top of page
HeartbreakerHandoff_Text Only With Shadows.png


Extended HEA



Pulling back the curtains, I smile into the bright sunshine.

Today’s the day I’m marrying my best friend. The man of my dreams. The one who stole my heart when I wasn’t looking.

And Chicago’s star rookie defensive back.

The team might not have picked Billy until day three of the draft, but he kicked ass his first year.

I knew he could do it.

“It’s a great day to get married,” I say to the hotel room, not caring who hears me.

My bridesmaids agree as they flutter around me, pinning my hair up and fluffing my dress. I’m too excited to worry about what I’m wearing or make sure my hair looks just right. Charlotte calls my name, and I turn.

She snaps a photo and grins. “You look so beautiful standing there in the window. I know you said no more photos, but I couldn’t help it.”

“My face was starting to hurt from smiling, so that’s why I told the wedding photographer to give me a break, but you’re welcome to take as many as you want.”

My mom peeks in the room. “Roxy, it’s time.”

I press my hand to my stomach. The excitement is starting to get to me. Please don’t throw up on your wedding day.

“Does anyone have some crackers?” I ask. “Or some ginger ale?”

My mother gives me a look, and I pretend I don’t notice. Paige hands me something ice cold and bubbly.

“Thank you.” I take a few sips, and the nausea starts to subside.

Maggie, who’s married to Billy’s teammate Olly, comes up to me with her compact. “Can I dab a little of this on your nose?”

“Yes, please. Can’t be shiny on my wedding day. Oh, and in case I haven’t told you lately, everyone keeps saying how beautiful those wedding invites were that you designed for us. I’ve been giving out your info left and right.”

“I’m so happy you like them.” She dabs my nose and then hands me my lipstick for another coat.

“I might have another event soon, so pencil me in for early fall.”

She nods. “Whatever you need.”

Maggie and Olly both attended Lone Star State too, but it wasn’t until Billy and I moved to Chicago that Maggie and I really spent time together. I feel like I discovered a long-lost sister. She’s spunky and kind, and her twin boys are adorable. It’s so nice to have a mommy friend who knows what I’m going through with a toddler.

I pause by the full-length mirror to make sure my boobs are still tucked away where they should be. This dress fit perfectly a month ago. Now, everything’s just a little tighter than it should be.

But I’m getting married today, so I’m not going to let anything bother me.

Charlie hands me my bouquet, and I keep it away from my face in case the smell is too much.

We all pile into the elevator, and Paige breaks out her phone and starts playing “Crazy In Love” by Beyoncé, so naturally we start dancing.

“Y’all, I’m marrying Billy Babcock today!”

Everyone yells excitedly.

I don’t care that I’m acting like an idiot. I’m too in love to care.

Our first year in the NFL is in the books. Although our senior year at Lone Star was incredibly trying, being able to work through those challenges helped us prepare for what was to come.

The night before his first road trip, Billy handed me a piece of paper that had all of his passwords, his hotel rooms, and his coach’s number. He said it was for security, in case I had an emergency, but also so I could always have confidence in his commitment to me. He also reiterated his open phone policy.

And then we put the baby to bed and ripped each other’s clothes off.

Now that I think about it, we did that a lot this year. When he gets home from his away games, he’s ravenous for me. I can’t seem to get enough of him either. I thought we’d slow down after the season ended, but I guess we’re having too much fun now that his schedule isn’t as jam-packed.

Which is why I’m barely squeezing into my wedding dress.

“Don’t mess up your hair,” my mom warns me as I dance with my girls. She’s squished in the corner of the elevator, taking a video of us looking like fools.

The elevator doors open, and we scuttle out into the hotel lobby where my wedding coordinator ushers us to the exit. We’re getting married across the street at the Charming Arbory, which is a hundred-year-old warehouse that’s been converted into this industrial-chic wedding venue surrounded by lush gardens.

My bridesmaids look so beautiful in their glittery pink cocktail dresses. Dusk is starting to fall, and twinkle lights criss-cross overhead. I’m standing behind a pillar, so I can’t see Billy.

