To celebrate my last day of exams, here's a new story! PLEASE READ THIS; IT IS IMPORTANT! So this story is sort of a sequel/companion novel to my previous story, Playing the Game. If you have read it, then you'll be fine. If not, I did my best to give a brief summary of the background information. Beyond this chapter (which is more of an intro), you should be able to understand everything. For those of you who read PTG, this story is in Jake's POV! I know many of you wanted to see him get some sort of a conclusion, so here it is. I really hope you guys like this. I'm not sure how long it'll be, but since I'm on break now, I should be able to post almost every day! Enjoy :)

Chapter One

My feelings for Carly didn't start right away. I liked her the first time I met her, but it was nothing more than an innocent friendship. She was nice, smart, and funny, and I enjoyed her company. But then something changed. I'm not sure when exactly, but I knew it for sure when she kissed me at the party. So why did I reject her? I'm an idiot; that's why. One bad relationship and I quit for good. What was I thinking? Carly would never hurt me like Vanessa, my previous girlfriend, did. To sum it up: I blew it.

Let me back up.

Carly was the new girl at school this year. She had blue eyes, long blond hair, and was the nicest person I had ever met. And somehow, she ended up sitting at my lunch table and joining my group of friends. She was the perfect candidate to join the popular crowd – maybe even the cheer squad – but she chose to join us. We were just your average teenagers, nothing special.

I made it clear from the beginning – when our friends started making hints about us getting together – that I didn't do relationships. I told her that I wasn't into dating, but I didn't explain why. But despite this, she made a move on me. We were at a party, sitting in a dark hallway alone, and she was venting to me about how she just found out that her ex-boyfriend, Logan, slept with one of her old friends just months after she moved away. And I guess I may have led her to lean in and kiss me by saying something along the lines of, "he's an ass for hurting someone as amazing as you," but I did stop her. I knew she was upset and probably not thinking clearly, so I pushed her back and said that I didn't do relationships. And that was the exact moment that I utterly blew it.

After that, things were a little weird between us. We didn't talk for a while, but even when we started again, it was just awkward. I didn't want it to be, it just turned out that way. She was embarrassed, but she didn't realize how regretful I was.

But now she was in some sort of "it's complicated" relationship with Hunter Donovan. What did he have that I didn't have? Oh, right. Pretty much everything. He was captain of the football team, the most popular guy in the senior class, and surprisingly intelligent. Needless to say, almost every girl in the school was infatuated with him. He had that whole bad-boy aura about him that girls went crazy for. Me? I couldn't quite master it.

But to top it all off, Hunter was quite obviously captivated by Carly. He had never been in an actual relationship or had actual, genuine feelings for anyone in his entire life until he met Carly. Just my luck.

So why I thought I could make up for everything by asking her to Winter Formal, I have no clue. But I did, so I built up my courage one Monday and tried to keep my cool at lunch. But ever since the kiss, it was becoming increasingly difficult. I found myself inadvertently staring at her. I thought she was pretty before, but now I realized how truly beautiful she was.

The second she stood up from the table and said she was leaving, I jumped up and said, "Wait, I'll come with you." I slung my backpack over my shoulder and followed her out of the cafeteria. She seemed surprised and a little uncomfortable, which only made me more nervous. What if she said no solely because she didn't want to? I quickly pushed the thoughts out of my head.

"So I heard you guys talking about the dance," I said, trying to sound casual. She looked over at me, but I kept my head down. I knew if I looked at her, I would be at a loss for words.

"Yeah, are you going?" Carly asked as we turned down the next hallway. This was it. My one and only chance to ask her and make things right – and maybe even better than before.

But of course, I lost whatever cool I had mustered up. "Uh, well, I…would y–" I stammered pitifully, only to be interrupted by the last person I wanted to see. Hunter freaking Donovan. Shit.

"Carly!" he shouted, jogging down the hall toward us. Carly's face lit up as she waved to him shyly.

I didn't understand what she saw in the guy. He was an asshole. Hunter had been using girls since at least the eighth grade. I swear he had a different girl on his arm each week, and sometimes it was two girls at once. Why did girls go for that? What's so special about "bad boys?" Why is it that guys like me, who only want to make girls happy, always get left behind? That's exactly what happened with Vanessa. She cheated on me with some punk who dumped her a week later. When she came crying back to me, I asked her if it was worth it. She couldn't give me an answer. So I didn't take her back.

It took me a second to realize that Carly had asked me a question. "I'll talk to you later?" she had asked. I paused before replying. I had lost my chance. Maybe I could get her to wait three more seconds so I could ask her before Hunter did.

"Uh, well," I began. I wanted to tell her I had something to say. I wanted to tell her it was urgent. But of course, I didn't. Instead, I replied, "Yeah, sure." I gave her a tight smile, and then began to walk away down the hall. As I turned the corner, someone stepped out in front of me.

"That was rough." I looked up and nearly grimaced when I saw who it was. Isa Merz. She was, by far, the biggest bitch in the school. Now, I didn't usually call people bitches, so when I did, you knew I meant it. She had done some crazy shit since she came last year, and somehow it all got her to the top of the food chain. A metaphorical food chain, of course. So why the hell was she talking to me?

"I have to go," I muttered, pushing past her. I really wasn't in the mood to be belittled by the most popular girl in the senior class. But she wouldn't let me get away that quickly. Isa grabbed my arm and pulled me back.

"I can help you," she said, smirking deviously. I stared at her skeptically.

"What do you mean?" I asked. There was no way she could know anything about me, let alone my feelings for Carly. Isa let go of me and crossed her arms. She took a step forward, closing the gap between us.

"Don't play dumb with me," she purred. "I know all about you and your little crush on the new girl."

"I don't know what you're talking about," I replied stubbornly. She shook her head disapprovingly, raising an eyebrow.

"I saw you," she went on amusedly. "You're smitten – the way you get all shy and nervous around her. It's sweet. Well, sickening, really. But I can help you win her over. That is, if you're willing to get your hands a little dirty."

"I don't need your help with anything," I said. Isa gave me a look of pity and placed her hand on my arm.

"Aw, what a nice boy," she cooed. "You want to win the girl by being a good guy. I hate to break it to you, sweetie, but that's not going to work. If you want her, you have to break the rules a little. But don't worry, I'll help you."

"Why?" I snapped. "Why do you even care?" Her face transitioned into a scowl.

"Because," she snapped back, "Hunter is mine. That bitch stole him from me, and I'm going to steal him back. But I can't do it without you." I smirked and shook my head.

"So you're not offering your help, you're asking for mine," I replied amusedly. She glared at me with even more hatred, but I just snorted. "I don't think she's the bitch here," I whispered. I began to walk away, feeling quite satisfied with myself, but she made me stop again.

"Do you want her or not?" Isa demanded. I paused and turned back to her. I thought it over for a moment. I did want Carly, and I was aware that being nice wasn't going to get me anywhere. But was making a deal with a snake like Isa really worth it? How did I know that once Isa got what she wanted, she wouldn't turn around and bite me…again, metaphorically speaking. She couldn't be trusted, and I knew that. Everyone knew that. But something in the look in her eyes made me want to think otherwise. I couldn't exactly describe it.

"Yes," I said softly, looking down sheepishly.

"Then let me help you," she urged. "I already have a plan. All you have to do is follow what I say and leave all the dirty work to me." I debated it for a second more then came to a conclusion.

"Fine," I said. "I'm in."

Please let me know what you thought and if I should continue with this story. If this chapter gets enough reviews, I'll post the next one tomorrow, and I promise it'll be longer! Until next time, XOXO