We are taking book requests on our companion website. You can request books here. Make sure, you are following the rules.

Shameless Puckboy: Chapter 29

LANE

AFTER THE GAME, another devastating loss, Oskar can barely look at his team and heads straight home rather than out to drown his sorrows. But instead of us splitting off into separate bedrooms like usual, he wordlessly takes my hand and leads me into his room.

Which is how my obnoxiously loud ringtone wakes us both the next morning. Oskar groans and lifts his head to pull out his pillow and smother his face with it, but then he remembers his injury and throws it across the room. I force myself up, blinking sleep from my eyes as I reach for my phone and swipe to answer.

“’ello?”

“Lane, Mick here.”

That wakes me up properly. “Hey, what do you need?” I’m tallying all the ways one of the players could have gotten up to shit after their loss last night before he even answers.

“A meeting. This morning would be preferable.”

“Who is it?” Oskar’s raspy voice asks.

My gaze flicks over to where he’s resurfaced, and I make a slashing noise at my throat.

“Better bring Voyjik too,” he says, and then the line goes dead.

Motherfucker. I stare at the phone in my hand, knowing that whatever he has to say won’t be good, and if he wants Oskar there …

He knows. A month ago and it could have been fifty-fifty between that and Oskar doing something Oskar-like, but he’s been behaving himself. He’s been with me all night.

Somehow, Mick has figured it out.

The only question left is how I’m going to play this. We’ve been careful even when we’ve been riskier than is sensible, so there’s no possible way someone could have seen us. I checked that there were no cameras in the DJ booth, and no matter what I said to Oskar, the mic definitely wasn’t on while we were in there.

So … how? And if there’s no proof, do I deny it to try to keep my job? Walk away from Oskar in just over a week and pretend like none of this ever happened? Going back to work means moving back into my place and then sneaking around. That’s if Oskar wants something with me at all. And after all that, I still might end up fired.

So my choices are to end it … or pick him. Give everything up for a man whose feelings are totally unknown. The truth is, Oskar is a complete gamble. He’s too much like my exes. I could walk out of this meeting with no job and no Oskar.

“Hey …” His warm hand rests on my shoulder, and I pull in a long breath. “What’s going on?”

“Mick wants a meeting with us. Both of us.”

“But I haven’t done anything.”

I turn to give him a look. “I think we both know what this is.”

“No way.” Oskar sits up, shaking his head. “There’s no way we could have been caught.”

“I’m open to suggestions, but I think we probably need to be prepared for that conversation.”

“Prepared how?”

If that’s what it’s about, do we confirm or deny?”

“Deny, of course.” He scowls. “You’ll be fired.”

“Like I said, I went into this knowing the risks.”

He swallows and looks away, and then he reaches for my hand. His is warm and large in mine. Comforting. “We deny it unless they have black-and-white photographic evidence. Which they won’t because we’ve been careful. You’re the best at what you do, and the team needs you. I don’t want you to lose it all for me.”

I give him a dry look. “Yes, unscrupulous PR managers are hard to come by.”

“I can’t believe I’m the one wanting to actually be serious here. If you’re fired …”

I won’t be picked up by another team. He doesn’t say it, but he doesn’t need to. Sleeping with one of the players when I’m the one responsible for their reputations won’t look good on my resume.

“We’ll see what happens. It might not even be about that.” I climb out to find some clothes when Oskar walks over and takes my shirt from my hands and lays it over the side of the bed.

“This is the plan. We deny until we can’t any longer. Then if it comes to it, I’ll say I pressured you into it.”

I recoil. “Not a chance.”

“It’s the only way for you to get out of it.”

“Yeah, and possibly get you arrested.”

“Not if you’re unwilling to press charges.”

I step closer and cup his face, careful of his healing scar. “I will never, ever say it. And if you try to, I’ll tell them everything.”