A few minutes later, we’re all lined up ready to head out into the gardens when my dad joins us. “Don’t look at me,” he says gruffly.

I laugh as I straighten his boutonniere. “Why’s that?”

“Because you’re going to make your tough old dad cry.”

I jut out my lower lip that’s starting to quiver. “Not fair. You can’t say something like that. Because if you cry, then I’ll cry.”

Maggie turns to my dad and tuts. “Coach, if you make her tear up and screw up her mascara, I’m going to have a bone to pick with you.”

He smiles. Sniffles. Nods. “I’m okay.”

Aww. I kiss him on his cheek. “Remember the game plan, Coach. We’re headed straight for the goalpost. Don’t deviate from the route.”

He laughs and hugs me.

That’s when Billy’s mom Brenda comes up to us holding Marley, who’s decked out in a poofy white dress. My girl loves twirling in it.

Her eyes widen when she sees me. I lean over to kiss her. “Remember, toss one flower petal at a time, and don’t eat them this time.”

Brenda sets her on the ground, gives her the basket of pink rose petals, and my other flower girl takes Marley’s hand.

It’s possible none of those flowers will land in the right place. Marley might dump them on her head and flop on the ground, but Billy and I don’t care. We just want her to have a special place in the ceremony.

From where I’m standing, I can’t see the groomsmen, but I’m able to watch the girls start down the aisle. A few petals get tossed. And then I hear, “Daddeee!” and the pounding of little feet as Marley bolts down the aisle toward Billy.

Everyone laughs, and I smile.

The Wedding March starts, kicking my heart into high gear. “Dad, don’t let me trip.”

He pats my hand. “This is the biggest handoff of my life. I’m ready.”

We move to the aisle, and my heart catches in my throat when I finally see Billy.

My devastatingly handsome fiancé smiles, and I can’t take my eyes off him. His hair is trimmed short on the sides but is longer on top. His jaw has his signature scruff, and he fills out that black tux to perfection.

I can’t believe I get to spend my life with this man. I’m so excited to see him, I’m tempted to run down the aisle too.

“Billy loves you so much,” my dad whispers. “You were right about him.”

I’m too choked up to say anything, but I nod.

I don’t remember walking down the aisle but I must have. When I reach Billy, he and my dad do a half hug thing, and then my soon-to-be husband takes my hand.

He leans close and whispers a little too loudly, “You’re a fucking vision.”

The minister coughs, and Billy holds up his hand. “Sorry.”

The groomsmen laugh. Everyone looks so handsome in their tuxes. Cam, Jake, Olly, Deke, and two of Billy’s teammates stand next to him. When we turn to the audience, I smile at my mom, who’s now holding Marley.

“Mama! Daddeeee!” she yells excitedly as she waves her fluffy tulle skirt at us. “Purdy dwess!”

Billy chuckles. “Looking good, Starley.”

By the time we get to the vows, I’m trembling with excitement.

Billy takes my hands in his and grins. “Roxy, you’re my best friend, my favorite cheerleader, and the best mother to Marley. Our relationship is something I never dreamed I could have. You’ve made me believe in things I didn’t know I wanted. I promise to always have that same faith in you. To be the man you think I can be. To be the father Marley needs me to be. I promise to always comfort you if you’re sad, to cheer your accomplishments, and to share in your joys. I’ll bring you sweet tea on Sunday afternoons and coffee first thing in the morning.”

My smile widens. “And if you’re at an away game?”

“I’ll set the coffee timer.”

The audience chuckles.

He swallows. Squeezes my hand. Kisses my forehead. “You have my heart, body, and soul.”

I nod and blink rapidly so I don’t cry. “Billy, you stole my heart that night at the Yellow Rose by singing in my ear during a slow dance. We’ve had a whirlwind romance, and even though everyone said we were crazy, you’ve always believed in us.”

He gives me a sweet smile, and I melt.

I take a deep breath. “When I was young, I used to dream of the kind of man I’d marry someday. I wanted him to be bigger than life, strong and kind, gentle with me and our kids, but fiercely protective. I wanted the love of a lifetime, the one for storybooks. That’s what I have with you. You’re the man in those dreams. I promise to always have faith in us, to always cheer the loudest at your games, and to give you pointers if you need them.”

