She took one look at me and that smile was wiped clean.
I was barely keeping my shit together as it was, and now to know this.
She’d been walking. No, fuck that. She was working. A lot, from what this one was saying, and she was walking?
I grated out, “How far is campus from here?”
She swallowed, getting with the program and cluing in how close to the edge I was. “Her job is four blocks away. I think she cuts through somewhere, maybe a side alley, so it might be less. I’m not sure.”
Fuck that. Fuck this girl. Fuck her fucking roommates. And fuck me, for letting her go when I knew I shouldn’t have.
Fuck. Just fuck.
“How long has this been going on?”
Another swallow before her head bobbed down. “Uh. A week? No. More than that, I think. Maybe two?”
“You don’t know?” I ground that out.
“No. I’m sorry.”
I was gone. Dusty was going to have a car in her spot by the end of the day and before then, Morpheus would be on her curb. If she walked, he would follow. I didn’t give a flying fuck how pissed she might be about that.
She had had a goddamn stalker.
My thoughts went rampant thinking about that piece of shit. I wanted to find him again, murder him with my bare hands and stuff his desecrated bones back into the ground, and I wanted to repeat that process all over again. Over and over and over until I got justice for Dusty.
I had no clue, no fucking idea.
A stalker. A goddamn motherfucking stalker.
If I’d known, shit. I would’ve wanted to go at him, wrap my hands around his throat, but fuck. I couldn’t go back in time. The piece of shit was dead, but I could go forward, and I interrupted the nice roommate. She was still talking.
She’d been pouring orange juice into a glass, and at my growl, she jumped. Juice spilled all over the counter, but flinching, she swung those wide eyes to me. “Uh. What?”
“Noel. Witkerson. Your school’s QB 1. Where is he? I know he sleeps here.”
“Oh.” She was flustered, her cheeks getting red. “Savannah’s room is upstairs on the right, but…”
Yeah. Yeah. Don’t go up there. They’re sleeping. She didn’t know I didn’t give a shit.
I stalked up the stairs, lined up there were two bedrooms and I saw the bathroom door open. I went to the right and I didn’t give ’em an option. I was hoping they weren’t going at it—but I’d seen that shit before, so no big deal—because I flung the door open.
The girl screamed.
Witkerson jumped out of bed, wild and panicked, but saw it was me and he swore, grabbing for a pillow to cover his nuts. He remembered we both spent most of our lives in football locker rooms and dropped the pillow. Crawling back in bed, he lay back down. “Tell me this is fucking important, man. You’re interrupting my sleep time and my time with my girl.”
“She had a stalker.”
“What?!” the girl squawked, bolting upright.
She had a shirt on. Thank God. I didn’t want to see her girls. Any normal day before today, I might’ve looked if they were presented to me because fuck, I’m a guy…but not this day.
“It’s why she came down here. A stalker.”
The QB 1 sat up, suddenly all serious and yeah, he better be.
I clipped my head at him. “You’re here. You’re here when I can’t be. That piece of shit is dead, but there might be others. Her name, her face, it’s getting out there. And she’s mine. I ain’t keeping quiet about that anymore. She’s going to get more attention, more focus, and that brings haters. Bitch catty women and dirty perv assholes. Sick fucks, too. She and I haven’t talked, she doesn’t know the lengths I’m going to, but I’m going to them. If she stays here, and if she chooses, I’ll be here most nights, but I’m going to try to get her to my house. But if she stays, you’re on duty. Got it?”
“Wait.” The girl was looking between us.
The QB nodded. “Got it.”
“What is going on here?”
“Good. I’ll have a guy parked out front all day. He’s her ride. She ain’t walking anywhere alone today and tonight. There’ll be a car of her own here by end of the day.” I bit out and turned for the door. “I got a game, then I’ll be back to either sleep here or collect her for my place.”
