Drowning in Love by Kelsie Rae

1





Nora





“You’re really moving back?” I ask, unable to help myself. The sun is still high in the sky, and I raise my hand to shield it from blinding me as the opposing team snaps the football. The stadium is buzzing with anticipation for the opening game of the season, but I’m still in shock from my brother’s revelation.

My brother, Owen, rolls his eyes. “I mean…why not? My football career died as soon as I blew out my knee. I stayed here to finish my degree, then got sucked into a few opportunities but….”

My nephew, Owen’s son, Grady, pumps his fist into the air as the Red Hawks fumble the ball. He’s completely oblivious to the adult conversation we’re spouting, but he wouldn’t understand the weight of it even if he were listening. There’s just too much history for a little kid to comprehend, and I have to give Owen props for shielding him from it.

Owen joins in with his son’s whooping and hollering, although I’m not sure if it’s for Grady’s credit or if it’s because he wants me to drop the subject.

Yeah. Not happening.

When the crowd calms down long enough for me to hear myself think, I press, “But what?”

“Drop it, Nora.”

“Nope. No deal. You could move anywhere with Grady now that his mom is out of the picture. I want to know why you want to move back to New Hampshire? Does it have something to do with an old flame you ditched before going off to college by chance?”

“Will you give it a rest?” he mutters under his breath.

“No. I won’t. For women everywhere, I refuse to let you hurt her again. It was bad enough witnessing it the first time. Can you imagine how awful she felt? I mean––”

“Seriously, Nora. Will you please stop?” It’s the desperation in his eyes that gets me to snap my mouth shut. He feels just as shitty about the circumstances as Saylor, his ex, did when he broke up with her. I just wish I could understand why he did it in the first place, and why he would feel the need to face her again after all these years. I mean, he has a kid, for Pete’s sake. Still, the pain is rolling off him in waves at the memory of everything he let slip through his fingers, so I bite my tongue.

Fed up with me staring at him, Owen grabs his son’s hand and tugs him out of the bleachers as the crowd cheers at the completion of a twenty-yard pass across the field.

Remembering his manners, Owen asks, “We’re going to get a hot dog or something. You want anything, Mama Two?”

“No, thanks. See you in a few.”

He disappears up the steps with his son in tow. He’ll be back. Then I’ll apologize for being overly protective of his ex and her feelings. After that, he’ll say it’s okay, and we’ll move on with life. But that doesn’t mean I won’t want a detailed update when he runs into her. And he will run into her.

What the hell is he thinking?

Lost in the comforting chaos surrounding me, I relax into my chair and watch the ball snap to our quarterback. I grew up in seats like this, cheering my brother on as he ran his way to the end zone over and over again. I still crave nachos and football jerseys every fall, and I’m grateful my brother was able to score us tickets to the first game of this season.

If only I hadn’t scared him out of his seat with my meddling.

“Excuse me,” a deep voice rumbles from the aisle. There’s a soft slur to it that piques my curiosity. Looking up, I’m met with the richest brown eyes I’ve ever seen even if they’re a little glazed over from the caramel-colored beverage in his hand. Just a hunch, but I don’t think it’s his first.

“Sorry, pre-gaming went a little longer than anticipated, but if I’d known I’d get to sit by a pretty little thing like you, I’d have cut it short,” he adds with a teasing grin. Normally, the comment would roll right off me, but it’s combined with that sexy smirk and an over-the-top wink that makes my insides tighten. I can’t help but laugh before standing up from my seat to let him scoot past me. A few more muscular bodies follow him, each just as bombed as the last, while also equally attractive. They look older than the usual frat boys, so I’m going to assume they’re fans of the game or are alumni coming to root for their team. Just like my brother and me.

Brown Eyes surprises me by stopping on my right, making his friends inch past him to get to their seats instead of him taking one further down.