AN: If you have any questions about Mike and his girlfriend, its explained briefly in chapter eleven.
Break was over way too soon. Winter quarter started at school and Jake was very reluctant to go back. He had procrastinated at home until he absolutely had to leave to go back to his dorm room.
"Come on, Halloway. We gotta get books. Might as well come with me," Dante complained.
Jake grunted at his roommate, digging through his laundry basket for a clean pair of shorts. His sister had washed his clothes for him before he'd left and he knew she had a penchant for stealing his clothes. She liked to steal all their clothes, then act like she had no clue how she came to be wearing them.
"Yeah, I know. Trick and Adam are meeting us here in a few minutes. Then I gotta be back here by nine so I can talk to Amy for a while," he muttered, stepping out of his jeans and yanking his shorts on.
"She finally get you whipped?" he joked, leaning in the doorway.
"Man, she's had be whipped since I was fifteen," he admitted with a grin, shouldering past his roommate into the hallway.
Trick and Adam were waiting for them in the lobby of the dorm, talking to a few other senior football players. They were talking about the different invites Coach had been getting for NFL training camps and draft options. It was the first Jake had heard of that particular development. He joined the group, frowning as he listened. Trick noticed his presence and smiled.
"Hey, Jake. You ready to go?"
"Yeah, man, let's get outta here."
Dante slung his arm around Jake and Trick's shoulders, having to stand on his tiptoes to do so.
"So, what's this about the NFL? Does that sweet girlfriend of yours know what's going on?" Dante taunted.
Trick moved so quick Jake didn't have time to react. He wrapped his arm around Dante's neck and dug his knuckles into his skull. Dante squawked loudly and tried to get away while Trick and Jake laughed at the juvenile move. Adam just shook his head and grinned. A few passersby stared at them, making Trick laugh harder. His grip loosened and Dante took the opportunity to get away. He was scowling and punched Trick's arm.
"Yeah, she knows."
"Why didn't I know," he asked.
Trick just shrugged.
"I don't know. I'm not sure what I'm going to do."
The three country boys glanced around at the tall buildings surrounding them and tried their best to ignore the stagnant air. Dante had been born and raised in the city. He was totally oblivious to their actions. Jake could understand his friend's hesitation.
"Who's contacted you?"
They fell into a conversation about football. Jake was surprised he hadn't heard anything about it before, especially since Bobbi knew about it. He wasn't sure how his baby sister would handle it if Trick moved out to San Fransisco. He wasn't sure if Trick could handle more of the city life. Trick loved the land like Luke did, it was in their blood. It got Jake to thinking about his own senior year. What would he do if he was invited to training camp?
A text message from Mike brought him back to the present.
I did it.
He laughed and showed the message to his younger brother. Adam grinned.
"Wonder how Bobbi's gonna take the news she isn't gonna be the only Halloway woman any more," Adam speculated, snickering.
That got Trick's attention. He stopped slap boxing with Dante to join the two Halloway brothers.
"Why's that?" he asked curiously.
"Mike proposed," Jake explained, as he typed a message to Mike asking if she had said yes.
Dante sidled up to Jake's other side, slightly out of breath.
"Which one's Mike?" he asked.
"Our oldest brother," Adam said. "He finally got the balls to ask his girlfriend of, like, seven years to marry him."
Jake's phone beeped again.
She said yes.
"Yeah, we're getting a new sister," Jake said to the three expectant men.
Adam insisted on calling Mike to congratulate him. Jake put his oldest brother on speaker phone when he answered. All four of them congratulated him. Jake and Adam teased him about finally growing a pair. It was a typical night at college.
January flew by. I was swamped with school, basketball, my horses, helping my brother and his fiancé plan their wedding, and of course spending every spare moment with Trick. Our basketball team was doing abnormally well and we were were looking at good standings in the state tournaments. That meant extra practices and more pressure from my coach to start seriously looking at a college. I couldn't seem to get it through his head that I had no interest in playing basketball in college. I didn't even know if I actually wanted to go to college.
No one was happier for Mike when he asked Abby to marry him, but as the only Halloway woman, it put me in a strange spot. She wanted me to go dress shopping with her and her other bridesmaids and all that jazz. It put me completely out of my element. I had no idea what to do or how to act. On that same note, I couldn't say no to her. I actually genuinely liked her. I couldn't be mean. Mike would kill me.
That was how I found myself in a dress shop in Columbus with six other women. It was a fairly large wedding party. My four other brothers were groom's men, along with Mike's best friend, and, to my surprise, Trick. There was just no way to get around the size when there were five brothers. I followed the six women around the store, listening to them talk about dress styles and colors. They might as well have been talking in Latin. Abby had one sister, the other five were friends of hers from high school and college. I felt very out of place in my Wranglers and boots. They were all dressed in business casual clothes. For Abby's sake I tried to keep up with the dress talk.
