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Shameless Puckboy: Chapter 10

OSKAR

AS I SIT across from my agent, I pretend I have no idea what this meeting is about or why he came to pick me up and drag me out to a “working lunch.” Considering he got on a plane so he could take me to lunch, I know it’s serious, but really, isn’t this all a bit dramatic?

He didn’t say a word about why he’s here in the car. We exchanged pleasantries, and he talked about how long his flight was, but that’s it. And now he’s sitting opposite me, drinks ordered, and he’s still not saying anything. He’s not looking at his menu but right at me like he’s trying to intimidate me.

And it’s working. I inspect the menu closely so I don’t have to look at Damon.

Considering I’ve been on my best behavior—involuntarily—lately, his sudden appearance in my life is confusing, to say the least. If some other scandal had broken out about me, I’m sure Lane would have torn me a new one before Damon could set foot in the airport.

Our drinks arrive, and thank fuck because my mouth is dry. After I take a large sip, I’m able to compose that cocky demeanor I’m known for.

“Lane needed you to step in as babysitter for a bit, did he?”

Damon King is literally the king of queer athletes. He represents nearly all of the Collective as well as players in the NFL, MLB, and NBA. Every queer athlete wants him as an agent, and his roster has become so big that he’s starting his own agency: King Sports.

And the glare he’s sending my way makes me think he’s on the verge of dropping me as a client. That would explain a sudden business lunch.

My cockiness drops. “It’s not a big deal. You didn’t need to come all the way out here to tell me to be a good boy. I am being a good boy. It’s hard not to when I’m being guarded twenty-four seven.”

His stare doesn’t falter, and he remains silent.

“Why am I getting in trouble for one grainy CCTV sex tape when straight players are photographed in much more scandalous positions with women?”

Still nothing.

I relent. “Okay, okay. I get it. As a gay athlete, I have different expectations than the straight ones because we’re always under a microscope so the homophobes can’t point at our actions and say, ‘See! They’re all sinful sex maniacs. Next, they’ll want to marry animals.’ I still think it’s a double standard, and it’s stupid, but I understand until there’s change, I have to suck it up.”

Damon’s phone lights up with a message on top of the table. He glances at it, ignores it, and then goes back to looking into my gaze with his telling green eyes.

I lift my hand and hold up three fingers. “Scout’s honor. Best behavior from now on.”

Finally, I get a reaction.

Damon leans back in his seat. “I’m really tempted to get up and say good talk and then go back to the airport, but I need you to know how serious a mess you’ve gotten yourself into.”

I shrug it off. “Same shit, different day.”

“No. Not this time. Do you really want to know why I got on a plane and came all the way out here?”

“Because you and your partner had a fight and you made the excuse you needed to yell at me to fly across the country?”

“Nope. Maddox and I had a fight because I had to get on a plane and fly across the country after being away to attend a press conference for one of my NBA newbies whose career is now over thanks to an injury.”

I force a sympathetic look I don’t feel because I get the impression that nugget about his other player is about to be used against me. So instead of acknowledging it, I go for the easy response. “Aww, you and Maddox fighting over little old me? If you’ve seen the sex tape, you know there’s enough of me to go around.”

“Oskar …”

Uh-oh. That’s Damon’s cut-the-crap tone. It’s amazing how many times he has used it on me over the years. Usually after I did something that has gotten me traded or for an unflattering headline about me. Back before Ezra Palaszczuk went and settled down with Anton Hayes, we both split Damon’s time with our sexcapades landing on tabloid sites and blowing up Twitter. It’s been surprising how much Ezra used to take the heat off me. I’d never noticed until he wasn’t there.

“What do you want me to say?” I ask.

“It’s not so much what I want you to say. It’s what I want you to acknowledge. No team is going to want you if you keep bringing bad publicity.”

“Bullshit. There’s always going to be a team that needs a good D-man.”

“My NBA kid. He had his whole future ahead of him, but because of one fall—one accident—his career is over. You’re here pissing away your future because you can’t keep your sex life behind closed doors.”

“How is that pissing away my future?”

“Because your team owner is threatening to terminate your contract under a morality clause. Do you know how hard it will be for me to pitch you to a new team after that?”

For the first time in my entire career of bouncing from team to team, real fear strikes through me.

It’s one thing to hide behind the façade, letting people think I’m an asshole pretty boy whose only defining characteristic is his looks. It’s another to let that bullshit actually affect my livelihood.

“Th-they said that?”

“Your PR rep called me to give me the heads-up because contrary to what you believe about Lane, he’s actually looking out for you.”

“He’s only looking out for the team.” Because I refuse to believe it’s possible for anyone to care about me or my well-being.

