Chapter no 8 – Cal

Bagging the Blueliner


Well, that was if you weren’t acting like a fucking spy, ducking around corners following a woman. “Stressed” didn’t begin to cover it.

Coach was asking too much. I wasn’t paid enough for this shit.

After the night at Spades, I expected her to continue her wild ways, prepared for a week out west following her to clubs. She’d been surprisingly well-behaved.

Something wasn’t right. It felt like a trap.

Had she found out Coach recruited me to watch out for her? I shuddered at the thought. Hannah would go ballistic.

That girl had two levels of crazy. Her regular crazy was on par with the kind of crazy that made you run from girls and never look back. Then, there was Hannah’s batshit crazy. It was enough to make you want to throw holy water on her and begin calling a priest for an exorcism.

Knowing her, she would take it out on me instead of her dad. I did not have the time nor energy to deal with one of her tantrums.

Now, we were in Calgary, the final stop on our northwestern road trip. My hometown.

Coming home was always surreal. Once a year, we played the Alberta Moose in Calgary in the same arena I grew up watching the game, making

wide-eyed plans on how someday that would be me carving up the ice.

Luckily, we got an extra day, so I had the opportunity to spend some time with my folks. On most trips up here, I was lucky to see them pregame for a few minutes at the arena, but they were thrilled we had enough time for them to throw together an impromptu family dinner.

Jaxon and Benji jumped at the chance for a home-cooked meal after nine days on the road. I couldn’t blame them. Nine straight days of room service, takeout, and the occasional meal out got old fast.

Renting a car and driving west of the city, further toward the mountains, I felt at peace.

During the summer, I escaped to my cabin, isolated in the Canadian Rockies. It provided the rest I needed after the grind of the season and the perfect place to lick my wounds each year when we failed to carve our place in history by winning a championship.

My boys took in the natural beauty of the area in awe as we passed dozens of small lakes and ponds littering the landscape. They grew up like I did, skating in the open air. Jaxon came from Minnesota, where lakes were plentiful. Benji was a kid from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where winters were long and cold, extending the time small bodies of water remained frozen.

Pulling up to a large farmhouse with the mountains as a backdrop, I was proud of where I came from. My parents were hard-working, running the cattle ranch that had been in the Berg family for generations. While my dad spent his days out on the land, my mom took up beekeeping. She loved sending me pictures from farmers’ markets with her stand full of hand- harvested artisanal honey infused with various flavors.

Before I could come to a complete stop, a pair of boys with platinum blond hair bounded from the house. My nephews. Calvin—named for me— and Julian were my older sister’s boys. They were the future of this ranch, even if their last name wasn’t officially Berg.

Opening my door and stepping out, they raced into my arms.

“Uncle Cal! Dad said the Moose are going to beat the Comets tomorrow night!” Julian, now eight, cried as he hugged my leg.

Ruffling his hair, I teased, “Your dad should stick to ranching. He wouldn’t know a hockey stick from a broom.”

Calvin, who was twelve, shoved his younger brother playfully. “He just says that to rile you up, Jules.” Turning to me, he explained, “He’s got a bet

running with Billy at the bar that you’ll get at least two points.”

Frowning slightly, I asked the boys, “What do I always tell you about betting?”

“Never bet what you can’t afford to lose,” they replied in unison.

“That’s right. Now, I’ve gotta step up and make sure your dad doesn’t lose that bet.”

Young Cal shrugged. “He didn’t bet money. Just a round of drinks.”

Julian lost interest, spying the two men I brought with me, his eyes growing wide. “Is-is that Jaxon Slate?”

Glancing at my best friend, I chuckled. “The one and only.”

Both boys ran over to him, talking a million miles an hour. Kids idolized Jaxon, and it was easy to see why. He was an incredibly skilled hockey player but an even better human. Dropping to one knee, he spoke with Julian, answering all his questions with a smile.

Benji huffed, “And what am I? Chopped liver?”

Jaxon rose to his feet, clapping Benji on the back, explaining to the boys, “A hockey player is only as good as his teammates. Benji here makes me a better player every time we hit the ice.”

That was all it took, and the boys descended on Benji next. Both Calvin and Julian played, but only recreationally. They spent most of their spare time helping out on the ranch, preparing for the day when they would take over.

