Marty Green has two loves in life: horses and basketball. But suffering a stroke during his first college game throws a wrench in his plans. After months spent in the hospital, recuperating under the zealous care of his overprotective parents, Marty realizes he needs to be on his own, so when he’s offered a job at a ranch owned by his doctor's good friend, he takes it.
When veterinary assistant Quinn Knepper sees Marty for the first time, his heart nearly stops. He's smitten, and Marty appears interested though shy. There are just two problems: Quinn's father wants him to hide his sexuality from the world, and Marty’s Wyoming Senator father is a homophobe with no idea his son is gay—which Quinn learns when the senator proposes an amendment banning gay marriage.
Dealing with two unsupportive families is a heavy burden, but Quinn vows to make it work. Unfortunately, that may mean putting his life on hold while Marty overcomes his emotional isolation—unless, of course, Marty sacrifices his happiness to his father’s political ambition and ends the relationship before it gets started.
Marty Green sat with the other players on Wyoming’s Brackett College basketball team. The team bench was packed as they all waited for the game to begin. Marty imagined that all the other freshman sitting near him felt the same butterflies in their stomachs that he did. Marty loved basketball—it was one of the honest and true passions in his life. That, and science. He was thrilled to have made the basketball team, even if he was destined to spend much of the season sitting on the bench. Marty knew he didn’t have the talent to make it to the pros or even to get into one of the Division I basketball programs, but he didn’t really care. He played because he loved the game and loved being on a team. He played because it was in his blood, and because there were those times when he and the ball seemed connected, when everything went exactly right. He lived for those times.
The starters were called to the court, and Marty watched as they ran out and got into position. Marty felt the excitement inside him ramp up. These were his teammates, and even though he wasn’t playing, energy coursed through him. His legs bounced slightly, and he could feel the blood rushing from head to toe. It was like the energy from the entire crowd had centered on him, and he loved it.
The ball was tipped, and play began with his teammates in control of the ball. They raced down the court, dribbling and passing the ball rapidly back and forth in a dance that Marty desperately wanted to be a part of, but he could only wait and hope. A shot was taken, and they scored. The other guys on the bench all turned to one another, smiling, sharing their teammates’ success as they watched, waited, and hoped that they’d eventually get their turn.
They were ahead at halftime. Granted, they were playing Cheyenne, a school slightly smaller than theirs, and one they fully expected to beat. The starters had been rotated out of the game early on, and the second string had still been able to score. The team filed back into the locker room to wait out the halftime while the crowd was entertained by the cheerleaders.After a pep talk, the team returned to the floor and waited for the game to resume.The coach pointed down the bench, and Marty hoped he’d be chosen, but of course he wasn’t. Play began for the second half with many of their best players resting. One of the starters, Kyle, sat next to Marty, with his friend Pat on the other side. Kyle was a senior and he watched the play with eagle eyes.
“He’ll never make the shot,” Kyle said, motioning toward the player from the other team as he was about lift off. “His feet aren’t in the right position and he’s a little off balance.” Sure enough, the ball skimmed around the edge of the rim and then fell back into play, with one of Mike scooping it up and racing full-tilt down the court with the rest of the players behind him. Mike made the shot easily, and Brackett pulled further ahead. Play continued, and Kyle continued his quiet narrative, pointing things out to Marty that he might have missed. “You learn by doing and by seeing other guys’ mistakes,” Kyle said just before throwing the towel he’d had hanging around his neck onto the bench and hurrying back into the game.
Marty watched as the second half continued. They were way ahead now, and as more players came out, Marty heard what he’d hoped for: “Green, you’re in,” the coach said, and Marty hurried onto the court just as the other team called time. The other team’s players all huddled around their coach, and for a few seconds, Marty thought he could hear what their coach was saying. Everything seemed heightened—the sound of the crowd, the voices of the other players—and as he looked over at his coach, he swore he could hear him telling him to stay in the pocket from all the way across the court. Marty knew he had to be hearing things, that he was so keyed up and hypersensitive about playing in his first college game that he had to be his imagination.
The refs signaled the resumption of play, and Marty got his head in the game, paying close attention to the ball and everyone around him. The whistle blew and the ball was in play. Marty knew his assignment and guarded his player while looking for an opening. The ball was passed his way, but one of the other players on his team scooped it off its trajectory and rocketed down the court. Marty followed, his feet pounding on the polished floor, ready to assist if he could, but the shot was good and they scored. Then the other team had the ball, and Marty stayed close to his man when the ball came their way. Marty wasn’t able to get it, but he did manage to bounce it off the other player and out of bounds, forcing a turnover to their team. The ref handed him the ball, and he stepped out of bounds. This was the first time in an actual college game that he’d had possession of the ball. Marty passed it to Clark and jumped into the play, following the others down the court. Clark passed the ball, and then it was passed back to him. Marty watched as a shot was taken, but it missed and then one of his teammates rebounded the ball and put it back in the basket for a score. They were doing well, but he knew his time was limited. There were others guys who needed their chance to play, and if he wanted to stay in, Marty needed to make something happen.
The other team had possession, and he stepped away from his man, watching the ball as it was passed over. Realizing he’d created the opening, Marty instantly closed it and snatched the ball out of the air. He dribbled it and then began running down the court. He felt almost at one with the ball, blood pumping, legs pounding, arms working as he reached the far side of the court and got into position.
Suddenly, almost like a fuse had blown, Marty’s head throbbed and his balance seemed all out of whack. He tried to steady himself with his left arm, but it didn’t seem to want to work. He stopped moving and looked around for a player to pass the ball to, but everything in the room looked distorted. The ball was snatched out of his hand, and Marty could vaguely hear his name being called, but it was like listening through Jell-O and he couldn’t make out anything else. He knew which way the bench was and he took one step. He lifted his left leg and set it down, but he seemed to keep going. He realized he was falling and he could do nothing at all to stop it. He tried, but his muscles ignored the commands his brain sent out, and then he collapsed onto the court.
Marty heard activity all around him. He tried to get up but couldn’t. All he could see was the ceiling above him, the celebratory banners waving and then starting to move in weird patterns. He could hear voices around him, but they weren’t making any sense, their words jumbled and all mixed up. Marty couldn’t take the weird sights going on above him, so he closed his eyes, hoping it would help, but it didn’t. The entire world seemed to have gone haywire. He knew people were talking to him, asking him questions that he tried to answer, but even his thoughts seemed mixed up and confused. Finally, he gave up and gave himself over to the people around him. Whatever was going on, he would have to trust that they knew what was happening, because he didn’t.
The only thing that seemed to permeate the haze that surrounded him was the sensation of flying. He liked that—it felt good. Marty tried to put out his arms so he could fly faster, but he couldn’t seem to, so he gave up and let himself fly wherever he was going. Slowly, the world got darker, and Marty didn’t fight it. He needed to sleep, and he hoped that after he woke up the world would be right again.
“Stay with us, Marty,” someone said, and Marty opened his eyes for a few seconds, but everything was strange and still swimmy, so he closed them again and kept them that way. People said more things to him, but he wasn’t really interested. He didn’t understand most of what they were saying, anyway. All he wanted to do was sleep, and as he gave in to it, the world turned black as Marty embraced the silence.