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Forward Progress (Men of Fall Book 1) by S.R. Grey (1)

Leaving Las Vegas

I hesitate, my pen hovering over the yellow sheet of legal paper on my desk as I contemplate what to write.

What am I doing?

I’m making a list of what I’d like to achieve throughout the second half of this year. But damn, it’s no easy task.

I want to get this done, though. The rehab I went through a couple of years ago made me a big believer in things like setting goals and writing out lists.

My brain is usually racing when I write these kinds of things. I have so much to get down on paper that my pen moves too fast, leaving my sentences a jumbled blur of words I have to decipher later.

Today, however, I’ve got nothing.

Maybe because all my most recent goals have been achieved…and therefore checked off.

Like this one—I wanted to have my own gym business and make it a raging success.

Check, check.

Both of those objectives have been achieved.

And then there’s my ongoing goal of always trying to give back and help others.

Check that off too.

I’m still an active sponsor for Narcotics Anonymous, even if it is only for one guy these days—Las Vegas Wolves hockey player Benjamin Perry.

Still counts, though, right?

Ah, but Perry hardly needs me anymore. He’s doing really well on his own.

In the past, I always had my sister, Chloe, to worry about. She wasn’t in NA or anything, but she had her share of troubles in the relationship department. Seemed I was always swooping in to rescue her.

But she met and married someone great—Dylan Culderway, another hockey player I’m friends with. Chloe now has a calm and happy life. She and Dylan even have a baby on the way.

Fuck, I can’t wait to be an uncle.

I spend a few minutes wondering if their baby will have dark blonde hair and cerulean blue eyes like my sister and I do, or if she’ll have brown eyes and dark hair like Dylan.

Oh hell, I’m just stalling.

“Get to work on that list, Graham,” I mutter to myself to conjure up some motivation. “There has to be at least one important thing you have yet to achieve.”

And there is.

But it’s the one goal I’ve resisted writing down, on this or any prior lists.

Maybe because this goal is the most important of all and putting it down on paper gives it life. That means it’s something I’ll have to achieve.

No excuses.

“Just write it down, dumbass,” I hiss. “Do it. It’s the one thing you’ve wanted more than anything these past three years.”

What is this big goal?

It’s to play professional football again.

Shit, it’s out there now.

I mean, I can’t unthink it.

“But what if I can’t play like I once did?” I whisper, like that would be the worst thing in the world.

Hell, it would.

Other thoughts race through my mind…

What if my once promising football career is really and truly over?

What if I’m washed up?

Do you see now why I’m afraid to write down this goal?

“But you were good.” I touch pen to paper, willing my hand to move. “No, you were fucking great, Graham Tettersaw.”

It’s true, I was. I had a completion percentage in the 65 percent range, and I passed for over 3000 yards every season I played.

I also averaged 30+ touchdowns a year, meaning I was rarely intercepted.

Not to mention, the fans fucking loved me.

I was a god, damn it!

But then I got hurt, and a god I was no more. I was just a man, a man with a blown knee and a crappy attitude. Hence the prescription drug addiction. I just didn’t care.

The team I was playing for at the time—the Arizona Cardinals—cut my ass. Doctors, really good ones, told me I’d never play again.

Down in the dumps about, well, just about everything, I developed that nasty painkiller addiction.

That led me to NA.

It worked, and I got clean and sober.

I still am—painkiller-free for over three years now.

That’s why I like to give back as a sponsor. It’s the least I can do. I believe if I can overcome addiction, anyone can.

“So what would everyone you’ve helped want you to do now?” I ask myself out loud.

I know the answer. It’s simple, really.

They’d want me to believe in myself as much as I believed in them.

That finally gets the pen moving and I write down the one goal that means the world to me—I want to play professional football again.

Shit, that feels good.

On a roll, I jot down another—I’d like to be picked up by a good team.

Problem with that is I’m thirty years old. I’ll actually be thirty-one this September, which is only four months away.

There’s not much call for a quarterback in his early thirties, especially if he’s been out of the game for a few years.

But I have a few things going for me…

I’ve kept myself in great shape. And I just landed a slick new agent.

I made that move after I discovered the one I had the past few years wasn’t even trying anymore.

This new one, Jock Sosarelli, is fantastic. He represents a ton of sports figures, including some of my hockey pals. Brent Oliver is one of his clients. He’s the biggest star for the Las Vegas Wolves, so that’s something right there.

Jock is good, really good.

A middle-aged former professional athlete, the guy knows sports. Jock used to play baseball, like a hundred years ago.

Okay, not that long ago, but I like to tell him that.

Good thing he takes it well.

Another reason why Jock is a good fit for me is because an injury ended his career too. He understands the perils I face. That’s probably why he was quick to pick me up as a new client. I think he’d like to see me get the second chance he never did.

My cell phone rings, breaking me from my reverie. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s Jock. He wants to FaceTime, so this must be good news.

Leaning back in the chair in my office, I hold the phone up.

Jock’s silver-streaked black hair and smiling mug fill the screen.

“Hey, what’s up?” I say.

“A lot,” he replies. “And you’re going to love this news, Tettersaw.”

