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Turn Over:A Secret Baby Sports Romance

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Luke


Sometimes people are wrong. They're wrong about what the score will be  at the end of the game. They're wrong about what route to run. They're  wrong about who they can trust. And fuck it, they're wrong about people.  Wrong about love. I used to be one of those people. Cynical.  Egotistical. Selfish. But all it takes is one second. One split second  of your life when you think you'll lose everything. And suddenly it  comes into focus. Faster than I take a snap. Faster than I read the  defense. I can see all of it. I can see it being ripped away. In a split  second all of it can be ruined. There could be a life where she doesn't  exist. Where the mistakes push her away.

They are wrong about me. And the thing about me is I love to prove people wrong.



It was hot as shit on the practice field. The September sun beat down on  everyone. It didn't discriminate between million dollar players or the  trainers who took home fifty thousand a year. It was brutal and  unrelenting, reminding all of us what it meant to play football in  Texas.

Ownership promised we would have an indoor facility soon with air  conditioning, but that didn't do a damn bit of good when my linemen were  cramping up on the field and I could barely see from the sting of sweat  rolling in my eyes.

I gripped the ball between my fingers, digging into the leather with my  nails while the sideline crew ran out to squirt water in the players'  mouths. I didn't see what good an ounce of water was going to do in this  heat, but I waited anyway.

Our rookie tight end, James, walked up to me. "What did you think of that last play?"

"I think it sucked." I held my helmet under my arm and squirted water on the back of my neck.

I could see him huffing as hard as the rest of the team and he was twenty-two-the youngest guy out here.

"I've been asking for pointers since July," he started.

I didn't want to hear his excuses or anyone else's. If you played for  the American Football Association, you better have the balls to back it  up. James was a top draft pick. He was new to the league, the process,  and me.

"You want advice? Get out there and catch the fucking ball when I throw  it." I slammed my helmet over my head, clamping it against my forehead.  "Is there anything else you need to know?"

He shook his head, running to the line of scrimmage. I didn't take on  projects, and I sure as hell didn't take rookies under my wing. They had  to learn just like the rest of us had.

This game wasn't built on kindness. It wasn't built on friendship. It  was built on that scoreboard. When the clocked ran down to zero the only  thing that mattered was what number was next to the Warriors' name.  Make catches. Block punts. Tackle the runner. That was their job. If  they needed me to tell them how to do that, they didn't belong on my  team.

The Austin Warriors were one of the league's original teams. You either  hated or loved us. There wasn't a lot of gray area with AFA fans. There  were families in the stadium on Sundays who had handed their seats down  for three generations.

We were a legendary team. A team with deep roots. A team with history.

Warrior football was everything to this town. And that made me the fucking general. The commander of this army.

I yelled, scattering the conditioning team. "If you want to get the hell out of this heat, let's finish this practice."

I could see I wasn't the only one. The linemen weren't tolerating the  heat. Droplets of sweat beaded on their noses as they took their  positions for the snap. We had two more plays to run. Only two. If I  could make it through, I could soak in an ice tub for an hour and put  this hellish practice behind me.

I could forget the imprint the sun had burned on my forearms. Forget I  practiced for the third day in a row hung over. There was too much  bourbon last night. I could still taste it in my mouth. The way my  tongue was thick. But that was part of the Luke Canton package. I did  whatever the hell I wanted at night, but I performed on the field the  next day.

I called out the next play, took the snap, and threw the ball long into  the end zone. I nodded at James. He caught it square in the chest. It  was a perfect spiral.         

     



 

No one wanted to be out here. It wasn't glorious or glamorous. It fucking sucked running drills in a hundred-degree heat.

Twenty minutes later I was in the practice facility locker room climbing  into a tub of ice. The trainer added another bucket of cubes as I slid  my feet to the bottom of the floor.

"How's that, Luke?" he asked.

"Just keep dumping it in until I say quit."

