Nixon (Raleigh Raptors #1) - Samantha Whiskey
Sweat dripped down my neck as I scanned left, then right, looking for an open receiver. There. Hendrix broke free. The guy was a machine.
I drew the ball back and fired it down the field. My heartbeat filled my ears for the few seconds it was airborne.
He caught it.
I raised my fist in a quick pump as he ran it into the end zone, our own defense on his heels.
Not bad for the first day of training camp.
Coach called practice for the day, and I ripped off my helmet. North Carolina in July was fucking brutal in full gear—I probably sweat my weight in water every day—but it was home. It had been for the last eight years. Sure, the humidity sucked on days like today, but I was a Raleigh Raptor through and through. Always had been, and God-and-contract-willing, I always would be.
I waved to the fans that packed the sidelines behind the rope and started back toward The Barn—our giant training facility.
“Thoughts?” Roman asked as he tucked his helmet under his arm. Padilla was the fastest running back in the NFL, and one of my closest friends.
“He thinks I’m a badass,” Hendrix answered, raking his knuckles over Roman’s head in a noogie with a movie-star grin. Guy had run at least fifty yards to catch up to us and wasn’t even out of breath.
Shit, I felt old, and I was only thirty.
“Fuck off,” Roman snapped, shoving Hendrix away, but he was smiling. “Seriously, though. What do you think, Nixon?”
“It’s the first day, and you gotta ruin it by asking Negative-Nixon what he thinks?” Hendrix groaned.
“Noble!” A woman yelled from the sidelines.
I flashed a smile and waved, because that was part of my job, then turned back toward my friends. “I think the offensive line is sloppy, the rookies have more ego than talent, and we have a long way to go before we’re cohesive.”
“Way to crush a guy’s ego.” Roman clutched at his chest.
“Fucking told you,” Hendrix laughed.
“Sloppy?” Baker challenged as he jogged by. “Only because Padilla over there must have gained twenty in the offseason.” He turned, running backward, and gestured to the space in front of his stomach with a smirk.
Roman flipped him the bird, and Baker laughed.
“Cut the shit,” I ordered.
Baker’s smirk faded, and he turned back around, jogging toward The Barn.
“Rick ‘The Dick’ Baker, ladies and gentlemen,” Hendrix called after him, then turned to Roman. “You haven’t gained any weight.”
“I fucking know,” Roman seethed. “But I’m trying to get along with the asshole for Teagan’s sake.”
Hendrix whistled. “Damn, I figured that wouldn’t last once they moved in together. What’s it been? Six months?”
“A year,” Roman muttered. “I know that girl better than anyone on the planet, and I still can’t figure out what the fuck she sees in that douchebag.” He shook his head.
I didn’t get it, either. Roman and Teagan had been best friends since preschool or some shit, so I knew the little blond pretty well. She was sweet as my mom’s apple pie, and that guy was the sourest asshole on the team. Maybe it was an opposites attract kind of thing.
“Nixon!” a kid yelled from the sideline as we passed into the end zone. He was wearing a Raptor shirt with my number on the front and looked to be about eight if I had to guess. Then again, I was shit with kids, so he could have been fourteen for all I knew.
“Hollywood!” a woman called out at the same time. Hendrix threw her a wink, and when he moved the ball to his throwing arm, I shook my head and took it from him.
“Oh, come on!” Hendrix complained as I walked toward the rope.
The boy’s eyes lit up, and he looked up at his dad with that face that said, do-you-see-this?
“What’s your name?” I asked, dropping down to his eye level.
“Gavin!” he replied, bouncing up on his toes.
“Hi, Gavin, I’m Nixon.” I grinned. The kid’s energy was contagious. “You got a pen?”
He nodded enthusiastically and handed me a marker.
“Thanks, bud.” I signed the football and handed it over to Gavin with his pen. “There you go.”
“Oh wow. Thank you!” He hugged it to his chest and smiled big.
“You’re very welcome.” I gave him a nod and stood up. There were instantly a dozen things held out for my signature. Shit. “I’ll come back out after I shower if you guys want to hang around,” I promised before walking back to Roman and Hendrix.
“Seriously?” Hendrix whined. “Did you see the