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Shameless Puckboy: Chapter 23

LANE

“YOU OKAY?” I ask Oskar as he buttons his shirt. It’s a deep blue, the kind of color that really suits him in a way that makes me want to take it right back off him again. I should get out of bed and dress as well, but I’m too busy basking in postorgasmic bliss.

“I think we both know I’m better than okay.” He winks in an overly sleazy way, and I give him a blank look.

“Not what I meant.”

He doesn’t reply, and I eye the tension in his hands and arms as he does up the final button. Oskar shakes out his limbs and drags a hand back through his hair, disturbing the style I fucked it into. Ever since we landed in Chicago, he’s been a little off.

“You’re way too stressed for someone who’s had two orgasms already today. Do I need to blow you again?”

That finally gets a smile. “Screw you for offering that right as we need to leave.” He adjusts himself. “You’ll be doing it the second we’re back though. You know how horny I get after a win.”

“And a loss,” I mutter but finally slip out of the sheets because he is right. We need to leave for the game.

He points at me. “Don’t even put that out there. Quick …” He raps his knuckles on the wooden side table while I pull on my clothes.

As far as hockey players go, Oskar’s not overly superstitious, but I’ve noticed a few things lately that have been sort of adorable. We’re getting close to playoffs, and San Jose is in with a decent shot as long as we can win at least half of the remaining games. Apparently, that can make even the most laid-back players cautious.

Someone pounds on the hotel room door. “You ready, Voyjik?”

Aleks. I temper my annoyance at the interruption. Oskar is going through something, and I wanted him to get it off his chest before he goes out there tonight, but I think Oskar would rather abstain from sex for a year than admit he might be feeling the pressure.

Oskar grabs his suit jacket and slings it over his arm. “You coming?”

I sit on the end of the bed to pull on my shoes and socks before I’m ready to get out there.

Before Oskar, I was at every single game like a good PR manager should be, but since taking on this new role of babysitting, I’ve been having Keerson watch the home games while I’ve caught up on work and delegated rising issues to my subordinates.

I’ve always paid attention, but with following Oskar everywhere he goes this season, I’ve spent more time focusing on him than the general game, and I’ve finally taken notice of Oskar in his prime. I thought everyone who’d sing Oskar’s praises before my self-imposed assignment with him were kiss-asses. I’d thought people were exaggerating his importance on the team as an excuse to dismiss his poor behavior. But I was wrong.

From the second Oskar hits the ice in every game, a special kind of magic takes over. Plays happen. We have more time in our offensive zone. The morale even seems to be boosted. It finally makes sense why San Jose is so determined to keep him.

I follow Oskar out into the hall, where Aleks gives me a friendly wave. It’s so hard to resist my urge to stare him down, to make it clear Oskar won’t be going anywhere near his dick, but Aleks is a San Jose player too, and it’s my job to be approachable.

“Good luck tonight.” I manage a quick nod back, then pull out my phone and walk ahead of them, blocking out their conversation. On the team bus to the arena, I sit as far from them as possible and try not to glance over every time Oskar’s laugh fills the space between us.

He’s rowdier than he was back at the hotel, and where some of the other guys have headphones in and are trying to block everyone out, Oskar’s only getting louder. That personality he’s taught himself is on full display.

I’m starting to recognize it for what it is: fake.

The broad smile hides his nervousness, and the false cocky attitude and snide remarks divert attention away from him in a way I’d never noticed before. I used to think of Oskar like gravity, constantly drawing people in, but that’s not totally accurate. No, it’s more like his exuberance creates an invisible barrier between him and everyone else. They can get close but never past it.

Except me. For some reason, Oskar’s let me in, and that’s not something I’m going to take lightly.

So fuck Aleks.

We pull up at the arena, and the players follow their coaches down to the locker room while I head upstairs. It’s still early, but a handful of the WAGs who travel with the team are here, and the bar is already open. I order a drink and wait.

The arena fills up slowly. First some of the diehard fans in the front rows, then gradually more and more people show up to take their seats.

My gaze drifts over the space as I sip my scotch and snags on the DJ booth over the arena. It’s not as high up as the one in San Jose, but unlike the team box, it’s relatively obscured from view.

A wild idea takes root in my mind.

I pocket it for later as both teams file out onto the ice for a warm-up skate. My gaze is immediately drawn to Oskar. There’s something so sexy about him in that uniform, which doesn’t make sense to me, considering the majority of his body is hidden beneath the bulky pads. His strong legs are obvious even from up here though, and I greedily watch them as he speeds up and slows down before turning in a sudden stop.

“Lane, how are you?”

I jump at the familiar voice and glance over at Mick, completely surprised to see him here. It’s not that owners don’t travel with their teams sometimes, but more that he doesn’t. I hurry to pull my shit together and shake his offered hand.

“I’m great. Surprised to see you out of San Jose.”

He gestures to the arena around us. “We’re getting close, and I wanted to experience a different atmosphere.”

The reasoning seems flimsy but is probably half-true. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was here talking business with Chicago’s owners or other businessmen, but that kind of thing is well above my pay grade. Mick has no need to be following up on me when Oskar’s been coasting under the radar the last few weeks. He gestures to seats toward the glass window and sits beside me. “Think we’ll take out the win?”

“Oskar’s confident. Chicago has come off two good games though.”

“True, but we’re ranked higher than them.”

He’s right, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Chicago needs to win most of their remaining games to make the playoffs, so I can imagine they’re going to go out there and play hard.

“Speaking of Voyjik …” Mick says, and I immediately tense. “He’s been quiet lately.”

Suspicion prickles the back of my neck at the way Mick’s casual tone doesn’t sound so casual. “He has been. He’s trying.”

“I have to say, the complete one-eighty has given me whiplash.”