“So stubborn.” He scowls and steps away from me. “My reputation will barely take a hit from this. Maybe I’ll be traded, who knows? But you’ll lose everything you’ve worked for. They’ll think you fucking preyed on me or something.”

“I won’t tell them that you forced me.”

“Okay, maybe not that. But if we have to admit it, and only if we have to admit it … we’ll end it.”

My heart beats faster. “What?”

“Yeah.” He’s nodding to himself. “If denying it doesn’t work, then we’ll cut all ties and keep the whole thing quiet so long as you’re allowed to keep your job.”

“That’s what you want?”

“If it keeps you out of trouble, then yes.”

I study his face for a moment. The clenched jaw, pleading eyes. He’s completely serious about this.

I shove the invading emotions down. “We’ll hope it doesn’t come to that.”

We’re mostly quiet as we drive to the San Jose facilities, and Oskar’s hand doesn’t leave my thigh once. I’m grateful for the connection, but I’m determined for us to get out of this intact. As nervous as I am, it helps to go back over every time we’ve been together in my head because the more I do, the more I’m sure they’ve got jack shit when it comes to us.

I pull into a parking space and give Oskar’s hand a squeeze before he can withdraw it. “We’re okay,” I say. “They’ve got nothing, and as soon as we’re done here, we’re going to fuck the afternoon and all this stress away.”

He finally grins over at me. “You know me far too well. I think you’re my soul mate.”

I bark a laugh, ignoring the longing swoop in my gut at what was obviously a joke, and jump out of the car, trying to stamp down the nerves. This is just another meeting, probably about Oskar’s career with nothing at all to do with us. It could be a trade for all I know; even though the likelihood of Mick being the one to deliver the news is low, it could happen. Maybe.

Positive vibes only.

I school my face into its politely detached, professional mask and hold the door open for Oskar to pass. Then we take the elevator up to Mick’s floor, and I force down a deep breath before knocking.

“Come in.”

Oskar flicks his messy hair back and nods at me that he’s ready.

We’ve got this.

My footsteps falter slightly when I walk in and see Keerson sitting on Mick’s side of the table. He throws me a confused sort of half smile, like he doesn’t know what he’s doing here any more than we do.

“Thank you for coming on short notice,” Mick says, standing and offering his hand. “I’m sure you had better things to do with your day.”

“Better than meeting with the man who pays my salary?” Oskar asks. “No such thing.”

Mick chuckles and gestures for us to have a seat, and his relaxed demeanor gives me hope. Until he claps his hands over his gut and leans back into his chair, the way I’ve seen him do a handful of times. “Look, we’re here to clear up a little confusion, and I’ve asked Keerson to be here for the discussion on the off chance we need the PR department involved.”

“Excuse me for interrupting,” I say. “But aren’t I capable of representing my own department?”

“That remains to be seen. Last night Roe, our game DJ, reported that the two of you had been in the DJ booth during intermission and you were acting strangely. He was concerned that equipment may have been stolen or tampered with. As he didn’t want to be made liable should that be the case, he asked security to review the footage.”

My gut sinks through my ass. There were no cameras in that booth. Fuck, was there? Is it possible I missed something? If I did, that’s going to make our plan of denying things a whole lot harder. I guess there’s no more hoping the conversation was going to go any other way.

Mick turns his monitor so we can see the screen, and it doesn’t escape my notice that this is similar to the first conversation I had with Oskar before everything got started. He was a whole lot more cocky then than he is now. Now, his hands are clasped between his knees, trying to look casual, but the tension in his fists says otherwise.

I want to reach for his hand so badly, but that would only make the situation worse.

“I’m hoping we can clarify what’s happening here.” Mick hits Play right as Oskar and I step out of the DJ booth into the hall and burst into laughter. I almost sigh in relief. There’s no evidence there. Or, at least, that’s what I think before the me on the screen steps forward, presses close to Oskar, and touches his face.

