Home > Bombshells (Brooklyn Bruisers #8)

Bombshells (Brooklyn Bruisers #8)
Author: Sarina Bowen

One

 

 

Anyone Get it on Video?

 

 

September


ANTON


It’s a Wednesday afternoon during the preseason, and I should really be in the locker room. But I’m standing in an office in the Bruisers’ headquarters, waiting to find out if I still have a NHL career.

Practice starts in thirty minutes. If they wanted me down there, I’d already know, wouldn’t I?

My hands are clammy and my heart rate is erratic. So this is what it feels like when fate brings the hammer down. If only I could go back in time and make better choices. I wouldn’t be standing here sweating.

Couldn’t they just fire me already? I’m dying here.

Prayer probably won’t work, even if this is one of those moments when I’m tempted to bargain with God. What would I even say?

Dear Lord—I’m sorry for all the cockiness I displayed last year. You know my stats were great during my rookie season. But then I kinda self-destructed.

I’m sorry I didn’t leave the bar earlier all those times when I should have. I’m sorry about missing the team jet that time in Arizona when I had no business being so hungover in the middle of a road trip.

On the matter of a certain compromising photo, I think we can both agree that the incident with those women was not really my fault. But I do apologize for putting myself in that situation and allowing for that tacky result.

But I am most sorry for the worst sin of all—squandering all those opportunities. You gave me a shot at greatness. But I started my second season on the struggle bus. And after that disastrous game against Chicago, you (in your infinite wisdom) sent me down to purgatory—aka the minor league team in Hartford. I had to watch on TV while the Bruisers went to the playoffs.

This summer I repented. I ran seven miles every day, even on the ones when New York City was as humid and gross as a used practice jersey.

I didn’t skip a workout in the gym, either. In the evenings, I’ve drunk only a single light beer. Did you ever hear the joke about how light beer is just like sex in the bottom of a canoe? Because it’s fucking close to water.

Oh hell! I can’t even pray like a grownup. I just told a dirty joke to God.

Just then, the door swings open, and my heart plummets as Hugh Major walks into the small room, chest out. He’s followed by Eric, my father’s cousin, who is also my agent.

And Eric looks grim.

Oh shit. This is really happening.

Up until this very moment—when I saw that look on Eric’s face—I still held out some hope that, after my strong showing at training camp, they’d give me one more chance.

Fuck my life. I deserve this. But it’s still going to bite the big one.

“Well, son,” Hugh says as Eric shuts the door. “You sure had some trouble last season.”

“I know, sir,” I say evenly, because a man doesn’t cower from his fate. “My production was not up to my own standards.”

“Nor mine,” he agrees, even as a cold drop of sweat makes its way down my back. “You’re capable of so much more.”

“And I’m going to prove it, even if I have to do that in Hartford.”

“Huh.” He frowns at me. “How about you do it downstairs on the practice rink instead? We’re going to roster you. But you’d better give us something to show for it.”

“Yessir,” I say, my ears ringing with confusion. Did I just hear that right? I’m staying?

I glance at Eric’s stern glower for clarification. Why does he look so dark when…

His lip twitches. Then it twitches again.

That Bastard! He knew how this was going to go. He was just fucking with me.

“Keep your head down, kid. You know you’ve got to,” says Hugh.

“I can,” I insist, dragging my gaze back to his. “I got this.”

“Then get down there and show us all.” He gives me a nod and—done with me now—lets himself out of the room to deal with someone else’s drama.

I don’t breathe until he’s gone. I’m drenched in cold sweat. And Eric, that fucker, is chuckling silently. “You jackass!” I hiss. “I about sharted myself just from the look on your ugly face when you walked in here.’’

“I know,” he says with a snort. “It was priceless. And no less than you deserve. Honestly, Hugh should have yelled a little more and thrown some furniture around. Maybe that would put you into the headspace you need this season. “

“But I am in the right headspace,” I insist. “I’ve been there since I got sent down to Hartford in March. Now I’m fitter than I’ve ever been. Even since high school, when I was in lust with a distance runner.”

Eric shakes his head as he opens the door to shoo me into the hallway. “Let me guess—you ran half-marathons every day just to get into her spandex?”

“Yes.”

“Did it work?” he asks as we head for the stairs leading down to the historic lobby of the renovated warehouse where the Brooklyn Bruisers make their home.

“Oh, sure,” I recall. “Totally worth it. She was skinny, but man did she have stamina.” But I’m getting off topic. “This time I ran for me, though. Nobody will be able to outskate me. I’m fit and ready. They won’t be sorry they took this chance.”

Eric stops in the middle of the grand lobby, beneath the video screen showing highlights from last season. “That’s the problem. It’s your third season. They shouldn’t have to feel like they’re taking a chance. You’re not a rookie anymore.”

Well, ouch. “Yeah, no kidding. But things are already different.” I swipe open the door that leads to the practice facility.

“Tell me how,” he says as we enter the tunnel.

“I already told you my new rules.”

“Say it again,” he says. “Loudly. So the gods of hockey can hear you.”

Man, I love Eric, but I hate being treated like a kid brother. There’s no getting around it, though. He was this team’s first Bayer. It’s not his fault that he had to retire at the top of his game, after too many knee surgeries.

They picked me up that same season, so my nickname became Baby Bayer, and I can’t seem to shake it. I don’t enjoy the constant reminder that I was the second-choice Bayer.

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