Ash drops onto his bed in our hotel room with a groan. He lifts the phone. “I’m going to request a wake-up call. Two hours good?”
We had a light skate this morning, and most of the guys will nap or relax in their rooms until we go back to the arena for tonight’s game.
“No nap for me today. I need to finish an assignment for class and take a test.” I grab my laptop and phone. “Enjoy, sleeping beauty.”
In the lobby downstairs, I sit in a big, pleather armchair. Tyler is coming out of the hotel’s restaurant with a to-go box.
“Hey,” I say as he takes a seat across from me. “Heading upstairs to rest before the game?”
“No.” He flips the lid and pulls out a club sandwich. “I don’t nap, and Maverick is talking to his wife in our room. What about you?”
“I have an assignment and test due tomorrow.”
He nods as he bites into his sandwich.
I’m reading over my notes, but I’m struggling to concentrate. I look up at Tyler. “Why is coming up with something to text a girl harder than financial modeling? I could ace this test, but I have no idea what to say to her.”
“Coach Miller’s daughter?” There’s a slight smirk on his lips.
“You heard, huh?” Despite her being somewhere in this hotel, I haven’t seen her since we got here last night.
“I’m a rookie, but I’m not stupid.” His grin pulls wider. “You’re still talking to her then?”
“Damn. I owe Jack fifty bucks. I thought for sure you’d stay as far away as possible once you found out who she was.”
Yeah, that would be the sane thing to do, but Scarlett makes all rational thought leave my brain.
He holds out his box to offer me a chip. “Why sort of?”
I shake off the food. “I’m texting her, but I think she might still have me blocked.”
Either that or she’s getting them and making me sweat it out as punishment for not texting her sooner. I tell him how I promised to call after the first time we hung out and then let a week go by.
I pull up the message I sent last night. I thought it was funny, but maybe I should have gone with another apology.
“Let me see.” He motions with a hand, and since I have nothing to lose at this point, I give Tyler my phone.
He snorts. “Funny. That’s it? One text.”
“I didn’t know what to say when she didn’t respond.”
Ty tosses the phone back. “Try asking how her day is. Better yet, go find her and ask her in person.”
“It’s safer to text.”
“Yeah, Coach is going to kill you.”
He might not be wrong.
I stare down at the screen. “Just… hey, how’s your day?”
“You don’t have to use those words exactly, but yeah. Ask her a direct question about herself. Show her you’re thinking about her and not just trying to prove that you’re not an asshole who can’t work a phone.”
Fuck. That’s exactly what I’d been doing.
“Here goes nothing.” I tap out the text, asking her about her day, and send it before I can overthink it.
“I changed my mind. I need something to do with my hands.” I reach for the food container, and he extends it, so I can grab a few chips. I’ve just tossed them in my mouth when my phone vibrates. My eyes widen.
“Is that her?” Tyler asks.
I nod and open the text, smiling as I read it because I can hear her in the single word. Good.
“Ask her another question. What she’s doing tonight or what color shirt she’s wearing. Always follow up with a question, and if she asks you one back, make sure you answer it in detail. Nothing pisses off a girl faster than responding with “K.””
“I know what she’s doing tonight,” I say.
“Right.” He chuckles. “Ask her if she’s ever been to Vegas before.”
“How are you so good at this?”
“I did the long-distance thing for a while when I was playing juniors. Pretty much lived with my phone in my hand. You get the hang of reading the other person’s responses and figuring out how to keep the conversation going. Right now, she’s pissed and making you work for it.”
“‘Did’ as in the relationship didn’t work out or it isn’t long-distance anymore?”
He gives his head a shake. “It didn’t work out, but it wasn’t because of the distance.” He stands. Guess that isn’t a conversation he wants to deep dive into. “Good luck.”
I lean back in the chair and tap out another text, Ever been to Vegas?
Her response is quick and concise. Yes.
I smile. She wants me to work for it? Game on.
We get off to a slow start against Vegas. Jack and Ash are both sitting this one out. Our pre-season games are a chance for the rookies to get ice time, but it’s frustrating without our usual lines.
Coach Miller steps closer to me behind the bench. “Let them hear you out there, Lohan.” He claps his hands three times as our line skates onto the ice. “Let’s go now. Let’s have some fun.”
I push hard, calling to Maverick for the puck as two defenders close him in on the opposite wall. He sends it sailing in my direction, and I move to the middle of the ice, taking the puck straight down the middle toward the net.
I flick it to Tyler on the wing, and he sends it right back as I line up and shoot. The goalpost lights up, and Tyler and Maverick huddle around me. Declan joins in, giving my helmet a tap before I skate by the bench to fist bump all my teammates.
My goal shifts the momentum, and we win three to two. I’m walking on air as we get to the team plane.
I look around for Scarlett. She sat behind the bench at the game, but I still haven’t had a chance to talk to her, and I don’t see her now. Is she not coming with us to the next game? Damn, disappointment hits me hard, and I sit forward, eyes glued to the door as the last of our team and staff arrive. Minutes before takeoff, she finally gets on the plane and slides into a seat across from Coach.
I sit back in my seat and let out a long breath. Ash chuckles, drawing my attention. A quick glance around tells me all the guys around us noticed too.
I power on my phone and get the usual barrage of notifications from my parents and sister, congratulating me on the game and my goal.
But the cherry on top is a new text from Scarlett. Two words instead of one, Nice goal.
“What are you grinning about?” Ash asks beside me.
“She finally texted me.”
“Ah, I know that look. I miss that look. I haven’t been excited about a girl since…” He shakes his head as if he’s trying to think back. “College.”
“You had a girlfriend in college?”
He points to my phone. “What did our dream girl say?”
“Our?” I chuckle and slide my phone where he can read it.
After he does, his gaze lifts to mine, and he smiles. “How sweet. I guess she was paying attention tonight.”
“Not like she had a choice.”
“Take the win.” He leans his chair back, then lifts his wrist for me to tap.
He’s right. It’s an opening, however small.