The Pucking Wrong Number: Chapter 34

LINCOLN

First game of the second round, and it was going fucking awful. New York hadn’t been a particularly hard opponent during the regular season, but tonight they were playing like their balls were on fire.

I’d blinked and we were down by four goals. Bender, our goalie, was having the literal worst game of his life.

We were trying to rally when Ari was checked hard, slamming into the boards so forcefully, I was shocked he wasn’t knocked out. As he fell to the ice, my blood boiled. I rushed over to Andrews, one of New York’s douchebag forwards, and our sticks clattered against each other, the sound echoing through the arena. I threw my first punch and it connected with his jaw, sending him stumbling backwards. He recovered quickly, landing a hit to my stomach, knocking the wind out of me.

I gritted my teeth and charged back at him, as more players pushed into the fight. Someone hit me from behind and I stumbled forward. The crowd was a powder keg, their cheers a roar around us. Their energy pulsed through me.

Suddenly, the refs intervened, pulling us apart and dragging us to the penalty box. As I sat there, catching my breath, I glanced at Ari who’d managed to somehow not get a penalty in the ruckus. He was grinning from ear to ear, like he’d just been to Disneyland instead of given a black eye. He gave me a head nod, because that was fucking fun, and then play started again.

After the fight, the team was fucking fired up. I was out of the penalty box in two minutes–the “superstar” special treatment I guess–and then we went to work, slowly but surely, starting to chip away at New York’s lead. The crowd was going berserk with every goal, giving us new life with every roar.

As the clock wound down in the third period, we tied the game up, 4-4.

And then it was overtime.

The minutes dragged on, with neither team giving an inch. At least Bender had figured out how to stop a fucking puck. He was playing like a new man.

Finally, in the last minute of overtime, I got a breakaway. I skated towards the net, New York’s goalie coming out to challenge me. It was a terrible mistake on his part, because I lived for that shit. I feinted left, flicked my wrist, and sent the puck…soaring into the net.

The next few minutes were brief flashes of ecstasy. My teammates rushed onto the ice in a flurry of screams and shouts. I felt hands on my back, pushing me forward as the weight of everyone piled on top of me in celebration. The sound of sticks hitting the ice and skates clattering together filled the air as we all jumped up and down in elation.

If I had known the end was coming, I would have held onto that moment for just a little longer. Taken a picture of it in my head to take with me…

Before everything changed.


Monroe

I was humming to myself, tucking the sheets under the mattress, when my phone beeped. I reached over and saw a message from an unknown number.

Unknown: You’re going to want to see this.

I frowned…and a second later, a video popped up on my screen. At first, I couldn’t make out what was happening, the video was grainy and hard to see. But as it played on, my blood iced over.

‘What do you want, fancy pants?’ my landlord Jared growled…at Lincoln.

“I want to talk about Monroe,” he said calmly.

Jared’s grin turned into a smirk. ‘What do you want with my sweet little tenant, huh?’

‘I need you to evict Monroe out of her apartment. And I need you to do it tonight.’ Lincoln’s voice was cold…and matter of fact.

Jared chuckled. ‘Now, why would I do that? Monroe’s a good tenant. Always pays her rent on time. And she’s…very accommodating.’

I grimaced. He was such an asshole. I had certainly never been “accommodating” to him in any way.

Not that it mattered. What mattered was that Lincoln…

‘I don’t give a shit about that. I just need her out of here.’

Jared shrugged and leaned back against the door frame. ‘Sorry, kid. Can’t help you. I happen to like having her around.’

Lincoln lunged forward, scaring Jared to death. ‘Listen, you little shit. You’re going to do what I say, or I’ll make sure you’re very sorry. Got it?’

‘O-okay, okay. J-just calm down, all right? I’ll do it. Don’t hurt me.’

Lincoln pulled out a checkbook and wrote something. ‘Good. You don’t deserve it, but I’m going to make it worth your while.’ He handed my landlord the check, and although I couldn’t see the amount, I assumed it had been good, since I’d never seen Jared look that…ecstatic.

The video cut off and I fell to the bed, a mess of disbelief.

Another video popped up. My hands shook so hard, I had to restart it twice to even watch it.

Lincoln was knocking on a door, and a second later, Dr. Kevin answered.

‘Lincoln Daniels, to what do I owe the pleasure?’ he asked sarcastically.

Lincoln punched him in the face, and Dr. Kevin fell backwards into what I assumed was his house. I watched as Lincoln stepped inside calmly…like a psychopath.

‘I just wanted to have a friendly conversation,” he said, smiling down at Dr. Kevin with a smile I’d never seen before, a smile that made my skin crawl.

“Fuck you,” Dr. Kevin spit, blood all over his face like a gruesome canvas.

‘I want to talk about how tomorrow is going to go.’

‘If you’re worried about me stealing your girl, that’s your problem. Anyone would want a piece of that.’

Lincoln kicked him in the chest, and even from how far away the camera was, I could hear something snap inside Dr. Kevin’s body.

I flinched as the video showed him screaming in pain.

Lincoln held up his phone, its screen displaying an image that was obscured from view. However, the effect it had on Dr. Kevin was immediate and unmistakable—a look of pure terror etched across his face.

“How did you get that?” he snarled.

“Well, it doesn’t really matter how I got it, right? It only matters that I have it. And if you don’t do exactly as I say…I’ll send it to your partner…and your wife.” Lincoln patted his cheek condescendingly. ‘I don’t think either of them would be too happy about this.’

