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The Game Changer (The Perfect Game #2)

By:J. Sterling

iffsNotes version," I asked softly, unsure of what words would follow.

Jack snuggled me against him, and began to tell me the story.

And just like that, she was gone. But not before saying the two fucking words that plagued my nightmares. This girl always asked me to "prove it," to prove my love and devotion for her. I deserved it after everything I put her through. She didn't trust me anymore.




I wouldn't trust me either.

It's ironic though, right? That I was the one left standing all alone in a parking lot that time. I swear if my heart could have leaped out of my chest and into my hands, it would have. I imagined that for a moment … the blood trickling through my fingertips, splashing onto the concrete below as I watched it slowly pound out its last beats before stopping altogether.

Fuck.

My life does not make sense without this girl. And now she's gone.

Again.

How is it that I'm always losing her?

I unbuttoned my game jersey and let it fall around the top of my uniform's sliding pants. I glanced behind me toward the apartment door at the top of the stairs and slowly started to make my way there, my cleats clanging loudly on the pavement with each step. I wasn't ready to go back to the hotel with my team. Not right then. They'd be celebrating the night's win, and I needed to grieve the night's loss.

The vision of Cassie disappearing from view in that taxi played over and over again in my mind. I closed my eyes, willing the hateful image to disappear. The sound of feminine laughter and my brother's familiar voice woke me from my Cassie-filled daze.

"Oh shit. Jack?" Melissa's sympathy came through loud and clear, both in her eyes and in her tone.

I glanced up at Cassie's best friend standing on the stairs with my little brother. Dean was only a couple years younger than I was, but he'd always be little to me, even if he did almost match my height. My eyes were heavy, my head pounded, and I simply nodded.

"Come on, bro, let's get you inside." Dean wrapped an arm around my back and propelled me up the cement staircase as Melissa unlocked the front door to her apartment and stepped inside.

"Did you see her?" she asked, tossing all her crap on top of the kitchen table.

"I saw her," I responded coolly, adding my hat to the mess as I dropped into a chair at the table.

"Well, what the hell happened? What did she say?" she demanded, gesturing wildly.

"She left." I shrugged. "She's moving to New York."

"Well, of course she's moving to New York," she said, her voice turning cold.

Dean placed a hand on my shoulder, before explaining, "Melissa just means that Cassie has to start living her life for herself. She has to make decisions that have nothing to do with you."

The words hurt like hell. I jerked my head up, glaring at my little brother. "I know that. You think I don't know that?"

"Do you? Do you really, or did you think she'd just leap into your arms and you'd live happily ever after?" Dean shot back, his voice filled with accusation.

A quick huff ripped from my lips, and I smiled sheepishly. "I thought there might be some leaping," I admitted, shrugging one shoulder.

Melissa's usually sweet mouth twisted into a snarl. "That's bullshit, Jack. You expect her to give up her career because you asked her to?"

"I didn't ask her to give up her career. I just figured she'd at least talk to me. Postpone her flight. Give me a fucking chance."

"Like the way you gave her a chance before you married that skank?"

"Melissa," Dean chastised softly, touching her arm in a way that somehow managed to erase the anger from her face.

My chest tightened and my jaw clenched as Melissa's assumptions pierced me like the daggers they were. "You think it didn't fucking kill me to leave Cassie that night? All I wanted to do was stay with her, beg for her forgiveness and-"

"But you didn't! You didn't stay with her. You left her crying in a parking lot alone while you left with that bitch!" Melissa screamed as she released every ounce of frustration she'd built up on behalf of Cassie, her recrimination drilling into my skull and my heart.

"I know what I did!" I shouted back, my neck throbbing. "You think I don't fucking know what I did? I have to live with it every second of every day. I fucked up, OK? We all know I fucked up!" I slammed my palms against the table and watched as some loose change rattled and rolled onto the carpet below, bringing back memories of my first date with Cassie. My mind filled with the image of her sitting across from me in that small booth in the back of the restaurant. I remembered pulling the paper bag from my jacket and pouring the quarters out onto the tabletop, proud of my cleverness, as several rolled onto the tiled floor below. All of the memories that used to bring me joy now filled my heart with pain.

"It's not enough to just know what you did if you want to make it right. You have to know what it did to her," Melissa said, her voice starting to soften.

I glared at her, willing my temper to subside. "Tell me."

"Everyone knew what you'd done by the time Cassie got back from visiting you in Alabama. It was all over the newspapers that you were getting married. And on Facebook. Did you know that the stupid school magazine she worked for had the balls to call and ask her for pictures of you? They said they only had old ones and wanted to know if she had any newer ones."

"You're kidding?" I spat out in disgust.

"I wish."

My hands balled into fists. "I'll fucking kill them, the inconsiderate little-"

She pointed an accusing finger at me, stopping me in mid-rant. "It wasn't just the newspapers, Facebook, and the magazine. It was everywhere she went. School was the worst. Cassie couldn't even walk across campus without people making comments and snide remarks. She had the most personal and painful moments of her life on display for

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