Authors: Cassandra Carr
Rob had other ideas.
Pressing his body into the boards, he blocked the clearing attempt. The defenseman was caught flat-footed as Rob stepped neatly around him and went to the net. He didn’t have a good angle, though, and passed back to the point, where their star Finnish defenseman Fredrik took a shot. Rob’s head pivoted as if on a swivel as the puck flew toward Boston’s net. At the last moment, the Boston goaltender was finally able to push Rick’s huge body out of the way and threw his catching glove out, snagging the puck from the air.
As they lined up for the ensuing
face-off, Fredrik glided by him. “Hell of a first play, man.”
“Thanks.” Rob wiped the sweat from his brow with his
glove and got into his stance.
Phil won the
face-off back to Rick, who promptly lost the puck in his feet. Rob snorted and went over to help him out, but with all the bodies jostling and sticks poking at the puck, he couldn’t get far, so he settled for yelling at the guys in the scrum that he was behind them and open for a pass.
Unfortunately, the Boston forward who was checking Rick fished out the puck and sent it to their left wing, who Rob had forgotten to cover. “Shit!”
A two-on-one ensued with Boston’s left winger and center against Fredrik, who hadn’t moved up on the play. Fredrik’s gaze darted back and forth between the two men and Rob was sure Brendan was similarly tracking them. When they reached the face-off dots, Fredrik dropped to the ice, using his body’s length and his stick’s reach to take away almost ten feet of passing area. Some players might’ve been able to flip the puck over him, but not these guys. They were fourth-liners too. The puck slid to the corner, where Rob pounced on it and passed to Sebastian fresh off the bench. Huffing and puffing, Rob busted his ass so Nikolai could get on the ice in place of him. He dropped on the hard metal seat and pulled air into starving lungs.
“You okay, man?” Rick asked.
Rob raised his hand for a towel and one of the equipment guys promptly handed him one. “Oh yeah. Lotta excitement for the first time out though.”
“Stick with me, kid.”
Snorting, Rob pushed his linemate. “Whatever,
Boston was assessed a penalty, putting the Storm on the power play. Rob was usually used on the second power play unit to screen and generally annoy the goaltender, but Jon had already told him he wasn’t planning on
putting him in tonight, so Rob sat back and watched the first power play, which was a thing of beauty, chugging along at third in the league in efficiency last Rob had looked a week or two ago.
Fredrik and Nikolai played the points, and Fredrik blasted a slapshot. Ben, in his usual area a few feet in front of the goaltender, leapt straight up and the puck careened underneath him and in the net. Boston’s goaltender had no cha
nce. There was no way he could see the shot with Ben in front of him, and the man hadn’t even reacted.
The Storm bench erupted, the guys jumping up and high-fiving each other. The men out on the ice did their customary skate-by glove-tap
, and then the regular second line skated out onto the ice, since the goal had negated the power play.
Momentum shifted back and forth, and despite some good efforts on the part of Boston’s players, Rob let their insults and shoves roll off his back. He’d promised not to start anything, and he wouldn’t unless he had no other cho
ice. Like if some dickhead hit Seb from behind like earlier in the year. Then Rob couldn’t be held responsible for his actions.
The period ended with the Storm still up by one goal. Jon briefly bark
ed some instructions, and then the guys relaxed and waited for the second period to begin. Berating himself but nonetheless not stopping, Rob snuck into the auxiliary dressing room, where their street clothes were kept, and grabbed his phone. He was curious about what Alaina thought of the first period.
Duh, you idiot. She knows you’re playing. She’s not gonna be sending texts.
But he unlocked his phone anyway, and his face broke out into a grin. Wait, this text was from over an hour ago. He read and grinned again.
Decided to come to the game after all. Becca’s with me. Be safe. I love you.
ng his surroundings, he typed,
Not supposed to be on my phone but needed to see if you were watching. I’ll look for you guys. I love you too, babe.
