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Shameless Puckboy: Epilogue

OSKAR

OFF-SEASON

“ARE YOU READY?” I side-eye Aleks in the private elevator taking us to the Sky Room in the middle of New York City.

“I still can’t believe your PR department is letting you do this,” Lane says beside me.

“Technically, they don’t know, but I figure so long as it was on the down low …” Aleks runs a hand through his hair. “Shit, is this the wrong thing to do?”

“I’m keeping my mouth shut,” Lane says. “It’s not my job anymore.”

I backhand Aleks’s chest. “You should change agents. If you hire Damon for your next contract, you’ll get Lane thrown in, and then he could give his opinion on this.”

“Or he could offer it to me for free because he’s a nice and decent human being?”

I can’t deny he is that, but … “If you think he’s nice and decent, you should see what he does to me when I’ve been naughty.”

Lane tugs on my hand and talks over me. “Ignore him. If you want my professional opinion, coming to this event tonight is foolish, but not as foolish as, say—”

“Having a threesome with two guys in an alley,” I supply helpfully.

“Are you going to always bring that up?” Lane grumbles.

“I have fond memories of it.”

Lane glares at me, and I wrap my arms around him.

“Because it brought me you. Duh.”

He melts into my arms, but then I look over at Aleks with a subtle shake of my head and mouth, “So hot.”

“The elevator is reflective, asshole.” Lane looks up at me. “The love you have for me was so worth the cost of my career. Honestly. It hurts how much you love me.”

I lean in and say, “I can show you later how much I love you.”

“Eww, loved-up people,” Aleks says. “I’m finally free of monogamy. I’m going to spend the next few years spreading my seed far and wide. But, you know, metaphorically. I don’t actually want babies. Or STDs.”

I nod. “They’re not fun. Either of them.”

Aleks narrows his gaze at me. “It was chlamydia, wasn’t it?”

“The clap, actually. Hooray for azithromycin.”

“And this is why I checked his health records before ditching condoms,” Lane says.

“That sounds an awful lot like slut shaming, sir, and I will not stand for it.”

“Can I point out you were the one who brought up the threesome in the alley comment? I watched that CCTV footage about a billion times. No condoms anywhere.”

I pretend to be pissed, but he has a point. Before he came along, I did share the love and wasn’t always responsible. I was on PrEP, but that only goes so far. I was completely shameless and didn’t care about the consequences to my body or my life in general because I thought I was invincible.

While growing up sucks, I can say I have more self-worth than I ever have before, and it’s not because of falling in love with Lane. A man didn’t rescue me. He showed me what I could be. Who I could be.

But there will always be a bit of old me deep down. “I bet you jerked off to that footage a million times.”

Aleks steps forward and repeatedly hits the button for our floor. “This has got to be the slowest elevator in history.”

“Quick, he needs to make his escape from all this monogamy!” And fuck, those words are weird coming out of my mouth. Of all people.

Lane knocks his head against mine. “Ten bucks says Aleks falls for the first person he dates.”

“Not going to happen,” Aleks sings.

“It’s so going to happen,” I say.

The doors finally open, and we step out into a function room that has a terrace with an amazing view of the city skyline.

Hockey players are scattered throughout the entire venue. Everyone from the New York team is here, as well as some old dudes from Boston. Damon is with his partner at the bar, and there’s a group of giant Viking-looking Norse gods out on the terrace.

I spot the other guys from the Queer Collective in one corner, but before we can make a move over to them, Lennon, Ollie Stromberg’s partner, approaches and gives me a hug.

“Thanks for coming.”

“That’s what he—”

Lane pinches me. “Don’t.”

Yes, sir.

“We wouldn’t have missed Ollie’s retirement party for the world,” I say instead.

“New blood,” a booming voice sounds from behind Lennon.

We look up to see Ezra approaching us with Anton and a few other Collective guys trailing him.

“Yep. New blood.” I shove Aleks forward.

“No, I meant this one.” Ezra pulls Ayri Quinn from Buffalo next to him.

At that same moment, Westly Dalton appears with his partner, Jasper, and his younger brother, Asher.

“Do I really have to join this stupid thing?” Asher Dalton asks with a scowl on his face.

“Little Dalton!” Ezra yells and then tries to hug him.

Asher steps back. “What is our one rule?”

Ezra cocks his head. “Uh, not to touch you?”

“That’s right. This whole thing—” He waves his hand over his body. “—is off-limits to Ezra Palaszczuk.”

“Even on the ice?” Ezra asks.

“Even then.”

“I don’t think you know how hockey works,” Ezra says.

Anton possessively puts his hand behind Ezra’s back. “Okay, what story am I missing?”

West grins. “Do you really need us to draw you a picture?”

Anton turns to Ezra. “You had sex with West’s little brother, didn’t you?”

“It was years ago. Just one of many who didn’t come close to you.”

West and Asher turn to each other and in unison and very sarcastically say, “Ouch.” Then they burst out laughing.

Two bros sharing a dude? Hey, I’d be down for it, especially the Dalton brothers.

“Asher Dalton?” Ayri holds out his hand. “Heard you’re joining Buffalo. Will be good to have another queer guy on the team.”

They shake hands, and then Asher says to his brother with awe in his voice, “Ayri Quinn knows my name.”

A guy hovering behind Asher steps forward. “You know who else knows your name? Your boyfriend.”

Asher wraps his arm around the guy’s shoulders. “Ayri, this is my ball and chain, Kole.”

Kole smacks Asher’s chest.

“Oh, and I love him very, very much.”

Kole sighs.

“Wait, so we’re inducting three guys into the Queer Collective tonight?” I ask.

