Home > Rivaled (Kensley Panthers #4)

Rivaled (Kensley Panthers #4)
Author: Nicole Dykes








“Coach.” I look up from my desk and stifle my groan when I see it’s the principal of the high school where I work, but I force a small smile on my face.

“What can I do for you, Principal Gates?”

The older man walks into the room and takes the seat across for me, which is usually reserved for football players who piss me off. “I wanted to let you know I found you an assistant coach.”

I grimace, and this time I can’t hide it. “Is that so?”

“Yes. He’s well-qualified.” He runs his hand over his balding head and chuckles. “He might actually be over-qualified, but I decided to grab him anyway.”

“What do you mean over-qualified?” I raise my brow in question, already dreading his answer. I don’t want an assistant coach. I can get by just fine without one, I’m sure. Better than having someone on my heels when I’m trying to do my job.

“Chance Leighton has been hired on.”

“Chance Leighton?” I try to place the name. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it before, but where? And then, it hits me, and I narrow my eyes. “He’s a Bear.”

Principal Gates just huffs, tossing a hand in my direction as if I’m acting like a child. “Listen, this is business. I’m not letting some petty rivalry get in the way. You need an assistant coach. He’s an assistant coach.

“For the Big Bend Bears.” Our greatest rival—going way, way back before my time. “Hell, he even played football in high school for them.”

“He did. Which makes him qualified to coach high-school football. And he played some college ball before he moved back home to be the assistant coach in Big Bend for a few years.”

I can’t seem to lift my jaw from where it’s dropped to the floor. He wants to hire a Big Bend Bear? “My guys will never trust him. This rivalry goes deep. Really deep. There’s a real hatred there.”

When he doesn’t respond, I continue, “And besides, this kid—this Chance—he’s what, three years out of high school? He’s a damn child himself. How is he supposed to help me coach these kids?”

Anthony—that’s Principal Gates’s first name and what he usually insists I call him—stands up, now completely flustered. “Listen, I’m doing you a damn favor here, Noah.” I don’t know what the hell that’s supposed to mean. “And I believe he’s been out of high school for seven years now.”

Christ, that makes him what, twenty-five? He really is a kid.

“He played college ball for three years and then came back to coach for four years,” Anthony supplies even though I didn’t ask.

“Why did he leave?”

He waves that off too. “Oh, you know, high-school politics.”

I really don’t. I don’t pay much attention to that shit. “What does that mean?”

He places his hands on my desk, leaning forward slightly. “It means don’t worry about it. You have yourself a new assistant coach just in time for next season. It’s a good thing, Noah. Embrace it.”

“The team won’t trust him. He’s a Bear.”

“They will if you tell them to,” he shoots back like it’s simple. But these damn kids are hard of hearing. Stubborn to their core. They won’t trust a former Big Bend Bear just because I tell them to.

“Anthony—” I start, but he cuts me off, standing up to his full height.

“He’ll be here any minute, and I expect you to play nice. I don’t need a headache this year. Do you hear me?”

I nod curtly just as a shadow fills my doorway, and a tall figure walks in like he owns the damn place. My eyes narrow on the intruder who’s much taller than Principal Gates. He’s closer to my own height and might even have an inch or two on me.

He’s in shape. There’s no hiding that. The black cutout shirt he’s wearing shows off lean, trimmed biceps, and his shorts don’t hide his impressive calf muscles.

His dark hair is a little long for my liking. I prefer to keep mine on the shorter side. Less hot in the summer. He’s also not clean-shaven but isn’t sporting a full beard. His dark facial hair is trimmed neatly and kept short, but there’s still too much scruff in my opinion.

His groomed beard does nothing to hide his chiseled jawline and sharp cheekbones, though, and his brown eyes are playful with a golden hint in them, which seems to spark when he smiles at me. “Coach Asher.”

I stand and eye Chance Leighton for the first time since last season. His head coach kept him on the sidelines for the most part, and I didn’t have much contact with him. But now that I see him, I recognize him.

Definitely not a kid.

But not a grown man either. I don’t need an assistant. Especially a cocky as shit, Big Bend Bear who acts like he invented the game.

I stand up and shake his hand because that’s what’s expected of me. “Leighton.”

Anthony gives me a dirty look and then plasters a fake-as-hell smile on his face as he places a hand on Chance’s shoulder. “That’s Assistant Coach Leighton now.”

Chance smiles at that, either not picking up on Anthony’s bullshit or just playing the game, like I am.

Because sometimes in small towns like Kensley, it’s best to just keep your head down and hope like hell the gossip mill finds someone else to talk about.

That’s sure as hell what I’ve been hoping would happen for the past couple of years.

Of course, it hasn’t happened yet.









“You’re running them pretty hard, don’t you think, Coach?”

Coach Asher—who’s pretty much told me no one is allowed to call him by his first name—shoots a glare my way and then continues to run these kids ragged. It’s hot as hell out here today.

August in Western Kansas will melt your damn face off.

The guys are running around in pads in a hundred-degree heat and looking pretty damn worn-out, but Coach doesn’t seem too worried about it.

I’m sure he played high-school ball. Hell, what high-school football coach didn’t? And yeah, he’s a little older than me—my guess would be around ten years or maybe a little more.

I didn’t ask or look him up. Maybe I should have, but as someone who’s been denied the kindness of privacy over the past year, I decided to bestow that grace on him for now.

Even if it’s been nearly twenty years since he played, he has to remember what these grueling summer practices were like. Your chest burning. Your muscles aching. Feeling dizzy and sick to your stomach like you’re going to puke or pass out. I’ve seen plenty of players pass out.


He aims those eyes my way—pale blue and full of anger and disappointment. I can see why these kids listen when he speaks. He screams authority. And normally, that would be intriguing to me, but I don’t need another scandal, nor do I need to be knocked out by some good ole boy.

So I try like hell not to notice how his red t-shirt clings to muscles he shouldn’t be allowed to have as a high-school football coach. Most of the ones I know have dad-bods to the extreme, but not Coach Asher.

Hot Books
» House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)
» A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire
» From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash #1)
» A Million Kisses in Your Lifetime
» Deviant King (Royal Elite #1)
» Den of Vipers
» House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2)
» The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #
» Sweet Temptation
» The Sweetest Oblivion (Made #1)
» Chasing Cassandra (The Ravenels #6)
» Wreck & Ruin
» Steel Princess (Royal Elite #2)
» Twisted Hate (Twisted #3)
» The Play (Briar U Book 3)