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|Girls That Growl(Blood Coven Vampire,book 3) by Mari Mancusi|
"I don't give a damn if it's her first minute," Nancy says. "She sucks. Totally not cheerleader material."
"Obviously you don't remember your first day." Shantel sniffs. "You were on your butt so much we all thought you must own stock in BenGay."
I stifle a giggle. Go, Shantel! You tell her.
Nancy squeezes her well-manicured hands into fists, her face bright red, but doesn't reply. Probably trying to fire up her brain for a really good comeback. Which, I realize, could take a while.
"Look," Shantel continues, tossing her long black hair over her shoulder as she walks over to where I'm still sprawledout on the gym floor. "We're a team. And team-mates stick together." She offers her hand. I take it and she boosts me to my feet. "Come on, Rayne. Let's go to the other side of the gym and I'll work with you on the cheers."
"Whatever," Nancy growls. "Far be it for me to stop you from wasting your time."
Shantel ignores her and looks at me. "You ready?" she asks.
Shocked and grateful, I nod and then follow her down the court, away from the other cheerleaders. I can't believe she's being so nice to me. Does she have some ulterior motive? But no, what could she possibly have to gain by helping me?
"Thanks," I say when we're out of earshot. "That was really great."
"Don't mind Nancy," Shantel says, rolling her eyes. "She can be a real bitch. Gives us all a bad name."
She shakes her head. "Most of the squad isn't like her though, I promise. And we all had to practice like crazy when we first joined. If you're willing to put in the work, I'm sure you'll be up to speed before our first game." She claps her hands together. "Ready?"
I am. And after about an hour of private practice, I start to catch on. Okay, I'm not ready to take part in an international competition or anything, but I haven't fallen on my face again. Shantel's a good teacher.
Good at ex-plaining things. Doesn't get annoyed when I mess up the same thing four times in a row. Uh, not that I did that. Really.
She's also a terrific athlete, I realize, as I watch her demon-strate a particularly impressive jump she calls a "Herkie." Great stamina, flexibility, and strength. She could probably play any sport and do well. I wonder why she chose cheer-leading. Does she have some kind of deep insecurity that makes her want to wave pom-poms? If she does, she hides it well. On the surface she's, like, the most confident girl I've ever met.
"Thanks," I say when our session is over."Ithink I'm get-ting it."
She grins. "No problem," she says. "See, it's pretty easy once you know what you're doing. And," she adds pointedly, I "you practice."
"Yeah, yeah.I'll practice, don't worry." I laugh. "After all, I don't want to fall flat on my face come game time."
Shantel smiles. "It's all good. If you do, we'll pick you up again." She swings her arm around my shoulders and we head back to the main group. "You're one of us now, Rayne McDonald. An Oakridge High Wolf."
And for some strange reason, I'm suddenly okay with this.
The night of our first game is beautiful. The temperature perfect—mid-seventies—and the moon full and shining down on the field, almost bright enough to outshine the stadium lights. There's a crackling of electricity in the air as we exit the locker room and bound down to the sidelines of the Oakridge High football stadium dressed in our blue and white uniforms and carrying pom-poms.
We line up on the track, a blue gravel strip, in front of the home-side stands. I get into position, third from the left, and set my megaphone down on the pavement. It's then that I look up at the audience for the first time. There's got to be a million people up there. Or at least a hundred. Kids from school, parents, random townspeople. I had no idea so many people attended these things. I thought school spirit was only something you found in the movies.
What's worse is all these random citizens of Oakridge are all staring down at me. Watching me, probably judging me, waiting for me to fall flat on my face. Which, I fear, is very likely, judging from my track record.
I freeze in fear and almost drop my pom-poms. It's as if Medusa from Clash of the Titans is sitting in the stands and just struck me down, turning me into a stone rendition of my former self.
OMG, I can't do this.
I start to slowly creep out of position, hoping no one will notice my surreptitious exit. After all, I'm not really an essential part of this team, right? I'm only here on reconnais-sance. They don't need me. Well, except for that one special pyramid, but they can forgo that one tonight, right? Find something else to do at halftime—
Shantel grabs me by the back of my sweater and yanks me back into position. "Where do you think you're going?" she hisses.
"Uh, I think I left my flatiron on," I mumble, my cheeks burning. "I have to go—"
"I don't care if your flatiron burns down the entire school. You're not leaving the field during a game."
"But ..." I swallow hard, looking up at the humongous crowd and then back at her. My mind races, trying to come up with a good excuse, but I find myself too frazzled to be clever. "Argh! I can't do this!" I blurt out instead. The truth hurts.
She turns me around to face her, hands on my shoulders, her violet-colored eyes (contacts much?) staring into mine.