There’s nothing friendly about the exchange. There’s nothing friendly about our expressions. We’re looking at each other like … fuck, how hadn’t I noticed that Oskar looks at me like that? Viewing this from the outside makes me uncomfortably aware of how unsubtle we really have been.

Mick hits Pause as we disappear down the hall, and then he sits back again, hands rested over his stomach.

No one talks, and I know with every disappearing second that I’m quickly losing credibility for whatever I can come up with.

“I thought it would distract him,” I say before I’ve even worked out where I’m going with this. “He was getting too worked up during the game, so I thought taking him somewhere away from the team’s sponsors was a good idea.”

“Which explains what you were doing in there but doesn’t tell me what … this was.”

And considering I spin stories into a positive light for a living, it really shouldn’t be this hard to respond.

“I said my face hurt, so he was checking it,” Oskar blurts. “From the laughing. The laughing, uh, hurt it …”

I want to groan, but I guess that’s what we’re rolling with. “I was checking his wound.”

“I didn’t realize you were a doctor.”

“No, but I’ve seen Oskar every day since he got injured, so I’d notice if there were any changes.”

Keerson’s eyebrows scrunch as his gaze flicks from the screen to me and then onto Oskar. “His injury isn’t even on that side.”

That little … I bite off my need to tell him to keep his stupid mouth closed.

“Well, he’s not going to touch that, is he?” Oskar throws back, eyeing Keerson like he’s shit under his skate.

“But why did he need to touch you at all?”

“I was reassuring him,” I say, an edge to my voice, telling him to drop it. “If you haven’t noticed, the team has been choking.”

Keerson still looks conflicted though. He sends a concerned look my way and mouths, What are you doing?

I turn my attention back to Mick. “What exactly did you think was happening here?”

“Exactly what it looks like.”

“Which is?”

“You and Voyjik have been close the last few months. Then with his injury, you refused to leave his side, held hands in that hospital room, I’m told, took a trip together to Vermont—”

“That was for a charity event, which I had cleared before we left. Just say what you mean.”

“Well, you can’t claim that my reasons for looking at this and speculating that you’re in some kind of relationship are unfounded.”

“We are in a relationship. That of PR manager and player.”

“Come on,” Keerson scoffs. “Since when has Voyjik cared about that?”

“Keerson—”

“No, I’m sorry, Lane, but we all know exactly what this looks like. I knew he was playing you. I told you to be careful.” Keerson turns to Mick. “You can’t keep letting Voyjik off the hook because he’s a good player. He’s never cared about the team, and this proves it.”

“Fuck you. Of course I care about the team,” Oskar throws back so professionally.

“Things are getting heated.” I send a sharp look Oskar’s way. “Oskar hasn’t done anything—”

“Bullshit.” Keerson turns back to me, eyes pleading. “Don’t go down for him. You’re the best PR manager we’ve had, and I knew he’d try something like this. I knew it had to be something for Voyjik to do a complete one-eighty. At what point is enough enough?” He glares at Mick. “He’s clearly coerced Lane into this—”

“If we go by footage alone, I’d say it looks like the complete opposite. Lane’s the one who swiped into that booth, and he’s also the one who approached Voyjik in the hall.”

I try not to react as I realize it looks exactly like that.

“There have been sexual harassment claims all over the NHL, and the last thing this team needs is that kind of scandal,” Mick continues calmly. “How am I to know everything that happened was consensual?”

“Of course it was consensual,” Oskar snaps. “Lane could never force me to do anything I didn’t want to.”

Oh, holy shit.

“Oskar …”

“No.” He glares at me. “You won’t let them say anything negative about me. They’re not doing the same to you.”

“So it’s true?” Mick says.

“See?” Keerson stands, pointing right at Oskar. “He had one more chance, and he’s blown it.”

Mick doesn’t immediately answer, and I know exactly what he’s thinking. Ever since Oskar’s been off the ice, they haven’t won a game. Oskar truly does hold this team together. Before Mick can say anything, I play into those fears.