When the team went out on the ice for the second
period, Rob scanned the area where the families sat, not sure exactly where his tickets were. Then he spied Alaina, grinning and giving him a surreptitious wave like she was afraid he’d get in trouble. Rob grinned, sending her a quick salute, then finished his lap before seating himself on the bench.
He’d had two regular shifts in the first and one on the penalty kill. If this kept up
, he’d be down to about five minutes ice time. Less than he’d like, but Jon was not one to challenge on ice time. He’d nail your ass to the bench for sure.
s shifts in the second were less eventful, though he ended up taking three on the penalty kill, as the Storm took successive penalties. Jon was mumbling and swearing behind the bench, pacing like a caged tiger. When the Storm took a penalty while they were killing another, leaving them down in a five-on-three situation, Jon threw his lineup on the floor of the bench in disgust. “Next asshole who takes a stupid penalty bag skates tomorrow.”
A general shiver rippled down th
e bench. Bag skating basically meant a player skated until he puked. Even the idea of it was a pretty effective punishment as far as Rob was concerned, and in his present shape he’d be going down before most of the other guys. Then it became a matter of principle. First, to set a good example for his teammates as their assistant captain, and next, to not embarrass himself by getting bag skated the day after coming back from a long-term injury.
The period ended with the teams tied, and Rob’s ears blistered as Jon screamed.
You never got used to Jon’s temper, no matter how long the man had been your coach. He wasn’t like some other coaches in the league who would single guys out for a dress down. When he was mad, the entire team incurred his wrath.
When he left, Ben stood.
“We need these two points, boys. Don’t fuck this up.” He sat once more, his glowering stare latching on to different people in the room.
Most of those he focused on shifted in their seat
then stared at the floor. As usual, Rob was impressed by how few words the captain needed to get his point across.
When the third period rolled around, the team was ready for the game.
Jon had decided to start the fourth line, probably to thumb his nose at the other lines, who were supposed to be the ones scoring the goals, not taking the stupid penalties they were.
Rob was lined up against one of the French-Canadian guys, and used a phrase Sebastian had taught him to
aggravate his compatriots.
Le cerveau il etait en option chez toi,
Rob told the man with a chuckle. He was basically saying the guy’s brain was optional equipment.
worked. The guy pushed him as soon as the puck was dropped, and Rob lost his balance, landing on his ass. The whistle blew and the guy growled as he was escorted to the penalty box.
That might be a personal record. Ten seconds on the ice and I’ve drawn a penalty. Go me.
Knowing he wouldn’t be part of the power play tonight, Rob sat and reveled as the other guy apparently tossed insults at the fans who were pounding on the glass of the penalty box. Rob freaking loved Buffalo fans, crazy as they were. They deserved a championship, and he hoped he was around long enough to help them get one.
He returned his attention to the offensive zone, where even though he couldn’t see Ben’s face, it was
surely a mask of intense concentration as he waited for the puck drop. The face-off was a draw, but Ben never stopped fighting for possession, and after a good scrum right over the face-off circle, the puck squirted back to Seb, who one-timed it past the goaltender. He turned and pointed at Rob, who grinned and sent up another yell.
Looking over, he saw Becca and Alaina jumping up and down like lunatics. Alaina had learned a lot about the game in the months she’d been with him, but he wondered if they trul
y understood what had happened.
That assist would never show up in the record books, but drawing guys into dumb penalties was one reason that beat writer had dubbed him the “little ball of hate
.” He was fine with his role. Maybe he’d explain his silent assist to them after the game. For now, it was time to make sure the team held on for the win.
Sebastian skated by. “Assist to you, dude.”
The team did manage to eke out the win, and Rob was about to duck into the locker room when he felt a hand on his sleeve. “Mind an interview?”
Rob turned toward the team’s sportscaster whom he’d spoken to earlier
and nodded, mopping off his face and hair as best he could. He wasn’t especially vain when he was playing, but he’d always thought it was kind of gross when guys were dripping all over the camera during interviews.