“Hmm…” I’m curious, but first I feel compelled to remind him, “You can call me Graham, you know?”

“Eh, sure, whatever you say, Tettersaw.”

I chuckle.

So much for that.

Last names are Jock’s shtick. Though I’ve noticed when shit gets real, he uses first names.

“Okay, so what’s this great news, Jock?”

Sliding his reading glasses up the bridge of his nose, he peers down at what looks like a contract of some sort. I’ve seen enough, I should know.

My heart starts beating like crazy. Could this be a football deal? I want this so badly.

As my excitement builds, he says, “I think I have something in the works for you.”

I have a shot at making a team? I need to know, but I’m afraid to ask.

But I must.

So, slowly, I murmur, “What kind of something are we talking about here?”

Without looking up from what just has to be a contract, Jock says, “There’s a team expressing great interest in you, Graham.”

Whoa, he just used my first name. This is the real deal. And that is definitely a contract in his hands.

Fuck.

He goes on, “This team would like to fly you out to their mini-camp. It’s going on right now. You could run some reps so they can see you in action, verify your arm is still strong—”

“It is,” I interrupt.

Jock talks right over me. “—and to make certain your knee is no longer a problem.”

I assure him my knee’s not an issue at all, and he says, “Good. We’ll have to move fast then, if you’re interested.”

Am I interested?

Is he crazy?

Laughing, I assure him, “I’m interested, Jock. Fuck, trust me, I am.”

“Good to hear. If this team likes what they see”—he picks up the contract and waves it in the air, making the screen blur—“they’re prepared to follow through on a more-than-fair offer.”

My breath catches in my throat. Could this be the shot I’ve been wishing and hoping for? Hell, the ink’s not even dry on my list of new goals.

This is almost too good to be true, though.

So, erring on the side of caution, I inquire, “Which team are we talking about here, Jock?”

He replies “the Columbus Comets,” and my heart sinks.

I knew this was too perfect.

“Did you say the Comets?” I verify.

“Yes, the new team in Columbus, Ohio.”

I blow out a disappointed breath. “I know who you mean. They’re part of the new football league. The one created just last year.”

“Yes, that’s them,” Jock confirms.

“They’re not the NFL, Jock.”

Instantly, he snaps, “No, Tettersaw, they’re not. But we’re still talking about a damn fine opportunity.”

He’s not entirely wrong.

I’m just torn.

Last year, a two-country league emerged. Comprised of twenty-six teams in the US and Canada, this start-up organization managed to cobble together a surprisingly successful inaugural season.

So, yeah, it’s not all bad.

“You’re right, Jock,” I concede, sighing. “But just so you know, the Comets are not my first choice by any means.”

He chuckles. “I’m sure they’re not, Graham. But there’s a lot of chatter that this new league is the league of the future. Think about it for a minute. We’re talking fan bases in two countries. There’s so much room for expansion. This is a good opportunity, my man. And the terms the Comets have outlined for you, if you were to be picked up, are more than equitable.”

“Ah, hell,”—I run my hand down my face—“I just don’t know.”

Blowing out a clearly frustrated breath, Jock says, “I’m going to lay it on the line for you. You’re not getting any younger, Tettersaw. That means you can pretty much forget about making a comeback in the NFL. The way that league see things, you had your chance. Now you’re just a washed-up former star who carries around a history of painkiller problems.”

“Hey!” I bristle. “I only had that problem once. And it was ages ago. I’ve come a long way since then.”

Jock is unruffled, no surprise there.

“Hey, hey, don’t get pissed at me. I’m just telling you the way it is. You want a chance to start as a quarterback at the professional level?”

“Yes, of course I do,” I snap.

“Well, then this is it, my man. To be honest, this could be an opportunity for you to really shine.”

“Ha-ha.” I chuckle. “You mean like a comet?”

Jock laughs.

He likes that.

“Yes, I guess you could say that,” he says.

“Hell, what the fuck do I have to lose?” I say. “Tell the Comets I’m interested, okay?”

“You got it. And for the record, you’re making the right decision, Graham.”

“I hope so,” I mumble.

He ignores me and goes on. “I’ll fax you the contract in a few minutes. You can look it over thoroughly. I’ll also book you a flight to Columbus.”

“Perfect, thanks.”

After we wrap up, I place my cell on the desk. And then I think about what this means.

Following some serious contemplation, I begin to feel pretty good about this opportunity. I mean, hell, everything Jock said to me is true. The Columbus Comets may not be part of the NFL, but they’re no chumps. And, more importantly, they’re offering me a chance to play professional football again.

So Columbus, Ohio, hmm…

That’s a long way from Las Vegas, where I currently live. But this could be the push I’ve needed to start a life of my own.

I’m not talking football anymore. No. These past few years I’ve spent so much time helping others that I’ve kind of neglected my own self. Even my sister tells me that.

And it’s true. I have no wife, no girlfriend, no kids, and, outside of the gym business, no real life.

Shit.

Picking up the pen, I add one more goal to my list—leave Las Vegas and start a new life.

Yeah, I like that one.

Because, just like in football, in order to win, you have to have forward progress.

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