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The Pucking Wrong Guy: Chapter 20


A few days after the game, one of the gossip magazines released an article about Ari’s homecoming…and most of it was about me.

‘Ari Lancaster’s New Obsession: Love, Scandal, and Secrets’

In recent weeks, the spotlight has been firmly fixed on the budding romance between Cobras star defenseman Ari Lancaster and the enigmatic beauty, Blake Shepfield. Their whirlwind relationship has captured the attention of fans and gossip enthusiasts alike, but it seems that behind their passionate love affair, there may be more than meets the eye.

Blake, a stunning and talented model with Elevate Models, has become a fixture at Ari’s side, both on and off the ice. Her striking beauty and confident demeanor have led many to wonder about the mysterious woman who has captured the heart of the hockey sensation. However, as rumors swirl, so does speculation about her past…including a scandalous family history.

Ms. Shepfield’s life has been marked by personal tragedy. In a story that seems right out of a dark drama, police records revealed her father murdered her mother after an illicit affair was discovered. The sordid past of her family raises questions about the baggage she might be carrying into her new relationship.

Does Ari Lancaster know about this? It’s the question of the hour…but what’s perhaps even more shocking is the gossip that Ms. Shepfield might have walked in her mother’s footsteps. Sources whisper that she maintained a boyfriend back in her hometown while becoming romantically involved with Lancaster. If these rumors are to be believed, it could spell trouble for their seemingly blissful union.

While Blake has been spotted at Ari’s side at various events and games, insiders claim that Ari might be unaware of her alleged infidelity. The phrase ‘once a cheater, always a cheater’ has been making its rounds, leaving fans and critics alike speculating about the longevity of their relationship.

As their relationship continues to unfold before our eyes, only time will tell whether Ari Lancaster and Blake’s love story will defy the odds or succumb to the rumors that threaten to unravel their newfound romance. In the world of celebrity and sports, one thing is for certain: the drama never ceases, and the truth may be harder to uncover than a puck in a crowded rink.

I stared at my computer screen, my heart literally aching in my chest. Why had I decided to google my name right before work? There was no way the press wasn’t going to find out about Clark, especially as Ari’s fame grew. But how had they found out about my parents? The Shepfields had paid tons of money to get rid of my past.

I wiped away some tears and hurried to get to work. Everything was fine. Just because it was written…didn’t make it real.

But I also found myself in the bathroom, forcing myself to throw up before I left.

Because bad habits were hard to get rid of.

A few hours later, I was at work, balancing a tray laden with dishes as I moved between the crowded tables of the restaurant, my eyes darting from one customer to the next. It was a chaotic evening, the kind that kept me on my toes and thankfully gave me little time to dwell on anything else. Another hour and I’d be off, and back with Ari.

I groaned to myself because I sounded like a lovesick, besotted fool.

Those thoughts were also terrifying though…because the deeper I got into this, the more I had to lose.

“You have a new table,” Marnie, one of the hostesses, told me as she passed by. My coworkers had been giving me speculating glances all shift. Especially her.

Signing, I looked over and froze, my blood seeming to thicken in my veins.

The perfectly coiffed hair, the eyes filled with disdain as she stared around the restaurant like it had personally offended her.


Months of progress unraveled just staring at her in person. I hadn’t even been looking at the texts she’d been sending lately, because I knew they’d just be full of condescending, hurtful comments about how I’d fucked up my life.

Evidently she had decided to bring the messages to me personally.

I tried to summon every ounce of professionalism in me since I knew she wouldn’t hesitate to complain and try to get me fired if I reacted, but my hands trembled as I placed the menu in front of her.

Maura’s eyes bore into mine, and there was a cruel glint in her gaze.

‘Well, well,’ she said with a condescending smirk, ‘if it isn’t my daughter, the failure.’ She glanced around the room. “This is quite the fall from grace….isn’t it.”


“That wasn’t a question,” she sneered, her cold eyes studying me.

I fought to keep my composure, but her words cut deep. ‘Maura,’ I managed to say, a slight shake in my voice, ‘what can I get you to drink tonight?’

She laughed, a cruel, mocking sound. ‘Alright, I’ll play along. A martini, extra dry. If this place can even make one.’

“Of course,” I murmured as I turned away, because only Maura Shepfield would say that in what was obviously a five star restaurant.

I clenched my jaw, struggling to maintain my professionalism.

Walking to the bar, I stiffly gave my order. Pete, one of the bartenders, gave me a quizzical look, obviously confused about my zombie routine. He handed me the drink. “You okay?”

“Yeah, fine,” I whispered, taking a deep breath as I walked back to Maura’s table.

“Here you go.” I set the drink on the table, trying to ignore the knowing, amused look on her face.

“You know, Blake, we always hoped you didn’t have the same genes as your worthless parents. We discussed it for days before we adopted you, the chance you might end up…like this.”

“Have you decided what you want to eat?” I spit, trying to stop her vitriol.

But she wasn’t going to stop until she’d said all she wanted.

“Look at you. You gave up a world of privilege for this. Slaving away like a servant. Your modeling career in ruins….”