I absently flipped through racks of dresses. The shopping trip was to find bridesmaids' dresses, but Abby was keeping her eye out for her wedding dress too. It was tradition in her family to shop for wedding dresses with their mothers. Abby's sister held up a blue halter necked dress. It was simple and pretty, but didn't match the wedding colors. Nonetheless, she talked Abby into having everyone try that style to start getting a feel for what looked good on everyone.
When it came around to my turn I slipped into the dressing room without complaint, determined to keep a good attitude for Abby. The dress fit me like a glove. I stepped out of the dressing room so Abby could see. The other bridesmaids, I had a hard time keeping them straight, all twittered and giggled. The tall redhead, her name was Marianne, smiled at me. She was one of Abby's friends from college.
"Bobbi, you look amazing!" she exclaimed, grabbing my hand and urging me to turn in a circle for them.
I flushed and did as she asked. They all ganged up on me, gushing about how pretty I looked. I didn't know if that was typical girl behavior or what, but it made me pretty uncomfortable. The process continued for three more hours. It didn't take long for a sales associate to figure out Abby was serious about finding dresses that day and start helping us out. I was glad for my worn in boots within the first hour. My feet didn't hurt and my Wranglers and sweatshirt made changing in and out of dresses extremely quick. The other girls gushed about how nice I looked every time I stepped out of the dressing room and, while I was flattered, it was really beginning to annoy me.
Leigh, one of Abby's friends from high school, thrust a lavender creation at me and shoved me into the dressing room. I was beginning to think they were just enjoying torturing me. I stepped into the dress and scowled at my reflection. It was a goofy looking number that only had one shoulder and a bunch of slashes in the back that bared way too much skin for my comfort. Not to mention looking like some animal shredded it. I sighed and stepped out of the cubicle, doing the twirl I'd become accustomed to. Leigh mock glared at me.
"Girl, I'm jealous," she said, waving the others over.
They whispered furiously to themselves for a few seconds. I shifted uncomfortably. Abby threw me an apologetic glance, knowing I was getting to the end of my rope.
"Wow, you weren't kidding. She can wear anything," Liz, another one of Abby's college friends, said as she circled me.
Liz made me very uncomfortable. I just rolled my eyes. I had no idea what they were so fascinated with. They were dresses. They all looked just fine in every singe one they had tried on too.
"Ugh, I would die for your curves," Marianne agreed.
The others nodded in agreement. I was starting to get a little flustered. No one had ever wanted to look like me before. I was too tall, not thin enough, and never remembered to wear makeup.
"Uh, thanks," I muttered, backing back into the dressing room.
After that I refused to try on any more dresses. Abby didn't push the matter. She knew me well enough to know I was way past my comfort zone. They didn't shop for very much longer after that. Everyone decided on the first style of dress, only in a really pretty sea foam green. We all had to get our measurements taken. The sales clerk took the orders and promised to have the dresses done in three weeks, when we would have to come back for the final fitting. Everyone was hungry after that many hours shopping. We were only a few blocks from the little diner Trick had taken me to for breakfast so we headed over there.
Much to my delight Mama remembered me. We had barely walked in the door before she let out a cry of excitement and bustled over to our group to fuss over us. She didn't hesitate to wrap me in a tight hug, beaming the whole time. I couldn't help the grin that spread over my face. She ushered us to a large table and took our drink orders, asking how I had been and how Trick was behaving. It was nice. She hustled off toward the kitchen once she had our drink orders, leaving us to look over the menus and talk.
Abby leaned forward to talk to me.
"So how does she know you?" she asked curiously.
I smiled at the memory.
"Trick brought me here for breakfast a while back. He's been coming here since his freshman year and she's been making sure he's well fed," I explained.
The other girls leaned forward, smelling a good story.
"Who's Trick?" Kelsy, another college friend, asked curiously.
I smiled, feeling my cheeks redden.
That sent them into a mess of questions and giggles. I was taken aback. It was almost like they couldn't believe the tomboy could have a boyfriend. I just watched them and realized I hadn't been missing much by not having girl friends. My patience for the day was running thin and I couldn't help hoping that Trick decided to join us for lunch. I had sent him and my brothers a text message that we were having lunch at Mama's diner.
"How did you guys meet?" Marianne asked at the same time that Liz asked how long we'd been dating and Kelsy asked how old he was.
I blinked for a second before answering.
"He's twenty-four. I met him through my brother Jake. They play football together. And we've been dating for four and a half months," I explained.
Nora, the fifth of Abby's friends, grinned at me, eyes sparkling. I liked her the most out of the group, other than Abby of course.
