I gaped at the pair of them, but my heart was so damn full.
I wasn’t looking over my shoulder, wondering if someone was listening to my conversations. Wondering if I’d say the wrong thing at the wrong time, or make a face that was less than flattering just as the press snapped a photo.
I was free.
Free to finally enjoy the game and watch it with two friends who appreciated me and accepted me for who I was. They didn’t try to shape me into someone else. They supported me, built me up, and had my back.
“You two are the best,” I said. “You know that?”
Savannah scoffed as she narrowed her gaze. “Don’t get all girly on me now,” she teased.
I rolled my eyes. “I mean it.”
Savannah visibly swallowed, then begrudgingly accepted my hug. Liberty was all too ready to hug me back, her smile wide and eyes all-knowing.
“I love seeing you this way,” Liberty said.
“What way?” I asked, tilting my head.
Damn her and her psychoanalytic voodoo. She had a superpower when it came to reading people. And she used it for the greater good, which made her a double superhero. She’d sensed the toxicity of my relationship with Rick even before I’d fully awoken to the magnitude of just how not-normal our relationship was.
I swallowed hard, trying like hell to ward off the sticky shame that often clung to my chest when reality hit me over the head about how blind I’d been. How buried I’d been in the life—the one Rick had expertly molded which left me feeling obligated to him, indebted to him, dependent on him.
He’d isolated me on purpose—not for my benefit like he’d always claimed. He’d given me excuses of not wanting me to be influenced by bad people. My friends.
“Hey,” Liberty said, squeezing my hand. “I didn’t mean—”
“You’re good,” I cut her off, hating the pity in her eyes. “You know sometimes I can’t stop the thoughts from shoving me down the rabbit hole.”
“Totally understandable,” she said. “Honestly, it will take time. And there may never be a time where you’re fully capable of stopping the memories.”
I nodded, allowing the truth in her words sink into me. “But I can sure as hell try,” I said, smiling. For once, the grin was not forced after a game—the moment I always waited anxiously in the hopes Rick would exit the locker room with happiness in his eyes instead of disappointment.
Now, I didn’t have to wonder.
I knew Roman would be happy to see me. Not because of his incredible game, but because it was him and it was me and it was us. And there was something so beautifully true and raw to that knowledge that my breath caught in my lungs.
And an idea slammed home in my mind, my heart, my soul.
“What is it?” Liberty asked, tracking the emotions behind my eyes.
“I’m just so damn proud of him,” I admitted that small truth, keeping the bigger revelation to myself.
“We all are,” Savannah said, the three of us filing out of the private suite and heading toward the locker room. “That was a hell of a game. His thighs will be aching tonight, Teagan,” she said with a suggestive tone. “You should probably rub them down,” she said. “For the good of the team and all.”
An elderly gentleman—a previous owner, I believe—coughed from ahead of us, and I playfully pinched Savannah’s arm.
She snorted, throwing the man a smile that danced so close to the line of sinful that the poor guy blushed and promptly upped his pace to get away from us.
“Savannah!” Liberty chided.
“What?” She shrugged. “I just smiled. He was the one eavesdropping.”
“Kind of hard to consider it eavesdropping when you’re loud enough for the entire defensive line to hear you,” I joked.
“Semantics,” she said as she held the door open for us.
We fell into an easy back and forth as we made our way toward the locker room, showing the line of security our passes.
“Nixon’s parents loving the visit?” I asked Liberty as we leaned against the wall just outside the locker room.
“Yes,” she said. “His mother is a godsend. I love bringing Nicole to games, but it’s wonderful to enjoy watching Nix play while not trying to wrestle a seven-month-old.”
“I can’t imagine,” I said, my heart pinching just a bit. The image of an infant manifested behind my eyes—a chubby-cheeked boy with my eyes and Roman’s hair.
I quickly shook off the image, hating that I couldn’t control that line of thought. With the way I felt about Roman, I suppose it was normal to see flashes of a future I’d always wanted—a big family with lots of kids and dogs and a husband who drove me absolutely insane in the best of ways.
But we’d already had that talk, and I hated that it was a concern for Roman about my commitment to him. I’d never leave him because of something he couldn’t control, and when the time came? We’d start our family the way we wanted to, on our terms, no one else’s.