Wildcat: Chapter 5

LEO

ALTERNATE CAPTAIN

LEO

I’m in the locker room, pulling on my shoes, every muscle in my body screaming, when Jack stops in front of my stall. It’s the last day of camp, and contented exhaustion flows through me. What a fucking week.

“Coach and Blythe want to see us before we head out,” my captain says.

I groan but get to my feet and follow him. Blythe, the head of marketing for the Wildcats, is the first one I see. She’s holding onto a game jersey, and dread washes over me at the thought of another press conference. It feels like the worse I do in interviews, the more they shove at me like they’re trying to fix it. I think this might be one of those instances where we should let sleeping dogs lie.

“Lohan.” Coach smiles, stepping next to Blythe. He’s a nice guy—tough but fair. It’s only his second season as head coach, but he’s earned our respect. He’s smart, and he works hard, and he isn’t afraid to switch things up, which is nice. We’re a young team, the youngest in the NHL in fact, so we have a lot of eager and energetic guys ready to jump around and do whatever’s needed.

“Hey, Coach.” I nod to Blythe. “Not sick of me yet, huh?”

“Never.” Her smile is genuine. She must really love her job because I have not made it easy.

Jack runs a towel over his face, watching me like he’s in on whatever’s about to happen.

I glance between the three of them. Oh shit. What have they signed me up for? What do you get when you cross the coach, the captain, and the VP of marketing? Something that I can’t get out of.

“What’s going on?” I ask tentatively.

Coach speaks first. “I’m appointing you to alternate captain along with Declan.”

Blythe holds out the jersey—mine—to show the “A” now proudly displayed on the upper left of the green material. I’m speechless.

Jack claps me on the shoulder. “Congratulations.”

“Woah.” I take the jersey and continue staring at it. My hands shake with nerves and excitement. It’s my fourth year in the league, which in NHL years feels like a lifetime. It hasn’t always been an easy road, but the hard work I’ve put in feels like it’s starting to pay off.

I did not expect this, especially after my latest interview blunder. I swear, I wasn’t looking at her boobs. Really. “Thank you. I’m honored.”

Coach smiles and places one hand on his hip. It’s his calm but serious speech stance, usually reserved for those moments just before a big game. “You really stepped up for us last season. We have a lot of new guys looking for leadership, and I think you’re going to be a great addition to that.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Blythe continues her wide smile as she starts talking rapidly, “We’ll be putting out a statement, and I’d love to get a few signed jerseys that we can give away on our social media pages. We’ll want to do a couple of interviews as well.”

Another groan slips out before I can stop it. Jack laughs.

“I’m sorry,” I say, “I am thrilled to help lead the team, but the strong, silent type might be a better role for me.”

“Your last interview was… unfortunate,” Blythe says, her smile not faltering. “But these will be controlled, and I will prep you in advance.”

It doesn’t look like I have a choice, so I slap on a professional smile. “I appreciate it, Blythe.”

She takes a step back. “I’ll be in touch next week. Enjoy your weekend.”

“Congratulations,” Coach says when she’s gone. His posture relaxes. “I’ll see you boys tomorrow at my house.”

“Looking forward to it,” I say.

Jack follows me back into the locker room. “Are you ready to celebrate tonight?”

“Do I have a choice?” I sit on the bench in front of my stall, still holding the jersey. Jack is hosting a team party, and the way the invite was worded didn’t make it seem like it was optional. I’d go either way, but after being gone last weekend, then a long week of camp, I’d prefer a chill night at home where I speak to no one.

“No, but since you’re the man of the hour, you do get to pick up the booze. I’ll send you a list of everyone’s favorites. It shouldn’t get too crazy tonight, and I keep most of it stocked, but it’s always good to have a surplus. Especially with the rookies.”

I shake my head. My first official duty as an alternate captain is to pick up the booze for the party? Yeah, that sounds about right.

Ash goes with me to the liquor store. I read from the long list of all the guys’ favorites.

“Where do you think they keep MD 20/20?” I ask as we wander down the aisle, tossing various liquors and beers in the cart.

Ash doesn’t respond, and I stop and look back to find him staring down at his phone.

“Talia?”

“Yeah, she just got back in town,” he answers while still smiling at his phone.

“What’s her favorite drink?” I ask with a sigh. Might as well add another item to this long ass list.

He finally looks up. “I don’t think we’ll be doing any drinking tonight.”

“Jack will kick your ass if you duck out at his party.”

“I’ll come for an hour or two.” His thumbs fly over the screen in his hands. “She needs a couple of hours to unpack and all that.”

“It doesn’t bother you that she was just with someone else?” I ask. Ash is a lot of things, a pushover isn’t one of them. I can’t understand why he’s settling for someone that is clearly not invested in him. He’s a great guy. If he was hooking up with other people too, it’d make more sense to me, but he isn’t.

“What about you?” He tucks his phone in his pocket, walks in front of me, and holds up a bottle of MD 20/20. “When’s your next bonefest with Scarlett?”

I nod for him to put the bottle in the cart. He does and grabs three more, too.

“I don’t know. I haven’t talked to her.” She sent a single text in response to mine: I had a good time, too.

His brows raise. “Seriously? I thought you were into this chick? I believe your words were, ‘She was a dream.’”

“I stand by that.” Although as the days have passed, I’m starting to wonder if I didn’t actually dream the whole thing. It feels like a month ago instead of seven days. “I’ve been a little busy. When do you think I possibly could have seen her this week?”

“You slept at home every night this week, didn’t you?”

“I’m not inviting her over to fuck. I want to get to know her.” I smirk. “Then fuck again.”

Ash huffs a laugh as he sets a case of craft beer in the cart. “Well, don’t wait much longer. If she’s half as awesome as you made her out to be, she’s not sitting around waiting to hear from some college dude who lives with his parents. No matter how sexy you are.”


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