Brad leaned up on his toes, ready to move. An itch on the back of his neck, his sixth sense, sent his eyes scanning. Fuck. His right winger, Erik, was showboating again. The idiot. This wasn’t the team to do it with. He yelled but the sound couldn’t be heard over the crowd’s chants, “Let’s go, — Let’s go.”
“Erik! On your left!” He pointed.
Jason, a Calgary player, skated up on Erik’s left side. Shit. He could already see the next few seconds of play in his mind. Jason would strip Erik of the puck and start an odd man rush. There wasn’t much he could do to prevent it from occurring but that didn’t mean he could sit back. He needed to do what he could to keep the play from happening.
Skating hard up the ice, he tried to draw Jason’s attention while not putting himself out of position, but he knew it was pointless.
“Shit. Fuck. Shit!” He pointed to his defensive partner, Pavel, to cover the third man bearing down as he watched Erik get stripped of the puck. With Pavel blocking the passing lane to Luc, another Calgary player, it left him to deal with the two on one situation.
They rushed toward him, but he was ready. He’d studied enough of their game footage to know that Jason and Matt routinely used this manoeuver, but still, he couldn’t let his guard down. Keeping his body angled to block Jason’s shot, he readied himself to slide across the ice to block the expected pass to Matt.
His heart raced. It was nearing the end of his shift. Ten minutes into their game against Calgary and this was already the sixth two on one he’d faced due to his forwards dicking around. He didn’t know what was up with the team this year, but nearly everyone was off their game. It was a comedy of errors. Between missed passes, not being able to hit the net, being half a step behind, they were on a six-game losing streak only twelve games into the season. And it wasn’t like the other six games were wins. No. They had a total of three in that column.
Jason slowed up, hoping to draw him out of position, but he wasn’t a rookie who would fall for that mistake. At twenty-seven, almost twenty-eight, he was beginning his tenth season of professional hockey.
He waited, staring Jason in the eye. Come on. Pass the puck. It’s your only option.Jason drew his stick back and then slapped the puck, sending it toward Matt. Pushing off, he rushed to block Aaron’s one-time shot, getting a piece of it. Carl, their goalie, snagged the puck from the air, holding on until the referee whistled the play dead.
A body rammed into his shoulder in a late hit. Fuck. That’s going to hurt tomorrow.He glared over his shoulder into Jason’s smirking face. “Hey, Brad. Do you like to suck cock like your brother?”
Brad wanted to roll his eyes at the lame excuse for smack talk. Those comments had always been there; it wasn’t anything new. But since his middle brother Ryan had gone public with his polyandrous foursome relationship with another hockey player, Kris, a neonatologist, Adam, and their shared wife, Kayla, the comments had become routine. The funny thing about the whole situation was that he’d never worked up the courage to even ask his brother that same question. Not that he cared either way—it was his brother’s life to lead—but the knowledge may have helped him with his questions about his own sexuality.
Instead of getting angry, he drew his eyes up and down Jason’s body as if he was checking him out. “Why? Are you offering? Because I don’t think you’re big enough to handle me.” The guys around them chuckled as they prepared for the face-off to the side of his goalie.
“Besides, when I put something in my mouth, I like it to be big enough to feel.” He winked at Jason’s reddening face.
His teammates chuckled but quickly wiped their smirks when the linesman turned to them, impatience written on his face. His team settled into position, waiting for the puck to drop, when the closest referee blew his whistle to stop the puck drop.
What? The players followed his lead, scanning the ice and glass to see what the problem was, but nothing stood out. The doors that admitted the maintenance crew remained closed.
“Looks like coach wants you.” Carl nodded toward the bench where Brad noticed their coach waving his arm as his defensive replacement skated over. What the fuck is going on?
He shrugged his shoulders and skated toward the bench. His replacement tapped him on the back of his calf with the hockey stick as he skated by.
Stepping through the gate, he moved to take a seat, but the coach motioned for him to head down the hallway toward the locker room. His eyes narrowed as he tried to wrack his brain over what was going on. There were very few things that would pull him off the ice and none of them were good.
His helmet came off with ease, along with his gloves. Sweat dripped off the ends of his too-long-for-him curly red hair and down his neck. He swiped his fingers through it, pulling it back from his face as he made a mental note to get it shaved short the next day. As soon as he was no longer in view of the crowd, he stopped and spun to look at his coach who followed him. That really wasn’t a good sign: his coach leaving the bench during the game. Fuck. “What?”
“I’m sorry to pull you from the game, but head office called down. You’ve been traded.”
Fuuuck! It wasn’t the worst thing, and he’d been kind of suspecting it would happen. But not like this. “To where?”
