My eyes cut to him. “She’s made her mind up.” She doesn’t give second chances.
Just get me through this season.
Get me out of this town.
“Dude? The game.” Sinclair elbows me.
“Yeah.” I scrub my face and lean in, pointing to the screen as Sinclair takes the field for me at LSU. “Alright, see that defensive guy, he’s reading you like a book. You twitch your right shoulder when you get ready to…”By Friday afternoon, the week has caught up with me. Between midterms and practice, I’m in a shit mood and can’t fight down the exhaustion that haunts me.
I’m rolling my neck in the lobby of the library, about to go out the door when a flash of copper hair on the second floor catches my eye. My heart drops as I dart for the stairs and take them two at a time.
“Hey!” a guy says as I jostle past him.
“Sorry!” I call out.
It’s Serena, just ahead with her back to me—and she’s with a guy. Anger flashes. Who is she with? They turn the corner into the shelves and I follow, my chest tight.
“Serena!” I say as I make the corner and see them kissing.
She jerks out of his arms and glares at me. “Who?”
“Whoa, sorry.” I reel back. She doesn’t look anything like Serena. Her hair is shorter, the highlights duller. Her eyes aren’t champagne-colored. She’s too tall.
“You mind?” the guy asks.
I feel winded with relief as I flip around. “I thought you were someone else,” I mutter as I walk away.
Monday I thought I saw her outside the stadium after practice, Tuesday it was on the quad, Wednesday it was a car that looked like hers, and Thursday I waited for her to go to yoga but she never showed.
I don’t recall driving home, but I arrive, pulling in behind a white Mercedes sedan I don’t recognize. Sawyer meets me on the porch. “Your dad is here.”
I stop at the bottom of the steps. Now?
“Why?” The car must be a rental.
His eyes search my face, an apologetic look there. “He gave me a call, you know, since you haven’t answered his. Your birthday is coming…” He keeps talking and I zone out, a huff leaving my chest. With everything pressing on me, I pushed my birthday to the back burner. I spent my last birthday with the team, not my dad.
I mentally prepare myself, squaring my shoulders as I walk into the house.
He’s sitting next to Brianna on our couch. Marley bounces on her knee as they coo down at her.
“Dillon,” he says in a gruff voice as he stands. Wearing khakis and a dress shirt, he’s not as tall as I am, his frame trim and wiry. His hair is dark brown and styled in a businessman cut. “You look well. I like your place. Much better than the dorms.”
He’s in my house. My eyes run over his face, seeing the extra lines added since February. His expression is hopeful, and I glance away.
“Surprise!” Brianna says rather uncertainly as she stands with Marley. “We flew in on the jet. We would have called, but…” Her eyes dart back to Dad. “Wes wanted to surprise you for your birthday.”
My words are flat. “Guess the baby isn’t teething this weekend?”
“No.” Dad gives me an awkward hug, his fingers grasping my shoulders. He pulls back, looking hesitant. “We’re staying at the Hilton in town, so we won’t crowd your space. Planning on being here when you play tomorrow. We’ve already gotten our seats. Marley’s going to her first football game to see her brother…”
Brother. The word hurts, and I suck in a breath.
Brianna thrusts Marley into my arms, and I blink.
“Aw, she’s smiling at you,” Brianna says.
“Probably gas,” Dad jokes.
She’s adorable, big cheeks and curly brown hair the color of his. I shift around uncomfortably.
“Here, put her on your hip,” Brianna says, moving her around on my frame. “She’s much bigger since you saw her in February.”
Marley spits up then giggles as Brianna wipes the milk on her bib. I take in the orange and navy shirt she’s wearing with the Waylon logo on it. They must have ordered it online or made a run to the student center store, I guess.
I swallow, feeling weird, as if this is happening to someone else. I don’t recall holding her in February. Maybe because she was too little, or maybe I didn’t want to. “She’s cute,” I say, the words feeling ripped from my chest.
Sawyer slides in, clearly trying to smooth over my familial issues. “They haven’t eaten yet and I ordered pizza.”
“Pepperoni for the guys and veggie for Brianna,” Dad adds with a smile. It looks a little forced. Yeah, yeah, I feel that too.
We manage a strange, stilted meal. Dad asks me questions about Mom, and I tell him she’s texted a few times to update me on the wedding plans. He tells me about a new hotel they’re building in London, about the day Marley crawled for the first time…