I am about to set the platter on the table when it happens. It’s as if I can feel the danger creeping up. My head turns to the wide plate windows just as the men and women in the box start to shout. Everything slows down. My gaze narrows on the massive linebacker smashing into Drew, taking him out low and to the side, while another brute comes at him from the opposite side.
Drew goes down. His leg is wrong, sticking out at an odd angle. And he is screaming. It’s the sound of raw agony. It tears through the box and over the stadium. It takes the breath out of the roaring crowd, creating dead silence.
The platter crashes to the floor in a spill of fried chicken pieces. Someone turns and glares. I am already running from the room.
IN THE BOWELS of the stadium, it’s chaos. Reports and players are everywhere. People are shouting, and then campus security is there. My catering badge gets me far but not far enough. I’m stopped short of the locker room by a vigilant guard.
“I’m his friend,” I shout, frantic. Drew. Drew.
“You and everybody else, honey. Give us a break and let the doctors look at him in peace.” The guard moves to close the door, when I see Gray just behind.
“Gray Grayson! Gray!” I’m screaming.
He stops and frowns through the slit in the closing door.
Gray’s still scowling as he ambles forward and shoulders past the guard. I grab onto his arm as soon as he’s close enough. His skin is cold and covered with sweat. Next to me, he’s a house, a wall of white and red in his pads and uniform. His expression is grim, scared, and it scares me more.
“Is he okay?” I’m panting. My grip on his arm tightens.
Gray’s throat works, and when he talks it’s a rasp. “His leg is broken. Bad.”
“Oh, Drew,” I whisper. His season is over. Maybe his career. I ache for him. Wrapping my arms about my middle, I search Gray’s face. “Can you get me in to see him?”
Gray’s blue eyes fill with suspicion. It’s as if he’s just remembered that I am the enemy. I don’t know how much Drew has told him, but it can’t be good.
“He doesn’t need that aggravation. If you’re here to gawk—“
“Fuck you.” I slap a massive shoulder pad. “Fuck if that’s why I’m here.”
His face twists, and he takes a step into my space. “Why are you here? You treated him like shit.” I must have winced because he sneers. “Yeah, I know. You didn’t want him before, so why are you here now?”
“Because I—” My mouth goes dry. I’m not saying this to Gray. Only to Drew. But Gray is glaring a hole through my head, and he’s the only one who can bring me to Drew. “I care about him.” It’s true but not the whole truth. “I don’t know if he needs me or even wants to see me. But he needs someone. He’s alone and hurting, and I—” My breath hitches. “I want him to know that I’m here. For him. I… I don’t want him to feel alone right now. “
Gray looks at me for what feels like an eternity, and then his shoulders sag. “Look, they aren’t letting anyone see him now, only the coaches. They’re taking him to the hospital. Go home,” his gaze scans my front and I realize that I’m covered in honey mustard and barbecue sauce, “take a shower, and I’ll pick you up. We can go together.”
Leaving Drew behind is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I’m shaking by the time I get home.
An hour later, I’m in Gray’s truck, and we’re headed to the hospital.
Our silence is awkward and heavy. I know Gray doesn’t like me, and I’m not keen on why he doesn’t. Guilt is a brick on my chest.
“You were wrong about him,” Gray finally says.
I stir from my vigil out the window. And he continues when I give him a questioning look. “Drew doesn’t sleep around. As in, he doesn’t have casual sex. Not for a while now.”
I must look skeptical—and I admit, I’m a little shocked—because Gray shrugs. “Yeah, he went a bit wild for a couple of years. We all did. And yeah, he’s got girls hanging on him left and right. But that’s all they do. Hang there.”
“Out of the goodness of his heart,” I can’t help but say. The vision of endless toothpaste commercial candidates dancing through my head makes it all a little hard to believe.
“No,” Gray says with exaggerated patience. “More like he’s too lazy and too easygoing to give them the brush off. He might fool around now and then, but he doesn’t f**k them.” Gray snorts when I raise my brow. “Don’t believe me. But it’s the truth. Coach batters safe sex messages into our heads on a constant basis. Drew’s a star, and people will do crazy things to catch a ride. He’s got to watch out for false pregnancy accusations, potential cries of rape, bullshit that most college guys never deal with. And well…”
Gray scratches behind his ear. “He got burned. The beginning of junior year. Jenny,” this comes out like a bad word. “Drew and Jenny had been together since the end of sophomore year. She wanted to get married.”
“When they were twenty?” I practically yell. “That’s insane.”
He nods like I’m preaching to the choir. “That’s what Drew told her. But Jenny wanted insurance. That he wouldn’t sleep around, find another girl, as if that was even remotely Drew’s style. When Drew said no, that they were too young. She gave him an ultimatum and he walked.”