“If they promise to sign all your hockey crap, will you come in out of the cold? You two didn’t have the sense to put on coats when you ran out.” That no-nonsense voice belonged to my big sister, Zoe.

Standing taller than most women I knew, the blonde woman I grew up with threw both hands on her hips from where she was perched on the giant wraparound porch.

“Better hustle up inside, boys, before your mom adds to your chore list,” I teased them, but they were already running, nearly halfway back to the house.

Making my way up the porch steps to where Zoe remained standing, I pulled her into a hug. Only two years older than me, we were close. We had no choice, considering our nearest neighbors were miles away. Growing up, it was either play with each other or play alone.

Leaving her behind to chase my hockey dream was one of the hardest things I’d ever had to do, but her life was here. She knew from an early age

that she would stay with the ranch and continue the Berg family legacy. It didn’t help that she’d always had her eye on a certain ranch hand. That ranch hand was now her husband.

Nash Bowman was easily the bravest man alive to take on my sister. A cowboy to the core, he was ten years older than Zoe, but she’d set her sights on him when she was only sixteen. Poor bastard never stood a chance once she decided he would be hers.

The main house belonged to my parents, but Zoe, Nash, and their family had built a smaller house on the property. They might live separately, but they operated as one family unit. Dad and Nash worked the land with the rest of the ranch hands, coming back to the big house every night, where Mom and Zoe were ready and waiting with a hearty meal.

I loved my life, but sometimes, I missed the simplicity of living on the ranch.

Zoe pushed against my big shoulders. “All right, enough of the mushy stuff. Dinner’s gonna get cold. Get your friends and get washed up.”

Conditioned from an early age to follow orders—probably why I was so coachable as a hockey player—I didn’t linger, calling over my shoulder to the guys to follow me inside. Pointing them in the direction of the downstairs powder room, I jogged up the stairs to use the bathroom.

Hands clean, I entered the kitchen to find Jaxon was already charming the room. He couldn’t help it. That’s who he was. My mom ate it up as he traded recipes with her.

“Maybe next time, I should just send Jaxon and stay behind at the hotel,” I joked.

Looking up, Mom smiled.

It was strange growing older. You had a hard time remembering what your parents looked like when you were a kid. When I thought of the woman who raised me, I could only picture her as she was now. Her silvery gray hair was pulled into a bun at the nape of her neck, black-rimmed glasses made her blue eyes seem impossibly large, and there was a softness around her middle from enjoying one too many homemade pies. Even in her mid-sixties, my mom was beautiful. She always would be.

“Aw, does my baby boy need attention?” she crooned. Oh yeah, and she was a ballbuster, too.

Laughing, Benji threw an arm around her shoulders. “I like her.” Giving her a wink, he asked her, “Looking to adopt? My social worker would love

to be rid of me.”

He didn’t often talk about growing up in foster care, mainly because it reminded him of a time he wanted to forget.

Not letting him get away with cozying up to my mom, I retorted, “Well, you are a man-child. I’m not sure you could hack life on the ranch. I bet you wouldn’t survive one day of manual labor.”

Holding up his hands, he looked at me aghast. “And ruin the best hands in the league? No way. You can keep her.” Kissing her on the cheek, he apologized, “Sorry, Josie, guess you’re stuck with this big brute.”

Zoe called from the dining room, “If you don’t get your butts in these seats, we are starting without you!”

Mom shook her head, but her smile reached her blue eyes, highlighting the lines in the corner. With my parents getting older, the handoff of the ranch was imminent. They deserved to enjoy their golden years with how hard they’d worked, how much they had sacrificed for my career. They were far too proud to accept my financial help, but I needed to spend more time with them in the off-season. Time was precious, and there was never enough.

“Who needs a dinner bell when you have Zoe?” she quipped.

“Well, when all you have for miles is wide open spaces, you never thought to teach her the importance of an indoor voice,” I accused.

Holding up a hand, Mom laughed. “Guilty as charged. Our Zoe is wild and free. I wouldn’t change either of my children for the world. They both turned out pretty amazing.”

“Are we eating or what?” Dad’s gruff voice filtered into the kitchen. Winking at Mom, I mused, “Maybe some of Zoe is to blame on him.” “Oh, definitely,” she agreed before walking into the dining room.