“No. He’s not. He didn’t need to call me. In fact, contacting me first could be detrimental to the team because I might be able to find loopholes in your contract to cut them off at the knees if they so much as mention the word termination to you. It will give me time to prepare.”

That … can’t be right. Can it? “Why would he risk that?”

“Because, like I said. He’s not babysitting you, as you call it. He’s there for you.”

“But … why?”

“I have no clue. If I had an ungrateful player who didn’t fight for himself, I wouldn’t waste my energy on trying to ‘fix’ him.”

My mouth is dry again, and I don’t know what to say to that. I don’t understand why Lane would stick his neck out for me when all I’ve done is made his hair go grayer in the short time he has stayed with me.

Damon breaks into a small smile. “And that’s the reason I got onto a plane. To see that face. You finally look scared, so now you have something to fight for.”

“Lane?”

Damon’s gaze narrows. “Your career. I don’t have to tell you here not to have sex with your PR rep, right? You should already know that.”

After what he just told me, I can’t promise that.

“Tell me you know that.” Damon sounds semi-panicked now.

“I know that I shouldn’t have sex with him. Does that help?”

Damon sighs. “Not at all, but I’m going back home to grovel to Maddox and make it up to him.”

“I hear blowjobs are a great apology.”

He points at me. “Do not apologize to your team by offering to blow them.”

“But that sounds like a fun time.”

“Don’t test me, Oskar. I love having you as a client—”

“That’s because I make you lots of money.”

“No. It’s because I believe you have the talent to be one of the greats if you pull your head in and stop being so shameless.”

To save my career, I have to stop pretending to be that douchey guy that gets me attention. But the problem is, I’ve been pretending to be him for so long, it’s hard to tell where he ends and the real me begins.


Damon drops me home in his rental car and heads back to the airport.

The urge to run away is strong because I don’t want to go inside and own up to a lot of things I’ve done that has put my career on the line—purposefully hitting on Lane being one of them.

I need a change of attitude. I need to be the man both Lane and Damon think I am, but that isolated kid I was growing up, the one that’s hidden deep down inside, doesn’t want me to strip away those layers. Putting in work to get rid of an attitude I’m not even sure is a choice anymore and then still failing seems like a huge gamble to me.

Taking a deep breath, I force myself forward and push through the front door.

Lane is on the couch, his laptop open, and he doesn’t even glance up as he says, “Meeting with your agent go well?”

I freeze in my place, unable to come up with something to say.

I’m hurt team management is talking about giving up on me, but at the same time, I understand it. While there’s a double standard when it comes to the queer players and the straight ones and I think it’s unfair, I’ve known that’s always been the case. I’ve always known what expectations have been on me and what could happen if I don’t meet them. I played with that line because it got me attention. Attention for all the wrong reasons, maybe, but it was attention nonetheless.

“That good?” Lane asks.

I think of what Damon told me. That Lane is looking out for me. But as I try to see past his own confidence, all I see is annoyance. Not protectiveness.

I’m not going to put myself on the line like that. I’ve already shown my hand to Lane once. I’m not going to do it again.

“I can’t believe you tattled to my agent.” I charge into the kitchen so I have something to do. Only I don’t know what. My mouth is still dry, so I get some water to distract myself.

“It was the only way I could think to get you to see how serious your situation is. You won’t listen to me, so I thought maybe you’d listen to him.”

“Clearly you think I’m a lost cause, so why are you still here?” My voice is raised now, something I have no control over. Because if I break down what I actually want to do, it’s not yelling at Lane.

It’s to march over to him, fall into his arms, and ask him to protect me with everything he has. To care about me. To want to see the other side of me—the one he knows I have. And he has to know I have it because why else would he have called Damon? Why else would he have risked his job? I know I’m not worth it, but it almost makes me want to be.

Lane stares at me for a few moments and then says, “Because it’s my job.”

Ouch.

Why does it feel like he’s punched me?

He says it’s because it’s his job, but what I hear is “Because I only care about the team.”

See? Damon’s wrong. And for me to actually believe for a second Lane could care about me as a person, not just a hockey player … I’m an idiot. Embarrassment washes over me.

“I can’t do this anymore,” I say.

“Can’t do what?”

“Everyone’s waiting for me to fuck up. To put that final nail in my coffin and lose hockey forever. Why won’t you let me do it?”

Lane stands and turns to face me. “Because you don’t want that.”

“How do you know it’s not what I want? How do you know I’m not ready to give it all up so I can become a fuckboy full-time. I have enough money to last me a lifetime. I don’t need hockey.” Except, I really, really do.

It’s the rejection I don’t need.

“Screw this,” I say and throw my hands up. “I’m going out. Don’t follow me.”

I storm out of the house, determined to go do something stupid to blow this whole thing up.

Because when it comes to rationality, I don’t have any left.


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