Wildcat: Chapter 20

SCARLETT

DON’T BRING YOUR LOGIC AND REASON TO THE PARTY

SCARLETT

After the game is over, I tell my mom I’m meeting up with some friends from work and say bye to her and my uncle. I hang out in the lobby, trying to decide if I’m really going to go out with Leo.

The Wildcats won, five to zero, thanks to a little help from Leo with one goal and an assist, so I think there’s a very good chance he’ll be celebrating. If not, or if I decide against this insanity, I’ll be taking a very spendy Uber ride home or hoping I can find Dad before he leaves.

I’m pacing the marble floor when a text pops up from Leo, Still here? Want to hang out with a bunch of awesome hockey players?

Oh god. I can’t seem to help the big smile on my lips. Awesome is debatable. I’m here.

I don’t directly answer his question, but the excitement and anticipation I feel waiting for his reply is a clear signal that I’m doing this. Bring on the insanity.

When the lobby is starting to thin out, my phone pings again, and I read the text with an ear-to-ear smile on my face, Meet you outside on the southwest corner (opposite direction of the parking garage).

I know which way is southwest, I fire back. Or I think I do. I would have found him.

I head outside, hugging my arms to my stomach. A jacket didn’t go with the outfit.

On the corner, I wait, clutching my phone in my hand. It’s much quieter on this side of the arena, and I’m a woman in a midriff shirt standing alone. Not your best laid plan, Leo.

No sooner than I curse him, a black truck with tinted windows pulls to the curb. The window rolls down and Ash smiles from the driver’s side.

“Miller, nice to see you. Couldn’t get enough of us?” He revs the engine.

Leo leans over from the passenger seat. “He’s mostly safe. Hop in.”

The new car smell hits me as I slide into the back seat. Ash pulls away from the arena, going the opposite direction of the popular bar.

“I thought we were going to Wilds.”

“Jack is having a party at his place.” Leo glances over his shoulder to meet my gaze. “You cool with that?”

“Wild’s will be packed tonight. Always is after the first game of the season,” Ash says from the driver’s seat.

“I have to drop off something, but we can go somewhere else after that if you want,” Leo reassures me.

“Sure. I’m game for whatever.” As the coach’s daughter, I have a feeling I’m much safer in a house full of Wildcats than at some bar.

My phone pings with a text from Leo, You look gorgeous.

“So, Scarlett,” Ash says and glances in the rearview mirror. “I heard you just got back from London.”

“Yeah, that’s right. I lived there for two years right after high school.”

“That’s dope, although unfortunate that you made my boy here wait two years to meet you.” His attention turns to Leo. “That was what, your second year with the team when Coach Miller became the head coach?”

“Oh, I never would have dated him two years ago,” I say before Leo has a chance to answer.

Ash busts up laughing and Leo’s mouth falls open.

“That was in my skinny, drugged-out, rocker guy phase,” I tell him with a small lift and fall of one shoulder.

“Sounds… hardcore,” Ash says, still laughing.

“Not really. Most of them were wannabes that drank hard seltzer and dabbled in E while living in big apartments their parents paid for. Not exactly the sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll lifestyle the Internet sold me.”

“I think I like you.” Ash shakes his head.

He drives us to Leo’s house, except he pulls into a house across the street. The garage door opens and Ash parks inside a massive four-car garage. Most of the space is filled with workout equipment, but there’s a killer Mercedes SUV and a golf cart.

“Is there a golf course nearby?” I ask as I step out of the truck.

“Nah, it’s just for driving around the neighborhood,” Ash says. “I’m going to drop my stuff inside. I’ll see you guys at Jack’s.”

Leo meets me at the back of the truck and tilts his head in the direction of his house. “Ready?”

He takes my hand as we cross the street. I wasn’t sure what agreeing to hang out tonight meant for us, but I know I like the feel of his strong fingers clasped around mine.

“I assume there’s no roommate?”

“Nope. Just me.” He punches in the code on the garage opener, and it comes alive with a hum. His Jag is parked inside, but Leo hops into the driver’s seat of a golf cart that looks identical to Ash’s.

“We’re taking this to the party?”

“Jack lives up the street.”

“Of course, you all live next door to one another.” I sit on the bench seat next to him. A hula dancer bobble head is stuck to the dash. I glance in the back, where several cases of beer and a box of wine and liquor are loaded up and strapped in. “We’re in charge of bringing the booze?”

He starts out of the garage and makes a right, taking us farther into the neighborhood.

“Yeah it’s my unofficial duty as the newest alternate captain.” He grins and pulls into the circle drive of a house that’s so big it makes Leo’s look like a shack.

“Wow.”

As soon as it’s parked, he reaches over and grips the back of my neck, pulling me closer while he leans in to cover my mouth with his. His thumb strokes my neck as his tongue seeks entrance. He deepens the kiss, and his other hand frames the side of my face.

It seems he’s always pulling back sooner than I want, but I realize why this time when headlights pull up behind us.

“We don’t have to stay long,” he says.

