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Powerless: Chapter 6

Sloane

*27 missed calls from Sterling*

*12 missed calls from Dad*

Sterling: Where’d you go? Come back. We need talk about this.

Sterling: Sloane, this is humiliating. Everyone is waiting. Can you have your temper tantrum later?

Sterling: Your dad is furious. We’re going to have to cancel all the caterers. Everything. I’m not dealing with this shit.

Sterling: This is fucking bullshit. Get your ass back here and sign the paperwork so we can move on.

Sterling: I’ll go to Grand Cayman by myself.

Sloane: Take the stripper. She deserves a vacation after putting up with you for even one night.


I wrench the passenger door of Jasper’s SUV open. I almost missed him.

“What are you doing?” His eyes widen beneath the brim of his maroon Calgary Grizzlies cap pulled down low.

Ignoring his question, I toss my purse into the back and crawl into the seat beside him. He smells minty and fresh, but the circles beneath his eyes are dark and his handsome face looks drawn. He looks sad, but edible in a pair of torn jeans and a downy plaid jacket. I glance down at my simple gray sweat suit that could fit two of me inside it.

Harvey laid it out on my bed for me while I showered last night. I’m sure it’s his, but I’m not about to put my wedding dress back on. So it’s good enough.

I reach forward to crank up the warm air coming from the vents. “Fucking freezing out this morning,” I mumble, catching sight of myself in the rearview mirror, hair all wavy and disheveled, eyes all puffy.

“Sloane. What are you doing?”

I rub my palms together and blow into my cupped hands before reaching over my shoulder to buckle the seat belt. Strapped in, I have a better chance of not launching across the center console to hug the man beside me. “I’m coming with you, Jas. What does it look like?”

He blinks at me. “I have a game tonight.”

“I know you do.” I hunker down into the leather. “Does this thing have heated seats?”

He scoffs. “Of course, it does.” He reaches forward and presses the button that puts the seat to full heat.

“Perfect.” I turn wide eyes on him, signaling that he should get going, but he just stares back at me.

“It’s six in the morning.”

I yawn, holding my hand that is wrapped in the too-long sleeve of the crew neck sweatshirt up to my mouth. “Don’t I know it. Can we stop for a coffee?”

He shifts the cushy SUV into drive, even though I can still see the questions dancing in his eyes. The front of his Volvo is lit only by the dash. It’s early enough and far enough into the year that it’s still fully dark right now, and as the heat from the seat seeps into me, I sigh.

“This is a comfortable car.” My eyes flutter shut. “I almost feel like I could fall asleep.” Lord knows I didn’t sleep a wink last night.

Being a runaway bride that no one could reach stressed me out. And hearing Jasper quietly weep through the thin wall that separated us made me cry too. There were too many things to think about—too much pain to relax— so I laid there, watching the hours tick by on the digital clock. I tried to formulate a plan, visualized my favorite moments on stage, and forced myself to not crawl across the roof and into Jasper’s room to hold him.

Because he wouldn’t want that. Even listening to him felt like an invasion.

“The safest money can buy,” he says, fingers pulsing on the wheel as he looks both ways on the dark country road. Then looks again.

It makes perfect sense he’d choose something incomparably safe.

“You have your purse,” he announces as he finally pulls onto the gravel road.

“Yeah. When I went downstairs, it was on the table with a note from Violet informing me that she was heading back home to be with her babies. I get the sense that everyone is retreating to their own corners with the . . . news.”

“Does that mean you’re going home? To Sterling?” His voice is thick and he sounds resigned.

I press my lips together and force myself to stare out the windshield. “No, Jasper. It means I’m coming with you.”

The lines of his body stiffen at my response. What I just said feels altogether too vulnerable, so I change the subject. “Can we stop at a Walmart or something so I can get some clothes that fit?”

My question has the corners of his mouth tugging up. “I can just see the headline now”—one broad palm waves across the console in a dramatic swoop—“Canadian Telecommunications Heir, Sloane Winthrop, flees wedding and is found shopping at Walmart.”

I snort. “Works for me. Sterling will stop blowing my phone up if he sees me shopping with the peasants.” My fingers do little air quotes when I say peasants, and my eyes roll in time.

Jasper shakes his head but says nothing more.

