Читать онлайн "Just Play" автора Hart Taylor - RuLit - Страница 3


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Roman let out a sigh. “Don’t c’mon me, Dumont…you played like crap.” Roman’s voice was hard. “I wouldn’t have been sitting down with anyone if you had pulled your head out and taken care of business.”

Every part of Sam stilled. He wasn’t sure if he could talk about this. The familiar tightness in his chest began to seize him again. His hands started to tremble, and he gripped the sides of the chair. His knuckles turned white. He felt like he was about to surge forward and pounce like a lineman, only his thoughts weren’t that focused. There wasn’t one lineman in front of him. There were dozens bent on taking him out, and he couldn’t run. He couldn’t even move his feet. He sucked in a deep breath, wondering how that stupid shrink had convinced him that apologizing was a good idea.

“What’s wrong?” Roman’s voice was like a ref’s whistle, piercing through the panic.

Breathing techniques were the only thing that could help him. He ignored the sweat trickling into his eyes and pulled in a lungful of air. “I don’t know why I came here.”

The center of Roman’s forehead creased, and then he scooted his chair toward him, leaning forward. “Are you all right, man?”

Sam jerked back and then stood. He didn’t want to leave, but he didn’t know how to cross this huge chasm between them. It felt like it didn’t matter how much he’d overcome with his father, the past few months he’d been sinking into a black hole. “I’m fine.”

Roman didn’t move. “Come on, Sam. Sit back down.”

The tightness in his chest was lessening with every breath. Hesitantly, he moved back to the chair, standing behind it.

Roman frowned. “Look, I don’t know what’s going on with you, but…” He gestured back and forth between them. “We’re fine.”

Sam met Roman’s eyes, his chest relaxing. “Really?”

Roman shrugged. “Listen, you can bet I’ve thought about the fact I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t have Katie and my kids if you hadn’t…” He cleared his throat. “Let’s just say, you probably did me a favor in the long run. Sit down, and let’s talk about the Miami Surf offense.” He flashed a grin.

It sounded good. He could just sit and talk shop with Roman, but it still felt so out of reach for Sam. He sat anyway and noticed his heart rate had slowed back to normal.

Roman coughed and leaned back, crossing his heel over his knee. “First, there’s something I should tell you that you’re probably not going to like.”


“I bought twenty percent of the franchise this last year.”

For a second, Sam was blind-sided. Then it all made sense. “That’s why you wanted me out. You saw me as a liability.” It stung, but it was the truth.

Tapping his fingers together, Roman stayed calm. “If you were me, would you have wanted you to stay?”

Even though it was the truth, it still ticked Sam off. He ignored the question. “That’s why you retired so easily. You wanted a bigger piece of the pie.”

“Right, do you remember that injury to my neck?” Roman bit the words off angrily.

Sam shrugged, wishing he hadn’t been slightly happy about it at the time. It had been the injury that led to Sam leading the team. Though in the end, it had really led to Sam wrecking the team. He shook his head, letting go of his pettiness. “Look, you do deserve it.”

Roman shrugged. “It’s something I, well, Katie and I wanted. I love the game, and I want to stay involved in the Destroyers as much as possible.”

“And you couldn’t give me another year?” Yes, he was desperate enough to ask.

Roman let out a breath. “Man, have you watched game tape?”

“You know the answer to that.” Despite his natural defensiveness, he focused on remembering his initial reason for being here.

Roman let out a breath and leaned back. “Dude, it’s like you’ve got all the mechanics, but your plays are hollow.”

Sam’s face felt hot. “I had a few bad games,” he repeated what he’d been telling himself over and over.

Slowly shaking his head, Roman let out a breath. “I remember when you first came on a few years ago, I was actually worried you’d take my spot.”

“I did take your spot. For a while.” Pride filled him.

Roman’s eyes flashed wider. “That’s right. There’s the fighter I knew.” His smile widened. “Where’s that guy been all year?”

“Man, just shut up.”

A light laugh came out of Roman. “I mean it. I haven’t seen a lick of fight in those eyes. They’ve been…” He trailed off and then leaned forward. “Do you want to know why the coaches chose me back then over you?”

No, he didn’t want to know. He shrugged. “I suspect you’re going to tell me.”

“Because they told me they trusted me.” Roman gave him a severe look. “And do I need to bring up that story that broke last week?”

The prescription pain meds. The press had come out with a story about how he’d seen several doctors and filled a bunch of prescriptions.

“Forget the press.” Sam heaved in a breath. “I was working through a strained ligament in my shoulder, but I’ve done PT, and I’m feeling fine now.” Sweat trickled down the middle of his back, and he clenched his fist. He knew Roman had a point. His playing had been scattered and unreliable the past year. If he were honest, he would admit that there’d been times he’d taken extra pain pills just to get through the game and he hadn’t even been in physical pain.

“Roman!” A call came from the house. “Come quick!”

Jumping to his feet, Roman ran for the front door, glancing back and pointing to Maddy. “Watch her, please.”

Not ten seconds later, Roman ran out the front door with a big boy in his arms. Sam thought he remembered seeing the boy in wedding pictures on twitter last year. Blood covered the side of his head.

Another boy trailed behind him. “Is Josh okay? His head cracked hard.”

Roman’s face was wild and desperate. “I don’t know, Nate. Go on home.” He turned to Sam. “My wife is out of town. I need you to watch Maddy.”

Adrenaline surged through him at the sight of so much blood and he tried to focus on what Roman was saying. “What?”

Roman plunked the boy into the front seat of the truck and moved to the other side. “I’m running my son to the hospital in Ogden to check out his head. Take care of Maddy. There are diapers in the bathroom, and there’s food in the fridge. She can do some solids.”

The little toddler girl reached her little arms up from the porch for Roman. “Da. Da.”

Sam’s adrenaline turned to panic. “You’re serious?”

Roman was already in the truck, backing out, his window rolled down. “If you came for redemption, it’s time to earn it.”

A thread of terror shook inside of Sam as he looked back to the little girl.

Roman tore off down the road and hollered out the window. “I’ll check in as soon as I can.”


Sam didn’t consider himself a wimp. With the exception of the last season, he’d always been an achiever. He’d wanted to be everything his father had not been, and it had shown in every part of his life: football, college, and dating—well, except for Sheena. The thought of all the failures over the course of the past year flashed through his mind. The center of his chest pounded like he’d just been through an earthquake and survived. He stared at the chubby little girl, Maddy, with red hair that looked like fluff on her head and the same eyes as Roman. Okay, he admitted to himself that his confidence had been shaken this past year. It just had. Ever since he’d sold out his integrity, he’d felt…bad. He’d been overtaken by a numbness that constantly overshadowed everything else.



2011 - 2018