I force a laugh. “So first he’s too much of a problem, and now he’s being too good?” No wonder Oskar hates it when I do that to him.

“Of course not.” He takes a long sip of his beer. “Just want to know what magic you’ve pulled on him.”

“No magic. I reasoned with him.”

“And that worked?”

I shrug. “Seems to have, doesn’t it?”

“It does.” He gives a quick shake of his head. “I never thought Voyjik was the type of man who could be reasoned with.”

I play up the smug angle to try and get him to drop the conversation. “I simply reminded him how easily he could lose the one thing he loves. Oskar is hockey. Completely. And the thought of losing that—and, yes, of having me shadow him every waking moment of his life—has helped reframe his perspective.”

“Well, at any rate, I’m glad it’s working. I never thought we’d see months go by without Voyjik’s bare ass splashed all over the internet.”

I laugh at that, partially from what he says but mostly from relief because the fishing tone he was using has completely disappeared. “I have to agree with you.”

Mick holds out his drink, and I knock mine against it.

“How long do you think you’ll need to continue shadowing him?” Mick asks. “As much as I love that this plan has worked, it’s not the greatest message for the team to have our PR manager out of action on one player. It also weakens some of the argument that Voyjik is a changed man.”

That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?

If my professional self were to answer, it would be easy. Oskar understands the position he’s in; he’s putting in the effort, and with all his focus currently on hockey anyway, there’s no real reason for me to keep this up. I should be loosening the reins, pulling back, giving him freedom to prove he can do this on his own.

The emotional, private side of me says fuck that. I’m not done with him yet.

The scary part is it’s not even entirely about the sex. Oskar hasn’t completely opened up to me yet, and I want him to. I want him smashed open like a walnut. I want him to break down that huge-ass barrier he surrounds himself with and let me in willingly.

I clear my throat as the pregame show starts and lift my voice above all the noise. “I’m being cautious. I think we should ride out the rest of this season, and then we can work out where to go from there.”

“I don’t know, Lane.” Mick’s eyebrows pull together. “We’ve got Emerson’s divorce that needs to be managed, and I wasn’t happy with how Carlov’s two-week ban was handled by Keerson. The sooner you’re back full-time, the better.”

“I disagree,” I bite back. I shouldn’t have, but I can’t stop my mouth.

A heavy silence falls over us, despite the roar in the arena all around, and it’s like I can feel his disapproval from here. His annoyance at being argued with.

“It’s probably best you’re free for playoffs,” Mick says. “We’ll need all hands on deck to make sure the team is focused and talked about for the right reasons. Voyjik isn’t our only player.”

“Could have fooled me.”

We hold stares for a moment, because while I knew we were getting to that point, I’d told myself I could drag this out until the end of the season. I’d counted on having that time. A few weeks isn’t enough.

Enough time for what I’m not really sure. I just know the weight sitting on my chest is making me feel reckless.

Mick shifts. “I’m glad we agree. Game’s starting.”

I turn to the ice and pretend to concentrate when really, I’m trying to devise a way for Oskar to get enough attention that he’s not in trouble but still clearly needs me. And how fucked-up is that? He’s finally taking the steps everyone wants him to, and I’m sitting here selfishly wanting to jeopardize that to keep him all to myself.

It’s not like I can tell Mick the only reason he’s stopped sleeping around is because he’s doing it with me instead, can I? I’d actually like to keep my job.

No. There are no options. Oskar wants me as much out of his business as Mick does, no matter how much he might enjoy being railed by me. Sex is easy to come by for Oskar Voyjik, and I’d foolishly hoped I could offer him something else.

Now, it’s too late.

I lean forward, elbows on my knees, as the game gets started.

My scotch is forgotten, and instead, I give Oskar my full attention. I let myself watch him shamelessly, drinking in every powerful move, every steal, every time he rams another player into the boards. He belongs out there. It’s beautiful.

The stress of playoffs might be building, but you’d never know it with the way he moves. It’s like he can do no wrong. With the first line change, Chicago sneaks one past our goalie, but as soon as our first line returns, Oskar sets up the perfect assist, allowing Aleks to sink one in the back of the net.

They hug, along with half of the team, but my stare only follows them. The reminder of their kiss causes this pang in my chest, and I clench my jaw hard against it.

Just a few weeks.

Once I’m out of the picture, Oskar can do whatever and whoever he likes. Though with Aleks’s divorce, I’m sure I can interfere between those two, at least for a little longer. My lips hitch in a half smile as I picture all the ways I can cockblock Oskar without him even knowing.

Game passes quickly below, and we’re approaching the end of the first period with the score tied up at one apiece when Chicago takes off on a breakaway. Oskar flies after Rostel, pushing fast to catch up, Aleks right behind him. Rostel makes the shot—my heart hits my throat—but the puck rebounds off the crossbar.

I barely have time to exhale before it happens.

Rostel and Oskar both go for the puck, but with Aleks’s momentum, he can’t pull up in time. All I see is a three-way collision. A mess of jerseys and limbs, someone hitting the ice.

Aleks slams into the boards and is straight back up again, but Rostel is sluggish when he pushes onto his hands and knees. Oskar is facedown on the ice.

I wait, one second, then two …

The hell, Oskar? Get up.

Play stops.

He’s faking. He wants the penalty. Any second now …

Aleks starts toward Oskar, but the ref gets there first. Bends down. Signals for help.

Rostel staggers to his skates, and when he shifts, all I see is the smear of reddish pink over the ice.

Aleks is frozen, hands gripping the top of his helmet. The team gathers closer. The crowd is on their feet, craning necks, noise getting louder.

And I’m too goddamn far away. Helpless. Panicked. Gut in knots, hands clenched, every part of me willing the asshole to get to his fucking feet.

He doesn’t.


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