“There’s no way you can fire him,” I say. “I don’t care what you do to me, but you know that you’re fucked without him. Do you really want that kind of publicity? Heading into the construction of a new facility, and all anyone is going to be able to talk about is San Jose choking before playoffs and starting next season on a losing streak.”

“Anything can be spun positively,” Keerson says, trying to reason with me. And I get it. Oskar has been nothing more than a pain in his ass the entire time he’s worked for this department. He made a fool of him when Keerson was his minder and didn’t care how Keerson’s career was affected by Oskar constantly giving him the slip. “But no one in this room can tell me Voyjik deserves to be on this team over every other hockey player who’s busting their ass to make it to the NHL.”

Oskar goes to respond, but I cut him off.

“And that’s where you’re wrong. Oskar has always given one hundred percent when it comes to hockey, and the last few months, he’s worked his ass off to do exactly what we asked of him and cleaned up his image. Plus, with the injury and his stats, he’s San Jose’s golden boy. Do you really want to fire someone on the IR list? Anything can be spun positively when all parties are quiet, but if it got out that …” I whistle. “Oskar refused to get the plastic surgery he was being pressured to get and ended up fired …” I shrug and sit back in my seat.

“I don’t like your tone, Lane,” Mick says.

“No tone from me. All I’m saying is that if Oskar’s fired, I can’t control him anymore. Who knows what he’d do?”

As Oskar clues in to what I’m implying, the knowing look he sends me is evil as he links his hands behind his head. “I always have had trouble keeping things private.”

“There’s no need anyway because I have no plans to fire him.” Mick huffs.

What?” Keerson cries. “Does he have to murder someone to face any consequences at all?”

“There’ll be consequences.” Mick turns to me, face drawn. “You know I can’t allow for this kind of thing to go on.”

“I do,” I croak.

Then Mick does the worst thing imaginable. He stares at me with defeated sympathy. “If anyone found out, there’d be all kinds of speculation ranging from consent to the ethics—”

“I understand.”

Keerson’s mouth drops. “You’re firing Lane? Is this a joke? He’s the best there is.”

I want to point out that sleeping with a player probably doesn’t support that theory.

“No way,” Oskar says before Mick can say anything. “Let me make this simple. You fire him, I walk.”

“Your contract—”

“Fuck the contract. What are you going to do? Make me pay the money back? Not like I spend any of it anyway. You going to tattle on me to the press? It’s just same shit, different day. No one will care.” Oskar laughs bitterly. “I think my stellar reputation can take the hit.”

“What are you doing?” I hiss at him.

He waves my concern away and glares at Mick. “Call my bluff. I dare you.”

Mick holds up his hand. “Can everyone take a breath? I never mentioned firing him.”

He didn’t?

He heaves a deep breath and looks over at me. “It’s up to you, but my hands really are tied here. You can stay with the team if this whole thing ends right this second and not a word of it gets out. If you can’t agree to that, then I’ll be forced to let you go.”

“Fine. Agreed. It’s over.” Oskar lifts his hands like it’s a done deal. “Can we go home now?”

Mick ignores him. “Lane?”

And I know this is what Oskar thought we agreed to earlier. I know this is an easy out. Walk away with my career and reputation intact.

But is any of it worth it without him?

I already know the answer to that question.

It was back in his room when Oskar said for us to end this so I could keep my career that solidified my decision. He meant every word—but it was the words he didn’t say that spoke louder. When I asked him if it’s what he wanted, his response?

If it keeps you out of trouble, then yes.

Because he doesn’t want to end this. What he wants is what’s best for me.

Oskar put me first.

So I’m sure as hell going to do the same with him. Because maybe what’s best for me … is him.

I stand and hold out my hand to Mick. “Thank you for meeting with us. Please take this as the start of my two weeks’ notice, but I’ll have my official resignation to you by this afternoon. It’s been a real honor to work here.”

Then I turn on my heel and leave before anyone can stop me.


Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Options

not work with dark mode
Reset