"Where does he play football?" she asked.
Liz butted in, smirking.
"Better yet, what's he look like?"
My hackles went up at her tone. I narrowed my eyes at her, letting her know on no uncertain terms I didn't appreciate her attitude.
"He played for OSU, but he was a senior this year, so I don't know where he's headed after this," I said to Nora. Turning to Liz I gave her a smirk of my own. "He's about six and a half feet tall, dark hair, blue eyes."
Her mouth twisted like she didn't believe me. Fortunately, at about that same moment, I heard Mama's greeting cry and turned to see Trick stooping to kiss her cheek. He was flanked by Jake and Adam. I stood to go hug them.
"Ack! Trick, you handsome dog! Your lady's here. Come. Sit," Mama was saying, obviously flustered by the charming grins on my brothers' faces.
I grinned. Trick caught my eye and grinned back, side stepping Mama to sweep me into a hug. He lifted my feet off the ground for a few seconds, burying his face in my hair. I bit my lip to keep from giggling. He set me back on the ground and gave me a quick kiss before Jake could protest. I did giggle at that and ducked under his arm to tackle my brothers. They each hugged me and kissed my cheek. I slipped my hand into Trick's and hooked elbows with Adam.
"You guys have no idea how glad I am to see you," I hissed quietly.
Adam grinned at me in that easy way of his.
"What, baby sis, don't like being a girl?" he teased just as quietly.
I stuck my tongue out at him and approached the table feeling much more confident with my guys surrounding me. Trick was busy avoiding my eyes, trying not to laugh at me. I frowned playfully at him, but he just squeezed my hand and bit his lip. His eyes were twinkling with humor. Abby and her sister, Emily, stood to hug my brothers and boyfriend. The other four girls looked somewhat shocked.
"Girls, these are my soon to be brothers-in-law," Abby introduced, making me blush by including Trick in that statement. "This is Jake, Adam, and Trick."
The boys each nodded in acknowledgment when Abby said their names. I caught Liz eying Trick's snug hold on my hand and had to bite my lip to keep from smirking. Everyone exchanged hellos. Mama came bustling over with three extra chairs and fluttered around until the boys were settled. I was extremely glad to find myself squished between Trick and Jake. Adam casually took a seat next to Emily. They were the same age and had been pretty good friends in high school. Once everyone settled in Abby finished the introductions.
"Guy, these are my bridesmaids. Marianne, Leigh, Liz, and Kelsy. And of course Emily and Bobbi."
It didn't take the girls very long to start getting over their shock. They jumped right into talking. Trick took the opportunity to tug my chair closer to his and put his arm around my shoulder.
"How'd dress shopping go?" he asked quietly in my ear.
I scowled. He chuckled and kissed my temple.
"We found dresses everyone likes, so it was productive," I said diplomatically.
He muffled his laugh in my hair. I frowned and pinched his thigh, unwilling to let him see my amusement from his teasing. Jake peered at me questioningly.
"What's so funny?"
I shook my head and smiled.
"Apparently the thought of me in a dress," I said dryly.
Trick's chuckles stopped immediately. Jake just rolled his eyes and turned back to what Abby was saying. I looked at my boyfriend. He was watching me thoughtfully, eyes dark. It warmed my insides up.
"What?" I asked self consciously.
He was still holding my hand under the table. His thumb stroked my knuckles hypnotically.
"I'm laughing at the thought of what your face must have looked like every time they made you put on a dress," he corrected.
I smacked his arm.
"I'll have you know I behaved myself," I insisted.
It sent him into another round of chuckles. Abby was grinning at us by that point. She was sitting across the table from us. I rolled my eyes at his behavior, hiding my own grin.
"You want to see the dress we settled on?" she asked, handing him her cell phone.
I peeked over his shoulder at the picture. It was of me in the blue dress. Even I had to admit I looked pretty good.
"When did you take that?" I demanded when I realized I hadn't noticed her taking any pictures.
It was her turn to giggle. I narrowed my eyes at her guilty look. She refused to meet my eyes.
"You weren't paying attention," she admitted. "I had to have proof you actually put on a dress."
I was extremely confused by that statement. Trick was pushing buttons on her phone. I was torn between trying to see what he was doing and trying to figure out why my brother's fiancé was taking pictures of me in a dress.
Mama sailed in to save Abby from answering. She started placing our food in front of us. The little woman had a way of making me smile. She fussed over Trick and my brothers, muttering about big strong boys needing lots of good food. Both Jake and Adam were beaming appreciatively. I had a feeling Mama had earned two more adoring fans. Trick's phone beeped during all the chaos and I peeked at the message when he opened it. He tilted the screen so I could see. The brat had sent himself the picture from Abby's phone. I rolled my eyes and watched him as he set it as his background, secretly pleased. It also reminded me of the conversation I'd been having with Abby. Once everything settled back down I turned my attention back to her.
