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Healing Hearts: Loving the Billionaire Quarterback

Jasmine Parker
Shanice felt the hit through the TV screen. Up close and personal, in bright, screaming HD. It wasn't a dirty hit, exactly, but it wasn't clean, either, the helmet aimed right for the mid-back, just where the ref couldn't see it from behind the play.

And it worked. Paxton Hughes crumpled like a human accordion, his body folding in half as he fell to the ground, driven into the turf by the weight of the 350-lb lineman on top of him.

Most viewers would see the hit as a simple deal: for or against. Fans of the Colorado Mustangs would scream for a personal foul – a late hit, roughing the passer, unsportsmanlike conduct. Something. Anything.

But the legions who hated the billionaire quarterback would go with pure schadenfreude, reveling in his pain and suffering. Most of them had been waiting for this for years, anticipating what it would mean.

No more commercials. An end to those stupid insurance jingles. No more “cut that meat” chants. And no more unstoppable drives, 400-yard passing performances, or all-time records. No more false modesty from Paxton himself about how great he was, because all of those folks were convinced he was a fraud. All of that would be over, and they'd move on to their next target.

For Shanice Wells, though, the hit meant a lot more. She saw Paxton all the time even though she didn't know him, and the longest conversation they'd ever had consisted of “hello.” He was a regular at the Rocky Mountain Sports Medicine Center, where she was a consultant, heading up the division that delivered alternative healing services.

The hit was replayed over and over, then a couple times more. Were these guys sadists, or what? At the very least they were guilty of schadenfreude in the first degree, but Shanice knew that wasn't exactly uncommon.

She also knew what the hit would do to him. After three rounds of neck surgery, Paxton's nervous system at the top of his spinal column had been shredded like spaghetti. She'd seen the results of the nerve conduction tests, so she knew exactly how much signal loss there'd been and how much feeling he'd lost. In a lot of ways, it was a miracle he was still playing at all.

The broadcast cut to commercial, and Shanice thought of calling her best friend, Kim Overton, even though she knew it wasn't a good idea in the middle of the game. Kim would be on the sidelines, in the middle of it all, trying to help the rest of the Colorado training staff cope with the chaos of Paxton's injury.

Still, she had to do it. Shanice swiped down to the Kim icon on her phone, then clicked on it with only one thought in her mind.

Whether he knew it or not, Paxton was going to need her.





“Yeesh...was that as bad as it looked on TV?”

“Dunno yet,” Kim said, nearly yelling. She put her mouth over the phone to drown out the crowd noise. “Andy's looking at him right now. I think they're going to take him to the locker room.”

“That is bad.”

Shanice heard a roar from the crowd, which was odd considering that the broadcast was still in commercial.

“They just showed it on the Jumbotron,” Kim explained. “And yeah, it was that bad.”

“What about the concussion part?” Shanice asked.

“Sure looks like it from the replay,” Kim said. “But that's up in the air, too.”

“Aight,” Shanice said, lapsing into slang to try to cover some of the tension she felt. “Sorry to call.”

“It’s OK,” Kim replied. “I get it.” Kim looked around, trying to figure out which injured player to line up for treatment first. She was the next link in the chain after the trainers evaluated injured players on the bench, and Kim knew she wasn't supposed to use her cell. But she let Shanice break protocol every now and then, mostly because they'd been good friends for years.

“It’s getting' a little crazy out here, baby,” she said, trying to keep the stress out of her voice. “We got a bit of a MASH unit going on right now.”

Kim spotted Robert Covington, one of the safeties, hopping on one leg toward the stadium tunnel. He had a cramp, probably, from letting himself get dehydrated. Not the brightest bulb on the planet, but it happened all the time, so Kim let him limp on down toward his appointment with an IV in the trainer's office.

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