Home > Making Her Mine (The Callahans #6)

Making Her Mine (The Callahans #6)
Author: Monica Murphy







Seventh Grade…


“Go! Go! Gooooo, Big Blue!”

As the cheer team keeps chanting those words, I concentrate on them, the sound of their voices, the roar of the crowd in the stands firing me up. When I’m playing football, I feel like I’m a part of something. Something special, something that I care about—and so does everyone else.

We’ve won all of our games this season, but today’s game has been tough. This team is bigger. Stronger.

More intimidating.

As I’m about to walk out on the field, Dad grabs me by the back of my jersey, stopping me.

“Watch yourself out there, son.” His gaze, his entire expression is serious. “They’re big. Bigger than you.”

I check out the opposing team’s offensive line, who are already on the field, before I turn to face my dad, who’s also one of our coaches. He usually doesn’t say this kind of thing to me. He doesn’t worry about me on the field. He’s always told me I can handle myself out there, and it’s true. Nothing stops me. “They don’t scare me.”

His lips form a straight line as his gaze returns to the field, his brows lowering. “Just—be careful.”

His words echo in my head as I run onto the field and get into position as a defensive lineman. It’s the second quarter and we only have five minutes on the clock, but I’m not scared. Even as I stare at the guy opposite me, who I swear is twice my size. Our youth league is composed of seventh and eighth graders, and my dad is right, a lot of those eighth graders on the opponent's team are huge.

At my school, I’m big for my size, but I’m only in the seventh grade. These dudes practically look like men.

“Gonna tear you fuckin’ apart, you little prick,” a guy from the opposing team mutters at me.

Dang. We shit-talk on the field all the time, but I’ve never had someone say he was actually coming for me.

I ignore him. Dad always said that’s what’s best. My older brother Jake says it too—though who is he to talk? He’s a total shit-talker and gets into fights all the damn time. I’ve heard Dad and Mom talk about him when they didn’t know I was around. They say Jake has anger issues.

Not me. I’m the easygoing Callahan. The one who gives them no trouble. Agreeable yet fearless.

We stare at each other for what feels like minutes, though it’s probably only seconds. My heart starts to race and I mentally tell it to slow down. My breathing accelerates, and I recognize the signs.

I’m on the verge of having an asthma attack.

Not now, I tell my body, trying to take a deep breath. I used to have asthma attacks when I was really little, but I haven’t had one since that time I got strep last winter and couldn’t breathe. This is my mom’s biggest fear. Dad always reassures her I’m fine. Healthy. Made for football, a natural athlete.

“With asthma,” she’d always stress, earning a guilty look from Dad.

I refused to let it prevent me from playing the game that I love. Football is in my blood. My dad retired from the NFL as a Super Bowl winning quarterback, and my brother and both of my brothers-in-law currently play professionally. It’s a part of my family.

It’s a part of me.

The play is called, and without thought, I’m lunging forward, straight at the kid who told me he was going to tear me apart. I shift my right shoulder and knock into him, a growl escaping him just before he angles his body, just so, and blocks me.

At the same time, another player on his team plows right into me, sending me straight to the ground.

I’m flat on my back, a strangled sound leaving me as I stare up at the blue sky. I try to inhale, but it’s like nothing happens. My lungs tighten to the point of pain, and I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe.

Whistles are blowing, and on our side of the stands, people are booing. I hear my dad yelling as the one who threatened me laughs.

“Take that, little Callahan,” the jerk says, just before he kicks my shin and struts away.

The crowd in the stands boos and whistles their displeasure.

Air sticks in my lungs and my chest squeezes. My entire body starts to tingle and I close my eyes, trying to fight the sudden dizziness. I’m not even moving.

Why am I dizzy?

My throat tightens as my panic rises. I recognize the feeling, and while my past asthma issues don’t help, that’s not the issue.

I got the wind knocked out of me.

Dad kneels by my side, his worried gaze meeting mine. “You okay, Beck?”

My lips part, but no words come out. Just a low groan. I try to nod, but it turns into a shake.

No. I’m not okay.

“We need a medic!” The panic in my dad’s voice is unmistakable, which makes it even more of a struggle for me to breathe. I close my eyes and try to force myself to swallow, but it doesn’t work.

It’s as if my lungs are paralyzed, and it takes everything I’ve got to form actual words.

“I-I c-can’t b-b-breathe,” I stutter, feeling stupid.

“Calm down, son. You’re going to be okay. Are you hurt anywhere else?” He seems afraid to touch me. Probably concerned if he moves anything that’s injured, he could make it worse.

I croak out a sound, my stomach aching. My lungs burning. I know I’m breathing, or else I wouldn’t be experiencing any of this. I’d be blacked out or, ya know—freaking dead.

That thought only makes everything worse.

My heart is beating so hard, I’m pretty sure it’s trying to escape my body. I try to sit up, scratching at my helmet strap, because it feels too tight and I make a noise, tugging on it.

Dad bats my hands away and takes my helmet off for me and it’s as if I can finally take a semi-decent breath.

“You all right?” Dad runs his hand across the back of my head once I’m sitting up. I look around, seeing how my teammates are all kneeling at various spots on the field as they wait for me to get up. My mom’s not in the stands anymore. Instead, she’s standing behind the chain-link fence that separates the bleachers from the field, her hands clutching the top of the waist-high barrier, worry written all over her face.

She’s standing behind the cheer team, and I spot Addison Douglas in the middle of the row of girls, watching me carefully. Her lips are parted, a stray strand of dark hair that escaped from her ponytail blowing across her face.

I focus on that familiar face. She’s pretty. My friend. My secret crush since last year. No one knows how much I really like Addie—and that includes Addie herself.

To her, I’m just Beck. Her friend.

My eyes never stray from her as my father helps me to slowly rise to my feet. As he continues to help me hobble off the field, the entire crowd erupts into encouraging applause, and my teammates push to their feet as well, surrounding me once I’m on the sidelines. All of them ask me if I’m okay at practically the same time, overwhelming me.

I nod, but otherwise say nothing. I’m too embarrassed. My lungs still burn. My stomach hurts from where that kid slugged me right in the gut with his shoulder pad. He put all of his weight behind it when he ran into me. Those dudes were big. They mowed me over, just as the one promised.

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