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Chapter no 2 – Cal

Bagging the Blueliner

hated Hannah Moreau.

I hated that she thought she knew everything about hockey. I hated how she thought she was “one of the guys.”

I hated how I couldn’t take my eyes off her ass.

I hated how every contrary word out of her mouth made me want to bend her over my knee and spank that delectable ass.

I hated that I wanted her.

I hated that I could never have her.

I hated that she was the only woman on Earth who didn’t want me.

That last part might seem cocky, but it was true. I had an uncanny ability to get women to drop their panties. Maybe it had something to do with my rugged good looks or irresistible charm, but I knew it boiled down to the fact that I played professional hockey and, as a result, had a fat bank account.

I knew they didn’t want the real me, but that didn’t stop me from taking advantage of what they had to offer. I always made sure both parties left satisfied.

None of them were enough to erase Hannah from the back of my mind.

Today’s annual pre-season barbeque only reminded me of the first day we met. I would never forget how brazenly she’d marched up to me and then proceeded to lecture me on the deficiencies of my playing style.

She’d left me speechless in more ways than one.

That was the day she became the bane of my existence. Ten years later, she still proudly wore that crown.

Speaking of crowns, it annoyed the hell out of me that she was out here holding court like she was the Queen of the Connecticut Comets. Glowering at her, I watched her flitting from group to group, acting like the hostess.

Where did she get off?

Sure, she was Coach’s daughter, but if anyone should be taking on the female leadership role, it was her best friend, Natalie. As the captain’s wife, she was the top dog among the women of the Comets, but I knew from experience that no one ever told Hannah no.

That was why she was so out of control. She was a spoiled brat.

Coach might go out of his way to protect her from the big bad hockey players, but he enabled her outrageous behavior. He let her run all over the rink and practice facilities like she owned the place.

She was always there.

Probably because she couldn’t hold down a job to save her life. Hannah was thirty-one and had no direction. I loved Coach and his wife, Amber, but they’d failed that girl. She didn’t know how to survive in the real world.

Then, there was the mouth on that woman. Not only did she know her shit about hockey, but she went out of her way to provoke a reaction from anyone and everyone. She had no filter and didn’t give two fucks about what anyone thought of her.

It was infuriating and it was appalling, but God help me, it was a fucking turn-on.

For the past ten years, I’d given as good as she gave. We’d become verbal sparring partners. Partly because I wanted to put her in her place, and partly because making her hate me was easier than succumbing to the attraction I felt for her. An added bonus was pissing her off beyond all reason. She was a feisty one, and I could only imagine how that translated to the bedroom.

Stop it.

As if on cue, the reason why I could never act on said attraction walked into my field of vision. Coach crossed the manicured country club lawn to take a seat next to me at one of the makeshift bars.

Ordering a beer, he casually asked me, “How’s your body feeling?”

Time was a fickle bitch, and the older I got, the more eyes were watching, waiting for signs that I was too old to play the game I loved.

I didn’t need anyone to remind me that I was past my prime. At thirty- four, I felt it every time I took the ice. It took twice as much effort to achieve the same results, and post-game recovery hurt more than ever. But I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. As long as I could still make an impact and a team was willing to take a chance on me, I was going to play.

This game was all I had ever known. The thought of what my life would look like after I stopped playing scared the living shit out of me. My college years earned me a communications degree, but we all knew student-athletes were given a lot of leeway. I wasn’t proud of the fact that I’d slept through most of my classes.

I had no marketable skills outside of what I could do on the ice.

I could see it now. Handing over a resume that said: great at handling his stick.

While true, that would likely lead me to jobs as a male escort. Pass.

Sure, I didn’t need to work; I’d earned more than enough in my ten-year professional career to set me up for life, even if it weren’t for my smart investing. But I knew a life of leisure would drive me insane. I wasn’t cut out to spend the rest of my days bullshitting on the golf course. I needed action, a constant adrenaline rush. It’s who I was.

Needing another drink myself, I ordered a whiskey neat before answering Coach. “Feels great. Can’t wait for camp. Humbling the prospects is my favorite way to initiate them.”

Coach chuckled. “You always were highly competitive.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.” Without my competitive drive, I wouldn’t have made it this far.

The bartender placed our drinks before us as Coach mused, “You remind me a lot of myself when I was younger. I pushed so hard until there was nothing left.”

I was flattered. Coach was a legend, a three-time champion, and a defenseman like me. But those three rings would always separate us.

