Sneak Peek & GIVEAWAY: Masking the Love
Masking the Love (A Bennu Firebirds Short Story) releases Friday, June 10, so I wanted to share the first chapter and give you a chance to win not just this ebook but...
the ENTIRE Bennu Firebirds series!!
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Open internationally. Closes June 17th.
Stretching out his arms, Kade walked to the outfield. Despite it only being April, the day was unusually warm and sunny. He grinned as he looked around his favorite place in the world.
In two years, he’d hopefully be playing in the incredible Bennu Firebirds stadium, but for now, he was content soaking in the spring sun on his small-town high school’s diamond.
“Isaacs!” Dean, the second baseman, called out with clear amusement in his voice.
Kade snapped to attention, lifting his glove on instinct. Dean threw him a ball to warm up.
“Ready to destroy the Vipers?” Kade tossed it back.
He caught a scoff from near the away team’s dugout, where the pitcher and catcher were also practicing. The pitcher, Brent Adams, shook his head as he glanced over. They’d known each other since t-ball, always sitting in opposite dugouts. But rumor had it he was heading to Bennu after high school too. They might end up on the same team.
The game started, and Kade took his place at shortstop. Out here, playing ball, he was genuinely happy. He didn’t have to worry about school or drama with his friends.
He didn’t have to think about the secrets churning his insides most days.
In the bottom of the ninth, Kade’s team pulled ahead by two runs. They’d done well so far this season, but to win against their rivals was always especially exciting.
As he headed off the field, grinning and celebrating with his friends, he caught Brent’s eye. The pitcher dipped his head, but not before Kade saw the beginnings of a smile. It only added to the warmth spreading through Kade.
“You coming to Eli’s?” Dean asked, smacking Kade on the back of the shoulder, drawing his attention.
“Of course.” Kade laughed. He never missed a party. And tonight was going to be a fun one after the win; not to mention, today was the last day of school before spring break.
They quickly showered and dressed. When he headed to the parking lot, telling the others he’d meet them at Eli’s, he found his dad and sister waiting next to his car. His mom had a work trip this week, so she hadn’t made it, which he was used to at this point. Kaley’s face lit up as he neared them, and he mirrored the smile.
“You won!” she practically squealed.
With a laugh, he draped an arm around her shoulders.
“Good game.” Pride filled his dad’s eyes. As head coach of the Firebirds, Kade’s spot on his future team was up to him. Most assumed that meant Kade had an easy in. Really though, it just meant he had to work that much harder to prove himself. It was exhausting.
“Thanks.” He led his sister around to the side of the car so he could toss his bag in the backseat. “I’m going to Eli’s to celebrate if that’s okay.”
“That’s fine,” his dad said as they faced him once more. “Be home by eleven.”
The man let out a soft laugh. “Fine. Midnight.” After a pause, he added, “If you need a ride home, call me. Don’t—”
“Drink and drive. I know.” To Kaley, he asked, “You coming?”
Kade could practically feel their dad’s glare. Judging by the way she stiffened at his side, so could she. She glanced from one to the other before sighing. “No.”
Rolling his eyes, Kade kissed the side of his perfect sister’s head. He then whispered, “One of these days, you’re going to have to live a little.” Loud enough for his dad to hear, he added, “I’ll get you to break the rules someday.”
She smiled and shook her head. “I’ll see you later.”
“Be safe,” his dad said as they began walking to his car.
Kaley looked back once, and Kade raised a hand. He liked to give her a hard time, but he was secretly glad she wasn’t into partying. Though, he also hoped she’d learn to open up. They’d only moved to Summersville last year, and while he’d easily made friends through baseball, she hadn’t. She didn’t go out or have anyone over, despite joining the theater club.
“Good game, Isaacs,” a voice called.
“You too.” Kade glanced up to see Brent heading toward the other school’s bus.
The pitcher chuckled and ran a hand over his short brown hair. “Can’t believe you hit that double.”
Kade grinned and headed to his driver side door, bringing him closer to Brent. “Well, you threw it right to me.”
Brent rolled his eyes. “Yeah right. You got lucky, Badger.”
Ever since Summersville High changed their mascot to a honey badger, they’d been teased. Kade just shook his head and crossed his arms with a smirk. “You do know badgers eat snakes, right? They kill them. For sport.”
The corner of Brent’s mouth quirked up, tugging something taut within Kade’s chest. Kade needed to go. He needed to get in his car and head to the party before his teammates started pestering him—before they saw him talking to the “enemy.” But he couldn’t bring himself to move.
In his defense, Brent seemed to be stalling too.
Though they’d always played on opposing teams, even before moving to this small town, Brent had never felt like a rival. Kade could remember hanging out on playgrounds after games. Brent’s mother worked a lot and rarely made it to games, and his father wasn’t in the picture, so he often had to wait for rides growing up. At some point, Kade had become the one to stick around with him, and they’d become friends. Kind of. They never saw each other or talked outside of the ballparks, but at least here, they were friendly.
Brent cleared his throat. “I’ll, uh, see you around.”
“Yeah, see ya,” Kade said with a nod. As Brent started walking again, before he could think better of it, Kade said, “Hey, if you’re not doing anything tonight, there’s a party over on Wheeling Street.”
With a raised brow, Brent said, “Oh?”
Kade’s eyes went wide as he realized what he’d just done. “Yeah, I mean, you and the guys should come hang out.”
“We’re not going to be barred or humiliated—”
“No!” Kade shook his head. “No, I’ll make sure everyone knows I invited you. It’ll be fine. You don’t have to. I just thought I’d throw it out there.”
Why couldn’t he stop talking?
“I’ll talk to some of the team, see if they want to drive back,” Brent said just as the bus horn honked. “I should go before they leave me.”
“Okay, well, maybe I’ll see you later?”
And with that, Brent jogged to the bus. A couple teammates greeted him, glancing in Kade’s direction, clearly asking what they’d been talking about. Kade climbed into his car to hide his growing smile. Once inside, he rested against the headrest with a content sigh.
Want to read more? Pre-order Masking the Love here!
Find the rest of the series here.