After the Game (Page 43)


“Yes,” I replied, knowing she had seen or already knew about the kiss. Not to mention the field party.

“When did that start? Last thing I heard she had f****d someone and tried to pin the baby on Rhett. Gunner just decided to forgive that cause his brother got drunk and came to homecoming.”

Ivy was being catty because she was upset. I had broken things off with her, but that wasn’t enough. She had been expecting we would end up together. I knew she planned on following me to college. Not something I wanted or had asked of her. Ever.

“None of that is your business,” I told her, jerking my truck door open and tossing my bag inside.


“We were together for eighteen months, Brady. We had taken a break only three weeks and four days before you were seen kissing her. How do you think that makes me feel? It was just a break!”

I had too much to deal with to add this drama to it. “It wasn’t a break. I told you we were over. It was done. We had grown apart and I needed to focus on my future. You wanted things I didn’t.”

She let out a loud, angry laugh. “That is a break!”

“A breakup,” I corrected, then climbed into my truck.

“You pretend to be this nice guy. The good guy everyone wants to be around. Mr. Quarterback with the perfect life. But you are cruel! Selfish! And I am glad to be rid of you! I deserve more than this.”

Her ranting was a time bomb that had been ticking. I was glad it was happening and we could move on.


“Okay” was all I said, hoping I could close the door and leave.

“Why Riley Young? She has a baby, for God’s sake!”

Because she was my fit. And I loved her. I didn’t say that, though. I wasn’t telling anyone before I told Riley.

“Good-bye, Ivy” was my response instead, then I closed my truck door and made sure not to hit her before pulling out of the parking spot and heading home to get ready for the last game of my high school career.

* * *


Riley’s red Mustang was in my drive when I pulled in. It made me smile to see it there. My conversation or assault from Ivy, whatever you wanted to call it, was over. I was home now. Riley was here. I was okay.

I walked in the front door and heard Bryony’s laughter coming from the living room.

I went toward the noise to find Bryony at the coffee table with homemade play dough—something my mother loved to do with me as a child. Riley was on the other side helping her roll it into small balls, and my mother was beside Bryony on her knees with a smile on her face again.

The ache my father’s departure had caused eased when my mom smiled like that. Her eyes weren’t bloodshot from tears today. It looked as if she hadn’t cried at all. She lifted her gaze to meet mine. “Look who came to play today,” she said, sounding as happy about it as she looked.

I bent down beside Riley. “And y’all made play dough. I used to love doing this.”


“And you loved eating it,” my mother added.

Riley chuckled beside me, and I cut my eyes over at her. She was beautiful. Her hair was up on top of her head in a messy bun, and she wasn’t wearing any makeup. She had the same happy expression my mother did, and sitting here like this with her, spending time with my mom, made me want to kiss her until we both ran out of breath.

“Hey,” I said instead.

She blushed as if she knew what I was thinking. I hoped so. “Hey” was her simple response.

“Bryony and I need to finish making the Christmas tree out of play dough. Riley, would you help Brady get his things together for me? He needs to be back at the school soon to get on the bus.”

That was Mom’s way of giving us privacy but reminding us not to take too much privacy.


Riley nodded. “Yes, of course.”

We stood up and Bryony seemed too preoccupied to care about our departure. I waited until we hit the stairs to press a quick kiss to her lips. I couldn’t wait much longer.

She kissed me back, then pushed me gently away. “Someone could see us.”

I wasn’t real concerned, but she was, so I hurried us along to my room in the attic. There, no one would see us. And I could have my alone time with her.

When we stepped inside, I closed the door before leading her up the stairs to the loft we had fixed up in the attic when Maggie had moved in. She had taken my room and I had finally gotten this room, like I’d wanted for years.


“Thanks for coming here today, spending time with Mom,” I told her, putting both my hands on her hips and pulling her closer to me. “She really enjoys Bryony.”

“Bryony enjoys coming over here,” she replied with a whisper just before I covered her lips with mine.

Kissing Riley seemed to get better every time. She was always sweet and soft. I wanted to hold her like she was delicate, yet I couldn’t seem to get close enough to her. This was when I felt completely whole. Not broken or hurt. With her in my arms, my life was right.

That was love. I knew that now, but it didn’t mean love wouldn’t end. Even knowing that, I never wanted to end this with Riley.

Her hands slid up my arms, and I shivered from the touch. Wrapping my arms around her, I held her to me as close as she could fit. The feel of her breasts pressed against my chest sent desire coursing through me that I was afraid of acting on.


Most girls that I had dated moved easily, but Riley had been hurt sexually, and I was afraid too much would terrify her. So I held back, and it took every ounce of willpower I had.

She moved up so that her breasts brushed against me and a small moan escaped her. Mary mother of Jesus, I was a saint. I swore to God I’d better get rewarded for this one day. Picking her up and taking her over to my bed was all I could think about.

My hands brushed her bare waist as her shirt lifted, and she shivered this time. So I let them travel higher and she lifted her arms to wrap around my neck, giving me complete access. Or at least it felt that way.

When my thumbs brushed under the wire of her bra and she continued to kiss me and cling to me, I continued on until my palms covered the soft bare flesh that sent both our heart rates into a frenzy. Her breathing intensified and she began to pant as she held on to my shoulders as if she might fall.

This was more than I couldn’t imagine with anyone else ever. Just her. I broke the kiss so I could catch my breath as my hands continued caressing the tender flesh that had hardened under my touch.


“I love you,” I told her. The words were out before I could think it through. In this moment we were enclosed in our own little world. Safe from others and the s**t life threw at us.

She didn’t reply right away, but her eyes closed and she rested her forehead on my shoulder. I slipped my hands around to her back and held her against me. We stood like that while our breathing slowed and the heat from our bodies mingled to make us feel like one instead of two.

This was where I wanted to be. Nowhere else had ever felt this right. No one else would make me feel like Riley Young did.

Brave. Strong. And able to take on the world.

“I love you too. But it scares me,” she finally said, breaking the silence around us.

She didn’t scare easily. But I understood her fears. I had them too.


We didn’t have to figure it all out right now. Or even tomorrow. We had time. And there had to be an answer to this. Because without Riley I wasn’t whole.

I’ve Already Lived Through a Nightmare



Instead of sitting far away from Brady’s family this week, I sat beside his mother, and Maggie and Willa joined us. We were all wearing Lawton Lions blue. Brady had actually given me his home jersey to wear tonight. It was huge on me, but Willa and Maggie had on Gunner’s and West’s, so I didn’t feel silly.