The girlfriend jumped up in bed, but I had turned already. Caught the movement out of the corner of my eyes, glimpsed something white on her legs and figured she had pants on, too. Again. Not caring. This was today, not yesterday, not a month ago. Things were different today. Everything was different. I was staking my claim and I wasn’t going away. Hell to the fuck no.
I pounded the doorframe. “See you later. Remember what I said…watch her.”
And because there was an unwritten guy code and my job was to pick on the younger bucks, I pounded on the other door. “Don’t forget to pull out, Harrington!”
There was a scream in there, too, and then from him, “Shut up!” He groaned. “I was fucking sleeping, douche.”
I pounded the door a second time, laughing, then I was down the stairs and out the front door. I had a block to walk to my Jeep and a game to get ready for.
I was jacked. I was hyped. I was ready to tear heads off bodies.
Morpheus was currently camped out on Dusty’s street. He was given orders to grow roots if he needed, and if she walked somewhere and refused the ride, he was supposed to be her personal shadow. And I had a call in to my manager. A brand new Honda HR-V would be parked in her spot by tonight, and the keys were getting hand delivered to her door. I texted with her and found out her plans were to study at the house. Perfect. She said her roommates weren’t having a party, so it’d just be the girls, their guys, and my girl all watching my game. I told her to wait for me that night. I was coming for her.
Dusty Girl: Ready and waiting.
That made me laugh, but onto the game. I had a job to do.
We were in the locker room, music blaring in our headphones. Russ, his Flute song, was blaring in my ears, and I was there. I was on the field. I was running, dodging, losing the other motherfuckers. The ball was mine. It was coming right for me.
It was another extension of my body, just no one else knew.
That was my job. I’d teach them. I’d school the fuckers. They’d know by the end of the game, each time I ran into the end zone and not once, twice, three times. Four. Five. I’d keep going all day long, all night long. I could score in my sleep and pity to the fools who didn’t believe in me. They’d be schooled real quick.
“Yo.” A hand appeared in front of me.
I reached up, meeting it with mine, and Colby was there, pulling me up to my feet.
We were in this together.
This game. Him and me. There’s nothing like the dynamic between the guy who throws the ball and the guy who can catch it, especially when no one else can catch him. That was me. That was what I got paid to do. We were going to go show everyone again, because you know, they all needed reminding.
His eyes were ready.
He was amped up.
So was I.
We go out and we win. We got paid to do this shit, and after the coach had his say, after we ran to the field, after the anthem, the coin toss, the kickoff—it was my turn.
Colby came up to me on the field. His fist to mine. “You ready?”
I gave him a nod back. Fuck yeah, I was ready. I was salivating over getting out there, doing my thing.
He grinned, reading me right. “You’re in a mood today.”
Another cocky smirk from me. Fuck yes, I was. I was gonna score here. I was gonna win here. Then I was going home to get my woman. But all I did was tell him, “Throw it to me. They won’t expect a long throw to me on the first play. And trust me, they won’t be able to catch me tonight.”
He studied me a second longer, then nodding. “Okay. Yeah. I’m seeing that. Let’s do this.”
He called the play as we were lining up. Everyone knew. I didn’t have the headphones any longer, but that music was with me. It was in my head and I tuned into it, remembering it, and I envisioned how this play would go.
Ball was snapped and I was off.
Lighting up the field.
Then I was right there, right on target, and Colby had already seen it all. The ball was in the air, and holding back, reading that—yes, yes, yes. It was right on point. I kicked off more speed, saw three players heading for me. Saw two of mine coming to cover, and with a quick spin, I was around one guy and going full force.
The ball sailed, so pretty, and it was a perfect play.
A perfect throw.
I didn’t have to jump, move, none of that shit. I just ran and that ball fell into my arms. I was cradling it like a baby as my foot came down in the end zone.
That was our first score.
There was no celebration. I was doing my job.
I tossed the ball to the ref, ran to the side and pointed at Colby, who was running diagonally with me. “That was the first one.”
He dipped his head. He knew my mood. He knew what to be prepared for this game. It was the first of many. He said, “Got it. My arm’s ready. You be ready.”