My Only Reason (A Love is Love #1) by Leigh Lennon



Prologue





Six years ago





Crush



This is the game we've worked toward since our freshman year in college. I'm on the field with my team, men I'd willingly die for, and surrounded by the excitement in the stadium, my eyes connect with my best friend's. "Fourth down and goal." The noise is so loud, and my voice is hoarse from screaming. "Hanley, we need you. Green thirty-six reverse right on two with Dale." Ryder Hanley—the diva of our team, my best friend, and our wide receiver—gives me a nod to acknowledge the play. "We have one chance. One last drive. Don't fuck it up, boys."

As the quarterback and captain, I know that being a dick motivates this team. I'm the first with my hand in the huddle. "On three. One, two, three, fuck them!" we yell over the noise in the stadium, and it gets the other team's attention.

The offensive line is in position, and the center snaps the ball my way as Jimmy Dale and Ryder run the reverse. My first look is at Dale, our running back, but three defenders cover him. My best friend, Ryder Hanley, hasn't caught the ball once during the game. He's been off, and I'm not sure why. Of course, the other team has seen this, and they leave his ass open. It's not what I want, but with Jimmy Dale covered, I fake Jimmy's way, then drop back and throw it toward Ryder.

It's a smooth pass, and Ryder runs, moving into position to catch the ball. My breath stills. We need this. It's our senior year of college and the championship game we've worked our asses off to play in—it's been our goal, our dream since our freshman year.

His hands reach for it in midair. It wobbles, and the entire team, fuck, the whole stadium is quiet. He lands on his feet as it continues to bobble in his hands. Not sure what the hell is on his fingers, if it's butter, but I wait for him to drop it as he's done all day. My eyes fall to the turf, and the entire stadium, or at least the half who are Bears fans, erupts into cheers. My best friend has the fucking ball in his grasp for the first time today—but it's the only time it fucking matters.





The locker room is empty besides Ryder and me. He's slow on regular days, so given his current mood, regardless of his winning touchdown and his subdued manner, I wait on him.

The locker room reeks of fifty-plus men. I should be used to it after four years. It's my hope the locker rooms in professional ball come with a little more luxury than what I've had at this point. Or at least its fragrance may be more appealing.

I sit on the bench in front of the lockers, texting Alison. She flew to California for the game and is at the hotel, bitching to the whole world about how long it's taking me to get back. After the win, I'd planned on spending the night with her, but now, I don't know if I can handle the attitude. As curvy and beautiful as the woman is, when she's pissed, I sometimes wonder if her blowjobs are worth it.

Me: Something is up with Ry. He's still here. I can't leave him.

Before I read her text, I can imagine the bitch in her response.

Alison: But I'm leaving in the morning, and you all are flying back together. Please, just talk to him tomorrow after I fuck my favorite national champion senseless.

Usually, her dirty talk would cause me to run out of the locker room while hiding my angry erection, but not today. Her words don't do anything for me. My best friend is in pain. Something has happened, and I can't leave him. I've already conducted my interviews, and I had asked our coach to let us make it back to the hotel on our own.

The coach, too, is concerned for my friend. From the second Ry opened his eyes, he hasn't been the jubilant asshole, talking shit to everyone. On the field, his mouth didn't run like it usually had. Even Jimmy Dale asked me several times what the fuck was up with our favorite diva.

"Is that Alison?" Ryder asks in his purple paisley suit and tie, a sad smile on his face. "I can't imagine she's happy about being left to wait," he mutters, pulling his backpack behind him.

Ryder should know. He's a diva, and it takes one to know one. My girlfriend and best friend are similar and hate each other with a passion. It's jealousy on Alison's part, but I'm not sure what it is with Ryder.

"No, she's not happy. You know Al. But I'm not leaving until you tell me what's crawled up your ass, causing your brain and body to be anywhere but the game."

He lowers his head to his chest. "It's shitty timing, and I'm sorry. Of all the fucking days."