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Chapter no 9 – Hannah

Bagging the Blueliner

MY ALARM WENT OFF, and I stretched out an arm toward the nightstand to hit snooze. Last night had gotten away from me. I remembered making out with Matt. Or was his name Mark? Whatever it was, it was short and started with an M. When he’d proposed going back to his room, I was forced to make a quick exit.

Cringing at the memory of how his tongue had traced the outline of every tooth inside my mouth, I distinctly recalled wondering if the sex would be as icky as his kiss. Not wanting to find out, I’d excused myself, claiming an early morning, and beat it the hell out of there.

What was it about me that attracted losers or the sexually incompetent? Was I giving off some kind of signal that said I liked bad sex?

Groaning, I grabbed my phone to check the time. A notification stared at me, and I rubbed my eyes to make sure I wasn’t imagining what I read.

I had a voicemail from Cal last night. What did he want?

Seeing his name reminded me that there was nothing wrong with me. I’d had a hot, attractive, competent man interested in me not that long ago.

Cal ruined that for me.

His voicemail was probably some self-righteous bullshit about how I shouldn’t be making out in hotel bars. Like he was one to talk—I’d seen him with Fake Boobs McGee in the same bar.

I almost decided not to listen but thought better of it. What if there was an issue with his room? The last thing I needed was him running to my dad with a story about my poor job performance.

Bracing myself, I hit the play button.

Cal’s rough voice sounded 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.”

Stunned, I dropped the phone.

Was this a joke? Was I being punked?

If he hadn’t said my name, I would have thought he had the wrong number.

He sounded off. Was he drunk when he called me? I knew all too well how alcohol acted as a truth serum.

When had I teased him? And he couldn’t get hard because he was thinking of me?

This was all too much to process.

 

 

I almost missed the bus to the arena.

Holed up in my room, I’d played Cal’s voicemail on repeat all day.

I still didn’t understand. Cal and I were fire and ice. We fought like cats and dogs, always had. He brought out the worst in me, and I in him.

Was I supposed to believe he was interested in me? All this time?

Unlikely.

This wasn’t like Jaxon and his crush on Natalie while she was married— everyone could see it. Cal made it no secret that he couldn’t stand me. He went out of his way to provoke me.

Climbing the stairs to the bus, I about jumped out of my skin when Cal’s enormous body was sitting in the front seat.

He eyed me as I threw a hand to my chest in hopes of calming my racing heart. “What’s your problem?”

Well, that settled it. Shaking my head, I convinced myself he had meant that voicemail for someone else. He’d been drunk and must have said my

name by mistake.

“Nothing,” I muttered, walking down the aisle until I found an open seat.

Sinking down with a sigh, I told myself to forget the voicemail. I should probably delete it since it wasn’t meant for me in the first place. But as I pulled my phone out and stared at the red trash can button, I couldn’t make myself do it.

I couldn’t help wondering what woman had the high-and-mighty Cal so twisted up.

No, you know what? Forget him.

He was getting what he deserved with the way he burned through women faster than a sick kid went through tissues.

We needed to get through tonight’s game and get home. We’d been on the road too long, and my mind was clearly fried.

Back in my sanctuary, I could focus on more important matters than Cal and the woman who’d spurned his advances.

 

 

Buzzzzzzz. Buzz buzzzzzzz.

Who was calling me this early in the morning? Mumbling about the ungodly hour, I reached for my phone, frowning when the caller ID showed Amy’s name.

Sliding my finger across the screen to accept the call, I put the phone to my ear, asking, slightly alarmed, “Ames? Everything okay?”

“Where the hell are you?” she whisper-hissed. “What?”

“Everyone’s at the courthouse. Except you. Please tell me you are on your way.”

The courthouse. Shit.

Today was the day Jaxon was adopting Natalie’s kids. It was a big deal.

Pulling the phone away from my face, I noted the time. No wonder Amy was pissed. The adoption finalization hearing was in ten minutes.

“I overslept. I’ll be there as soon as I can,” I promised. “This is a big day for our best friend. Hurry up!”

Hanging up, I sprang into action. Rushing into the bathroom, I ran a brush through my hair and splashed water on my face. Staring at my face in

the mirror, I mentally berated myself.

Of course I overslept. I’d stayed up all night listening to that damn voicemail.

I couldn’t stop. I was obsessing over it.

Something in his voice captivated me, even if it was meant for someone else. He was angry, but there was an undertone of longing. He was hurt. Unrequited love would do that.

Well, maybe not love in Cal’s case. Probably lust. He wanted someone who’d turned him down and didn’t know how to handle it.

Why couldn’t I let this go?

