A quarterback facing the end of his career must come to peace with his past, and accept his present, before he can move on with his future.
Mitch Ryland accomplished what his father said he never would—he made something of himself.
When his wife suggests she’d like to start a family, Mitch is thrown for a loop. He’s never told her about his life before he ended up with his foster parents, or his plans never to become a father. So when he’s taken out of the game, his failings from the past come back to haunt him, and Mitch blames his injury on his loss of focus. He’s unprepared for his career as a professional quarterback to be over. Nor is he ready to tell his wife about why football is so important to him. He’d rather put emotional and physical distance between them and focus on getting back in the game.
Serena Ryland has dreamed of becoming a mother. But when she mentions the idea to her husband, he freezes her out and she has no idea why. She’s worried that if they don’t start talking soon, she’ll lose him forever. When he refuses to come home to mend from an injury, she takes matters into her own hands, determined to spend more time with him, hoping to reignite the romance in their relationship. But she’s unprepared for the things she learns on this trip. Her husband has been carrying a few secrets that just might change the outlook of their future.
About the Author
Shoes are her addiction, but books are her passion. Anne Lange grew up with a love for reading. If you take a close look, she’s got either a book, her Kindle or her Kobo—maybe all three—tucked into her bag or a pocket when she leaves the house. You know, just in case there’s time to sneak in a chapter or ten. Anne reads many genres of romance, but prefers to write sexy stories, often with a dash of humor, and usually with a side of those sinful pleasures your mom never told you about.
Oh, and always a happily ever after.
While embarking on this wild journey of becoming a romance author, Anne juggles a full time job and a family. Not always successfully. Who needs a clean house every day? And what’s wrong with cereal for dinner? She lives in Ontario, Canada with her wonderfully supportive husband, three awesome kids who are growing up way too fast, and Rocky the bearded dragon.
Read an Excerpt
Copyright © Anne Lange 2015. All Rights Reserved, Totally Entwined Group Limited, T/A Totally Bound Publishing.
“I’m sorry, Mitch, but I can’t, in good conscience, allow you to play.”
Mitchell Ryland, star quarterback for the Minnesota Mayhems, slumped back in the uncomfortable as hell armchair across from the team doctor’s desk. Anger surged through him. He held his sore arm close to his chest, blew out a frustrated sigh and struggled not to take it out on Noah.
“I can’t not play, Doc.”
He’d proven them wrong starting back in high school. And at the top of his game since then, he’d got drafted straight out of college and had gone pro soon after. At thirty, he was one of the older players in the league, but still strong, still fast.
Until now. Being benched at this point meant that if he managed to play again this season, it would be just in time for the playoffs. If the team made it that far without him.
“I can’t be out for that long.” He would have to call his agent. This could affect his contract and his salary. Mason needed to know what the hell was going on so he could fix it. But he’d been evading his brother for days. Serena too. After the last three away games, today’s was finally in front of hometown fans. Not only had he disappointed them, but he’d made excuses to avoid sticking around his own house for the last few days—the last few weeks.
God, he missed talking to his wife. Hearing her voice always calmed the inner workings of his mind. Having her at his side usually kept his focus on the present, on the good parts of his life. But today’s screw-up and the weeks leading up to it had tossed him back to the past, to the parts he preferred not to think about.
To things he’d never told the love of his life about.
Maybe that’s what had happened during the game. His mind hadn’t been fully on the play. Instead of concentrating on the here and now, he’d been replaying the conversation he’d had with Serena a few weeks ago, which had led to him taking a trip down memory lane. His inattention had caused this to happen. Caused him to be weak.
Just as his father and grandfather had said he was.
“Mitch, you’ve struggled in the last few games. I’m guessing today’s incident wasn’t the first time this has happened.” Noah gave him a stern look. “Was it?”
Until today’s game, he’d been able to deal with the pain and hide the effect of his sore shoulder. Then, in the final quarter of their game against Chicago, the team currently leading the points in their division, the team they’d needed to beat, he’d missed the opportunity to pass when his arm had given out and he’d been sacked.
He closed his eyes, reimagining the hit, remembering the agonizing pain as he’d pivoted at the last second, trying to dodge the tackle, only to twist his knee and take the hit straight into his left shoulder, digging his right into the dirt when he’d landed, his knee twisting awkwardly under the weight of his opponent and his right shoulder dislocating.
