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Chapter no 10 – Cal

Bagging the Blueliner

“BERG, PICK UP THE speed!” Coach’s voice screamed across the ice.

The Atlanta Aviators were outskating us, plain and simple. We were sucking wind, worn down after two periods of play. The Aviators were getting faster, if that was even possible. The older average age of our roster was showing, and the younger team was taking us for a ride.

We were tied, but it took everything we had to claw back from a two-goal deficit. A couple of well-placed pucks were the difference. Reed was getting peppered in net. My job was to keep those shots from getting to him, but I was failing.

Feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders—as a leader on the team, and with my contract ending after the season—I searched desperately for a chance, an opening I could use to tilt the ice in our favor.

Scanning, I found it.

The Aviators were in transition, headed through the neutral zone toward Reed. Feeling confident they had possession of the puck, they sent three players to the bench to change.

Knowing my defensive partner, Luka, had my back if I missed, I charged the Aviators’ hotshot, Baldwin. Throwing my body into his, I knocked him off balance, sending him crashing to the ice. Then, I scooped up the free puck. Looking down the ice, I saw Jaxon at the opposite blue line. My

stretch pass landed perfectly on his stick while the Aviators were still in the midst of their line change.

Jaxon was one-on-one with their goalie, Murphy. If anyone could read a goalie, it was Jaxon.

Charging head-on, he pulled his stick to the right across his body, giving the impression of a backhand shot. Murphy reacted, extending his glove and dropping to the ice. Jaxon pulled back to the left, lifting the puck over Murphy’s pads and into the net.

The crowd in the arena erupted, and I raced down the ice to celebrate with my teammates. Jaxon pointed at me as I neared, a giant smile on his face as he yelled, “Fucking right, Cal! Just what we needed!”

The momentum shifted after we took the lead, and everyone began skating a little harder, reinvigorated. The Aviators pulled their goalie for an extra attacker in the final minute of the third period, but it wasn’t enough. The buzzer sounded, and the Comets won the game. We’d worked hard for this one, and it felt good.

Leaving the bench, the entire team lined up to congratulate Reed on a great game before filing down the tunnel and into the locker room.

Sitting at our assigned stalls, we began to undress. Coach entered, commanding the room for his post-game remarks. Everyone stopped what they were doing to pay attention.

Standing in the center of the locker room, Coach cleared his throat. “You played a tough game out there, boys. I’m proud of you for your perseverance and not giving up when we gave up an early lead. It wasn’t pretty, but we got it done. Take tomorrow off to rest up, and then it’s back to work on Friday to prepare for the Surf to come to town.”

Everyone cheered the day off as Coach left to take on the press first. Jaxon stood, holding up a custom-made wrestling belt featuring the Comets logo. It was team tradition after a win to award the belt to a player who gave a great effort. The next win, the belt would be handed off by whomever was awarded tonight.

“I think we all can agree,” Jaxon began, “that we wouldn’t have had a chance if it weren’t for Reed standing on his head in net tonight.” Walking to Reed, he placed the belt in his waiting hands. “Thanks for keeping us in the game, brother.”

Reed stood to address the room as tonight’s recipient. “Hard-fought win tonight, boys. On to the next!”

Claps rang out across the room, and before we knew it, the press was granted access to the locker room. It wasn’t my favorite part of my job, but it was a necessary evil.

Wiping my face with a towel, several microphones appeared in front of my face, and the bright lights of cameras forced me to keep my eyes down.

“Tell us about the assist on the game-winner, Cal.” I didn’t bother to look up to see which reporter asked the question.

I kept my response simple. “I saw an opportunity on the line change, so I took it. Jaxon and I have played together for a long time, and I knew if I got the puck, he’d find a way to get open.”

“Any word on a contract extension?”

I took a breath through gritted teeth. “That’s up to the front office. If they want me back after this season, they’ll let me know.”

“The aging core of the Comets struggled to keep up with the young, fresh legs of the Aviators tonight.”

The vultures are circling.

I retorted, “I didn’t hear a question in there.”

“Sorry. Do you think the Comets can compete at a high enough level to not only reach the playoffs but make a run at the championship this year?”

“It’s early December. If we start looking at the playoffs now, we will lose sight of what’s directly in front of us, and right now, that’s playing the San Diego Surf on Saturday night.”

They were either out of questions or could sense my agitation because they left my stall to interview another player.

Good riddance.

Hitting the showers, I let the heat soothe my aching muscles. This game was wearing on me, and I knew the clock was ticking. The press bringing it up constantly didn’t help matters.

Tomorrow’s maintenance day was exactly what the doctor ordered. I needed a mental break as well as a physical one.

 

 

After a good night’s rest, followed by an afternoon massage and protein- packed dinner, I had my feet up on the coffee table, watching out-of-town

hockey games. Even if the Comets got the day off, other teams were in action around the league. Watching their games was research.

As a defenseman, I kept my mind sharp, watching the play of others and analyzing their choices. It was therapeutic, in a way, to pick apart their game. There were situations where a player would make a move that had me rewinding to get a better look, and others where I instantly knew what I would do differently to defend.

The first period ended, and I stood to stretch my legs and grab a glass of water from the kitchen. Opening the fridge, I heard a knock on the door.

Who could that be?

It was 8 PM. The front desk hadn’t called up a visitor, and I wasn’t expecting any deliveries. There were only a handful of people who could bypass the security—Jaxon and Benji.

Jaxon was definitely spending the evening at home with his family. Knowing Benji, he was dressed and ready for a night out and wanted a wingman.