“Your order, please,” I choked out. Because fuck, I did not want to cry in front of her.

She smiled, getting pleasure in attempting my demise. “A steak, medium rare. Surely they can’t mess that up.”

I nodded and hustled away, except instead of going to input her order, I made a detour to the back exit, pushing through the doors with a hitched sob.

I stood outside in the cool night air, leaning against the rough brick of the building, tears streaming down my face. No matter how much progress I made, it never was enough. She was always going to be able to strip me bare.


I felt utterly worthless, as though every effort I’d made to prove myself had been in vain. Since they’d adopted me, all I’d ever wanted was for Maura to love me, to accept me for who I was.

But no matter what I did, it was never enough.

The scars of my tumultuous upbringing, the years spent striving for her approval, were still fresh in my mind. I had hoped that by breaking away from Maura and the toxic life she represented, I could finally find a sense of self-worth and belonging.

I’d been delusional, obviously.

I wiped the tears away and walked back inside, feeling that old familiar sensation, that I was a stranger in my own skin. That it was stretched too tight across my bones and any second now it would rip, and show everyone around just how ugly I was inside.

It wasn’t just Maura, it was that article too. Out there for the whole world to see. How soon until Ari thought that way too? How soon until I fucked all of this up? Cheater. Whore. Maybe that’s all I really was.

I stared around the restaurant. I was a failure, wasn’t I? Doing this because I wasn’t good enough at my real job.

“Look at her posture.”

“Her backside is too big.”

“She looks too basic.”

Comments I’d received on failed jobs assaulted my brain.

After I inputted her order, I helped my other tables, well aware of her gaze tracking me around the restaurant as I worked.

Unfortunately, her steak finished quickly and I had to bring it to her table. She sniffed at the slab of expertly cooked meat like it was dog food and then sat back in her chair.

“What’s most disappointing though, Blake, is that you aren’t just worthless like your parents, but you’re a cheater too—just like your mother. Cheating on Clark was the biggest mistake you’ve ever made. No true daughter of mine could be so stupid.’

Each word felt like a dagger to my heart, hitting on all the insecurities about the situation with Clark that Ari had tried to stitch up.

I felt the walls closing in around me. My heart pounded erratically in my chest, and my breaths grew shallow and quick. Panic was setting in, and there was no escape.

The clamor of the restaurant faded into the background as I struggled to maintain my composure. Each breath felt like a battle, and I clung desperately to the edge of reason.

My hands trembled as I tried to discreetly wipe away the tears that welled up in my eyes. I felt a tightening in my chest, a heavy weight that threatened to crush me. The noise of the restaurant came back as a deafening roar in my ears, and I forced myself to stay on my feet.

‘What the hell is going on here?’ Ari’s voice cut through the noise. I turned towards the sound of it, like it was a lifeline.

He was standing there like some kind of superhero, his fists clenched at his side, his face a mask of fury. Every muscle in his body was tense, like he was having to work hard to hold himself back from lunging at Maura.

Maura’s smile faltered, and for the first time, she seemed taken aback. ‘And who might you be?’ she sneered.

‘Ari Lancaster,’ he said, his voice firm, ‘Blake’s boyfriend. And I’d advise you to be very careful about anything you say next.”

Maura laughed, a bitter sound that sent chills cascading everywhere. She glanced at me. “A hockey player, Blake? Really?” She shook her head. “That’s who you betrayed Clark for?”

Anger flashed through me. She could talk about me all she wanted. But she couldn’t talk about him. Not ever.

He was everything.

She glanced back to Ari.

‘Do you even know how messed up she is?’

He scoffed, like she’d told a bad joke. “Shut the fuck up.”

“Ahh, you have no idea who she really is, do you?” Maura mused. “You don’t know about the medication, or the panic attacks…or her eating disorder.”

I froze, my heart feeling like it was being squeezed. Heat crept up my neck. Humiliation was streaking through me. It felt like I might melt into the floor. All my secrets were out there, laid bare for Ari to see.

I couldn’t even look at him.

He was never going to think of me the same after this. He was perfect. He wouldn’t be able to stand me. She’d just ruined my one chance for happiness. Tears welled up in my vision.

“I usually don’t hit women, but I’ll make an exception for you if you aren’t out of here in the next five seconds,” Ari hissed, and a flash of fear actually rippled across Maura’s face.

Maura’s eyes narrowed, and she regarded Ari with a cold detachment. ‘Very well,’ she said with a dismissive wave of her hand. ‘But remember, you have no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into.’

The air was thick with her satisfaction as she picked up her purse and slid gracefully out of her seat.

“Tell the manager I was so disgusted with the service here that I didn’t eat a bite,” Maura said haughtily as she strode towards the exit without paying.

I wanted to collapse to the ground, but I didn’t want to give her that satisfaction if she happened to look back. So I just stood there, my whole body shaking, and I watched her leave.

“Come on, sunshine,” Ari murmured hoarsely. “Let’s get you out of here.” He led me to the back entrance, and I was well aware of all the eyes watching us. I was also most likely going to be fired because of Maura’s dine and dash and the fact that I was leaving before my shift was over.