He’d needed every ounce of strength he had to pull his ass off the ground and walk off the field. He still tasted the blood he’d drawn bearing down on his lip through each tortured step.
“It’s just a sore shoulder and a bruised knee,” he grumbled, though he knew better than to look the good doctor in the eye as he uttered those words.
Noah Donahue might be young, but he wasn’t stupid. An all-around decent guy, Mitch considered him a friend. And Noah knew full well what this meant to Mitch. Fuck, he’s already guessed I’ve downplayed the pain I’m in. Noah had been the first to approach him after the hit. He’d probably glimpsed the suffering Mitch desperately tried to hide. Back in the dressing room, he’d helped pop his shoulder back in place, and had given him some ice and ibuprofen so Mitch could at least play out the remainder of the game.
But he’d been finished, and the other team had managed to score two more touchdowns when he could barely raise his arm to pass the ball, never mind running it down the field himself. Each yard line had seemed a mile away. His arm had felt like lead.
Mitch sighed and shifted in his chair. The knee he could handle. Bruised and sore, he’d limp for a few days, but it was his shoulder he worried about most. This was the third time he’d dislocated it. The first official time the team doctor knew about. His fingers itched to massage the joint, but he didn’t dare. No way in hell would he show any sign of weakness. The one thing his father and grandfather had drilled into him from a young age. A lesson he’d learned well.
“It’s more than just a simple sprain or a bad bruise, Mitch, and you know it. This is potentially career ending, especially if you don’t do as I’ve instructed. You need to rest it. Whatever you’ve been doing to keep this from us isn’t helping. Today’s proof of that. And it’s not going to get better until you do something about it. And you can’t do something about it until you’re not on the field every day.”
Noah took a deep breath, his expression full of compassion. “Apply ice to reduce the swelling three times a day for fifteen to twenty minutes. That shoulder needs to be kept stable. We need the swelling to go down so we can take a good look at it. I want you to wear an arm sling for the next three weeks.
“I’ve scheduled an appointment for you three days from now, then we’ll have a better idea what we’re dealing with. You’ll probably need to go through some therapy regardless of whether you end up heading down the surgery path or not. With some rest, maybe some therapy, and a light training regimen, we’ll see if there’s been any change.”
Panic swept through Mitch. He clenched his hands into fists on his thighs. “And if it doesn’t get better?”
“We’ll discuss that when the time comes.”
Mitch, well aware of the consequences, filled in the blanks. Surgery. Rehab. Months off the field. If he ended this season on the injury reserve list for next season, he’d miss training camp and wouldn’t be allowed to practice or play until the doctor cleared him. And if he did practice and aggravated the injury, or possibly made it worse, he’d be out for the rest of that season. Or longer.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Unlike most sports romance stories, The Final Quarter focused on the emotional side of an athlete who is faced with a decision that may end his career and the toll it takes on his marriage. This was an emotional read that had me tearing up and then smiling, loving how Serena takes control of her life and pulls out all the stops to ensure that her marriage survives. Serena was so relatable. She loves her husband and knows that his actions are a result of the pressure he feels as the quarterback of his football team, but she also knows that she can’t continue in a marriage that has her doubting herself and unhappy. I love that although she will do whatever it takes to try and fix her marriage, she also realizes that she also needs to do things for herself, in this case taking a freelance photography job, something she has a passion for but has put to the side to be there to support Mitch. My heart went out to Mitch, especially as the story of his childhood unfolds and we learn more about why he is the way he is. He doesn’t know anything but football, but he’s also savvy enough to realize that there may be options for him if and when his career is over. As he is faced with an injury that could be career ending, instead of leaning on his wife for support, he pulls away, which of course causes issues in his marriage. I did get frustrated with him trying to deal with things on his own, but again, understanding some of his issues made some of his actions understandable. Watching Serena remind Mitch of what they have together was wonderful. It was sexy and steamy, and it was also satisfying to see just how much Mitch meant to her and what she was willing to do. And did I mention it was sexy and steamy? Yeah, definitely sexy and steamy! This was a quick read and although it was short (about 145 pages) it left me feeling satisfied with the story that was told. The pacing was good, especially how the characters and romance develops over the course of the story, and the ending played out perfectly. A nice choice for any romance lover! I received a copy of the book from the author for an honest review.