Drake:The Player Card Series, Volume 1

By: Ellie Danes & Katie Kyler

The Player Card Series, Volume One

(An Alpha Sports Romance)

Chapter One


The ruthless son-of-a-bitch just never quit. We were down by six, but I knew we were going to score and end it. I knew it, and the fans did, too. Everybody except the poor, exhausted bastards on the other side of the line understood we weren’t going to be stopped again today. And the reason they didn’t get that was because the heart of their defense, number 56, Larvon Johnson, wouldn’t let them.

I glanced across the line and made a mental path of where I needed to go. Right through his hunting grounds. Fifteen yards away and about that many seconds left in the game. Johnson’s motor was legendary. Even when the laws of science dictated he had to be exhausted, number 56 would only run faster and hit harder. Truth be known, he was one of the people I had always tried to emulate, even though he was a linebacker and I played offensive tight end.

Smitty, my quarterback, bit off the snap count. I glanced up, and there was Johnson, across the line and closer to the center. Smiling right at me. Bastard knew it was coming my way. I grinned back. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t help it.

I had timing on my side. Our play called for a double-move, and if I sold it right, and if he really was painting me with a bull’s-eye as his smile suggested, then it was all set up.

My six-feet-six, two hundred sixty-five-pound frame was tired and sore, but I wasn’t about to slow down, either. Not now. Like most tight ends, for my size, I was fast. A lot faster than any linebacker. But I’d never been wide receiver fast.

There was a difference between fast and quick. Johnson was quick. Over ten yards? Shit, he reached top speed in a step-and-a-half. It might be fair to say I had four or five gears to his two, but what he did with those two got him into the Hall of Fame.

McGlosky snapped the ball, and I pushed the defensive end out of my way and stepped. Johnson closed in, and time slowed down.

I’d never come across as one of the smartest players, which was to my advantage. Big blue-eyed white dude with a shaved head and a few tats. I had my act with all the trash talk and partying making the news.

I’d spent a lot of time cultivating that image, but the truth that remained was that I’m actually pretty smart, at least relatively, which I conceded wasn’t necessarily saying all that much. Before the game even began, I had reminded myself over and over again how smart Johnson was. That meant not trying to oversell anything. His recognition would be almost immediate, and he wouldn’t bite on big, exaggerated fakes like some Rookie.

I took four steps as fast as I could, angling toward the sideline. I let my shoulder turn outside an inch. Then I turned my hips just another extra inch, so it looked to the fast, tactical analytical computer inside his head like an out was really going to be a hook.

He bit.

I turned back in on the slant. The ball was already in the air. Johnson stopped dead—he knew he’d been had—but then, like some standard transmission truck with the RPM needle buried in the redline, he charged toward the end zone and then spun. Suddenly, he was aimed right at me.

I watched the ball hit my hands when I was two steps outside of the end zone. Then everything went black.

No pain. No memory.

“Mathison, are you okay? Wake the fuck up!”

I opened my eyes and was met by a few of my teammates. Trainers and doctors pushed through the group. It sounded as if I were underwater, a weird, echoing blur of sound. A second later, there was an enormous uproar as the crowd went wild and my head began to clear.

I sat up, still clutching the ball. I had no clue where I was or what the hell had just happened. All I knew was I wanted to stand up and take it all in. There was no way in hell I was staying down. This wasn’t an injury. I wouldn’t allow it to be. An injury wasn’t something I needed, not in a contract year.

I stood and wobbled as the trainer grabbed my arm. He nearly toppled over as my size towered over his five-feet-something frame. “Drake, take it easy. Can you walk? Let’s get you back to the locker room.”

* * * * *

The TV blared, mounted high on the wall in the corner of the room. It was on the twenty-four-hour sports network showing highlights from the game. A thin white sheet covered me, and a bag stuffed with my belongings sat on the chair across the room underneath the TV.

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