My time was running out, and I only wanted one. This year might very well be my last chance. If my body gave out—the implication in his opening question had been clear—I wouldn’t have a choice.

“I want it so bad,” I breathed out.

“They all do,” Coach countered, his usually gruff voice softening.

I shook my head. “I can’t help but feel like I won’t have anything to show for my career if my name never gets carved in silver.”

“You know that’s not true. You hold the Comets’ record for most points by a defenseman. No one will forget the way you changed the defensive game. Kids model their playing style after yours. You’ve made an incredible impact. Championships are nice, but they aren’t everything.”

“Easy to say when you have three of them,” I grumbled.

Clapping me on the back, Coach only laughed. “Fair point. Enjoy the moment. You never know which one will be your last.”

Well, fuck if that wasn’t ominous.

My contract was up at the end of the year, and the Comets would have the choice to re-sign me at the age of thirty-five next summer or let me go. I had been a Comet from day one. They drafted me, and the idea of going to another team made my stomach hurt, but some decisions weren’t up to me.

Clearing his throat, Coach spoke again, “I was hoping you might do me a favor this season.”

As an alternate captain, I was ready and willing to help the team—and Coach—in any way I could. “Name it.”

Coach fidgeted with the wedding band on his left hand. “You might want to hear it before you agree.”

Now, he had my attention. I sat up straighter. “What can I help you with, Coach?”

Taking a sip of his beer, he swallowed before saying, “I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Hannah has taken a position in the front office.”

Say what?

“What kind of position?” That girl wasn’t qualified for anything other than being her daddy’s shadow and getting in everyone’s way. I wasn’t even sure she’d finished college. Four years focusing on a single subject didn’t scream “Hannah.”

“She’s taking on the role of travel coordinator for the team.”

With those words, Coach ripped the carpet from beneath my feet, and I was free-falling.

Hannah.

On the road.

With the team.

There. All. The. Time.

This was the stuff nightmares were made of. I couldn’t deal with her every damn day. Seeing her at our home rink half the time was bad enough. At least then, I could go home at the end of the day and try to forget she existed. There would be no hiding from her on the road—morning, noon, and night, she would be there.

Grappling with the panic clawing up my chest, I rubbed sweaty palms on my khaki shorts. “How do I come in?”

Coach rubbed his jaw. “I know the two of you tend to frequent the same establishments here in Hartford, and I’m sure on the road, she will head where the players go in the evenings. I was hoping you could keep an eye on her when I can’t. Sometimes she needs protection from herself, if you know what I mean.”

This had gone from bad to worse. Not only was Hannah coming on the road with the team, but Coach wanted me to go out of my way to spend time with her.

I am so fucked.

Sensing my hesitation, Coach continued, “I know this is a big ask.

Hannah can be . . . a little wild.”

I held back a snort. A “little” wild? That was the understatement of the year. Hannah was chaos—a tornado masquerading as a woman.

Never having said no to Coach before, I tried to find a way to get out of this. “I don’t know, Coach. I’m not exactly her favorite person, and if she learns I’m keeping tabs on her, it won’t end well.”

Coach, pleading with me with his eyes, begged, “Then don’t let her know.” Running a hand through his thicker-than-average hair for a man in his mid-sixties, he added, “Do you see all these gray hairs? Every single one of them is from Hannah, my wild child. It would set my mind at ease if I knew one of you boys was looking out for her.”

How the hell could I say no? Hannah would get into trouble on the road if left unsupervised. That was a certainty.

I was beginning to realize that Coach had asked me specifically because she could sweet-talk any of the other players into doing whatever she wanted. I was the exception regarding the spell Hannah had cast over the team.

He trusted me with his daughter, trusting that I would keep her safe. Little did he know I was the wolf lurking in the shadows, waiting to devour her.

Say no. Say no. Say no.

“I’ve got your back, Coach.”

Dammit.

Grinning, Coach stood. “I knew I could count on you, Cal.”

“Uh-huh.” I sat there, stunned, trying to wrap my brain around what I just agreed to.

“Let’s make this our best season yet.” With that, he walked off like he hadn’t turned my entire world upside down.

Downing my whiskey in a single swig, I tried to calm my racing heart. I could survive a whole year up close and personal with Hannah Moreau, right? I wasn’t an animal. I had self-control.

Strengthening my resolve, I knew one thing for sure—there would be no shenanigans from Hannah while on my watch. That meant setting down some ground rules. She wasn’t going to like it, but I didn’t give a fuck.

If I was forced to be miserable this season, she would be riding shotgun.

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