“Calgary.” His coach slapped him on the shoulder. “It was great having you on my team.” And then he was gone, leaving Brad all alone in the hallway.
Calgary? Shit! After living in the US for the past nine years, he was returning to Canada. His first trade. And he wasn’t sure how he felt about it. Calgary was in the middle of a road trip. Would he be expected to join in or would they give him time to sell his condo and find a place in Calgary? What did he even know about the city? Sure, he’d played there—many times in fact—but playing there and living there were two different things.
At least he wasn’t going to be disrupting a family. It wasn’t like he had a girlfriend or a wife he’d be leaving behind. But it also meant he had no one to help him pack up. And during the season, there just wasn’t enough down time to deal with it.
The doors to the dressing room slid open, allowing him to walk over to his locker. He stripped out of his gear, grabbed his shower pack, and headed back to the washroom. Maybe the water would help clear his mind. He knew he wasn’t thinking clearly yet, too focused on the game he was no longer playing. And the unused adrenaline running through his system only made things worse.
Fifteen minutes later, dressed in his suit, he sat on the bench by his locker. His cell phone in hand with his finger on the button to call his mom when his former GM walked in. “We’re sad to see you go, but you know that something had to change.” He nodded. His agent had warned him that he would probably be one of the most attractive players that his team could shop around. In fact, his agent had just gone over the list of cities he’d specified in his contract as allowable for trade, and asked if there were any others that he’d be willing to go to. While Calgary was still a surprise, it had been on his list. He’d added it last season after reconnecting with his childhood friend—and now quasi brother-in-law—who lived there. So at least he was going to a city where he knew someone.
“It’ll be different without having you here. You’ve been with us a long time, but this trade should do great things for both of us. The way Calgary’s playing right now and with their line-up, they could be making a run for the cup this year.”
He nodded, not needing to say anything. He knew all this. But he also knew that it was the GM’s way of trying to soften the blow.
“We should head out. The GM from Calgary is here and wants to meet with you.” The GM motioned for him to walk beside him. Falling into step, he took a deep breath. It wasn’t the last time he’d visit this room, he’d come back after the game to say goodbye to the guys and grab his gear, but it wouldn’t be the same.
“Sounds good. It was great playing here.”
This time it was the GM’s turn to nod his head. “Yeah, the city and the fans are really going to miss you. If you need any help, with selling your condo or moving, just let us know and we’ll help you out.”
“Thanks. I’m going to call my parents to see if they have the time to come, but I guess everything hinges on what Calgary’s plans are.”
“Guess it does.”
They walked in silence. The GM led the way to the suite set aside for the visiting team’s brass. Brad used the time to plan for the various scenarios. After calling his parents, he would call Stephen for help finding a place to live.
His footsteps faltered, but he quickly recovered, hoping no one noticed. Stephen. Living in the same city as Stephen, brought mixed feelings. Ever since that night they’d spent together the previous Christmas, things had been a little awkward. As a confirmed heterosexual, he didn’t know how to act around someone—actually another male—once he’d envisioned their mouth around his cock. Not that he had any previous experience with this. Stephen was an anomaly. Although he remembered a few drunken times that the same thoughts passed through his mind, he always blamed it on the booze. Last Christmas though, he couldn’t use the same excuse.
Thankfully, their friendship took on more normal tones during the wedding celebration of their siblings. They spent time talking, and mentioned, in broad strokes, the threesome. Maybe living close by would help to alleviate his lingering concerns? That he’d stop thinking about Stephen’s mouth, hands, or cock. Or it would force him to confront the issue? Either way would be better than the way he danced around the subject when they talked on the phone.
Not that he’d have much time to spend with Stephen. The hockey season kept him swamped between travel, practices, games, and working out. On top of that, there was also the need to develop ties to new charities and other team events. But he’d still have more downtime than most players; a social butterfly he wasn’t, and Calgary wouldn’t be different.
Taking a deep breath, he held it for a ten count to steady his nerves. As a veteran player, these situations should have been routine, but this was a first for him. Even if he’d had prior knowledge, he realised that nothing could have prepared him to face this.
With his trademark publicity smile in place, he followed his former GM into the box suite.
“Mr. Scott, it’s nice to meet you.” A tall man with his black hair in a conservative short cut stepped forward with hand outstretched and a large smile that split his face from ear to ear. “We’re so happy to welcome you to our team.”
Brad shook the man’s hand while searching his grey eyes for hints of untruthfulness to the statement. Finding none, he relaxed a little. He’d heard stories about this GM, Mr. Grant Thurlow, and everything seemed to suggest he was a straight shooter. He was young for a GM, only a few years older than Brad himself. But the changes he’d already implemented in Calgary were beginning to reap success. And Brad, despite his surprise at the trade, suddenly found himself thankful for it.
