“Would you give it up?” It would be like cutting off a body part.
He looked over at the window. “You have no idea what I would do to be with the woman I love.”
My eyebrows hit the ceiling.
He noticed and shook it off. “If I loved someone. Theoretically…I’d give it all up. The game. The money. The fame. Fucking take it. None of that shit keeps you warm at night.”
“Hendrix would disagree.”
Roman laughed. “He usually does.”
“What the hell am I supposed to do?” I asked rhetorically.
“She still love you?”
I raked my hand over my hair, tugging at the strands. “She says she does, but she said that before and still walked out.”
“You believe her, though, don’t you?” He stood.
I thought of her sunken eyes, her sallow complexion, and the pure misery that emanated from her every time we talked over Skype. For someone who was supposed to be living her dream, she looked like she was stuck in a nightmare.
“Yeah,” I finally answered. “Yeah, I believe her.” Wasn’t sure there was anything I could do about it, but I believed her. “Doesn’t change anything, though. We’re in the middle of the season, and she’s in the middle of nowhere, Brazil.”
“Distance isn’t a thing,” he said with a shrug. “You think it is, but it’s not. It can be just as hard to hold onto someone standing three feet away as it is to hunt down a woman in the Amazon. I told Hendrix I’d meet him, so I’m out. Need anything?”
“No.” My eyes narrowed slightly on my best friend’s face. “Going out with Hendrix, huh? Don’t think I don’t notice that you never bring home the blondes. Brunettes and redheads all day long, but never the blondes. Wonder why that is?”
He cursed. “Last time I checked, the woman you loved was in the middle of the jungle. There’s plenty of business to mind on your own plate right there.”
He walked out and shut the door behind him, leaving me alone in the nursery. I’d built this place with so much love, but that wouldn’t matter if she never slept in that crib. The love was for her, not a place.
My love for Liberty? That stretched from North Carolina to Brazil, no matter how complicated this all felt. That was the bottom line, wasn’t it? At the end of the day, the money, the fame…even the game didn’t matter if I didn’t have her beside me.
I picked up my phone, scrolled through my contacts, and hit call.
“Noble?” Coach’s voice filled my speaker.
“I need some help.”
* * *
Thirty-two hours later, the pilot muttered a swear word as he put us down in the middle of a small clearing. Small meaning, lord-let-us-make-it-through-the-trees.
I ditched my headphones, grabbed my pack, and climbed out of the helicopter as the pilot powered the rotors down. He’d been paid—and paid well—to hang tight for the next twenty-four hours.
Fuck, North Carolina had nothing on this level of humidity. My shirt clung to my skin as I turned my ball cap backward and headed toward the small crowd of children that had gathered to stare at the helicopter.
I’d spent three of the last thirty-two hours learning a few phrases in Portuguese, and now it was time to make an utter ass of myself.
“Good morning,” I managed to say as my heart slammed. What if this was the wrong camp?
The kids all nodded but regarded me with more than a little suspicion.
“Where can I find Dr. Jones?” I asked, praying to the translation gods that I’d gotten it right.
The kids all looked at one another.
“Liberty?” I tried.
“Ahh!” They all started talking at once, and I was less-than-gently herded toward the camp. The place was massive. I’d seen the tent layout from the air, so I had a general idea that they were moving me toward the smaller, living-sized tents rather than the giant medical ones.
“Liberty!” one of the boys said and pushed me through a set of canvas flaps.
I stumbled into the tent and was met with a middle-aged woman wearing a very perplexed look. “God, I’m sorry.”
Her eyes widened. They were the same shade of green I saw in my dreams.
“Oh wow. You must be—” the woman started.
“Nixon?” Her voice came from behind me, and my knees nearly gave out as I turned to face her. She looked tired and so fucking beautiful that my hands clenched to keep from touching her. Her eyes were luminous as she blinked up at me, her pink lips parted in shock, but there was joy there, too.
Thank you, God, she was happy to see me otherwise this would have gotten awkward really fucking fast.
“Hey, Liberty.” Lame, but it was the best I had at the moment.
“Why don’t I just…” The tent rustled behind us, and Liberty’s mom disappeared.
“What are you doing here?” Her gaze flew over me like she needed to check me for injuries.