The Blueprint(The Game #1)(10)

By: S.E. Harmon

As we walked, she chattered on about everything under the sun, and I wondered how a person who’d been at a party for two hours could have so much left to say. She was way too perky and blond, almost like Skipper had escaped from her plastic package, hitched a ride out of Toys“R”Us, got her doctorate from Penn State, and started teaching organic chemistry. Suck it, Barbie.

As I walked her out to her car, she expressed genuine devastation that my engagement hadn’t worked out and went on and on about how these things just happened sometimes and, gee willikers, I shouldn’t give up because love was out there for me somewhere.

Good grief. These true-love zombies were all over the place. It was like the walking damn dead.

“Well, I guess I’d better get back in there and help clean up,” I finally said in desperation. I hoped she wouldn’t remember that most of the cleaning was pretty much finished.

She nodded agreeably. Then she leaned forward and kissed me on the cheek. I could feel the slight stickiness her lipstick left and gave it an unobtrusive swipe, lest she infect me with the true-love virus.

“I’m just so sorry,” she said.

“Thank you, but it’s really alright.”

“You’re just such a nice person. And so handsome.” She looked me up and down as though she just couldn’t understand. “Are you sure you’re gay? I have a couple girlfriends who would just love to go out with you.”

Survey says, ding, I like dick.

“Pretty sure,” I confirmed. “But thanks for your concern. I’ll see you tomorrow. Okay?”

“You’re actually coming to work?” Her eyes widened. “Oh, I just don’t know how you do it. Maybe you should take a few days—”

“That won’t be necessary.” I made sure to bulldoze right over that suggestion. “Did you grab some leftovers to take with you?”

“Well, I have some cake.” She held up a foil-wrapped package. “I was looking for more of those delightful jalapeño poppers. Were there any left?”

I swallowed and tried not to look guilty as I considered coming clean. Don’t be greedy. She’s a nice lady. Just then my phone rang in my pocket. Blue. Again.

“Nope,” I said cheerily and gave her a push toward her car. I didn’t feel guilty at all as I waved when she finally drove off.

Hey, I could give up the jalapeño poppers or Blue. No humane person would expect me to do both.

Chapter 3


THERE WERE a lot of ways I liked to cool down after a game, but an impromptu cruise on Biscayne Bay had to be my hands-down favorite. It didn’t take much to beat my usual routine—an ice bath and a couple of IcyHot back patches while I forked down a fuckton of carbs. Still. As I sat in a lounge chair next to a grinning Ivanovich, fellow teammate and the best damn defensive lineman in the NFL—according to him, anyway—I had to acknowledge it was a lot better than eating spaghetti in front of my TV.

It wasn’t planned, exactly. A quick tour of a teammate’s boat had turned into something a little wild, with lots of music, girls, and alcohol—something a lot bigger than a small gathering, and Coach was going to have a shit fit about it… if he heard about it. None of the players would tell him, but Instagram and Facebook had a way of getting things out there. It was too late to worry about it, especially since the party was live and most everyone was lit.

The exception to the rule was me and a couple other vets who knew better. Monday might be “rest and recovery” day at the Outlaws’ facility, but even light practice was already hard enough without needing to pour your brains back into your helmet. I was content to drink something virgin and fruity and watch some of the younger guys act like idiots. Or I was content, at least, until I talked to Kelly.

I scowled at the screen of my phone and wished Kelly didn’t hate FaceTime so much. I practically had to beg him to do it, and then he looked so uncomfortable on the screen that I usually wished I hadn’t bothered. But seeing his face would have gone a long way to convincing me he was all right and not just fobbing me off—especially since he hung up on me. He always tried that lame bad-connection shit, as though I believed that for a minute.