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Release Date: 10 March, 2016
BOOK ONE: DANGEROUS LIVES OF HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETES
Shawn and Alex have been friends since first grade.
Alex, the rock star quarterback, appears to be basking in the limelight of his success and his new romance with Pam. But appearances can be deceiving.
Shawn is the key man in the football team’s solid defense. He’s also the senior class’ most eligible bachelor. But Shawn has no time to get involved with a girl—at least, that’s what he tells his friends.
In reality, he does have a love interest… Tony Valito.
Side-by-side, the relationships between the two couples blossom. One in the open. The other in secret. That is, until Shawn’s world erupts when the rumor that he’s gay gathers momentum.
In trying to find Shawn, perhaps his friends will end up finding themselves. And everyone will discover how dangerous are the lives of high school athletes.
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Friends, Families, and Enemies
AS DARKNESS FALLS, the city park begins to transform. Pine trees recast themselves into hiding places. Benches and fixtures transform into obstacles and weapons. The people of the night emerge and begin the dance of predators and victims.
The mild light of a half-moon silhouettes a human form moving fast and erratically across the park’s lawn. The frenzied figure is that of a seventeen-year-old boy. His trembling frame is thin and wiry. His childlike face is soaked in sweat and fear.
Tony comes to a shaky stop. His breathing is loud and rapid. He’s wobbly and lacks the energy to stand up straight. He jerks to the left and makes a choppy sweep to the far right. Wherever he looks, he finds only desolation. His face contorts as he screams. “Help! Police! Somebody! Help us!”
Behind Tony, two more silhouettes emerge. They move frantically toward him. The upper half of Tony’s body twists to the point of straining as he looks back. He spots them. His hope fades. He straightens and cries out, “Please. Somebody.”
He stumbles forward. A park bench seems to materialize out of nowhere and slams his knee. “Ah.” He grabs for it, loses his balance, and collapses to the ground. Within seconds, two boys appear over him. They are the same age as Tony, but these boys are bigger, heavier, and meaner. They have shaved heads and similar arm tattoos depicting a burning, angry skull. The only thing worse than a bully is a pair of identical bullies. They are both panting, but it doesn’t stop them. Peter begins kicking Tony. Dan leans in and pounds with his fists.
ONE WEEK EARLIER, in that same park, another type of drama unfolded. Two high school seniors weaved their way at breakneck speed through a crowd of small children. Shawn scrambled to and fro, doing his best to escape from Alex. He wasn’t afraid. In fact, he laughed loudly and made the funniest taunting faces. He let his friend get close enough for a tag and then poured it on to pull away. They were playing a boyhood version of cat and mouse. Except in this case, Shawn, the mouse, had the edge in size and body power. He towered over Alex by at least several inches. His torso appeared solid and muscular.
Alex might have been shorter and lighter, but he had all the requirements of a top-notch athlete, including muscles that rippled in all the right places. Unlike Shawn, who had a rough jock exterior, Alex had the façade of a rock star with his shaggy blond hair, baby blue eyes, and wide, gleaming smile.
As the cat closed in on his prey, Shawn pulled off a series of strategic maneuvers. He sidestepped to the left and then swerved to the right. Somewhere along the way, he tripped over an invisible root and lost his balance.
“Wha-wha…. Oh, no.” He stumbled and crash-landed into a pile of leaves. Lying face down, he braced for the aftermath: a hundred-sixty-pound putty cat that leaped on top of him.
What he wasn’t prepared for were the hands that drove into his arm pits. “No, Alex. Nooo. Not that.” No one would ever question Shawn’s toughness. He was tough enough to be a thug if he wanted to be, which he didn’t. But he had one major weakness that everyone knew about: being incredibly ticklish. Alex’s fingers jabbed away with teasing magic. Shawn continued to scream out, “No. Alex. Stop,” as he thrashed about like a fish loose in a rowboat.
Not far from the ruckus, a shadowy figure peered out from between the branches of a thick shrub. Tony was in hiding and having a mild spasm of envy. That should be him on top, bringing out the animal in Shawn. Nobody could do it better than he did.
Pam, Shawn’s younger sister by one year, ran into the picture. Everything about her was small: small head, tiny nose and ears, small hands, and little feet. But her warmth and smile attested to a big heart. Her long straight hair reached down the lower part of her back. It was the one thing that was definitely growing on the girl. “Shawn, Alex, I’m not going to chase you guys all day. When you finish playing, I’ll be across the street at the food court.”
The boys hit the pause button. Shawn managed to lift his head. “Okay, Pam.”
The girl lingered even though she had her answer. She liked watching Alex. Hey, every girl needs a hobby. But this was something more—a secret crush that had been going on for close to four years. Unfortunately, she lived in the shadow of her brother and his bromance with her true love. She sighed and turned away as Alex dove back in and resumed tickling his best bud into submission.
“Okay. Okay. I give up. I give up.”
Alex rolled off. “See? I’m still the champ. I own you.”
“Yeah, you’re the champ all right.”
They huffed and puffed and rested side by side.
Alex’s mind started to drift. He whined. “Oh, man.”
“What now, Alex?”
“Just wondering.” He stared up toward the clouds. “Where will we be next year?”
Shawn sensed the abrupt mood change. He wanted to undo it. “Next year? Hell, I’m not even sure where I’ll be an hour from now. And who cares?”
“I’m serious, Shawn. This is all going to change. You. Me. Pam. We’re all going to go our separate ways. College is going to change everything. If I go to college. I wish I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I can’t….”
“What, no sixty-million-dollar contract to play for the Buffalo Bills?”
“Yeah, right.” Alex’s mood commenced free fall. “I don’t even know if my knee will make it through the rest of this season.”
Shawn hadn’t planned on a pity party. Not today. He needed to turn this around. “Alex. You’re bringing me down. Look, it’ll all work out all right. You’ll see. But right now, I’m hungry and Pam is waiting for us. And speaking of Pam.” He rolled onto his side and brought his face dangerously close to his best bud. If they had been any closer, they would have kissed.
Tony’s mouth dropped open. His jealous heart skipped a beat.
Shawn hadn’t planned on bringing this up today, but as long as they were on the subject…. “So, Alex. When are you going to ask Pam out?”
Alex softened. “Pam. Hmm. I want to. I do. Will you be okay with it?”
“Damn, dude. It’ll make my life so much easier.”
“Really. All that time I’ll save not having to listen to her moan and complain.” He altered his voice to sound like a nagging five-year-old. “When is Alex going to ask me out? When is Alex going to ask me out?” He changed back. “So ask her out already.”
Rather than ponder why he’d waited so long, Alex detoured back to reality. He jumped up and planted his feet. “Yeah. Okay. So let’s have a truce. My stomach is groaning.” But it didn’t take. A tackle from behind sent him crashing to the ground.
“Ha. Ha.” Shawn taunted. “I didn’t agree to the truce.” He took off running in a blur.
Alex ended up with a mouth full of leaves. He spat them out. “No fair, Shawn. No fair.”
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