Chapter One

Game day.

First one in Aiming Academy's football season and Cain Winchester hadn't slept at all the night before. He was always a wreck for an entire 24 hours before a game – not that he let other people see or know that fact.

Cain watched his housemates preparing for the day's classes. Spencer still hadn't learned to knot his own tie and Adam was getting tired of trying to teach him. Tamara and Natalie were bickering about some chick thing or another. Little Claire Lyaness leaned with her back against the wall, dwarfed by the history book she was holding open and trying to get in a little last minute studying.

Axel entered the entry hall and gave Cain a lopsided grin. "You ready for it?"

"Yeah," Cain told him. "I probably won't get much play time so I'm not worried though."

Axel looked amused. "I meant for Chaplin's quiz," he clarified.

Cain laughed out loud at that. "Hell no. Are any of us?"

"Probably not," Natalie said. "We have better things to do than study." Which was true. Every single student living in Weaver House used as much time as was plausible to train for whatever sport he or she happened to be on scholarship for at Aiming. Classes were generally easy . . . for the most part . . . most of the time. Chaplin's class was the only notable exception so far.

"Cassidy might be," Axel said, naming Cain's violent but intelligent, and overall difficult-to-live-with roommate. "That cat's crazy."

Cain had his doubts – about Cassidy being ready for the quiz. Not about him being crazy. That was a given. "I haven't seen him do more than skim his text book," he told the others.

Axel gave a one shouldered shrug in response to this information.

"We better get a move on it," Tamara cut in before anymore could be said on that subject. "I don't think Chaplin was joking about locking out anyone who comes late."

Yeah . . . Probably not, Cain decided. "Let's go people!" he shouted to the rest of the house. "We can't be late for Chaplin's quiz!"

The rest of the Weaver House kids began streaming steadily into the entry hall. Cassidy was among the last to enter, and when he did his expression was challenging, almost defiant. On his head, looking extremely strange with the rest of his school uniform, was a cowboy hat. Several of the other Weaver House kids stared at him for a moment.

"What's with the hat?" Cain asked finally.

"It's game day," Cassidy said, as though that explained everything.

"And?" Cain prompted, because it didn't.

"I always wear my Stetson on game day," Cassidy told him unapologetically. He walked past a number of their housemates who loitered in the entry hall, heading directly for the door.

"You look like a freak!" Spencer told him, and looked anxiously at Cassidy, waiting for a reaction. When he received none, he continued. "You really do, you know that? What the hell do you want to look like a preppy cowboy for?"

Spencer might as well have not been talking for all Cassidy seemed to care. Cain shook his head as Spencer kept at it.

"You really think Chaplin's gonna let you wear that in class? Don't you care that you look like a complete idiot? Are you even listening to me?!" Spencer demanded.

The door slamming shut was his only answer.