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Powerless: Chapter 36

Jasper

Willa: Hi. It’s Willa.

Jasper: Hi, Willa. It’s Jasper.

Willa: I was going to message you and ask how big your dick is, but I don’t think Cade would love that.

Jasper: I wonder why.

Willa: Instead, I thought I would tell you that now is your chance to *prove* how big your dick is.

Jasper: Thanks for the advice.

Willa: That wasn’t advice. It was motivation.

Willa: Also, you’ll never do better than her. I don’t care how famous you are.


“So, she asked if you’d gamble your career for a shot with her and you didn’t say anything?” Harvey is glaring at me over the rim of his steaming coffee mug like I might be the stupidest thing he’s ever seen.

“I went straight to Roman’s house and we called team management to sort things out. Explained it all.”

“Did you tell her that?”

I just glare back at Harvey. “Maybe I should have, but I wanted to go to her with a plan. Proof. I wanted to be able to assure her that my career was safe. That we were safe.”

Harvey must think my plan sucks because he says, “All you boys are idiots.”

I called Sloane on Monday. She ignored the call but texted me to say she was out with Summer and Willa. Didn’t stop me from sleeping on an air mattress in the empty house next door just to be close to her.

I went to our house on Tuesday after I’d finished at the rink, but when I went to the front door, I saw Sloane and Winter with a six-pack of Buddyz Best Beer and Chinese take-out boxes sprawled out between them. They were lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling, laughing uncontrollably. It seemed like a dumb moment to knock and interrupt.

I also just plain chickened out. Got stuck in my head and let all the self-loathing get the best of me. I walked away, settling for laying my eyes on her to get a fix. Slept next-door again.

Today is Wednesday, and I should be in the city getting ready for my game tonight, but I’m going out of my mind. Sloane has dinner with her dad tonight, and I have a divisional game with two points on the line that we desperately need.

But I’m here, talking to the only man I’d ever come to for real advice. Because, while I never met his late wife, Isabelle, I know he was an excellent husband. He has to know a thing or two about relationships, where I don’t know anything. Haven’t exactly seen great examples in my life.

“I froze. I panicked.” Like I always do.

“Jasper.” My name is a sad sigh on his lips.

“I’m trying to be respectful of her wishes,” I explain.

“Son, I’m going to tell you something that I’d only say to a man as good as you.” He pauses, eyes scanning my face. “In this instance, you’re being too respectful.”

“Thanks for the words of wisdom.” I huff out a disbelieving laugh as I flop back on the couch, scrubbing at my face.

But every time I close my eyes, I see Sloane.

She’s dancing or carefully rubbing a clay facial on my face. Sometimes I see Sloane scaring other girls away from me in a random bar. Other times she’s swimming in a mountain lake. I see Sloane on stage.

The color of the lines on the ice? Remind me of her eyes.

When I put too much cream in my coffee the other morning? Her hair.

When I use my favorite bodywash? The way she leans into me and sucks in a huge breath.

Sloane is everywhere.

“So are you two broken up then? Family reunions are gonna be awkward now. Violet is gonna kill you.”

“We’re not broken up,” I snap.

Harvey arches a brow at me as if to say, Watch your tone, idiot. “How do you know you’re not broken up? Did you talk about it?”

“Because . . .”

“Or better question. How does Sloane know you’re not broken up? Oh boy, did she even know you were together?”

I groan and stare up at the ceiling. Anxiety swirls in my chest. I rub at it as though I can ease it away, but it doesn’t help. “Yeah. She knows.”

“How?”

“I don’t know. You don’t just break us up. We’re . . . I dunno. We’re bigger than that.”

“I mean, if y’all can overlook tail-babies, I’m not sure what could really keep you apart.”

I shake my head. “Dick.”

“So you’re like . . .” His hand waves around. “Soulmates on a break. Yeah, yeah. Makes perfect sense.”

Soulmates. That feels heavy.

But it doesn’t feel wrong.

“Do you love her?”

I stare at Harvey, trying to work it all out in my head like I have been for days. “Of course, I love her. I’ve always loved her.”

“Did you tell her that?”

A stone drops in my stomach. “No.”

“Why not?”

I shrug noncommittally, feeling like a child getting a scolding.

“You know why. You know this. Say it out loud.”

My voice is strained when I finally say the thing that’s been holding me back. “Because the people I love either die or leave me.”

Harvey sighs, creaking back into the big leather chair beside the fireplace in the expansive living room, “You’ve been the apple of that girl’s eye for going on two decades and she has yet to leave. No matter how bad you hurt her.”

Nausea follows a sinking sensation.

“I’ve never meant to. I swear I didn’t know . . . not when anything could have come from it anyway. I mean, we all knew when she was a kid. But as an adult? How was this so obvious to everyone but none of you assholes made fun of me about it until now?”

“Because it never seemed like you felt the same way. We did it enough when she was a teenager. It started to feel cruel. It wasn’t funny anymore at some point. Not sure if anyone’s ever told you this, Jasper, but you’re hard to get a read on. You’re moody and temperamental. Closed off. A little insecure at heart.”

