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Third and Long

Prologue

Senior Year

Still Breathing

 

Rob

Mike’s words play on repeat in my mind, but only two of them stand out from the rest of the white noise.

“Evie” and “ER.”

My plane lands, but I don’t bother with baggage claim. My rush to get to the parking garage is hampered by paparazzi and fans, who don’t give a damn I’m in a hurry. Reports of me being more brusque than usual are probably flooding the internet.

The two-hour drive between the airport and State feels eternal. Even the outskirts of campus flying past aren’t enough to calm me down.

I mash the pedal down on The Lady as hard as I can, but that only causes me to nearly rear-end the Uber car taking up half the street to drop off a group of clearly drunken sorority girls. Laying on the horn doesn’t matter. The women are probably too wasted to notice, and the driver only flips me the bird.

Come on, come on. I drum my fingers impatiently on the steering wheel.

The campus hospital is only two blocks away, but it might as well be a hundred miles further down the road.

On one hand, it seems like everyone in this fucking college town is against me getting to the hospital as quickly as possible; on the other, I’m grateful they aren’t mobbing my car and asking me to sign autographs.

Fame, fans, and football got me into this mess to begin with.

I don’t care what Evie says, the Heisman is like the kiss of death. In one way or another, the curse will catch up to you.

She couldn’t understand why I didn’t want it; why I wasn’t ecstatic to win when she was so damn proud of me.

She didn’t know all I was hiding then.

She still doesn’t, but she deserves to.

The rest of the world doesn’t know all I’m hiding either, but if I have any say about it, they will soon enough.

But the Heisman curse? Yeah, it doesn’t care about secrets. It doesn’t care about sins or forgiveness or heaven on Earth or any of that other mortal bullshit. It only cares about bringing those of us with the most to lose to our knees.

As if I didn’t already have enough to lose before I won that worthless trophy.

I’ll be damned if I’m going to lose her now.

Not to a stalker.

Not to the fame.

Not to my need to protect her.

Not to the fans.

Not to my infamous dick.

Not to being drafted to a team on the opposite side of the country.

Not to the pain.

Not to our scars.

I nose my Mustang into a parking spot beside Mike’s old Civic. I brace for the onslaught of cameras in my face and nosy reporters asking what I’m doing here when I open my door, but the night is cool and quiet.

Perfect.

With quick strides toward the ER entrance, I have one thing on my mind and one thing only.

The plan is set. The play is in motion. Only one piece of the puzzle eludes me, but that ends tonight.

It’s time to take back control of my life.

Game. On.