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Shameless Puckboy: Chapter 22

OSKAR

AFTER KILLER BACK-TO-BACKS where we very narrowly take out the wins, I have a rare day with no practice. I’ve spent the morning lying on the couch, alternating between icing everything that hurts and putting heat on it, and every time Lane looks at me, he tries to hide his amusement, but I know he’s laughing on the inside.

I don’t hate it as much as I should.

“I heard Caleb Sorensen say when everything hurt, that’s when he knew it was time to retire.”

“Fuck you. That word isn’t allowed in this house. Also, hockey is pain, so that excuse from him was bullshit. He really retired to follow his famous husband on tour.”

“Someone’s protesting a little too hard about how much pain he’s in. Do you have any other plans than feeling sorry for yourself today?”

“Yeah, I have to hit the weight room at some point, but that’s it. We have two rare days off to prepare for this next road trip.”

“Which has another back-to-back up first,” Lane adds. “And then the fundraiser in Vermont, followed by the game in Montreal.”

I groan. “Don’t remind me.”

It’s that part of the year where there are only a few weeks left of the regular season, so we’re all exhausted yet scrambling for those top spots to head into the playoffs.

“We should do something fun today.”

My ears perk up. “Sex? I’m ready.” I dump my ice packs on the floor and go to lower my sweats.

“I was more thinking of going out to have fun.”

I sit up, my excitement growing. “Strip club? Ooh, BDSM club? Do you want to pass me around and watch me get used by a room full of—”

“Why when I give an inch do you take a mile?”

“Firstly, your dick is impressive, but no way is it a mile long. And secondly, you say fun, I think sex. What else could it be?”

“Get changed out of your sweats and find out.”

Hmm, to get up or to keep lying here feeling sorry for myself. It’s a tough one because the first intrigues me, but my couch is really comfortable. And why, when I joke about being shared, does the thought hold little appeal anymore?

I stand. “Okay, show me this super-fun time.” After I change and we get in the car, Lane drives us to the mall and parks right outside …

“Dave & Buster’s? I think we have different ideas of what constitutes as fun. I can’t believe I put on underwear for this.”

“Come on. Where’s your childhood spirit?”

“Thinking about hookers and debauchery.” I lean forward and stare up at the sign through the windshield.

“Sometimes, I think I give you far too much credit.”

Me too, Lane. Me too.

“I figured being a military brat, you didn’t do much of this as a teenager,” he says, and he’s right.

I was never invited to parties, didn’t have many friends. It felt like we were never in the one place long enough for me to make connections. Much like in my hockey career where I keep getting moved.

“My guess from what you’ve told me is you didn’t do a lot of things most kids did. So I brought you here to do all those things.”

Damn it. Why did he have to go and make this a good thing? I was prepared to hate it.

“Okay, let’s get this over with.” I get out of the car and head for the entrance.

Lane follows me inside and says, “Where to first?”

“Bar. Duh.”

“Nope. No drinking.”

“How is any of this going to be fun if I’m not at least a little buzzed?”

He turns to me. “Are you trying to tell your PR agent that you could be an alcoholic?”

“Yes, because I drink so, so much. All the time,” I say dryly.

“Is it bad I half wish you did have an addiction of some kind? At least then it would be easy to handle the media. The threesome in the alleyway was because of a sex addiction. Send you away to rehab, come back out all fresh and acting like a choirboy.” Lane taps his chin. “On second thought, would you be willing to fake an addiction? It would make my job a lot easier.”

“No,” I say immediately. “Especially not a sex addiction. I think celebrities who are caught out sleeping around one too many times are too quick to jump on that for an excuse. It adds to that stigma about sex being shameful when it’s not.”

“Sex addiction is real, by the way.”

“I know, but someone needing it and doing it through any means necessary and someone enjoying it with as many people as he wants are two completely different things.”

Lane nods. “I agree with you, and I was only joking about the addiction thing.”

“Were you?”

“Sort of. But no, really, you’re right. We need to clean your image up with the truth.”

I open my arms wide. “Please tell me how this is the truth?”

“Take away hockey, sex, and booze—”

“Kill me now. Just end it. I don’t want to live anymore.”

Lane backhands me in the chest, and I pretend his pathetic slap hurts, but I can’t keep a straight face.

“Stop being dramatic,” Lane says.

“I can’t help it. It’s who I am.”