Throwing a dress over my head, I dropped to my hands and knees inside my closet, searching for the only pair of closed-toe heels I owned.

“Gotcha!” I yelled in triumph when I found them.

Not wasting any more time, I stepped into them, grabbed my coat, and ran out of my apartment.

Reaching ground level, I weighed my options. Calling a car would take time. The courthouse was three blocks away. I could probably make it there faster on foot.

Hustling my ass down the streets of downtown Hartford, I burst through the main doors to the courthouse. Frantically searching for the right room, I found it with the help of a security guard and pulled open the door.

No less than fifty heads swiveled in my direction.

So much for sneaking in without notice. The judge raised an eyebrow, and I felt like I was on trial.

Walking down the short aisle, I dropped into an open seat next to Lucy and her husband, Preston—they’d gotten married last month.

The judge resumed speaking, and I heard the voice that had kept me up all night scoff, “Typical.”

Whipping my head around, I wanted to give him a piece of my mind but was cognizant that I’d interrupted the proceedings once already. Throwing a finger to my lips, I gave him an exaggerated “Shh.”

Cal rolled his eyes at me, and I resisted the urge to punch him in the face.

I changed my mind. I no longer felt sorry for him. I hoped he got close to the girl of his dreams and she left him with an irreversible case of blue balls, so bad that doctors were forced to amputate.

He was a total dick. That girl was smart for staying away.

Lucy’s soft sniffles drew my attention away from the asshole behind me. Today was an emotional day, and I grasped her hand in a show of silent support. She squeezed back as she rested her head on Preston’s shoulder.

The judge spoke, asking each of Natalie’s three older children why they wanted Jaxon as their father. Amelia spoke about his care for her mother and younger siblings. Jameson boasted about how much fun they had with him, citing baking and playing in their treehouse. Beau simply told the judge that Jaxon was already his dad.

That earned a collective “Aw” from the crowd. Beau was six, and Jaxon was the only father he’d ever known.

The judge chuckled. “Hard to argue with that. By the power vested in me, I approve the adoption of Amelia, Jameson, and Beau by Jaxon Slate. Congratulations, Slate family.”

Everyone present cheered. Natalie shed happy tears while Jaxon gathered the kids in a celebratory hug.

Then, it was time for pictures. The Slate family gathered with the judge first, then beckoned other groups to join them to commemorate this special day.

Natalie and Jaxon were well-loved. The entire Comets roster was in attendance to show their support. Jaxon’s parents and brother were present, along with Natalie’s former in-laws. Their son might be a sadistic bastard, but they always had Natalie’s back. I could only imagine how hard it was to see their grandchildren given a new last name, but they couldn’t deny how much Jaxon loved those kids.

My best friend’s happy ending only kept getting happier, but I wondered when I would get mine.

 

 

Exhausted from the emotions of the day, our girl gang relaxed in Natalie’s living room once all the guests went home. We kicked the boys out, and they retreated next door to Amy and Liam’s house.

They were used to the drill by now. It was how we ended most major holidays and parties held at the Slate house.

“What a day.” Natalie sighed.

“But a great one,” Amy countered. “All is right in the world. The only thing better would be if Jaxon was their biological father.”

I jumped in, “Yeah, that would have been a trip. Jaxon wasn’t even drafted when Amelia was born.”

Natalie waved Amy off. “Jaxon’s a great father, but he needed time to establish his life before we fell into it. He’s here now. That’s all that matters.”

Amy set her sights on me. “We got Lucy married off, and Jaxon adopted the kids. Looks like you’re the only loose end left, Hannah.”

“Is that how you guys see me? Something to tie up?” I asked.

“No, of course not. I just meant we all got what we wanted. Now, it’s your turn. Any new developments since we last spoke?”

“Actually . . .”

Amy’s eyes lit up. “Wait. Did you do it?” Natalie’s mouth dropped open. “Did you?”

“No,” I admitted. “But something really strange happened on the road.”

“Strange how?” Lucy asked. She’d been oddly quiet all day, unable to keep her emotions in check.

“It’s better if I show you.” I reached for my phone.

“Stop!” Natalie yelled. “I don’t want to see whatever dick pic is on there.”

I rolled my eyes. “It’s not a dick pic, Nat. But now I’m curious about what you and Jaxon are up to when he disappears for hours on end with the excuse of ‘calling his wife.’”

She blushed a deep scarlet, and I had my answer. Impatient, Amy asked, “Well, then what is it?”

Pulling up my voicemails, I turned the speaker on and pressed play. All three of them leaned in to listen. By this point, I knew the words by heart.

“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.”

The recording ended, and three sets of wide eyes stared at me. Natalie found her voice first. “Was that Cal?”

