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From #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Rachel Van Dyken comes a story about losing everything only to find it again…
I was the golden boy.
Football kept me sane.
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I would really like to think that in the grand scheme of things, I’m the responsible one, or at least I used to be.
Star quarterback for the Bellevue Bucks, two championship rings in the last two years. Voted People’s Nicest Athlete, and all-around good guy.
That was all before.
Before I got her pregnant.
All of it was before.
At least that’s how I referred to my life back then, it was the before time in my life when nothing could go wrong, when nothing did. Whatever I touched turned to gold.
And now? Now that I’m stuck in the after.
It’s all ash.
All of it.
It all started when my dad died. I clung to my fiancé like a lifeline. I held her close. I kissed her belly. I smiled through the tears because we had us, our family.
And then we had nothing.
She couldn’t even bear to look at me.
I couldn’t bear to look at myself.
I stared down the bottle of Jack then shoved it off the granite countertop relishing the sound of it shattering on the floor.
“Someone’s in a mood,” came Miller’s annoying voice.
How the hell did he end up being the one to clean up my messes? My fuck-ups?
I clenched my teeth.
He was shirtless as he moved his massive body around the kitchen. It had been four weeks since… I couldn’t even think about it. I couldn’t process it. If I processed it, it had happened.
It couldn’t have happened.
Not to us.
Not to us.
I shook my head and stared down at my shaking hands.
“Have you tried talking to her?” He picked up the broken pieces of glass and set them in the sink then came over and pulled out a barstool.
I pressed my lips together.
“Right, so that’s a no.” He sighed as a light flickered on in the hall. My sister made her way down the hallway, her expression crestfallen as she took in my drunken ass.
“So…” Kinsey flanked my other side, and the sound of the barstool getting pulled across the slate had my ears ringing. “What are we drinking?”
“You’re not drinking,” I said in an overprotective voice that sounded fucking scary, like my father had possessed my body and taken over. I wiped my hands down my face.
“Sorry, old habits.”
“My wife,” Miller said, humor lacing his tone. “Go be a big brother to someone who needs it.”
I didn’t laugh.
It used to be easy. Sitting with them, laughing, joking. My family, my teammate.
Now I just felt empty.
On the counter, my cell phone buzzed. I scowled and shoved it away.
But when it rang again with the same number, I was ready to throw it against the fridge, was about to when Miller jerked it out of my hand and answered it.
“Hello?” He frowned. “No, he’s right here and…” His eyes widened as he jumped to his feet. “What do you mean she doesn’t—” He stopped talking, my heart sank, what the hell was happening? “Got it, we’ll drive him.”
“Drive me?” I tried to stand, but the room started to spin.
“Jax,” Miller steadied me, his eyes a bit frenzied. “I need you to listen to me very carefully.”
I shoved him away. “I’m not a child.”
Just saying child had my stomach rolling. My heart clenching in my chest. “Harley was in an accident, they were doing a photo shoot for that new yoga company, and she fell three stories, broke her leg and—”
“Shit!” We hadn’t talked in three weeks. My heart slammed against my chest. When would things get better? When? “
“Jax,” Miller’s voice softened. “She has a concussion.”
“Let’s go.” I was halfway to the door when his next words slammed into my consciousness.
“She has amnesia. She doesn’t remember you.”
I fell to my knees, unsure whether I tripped or if my body just collapsed on itself while my heart bled inside my chest.
Arms wrapped around me — my sister.
The love of my life didn’t know me. And all I could think was — lucky her.
Why the hell would I ruin the best thing that’s ever happened to her?
She doesn’t have to remember our dead baby. Or me. She gets a do-over.
I shook my head and whispered. “I’m not going.”
1 Year Later
“Your focus is complete shit,” Sanchez said under his breath while I threw pass after pass. It was like I’d lost my ability to actually hit my receiver’s hands.
“Tell me something I’m not aware of before I ram this football up your ass.”
I let out a grunt as I threw again. Sanchez ran his route and caught it, but he had to leap to the right to even make the pass catchable.
I threw off my helmet and kicked it.
Thirty-four years old, and I was acting like a petulant child.
Maybe it was time to retire.
Hang up the cleats.
A familiar ache spread through my chest.
This wasn’t the plan.
The plan was to get married to the woman of my dreams.