“It’s good to meet you, too. But feel free to call me Brad. Whenever I hear someone call me Mr. Scott, I look over my shoulder to find my father.”
The line brought the expected chuckles from the room, removing the final amounts of stiffness from his muscles.
“Well, then, you can call me Grant. Let me introduce you to everyone, and then we’ll chat.”
Grant didn’t wait for his acknowledgement. Instead, he guided Brad through the room, introducing him. The game played on the ice before them, and occasionally they had to stop talking when the roar of the crowd became too loud. But for the most part, they ignored the game while they conducted business.
Leading him to a table in the back, where the sounds of the crowd dimmed, Grant motioned for him to take a seat. “I understand this trade probably came as a surprise, but I have to let you know that I’ve been trying to acquire you since I became GM. I believe that you will be a real asset to the team. A team that I hope to take to the Cup.”
Brad nodded. While this sounded like a standard opening line, surprise filtered through him when he realised he believed every word. Grant would take Calgary to the Cup. It may not happen this season, but the pieces were being gathered. A sense of renewal, of excitement, bubbled up. His smile transformed on his face, revealing a true smile filled with joy.
“I know there is a lot to move, but since you’re single…?”
“I am.” The simple two-word response held a ton of mixed emotions behind it. And even with the risen eyebrows on Grant’s face, asking for clarification, he zipped his lips shut, refusing to expand upon it. He’d never wanted to be in a long-term relationship, at least not at this stage of his life. But since his middle brother, Ryan, settled down with the love of his life, and two others, he’d developed a little jealousy. He thought it might be time to start the process, but his track record with women tended to involve police, lawyers, and restraining orders. He’d also had to evict one from his condo when she’d moved in while he was on a road trip last year.
A quick head bob to go with the slight shrug of his shoulders was all the emotion Grant displayed before he carried on. “Normally, we’d give you a few days to get your medical clearance and pack up, allowing you to join the team on our next home game. But we really need you on this trip. If you’re agreeable, we’ll run you through medical tomorrow—the doctor is already on his way down—and you can fly out with the team in the afternoon. We’ll cover the costs for movers to come in and pack up your place. Do you have a place to stay in Calgary for the short term?”
“Good. Otherwise, I would have put you up at my place until you could find a spot. Does this all work for you?”
Brad leaned back in his chair and took a moment to think. Missing games when not injured was something he avoided at all costs, so he didn’t mind joining the team immediately. Plus it was always a bonus to begin team bonding when there wasn’t the distractions of home.
He liked the way Grant mirrored his pose, giving him time to think. Everything about Grant reinforced his idea that this might be the best move of his career, not that playing in Colorado had been bad. Just this move would provide the support he needed going forward.
“It sounds great. I’ll give my parents a call to see if they can help with the movers as well. Besides Mom’ll be excited that I’m going to Calgary. She enjoyed her time at the All-Star Game last year. And the Stampede is on her bucket list.”
A loud chuckle erupted from Grant. “That’s good to know. Your mom will be excited to learn that we have a close relationship with the Stampede. You’ll be able to treat her to the full VIP package.” Grant stood and held out a business card. “I know that you have lots to do, so I won’t keep you. Here’s my card. I’ll be in touch later tonight once I know the timings. And we’ll also catch up in the morning. But if you need anything, don’t hesitate to call. My door and phone are always open.”
With the card in one hand, he used his other to shake Grant’s hand, understanding the dismissal for what it was. And while he wanted to watch his new teammates play with a different mindset than watching their games to play against them, he did have numerous phone calls to make.
After saying a quick goodbye to the rest of the people in the suite, he made his way back to the players’ area. Taking a seat on one of the couches in the lounge, he pulled out his phone and tapped the speed dial. “Hey, Mom. Got a sec?”
The odds of repeating a once in a lifetime, life altering event are slim to none, but that shouldn't stop you from trying.
Brad, a professional hockey player, participated in one threesome. A night that made him question everything. But with a country between the other man and only the occasional joint family get together where he sees him, he squashes his feelings down, ignoring them. Something he can no longer do when he's the recipient of an unexpected trade mid-season to Calgary.
Stephen can't believe his luck. His best friend in now his roommate. Yet having him there raises the stakes even higher. Revealing how he feels is a giant risk, but first he must figure out what his feelings are.
Caroline resigned herself to being alone after a bitter betrayal by her ex-husband. The introduction of two intriguing men in less than twenty-four hours leaves her reeling but wanting to take a risk. One far outside her comfort zone. But when history appears to repeat itself, she faces an impossible choice... lose now or lose later.
Checking From Behind can sometimes be the best thing ever to happen.