“T, you know this is the shit that just happens. I have seven years left in the NFL—if I’m lucky—and I bet we’ll be here a couple more times. That doesn’t mean that I won’t be careful, but I don’t want you to worry too much.”
“I’m always going to worry.” She looked up at me with eyes so sad that my heart dropped.
“And I’m always going to come home to you. My home. Your home. Whichever home you want.” I cupped her face, and she rose, careful to keep her weight off me.
“You know I want to spend the rest of my life with you, right?” She asked, running her fingers through my hair.
“Well, you’re wearing my ring, so the secret is out on that one.” I flashed her a grin, wishing I wasn’t nearly immobile on my left side. I wanted to flip her over, pin her down, and fuck her hard enough to prove that I was fine—that I was healthy, and her worries were unfounded.
But there was something in her eyes that told me she wouldn’t be easily swayed from the path her mind had taken. My girl was deep in the pits of a worry I couldn’t rectify tonight. I could only soothe her as much as she was willing to be soothed.
“We can’t even watch the ball drop,” I whined with a wrinkled nose. “What kind of New Years Eve is this?”
She arched a brow, easily spotting my sarcasm. “No television. But you know what the Doc said you could do?” A slight smile tilted her lips.
“Fuck you senseless?” I reached for her hips, wincing as my side pulled.
“Nope!” She slid away. “Take a bath.”
“Lame.” My gaze slid down her body, letting her see just how hungry I was for her.
“With me,” she amended.
She laughed softly, sliding off my bed and disappearing into the bathroom. Within a few seconds, I heard the water running.
She came back out wearing only the robe she’d left here.
My mouth went dry.
“Roman, the only way I’m getting in that tub with you is if you agree to keep your hands to yourself. No funny business. I mean it. You’re hurt.”
I got to my feet, carefully masking my wince. “Woman, I’d have to be dead not to want you.”
Her smile faded, and she swallowed. “Well, you agree to taking it easy, or I’m not getting in.” She folded her arms under her breasts, only making them swell above her neckline.
I groaned out my frustration. “Fine. You win. Any naked time with you is better than no naked time with you.”
Her phone chimed, and she smiled, but it was tinged with an unhappiness that I couldn’t pin my finger on. “It’s midnight.”
I crossed the distance between us and cupped her face in my hands. “Happy New Year,” I whispered against her lips, kissing her long and soft, and deep.
She returned my kiss like she always did, eager and wanting, but she held back when it came to leaning against me. “Happy New Year, Roman. I love you.”
“I love you,” I swore, my heart slipping slightly at her worried tone.
She led me to the bathtub, but no matter how long we soaked, I couldn’t wash away her tension or her worry. That was okay. I’d waited over twenty years for the chance to love Teagan. I wasn’t afraid of doing a little work to ease her fears.
I’d give it two more days, and then I’d be able to distract her with more than a few kisses.
The sound of clattering helmets.
The sharp thwack of flesh hitting flesh.
The collective gasp and silence among the crowd.
Roman, unconscious and carted off the field.
The sight of him in that hospital bed.
The memories raced and flashed in my mind, each one breaking a piece of my soul.
New images raced ahead of the old ones—one where he didn’t wake up. One where the hit was hard enough to claim his life. A headstone. A gravesite. Me clinging to his mother as we both watched him be lowered into the ground.
Liberty had told me enough about Nixon’s history—him losing his little brother to a concussion—to know it wasn’t unheard of. Especially with how many hits the NFL delivered.
“Teagan,” Roman said my name like he’d said it several times. “What’s going on up there?” He asked, and he reached for me across the kitchen island. We’d just finished up a light dinner, Walt’s soft snores echoing peacefully from the living room. Goddamnit, this was supposed to be my life. Our life. One where I took care of Roman, and he took care of me, and we were happy.
I backed away from his touch, my heart shattering at the hurt and confusion that colored his eyes at the move.
Rick: Want to see more of my worst?
His text from yesterday burned in the back of my mind. I still didn’t have a clue how he’d managed to find my new phone number, but I wouldn’t put it past him to have broken into Coach’s personal files and see Roman’s updated emergency contact info. I’d always been listed in the slot just above his mother, and he’d updated it with my new number the week he’d gotten me the new phone.