Home > My Only Reason (A Love is Love #1)

My Only Reason (A Love is Love #1)
Author: Leigh Lennon

 

Prologue

 

 

Six years ago

 

 

Crush

 

This is the game we've worked toward since our freshman year in college. I'm on the field with my team, men I'd willingly die for, and surrounded by the excitement in the stadium, my eyes connect with my best friend's. "Fourth down and goal." The noise is so loud, and my voice is hoarse from screaming. "Hanley, we need you. Green thirty-six reverse right on two with Dale." Ryder Hanley—the diva of our team, my best friend, and our wide receiver—gives me a nod to acknowledge the play. "We have one chance. One last drive. Don't fuck it up, boys."

As the quarterback and captain, I know that being a dick motivates this team. I'm the first with my hand in the huddle. "On three. One, two, three, fuck them!" we yell over the noise in the stadium, and it gets the other team's attention.

The offensive line is in position, and the center snaps the ball my way as Jimmy Dale and Ryder run the reverse. My first look is at Dale, our running back, but three defenders cover him. My best friend, Ryder Hanley, hasn't caught the ball once during the game. He's been off, and I'm not sure why. Of course, the other team has seen this, and they leave his ass open. It's not what I want, but with Jimmy Dale covered, I fake Jimmy's way, then drop back and throw it toward Ryder.

It's a smooth pass, and Ryder runs, moving into position to catch the ball. My breath stills. We need this. It's our senior year of college and the championship game we've worked our asses off to play in—it's been our goal, our dream since our freshman year.

His hands reach for it in midair. It wobbles, and the entire team, fuck, the whole stadium is quiet. He lands on his feet as it continues to bobble in his hands. Not sure what the hell is on his fingers, if it's butter, but I wait for him to drop it as he's done all day. My eyes fall to the turf, and the entire stadium, or at least the half who are Bears fans, erupts into cheers. My best friend has the fucking ball in his grasp for the first time today—but it's the only time it fucking matters.

 

 

The locker room is empty besides Ryder and me. He's slow on regular days, so given his current mood, regardless of his winning touchdown and his subdued manner, I wait on him.

The locker room reeks of fifty-plus men. I should be used to it after four years. It's my hope the locker rooms in professional ball come with a little more luxury than what I've had at this point. Or at least its fragrance may be more appealing.

I sit on the bench in front of the lockers, texting Alison. She flew to California for the game and is at the hotel, bitching to the whole world about how long it's taking me to get back. After the win, I'd planned on spending the night with her, but now, I don't know if I can handle the attitude. As curvy and beautiful as the woman is, when she's pissed, I sometimes wonder if her blowjobs are worth it.

Me: Something is up with Ry. He's still here. I can't leave him.

Before I read her text, I can imagine the bitch in her response.

Alison: But I'm leaving in the morning, and you all are flying back together. Please, just talk to him tomorrow after I fuck my favorite national champion senseless.

Usually, her dirty talk would cause me to run out of the locker room while hiding my angry erection, but not today. Her words don't do anything for me. My best friend is in pain. Something has happened, and I can't leave him. I've already conducted my interviews, and I had asked our coach to let us make it back to the hotel on our own.

The coach, too, is concerned for my friend. From the second Ry opened his eyes, he hasn't been the jubilant asshole, talking shit to everyone. On the field, his mouth didn't run like it usually had. Even Jimmy Dale asked me several times what the fuck was up with our favorite diva.

"Is that Alison?" Ryder asks in his purple paisley suit and tie, a sad smile on his face. "I can't imagine she's happy about being left to wait," he mutters, pulling his backpack behind him.

Ryder should know. He's a diva, and it takes one to know one. My girlfriend and best friend are similar and hate each other with a passion. It's jealousy on Alison's part, but I'm not sure what it is with Ryder.

"No, she's not happy. You know Al. But I'm not leaving until you tell me what's crawled up your ass, causing your brain and body to be anywhere but the game."

He lowers his head to his chest. "It's shitty timing, and I'm sorry. Of all the fucking days."

I push to my feet, closing the space between us, and kneel in front of where he sits. "I don't care about the game." Well, not anymore now that it's over. "Something is eating away at you. What is it? You went to bed last night as the over-the-top wide receiver I know. But, you started the day like you lost your best friend. Now, what the fuck gives?"

He fishes his phone out of his backpack. My breathing stops with the text he has pulled up for me to read.

Mom: As you know, we won't be at the game. But I had to let you know—your grandpappy died peacefully in his sleep. He'd want you to play the best game of your life.

The Hanley family has always been a little odd. Texting him of his grandpa's death on the day of the national championship is fucked up, and burdening him with this before the game sure as fuck shouldn't have been the way they handled it.

To say Ryder and his grandpappy were tight is an understatement. At times, I think his grandpa has been the only one in the family he loves without a shadow of a doubt—besides his younger sister. His parents are sponges, pulling from him because he'll go number two in the professional draft. And the only reason he'll go number two is because I'm going number one.

His grandpappy didn't care about what he could get from Ryder. His grandpa was there for him like any parent should have been, just to support his grandson. But his parents haven't ever gotten the message.

"Fuck, Ry." When I open my arms, the six-two, two-hundred-and-twenty-pound man of steel openly weeps in my embrace.

His olive complexion and jet-black hair are in complete contrast to my almost white hair and soft crystal blue eyes. With his arms wrapped around my body, I still at our connection and how his touch is an instant comfort for me, and I'm not the one who lost his number one person in life.

"Why didn't you tell me?" I whisper into his ear.

He pulls back just enough for us to watch one another eye to eye, but he's still in my embrace, and it feels right. "Did both of us need to be off our game? No fucking way. You had to have a clear head, and you couldn't afford to be weighed down by my burden."

His jet-black hair is always longer than my almost buzz cut I insist on, and his longer bangs fall in his face. "Fuck, Ry, don't you understand? You're never a burden to me. You're my best friend."

My fingers are still in his hair, and his eyes are locked on mine. Ry opens his mouth, I assume to rebuff my claim that he's not a burden, but when words don't come, his mouth crashes to mine. It's the last thing I'm expecting, and for a moment, I open to welcome his aroma, his taste. And I desire it for a second longer than I should.

I push off him, and like a jackrabbit, breathless from the kiss I loved way too much, I spring to my feet.

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