I just couldn’t find it in myself to care.

Ari led me down the alley in the back of the restaurant and then down a side street to where his car was packed. I was numb as he opened my door, buckled my seatbelt, and then rushed over to the other side.

He started to drive, and I was aware of his worried gaze boring into me, but I ignored it, staring out my window steadfastly.

“Blake—” he finally started. But I held up my hand, shaking my head.

“Can we just not talk? At least not right now?” I whispered.

He sighed, but he didn’t say anything more. And the rest of the ride passed in silence.

“I need to use the restroom,” I murmured when we got to the house, not bothering to get a response before I all but ran into the bathroom. Once I had the door closed…and locked, I rummaged through my bag of toiletries, searching for my razor.

I grabbed it and stared at it, self loathing surging through me. I hadn’t let myself do this in weeks. But now it felt necessary. Like I wouldn’t survive if I didn’t release the pain.

Once a cheater always a cheater.

Just like her mother.



Modeling career in ruins…

I leaned against the wall, and pulled down the waist of my pants, my thumb brushing over the scars on my thigh. Tears were streaming down my cheeks, my hands were shaking….I pressed down the blade and…the door burst open and Ari was there, his eyes wide and face scrunched up with worry.

I froze in place, the razor blade sitting on my skin as we stared at each other.

He walked towards me and stopped a few inches away. Without taking his eyes off me, he slowly slipped off his shirt, throwing it to the ground afterwards.

“Hurt me, sunshine,” he murmured, grabbing my hand that was still holding the razor blade, and pulling it up to his chest. “Every time you feel pain…hurt me instead. Let me take it from you.”

My hand was shaking as he pressed the blade against his chest until a bead of blood pebbled on his golden skin.

I stared at it in shock. And shame. Because I’d felt the slight edge of relief like I’d embedded it into my own skin.

“Carve your name…carve your pain…I don’t care what you do, but hurt me instead,” he whispered as he dragged the blade across his chest. I stared at it, still in shock over what was happening, and I realized that he’d carved out a B.

He was literally carving my pain into his skin. He was carving me.

I pulled against his hand and he let it go. The razor blade tumbled to the tile floor, the clatter of it echoing around the room.

My legs failed me, and I dropped, caught in Ari’s strong arms before I could hit the ground.

“Sweetheart,” he murmured as I sobbed into his chest. His cut was bleeding, dripping down his beautiful skin and staining my shirt.

And I felt so much pain.

“Why did you do that?” I sobbed. “Why would you make me hurt you like that?”

“Baby,” he groaned, his voice anguished. Ari scooped me into his arms and carried me into the bedroom, somehow kneeing his way across the bed until he was able to sit against it with me cradled against his chest.

“Tell me where it hurts,” he whispered gently, an echo of the words he’d said weeks ago.

And like then, my answer was still the same, only he knew about the demons that made me a villain this time.

“I’m tired of Maura Shepfield being right about the fact that I’m a pathetic excuse for a human. I’m tired of being the villain in my own story. I. AM. TIRED.”

His fingers danced across my cheek and I nuzzled into him. “When are you going to be tired of all the baggage I carry around, and want to leave because I’m the burden you never signed up for, Ari Lancaster?”

His fingers caught my jaw in his strong grip. “Never. The answer is never. Your pain is not a baggage to endure, baby. It’s an honor for me to help you shoulder it. Give it to me. Tell me where it hurts. Let me take it away.”

His gaze never left mine, and the intensity in his eyes was like a lifeline, and I was suddenly desperate.

“I tried to kill myself once. It was Clark who found me, took me to the hospital,” I whispered. “And I still broke his heart.” Guilt flooded my veins, so much streaming in from my fucked up brain that it felt like I would drown. Hiccupped sobs burst from my chest. “Knowing that, Ari Lancaster, why are you trying so hard to save me?”

“Sunshine, you haven’t realized, you’re saving me right back. I gave you my soul all those years ago, and I’ve just been existing ever since, waiting for you to come back to me. You aren’t some girl. And I’m not some boy. We’re soulmates, twin halves of the…Same. Fucking. Soul.”

His hand brushed against mine as he wiped away the tears clinging to my cheeks.

“I wish you didn’t have to save me,” I finally whispered, and he shook his head.

“I”m just helping you save yourself. You’ll see. One day you’ll wake up, and this pain inside you, it won’t be there anymore. You’ll be free. And you won’t even be able to remember how bad it hurt.”

He pressed the most heartbreaking kiss across my lips, and he smiled. “I promise.”

The thing about a promise from Ari Lancaster, I’d learned, was that he kept them.

Ari carefully undressed me like I was a present he wanted to unwrap. He made love to me for hours until I fell asleep, whispering love and praise until that ever existing pain…it seemed like it didn’t hurt quite so bad.

Two days later when I woke up…Ari showed off a brand new tattoo of my name he’d inked where I’d cut his skin.

I asked him why, and he just laughed.

And somehow, Ari Lancaster…he did the impossible…he took my pain.


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