“And saying goodbye to one,” Anton says.

Ezra shakes his head. “We never say goodbye. Collective for life.”

Asher looks at West. “I used to think you were so cool, man. This feels very Babysitter Club.”

“I knew I caught you reading Hazel’s collection of those books,” West says. “You said she left them in your room.”

“Look at that, time for a drink.” Asher takes his boyfriend’s hand and drags him toward the bar.

“I’ll come with,” Ayri says.

And in true Collective tradition, we call out, “Macallan!”

“One for all of us,” Ezra adds. “It’s tradition.”

“You’re starting to get your wish, Ez,” I say. “We’re taking over the league. Three newbies at once?”

“It’s a shame those two play for Buffalo. We need one for each team, damn it, yet somehow we’ve ended up with two in Boston, two in Vegas, two in Buffalo, and you two in San Jose.”

Aleks and I look at each other, thinking of the news we shared before we got here.

My gaze moves to Lane, and he nods for me to tell them. These are my friends, and Lane was right when he said they also love me unconditionally. And it’s not like this will be shocking to them anyway.

“That’s not actually accurate,” I say. “Neither of us will be playing for San Jose next season.”

Everyone’s mouth drops. Eyes widen. Someone even squeaks, but I don’t know where it comes from.

“I didn’t renew my contract,” Aleks says. “The team not making the playoffs when we practically had it in the bag was bad enough, but I also didn’t like how they handled the Oskar and Lane situation. Management made the wrong choice there. Plus, they were lowballing me. And with Oskar being traded—”

“What?” everyone cuts in. It’s like the Collective share one brain.

“Oh, yeah. That’s my fun news. There had been rumors, and basically, Damon went to them and said I’d go quietly if they make a deal with a team on the West Coast because that’s where Lane will be.”

“Where did you get?” Ezra asks.

“Anaheim.”

Ez turns to Aleks. “Where are you going? If you say Anaheim too, I’ll kick your ass. We all need to be on board with this world domination thing.”

“You’re safe. I signed with Seattle.”

It sucks that Aleks is going to be that far away when we just became close, but that’s the game.

“Yes,” Ezra says excitedly. “It’s happening.”

“You know,” I point out, “you could take one for the Collective and sign with a different team than the one your boyfriend is on.”

Ezra frowns. “Why would I do that when I can ask you all to inconvenience your lives? That’s much easier for me. Duh.”

I snort.

Ayri, Asher, and Kole come back with Ollie, Soren, Foster, Foster’s partner, Tripp, and Dex. Damn, we really are starting to take over. There are two trays full of drinks, and we all take one.

“We all here?” Ezra asks.

“We are, but we need to keep the next part on the DL because this one isn’t officially out yet.” I point to Aleks.

Aleks shrugs. “Your boyfriend ain’t my PR rep anymore. I’m coming out, bitches.”

“Definitely foolish,” Lane mutters beside me.

“In that case.” Ezra holds up his glass of Macallan. “Cheero to being queero.”

“Yeah, that’s me out,” Asher says until his boyfriend nudges him. “Fine. Cheero to no labels though.”

“This toast gets longer and longer every year,” Ezra mutters.

“And also, here’s to Strömberg.” Anton lifts his glass. “For bowing out gracefully after the crap year he had.”

Ollie laughs. “Excuse me, but did anyone here make the playoffs this year?”

We glance around and realize none of our teams did.

“Well, shit. We need to fix that next season,” Ezra says. “Anton and I have already done our part by winning a Stanley Cup. And even though they weren’t together at the time, Tripp and Dex have a win too. Who’s next to bring the Cup home for the Collective?”

Anton leans in. “Can’t we just win again?”

Ezra lowers his voice, but we can still hear him. “Shh. We have to give these losers some kind of hope.”

“Just for that,” I cut in, “I say we all fight to knock Boston out of the running for the playoffs next year.”

“Now that, I’ll cheers to,” Asher says.

“Can we toast now?” Ezra asks. “Jesus Christ. You try to have a moment with your friends, and they ruin it by having more fun than you.”

I lift my glass. “Cheers.”

There’s a chorus of cheers, and we all drink down the smooth whiskey. Flashes go off, and if Aleks had any doubts about coming out, it’s too late now. I look around at my friends, at the whole ridiculous lot of us flying in to show Ollie our support, and I know, without a doubt, they’d do exactly the same for me.

We’re a messed-up—and thanks to Ezra, kinda incestuous—family, and I’m lucky to have them in my life.

“As my retirement gift,” Ollie says, “I want us all to hang out tonight. After all this mess of the media, my team, and my intrusive as fuck family out there”—he thumbs behind him to where the Norse gods are—“I want to hang with my people. It’s so rare we all get to be in the one room.”

Ezra lifts his glass. “Keep these coming, and you’ll never get rid of us.”

Lane leans in and whispers in my ear, “I don’t know if I’ll make it all night without giving you an orgasm.”

I’m about to tell everyone that we’re out, but then my boyfriend shocks the hell out of me.

“I might have to drag you into a bathroom stall and fuck your brains out while we’re here, then.”

My gaze flies to his. “Really?”

“Like Aleks said. I’m not your PR rep anymore.”

“Well, technically, you work for my agent, so—”

“Do you not want to have mostly public sex with me? Keep talking and make me second-guess myself.”

I groan. “You broke me. Old me wouldn’t have even cared about that technicality. I’d already be naked and bent over in a disgusting bathroom. You’ve ruined me.”

“Ruined you … made you less selfish. Same thing, right?”

I kiss his cheek. “You’ve ruined me in the best possible way.”


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