Two guys emerge from the SUV.

He calls to them, “Hey, rookies, little help.”

They come closer and I recognize Johnny Maverick and Tyler Sharp.

“No way Coach Miller’s daughter is partying with us tonight?” Johnny asks. He’s got this likable, genuine smile and a lot of ink.

“I am.”

Tyler is quieter, though something tells me it’s easy to be the quiet one around this group of guys. He says hello and offers a shy wave. They each grab a case, and Leo picks up the box of liquor and wine and carries it with one arm on his hip while holding my hand as we walk inside.

A man at the door is collecting phones and making people sign NDAs, but we move right through with a nod in his direction.

“How come I don’t have to sign away my silence?”

“It’s sort of assumed you being Coach’s daughter and all,” Leo says quietly.

“How does he know who I am?”

“That’s Jack’s agent, James. He makes it his business to know everyone.”

Leo drops the box on the counter in the kitchen. There’s already a healthy amount of liquor bottles to choose from.

“What do you want to drink?” Leo asks as he grabs a beer from the fridge.

“That looks good.”

He hands me his and gets another.

“I hesitate to show you Jack’s back yard.” Leo moves toward an open door that leads outside, where I can see people are gathered around a patio. The music that plays gets louder as I step back out into the night.

“Why’s that?”

“Because it’s better than mine.” He places a hand on my lower back as he guides me.

Heaters are set up around the patio, surrounding a whole lot of outdoor furniture where people sit, while others stand all around the giant yard.

Leo’s not wrong. This is amazing. Everything is bigger and more extravagant. The same pool setup but larger. It has a lane roped off for laps, there’s a waterfall in one corner and a swim-up bar.

We wander over to a group of his teammates standing in the side yard in front of a smaller guest house. French doors are open, and I can see inside, where another kitchen is filled with booze.

Leo introduces me to everyone, though most of them I’ve interacted with in some way over the past two weeks. Jack is the only Wildcat I knew by name and face before I started working with my dad. Dad mentioned him in passing and he’s in a few commercials and advertisements that make him sort of impossible not to know.

“Fuuuuck. For real?” The captain waves the beer in his hand, motioning between us. “This is really happening?”

Uhhh. I look to Leo. Neither of us finds our words before Jack does.

“Does Coach know?” His question is directed at Leo.

“That I’m at a party with his players?” I cross my arms and step forward. “Because anything else would be none of his or anyone else’s business.”

“Just trying to look out for the team.” Jack holds his hands up defensively. He takes one last look at Leo and then walks off.

The rest of the group falls silent.

Crap. I worried about what my dad would think of me seeing Leo, but not what might happen to Leo or how his teammates might feel about it.

“I should probably go,” I tell him.

“No, don’t. Jack is just being Jack. He never stops thinking about work.”

“Stay,” Johnny says.

“Yeah, stay.” Ash steps up beside Leo. “What’d I miss? Drama already?”

“Jack being an ass,” Leo bites out.

I glance around. I catch the eye of more than one player as I scan the yard.

“He has a point. Besides, even if my dad knew and was cool about it, I don’t want the guys to feel like I’m Coach’s eyes and ears.”

Ash nods. “Then what better way for everyone to see you’re cool than to hang out and be chill? You’ll blend in, in no time.”

Leo’s fingers take mine. “What do you say? We can go back to my place or somewhere else.”

“Yeah, I’d bet you’d like to take her back to your place again,” Ash says under his breath.

Leo keeps his gaze on me as he flings an arm out to smack his buddy on the chest.

“Again?” Johnny asks, then his eyes go wide. “Ooooh. This is dream girl?”

“That’s her,” Ash confirms.

Leo’s eyes scrunch up adorably. “I didn’t mean go back to my house to hook up. We can hang out, swim, talk.”

The group of guys gathered around all look to me for my answer.

“We can stay,” I say, and I swear they all grin.

“Yes!” Ash is the first to voice his enthusiasm. “Let’s play some pong.”

Leo and I team up against Ash and Tyler. Tyler isn’t as quiet as I first assumed, but he’s more reserved than the rest of the guys. Possibly because I’m here. He crushes us all at pong and then Ash spends a few minutes trying to convince more people to play Flip Cup Races, which I assume is just flip cup, but as it turns out, it is a variation of the game that involves racing silver and red remote controlled cars between flips.

I sit out the first game and am glad I do, because these guys aren’t messing around with these cars. Boys and their toys. Miniature cars—ones that look way fancier and go way faster than those I’ve seen little kids play with—speed down the road toward Leo and Ash’s houses, cutting each other off at the turnaround mark.

Ash’s shiny silver car makes it back first. He pumps a fist and calls to me, “Get your ass over here, Miller. You’re on my team. I need you to distract your boy.”

Leo and I line up in the last spot. There’s a playful glint in his eye.

“Do I even want to know how much those cars cost?” I ask

“More than my first real car,” Tyler says.

Leo grins. “We tried racing on foot a couple of times, but people were puking left and right. We improvised. Jack loves these things.”

