“Drew,” I kiss his cheek, his mouth, his nose, slowly softly, and he lets me, closing his eyes as if each touch is a balm. Cupping his jaw with my hands, I press my forehead to his. “You are the best man I’ve ever known. You helped me become the person I’ve always wanted to be. You’re everything, Drew.” My breath leaves in a shudder of frustration. “I don’t even know how to tell you how much you mean to me.”

He smiles as he kisses me, a gentle easy kiss, as if he’s finally breathing free. “Just be with me and I’ll know. Just be with me.”

How could I not? He is part of me now. “Always.”

Two Years Later…

Epilogue

IT’S SUNDAY NIGHT and I’m bathed in brilliant white light. The air is crisp and fills my lungs with a sweet burn as I take in the scents of fried food, beer, and human sweat. Electricity buzzes around me, created by the joy and cheers of eighty thousand people. This is high theater. It’s human drama, and we’re all riveted to the twenty-two men on the emerald green field.

But my attention is drawn only to one. His helmet obscures his face but he’s still gorgeous to me. Tall and strong. He is poetry and grace in motion. He owns the ball. He throws and it listens.

And I’m so excited I barely can keep still.

“Keep bouncing around like that,” says a voice in my ear, “and you’ll fall out of your seat.”

Gray laughs as he says it, and I can’t help but grin. He’s flown in from San Francisco, where he was drafted to play, to be here.

“He’s blowing it up, Gray.”

“Yeah, he is,” Gray says with his own grin.

Two years of working towards this moment. Rehab, the fear of not getting signed, then trying to fit in as a rookie, and tonight Drew finally gets his chance to start, filling in for the team’s injured starting quarterback. As if he’s been waiting for it, he explodes out of the gate. He’s born for this, and his team knows it. They respond to his confidence, playing with precision and verve. Already they’re up three touchdowns against the better team.

And though he’d once insisted it was okay if he never played again, I know what this means to him. Tears blur my vision as I scream his name, my voice lost among the many.

“Everything is going to change,” Gray warns me, though he doesn’t really look worried.

“I know.” It will be more. More press. More pressure.

But we’ll weather it. We still can’t keep our hands off each other. Do we fight sometimes? Of course. Drew has his dark days and I have mine. I barely saw him when I began to intern at a cable production company on a whim. I’m now an associate producer for a cooking show. It’s something I’d never envisioned for myself but love with a passion.

Our stress levels rose to a pitch during the days before the draft. Would he go quickly like some thought? Or languish in the third, fourth, or fifth rounds as Drew secretly feared? When he was the fourth pick in the first round—to New York, thank God—we celebrated for an entire week.

But it full-out sucked living in New York City those first few months before his draft. Because I refused to let Drew dip too far into his savings, we could only afford a walkup in the Lower East Side. I can’t even think about the number of roaches Drew smashed without shuddering. We both cried a little in relief when we finally bought our apartment in Chelsea. But the dark days are few. We have more fun than anything else.

He’s my best friend, and I’m his.

I clap my hands, and the ring on my finger catches the light with a glint. It’s a brilliant round diamond surrounded by a ring of black emerald-cut diamonds on a platinum band. Drew gave it to me last month, asking me to be his forever. And it’s perfect.

But I don’t really need a ring. I just need Drew. The moment he asked me the question, the only answer I wanted to give was yes and how soon?

At first my mom was worried. We were too young. Did I know the divorce rate for pro-athletes? The constant travel and temptation Drew will deal with?

Yeah, I know. And yet I will never treat Drew as a stereotype again. Taking Drew means taking the good, the bad, and the in-between. Just as he takes me.

After the game, when I finally get to him, I fling myself into his arms, and he holds me tight before spinning me around, the high of kicking ass infectious. Our kiss is messy, broken up by giddy laughter—mostly mine.

“I’m so proud of you,” I tell him when he puts me down. “You were awesome.” Already there is talk. And I know his team is going to make him starting quarterback now.

Drew’s grin lights up his face. His touch is tender on my cheek, and then he tells me what I know is his absolute truth, because it’s mine too. “It means nothing without you.”


Tags: Kristen Callihan Game On Young Adult
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