It strikes me I should be more devastated about my disaster of a wedding day—but I’m not.

I was set to marry someone out of duty, not out of love. I’d dreamed about my wedding since I was a little girl. And I’d given up on that dream enough to agree to spend the rest of my life legally attached to a man who doesn’t care about me at all to help my father close a deal.

It sounds archaic. It sounds insane.

I love my father. He’s always been good to me and doted on his only child, but there’s a niggling voice inside me that says if he loved me as much as I love him, he wouldn’t have asked me to marry a man to further his financial interests.

It’s not something I tell Jasper. He already dislikes my dad and that gets me feeling defensive—whether or not he deserves my defense.

We drive in silence and stop for coffee at the closest drive-through that’s open this early on a Sunday. Closer to the city, we pull into a Walmart, and I tell Jasper I’ll just zip in to grab what I need. He ignores me and unfolds himself from the driver’s seat, grumbling about not letting me go in alone.

I waddle through the parking lot, hanging back because I have to hold the huge sweatpants up so I don’t drop them and flash him. I’ve always wanted to get naked with Jasper—but not like that.

Coffee in hand, I grab a few simple changes of clothes. Leggings. Jeans. And then I see it. My eyes light, and I speed waddle through the branded clothing section, straight toward what I need.

“No.” Jasper says from behind me as I reach forward.

“Yes,” I reply, grinning as I turn back to him, holding up one of his jerseys. Number one emblazoned across the back.

His eyes narrow, and he gives me a flat look from beneath the brim of his hat. “Where are you even going to wear that?”

I roll my eyes at him because I can see the faint blush on the tops of his cheeks, the tips of his ears going just a little red. Jasper has never been comfortable with his fame. It’s always made him squirm. “To your game tonight, obviously.”

“You’re coming to my game?” His head quirks and he looks so boyish.

“Duh.” I add the jersey to the pile of clothes over my arm and head off to the dressing room in the eerily quiet store. It’s so early that there isn’t even music playing. All I can hear is the hum of the overhead lights that cast a terrible yellow glow over my face as I try on my clothes.

I look exhausted.

am exhausted. The only thing keeping me going is how badly Jasper needs someone to be there for him. And I’m determined to be that someone. Especially after he sprung me from my wedding.

I’m just returning the favor. That’s what I tell myself. Because the alternative is that I’m just reveling in spending time alone with him, and I don’t want to be that moon-eyed lovesick girl who follows him around anymore. I want to be strong and independent. And a good friend. Because that’s what he really needs right now.

“Wow. This jersey looks sooo good on me,” I announce from inside the dressing room, pestering him a bit, because I know he’s leaned up against the opposite wall, all long limbs and navy-blue eyes focused on the door. Somehow even changing with him this close feels intensely personal.

I roll my eyes at myself. But smile when he groans.

“Where are you going to go after the game?” is what he comes back with.

“I mean . . .” I trail off, assessing myself in the mirror and opting to leave the jersey on. It’s big and comfy, and I can tell that underneath all of Jasper’s grumbling, he finds it amusing. “I was thinking we’d go back out to the ranch. I guess I should have asked what your plans are. I checked your schedule. You’ve got a good stretch of home games.”

“Yeah. Four.”

I fling the door open with a dramatic flourish and strike a pose in my new leggings and jersey. “How do I look?”

He rolls his eyes and folds the brim of his hat. But I don’t miss the twitch of his lips or the way his gaze trails to my body and rakes over my legs.

“It might be a late night if we drive all the way back.” He holds one arm open to usher me ahead of him, and I go, no longer worried about dropping my pants in front of him.

“That’s fine.”

“We could always stay at my place in the city.” The words are strained.

I stop in my tracks and turn back to him, craning my neck to look him in the eye. “Is that what you want? I don’t know what I want, other than to not face reality yet. I’d like to keep my head in the sand for at least one more day. So I’ll go wherever you go.”

His sapphire eyes drop to my lips for a moment and then drag back up. “No. I’d rather be at the ranch with everyone. Just in case.”

Just in case. Just in case there’s any news, I assume.

“You could tell the team you need a night off.”

He shakes his head and drops a warm hand on my shoulder as he turns us around. “No. It will feel good to play. Normal. Plus, the team needs me.”