“No. It’s not.” Lane’s words are said with such conviction, like he knows that’s not the real me, but that’s not possible. He moves closer now, almost pressing against me to the point if people were looking, they’d probably take notice of our proximity. “Here you can be you.”

I lower my head and my voice. “You say that like I’m not always who I am. I am hockey and cheap hookups.”

“But that’s not all you are,” Lane says, and he’s so confident, I almost want to believe he’s right. In my experience, people only hang around for two reasons: my looks or my ridiculous, over-the-top, fun nature. Sure, those people aren’t worth being permanent, but I’m not worth it either, so it works. But Lane doesn’t think that personality is me, and he’s trying to bring out some good person he thinks exists. If I do that, what then? Am I pretty enough for him to stick around for, or will he get bored of me like everyone else?

“I don’t know what else I am,” I admit.

As if admitting to something he has wanted to hear all along, Lane softens. “Well, why don’t we figure it out?” He looks out at the arcade. “Maybe Oskar Voyjik is a slut, great at hockey, annnnd …” His gaze moves around the room. “A Skee-Ball champion.”

I glance at the games and then back at Lane. I have no idea what Skee-Ball or bowling or video games have to do with who I am on the inside, but we’re here now, and I’ll give it a go. “You’re on.”

But it becomes apparent quickly that Skee-Ball is not my game.

“Skee-Ball champion, you are not.” Lane laughs when my first two tries earn me absolutely zero points.

“I can get it,” I say. “I just need to practice.” I roll another ball, and it goes nowhere near one of the holes with a score on it. “Or not. I think you need to be extra talented to score as low as I am.”

Lane takes his turn on the ramp beside me, and just when I think he’s gone too far left and will get zero like me, the ball shoots up the ramp and lands in the hole in the top corner, scoring one hundred points. “I guess I’m not that talented.”

“Why won’t my stupid balls get in my stupid hole?”

Lane snorts, and I turn to him, wondering what’s so funny.

He shrugs. “You want your balls to go in your hole. It’s an … interesting image.”

“I thought I was supposed to be the immature one?”

“Oh, come on. One snigger at balls in holes, and suddenly, I’m more immature than you?”

“No. Bringing me here and making me play stupid games that I suck at means you’re more immature than me.”

“You really hate losing, don’t you?” Lane asks.

“I’m a hockey player. We all hate losing.”

“Okay, Mr. Hockey Player. How about we play some air hockey? Maybe your hockey talent extends off the ice?”

Spoiler: It does not.

No matter what I do to try to stop the little air puck thingy from going in my goal, Lane shoots it right past me. Seven times in a fucking row.

He leans on the table. “I think that’s what you guys in the biz call a shutout.”

“How are you so good at these games?”

“Well …” He rounds the table and approaches me. “You weren’t the only one with a not-so-fun school experience. I don’t exactly know how the popularity chain worked while you were growing up, but while you were moving around the country playing hockey everywhere and being all ‘Go, Sports, Go,’ us nerdier, non-gorgeous gay kids would go to the arcade on weekends with our other equally nerdy friends because being good at something made us feel better about being losers.” The sadness in his stare, the soft tone in his voice … they make me want to kiss it away and have him go back to gloating.

I swallow hard and then screw up my face. “Eww.”

“Eww?”

“Yeah. I almost felt …” I fake gag. “Sympathy for you there.”

“Oh no! What’s the world coming to?”

We’re smiling at each other before I realize it’s happening.

“What did you want to play next?” he asks.

I glance around. “There has to be something here I’m better at than you, and we’re not leaving until we find it.”

“Or until you can’t put off weight training any longer.”

I snap my fingers and point at him. “Or that. But there has to be something.” One of those old-school games where you have to throw balls at clowns that fall catches my eye. “The clowns.” I point.

“Are you sure?” Lane asks in that kind of way where I immediately know I’ve picked wrong.

He kicks my ass at that, human-size Hungry Hungry Hippos, and even good ol’ pinball.

“I think I’ve worked out something else that you are,” Lane says when we’re almost out of time to play.

“What’s that?”

He steps in so close I can feel his breath on my lips, and then his eyes flutter, his gaze locking with mine. “You’re an even bigger loser than I was.” Then his lips quirk, and I can’t help myself.

I burst out laughing, and somehow, even though he’s insulting me, it makes me feel somewhat accepted. Warmth fills me, and I’m lit up with a weird kind of connection I’ve never felt before. It makes me soften toward him. Makes me want more. It’s strong and fierce, and so fucking terrifying.


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