"So why do you have to have proof of me wearing a dress?" I asked.
She giggled again.
"One of my class's found out you were in my wedding and a couple of the boys were pretty sure you'd never wear anything but jeans," she explained. "So we have a little bet going."
I wasn't sure how I felt about that.
"Oh jeez. I better get a cut of whatever you make," I finally said.
She laughed and promised me to cut me in. Trick smiled. I snuggled in to his side a little closer and ate my lunch. It was a perfect way to end a shopping trip. I decided I didn't mind the girls, just as long as I only had to be around that many of them in small doses. The boys only stayed for an hour before they had to get to class. Trick kissed me quickly before they left and Jake whispered and apology for leaving me to the wolves in my ear. Adam just hugged me and kissed the top of my head.
Liz turned to me as soon as the door shut.
"Damn girl! Are all your brothers that hot?" she acted like she was fanning herself with her napkin. "Don't even get me started on that boyfriend of yours..."
I glared at her. Boy crazy girls drove me nuts. They always seemed so desperate.
"Well, they're my brothers, but they all pretty much look like that. Adam has an identical twin. Mike and Jake could be twins except for the height difference. And Luke's definitely our brother," I shrugged.
Nora shook her head.
"Wow. It had to suck having five older brothers," she said, awe coloring her tone.
"Eh, I love it. They watch my back and pick on me, but I'm the only girl in the family so they spoil me rotten too."
Liz still had a dreamy look on her face. She glared playfully between Abby and myself.
"You lucky girls. Those boys can spoil me any day they want to," she murmured.
I think she was joking, but I wasn't sure. It was a little creepy. Abby and I exchanged amused glances. She nudged her friend.
"You should see their dad," she teased.
Just like that the atmosphere snapped back to light bantering. For a little while longer I could forget about the upcoming basketball tournaments and relax with my soon to be sister.
Trick stared at the stack of paper in front of him without actually seeing them. He didn't want to make a choice. At one time football had been his whole life, but that had changed when he got into college. He had injured his shoulder in a game his sophomore year. He'd been a medical red shirt his junior year to recover fully. After two surgeries and eight months recovery he had realized the toll the game took on his body. Add Bobbi into that mix and he wasn't sure the game was for him any more.
The other side of him wanted nothing more than to play at the professional level. He loved learning plays and keeping himself in shape. He loved hitting people. He loved striving to be the best and he loved to win. It was exhilarating. The letter from Tennessee stared at him from the top of the stack. They had made him a pretty sweet deal. No one was going to make him sign a deal if he didn't want to. It wasn't going to hurt to go to the camp. He still had his student teaching to do during the last six weeks of winter quarter, and spring quarter to finish.
"Have you made any choices, Storms?"
He snapped out of his thoughts to pay attention to his coach. It was something he had talked in depth about with Bobbi. She told him to go for it, whatever his choice was, and she'd have his back.
"I'm going to go to the training camp in Tennessee," he said finally.
Coach's eyes lit up. He had put his neck on the line multiple times for Trick in the past five years and it had paid off. It made him feel like a proud parent to know Trick was going to give professional ball a chance. The camp in Tennessee would have coaches from all over there scouting.
"What's the girlfriend got to say about that?" Coach asked, knowing Bobbi Halloway had a tight hold on three of his big players.
"She's supportive of whatever my choice is," he shrugged, smiling slightly and feeling pretty lucky.
They talked for a few more minutes about details of workouts and what was going to happen with the training camp. Trick was going to be spending a lot of time in the gym to keep in top shape.
Once he left Coach's office he called Bobbi. She answered the phone a little breathless. He heard Mike and Nick's voices in the background along with the sounds of the milking parlor. It made him smile.
"Hey, baby girl. I talked to Coach," he greeted.
The eagerness in her voice made him smile wider.
"So what did you decide?" she asked.
"I'm going to the camp in Tennessee," he explained.
She cheered in excitement and he realized he was excited about his decision; he was excited about the prospects. It was like Bobbi said, he had the rest of his life to be a teacher. He only had now to play football.
Here ya go! I'm trying to get back on a roll. This is a little shorter and has a little more action in it. Next chapter it will really pick back up. I apologize for not getting back to my reviewers last chapter. My break's been extremely busy. My mom and I are making my show clothes for this season and I've had a few orders from other people. I've been dreaming about sewing lately. Anywho... Thank to all that have reviewed. I really appreciate every bit of encouragement and criticism. Every little bit helps me grow as a writer and usually puts a ridiculous grin on my face. Hope everyone is enjoying the Spring sunshine! If I don't see you before, Happy Easter!