Nodding, I confirmed, “Uh-huh.” Amy asked, “When did he send this?”

If anyone could make sense of this, it was Amy, so I replied, “I woke up to this the last day on the road. The night before, we were in the hotel bar. I was with a couple of guys, let them buy me a few drinks, but went back to my room alone. Cal had some blonde bimbo with fake boobs all over him. They weren’t still there when I left. I’m assuming he took her back to his room. That’s what he does.”

“Interesting.”

“Look, I’ve listened to this so many times I can hear it in my sleep. I’m convinced it wasn’t meant for me.”

“He said your name,” Lucy pointed out.

I sighed. “Yeah, I know. But when we got on the bus to head to the arena that afternoon for the game, he was the same asshole to me he always is. He sounds drunk in the message. He must have said my name by mistake. It’s probably a good thing it didn’t make it to its intended recipient. Hearing that would kill any chance he had with whoever is fucking with his head so badly he can’t get it up.”

Natalie chimed in. “He’s got it bad for someone. Not being able to perform? That’s a big deal.”

Amy’s green gaze bore into me as she chewed on the inside of her cheek.

Then she spoke. “I think it was meant for you, Hannah.” I rolled my eyes. “No way.”

“The clues are all there. Cal sent this while on the road. He mentions being teased watching the person in question let a man touch them. Who else is on the road that he could be talking about? Was there any physical activity with any of the guys who bought you a drink that night?”

Shuddering, I recalled the tooth-licker. “Yes, but it didn’t last long.”

“He also says he’s been watching for years, wishing he could be with this woman. That has you written all over it. Cal can get any woman he wants. We all know that. There’s only one woman he can’t have. That’s you.”

“I don’t know, Ames. I think you’re trying to find ways to make me fit the description.”

She wasn’t deterred, countering, “What about the time I caught him checking out your ass at the club? And the time he lost his shit seeing you with Maddox?”

Natalie held a hand up. “Who’s Maddox?” Pausing for a moment, recognition lit up her face. “Not Maddox Sterling?”

Cringing, feeling the lecture incoming from our resident mom, I nodded.

Amy continued before I could explain, “Plus, there’s the fact that Cal has seen you naked.”

Natalie screeched, “What?”

Closing my eyes for a second before reopening them, I played it off. “Did I not mention that?”

“Hannah, what were you thinking?”

“It’s not what you think. Caveman Cal scared off Maddox, then dragged me literally kicking and screaming from the club. I passed out, and he took me home.” Turning to Amy, I commented, “You know, he didn’t need to change my clothes. Maybe you’re onto something there.”

Amy held her hands out wide. “That’s what I’m trying to tell you. He’s into you, but he can’t have you.”

Cal was into me? I didn’t know what to do with that new information. I mused, “We live in the same building. No one would have to know.” Natalie warned, “Hannah. You can’t do this.”

“Why not?” I challenged.

“You’re messing with his career. There’s a reason he’s stayed away.”

“Come on. Dad is all bark and no bite. Plus, I heard hate sex is hot. Like, toe-curling, screaming-so-loud-people-think-someone-is-killing-you level hot.”

Amy snickered. “Yeah, just ask Lucy. Preston once broke down her bedroom door.”

All eyes turned to Lucy, but instead of spilling the juicy details, she promptly burst into tears. Without another word, we rushed to comfort her.

Smoothing her hair, Amy apologized, “I’m sorry, Lucy. I thought we were just having fun.”

Wiping at the tears that were only replaced with more, Lucy hiccupped. “It’s not that. This is all so romantic and tragic.”

“Wait, you’re crying over me and Cal? Lucy, you’ve been a mess all day.

What’s really going on?” I asked.

Glassy blue eyes met mine, and she let out a shaky breath. “I’m pregnant.”

Natalie and Amy squealed in excitement, pulling Lucy into a group hug. “I’m crying over everything, and I hate it!” she exclaimed.

Lucy wasn’t much younger than us. She was going to turn thirty next month, but she’d only been married a month. I loved Natalie’s kids, and I

was sure I’d love Lucy’s baby as well, but it only highlighted that I was on a different path than my friends.

My dilemma was long forgotten after Lucy dropped the baby bomb, but the wheels were still turning in my brain.

What was the worst that would happen if Amy was wrong? Cal would reject me with a lecture, and we would go back to hating each other.

But what if she was right? I could pop my hockey player cherry and move on. I wasn’t interested in anything long-term with Cal. He wasn’t the type to want to settle down either, so it was perfect. We’d have some hot sex, get it out of our systems, and go our separate ways.

New Mission: Bagging the Blueliner.

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