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The Pucking Wrong Number: Chapter 32


Dallas was buzzing with excitement as the Knights, led by Lincoln, won the first round of playoffs in a “stunning four games series” as the Fort Worth Star Telegram described it.

And it had been stunning.

I’d never had a thing for sports before meeting Lincoln.

But, oh,, did I have a thing for them now. Or at least for hockey…

The streets around the arena were filled with fans after the games, chanting and cheering as they celebrated the team’s victory. They even came to the airport to wait for the team and celebrate after game three in Chicago.

The next round was going to be difficult, but the whole city seemed to know the Stanley Cup was as good as ours.

The fans were absolutely rabid for Lincoln. Everywhere he went, there were screams of adoration and chants of his name. They crowded around him, waving signs and asking for autographs, even when he was trying to get from the locker room to the parking lot. It was like being in the presence of a rock star.

He handled it all with the same ease he seemed to handle everything else, and through it all, he put me first. It became clearer and clearer every day that Lincoln Daniels would do anything for me.

I knew what people thought now that Lincoln was taken, and that I was the one who’d done the taking. They wondered how someone so unextraordinary…so average…managed to snag someone as brilliant and dazzling as him. I was the dim streetlamp, and he was the stadium lights.

And I was perfectly okay with that.

There were even news stories over the last week that had dug into my background, and were now referring to me as “the daughter of a drugged out prostitute”.

But they didn’t have quite the effect on me that I’d worried they would.

It was like problems seemed to disappear around Lincoln, like they stopped existing at all. Any time I felt anxious, he’d make love to me for hours, until I’d forgotten what I was stressed about in the first place.

With Lincoln by my side, I’d suddenly found myself in the spotlight too. People started recognizing me when we were out and about, and some even asked for my autograph. It was…weird.

And I still hadn’t been able to find a job.

I’d been applying for one every single day, sending out countless applications, but not a single response came back my way. I’d even applied to some fast food places, places I knew from talking to others that hired everybody who applied.

But I hadn’t gotten a single call.

It was frustrating and unnerving, but I refused to let it bring me down. For the first time in my life, I had some free time, and I was determined to make the most of it.

And Lincoln was always willing to use any of those moments I didn’t fill…

My phone buzzed, and I finished typing my thoughts before I glanced at it. This was my last paper for finals and then I would be free for a few weeks until summer semester.

Unknown: Hey. It’s Ari Lancaster. I stole your number from Lincoln’s phone.

I eyed the text warily.


Unknown: How is Lincoln doing?

I frowned, confused, because they’d just seen each other at practice last night.

He’s out for a run…as far as I know, he’s okay. Why?

Unknown: It’s his brother’s birthday today. I just wanted to make sure he was alright.

My phone slipped from my hand and clattered to the floor as my mind raced, wondering if he’d been off this morning. Had he seemed more needy than usual? He’d kept me in our bed for hours as he worshiped my body. There were marks all over my skin from his mouth and his hands.

And he had been quieter than he normally was.

He hadn’t called me “good girl” once.

I jumped up from the couch and paced, wondering what I should do…what I could possibly say. Would it be like his brother’s birthday? Was he even out running? Or was he at the cemetery torturing himself?

I was about to go out and try to find him when I heard the elevator doors ding. I ran out into the hallway, almost forgetting everything with the sight of him standing in the entrance, shirtless, his muscles glistening with sweat, his tank top tucked into the back of his basketball shorts.

I bet there were women passed out all over the streets from catching sight of him this morning.

He was beautiful. The most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. His hair had gotten longer since we met, something to do with a superstition he had that you couldn’t cut your hair during a winning streak—and it had been awhile since they lost.

The longer hair looked good on him. Perfect, really. If there ever was male perfection, it was Lincoln Daniels.

He smirked at me, clearly reading my dirty thoughts, as those golden eyes of his lazily drifted down my body.

After a second, though, his grin fell, and a blank, distant expression took over his features.

“Hi,” I murmured sadly.

He flinched at my tone, staring down at the ground for a long moment before finally glancing at me. “Who told you?” he asked despondently, eyeing me warily as I came up and wrapped myself around him, ignoring the sweat peppering his skin.

“Ari texted me.”

He snorted out a humorous laugh. “Of course, he did. How did that fucker even get your phone number?”

I cracked a grin. “He stole it from your phone, apparently.”

He shook his head, cursing Ari out under his breath.

“How—are you feeling?” I asked tentatively, immediately cursing myself for the stupid question.

“Better than I usually do,” he admitted, biting down on his plush lower lip. “Which only makes me feel fucking guiltier.”

I hesitated for a moment. “Can you tell me more about him? Some happy memories?”

He cocked his head, staring at me pensively, before he grabbed my hand and led me back into the living room. Lincoln flopped onto the couch, pulling me onto his lap, his favorite place for me.

