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Beauty and the Blitz(272)

By´╝ÜSosie Frost


I kissed him. “Be the man I love.”

He smirked. “I’m pretty good at that.”

“Don’t get cocky.”

“I’m good at that too.”

And that was what I was afraid of. I tucked the speech into his jacket and let him lead us to the pressroom. The media room was big enough to fit the usual batch of local reporters, but tonight it filled completely, overflowing into the hallways and fit with more cameras and photographers than crammed in during last season’s playoffs.

Jack offered the room a smile, even though I told him to appear as solemn as he could. Wasn’t going to happen. I crossed my fingers.

“Lots of cameras today.” Jack cleared his throat and approached an impromptu podium. “Don’t worry, I won’t break any of ‘em.”

Cripes. Now I crossed both fingers.

Jack unveiled the speech from his pocket. He looked it over and heaved a breath. Appropriately remorseful, but I saw something else.

That defiance.

He hated this so much. My heart ached for him, but it was the only way.

Jack wasn’t a man who’d beg for mercy. He earned the chances he got because he was the best quarterback in the damn league and everyone knew it.

Which meant he already made his decision.

I knew it before he did.

“Good evening.” Jack read from the statement. The cameras whirled and clicked. Flashes of light captured the hard angle of his jaw, his growing scowl. “I wish to take this opportunity to thank the members of the press and my fans for allowing me this moment to express my sincerest remorse for…” He paused. Exhaled. “For…”

I saw it happening. His mind changed.

At least he almost made it through the opening paragraph.

Jack’s demeanor shifted. He shook his head and ripped up the speech. The reporters murmured to themselves.

“No.” Jack started again. “I’m not sorry for what happened that night. Yeah, I got arrested. Again. And yeah, I got a massive speeding ticket and nearly lost my license. I regret the trouble it caused the team, league, and my family, but I can’t apologize for the reason it happened. In fact, I’d do it all again if I had to.”

No PR company could salvage this. I waited as Jack faced everyone who would skin him alive for daring to be honest when the media needed a scoop.

“That night, I’d thought I lost my unborn son.” His words darkened. “I thought the woman I loved was in danger. Yes, I sped to the hospital. Yes, we had an issue with a journalist. But I did everything I could to rush to her side. I’m not apologizing for doing what a father should do to protect his baby.”

The room shifted. More lights and flashes. Jack shrugged at me.

“There’s not much else for a man to do while we wait for the kid to be born. I, uh, painted the nursery. I got the late night ice cream. Did the foot rubs. But that’s nothing when you realize how helpless you are if there’s a problem.” His voice hardened, confident. “I can’t do much for him now, but I will always be there if he’s in trouble, no matter the damn consequences.”

I cradled my belly, meeting Jack’s gaze with a gentle smile.

“As for the assault charge.” The devoted father faded, and the hardened lover returned. “No one will ever terrorize the woman I love, especially if she’s in the hospital, fearing for our baby’s life. If defending her, if protecting her makes me some sort of criminal, then I’m a criminal. Cut me from the team. Expel me from the league.”

The room buzzed. Jack didn’t care.

“I might not be a quarterback anymore, but at least I know I’ll be a damned good husband and father. There’s no apologizing for that.”

The press silenced. My eyes blurred with tears, absolutely moved by the man I loved. It wasn’t the apology I wanted him to give, and it wasn’t anything the league would ever tolerate. It didn’t matter. He made a mistake, got into trouble, but this time…it wasn’t something selfish and inconsiderate.

He sacrificed everything for me.

Jack wrapped it up with a nod. “Now, I am sorry for the legal problems this is causing. My driving was reckless, and I did punch a guy out.” He paused. “I know how my behavior reflects on the league and the team. Hell, I know it’s making Leah squirm because I’m going off script. Just let me say, I’ll take a punishment. Whatever the league wants. And I won’t complain because it’s deserved. But I won’t apologize for defending my family. I love her. I love my baby. And I’ll do whatever it takes to keep them protected and safe.”

Jack tucked the crumpled speech in his pocket. The media stood, shouting questions and calling his name. He ignored them, holding out a hand for me to take. He pulled me from the zoo and led me away until we tucked in a quiet, dim corner office. I was lost to his arms.

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