Wildcat: Chapter 28

LEO

JUST FRIENDS

LEO

When the final buzzer sounds, denoting the end of the game, I skate off the ice and follow my team down the tunnel. Losing always sucks, but never more than when you know you’re the better team.

Tampa Bay should have been an easy win. Three of their top players are out with injuries, and they’ve struggled to patch together a line that can get anything going. Until tonight.

Coach is grim-faced and quiet in the locker room after yelling for fifteen-minutes straight. He attempts a smile and tells us to keep our heads up. I cool down and then get summoned with Jack and Ash to the media room.

I pull on a Wildcats T-shirt and shorts and run through the things Blythe told me to say during interviews if I was stuck. I shouldn’t need to say a lot. The media loves Jack, and he’ll be happy to answer whatever they throw at him, but if I’m going to be a leader on this team, or any team, I need to be prepared.

The three of us take our seats behind the microphones placed along a row of tables, facing reporters and cameras. Coach comes in last and takes a seat next to me. He starts us off, fielding a few questions on what went wrong and how we move forward.

I’m starting to tune it all out when someone calls my name. I sit forward, so my mouth is near the microphone.

Tiffany Ryan, not her real name, stands. There’s no need to stand other than she wants all eyes on her. I squirm. Tiffany is the reporter from camp who scoped me out during an interview. You know, the one everyone thinks I slept with because I was staring down—NOT at her tits. I knew it was only a matter of time before I ran into her again.

I have prepared for this moment. Do not look anywhere but at her face. Do NOT look anywhere but at her face. I repeat it over and over in my head.

“Leo, you appeared distracted tonight.” She pauses to give me time to respond, but like Blythe taught me, I stay silent until she asks an actual question. She’s fishing right now, and I’m not taking the bait.

Her dark red lips pull into a devious smile. “Is your new relationship with Coach Miller’s daughter causing tension between you and the rest of the team?”

“My relationship with…” I gulp, look at Coach, then Ash and Jack, like they might be able to bail me out, then back to Tiffany.

“Scarlett Miller.” Her brows furrow in fake confusion. She holds up a phone, and even from eight feet, I can tell it’s her. “This isn’t you and Scarlett Miller at a photo exhibit earlier this week?”

“We’re friends,” I say confidently. Fuck, it’s hot in here. “And no, it has not caused tension between the team and me.” At least not until this moment. “Tonight Tampa came ready to play, and we didn’t.”

Her gaze flicks back to the phone. “Just friends?”

I nod. A small dip of my chin that feels like a wrecking ball. Yeah, yeah, we look like more than friends. We are more than friends, but this isn’t exactly the time or place to announce it. Dammit, Tiffany.

“Next question,” Coach asks, with a side-eye in my direction.

I don’t hear anything after that, thanks to the ringing in my ears. Oh fuck, this isn’t good. Did I really call Scarlett my friend in front of… I count the number of cameras aimed at the front of the room and feel like throwing up.

As soon as the press conference is over, I bolt.

“Slow your roll, Lohan.” Jack presses a hand to my chest. He juts his chin behind me. Right, Coach. Fuck. I don’t know which conversation I’m dreading more.

We file out into the hallway, and I wait for Coach to catch up. Head lowered and voice quiet, he says, “Be in my office tomorrow at eight. We’ll talk about the photo then.”

“Coach, I’m—”

He holds up his hand like he physically can’t handle me saying one more word. “Tomorrow. First thing.”

In the locker room, Ash is sitting at his stall next to mine.

“And the award for the first scandal of the season goes to…” He holds out both hands in my direction dramatically.

“Damn.” I drop onto the bench. “I really fucked this up.”

“What’d Coach say?”

“Nothing. He told me to be in his office first thing tomorrow.”

He inhales sharply, teeth clenched so that it makes a whistling noise.

I pull my phone from my pocket. I have texts and voicemails from everyone but the person I was hoping.

“What the hell am I going to say to her?”

“You mean to your friend, Scarlett?”

“We were supposed to tell her dad together. I froze. I didn’t know what to say.” I fumble through excuses, and they all suck.

The look Ash gives me tells me as much.

I shove everything in my bag as fast as I can. “I gotta go. Text you later.”

“Good luck, buddy.”

I head out to my car and text Scarlett to find out where she is. I don’t know if she’s seen the interview yet, but I know it won’t be long if she hasn’t.

She responds back to let me know she’s at my place and that’s where I head, as fast as I can.

She’s waiting in her car when I pull up. I can tell the instant I get a glimpse of her face that she saw.

“I’m so sorry,” I say. “They caught me totally off guard.”

She lets me hug her. “I know. I saw the article this afternoon. I wanted to give you a heads-up, but there wasn’t time.”

I nod slowly. Yeah, a heads-up definitely would have been nice. “Did your dad already know too?”

“I don’t think so. The article referred to me as an unknown. I guess they figured it out sometime during the game.”

“Should we talk to your dad tonight?”

“I’ll talk to him. He’s going to be upset I didn’t tell him before he found out like that.”

“I’m pretty sure any anger is going to be directed at me. I’m supposed to report to his office in the morning.”

Scarlett gives me a sympathetic face. I take her hand and start to walk inside, but she doesn’t budge. “Wait. I need to ask you something.”

“Sure. Anything.”

Her gaze darts to the ground and then slowly lifts to meet mine. “Was my dad really the only reason you didn’t want the media to know about us?”

I replay her words twice in my head.“I don’t follow.”

“I’ve been in relationships where we kept things secret, and I don’t want to do that again.”

“The ex?” I say, slowly piecing together her concern.

“Yes. He kept us a secret for the entirety of our relationship.”

“You said you were together for a year?”

“Yeah, an entire year that I was hidden from his public image. It wasn’t all his fault; he was following the advice of people he trusted, but Leo, I can’t do that again. So, if you aren’t ready to be with me, really be with me, then I can’t do this.”

I cup her face. “I’ll call every reporter I know right now if that’s what you want, baby.”

One side of her mouth pulls up into a smile. “I don’t think that’s necessary, but I do need to know that I’m not going to be kept separate from your professional life. I don’t want to get in the way. I just want to be a part of your whole life. And I don’t want to be Leo Lohan’s friend.”

“You’re Leo Lohan’s girlfriend, and I promise, no more hiding,” I say. “Wherever I go, you go. I want to hold your hand everywhere we go.”

“Okay.” She lets out a breath. “Good.”

She wraps her arms around me and squeezes me tight. I sigh in relief. “Want to go to Wild’s? The guys are all there, and I can show you off. A little PDA, and I’m positive we can make the front page of the news.”

“Next game for sure,” she says. She peers up at me and bites the corner of her lip. “I think tonight I need to go home and talk to my dad.”

“Right.” Oh man, my palms sweat. “Do you want me to come?”

“I better talk to him first.” She smiles. “I’ll call you later, boyfriend.”


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