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By:HJ Bellus

assed away three months after that. The man who raised me, loved me unconditionally, and forced me to get back to living after my attack simply wasted away before my eyes. Tuck stood by my side while I lay in bed with my dad day after day and watched him lose the fight.

Tuck and my dad became best friends after finding me, and were shits at times, but completely lovable shits who adored me. We spent three sweet years together with my dad and mom before he passed. It’s those memories I cling on to. My father walking me down the aisle, handing me off to Tuck, then wrapping Tuck up in a hug before turning to sit with Mom. It’s not tradition, but he gave away Tuck that day as if he were his father. It had nearly all of the attendees at our wedding in tears. I’ve seen Tuck Jones cry three times in my life. When he opened up to me about his past, the day my dad hugged him at our wedding, and when Will came into our lives.

Yet my selfless king stood by me the entire time, watching my father fade, and then held me through grieving, never being selfish even though he was hurting as badly as I was. When my little wild child miniature Tuck came shooting out in the world, there was only one name suited for our perfect prince, Will W. Jones. And since the universe never gets tired of playing jokes on me, he has my dad’s sense of humor, intelligence, and Tuck’s athletic abilities. The boy is constantly wandering the house with a pigskin tucked under his arm. My dad would’ve had the boy running plays already.

I never went back to Preston after my freshman year. I stayed at home with my parents and immersed myself in online classes and several sessions of counseling. The day it was released I was found, Steve turned himself in, and then shortly ratted out Stephie. Their mission…to force my hand and make me leave. They won, and that fact haunted me for months. She wanted head cheerleader and wouldn’t stop at anything. But if it weren’t for Tuck’s endless love and continued support, I’d still believe they won.

My dad’s words rang true. Once a snake, always a snake. Stephie and Steve simply fucked up because Dad was the ultimate snake killer, putting them both away for life. He hired the best lawyers and didn’t relent. I’ve never fully remembered the elapsed time in my life. My last memory was being knocked out and then coming back to with my palm pressed against Tuck’s skin. Doctor after doctor tried to get my memory back, but it never came. I know it’s the best blessing of all.

But what actually happened is Stephie and Steve instilled a drive and passion in me that will never die or be extinguished by another threat. I found my niche in life, and that’s in counseling and coaching. And ultimately they landed me right in the middle of Tuck Jones’ hurricane life. Neither of us would’ve ever been brave enough to peel back all our protective layers until we saw the real person standing on the other side.

Tuck was never an option, rather a force I had to face, and against all odds we’ve made it. He finished his senior year, winning a national championship with me and my parents, and of course, his family by his side. I never missed a college game. The day he refused to enter the NFL draft was more heartbreaking for me than for him. He wanted nothing to do with it, even though he was expected to be drafted in the first round.

Tuck wanted to buy a home, open his accounting business, marry me, and knock me up. He made that statement every single time I brought up the conversation. He’s still bullheaded as fuck and an asshole, but he’s all mine.

I rise to my feet and hug my mom as she and Will make it up to the top row of the bleachers.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Hey, baby Blue, I love you.”

“Look what grandma bought me.” I feel a light tug on the end of my shirt. When I look down, I see Will smiling brightly back at me with a large bag of blue cotton candy.

“Of course she did.” I roll my eyes in my mother’s direction.

She shrugs. “I brought wet wipes.”

The Friday night lights flip on, bringing the football field to life, and I see my very sexy husband lead his team out on the field. He’s dressed in a short sleeve team t-shirt, with sexy gym pants, and a backward ball cap. He’s followed by the star quarterback and his biggest fan, Ruger. We moved back to his hometown after my father passed and made our home. My mom is our next door neighbor, with Joe on the other side, so yes, I’ve become the pro at not screaming out in pleasure as Tuck works his magic on my lady bits.

I refuse to sit by Joe at games because of her hot head, screaming, and well, she’s just downright embarrassing, and typically ends up pacing the sidelines. I know one day she and Tuck will break out into a wrestling match behind the bench.

Even through all of our trials and errors—or as my mother likes to refer to them, our growing pains—I’m still proudest in the moments when Tuck is Tuck. He rips his shirt off to wrestle Will and answers every question the little toddler asks him. Sometimes the scene is so heartbreaking for me that I leave the room, but Will will always know who his dad is. Then there are times I’ll catch him coming from practice in a tank top or wearing a super tight tee like tonight. In moments likes these he’s Tuck, exposed and completely whole.

“Daddy,” Will begins squealing. “Daddy.”

I know Tuck doesn’t hear him, but always scans the crowd for his little man and waves up to him like an idiot. Ruger always follows suit, making Will feel like the hometown hero. I stand and wave back, rubbing my swollen belly and praying like hell for a little girl. I’d never be anything without Tuck and his endless love. He cursed me the day I saw him and never relented. He’s my curse and my warrior…my happily ever after.