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Did someone see me smash my mouth to Tanner’s in the cave yesterday? I’ve got to be careful. I don’t want my private life showing up in the news.

“Just that you were a good sport and a generous one to bid that big on a friend,” he says. “Also, that you should host the Oscars.”

I laugh, my shoulders relaxing. “That so?”

“Apparently Trish thinks your emcee skills might be exactly what the awards show needs.”

I preen. “She’s not wrong. Except. Wait. I don’t watch the Oscars.”

“Let’s just assume she’s not wrong,” he says. “Anyway, I was happy to see the reports.”

“Good,” I say, then I cut to the chase. “I’m a little antsy to lock it up with my team and this city.”

“Tell me what you want in a deal. The more I know, the better I can ask for what you need,” Maddox says.

I draw a deep breath for fuel. I don’t love being vulnerable like this. Doesn’t benefit me on the field, that’s for sure. But I need Maddox to go to bat for me so I’ve got to be open with him.

I lean forward and keep my voice low. “It’s embarrassing how long it’s taken me to get where I am. I’m twenty-eight. I rode the bench for years. I’ve already accrued enough time in the league that I’ll be a free agent at the end of the upcoming season. And I only have one year as a starter. It’s ridiculous,” I say, ashamed of the sound of my career summary. I had big dreams as a college starter. Bigger ones when I won a Bowl.

But they’ve always been just out of reach since I was drafted.

“I get that it feels ridiculous, but every path is different,” he says gently.

I grit my teeth, wishing my long and winding road didn’t bug me so much. “Not gonna lie. It’s been hard watching guys who were drafted with me vault forward in their career. I want security,” I say, shifting in my chair. “For myself. For my family. The Leopards aren’t my first team. I bounced around as a backup at a couple teams before I landed here,” I say. I was drafted by the Seattle Wolves, traded to the Vegas Pioneers, then traded here a couple years ago to back up the last QB, Jefferson Greene. But he went down with an injury twelve months ago, and that got me the starting gig. Maddox knows all this but I say it anyway. “And I saw what happened to Greene. They let him go after his injury.”

“They did. But he was picked up by Dallas, and he’ll do fine there. You don’t need to worry about his future. And we can’t deny that it’s been a good thing for you. You had a terrific first season as a starter.”

I eke out a smile. My stats last year were near the top of the league. I was lucky enough to have one of those where did he come from seasons. “But I don’t want to be a flash in the pan,” I say.

“I’ve talked to the GM. They’ll be counting on you as their go-to guy again this season,” he says.

My heart beats uncomfortably fast. I squirm a little. “So do you think there’s a chance I can get a renewal before the season starts? Or do I need to wait?”

Translation: how short is the leash if I have a bad game? But I don’t even want to breathe that fear out loud.

To a soul.

Maddox exhales deeply. “I don’t know. But I’m going to do everything I can to make it happen. I have a meeting with the GM later this week. I don’t have to tell you that a good quarterback is the most prized possession in the NFL. You know that. They know that. And you’re a good quarterback,” he says, then goes on to talk about his strategy and approach with such surety that I can’t help but believe in his ability all over again.

His steady confidence is a balm to my nerves.

We talk some more over lunch, then when we’re done, he smiles and says, “I’m glad Tanner introduced us. I truly appreciate the chance to rep you.”

My skin goes hot at the mention of my friend. Hot and bothered, and maybe even a little hopeful.

For tonight?

But then again, what the hell is tonight? Just a pic and a beer. A redo, that’s all.

We probably shouldn’t let it go to the bedroom. One time is safer.

“Yeah, me too,” I say to Maddox, fighting again to stay in the moment.

“And I’m heading to his game tonight with some other clients. Want to come?”

I sit straighter, excitement pinging through me as I answer with the world’s fastest hell yes.

Because I love sports.

The fact I keep thinking about my friend’s cock has nothing to do with it.

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