I nodded to Jaxon and Benji to follow before taking up the rear. Nash stood, shaking their hands, and I rounded to the head of the table to greet my father.

Clayton Berg was a mountain of a man. The blood of our Scandinavian ancestors was strong, giving us both a massive frame and blond hair. Dad’s was pure white now, but he was imposing if you didn’t know him well. The man loved his family and his ranch, in that order. He didn’t care for the frivolous things in life; the one luxury he allowed came in the form of a satellite dish so he could watch hockey after a hard day’s work.

Standing, he pulled me into a bear hug. I might be a grown man, but a hug from my old man made me feel protected.

He might be gruff and weathered, but he was my dad. The man who taught me the value of hard work.

The man who took me to my first hockey game.

The man who told me he’d do anything to help me chase my dreams.

The man who never missed an opportunity to tell me how proud he was of me.

I respected the hell out of him. But above all else, I loved him.

Pulling out of our embrace, he clapped me on the shoulder. “Good to see you remembered our address.”

A smile crept up my face. It was good to be home.



“Okay, tell us an embarrassing story about Cal from when he was younger,” Benji begged my sister.

We sat around a fire behind the main house. My parents had loaded the boys up on a UTV and took them home to put them to bed, giving Zoe and Nash the evening off to spend time with me.

Zoe made a show of cracking her knuckles, and I groaned. “Here we go.” Giving me an evil grin, she looked me dead in the eyes. “For whatever reason, you refuse to bring a girl home. These two knuckleheads might be the only audience I ever have for my riveting comedy special: Cal’s

Misspent Youth Adventures.

“So . . . what you’re saying is that if I ever do bring someone home, you’ll be fresh out of stories?”

Zoe snorted. “Yeah, keep dreaming.”

Benji took a swig from his beer bottle. “Come on, spill, Zoe.”

Thinking for a moment, she sat forward suddenly, patting Nash’s jean- clad knee. “Oh! I got one!”

“Hit me.”

“Don’t tempt me,” I grumbled at Benji’s eagerness.

Grinning, Zoe began, “Growing up on a ranch, our parents sometimes went to cattle auctions. When we got old enough, they would leave us home alone for the weekend. Cal was fourteen this particular weekend, and I was

sixteen. When I called him for dinner, he didn’t come down or respond. So, I went up to his room . . .”

“Oh shit. Did you catch him . . .” Benji began to snicker.

“Did I mention Cal was a scrawny kid? He didn’t hit his full giant-Viking stature till college. I caught him, but thankfully, his weenie was teeny enough that I couldn’t see anything past his hand.”

Jaxon and Benji burst into fits of laughter.

Benji gripped his sides, gasping for air. “Damn, Zoe. You’re ice-cold. If you weren’t already married, I’d propose right now.”

“That’s not even the best part.” Zoe smirked.

I knew where this was going, but there was no stopping the Zoe train once it got rolling. All I could do was brace for impact. In this case, that meant downing my entire beer in one swig.

“I grabbed his nudie mag and bolted. Threatened to hold it hostage. Maybe even tell Mom. Cal chased me down the stairs in nothing but his boxers.” Jumping from her seat, Zoe added a physical aspect to her storytelling. “I saw the door, and inspiration struck. I threw it open, holding the magazine out like I was a bullfighter. Worked like a charm. Pretty boy here charged, and I let him snag it, but his momentum propelled him right out the door, and I locked him out.”

Jaxon snickered. “I am so glad I have a brother.”

Not done, Zoe threw out, “Did I mention it was winter?”

Every man present grimaced, their hands instinctively moving to cover their junk. Smug, I asked, “Not so funny now, is it? I almost lost my balls to frostbite.”

Benji pointed at Zoe. “You know who you would get along great with?” Interested, her eyes lit up. “Who?”


That was the absolute last thing I needed—my sister and Hannah feeding off each other, tag-teaming me.

The two of them could never meet.

“Ooh. Who’s Hannah? Is she Cal’s girl?” Zoe’s blue eyes sparkled with interest.

Benji cackled. “More like his worst enemy. That girl rides him so hard. And not in a pleasurable way. If ballbusting was an international sport, Hannah would win a gold medal.”

“Sounds like my kind of girl.”