The ice was melting against the blistering patches of skin I immersed  under the surface. It was both painful and a relief. It was the shock I  needed to erase the last fragments of my headache.

I started to settle in, trying to adjust my huge frame to the confines  of the tub. It was hard to fit all of me in this cramped space. My dark  hair was stuck to my head. I scooped a handful of the ice water and  dumped it on my scalp, and shook the water from my ears.

"Canton!"

I whipped my head around. "What?"

"Coach wants to see you."

I glared at the tight end assistant coach. "Tell him I'm doing a cool down."

He shook his head. "Doesn't care. Wants your ass in his office now."

"Damn it," I muttered. I considered refusing to leave, but the assistant  coach waited in the doorway. I pulled one icy leg and then the other  out of the tub and dripped across the tile. I wrapped a towel around my  waist, tucking the corner against my hipbone and pushed through the  locker room door.

I knocked on Coach Applewhite's door and walked inside.

His eyes pinched together. "Luke, you couldn't put any clothes on?"

I stared down at my body. There was a puddle of water at my feet. "I was  in cool down, but was told you couldn't wait. This is what I had on. I  can come back," I offered.

To his right was Mr. McCade. I straightened my back. I had been too  pissed at Coach to notice that the owner of the Warriors was in the  office.

It was no secret that Coach and I didn't agree on much. We tried to stay  out of each other's way off the field as much as possible. It usually  worked. Until now.

"Since you're here, why don't you sit?" Coach nodded toward the couch.

Mr. McCade was easily in his seventies, but none of us knew for sure.  What we knew was he was a cheap bastard. He wanted the best team in the  league, but wasn't willing to pay for the facilities or the equipment we  asked for. He wanted high dollar players, but negotiations could drag  on for weeks. I didn't have a lot to say to the man. He was my employer,  but I wasn't a fan.

One sweep around Coach's office and you could see what the McCades  thought about funding the management offices. The place looked like it  hadn't been updated since 1985. A row of play manuals lined the bookcase  above his desk. There were a few framed family pictures scatted on the  top shelf along with a team photo from three years ago. They all needed  dusting.

"All right. What can I do for you, Coach? Mr. McCade?"

"I'm going to skip over the inspirational coach's speech and get to the point."

"Sounds good to me." I stared at both of them with eyes just as cold as theirs.

Applewhite sighed. "We've got a problem on the team."

"Yeah, guys are passing out left and right because they're out of shape,  it's one-hundred twenty degrees out there, and rookies don't know their  routes," I snarled. "What's the status on the new indoor practice  field?"

"Luke, we're not here to talk about facility expansion. I'm not talking about the other guys. I'm talking about you."

I sat there in my towel, waiting to hear what league infraction I had  collected this time. Because it wasn't the first time they had drug me  in here with threats about my behavior. I'd gotten the speech fifty  times to stop drinking. To stop picking up women. To stop speeding. To  stop using my celebrity status to get favors. The thing was I didn't  give a shit. I lived my life the way I wanted and as long as I gave them  results every Sunday, they could fuck off.

Mr. McCade cleared his throat before reaching into his suit pocket and  retrieving a photograph. "Do you know this young lady?" He slid it  across the coffee table.         

     



 

I picked it up. Pretty girl, but I'd never seen her before. "Nope." I  tossed it on the pile of sports magazines covering the flimsy white wood  table.

"That's not what she claims. She accosted me this morning outside of my home. It was a surprise, especially to my wife."

If McCade wanted me to feel sorry for him, he didn't know what it was  like living with paparazzi. I couldn't buy gas without reporters asking  for a statement. No sympathy here.

"So?"

"So," Coach intervened. "She claims you got her pregnant."





2





Alexa





"Keep still," my stylist ordered for the third time.

"I'm trying to send out an update," I explained. It was hard to  concentrate on hair, makeup, and social media obligations at the same  time when I was in a contorted position.

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