I nod, because I know that feeling. Dancing until my body aches and sweat drips down my back would be a comfort right about now.

“Can I wear these out?” I ask the dressing room attendant as we draw up to the podium.

She eyes me carefully. “Sure, doll. Let me cut the tags off, and then you need to have them scanned at the checkout.”

I offer her my best reassuring smile, trying really hard not to appear like a criminal. “Of course. Thank you.” She peeks at the jersey and then glances up at Jasper, eyes widening slightly when she puts it together. “Are you Jasper Gervais?” Her silver bob swishes as her head flips between him and the jersey I’m wearing.

“Yes, ma’am.” Jasper smiles, always so gracious with his fans. Anyone who doesn’t know him wouldn’t pick up on his discomfort. The way his neck goes a little tight. The way his thumb presses into the tips of his fingers.

“My grandsons are just the biggest fans. Any chance you’d sign . . .” She glances around, trying to find something. “Oh gosh. I don’t know. Something? A Post-it note? The boys would love this for Christmas.”

I see his body soften as soon as she starts talking about her grandsons. I know Jasper volunteers with atrisk youth sports programs and has a huge soft spot for kids. “Of course. I’ll wait here. Why don’t you go grab a couple shirts in their sizes? I’ll take the tags and buy them too.”

The woman’s hands clasp up in front of her chest. “Oh, you are a sweet boy,” she gushes, looking at him with hearts in her eyes.

And I can’t even blame her. I am too.

“I’ll be right back! And I won’t tell anyone else and hold you up. But gosh, they’ll just love this. Thank you so much!”

Within minutes, she’s back with a Sharpie and two tiny little shirts, looking like the happiest woman alive. I watch Jasper’s hulking frame bend over the podium as he personalizes each shirt carefully, checking the spelling of their names so he gets it just right. Her words sweet boy bounce around in my head. Jasper has always been a sweet boy.

But god, he grew up to be a damn good man.

Moments later, all the tags are cut and Jasper walks me out into the store, seeming a little calmer than he did before.

“Just a few more things.”

He says nothing, which I usually take as his assent. So I walk ahead, veering for the makeup aisle. After seeing myself under those neon lights, I desperately need a little something to cover up the bags and general zombie look I have going on.

Concealer is my first stop. I try to pick a brand but realize I know none of them. I’ve come to Walmart for laundry detergent, not makeup. Picking one up, I assess it. If it wasn’t for the label, it would look exactly like my go-to concealer.

I turn to Jasper. “Do you think what’s inside of these is really all that different? Like, I usually pay $50 for a tube the same size. Do you think they just slap different labels on them in the same factory and then laugh at the rich people who pay more for the same shit?”

His lips twitch as he watches me closely. “I love the way your brain works, Sunny.”

“I’m serious! This is five dollars, Jas. That is a ninety percent discount!”

“Well, you can’t fault that fancy private school education.”

I snort and wag my head. “I’m testing it. This could be life changing.”

“Mm-hmm.”

He sounds like he doesn’t believe me. “Jas. Have you seen this translucent skin? The nice blue vein that runs under my right eye? Concealer is my best friend.”

“I thought I was your best friend.” The statement is so simple and yet it winds me.

I turn back to the wall of alarmingly affordable concealer and scoff. “You can both be. It’s mutually beneficial really. You don’t want to see me too often without concealer.”

“You always look good to me. Concealer, no concealer. Fancy dress, Harvey’s sweat suit. Smooth hair”—his hand waves over me with a low chuckle—“whatever this is. It doesn’t matter. You’re you.”

I swallow and try my best not to melt onto the floor into a squishy pile of mush. “That’s probably what you tell all the girls, Gervais.”

“Nah, Sunny. You’re my only girl.”

A tinny, awkward laugh filters up out of my throat as I reach for what I think will be a close-enough color match. I do the same with a soft, shimmery pink blush and a plain, blackest-black mascara.

Then I hustle out of that aisle, hoping Jasper will follow and leave that uncomfortable exchange behind.

Joke’s on me, though, because next stop is underwear, and my wish came true. Jasper followed. Right up behind me.