He laughs and nods.

“Billy, you stole my heart, body, and soul, but they’re yours to keep. Always.”

Leaning in, he kisses me.

The minister says, “We’re not there yet.”

Everyone laughs again.

We then say more traditional vows.

“I, William James Babcock, take you, Roxanne Amara Santos, to be my wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, free agent or contracted…”

I smile, so grateful I get to marry my best friend. And I love that we’ve made our day exactly what we want it to be.

When he places his grandmother’s ring on my finger, I glance over at her, and she winks.

By the time we get to the actual wedding kiss, I can’t contain my excitement anymore, so when the minister says, “You may kiss the bride,” I leap into my husband’s arms.

The groomsmen hoot and holler as Billy dips me in a kiss.

When he lifts me, he kisses me again. “Hello, wife.”

“Hello, husband.”

“Are you ready to start forever?”

I grab his hand and grin. “Let’s do this.”




My wife is a vision. I watch her hug our guests and take photos with everyone. I can’t take my eyes off her.

“You’re a lucky man,” Olly says with a clap to my back. We’re sitting at the banquet table, enjoying a beer. “Never thought I’d see the day when Billy Babcock settled down.”

“My mother says it’s a miracle.” Probably as much a miracle as me getting along with Roxy’s dad.

But the fact that he took me and Deacon fishing again a few weeks ago is evidence that I’m officially part of the family. Because that man does not let just anyone go fishing with him.

Even though Coach was tough on me at Lone Star, I can honestly say I appreciate it. I’m not sure I would’ve been drafted without him hounding my ass to get my shit together. But it took his daughter to make me believe I had a shot at actually achieving my dream.

Playing in the NFL has been a blast. It’s tough and has its challenges, but with Roxy by my side, I feel like I can do anything.

When we moved to Chicago, I heard my new team needed a social media person to create content, someone to cover the games and interview players for our fans online. Roxy jumped at the opportunity and had the entire team impressed with her skills when several of her TikToks went viral.

While it’s not the broadcast job she dreamed of, she says she’s having too much fun to worry about that, and she’s planning to use her social media momentum to build her own platform and cover the more serious topics she cares about.

Because it’s a flexible gig, she can still spend lots of time with Marley and coach a cheer camp on occasion.

My wife is a boss. I couldn’t be prouder of her. And the fact that she knows football inside and out gives me major bragging rights in the locker room.

“You got a little drool on you.” Olly motions to my shoulder.

I glance down at Marley, who’s wrapped around me like a monkey. She passed out a few minutes ago. My mom is going to watch her tonight, but we wanted our girl to enjoy the festivities for a while. “Come on, baby. Let’s get you to bed.”

My mother must have a sixth sense because she’s there in a flash. “Want me to take her now?”

“Thanks, Mom. Appreciate it.” I give her a hug with one arm before I hand her Marley.

She and Marlena will be babysitting for the next few days while Roxy and I head to Port Aransas, a small Texas beach town we both like. We considered going somewhere more exotic, but we wanted to be close in case we had to book it home for Marley. We’re leaving tomorrow morning.

Roxy sees us and comes over to check in with my mom. “Call us if you need anything. We can be home in five hours.”

My mom chuckles. “Honey, I had three little hellraisers. I can handle one small angel. Besides, Marlena’s going to swing by every day and she said she can take Marley overnight if I need a break. You don’t need to worry. I want you two to enjoy your honeymoon and get some rest.”

I glance at Roxy as her face flushes, and I laugh to myself.

Rest might not be on the agenda.

After my mom leaves, we check in on my grandmother. “You doing okay? Do you need to go to bed?”

“I’m old, not dead.” She smirks. “There are some good-looking men here. I plan to enjoy the eye candy.”

Since my mother divorced my dad, she moved my grandma in with her. I think Grandma likes her more than she likes her own son. Who wouldn’t?

I didn’t bother inviting my father to our wedding, and since my idiot brothers also gave me shit for getting with Roxy, they didn’t get invites today. No loss. My real family is here.