‘Okay,’ he said, taking a deep breath. He huffed. “There are so many to choose from.” He thought for a minute. “There was this one time when we decided to go camping, and my brother and I decided to catch a fish for dinner. The problem was…neither of us knew anything about fishing or camping. We were the sons of a billionaire who hated the outdoors. We spent the entire day out there by the lake, but we didn’t catch a single thing. We were about to give up when Tyler decided to try one last time. He cast his line out, but it got caught on something, and when he tugged on the line, he ended up falling in the water. And of course, because my brother was golden-touched, a huge fish ended up swimming past right then, and he managed to catch it by smacking it with a rock. I’ve never seen anything like it.” He snickered. “We got back to our attempt at a makeshift campsite though…and remembered neither of us knew how to make a fire. So eventually, we just ended up ordering pizza like the spoiled rich kids that we were.”

I giggled and a ghost of a grin slid across his face.

I smiled, feeling the warmth of Lincoln’s memory. ‘I love that,’ I said.

‘Me too,’ Lincoln replied. ‘Tyler had a way of making even the smallest moments feel fucking fun. He had this ridiculous laugh that would light up the room, and he always knew how to make people feel special.’

“You’re like that too,” I murmured, “Except I’d call your laugh sexy, not ridiculous.”

Lincoln scrunched up his face like he didn’t believe it.

After a second, though, he chuckled softly. ‘There was this other time when some kids had been jerks to me at school. And Tyler took me to this county fair that was going on nearby. He took me on every ride, and we both stuffed ourselves with all the fried food they had. And then I threw up all over Tyler’s car at the end of the night…And he just laughed. He wasn’t mad at all; he just was glad I felt better.”

A tear slipped down his cheek.

I smiled at the memory, feeling a sense of longing for something I’d never experienced. “It sounds like he loved you a lot,’ I said softly.

‘He did. He was probably the only person who did growing up,’ Lincoln murmured, his voice filled with emotion. He turned to look at me. “I miss him so fucking much.”

I laid my head on his shoulder, crying for him because life was so fucking unfair sometimes.

‘As you can probably guess, I don’t have a lot of great memories of my mom,” I whispered a little while later.

Lincoln’s entire body flinched, because my mother was someone I never talked about.

But I felt like telling him this; he deserved that at least, when he was so free with his own pain.

“But the grief still comes in waves sometimes, you know? And anger too. Because even though she couldn’t be who I wanted…who I needed…she was still my mom. And maybe she did the best she could, and I just need to accept that—anyways—what I’m trying to say—is that sometimes when it hurts, when it hurts so bad I feel like I can’t breathe, I send her light.”

“You send her…light?” Lincoln asked, clearly confused.

I nodded against his neck. “I think of the happiest things I can, and I picture sending them to her, wherever she is. Every time it hurts, I send her light. I tell her that I hope she’s happy, that I love her…and, that I forgive her. And then I release whatever emotion I’m feeling at that moment, and I send it her way.”

I gazed up at him and saw he was staring at the ceiling thoughtfully.

“I think, maybe, you should send Tyler light. You should talk to him. Tell him you hope he’s happy, that you love him, and then…you should forgive yourself.”

His silence was deafening. Watching his face was like watching a storm gathering on the horizon. There were so many emotions flicking across his features.

“I don’t think I know how to do that,” he finally whispered.

“I think you do. I think that you just won’t let yourself do it.” I rushed on, even though I was terrified I was going too far.

“What if the best way for you to honor Tyler’s memory is to live…for him? And I mean to truly Iive—to strip off the pain that makes it so you can barely say his name. What if we talk about Tyler all the time? What if we honor his memory by making it happy—like he was.”

There’s my own lessons in these words, and I’m unpacking them at the same time as I’m unpacking everything else.

And it’s a little overwhelming, to be honest.

“Fuck,” he finally murmured, and then his lips crashed against mine and he was giving me more passion in that single kiss than I think I’d experienced across my entire life.

“Thank you,” he growled when we finally came up for air. His eyes were starstruck as he stared down at me.

A girl could fall in love in an instant being looked at like that.

‘I spend so much fucking time thinking about how much I miss him, I forget to remember him. It’s been forever since I’ve thought of some of those memories. It’s been forever since Tyler was anything but a knife in my gut, a memory that made me want to die.”

“Did I make it better, or worse?” I asked.

“Better. Always better, dream girl. You’ve changed my whole life. I love you so fucking much,” he breathed, his lips slamming against mine once again, his tongue sliding inside my mouth. I could feel him everywhere. And if there was one moment for me to tell him I loved him, to tell him I’d do anything for him.

It was that moment.

But I didn’t.

Not because I was terrified of it anymore.

But because Lincoln didn’t let me talk that morning, for a long, long time.


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