Today's Reading

She took out her grade book and showed him. "Chase has only turned in one assignment. Paul two. And the two Paul turned in—" She looked up at him. "I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, Zach, but honestly? They were bad. I couldn't even say he was phoning it in. He hasn't even picked up the phone."

This was where he needed to remind himself these were high school students. High school students who had potential college careers ahead of them, which meant they'd have to be able to do the academic work.

He unclenched his jaw. "Fine. Tell me what they need to get done, and I'll make sure it's turned in before you submit this week's grade report."

Probation was one thing. If his players were suspended, they'd be off the team for God only knew how long. Bad for them, very bad for Hope High's Eagles.

"Sure." She got out a piece of paper, opened her laptop, and jotted down the list of assignments. When she handed it to Zach, she looked up at him. "And, Zach, make sure they're the ones doing the assignments, okay?"

"What the hell does that mean?"

"It means not bullying any of my stellar students to do the work for them. Or, even worse, buying the work online. Because I'll know it if they do."

"Christ, Josie. What kind of guy do you think I am? What kind of guys do you think my athletes are?"

She sighed. "Let's just say I've seen students like this before. They get in a jam and they're desperate, and more than willing to do anything—and I mean anything—to turn in passing work."

He laid his hands on her desk and leaned in. "My guys aren't like that. And if they are, they won't play for me for long."

She didn't flinch. She held his gaze. "I guess you should make sure you know your players well, then."

"I intend to, because these two will be sitting with me every day after school this week doing these assignments while their teammates are on the practice field. So I can guarantee you, Ms. Barnes, that when this work is turned in, it'll be work that both Paul and Chase have done themselves."

Her lips lifted. "I'm glad to hear that. And I'm sorry about all that classwork you'll have to do this week. If you need any research assistance, feel free to give me a call."

"I think I can handle it. After all, I've been to school myself, ya know."

She laughed. "Yes, I'm sure you're great and all. But that was a long time ago. And I require a lot of my students."

"How hard can it be?" He scanned the assignments and bit back a curse.

"Poetry? A journal of thoughts and feelings? Aww, hell, Josie."

She smiled. "You did say you were going to help them, right?"

He pushed off the desk and pivoted, already halfway to the door. "Yeah, yeah."

Once out the door, he stopped and read the assignments again. Poetry. Journals. Ugh.

A small part of him understood why Paul and Chase were blowing off the homework. He'd hated poetry in English class. All that evaluation of shit that had never made sense to him. But he'd sucked it up and done it. And had maybe learned a few things in the process. He might not have enjoyed it, but he'd done the work. Because not doing the work would have meant he couldn't play football. And he'd have done anything to play football.

High school football had gotten him into college so he could play football there. And college football had paved the way for him to play pro football. All of which had taken a hell of a lot of sweat and hard work. Some of that work had been schoolwork. And some of that schoolwork hadn't been fun, but it had been necessary to get him where he'd wanted to be, which was the pros.

He needed to remind his kids of the long-term goal. Plus, not doing the work was lazy, and he wouldn't accept that from any of his players.

He headed toward the field.

Time to kick a couple of asses from here to next week.


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