“Dude?!” His nostrils flared. His eyes turned smoldering, even more heated. “I hate that word from you.”
“Yeah. Well.” I so didn’t care. “Don’t call me a coward, and no, it doesn’t compare.”
I had to get out of there. It was imperative. I saw the fight rallying in him.
Seriously. My mouth was going dry just looking at him. His hair was all messed up, but it was in the hot, messy, sexed-up kind of way, and I know he hadn’t done anything with it. That was all natural, and he’d pulled on some sweats. They rode low on his hips. That V on a hockey player. Damn. That V.
But it wasn’t how he looked.
It was how he just was.
Because he was good, and kind, and he was humble. And he didn’t take shit from my Not-Brother. And he fought for me. And he sat by the pool for thirty minutes being terrified, but still stayed.
He stayed, and he was still standing here. He was still staying.
What was I doing?
I was walking away, feeling like I was ripping myself in half here, but it was needed. It was so needed.
“I have to go.”
“Wait.” It took him two steps.
I opened the door, he slammed it shut, then he was stepping up behind me. His body pressed against mine.
It felt right.
If this felt right why was I doing this? I’d asked myself that before and still didn’t have an answer.
I wanted someone to love me.
My mother never had. I had no dad, then I had a dad, but I still didn’t have a dad. I had no one, so I created him in my head. He got me through until I found Sasha, then we found Melanie and it’s been us three since. Only us three.
But damn, I just wanted to be loved.
And he was here.
And he had stayed.
But I felt the ache low in my body because whether he knew it or not, he was out of his depth. They never knew, until they knew and then they wanted to be gone.
“Let me go, Cut.”
He’d be just like them, but I would tear through him like a tornado and I’d only leave behind debris. I would damage him, and I couldn’t do that because if I did love him after all, if I was falling in love, or always had been—it was enough not to do that to him.
His hand flexed against the door.
I felt how tense he was. It was bouncing off of him in waves, sucking me in, making the room stifling, but after a second flex, he stepped back. His hand lowered, but he said, his voice almost pinning me in place, “I heard what your friend said. I don’t know what’s in your head, what you’re thinking, but whatever this is, you’re going to regret it.” He pressed up against me again, his head lowering.
I felt every inch of him.
And I shivered.
He felt that.
I couldn’t suppress it, and his head dropped.
I felt his lips graze my shoulder.
I wanted to let him sweep me up in his arms.
I wanted him to carry me back to his bed. I wanted to feel him inside of me.
But it was that look. That look.
He would walk. They always walked.
I wouldn’t live through it if it was him.
My mom. My dad. I survived them, but him—he would be different. I had needed the idea of him.
I reached for the door, tears blinding me, and I left.
But people like me never got what we wanted. We never could.
I’d learn how to not need him. I’d have to, and if I didn’t?
The girl was a headcase.
Maybe this was better?
I didn’t miss her.
I wasn’t thinking about her.
She wasn’t in my head.
I wasn’t the headcase.
I wanted to call her.
She was still gone.
I had not called.
But I kept checking to see if she had called.
I kept opening the phone to text her.
Dammit so bad.
I missed her.
Still fucking missing her.
Still wondering what the fuck I should do.
We were loading onto the plane, heading to Seattle for a game tomorrow night. I had my headphones in, music blaring, and I didn’t want to deal with anyone right now.
I never thought of myself as a moody bitch, but that’s what I had become. Cheyenne ran, and I’d been in a mood ever since.
My phone buzzed.
That wasn’t hope in my chest. No—and then a real no because I saw who sent it. My whole fucking chest deflated. It’d been five weeks and I hadn’t talked to Cheyenne, or Chad.
I wanted to talk to Cheyenne. I didn’t want to talk to Chad.
Chad: Can we talk? You’ve been avoiding me. Good game the other night, by the way.
Right. The last game had gone past in a blur for me. I hit the ice and I wanted to kill. Crow was confused since he was the team’s enforcer, but I’d been wanting to fight. Itching for one. Coach called me in, talked to me, wondering what was up, too. I hadn’t said a word. We weren’t like that. I wasn’t like that, but hockey was my sanctuary. I hit that ice and that’s all I could control so I did. I controlled everything, everyone.
I was attaching to it like it was a lifeline right now.
Maybe Cheyenne had been right?
I was already worked up, worked up this much over her, and I’d only seen her a few times.
She was right. I mean, I didn’t know what the hell she actually went through.
Swinging into my seat, I stuffed my bag under the seat in front of me and typed back.
Me: Let me call you when we land and I get to the hotel.
He’d been right. I had been avoiding him, but it wasn’t hard. He never came home the next day after the whole toilet papering event, and after our home game, he was out partying. I went to the house. Woke. Went to the arena.
We’d been traveling almost ever since. This was my life during the season. Chad knew it. It wasn’t uncommon that we went months without seeing each other. He was only saying something now because of Cheyenne.
Me: You back with the Russian?
Chad: She’s not a Russian.
Me: She pretends she is.
Chad: You and Cheyenne?
Me: What about us?
Hendrix dropped into the seat next to me, and I could already hear the music blaring from his headphones. He got settled, then tugged his headphones off and nodded to my phone.
“Nice. I saw him at Bresko’s the other night.”
“Went there after one of our games with a few guys and he was there, in your box.”
I frowned. It wasn’t really my box, but I was a silent investor, and the owners kept a VIP section for us. Chad dropped my name, a lot. It was partly his job, but not for Bresko’s. I knew he was never employed there to promote them. The club didn’t need him, but Chad needed Bresko’s. He used his connection there to build up the crowd that he could pull for other clubs.