I wasn’t in the mood. The day off was the perfect reset, and I didn’t need to mess that up by going to the club. Merely thinking about the flashing lights and pounding bass had a headache threatening behind my eyes.

Not bothering to check the peephole, I threw open the door, uttering, “Not interested.”

“Well, that’s a shame.” The voice that responded was far too feminine to be Benji’s.

My eyes were downcast, so I only saw a pair of bare feet. Shifting my gaze upward, those feet gave way to perfectly toned bare calves, and my eyes widened as I reached bare thighs. The hem of something blue was barely long enough to obscure my view of what lay between the legs of the brazen vixen who dared to tempt me.

Blood rushed to my groin when I realized that that something blue was a jersey. And not just any jersey—my Comets jersey. Noting the number forty-two on the upper arms, I bit back a groan. With no blood left in my brain, it didn’t register that no woman I’d been with knew where I lived.

Brown hair flowed over perky breasts pushed forward to tempt me. Even under the loose-fitting jersey, I could tell she was well-endowed, and my hands flexed, itching to test their weight.

Rosebud lips were curved in a seductive smile, but when I reached blue eyes, reality sank in, and I recognized the woman I’d been devouring with

my eyes.

I’m dreaming. Wake up, Cal!

Propping a hand on her hip, Hannah purred, “Well, aren’t you going to invite me in?”

This isn’t a dream. Holy shit.

Without thinking, I grabbed her arm, pulling her inside my apartment and slamming the door. Taking a few deep breaths, willing my dick to calm the fuck down, I turned around to face her.

“What the fuck, Hannah?”

She shrugged. “Is there a problem?”

“Where are your pants? Kids live in this building!” I roared.

The spark of fire was alight in her blue eyes. “You live in the penthouse.

You have the top two floors all to yourself.”

I tried again. “How did you get past security?”

A mischievous grin curved on those perfect lips. “Who needs security . . . neighbor?”

“What did you just say?” There was no way I’d heard her correctly.

She sauntered closer as I stood frozen to the spot. “Imagine my surprise when I tried to call a car the night you brought me home, only to discover I was already inside my building.”

The sight of a pantless Hannah—in my jersey—was enough to tempt the beast I kept leashed when around her. But the idea of her sleeping only a few floors away? It was too much.

I swallowed as my heart beat so fast I feared I might pass out. “What are you doing here, Hannah?”

Quirking an eyebrow, she asked, “Isn’t it obvious?”

“Why don’t you explain it to me?” I didn’t trust my traitorous brain to read this situation correctly.

“You lose your mind at the idea of me with another man. If you’re going to keep me from other men’s cocks, the least you can do is offer me yours. We might as well fuck so you can get it out of your system. I will not allow you to hold my pussy hostage. She has places to be and people to see.”

Staggering back a step, I stared at her in disbelief. When had I given her any idea that she drove me to the point of jealous insanity? It was true, but that was beside the point. I went to great lengths to make her believe I hated her.

Shut up. She’s here, offering herself up on a silver platter. Fuck her, and save the sound of her screaming your name as your ringtone.

Denial. That was my only hope.

Digging my heels in, I narrowed my eyes at the half-naked woman standing in my entryway. “What makes you think I want you? Is that how it works in the brain of Hannah Moreau? I try to save you from making a public fool of yourself one time, and you think I’m jealous? Dream on.” I threw in a scoff for good measure.

“Final answer?” Hannah taunted.

“Not. Interested. Get it through your thick head.”

The smug look on her face gave me pause, but I held my ground.

Reaching into the neck of the jersey, she pulled out her cell phone.

Was she keeping that in her bra?

“Don’t say I didn’t give you a chance to come clean.”

Tapping the phone, she held it out in my direction as my own voice filtered through the speaker.

“You think it’s funny to tease me, Hannah? To make it so I can’t get hard after watching some loser put his hands on you? I have wasted too many years watching you, wishing I could be the one making you scream. Well, guess what? I’m done. Get the fuck out of my head.”

Terror pierced my heart. There was no denying that was my voice, but I had no recollection of calling her or leaving a damning voicemail.

“Ready to change your story yet?” Hannah’s voice filtered through my panic.

“It’s not what it sounds like,” I explained.

“What it sounds like to me is that you had your first brush with erectile dysfunction and freaked out. Is this the part where I tell you it’s normal and happens to every guy? Not sure anyone really believes that, but whatever helps you sleep at night, big guy.”

Hannah walked past me to leave, throwing over her shoulder, “Guess it was a mistake coming here. Damaged goods and all.”

I lunged, gripping her arm and snarling, “Don’t test me, Hannah. You wouldn’t be able to handle me.”

Smirking, she taunted, “So which is it, Cal? You want me, or you don’t want me? Or maybe you simply want a studio recording of my best porn star voice for you to jerk off with?” Closing her eyes, she let out a breathy moan, “Oh, Cal. Yes, right there. Harder. Yes!”

That was it.

That was the moment Hannah pushed me past my breaking point.

The moment when the ten years of sexual frustration with this woman came to a head.

Instinct took over, and my hand went to her throat, gripping the sides and forcing her body backward until she was pinned against the wall. Blue eyes widened in shock, but the way her pupils dilated, I knew she was just as turned on as me.

The time for games was over. I no longer gave a fuck that she could ruin everything I’d worked so hard to achieve.

The truth was, my career could be over at any given moment. Might as well go out with a bang.

If Coach found out, I would retire. At least I had a good run.

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