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First Down: Chapter 48

JAMES

Epilogue

April, Two Months Later

BEX KISSES ME AGAIN, panting softly against my mouth. “Wait, baby. Wait. When does the show start again?”

I keep fingering her, scissoring the two fingers inside her as I slip my thumb against her clit. She gasps, her next protests lost. She’s right, we need to get back to the waiting area—the producer who came by before we slipped away warned us that it was almost time for the televised portion of the draft—but I can’t help myself. I want her to come, I want us to be the only ones in the whole crowd who know what we just did. My family is probably wondering where we are, but whatever. They can wait.

What matters right now is making my girlfriend feel good.

She clutches at my arm, but doesn’t try to move me away. I kiss her neck, resisting the urge to give her a visible love bite, and work in a third finger. I swallow her moans even though I wish I could make her scream; it’s good enough to feel her clench around me, shaking as she comes. I ease out my fingers, letting her down from where I’d pushed her up on her tiptoes against the wall.

“Holy shit,” she murmurs, looking a little dazed.

I kiss her again. “Fucking gorgeous.”

She shakes her head as she rearranges her dress. “I can’t believe you just did that. We’re about to be on television!”

I lick her slick from my fingers, relishing in her taste. “I have it worse. I’m hard as hell and just have to live with it.”

She shakes her head. “No way. You got yourself into this mess, I refuse to feel sympathetic.”

When we look presentable again—although my shirt is a little wrinkled, and Bex insists her hair doesn’t look the same—we peer out of the supply closet. The coast is clear, so we walk out, trying to look casual.

“I’ll go around this way, you go around the other way,” I say. “If anyone asks, I got caught up saying hello to some old teammates from LSU.”

She rolls her eyes fondly. “I’m just going to say I was in the bathroom.”

Ironically, I do run into a couple of people I know on my way back to the waiting area, so when I do manage to get back to my family, Bex is already there, deep in conversation with Sebastian. She’s still a little flushed. I wink at her as I sit down.

She rolls her eyes, waving her hand at me.

“How are you feeling?” Dad asks.

We haven’t gotten back to the place we were before, but things are a lot better than they were back in January. Even though we don’t view football and this career exactly the same anymore, he’s still my father, and I want him by my side for moments like this. He understands, better than anyone else, what I’m about to embark on.

In less than an hour, Bex and I will know where we’re moving after graduation.

For a while, all the talk seemed to be about San Francisco, but there are rumors that Philadelphia might trade up to get a better first-round pick to take one of the three really good quarterbacks on the board—me, the guy from Alabama who beat me back in January, and the QB from Duke. Back when I won the Heisman, there was no doubt I’d go first in the draft, but the loss in the championship game screwed with that certainty. I don’t mind; there’s no guarantee that where I start out will be where I spend the majority of my career, but the hope is that whichever team takes me is willing and ready to build a team around me that can win. I’ve tried not to think much about the specifics, because it’s not like I can pick, but it would be great if we didn’t have to be the only ones in either of our families to live all the way across the country.

“It’s starting,” a producer says, speaking to the room at large. “As a reminder, we’ll be cutting between this backstage waiting area and the stage, so remember you’re on camera. If you get the call, first and foremost congratulations. Remember to answer the call and then follow the green arrows to the stage to be introduced. The live feed will be played up front on the TVs.”

I look at my dad, taking in a deep breath. “I’m ready.”

He squeezes my shoulder, rocking me slightly. Honestly, I think he’s more nervous than I am.

As the feed goes live, Bex holds onto my hand.

The San Francisco 49ers have the first pick. They take the quarterback from Alabama.

The New York Jets have the second pick, and they take the best tackle on the board.

With the third pick, things get interesting. Philly trades up from the slot at sixth, offering Houston a slew of picks in the later round.

I know, deep in my bones, the second they announce the pick is in, that they’ve chosen me.

My phone, resting on the table before us, rings. I’m frozen for half a second, but then I feel Bex dig her nails into my hand, and that prompts me into motion. I pick it up, clearing my throat as I say hello.

“James,” my new coach says. “Welcome to the Philadelphia Eagles.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“You ready to work?”

I meet Bex’s eyes. She has her hands clasped over her mouth, probably to keep from screaming while I’m on the phone. God, I love her.

Philadelphia. We can work with that.

I wink at her.

“Yes, sir.”

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