I stare back at the shelf full of different cuts of black underwear. “Booty short, bikini cut, or thong? Or does your rule of everything looks good on me apply here too?” I blurt out in an attempt at making this less awkward than it is in my head right now.

I fail. Things are officially not less awkward.

Jasper makes a low groaning noise and avoids eye contact. “It applies,” is his strangled reply.

When I peek back at him, I don’t miss the pink stain on his cheeks, and I laugh, all shrill and forced, really trying to salvage myself after what I just asked him out loud.

Then I swipe a pack of thongs and a matching bra, avoiding Jasper’s eyes as I head to the checkout lanes. And within minutes we’re paid up, back in in his SUV, wordlessly heading toward the city—the place neither of us really wants to be.


I watch Jasper skate out of the mouth of a massive, firebreathing bear’s head set up in the corner of the rink. He strikes an imposing image, his pads adding bulk to his already towering height.

Under the flashing lights, he glides across the ice toward his net, every movement somehow matching the beat of the Metallica song blaring from the speakers. His head is down and the crowd is wild.

The Grizzlies are coming off a bad season. A really bad season. Some players left the team, but not Jasper. He’s already got an Olympic gold under his belt, and he’s not the type to jump around chasing a championship any way he can get it. He wants to win here.

I doubted Jasper would ever waive his no-movement clause. He locked in a long contract with the goal of staying close to his family—to the ranch—probably until the end of his career.

What little boy doesn’t dream of playing for his hometown team?

Between the pipes, he starts at one end of his crease, methodically slicing his blades across the space, scratching up the ice surface to give himself extra grip.

There’s something about this moment that always entrances me. He looks so smooth, so rhythmic, so utterly in the zone that I can never bring myself to look away.

I love a lot of things about Jasper, but him being this damn good at something never hurts his appeal.

To me or to other women.

I tamp the envy down as I glance around the family and friends skybox. I’ve been in here a couple of times but always with my cousins.

Never by myself.

The vibe is fun and lighthearted, but I’m definitely garnering some looks. Especially since I’m decked out in an oversize Gervais jersey, and I’m a recognizable enough face in this city.

“You’re here with Jasper?” A perfectly put-together brunette woman appears beside me, bouncing a baby in her arms.

“Yeah.” I smile.

She eyes me but not in an unfriendly way. “What’s your name?”

“Sloane. You?”

“Callie.” She hefts the baby up and sticks one hand out to me.

We shake, and I find myself liking the woman. Her handshake is firm, but she isn’t squeezing the hell out of my hand in some weird show of aggression.

“Jasper doesn’t usually have anyone up here.”

My eyes dart back down to the ice where Jasper is squirting a stream of water into his open mouth through the cage across his face. “No?” I ask quietly because I’ve always made a point of not asking about his personal life.

Always felt like it would hurt too much to know.

I’ve been swallowing the green-eyed monster for decades, but she hasn’t stayed down. She leaps up on me unexpectedly.

Potently.

“It’s got all the girls talking. His personal life is a real mystery to us all,” Callie continues, chucking her chin over her shoulder as the puck drops and the game clock starts.

“Ah.” I glance in that direction and see multiple heads flip away quickly, like children caught staring. “If it’s any consolation, I’ve known Jasper since I was ten, and he’s still a bit of mystery to me.”

“Ten!” Her eyes bulge comically and then she sighs. “Well, that is just adorable.”

I smile but it’s tight. Adorable. More like painful.

And that pain only grows as the minutes tick on. Because circumstances doomed this game from the start. Jasper is rightfully distracted. His head is certainly not on the pucks heading toward him at blistering speeds.

The opposing team scores first, less than one minute into the game. And it’s not a good goal. It’s one I know Jasper would want back.

They score again five minutes later.

I nibble at my nails, the pink wedding polish peeling away as I do.

Two minutes later a third shot finds the back of the net.

I groan and bite my bottom lip hard enough that the inside of it bleeds.

And when Jasper lets in a fourth goal before the first twenty minutes of play have elapsed, I have to blink back my tears. Not because they’re losing, but because watching him skate off—head low, shoulders slumped—after getting pulled from the game makes my chest ache.

I know he’s counting himself responsible.

He looks like the boy I met all those years ago—devastated.

And for the next several games, it doesn’t get any better.


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