Title: Scrimmage Gone South
Series: Gone South #2
Author: Alicia Hunter Pace
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Series: Gone South #2
Author: Alicia Hunter Pace
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Release Date: May 5, 2020
Welcome to Merritt, Alabama, where summers are lazy, tea is sweet, and guests are always welcome.
Thirteen years ago, Tolly Lee cost Nathan Scott his future in the NFL—and he’s never forgiven her for it. Tolly was only sixteen when she led college senior Nathan to believe she was older, but she never imagined he’d want to pursue a long-distance relationship. When he learned the truth, they both paid a heavy price…
Tolly didn’t think she’d ever see Nathan again. Now that he’s returned and taken a job as a high school football coach, it’s only a matter of time before the good citizens of Merritt find out she’s the one who cost their hometown hero his future. When that happens, Tolly will lose everything she’s worked for.
Nathan wouldn’t have taken the job if he’d known Tolly had set up shop on Main Street - but he can’t back out now. When an orphaned teenager needs mentoring to get on the right path, Nathan will have to form an uneasy truce with Tolly. As old resentments resurface, so do old attractions. After all this time, the end zone might finally be in sight….
Author note: "We hope you will enjoy this re-release from the Gone South series. Scrimmage Gone South, a stand alone novel, was originally published by Crimson Romance in 2013.”
And before Tolly could speak another word, Nathan propelled her in front of him and drove her through the crowd like she was a trolling motor on a bass boat.
Once on the front porch, she spoke the first words she’d said to him in over a decade—thirteen years to be exact, almost to the day.
“Nathan, let me go!”
And for the first time in as many years, he answered her. “Townshend, you are coming with me.”
Townshend. She’d almost forgotten that he used to call her by her real name, not the baby name that four-year-old Harris had christened her with because he couldn’t say Townshend. No one, not even teachers, had ever called her anything but Tolly—no one but Nathan. He had called her that because that was how she’d introduced herself that night so long ago when she’d wanted to be daring and do something unexpected, instead of being the eternal good girl.
“Where do you think you’re taking me?” she demanded.
“I don’t think anything. I know we’re going to sit in my truck and have a little chat.” He pulled her down the steps, none too slow and none too gently. She stumbled and he caught her.
“Hey. Stilettos here,” she said through gritted teeth.
“That’ll teach you to wear shoes that won’t take you where you need to go.”
“I don’t need to go anywhere with you.”
He stopped dead in the middle of the sidewalk. “The day is done when I care what you need. What you are going to do is march yourself over to my pickup truck and climb in. I’ve got some things to say to you.” He pointed down the block to where his big black truck was parked.
So, finally, after all this time. She had half expected this when he had first moved back here to replace the recently fired Merritt High head football coach. But he’d remained silent and she’d relaxed—apparently too soon.
“My car is closer,” she offered.
“So it is.” He made to move her toward his truck, but she planted her feet.
She could refuse. A carload of Methodists had just pulled up and were unloading casserole dishes. Dr. Carlyle was emerging from the house. They would save her, even though she was Episcopalian. She was sure of it.
“Townshend,” Nathan said. It was only then that she noticed just how far beyond angry he was—he was shaking livid. “Get your butt down that street and into my truck or I will make a scene that will get me fired and land us both in jail. I swear I will do it.”
She believed him. And a scene was the last thing she wanted. Airing her dirty linen in public—especially this dirty linen—would be the worst thing in Bad City. If the people of Merritt found out what she’d done, what she had cost their hometown hero, life here would be over.
But why the confrontation now? Until today, he'd seemed as eager as she to keep their past a secret. And why was he, all of a sudden, so mad? He'd been mad thirteen years ago, sure. But since, there had only been cold distance. Maybe it was the ham she'd brought that set him off. Maybe he thought pot roast was a more appropriate bereavement food. That made as much sense as anything.
She let him guide her down the street. He slowed down, though whether it was in deference to her high heels or because of his bad knee, she couldn’t say.
Nathan jerked the truck door open, picked up a playbook and knee brace from the passenger side, and threw them behind the seat. It was a long way to the running board and Tolly was not a tall woman. She pulled up her pencil skirt and started to climb. After she slipped twice, Nathan scowled at her and picked her up and threw her in. He wasn’t rough about it, but he was resolved.
He launched himself behind the wheel and turned on her all in one furious motion.
“Keep your hands off my QB-One,” he said.