Standing, before either of them could do more damage, I declared, “I think it’s time to get back to the hotel. We’ve got a game tomorrow, so we need a good night’s rest.”

Zoe’s lips twisted in a way that told me she knew I was full of shit, but she let me hug her goodbye without another word.

Nash stood to shake my hand, uttering, “See you tomorrow.” Looking down at him, I grunted.

I cuffed Benji upside the head, then we headed back to our rental. “This the thanks I get for bringing you home and letting you enjoy my mom’s home cooking?”

“I had a great time. Let’s do this every time we come to Calgary.” Benji was practically bouncing on his way to the car.

Getting behind the wheel and taking us back to the city, I sighed. “I need something stronger than beer. I’m buying the first round at the hotel bar when we get back.”

Translation: I need to get drunk and get laid.

Jaxon declined, saying he wanted to call Natalie before it got too late on the East Coast, but Benji was ready to act as my wingman as I trolled the hotel lobby for willing bunnies.

The mere mention of Hannah had me on edge. She would be forgotten the minute I sank my dick into a warm pussy. Guaranteed.



The hotel lobby was packed with people. Word always got around where the visiting team was staying, and hockey fans descended. Not everyone rooted for the hometown team, and in every city, Comets fans surfaced, wanting to hang out with us.

Beyond the fans, there were always the bunnies. We might be the ones collecting trophies on the ice, but to them, we were the prize. Most times, they offered no-strings sex, knowing we were moving on after the game.

I had no problem being objectified if that meant a steady stream of women were willing to warm my bed. It was convenient, and tonight would provide a much-needed release from the stress of being on the road for so long.

Jaxon excused himself to call his wife, and Benji called after him, “Whipped!”

Instead of the middle finger, Jaxon flashed him his left ring finger as he walked away. I laughed. Our captain was most happily whipped.

What seemed like a million years ago, we had stared hopelessly at a too- young Natalie and Hannah, knowing they could never be ours. Against all odds, Natalie was now his, and Jaxon had fallen into the role of family man with enthusiasm. I respected the hell out of him. It took guts to take on another man’s kids as your own. In fact, when we returned home, he was legally adopting Natalie’s three older children.

The reminder that Jaxon got everything he’d ever dreamed of while I feasted on a diet of one-night stands settled like a rock in my gut. I needed that drink more than ever.

Clapping Benji on the shoulder, I urged him toward the waiting hotel bar. He ordered another beer, but I needed a stiff drink. Asking for a double whiskey neat, I leaned against the bar top, scanning the area, searching for my mark.

Instead of focusing on the beautiful women eager for my attention, my eyes found Hannah. Secluded in a corner booth, she was visibly flirting with three men. One was completely in her personal space, dipping his head to her ear. Hannah threw her head back and laughed at whatever he’d whispered to her, exposing the long column of her throat.

Gritting my teeth but unable to look away, I reached blindly for the drink the bartender offered. Tossing the liquor back, I winced as it burned on the way down.

At least there was a silver lining—none of those tools she was with were hockey players.

It was no secret Hannah led an active sex life, but that didn’t mean I needed it shoved in my face.

Seeing her line up her entertainment for tonight triggered my competitive side. If she was going to flirt out in the open, so would I. Let’s see how she liked that.

She doesn’t give a fuck, you idiot. She hates you, remember?

Shoving that fact to the side, I honed in on a pair of blondes with breasts too large to be real on display. One—or both—of them would do.

Ordering another double, I tipped my glass in their direction. Women came to me, not the other way around.

The blondes were experienced in this game. Not seeming too eager, they scanned me from head to toe, conversing amongst themselves before sauntering in my direction.

Benji saw their approach, chuckling before he left my side. “They look like double trouble. Have a great night.”

Gracefully, the first blonde situated herself on the barstool to my right, crossing her long legs so the skirt of her dress hiked up. That move had me itching to drag my hand up that smooth skin to find the treasure hidden between her thighs.

The other was bolder, pressing herself against my chest, running a hand up my arm, and introducing herself, “I’m Sadie, and this is my friend Tiffany.”

Sipping my drink, I gave her a little bit of the smolder. “Cal.” Biting her lower lip, she released it slowly, purring, “Hello, Cal.”

She was good. Probably experienced enough that I could do all manner of filthy things to her body. That was exactly what I needed tonight.

