Find out in Fourth and Inches the final installment in the Moving the Chains Sports romance Series by Kata Čuić
The only thing he’s still sure of is that he needs Evie.
I watch, unfazed after so many years on the sidelines, as Sacramento’s team gives interviews on their side of the field, players slowly trickling into the visiting locker room without much fanfare.
Now that I’m at field level, and much shorter than many of the people here, I’ve lost sight of number ten. Searching frantically for him, a part of me cries out over not being ready to say good bye yet again, even if only from a distance and without words.
And then I see him. He’s in the middle of the field, speaking with reporters. He glances toward the Albany sideline and does a double take.
His gaze sears me, and I know, without a doubt, I’ve made a mistake being here.
The uncontrolled fury on his face causes the sports journalist to step back from him. Without any words of parting, he stalks toward me, my heart pounding in time with every measured stride he takes across the field.
Oh, no. Not here. Not now.
There are too many witnesses.
I can’t hide. He’s already seen me, and there’s nowhere to take cover.
I’m frozen in place, awaiting his wrath, and for the cameras to catch it all for posterity.
And then he’s here. He doesn’t invade my personal space like I expect, but his chest is heaving like…well, like he’s just played three hours of nasty football.
“Your hair,” he breathes. His hand hovers in the air between us, though he’s too far away to reach my curls.
As if it’s my duty to complete the task he set out to do, I lift my hand, toying with the bottom fringe of my unruly mop, which falls just above chin level. It’s on the tip of my tongue to say something completely stupid, such as, “You don’t like it?”
Rob beats me to the punch. “I couldn’t find you. I knew you were here. I could feel you, but now I know why I didn’t see you.”
His admission slices through me. He once told me he really saw me for who I was beneath whichever mask I wore.
It was all a lie.
His willingness to jump into Julie’s arms and his words now only prove that.
I suck in a harsh breath and cast my gaze to the turf beneath my feet, unsure of what else to say in this moment that feels like an out-of-body experience.
“You didn’t sign off on that last magazine spread.” He clears his throat, like this is any other business conversation he doesn’t really want to have, but knows must be done. “Was it too racy? I told them I wouldn’t pose for the Body Edition. Shawn was mad as hell about it.”
“He’s doing a good job.” I’m not sure he hears my whisper over the din of the still-buzzing stadium. “I’m glad he’s watching out for you.”
“He’s supposed to be watching out for you,” Rob grits. “Why haven’t you been to the doctor? Are you having trouble accessing the bank account, the insurance?”
“It’s your money, Rob. I’m not going to use it.”
“It’s our money. You worked just as hard for it as I do. I wouldn’t be earning it if you hadn’t supported me the way you did in college.” He steps closer, forcing my chin up to meet his gaze. He reaches his hand out once more, then drops it to his side. “I…” He breathes deeply, holds it for a beat, then lets it out in a rush. The faint smell of alcohol unsettles me further. “The least I can give you after everything you suffered through is access to the best possible medical care and money for grad school if you ever decide to apply.”
So, I’m still his pity project. I didn’t think the pain could go any deeper.
At least that answers my questions about why he secretly treats me like his wife, even as I wonder why I haven’t been served with divorce papers.
“I haven’t decided what I’m going to do yet.” He doesn’t really want to know my plans, anyway. That would cross the line of our business relationship.
He nods. “It’s not like you need to rush. There’s nothing holding you down anymore.”
The edge in his voice prompts me to look at my shoes again. “You, neither.”
“I’m not supposed to be over here. I should go.”
I nod, swallowing down the emotion in my throat as I glance around. My surroundings come back into focus, and I breathe a sigh of relief. No one seems to be paying attention to our interaction. “Okay.”
He heaves out another deep breath that forces my attention to his face. His previous expression of anger has been replaced by hurt and unmistakable sadness. “Take care of yourself. Please.”
I’m vaguely conscious of nodding my head, though I can barely feel anything at all. “You, too.”
A wry chuckle escapes his lips, though his expression doesn’t change at all. “Yeah, sure.”
“What does that mean?” Dammit. I shouldn’t have asked that.
Let go, Evie. Just let him go. Let him live his amazing life. He just needs a little more time for all the pieces to fall into place.
“It means,” he leans forward into my personal space, the sour aroma of alcohol on his breath more noticeable than before, “I’m no longer your problem.”
As he walks away, it occurs to me he lied.
Even if he doesn’t realize it.
Rob Falls will always be my problem.
Losing isn’t an option.
Rob’s life is spiraling out of control. All his carefully made plans have been laid to waste. His friends aren’t speaking to him; he’s estranged from his family. Drafted to the worst team in the NFL, everything he’s worked so hard for seems to be slipping away.
The only thing he’s still sure of is that he needs Evie.
Evie is lost. Once a driven, ambitious young woman, she’s paying penance for all the wrong choices she’s made. Stuck in a downward spiral, she craves a spark of hope to ignite the change she so desperately needs.
The only thing that hasn’t faltered is her devotion to Rob.
Realizing they need to make changes to go the distance, they challenge each other to do and be better.
Rob knows that to fight for the woman of his dreams, he’ll have to let go of his endless guilt and find a way to be the man she fell for years ago.
Evie understands that to reach their happily ever after, she needs to feel worthy of herself before she can fully accept Rob’s love.
They make a pact to hold each other accountable.
The time frame? One year.
The deal? Get it together or walk away. For good.
On the line? Everything.
When losing isn’t an option,
And the clock’s running down,
How far will they go to win?
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