“Bingo, and I can’t give them to her. Not the biological kind.” I ignored the speed limit and put the pedal down. Who cared if I got pulled over? Who cared about…anything? Nothing mattered.
“Oh, Roman. I didn’t realize.” Her voice lost that chipper we’ll-fix-this edge she’d had when she’d called.
I hadn’t told her about what had happened with T, and apparently, T hadn’t been forthcoming with her parents either, so they were just putting the pieces together. Any other day I might have been able to handle it. Might have been able to soothe Mom’s feelings, too, but today I could barely handle my own.
“I know. And don’t you dare go back to her mom with this. The last thing Teagan needs is to get guilt-tripped by her own family.”
The line went silent again.
“Mom. Promise me.”
Her sigh was loud enough to rumble my speakers. “Fine. I’ll let you two sort this out. Do you still want us there today?”
My foot eased off the pedal as the pain of it all consumed my chest. “Of course I do. It’s the AFC Championship.”
“I know you’ll win. It’s your year!”
Now her chipper tone was over the top.
“Let’s hope. I’ll see you after the game, okay?”
“I love you, Roman. You are an extraordinary man. You know that, right?”
“Yeah. Love you, too.” I hung up, and blasted my music, letting it drown out the thoughts I’d been fighting to keep at bay since Teagan had crushed my heart and walked away without a second glance.
Every day I watched my front door, my phone, and my social media, hoping she’d come back around. Hoping it was really the initial scare of my injury was what had spooked her. Hoping she hadn’t been honest in the kitchen that day.
But three weeks had gone by without a single peep.
The only thing that hurt worse than losing the woman you loved was being completely ghosted by your best friend.
I made it to the stadium, parked in the player’s lot, and headed inside. We had hours before game time, and I needed to get my head on straight.
Most of the guys were already in the locker room, either buzzing with the electricity in the air, or silent and solemn as they prepared for what would either be the first step in a Superbowl season, or the last game of this year.
At least the bench felt familiar as I sat. Everything else in my life had turned upside down. Football had always been like that for me. Relationships went sideways? So what. Failed a test that week? Who cared. As long as I showed up on game day and did what I needed to, shit fell into place.
But that center, that grounded place inside me where I prepped for every game was missing. It had been the same last week—my first game back after the concussion. I could fight it all I wanted to. The truth stared me abashedly in the face.
I would trade it all—the fame, the money, the game itself—to have Teagan back.
“Looking a little nauseated there, Padilla. You nervous or something?” Baker asked as he plopped down on the bench in front of mine, wearing the mother of all smirks.
“I’m fine.” I grabbed a bottle of water from my bag and twisted it open.
“You sure?” His face tilted to the side, and he almost looked concerned, but there was a menacing little spark in his eyes. “I mean, I know firsthand what it feels like to play after the woman you love puts your heart through a meat grinder.”
No one had been happier to hear about the demise of my relationship than Baker.
“He’s fine,” Hendrix snapped, taking the empty seat beside me. “Focus on your own game, twinkle toes. We can’t afford to have you tripping all over the place today.”
“Stop,” I muttered under my breath at Hendrix. We had a policy on this team. We watched the game footage and got better, but once that footage was analyzed, we didn’t harp on one another.
“Fuck off, Malone,” Baker snarled, flipping off Hendrix.
“No, thanks, I’m busy tonight.” Hendrix winked.
“Knock it off,” I lectured them both. We were hours away from playing for the AFC Championship. We didn’t need this shit in the locker room.
“Relax, Padilla. Just men being men,” Baker crooned. “Not that you’d know anything about being a man.”
Rage rushed through my veins even as my stomach twisted. He knew.
“It’s okay, though.” He crossed his ankles and braced his weight on his hands beside him. “Now that Teagan’s gotten over her little rebellious phase, we can get started on that family she’s always wanted.”
“You fucking prick,” Hendrix seethed.
Every muscle in my body coiled, testing the bounds of my self-control. Not in the locker room. Not in the locker room. Not. In. The. Locker. Room.
“How does it feel to not even rate as a rebound? Because you know she’s coming right back to—”