, all the medals, and got all of the publicity. You’ve changed that, and someone’s pissed about it.”
“Back the truck up. You’re just as guilty as I am. MIT has accepted your application for that scholarship. If your marks are as good this year as they were last year, you’ll be a shoo-in.”
“Yeah, but that’s different. Sure, it’s a full ticket, but nerds like me don’t generally get the glory. Unlike you, my face won’t be plastered on sports’ magazines all over the country. You could be the next Usain Bolt.”
“You’re exaggerating. I may be fast, but he’s the fastest man on Earth. He’s also got legs eight inches longer than mine.” He laughed. “Seriously, I know things at Ivy Hills haven’t been the best, but they haven’t been that bad.”
Erik’s silence spoke volumes.
“Fine, have it your way. Maybe it was harder for you since you aren’t involved in any sports,” Liam conceded, “but it still makes no sense. The entire school borders on fanaticism when it comes to school accomplishments. Ivy Hills has to be the best, and right now, in track, that’s me. When I win that scholarship in June, the whole school will benefit.”
“Humor me for a minute. Let’s say you played it safe and backed down; who would win the next meet?”
“That’s easy. Malcolm Porter from Central. He’s the only one in the state who’s got a chance of beating me—a slim chance since I’ve cleaned his clock in every race we’ve run. There isn’t anyone on the Ivy Hills’ team whose time is even close to mine or his. That’s why having someone from Ivy Hills behind this makes no sense. When I win, the school wins, and the last thing they would want is for a regular high school to snatch that award away from them. This is the first time the school’s even been in the running—pardon the pun.”
“Go ahead and joke all you want to, but someone’s out to get you.”
“Listen to me. If I were to throw a race—and that’s a big ‘if’—I would be in more trouble than you could imagine. We may not be the most popular guys at school, but if I don’t win because I choked, I’ll just be adding to the problems faced by whoever follows us. No one else on the track team needs the New Horizon scholarship, but everyone wants the publicity behind the win. The school doesn’t need the ten grand honorarium to improve its track program, either. Any one of the board members could provide that, and it would be nothing but chump change for them, but the publicity generated by the award and the possibility of adding a runner to the next Olympic trials is huge and can mean endowments and who knows what else. No one from Ivy Hills can be behind this, but if it will make you feel better, if I get another message next week, I’ll show it to the coach.”
“You should show him this one,” Erik stated, his determination clear in the tone of his voice.
“Can’t do that,” Liam said and sighed. “I tossed it before we left the building.” Considering Erik’s unease, maybe he shouldn’t have done it, but if Mom had found that note… “There was no way I wanted Mata Hari to find it when she went through my bag. She still sees checking the backpack each night as part of her ‘mom’ duties.”
“Yeah, if she found it, she would go ballistic and never let you out of her sight again. She can be a tad overprotective.”
“A tad?” Liam laughed so hard he snorted. “That’s like saying Mr. Quigley is a tad overweight, when we all know he tips the scale at close to three hundred pounds. When it comes to my safety, it’s as if I’m still an infant. One of these days, she’s got to ease up.”
“Don’t count on it. She’ll be keeping tabs on you until you’re old and gray.”
Liam sobered. Losing Michael five years ago had changed his parents, especially his mother, but he wasn’t his brother. He was the cautious one, the one who never took chances, but he wasn’t a whining tattletale either. This was his problem, his battle to fight. If he didn’t stand up to the bullies, they would win. He just wished this particular bully had a face.
Thanks for reading. Please stop by and visit this week’s teasers.