No matter what the doctors said.
I retrieved my phone. It was okay, and it still buzzed with the alert.
8:00 – Rory @ McCrees
Damn. I’d nearly forgotten again. I knew better than to let my mind wander or get irritated. I’d broken every rule I’d set for myself by watching TV.
Recovering from my concussion took proactive management. No sitting until my chores and responsibilities were done. Every event and reminder was categorized and entered into my phone. And, when I felt a headache approach, I’d retreat to the dark and quiet of my room.
So far, my plan had worked. I never let the injuries define me. I credited perseverance. Purpose.
Nothing was going to stop me from getting back onto the field. This game was my passion. My self-admitted obsession. My dedication to the sport made me one of the greatest players in the history of the league. All I needed now was a championship, and my career would be complete.
Or it’d be over.
But that was up to Doctor Rory Merriweather now. Little, pregnant Rory Merriweather.
In the past, the doctors who had treated me were older, greyer, and easily swayed with promises of VIP booths and season tickets. I would have traded my soul for a chance to get onto the field, and it often worked. But now one doctor stood in my way.
It had to be her. Eric’s kid sister. A cute girl. A good girl. A pregnant girl.
And if I ever found the man who knocked her up and left her on her own? It’d be the one time I didn’t mind getting a little angry and a lot violent.
Fortunately, I lived close to McCrees. Rory met me just outside the door.
Had she always been this beautiful? Rory had matured into a lovely woman, retaining a hint of girlish cuteness in her pudgy cheeks and fluttering, almond eyes. Her complexion was more ebony than honey, and her long dark hair bounced in curls. Classy, but approachable. Pretty, but with a charmingly awkward shyness.
When we were kids, Rory used to say that she hated her smile. That it was too big. She hid behind a tempered smirk for most of her life. If I regretted anything from when we were younger, it was that I never told her that I thought her real smile was…
And it stayed perfect even now. Rory bit her lip and twisted her fingers in the skirt of a little yellow dress. The pale gold contrasted her black skin in a playful tease.
“You look beautiful,” I said.
She brushed her hand through her hair. “Yeah, right. I spent half of the day on my knees.”
“Well…that explains the pregnancy.” I laughed. “Why wasn’t that part of my exam?”
Rory’s eyes widened. She covered her face with her hands. “No! I meant I was throwing up. Not…Jude Owens, since when are you such a trouble-maker?”
“Takes one to know one.”
“Yep…marking that down in your health assessment. Patient exhibits suicidal tendencies by provoking a pregnant woman.”
I smirked. “Oh, come on. When have you ever been in trouble? You never broke a curfew. You had perfect grades. You were president of clubs I didn’t even know our school had.”
“And if I wanted to hear how I’ve ruined my career and future; I’d have gone out with my step-mother tonight.”
She half-joked, but I wasn’t going to let her be ashamed of herself. “You haven’t ruined anything. Not your past, not your future, and not tonight. I’m gonna make sure you have some fun.”
Rory poked at me. “I’m trusting you, Jude. No one else knows. It stays that way.”
“Your secret is safe with me. Hell, I’ll probably forget about it by tomorrow.”
She frowned. Uh-oh.
“Kidding,” I said. She didn’t believe me. Neither did I. “Are you hungry?”
“I have no idea. The only thing I want to eat is confetti cake.”
Fair enough. “Well, allow me to be a little over-protective. You should eat something more substantial.”
“I consider it a comfort food.”
“Well…it’s the only meal that’s as fun coming up as it is going down.” She shrugged “I’ll take any positivity I can get.”
“Say no more. I’ll be your confetti cake tonight. We’ll work this all out, you and me.”
“You’ve always been such a nice guy, Jude. You haven’t changed a bit.”
I wished I could say the same. God, she was absolutely stunning. Was it the years apart that made her so much more…amazing?
But it didn’t matter. One thing hadn’t changed. She was my best friend’s little sister. I’d do well to remember that. Hell, that was worthy of a reminder. Every day at noon, I’d set an alert.