It had been so easy for Rick to pull that block, to put Roman in danger, and no one knew it was intentional. And who would believe me if I told? Rick looked like he’d tripped. And what would Rick do if I tried to tell anyone the truth about his threats against Roman?
What would he do if I didn’t do what he said?
I’d endured enough punishments to know but still couldn’t believe he would do this to Roman. His teammate. I thought the only thing Rick cared about more than being possessive over me was his career.
A cold oil slicked into my blood, my stomach bottoming out like someone had pushed me into an endless pit. There was a very real possibility I would vomit.
“Teagan,” Roman said my name again, and I pushed away from the kitchen island, every muscle in my body trembling as I stood. “Is this about me getting hurt?” He asked. “Because I promise that is just part of the game. It always has been. Nothing has changed—”
“I have,” I cut him off, my voice cracking as much as my heart. “I did a lot of thinking…the second I saw you carted off the field.”
Roman pushed off his barstool, standing before me. “And?”
The fact that he didn’t wince as he got off the barstool filled me with so much happiness and relief…
Only to be swallowed up by an absolute, awful sensation—like someone clawing out my heart.
But I had to do this.
I couldn’t let Rick hurt him.
Not if I could do something about it.
I cleared my throat, silently begging for the strength to do this.
To save him.
I couldn’t be selfish with Roman. He was too important.
I loved him too much to put him in harm’s way.
“I can’t thank you enough for all that you’ve done for me,” I said, and I hated the words as much aloud as I did in my head. “You helped me get back on my feet. You helped me remember who I used to be. You’ve always been there for me, and I’ll never be able to repay you for that.”
My heart broke at the way he said my name, at the confusion and desperation in the word. Hot tears welled behind my eyes, betraying the pain as they trailed down my cheeks.
“Baby, what is it?” He reached for me, but again, I backed up, knowing if he touched me, I wouldn’t have the strength to do this. And he deserved so much better than me. Than someone with such dark baggage that it had nearly cost him his career, his life.
“I realized something…”
“Realized what?” He asked when I hadn’t finished.
“I can’t give up my dream.” I choked out the words.
He halted his approach, his hands dropping. “Your dream?” He whispered.
“Having children of my own. Experiencing pregnancy. A family of my own.” A knife slid an inch into my chest at the devastation on his face. At the betrayal. And I fucking hated myself. Wanted to rip my own tongue out. But…it was the only way he’d believe me. The only flaw he’d ever seen himself as having, when in reality it didn’t even matter to me. “When I saw you carted off that field...I realized I wouldn’t even have a piece of you if the worst happened.”
But I had to save him.
“You said…” he shook his head. “About adoption—”
Oh, God, he could see right through me. He wouldn’t take this without a fight...
“Think about that wall in my home, Roman. We just saw it on Thanksgiving,” I said. “The one that charted our heights?”
His eyes widened. “Adopted children grow just the same.”
“It’s not the same,” I cried, unable to hold on to my emotions anymore as my soul fucking crumbled. I had to make him believe me. Had to. Had to. “If I stay with you, I’ll never be able to measure a little girl with your eyes and my hair. Or a little boy with your confidence and my creativity.”
Roman stumbled back a few steps, his hand flying out to the lip of the island like he needed the stability to keep himself upright.
That knife slid in another inch, slicing into my heart with a white-hot pain as I saw it in his eyes.
That he wasn’t good enough for me.
That he couldn’t give me everything I ever wanted.
When it wasn’t further from the truth—all I wanted was him.
He was too good for me.
And he wasn’t safe if I stayed here.
I couldn’t pretend Rick wouldn’t do this the next game Roman was in…not twenty-four hours away. I couldn’t cower and allow Roman to get hit again, for Rick to pull another block, or worse…
To save Roman, I would destroy myself.
Because he would hate me after this, I knew that in the depths of my fractured soul.