“Gross.” The visual is not pretty. “Don’t you guys have practice tomorrow?”

“Spoken like the coach’s daughter,” Leo teases me.

“Spoken like anyone with an ounce of logic.”

“Aw, Miller, don’t bring your logic and reason to the party.” Ash boos and then all the other guys join in.

“Okay. Okay.” I laugh “Let’s do this.”

We’re in teams of four. Ash and Johnny are the first to go. Johnny finishes his drink faster but is slower to get the remote car going. The guys that have done this more have an obvious advantage, and Ash catches him about halfway down to the turnaround point. The silver and red cars nearly avoid crashing into one another when Johnny swerves in front of him, taking the lead.

Next up is a guy they call Morris and Declan. Then it’s Tyler and a girl that’s been hanging on Morris.

“Sorry in advance for kicking your butt.” Leo winks. He’s hovering over his cup of beer, waiting for the car to return.

“Dream on, Leo Lohan.”

The second Tyler moves our car past the finish line, I chug the lukewarm beer. It sits heavy in my stomach as I hurry to grab the remote from him. Yeah, running right now would be bad.

Leo fumbles the remote, but I think he might be letting me catch up. Oh, how sweet, he’s trying to take it easy on me. Unfortunately for him, I’m playing to win.

“Hey, Lohan,” I say as his car races after mine.

He glances up from the road, and I flash him. I have on a bra, so it isn’t like he’s seeing my boobs, but it’s enough to distract him and send his car off into someone’s yard.

The guys are cheering behind us. Someone yells, “Nice rack!”

“Oh, you’re so going to pay for that,” Leo says. He steps closer and maneuvers his car back onto the road. He’s gaining on me and I’m grinning like an idiot as this small silver car races toward the turnaround mark. I cut the wheel early, giving myself a bigger lead.

It’s close, but my car crosses the finish line first, and Ash hugs me and lifts me off the ground.

“Miller! Miller!” he chants.

The guys lift their beers to me, and a few chant along with Ash.

I wait for Leo to call me on not going past the turnaround point, but he doesn’t. Ash puts me on the ground in front of Leo. “Your girl is awesome.”

“She’s also a cheater,” Leo says so only I can hear.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Mhmm.” He takes my hand. Warmth spreads up my arm. “Take a ride with me.”

“Sure you don’t want me to drive?” I ask as he hops into his golf cart.

He laughs and pulls out of the driveway, hops the curb and drives down the grass. There’s a path where I can see others have come this way before. He guides us behind Jack’s property. There’s a lake and several other golf carts are already parked near the bank. A few people are sitting on blankets, others stand. Someone’s playing music, but it’s quieter than at the house.

I’m surprised when Jack is among those here. He’s sitting on the blanket with a pretty girl perched between his legs, her back resting on his chest.

“Is this all Jack’s?” As far as I can see, it’s an open field and the lake is a decent size.

Leo chuckles and leans back in his seat. We’re close enough I can hear the quite murmur of others talking, but far enough away, it feels like we have a little privacy.

“Is this like bougie parking?” I ask when I see a couple making out. “You can’t just take a girl to an abandoned parking lot and make a move, you bring her here.” I wave a hand to the lake. The moon is full and glows down on the water.

“Told you his back yard was better.”

“I don’t know how I feel about hanging around with someone who’s so… together.”

His brows lift.

“I’m serious. My life is a mess.”

“You think I have my life together?” He throws his head back and laughs.

“I’ve seen your house. I watched twenty thousand fans scream their hearts out for you earlier tonight, and you drive a golf cart around your neighborhood.”

“Professionally, yes, I’m in a good spot. But everything else?”

When I don’t buy it, he arches back and unbuttons his jeans.

“Uhh… I don’t think this is the place to show me your penis to prove some point about how you’re below average in some areas.”

He scoffs. “Below average? Please.”

He’s not wrong, and I get butterflies in my stomach remembering just how not average he is. Instead of whipping out said well-above-average dick, he tugs on the band of his underwear. Boxers, cheap cotton with hearts all over them. They look like something someone might have bought him for Valentine’s Day a long time ago. “These were all I could find today.”

Based on the one other time I saw him in his skivvies, I think he prefers boxer briefs.

“Time to do laundry?”

“Seems so.” He stares down at them and grins. “Though these kind of set the mood, am I right?”

“Ridiculous boxers do not mean your life is a mess.”

He thinks for a second. “The milk in my fridge is expired. I can’t remember the last time I changed the air filters in my house, and you just watched me race a remote controlled car down the street.”

I laugh quietly, and he rests a hand on my shoulder, brushing his fingers along my neck. I super dig his hands. They’re big and just look strong somehow. The callouses against my smooth skin send a shiver up my spine. I lean forward.

“You know,” he says as he brings his mouth closer to mine, “I’ve never had to down talk myself to get a girl.”

“Is that what you’re doing? Trying to get a girl?”

“Is that not obvious?” He chuckles. “Fuck, I need to up my game.

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