The color drains from his face, but I can see the wheels turning in that keen mind of his. I know he’s going to avoid this, pretend like everything is okay, and it’s all in my head.


Like clockwork, his expression eases. “Anna…”

“Don’t,” I take a step forward, pointing a finger in his direction, “fucking, ‘Anna’ me. You do not get to placate me any longer.”

His brows furrow. “What do you want from me? I’m trying not to fight.”

“I don’t care if we fight, if it means you acknowledge the fact that you’ve got a problem going on inside your head at the moment.” My heart is racing now. I hate confrontation. I loathe it with Drew.

The muscles along his neck tense as his color darkens. “Jesus, what is with everyone?” He rakes a hand through his disorderly hair before slapping his good thigh. “Would you give it a rest? I’m not some problem for everyone to solve.”

“Oh, bullshit.”

His brows wing up. “Excuse me?”

“You heard me. That is utter bullshit. You know damn well that if it were me, Gray, or any one of your friends, you’d do the same thing. So don’t start that whole ‘why won’t you leave me alone’ line again.”

Drew backs up, his ass hitting the counter. “I don’t even know why you care.”

“Of course I care! Why wouldn’t I care?”

“Isn’t it better if I never play again, Anna? Huh?” He takes a hard step in my direction. “I mean it’s not like you wanted me to be a quarterback. You didn’t want anything to do with me in the beginning. You took one look and decided I was just some meathead jock that wasn’t worth your time.”

“That’s not fair. You know that I didn’t want to want you—”

“Well, now there’s the difference. I wanted all of you the moment I laid eyes on you. But you were so damned closed off, I didn’t know how to approach you.”

“Why are you dragging this up?” I hate that I hurt him so deeply with my fear that he can’t let it go.

“Why?” He laughs without humor. “Does it bother you to remember that you only wanted me for one f**k?”

I’ve always said he was too quick. My jaw hurts from keeping my mouth shut. Arguing about this now won’t help. Not that Drew has any intention of stopping. A vein bulges along his throat as he continues to yell. “That first night. It was the best damn feeling I’d had in my life. And I’ve won the f**king Heisman!”

“Just stop,” I say. “Stop changing the subject. This isn’t about me.”

But he ignores me, his face going ruddier. “Every time is like that with you. Like my heart’s going to explode. Like I might pass out, but I’ve got to hold on because I need to feel this for as long as I can.”

“It’s the same for me,” I snap. “You know that.”

“Maybe that’s the only place I’ll be good enough for you. Maybe all you want is Drew the Fucking Hook Up.”

Frustration is an ugly bubble beneath my breastbone. “You call me clueless? For months I’ve thought about nothing but you. You walk into a room, and I feel you.”

“What does that have to do with wanting me for me?” He jabs a thumb against his chest.

“It has everything to do with it!” I yell. “You think I can cut pieces of you up and put them into categories? Drew the man. Drew the player. Drew the super f**k? I tried and, believe me, it doesn’t work that way. When I say I want you, I want all of you. And when I say I love you, I love all of you. You’re the one who wants to put a label on everything now.”

“Just following protocol, sweetheart.” His tone is so snide that my eyes water.

“Stop being an ass,” I snap, taking a step into his space. “You say you don’t want my pity. Well, it sure as shit seems like you do.”

He snorts, and I press closer. “Do you want my pity, Drew? Is that it?”

“Why are you really here,” he shoots back. “To play nursemaid?”

Rage I can handle. But I’m not equipped to handle his pain. Not when I know I’m the cause of it. The hurt is a kick in my stomach, making my body want to sag in on itself. “You’re never going to forgive me.”

His chin lifts. “Maybe I’m not.”

For a long, hard moment, we glare at each other. Drew’s nostrils flare, his tight chest lifting and falling with agitated breaths.

And then I step back. “You know what? I can’t do this with you right now. It’s exhausting.”

He blinks, his head jerking as if I’ve slapped him. “You’re right. I think you should leave.” There’s so much disdain in his voice, it’s like dry ice. His eyes are cold, dead. And I feel the chill down in my guts.

I think you should leave. I have to say the words over again in my head before I can process them. I can’t even respond; I’ve gone so numb.

I know he doesn’t want to deal. He wants to hide away where nothing can hurt him. I know because that’s how I’ve been for so long. And I know what it will do it him if he gets his way. Drew wasn’t meant to sink into the dark.

And if I leave, he’ll think he deserves to. For once in my life, I’m not going to take the safe way. I’m not going to protect myself in a shell, even though I know this is going to hurt. Already his rejection is searing away my skin. But I’m willing to let it go to the bone for him.

As if it’s all been decided, Drew moves to go, his expression closed off and dark. And I find my voice.

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