Glancing over her head, I saw Hannah openly making out with the not- so-funny whisper guy. Something inside me snapped, and I gripped the hip of the blonde plastered to my body.

“Wanna get out of here?” I growled in her ear.

Reaching her hand up to tangle in my hair, she breathed out, “I thought you’d never ask.”

Turning her body, I placed my hand on the small of her back, ushering her from the crowded bar toward the bank of elevators that would take us to my room. The doors opened, and we waited for it to clear before stepping inside.

Gesturing to the wall of buttons, the blonde—whose name I’d already forgotten—asked huskily, “Where to, lover?”

She was good. I had to give her that. “Fifteen.”

“A high floor,” she mused. Pressing the button, she turned and pressed her body flush with mine. “I hope it has a balcony.”

She was saying all the right things. The image of her body bent over a balcony was meant to arouse, but nothing was stirring below the belt. Brushing it off, I told myself I’d be ready for action once I had her in my room.

A ding sounded, signaling we’d reached our destination, and I led her down the hallway to my room. Swiping my key card, I opened the door,

letting her enter before me.

The second the door slammed closed, she was on me. Dipping my head, I took her mouth. She tasted like salt and lime, and my tongue searched for more of that tartness.

Bending down, I gripped the back of her thighs, lifting her off the ground. In a practiced move, she threw her legs around my waist, allowing me to carry her to the bed. Her nails dug into my scalp, and I groaned into her mouth.

Dropping her onto the bed, I watched as she untied the string holding her dress up, and her big—definitely fake—breasts spilled free. Smirking, she dropped her hands to play with them, arching her back at the touch. Shimmying her hips, a silent invitation hung in the air for me to drag the dress down the rest of her body.

Leaning over, I caged her in with a hand on either side of her head, retaking her mouth while she played with her tits. Breaking the kiss, I trailed my tongue down her jaw, between the valley of her breasts, until I reached where the dress covered her flat stomach.

Gripping the fabric, I dragged it over her hips, dropping it to the ground. Standing again, I drank in the sight of her. Her hips thrust upward, searching to relieve the ache between her thighs, clad only in a black thong.

The alcohol was beginning to hit me, and I felt warm and fuzzy. Watching the one-woman show before me, I frowned. It would seem my dick hadn’t gotten the memo. He still wasn’t ready to party.

Grabbing my crotch, I pretended to adjust an uncomfortable hard-on.

Wake the fuck up!

I knew I wasn’t eighteen anymore, but damn. Thirty-four wasn’t ancient, and rising to the occasion had never posed a problem before.

Convincing myself I needed a little more action to get in the mood, I ripped off my shirt, rejoining my blonde bed partner.

Lining up the fly of my jeans with her thrusting hips, I ground into her. She moaned like a pro, giving no indication that she could tell I wasn’t hard. Even the heat radiating from her pussy through my jeans wasn’t enough to get my dick to stir.

Throwing up a Hail Mary, I decided burying my face between her thighs had to work. Dragging the skimpy thong down her thighs, I pushed them wide with my hands. Pink and glistening—at least one of us was turned on.

Lowering my face, I was inches away when the image of Hannah with the douche downstairs popped into my brain.

“Fuck,” I groaned.

Thinking I was impressed with her pussy, blonde chick moaned. “Please, Cal.”

Any hope I had at getting it up fled at the idea of Hannah with another man. I was angry, not aroused. Instead of enjoying a random pussy, I wanted to beat the shit out of that fucker for daring to touch her.

What the fuck was wrong with me?

“Cal?” A tentative call came from above.

Shit. What was her name again? It started with an S. Summer, Sophie, Sasha, Sara.

Sara, that was it!

Pulling back, I looked her in the eyes. “I’m sorry, Sara. I don’t think this is going to work tonight.”

Sitting up, she slid off the bed, gathering her clothes from where I’d thrown them on the floor. “It’s Sadie.”

Yeah, I’m an asshole. Thanks for the reminder.

Shutting herself in the bathroom for a few minutes, she reemerged fully dressed. Not sparing me another glance, she let herself out.

Hannah had gone too far this time. She’d fucked with my sex life, and that was unacceptable. Like a parasite, she’d taken root in my brain, affecting my everyday life.

That ended tonight.

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