‘What do you want?” Dr. Kevin asked.

“You’re going to fire Monroe. Tomorrow,” Lincoln said silkily.

I watched in stunned horror as he demanded Dr. Kevin fire me, and accuse me of being a thief.

Another video, this time of Lincoln on the phone, casually strolling through the penthouse. You could see me through the entryway, sitting on the couch, my head nodding up and down as I listened to some music with the fancy headphones he’d given me two weeks ago.

“Don’t give Monroe any more jobs. She’s done working,” Lincoln murmured.

I heard Clarice’s voice through the phone. “Oh, I love this for her…”

And then, there was a video of him on a phone call with someone, giving him a list of all the places I’d applied to and instructing him to call everyone and make sure they knew not to hire me.

The videos stopped.

One last text came in.

Unknown: You’re welcome.

In my nineteen years on earth, I’d been through a lot. I’d been forgotten, abused, and unloved.

But I’d never been betrayed.

I’d never been destroyed.

I was bleeding from the inside out. The pain was a crescendo that built and built until it felt like my skin was literally going to explode from being unable to hold it in.

Those butterflies inside me, the ones he’d grown and nurtured and said he’d fucking do anything for…they turned into dust.

There was a knife in my heart, twisting and turning with each second.

There were tears streaming down my face.

But it was like they belonged to someone else.

It was like the person sitting here, broken and shattered, was not me. My brain was having trouble comprehending how someone who’d seemed so perfectly golden, a hero of a story I never could have dreamed…

Had actually been the villain all along.

The worst part of the story…the one that would no doubt keep me up at night for the rest of my life…

Was the ease of his lies.

The way he’d held me after manipulating my life, like he was a puppet master holding my strings.

He’d held me in his arms. He’d licked away my tears. He…

He was a monster.

That was all there was to it.

A monster behind a beautiful mask.

And I’d never get over his damage.

Mama had been right all those years ago.

And I was a fool who hadn’t listened.

You don’t hear the advice of a dying woman, and say it means nothing.

It took me a minute to think about the next step. Because he’d taken everything from me.

There was that word again. Everything.

I just didn’t know when we’d started saying it, what it really meant.

That he was going to take everything from me. Make me depend on him for everything.

And then destroy everything about me.

I knew what I had to do.

I had to leave.

It was a truth burned into my bones.

But I also knew the Lincoln I thought I’d known, the one who I’d thought had loved me like no one else ever had…or could…

He was a psychopath.

He was also out for a run at that moment, the only silver lining on a cloud so black you’d never be able to get through it.

I could gather some things in a bag, get away before he came back.

Yes, that’s what I’d do.

I quickly grabbed a backpack and started throwing some clothes and essentials into it.

My breath came out in harsh gasps the whole time, because my body was having trouble functioning.

The demise of my love story, my happily ever after, had been so sudden, so cruel, my body was having trouble taking it.

I grabbed my backpack and headed out of the room and down the hallway towards the elevators.

“Hey sweetheart, what’s the hurry?” Lincoln’s voice shot out from the living room. I froze, my heart pounding in my chest, so loud I was sure there was no way he wouldn’t hear it.

And know what I was about to do.

I squeezed my eyes closed, and then finally turned to face him, pasting a placid smile on my lips, like his very existence at that moment wasn’t fucking destroying me.

“I didn’t hear you come home. How was your run?” My voice was perfectly calm, a feat deserving a gold medal, honestly.

He was standing there, shirtless as he always was after a run in the humid heat that had been building every day. A sun-drenched ripped god. My heart broke again just staring at all that beauty.

And knowing it was lost to me forever.

“It was fine. But where are you going?” His gold eyes were searing my skin as he stared at me in that magical way of his, the one that had always seemed like love.

But I now knew it was madness.

‘I have to go to the school to talk about credits for the upcoming semester.’

‘I’ll drive you,’ he said, pulling his shirt from his pants and sliding it over his head.

Blind panic surged through me. No. I had to get away now. I couldn’t wait until his game tomorrow. I’d never be able to stay here, to sleep in his arms…to pretend.

‘Uh, no, that’s okay. I don’t know how long it’s going to take, and then I was going to go to the library,’ I threw out, trying to sound flippant, and hoping desperately that today would be the one day he wouldn’t want to spend every second with me.

If only those stupid videos had come in five minutes earlier.

He frowned. ‘Everything okay?’

“Of course,” I grinned, the smile like acid on my lips. I walked over and pressed a kiss on his cheek. “I’ll see you in a bit.”

I turned to leave, feeling his questions following me as I forced myself to walk slowly to the elevator.

And then I heard him chuckle…

“Sure you don’t want to talk about those videos on your phone?” he called out casually to me.

I froze in place…goosebumps gathering on my skin.

‘What videos?’ I asked, unable to get myself to turn around and face him. I was a terrible actress, perhaps the worst actually.

His footsteps slowly approached me from behind. One step…then another.

I was trying to calculate what chance I had to make it to the elevator and close the doors before he caught me.

The answer was zero, though. Zero percent.

His breath danced over the back of my neck.

‘You really think after going to all this effort to make you mine, that I wouldn’t be monitoring your phone too?’

I screamed.

But there was no one to hear me.

A second later, I felt a prick in my neck.

And then the world went dark.

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