My grandma and Roxy hug, and then I take my wife on the dance floor.

“Can I give you my present soon?” I ask as I twirl her around. We took couples’ lessons this spring, and I can bust out a waltz if needed.

Her fingers play with the hair at the nape of my neck. “I have two gifts for you.”

“Two?” I lift an eyebrow. “I distinctly remember us saying we would just do one.”

She leans up on her toes and kisses my chin. “The second gift was a surprise to me too.”

Now I’m intrigued.

After the dance, we head back to the banquet table, and I pull the square blue box out of my coat pocket.

“Tiffany’s? Baby, you spent too much.”

“If I can’t lavish my beautiful wife with a special gift on our wedding day, then why am I working so hard?” I realize that now. Without my girls, what does playing in the NFL really mean?

She grins. “For the record, I love Tiffany’s.”

I smile, knowing she’d been eyeing this bracelet, but she’s not the kind of person to buy it for herself.

The look on her face when she opens the box is priceless. “I’ve been wanting an ID bracelet. This is so beautiful.” It’s a delicate gold band with diamonds. She holds it out to me so I can help her put it on.

“Look at the inscription.” It says Santos-Babcock.

She’s taking my last name, but I know how much her family means to her. Her eyes water. “Thank you. I love it so much.”

After I put it on and kiss her, she hands me an envelope. “This is not as fancy as what you gave me.”

“I don’t care about that.” But I am curious. Carefully, I break the seal and pull out what looks to be a contract.

They’re adoption papers for Marley.

A knot forms in my throat, and my eyes sting.

Roxy takes my hand and kisses my rough knuckles. “You’re already her father in spirit. Let’s make it official.”

I nod, touched more than I can say. “Thank you, Rox. It would be my honor. I love her so much.” I pull my beautiful wife into my lap and kiss her.

“There’s that surprise gift too.”

I look around the table, not spotting anything. “Are you going to give me a clue?”

“You’re holding it.”

“You are a gift, that’s true.” I chuckle.

“How does it feel to have a family of three?” Are we still talking about the surprise? Before I can answer, she takes my hand and places it on her stomach. “Because we’re about to become a family of four.”

I’m glad I’m sitting because I get lightheaded. “Are you serious? Holy shit, that’s awesome.” When I’m sure I won’t topple over, I jump up and spin her around. We said we wanted to have our children while we had the energy to run around after them, but this is indeed a surprise. “When are you due?”

“Late December.”

Lacing our fingers together, I kiss her forehead. “That’s the best wedding gift ever.”

She hangs her arms over my shoulders and gives me a heated look. “I might have one more gift for you, but it’s lacy and sheer, and you’ll need to rip it off with your teeth later tonight.”

“Goddamn, I’m ready for this.” We’ve spent the last few days apart to make tonight extra special, and I am ready to go. I glance around. “I’m not sure it’s appropriate to sport a boner at my wedding reception, wife. I’m a married man now.”

With a coy look, she drags a finger down my chest. “I brought the massage oil.”

That’s it.

I grab her hand and jokingly march her to the exit. She pulls me back, laughing.

Swinging her in my arms, I kiss her and all of our friends and family cheer us on.

“Can I tell them our news?”

She nods.

We face everyone, and I’m sure I have the biggest, cheesiest grin on my face, but I don’t care. I call out, “Mom! Marlena! Coach!” When I have their attention, I ask, “Do y’all like being grandparents?”

“Heck yes, son!” Coach yells back.

“Good, ’cause you’re about to get another grandkid. Mark your calendars for late December! Marley’s getting a brother or sister.”

The whole room erupts, and I turn back to my beautiful wife. “I love you, wife.”

“I love you more, husband,” she says with a teasing smile on her lips.

My whole chest swells with pride and happiness, and I smile. “That’s not even possible.”

Thanks for reading HEARTBREAKER HANDOFF! Hope you enjoyed!


Did you know that Nick and Abigail are getting their own book? Click here for more details about BLINDSIDE BEAUTY.

bottom of page