As the light on top of the camera lit and seconds later the red light
did the same, Rob adjusted to the change and focused on the sportscaster, who said, “Thanks for speaking with us.”
“No problem.” Interviews had a lot of standard answers, though Rob tried to make things more entertaining without overstepping his bounds.
“First of all, how’s the shoulder?”
“Totally fine. No pain, no stiffness. We’ll see how
everything feels tomorrow, but I expect to play on Saturday night.”
“Great to hear. What was it like being back out
on the ice again?”
Rob smiled and glanced at the camera. “Like a dream, only I wasn’t walking into high school naked and unprepared for a final.”
The sportscaster barked out a laugh. “You can always be counted on to keep things interesting, Rob. Thanks for the time.” The red light went off then the light on top of the camera shortly thereafter. “One of these days, Robbie, you’re gonna say something, and I’ll be standing here with my mouth open like a fish.”
“That’s the plan. See you later, Maysie.”
He wandered into the locker room. A few minutes later, the room was opened to the press. Though Rob hoped like hell Alaina would wait for him, he had an obligation as one of the team’s spokespeople to be available to the media, so besides pulling off his sweaty jersey and shoulder pads, he didn’t even bother to undress further.
After giving the requisite sound bites, he finally excused himself, swinging by his phone on the way to the showers. Alaina had
texted saying Jaela, who’d actually come to a game, something she didn’t do often now that she and Ben had a child, had spotted them and escorted Alaina and Becca to the player’s lounge. Rob tossed the phone back into the locker then showered and dressed at breakneck speed. If he knew his teammates, at least one of them was flirting with Alaina. Fortunately for everyone, most of them respected him enough to keep their interactions to some harmless banter, as long as that ass who he’d nearly punched the last time Alaina had been in the player’s lounge wasn’t around. He didn’t know what Becca looked like, but if she was pretty, it would only compound the problem.
Rob found the two of them sitting together on the couch with Jaela.
Smart girls. And smart Jaela.
He walked in, smiled at the woman he assumed was Becca, gave a wink to Jaela and pulled Alaina up, taking her into his arms then kissing her deeply. She shrieked, but he chuckled and continued to kiss her. Scant seconds later, she responded and he pulled away.
e held out the hand not still clasping Alaina’s waist to Becca, a tall, thin woman with a killer smile. Rob liked her immediately, sensing a kinship regarding their outlooks on life. “Hi, I’m Rob.”
“You better be, or else things are about to get real interesting around here,” she answered.
“I hope my phone is charged. Better look up the e-mail for TMZ.”
He laughed. “Oh, I like her.”
“So do I.”
God, he’d missed this. Rob was immensely grateful for even these little moments off the ice. Sure, the on-ice trials and tribulations fueled his competitive spirit, but this sense of home and family was what he’d been looking for.
Turning to Jaela, he said, “How’s that beautiful baby? I can’t believe Ben managed to get so few genes into that kid.”
Jaela smacked him, but laughed. “I’ve got a new picture. This is her at Christmas.” She handed
the photo over and Rob took a look before tilting it so Alaina could see.
“You know, I think I’d like one o
f those things.” He looked at Alaina. They had the foundation, but he wanted more. “What do you think? Wanna start?”
Alaina’s mouth dropped open.
~ The End ~
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ABOUT CASSANDRA CARR
Cassandra Carr is a multi-award winning erotic romance writer with Ellora's Cave, Siren Publishing, Sybarite Seductions, Decadent Publishing, and Loose Id. She lives in Western New York with her husband, Inspiration, and her daughter, Too Cute for Words. When not writing she enjoys watching hockey and hanging out online. Cassandra is the co-founder of two successful group blogs, Romancing the Jock and Dirty Birdies, and is completing her second term as president of Western New York Romance Writers.
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