Home > Time Out(Nashville Steel)

Time Out(Nashville Steel)
Author: Stacey Lynn



Chapter 1






“We’re headed out. Are you coming?”

I tossed my bag over my shoulder and ran my hand through my hair. “I’m not sure, man. I think I’m out.”

Mason Yeets’s jet-black eyes doubled in size. “You’re bowing out of heading to Broadway? But it’s bachelorette season.”

Yeah. I surprised myself with that one. “Nah. I’m good. Think I’m going to head home.”

“But we won.”

So some of us guys had created the habit of partying on Broadway after a win at home. As football players for the Nashville Steel, our stadium was a short ride away from the infamous country bar and rock music-lined streets of Nashville where millions visited every year. Frankly, I thought the street smelled like armpits after a three-hour workout in ninety-degree weather, but that didn’t mean the street wasn’t a blast. And being football players, we were often offered premiere VIP seats and bottle service purely for the purpose of bringing more fans—mostly women in their early to mid-twenties into the bars.

I’d had more than a few hangovers after a night out, but tonight? I wasn’t feeling it.

Made no sense, but there it was. I’d just helped bring my team a win in my very first Monday Night Football matchup, prime time television, in my rookie season. The press couldn’t stop talking about my speed and ability to read the field and block a half-dozen tackles on my way to the end zone.

Typically, that’d have me being the one to offer to buy first round, get the party started. I’d had no problems taking advantage of the perks of finally making it to the pros. And still, even Mason and Cortland pleading with me, along with our backup quarterback, Sam Denmark, making a pouty face in the background, didn’t have me changing my mind.


I shook it off and slapped Mason’s shoulder. “Pretty sure you and Denmark can handle it for me. Wouldn’t want to take the attention off you.”

“Shit. You wish. You’re the one who gets my leftovers.”

Probably true. I was too pretty boy to be considered sexy. Too innocent. Too Nebraskan, as my last college girlfriend had told me, whatever the hell that meant.

I spent a few minutes talking with the rest of the players, including our quarterback Cole Buchanan before he headed to the family room to grab his girlfriend, Eden, and his son Jasper. I went to the private player parking lot and slid into my brand-new Tacoma truck. As far as vehicles went, it wasn’t flashy, but my family had rarely been able to afford anything new and if it was, it wasn’t a vehicle of any kind. More likely tractor equipment or clothes or shoes.

God, I needed to shake off this lingering morose sensation. It wasn’t normal. I was the fun guy. The life of the party. I was smart as hell and could use my engineering degree if football didn’t work out, and there I was, crawling through the dark streets of Nashville on my way to my penthouse and somehow—all of the success I’d earned, all the money I made, and the fancy screen on my truck didn’t mean a damn thing.

I was lonely. Ironic, considering I’d just bowed out of a night with guys who were quickly becoming my brothers.

But there was a difference between being alone and lonely… and screw it.

I jerked my truck into the underground parking at my high-rise condo building, climbed out, and hustled across the street to Lou’s.

From Louisiana, Lou claimed to be straight from the Bayou, but where he was from didn’t interest me. His po’boy sandwiches with shrimp and roast beef did.

He was not only the owner, but the main nighttime bartender during the week. Relief swept through me as I entered the bar, televisions playing on two different walls—twelve different screens. Since the game had ended well over an hour ago, most of the crowd that would have been there to watch the game was gone, leaving Lou alone at the bar, wiping off the top of the gleaming granite countertop with very little customers.

I took a seat near the far corner, my back to the televisions. I’d been there. Didn’t need to see the plays or read the criticisms.

“Hey there, kiddo.”

Kiddo. I heard it enough in the locker room. “What’s the good word, Lou?”

His bar had all the best post-game gossip and news.

“Whole damn bar was on their feet with that touchdown you scored.”

“Which one?” I had been pretty awesome.

My second touchdown of the night was a hell of a score, a forty-yard breakaway run when our team went for it on fourth and two. Should have been a quick few yards to set us up for a field goal before I saw the hole in the blockers. Still, I liked needling the guy. He reminded me of my grandpa sometimes, always quick with a laugh, sarcastic comment, and a sprinkling of wisdom.

He whipped his towel at me, laughing as he barely missed. “Kids your age. No smarts, all smart-asses. The one where you hurdled the safety.”

Huh. Not the second one. “Ah. That last one. Wasn’t so bad, eh?”

“Not bad at all. Your ankle okay?”

“Right as rain.” Twisted it coming off that touchdown, wobbling after I hurdled Levi Harrison, Seattle’s safety. It pulsed with a dull pain but was manageable. I’d had worse.

I ordered a beer, Miller Lite, because I wasn’t into fancy drinks or hard alcohol. Might have been the Nebraskan in me, but simple and easy still tasted better than pretentious and expensive.

Lou and I talked about the game some more. He’d never made a fuss about knowing who I was, but the night I stopped in after our first home pre-season game, he’d told me I played good. Figured Lou didn’t give a lot of compliments, and good was a euphemism for fucking incredible, which was how I was feeling that night. I’d been coming in for three months, almost once a week, for a po’boy and beer or two, sometimes with Dawson, my team’s tight end, or Mason, and Lou had never said a word. Figured, since it was Nashville, most locals were used to the parade of celebrities and country musicians and stars of all forms, but I appreciated it. I’d been well-known in Clemson and a small-town celebrity back in Nebraska. For once, it felt good to not be all that known or noticed while I was at the local Target grabbing a pack of new underwear.

Like usual, we chatted about football for a few minutes, and then he steered the conversation to his grandkids in high school and college after he brought me my sandwich. I munched on fries and got a fresh beer, but even then, that anxious knot in my chest still wouldn’t go away.

What in the hell was it?

I was living my dream. Should have been flying off that win and how well I was playing.

I wasn’t caving to expectations or any stress from media who wrote I was still too soft, too young, too not perfect enough to sustain the energy I’d shown this early in the season.

Doubters were everywhere, but they always had been. I was used to it.

My phone rang, and some of that concern vanished as my sister’s face, smooshed up to kiss her youngest, soon-to-be middle child on the cheek, appeared on the screen.

Thank goodness it was quiet enough that I didn’t have to step outside to take her call.

I’d never miss this.

I brought the phone to my ear. “Hey Annie.”

“God. You suck so much. Slowest person out there.” She deadpanned the insult, her highest form of praise, and I took a sip of my beer.

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