What? Tolly literally felt her eyes glaze over. She was expecting a rant on her past sins, but what was this?
Nathan must have noted her perplexed expression. “Don’t even try that with me, Townshend. You can pretend to be stupid with everyone else. For reasons I cannot fathom, even Harris seems to believe you have no knowledge of football terminology. But just in case you have had a lobotomy that I am unaware of, I will be clear. Keep your hands off my first string quarterback. Seven. Kirby Lawson. Do not touch him. Ever again.”
Now she was really confused. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Nathan.”
“Do not touch him. If you still need for somebody to think you’re the cutest little thing north of a bow on a pig’s tail, go sell yourself somewhere else. I’m sure you’d have plenty of buyers. But it’s not going to be my quarterback.”
As comprehension finally set in, heat and ice formed in her stomach and radiated outward to her heart, her hands, and finally her tongue. The ice that she always depended on to keep her emotions in check abandoned her.
“Oh, my God! Kirby is a boy. A child. He works for me. What kind of person do you think I am?”
Nathan raised his shaking hands in front of him and closed his eyes. “I think,” he said between clenched teeth as he gripped the steering wheel. “I think you are the kind of person who will lie, deceive, and pretend. I think you are the kind of person who will do whatever it takes to get attention. I think you play with people. I think they don’t come much lower than you, Townshend Harris Lee, of the Calhoun County Harrises and Lees.”
Calm. Cool. She lived by it. “You do know,” she said slowly, giving the ice time to chase the fire away, “that lie, deceive, and pretend, all mean basically the same thing. You have, therefore, been redundant in your speech.”
Nathan hit the steering wheel with his fist. “You know plenty about all three.”
“I was not flirting with that child.”
“I saw you. I saw you holding his hand, hugging him, and smiling like he was the best thing on Earth—doing whatever it took to make him think you are the most amazing thing to ever priss her expensive ass across a courtroom floor.” Nathan’s voice then turned to a mocking falsetto that might have been funny under different circumstances. “‘Kirby, honey, call me if you need anything. Or if you just want to talk. I mean it.’”
There was anger beneath the frozen calm but Tolly no longer felt it. “What you saw, was me—an adult woman—offering comfort to a devastated boy who has lost the only stable person in his life.”
“Adult, huh? Is that what you are these days?”
“You know very well I was not flirting with Kirby.”
“I am an authority, maybe even the authority on what Townshend Lee will and will not do. If there was a journal called Townshend Harris Lee and her Lying Cheating Scheming Debutante Ways, they would hire me to be the editor. I would be the keynote speaker at every conference. I would lead panel discussions.”
“Nathan, I was sixteen years old.” Tolly’s voice was quiet.
“And therein was the problem, wasn’t it?”
Tolly picked up her bag from the floorboard. “I’m getting out of this truck, Nathan, and I am going to get in my car and go back to work.” Just to show she was in control, she removed a lipstick from her purse and took her time reapplying it. Then she carefully blotted her mouth with a tissue. “You know very well I have no unsavory intentions toward Kirby. If he thinks well of me, it’s not because of my scheming ways, as you so eloquently put it. It’s because I’ve been good to him. It’s because I pay him more than it’s worth to put up my Christmas decorations and because I invented a dozen odd jobs last spring so he’d have money for the prom. Your implications are not only insulting but preposterous. Though I wouldn’t expect you to care about either one. If you ever feel the need to have a reasonable conversation with me about our past, I will do that. But I will never again sit still and let you accuse me of something like this.”
“Stay away from my quarterback. I’ll be watching you.”
Without acknowledging that Nathan had spoken again, Tolly hiked up her skirt, jumped down from the monstrous truck, and clicked on her high heels all the way back to her Mercedes. She never looked back once.
And that was hard.
Releasing June 2
Releasing July 7
Stephanie Jones and Jean Hovey write together as Alicia Hunter Pace.
Stephanie lives in Tuscaloosa, AL, where she teaches school and wishes for a bigger bookstore. She is a native Alabamian who likes football, civil war history, and people who follow the rules. She is happy to provide a list of said rules to anyone who needs them.
Jean, a former public librarian, lives in Decatur, AL, with her husband in a hundred-year-old house that always wants something from her. She likes to cook but has discovered the joy of Mrs. Paul’s fish fillets since becoming a writer.
Stephanie and Jean are both active members in the romance writing community. They write contemporary romantic comedy. They love to hear from readers.