“Okay. Yes, I’m getting it. This is great for my self-confidence. Please, keep going.” I prop my elbows on my knees and drop my head.

“You’re also sensitive.”

He’s not wrong. I live in my head and I feel things intensely. I always have.

“And scared,” he adds, just to really drive the point home of how badly I’m fucking things up.

“Yeah. I am. I’m really fucking scared.”

I hear Harvey’s heavy footfalls as he crosses the room and flops down on the couch beside me. When he plants his hand in the middle of my back, the bridge of my nose stings. “Of what?”

“What if I make the wrong choice? What if I put it all on the line and it blows up in my face? What if she realizes I’m not worth it and leaves me? I . . . I’m paralyzed by all the what-ifs. This isn’t just like what if I let a puck past? Then I just lose the game. Life goes on. But this? I have a knack for fucking people’s lives up who love me and who I love back. It’s my specialty.”

“That’s not true. You’re looking at it wrong. I love you and you’ve done nothing but make my life better.”

A strangled noise lodges in my throat, and Harvey’s hand moves up, squeezing my shoulder. I nod, still hanging my head.

“I don’t know your parents from Adam, Jasper. But I’ve gotta say I don’t want to. Anyone who could leave you behind? They don’t love you the way you deserve. And I know Sloane would agree with that. That girl has never left you behind, not for a moment. No matter how unlovable you’ve been, she’s loved you anyway. She’s loved you when you didn’t love her back and didn’t ask for shit. I think all she’s asking for is for you to love her back now. And you’re telling me you already do but are too chickenshit to tell her. She’s waited long enough, don’t you think?”

“What am I supposed to do though? Beg her to choose me instead of her family? I know what it’s like to lose your family. Even if they’re assholes, you still want them around in some way. I don’t want to be the one who makes that decision for her.”

“You don’t need to make a single decision for her—only for yourself. That girl has been choosing you for years. She’s just sick of waiting around for you to choose her back. Can’t say that I blame her. You’re slow as molasses to figure things out. And now she’s broken up with you. Anyone ever told you Sloane is the best you’ll ever get?”

“She didn’t break up with me. And yes, Willa told me that today. You’re all very thoughtful. Thank you for that.”

“Are you two talking?”

I turn and glare at him, but deep down, my heart races. Did she break up with me? I really am an idiot.

“I mean, there’s really only one question, Jasper.” He sips his coffee and leaves me hanging. Old man has to get his kicks somehow.

Dick.

“What’s the question?”

He shrugs like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “Would you make that gamble?”

“Over and over again.”

I love hockey, but it’s not even close to how I love Sloane. Two weeks off of hockey compared to a few days without Sloane proved two things to me: I can live without hockey but I can’t live without Sloane.

He swats the back of my head lovingly. If that’s even a thing. “Then tell her, you idiot.”

A rapid knock at the door draws both our attention. Harvey slaps my knee. “I’ll get that. You sit here and stew in your own stupidity while you muster up a plan to make this right.”

I chuckle. Only Harvey could deliver an emotional pep talk and then mock me openly to make me laugh.

The hinges on the door creak, and I hear a voice I was not expecting. “Harvey.”

“Cordelia?”

I’m up and walking toward the front door, rounding the corner just in time to see Sloane’s mom lifting a Louis Vuitton suitcase as she says, “Any chance you have a spare room?” She looks down at her suitcase and then back up at Harvey. Her smile is watery. “I could really use a safe spot to get my bearings.”

“Of course. I—”

“Oh,” she breathes when she catches sight of me. “You’re here.”

I give her a nod, suddenly wishing I had my cap on to hide behind. “Mrs. Winthrop.”

She stares at me for longer than is comfortable, and her eyes fill with tears. “Don’t let him scare you off, Jasper.” She pins me with her light blue eyes, so similar to her daughter’s. “Don’t let him control you too. He’s a master. He gets his claws into you and suddenly you wake up in your fifties with nothing but a heaping pile of regret. The best thing I can do for her at this point is lead by example. I don’t want that life for Sloane. I don’t want him for Sloane. She’s going to need you to be there for her when she breaks free of them.”

“Them who?” I ask, alarm coursing through me as I put together what she’s saying. What she’s done.

I glance between Harvey and Cordelia. Harvey’s eyes are latched onto his late wife’s little sister with an intensity I’ve never seen before.

“Sterling. Robert. Men like them don’t take well to being slighted. They maneuver. They plan. This dinner won’t just be a birthday celebration. It’ll be a coup, and I can’t be there for it. Can’t watch her continue to get played by them.”

My heart thrums in my chest, hard and heavy. “She won’t be.”

Her mom sighs and looks at me sadly. “Maybe not, but it won’t stop them from trying.”

I grab my keys from the front table and leave them both with a nod.

“Jasper!” Cordelia calls out to me right as I get to my driver’s side door. “The Frontier Steakhouse.”

I almost laugh.

The place where it all started. I hate that fucking restaurant, yet I can’t get there fast enough.

She’s never left me behind, and I’m not leaving her behind either.

The only thought in my head as I make the hour-long drive back into the city is that Sloane needs me. She needs me to just be there with her.

And I love her.


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