Pucked Page 64

“I’d totally buy a porno with you in it,” he says.

I laser-beam holes through him with my eyes. I guess he means it as a compliment. I look over at Alex, ashamed for enjoying the murderous glint in his eye. Primal yet sophisticated in his suit, he bares his teeth at Kirk.

“I’m not going to be in a porno.” I try for indignant, but my voice is shrill and choked.

I’m full-on panicking. Alex better fuck me into oblivion later tonight so I can forget about this fiasco.

It doesn’t matter if I look like a hooker or not, I’ll be tarred as one if I leave the locker room with the team.

Buck’s hockey bag has to be in here somewhere. I’ve seen it enough times to recognize it. Better yet, maybe I can find Alex’s bag. Those bags are huge, and I’m small. If his crap isn’t in there, I can most certainly fit inside. Buck can wheel me out and no one will be the wiser.

I stride into the other room, ignoring the eyes on me. I have a goal: avoid the walk of shame from the locker room into the paws and jaws of the media slores. I unzip Buck’s bag and I’m almost knocked over by the smell.

“Holy hell, Buck. I think something died in here.” I lift his sweaty jersey, searching for a rodent corpse, or human remains.

“Those are my lucky socks. I won’t wash them until we lose a game.” As if luck is going to stop them from smelling like a carcass.

“How do you not have trench foot from wearing these things? Have you checked to make sure you have all your toes?”

He crosses his arms over his chest. “Really? You wanna get on my case right now?”

I shove the offending sock back in the bag and zip it up. The smell is so putrid my eyes water. Even my nose hairs feel singed. I look around the room and spot Alex’s bag. I know it’s his because it says “WATERS” in huge red letters. Rushing over, I open it up. Everything smells sweaty but not vile, so I’m willing to make a temporary home of it. I start unloading the contents, surprised by how much stuff fits in there.

Alex kneels beside me. “Violet, baby, what are you doing?”

I pull out his skates and a couple of the bigger items, making room to climb in. It doesn’t smell bad at all; hanging out in his hockey bag should be manageable for a few minutes.

“This is how you’re going to get me out of here.” I mean, isn’t it obvious?

“No one’s going to think you’re a prostitute.”

“Really, Alex? You’re being awfully naive if you believe people aren’t going to think I’m a super slut when I walk out of this locker room with the entire team behind me. Or in front of me. Or surrounding me.”

He flashes a dimple. “You’ll be with me.”

I lower my voice to a whisper. “And that’s better how? People already believe you’re a player. How will I avoid the puck bunny label if I saunter out of here looking like an expensive prostitute hanging off your arm?” I add the expensive part to make myself feel minutely better about this whole situation.

Alex puts a hand on my arm, his hurt evident by the sudden slump of his shoulders. “You don’t need to do this.”

“This is already complicated. I don’t want to create more problems for myself.” The hockey bag will be cramped, similar to how I imagine a body bag would feel except with smelly equipment.

“There’s another exit.”

“There is?” I haven’t seen one, but then again, I’ve been pretty preoccupied up until now.

He nods slowly. “There is.”

“That’s a much better option than snuggling with your jockstrap.”

Alex tells the coach we’ll meet them at the bus. He opens the emergency door, otherwise known as the “back door.” I put my hand over my face and peek through the slits between my fingers. No one is waiting to ambush us. I take Alex’s extended hand and follow him down the deserted hall to the exit. He pushes the release bar, and we step out into the cold, Canadian winter night.

Alex wraps his arm around my waist. “See? Much better than riding around in my hockey bag.”

“Agreed.” I huddle into his chest as he guides me across the parking lot, staying in the shadows. He keeps me curled into his side as a few reporters appear out of nowhere to chase after us. The driver opens the door, saving me from potential additional embarrassment. Once we’re on the bus, I realize my parents and Charlene have no idea where I am. I pull my phone out, turn it on, and check my texts. There are twenty-seven. Alex sent fifteen between four in the afternoon and just prior to the start of the game. The rest are from my mom and Charlene.

Having checked before I left for the Great White North, I discovered roaming charges were super expensive, hence the reason I shut my phone off. I quickly shoot a text to Charlene and one to my mom to let them know I haven’t been kidnapped by a serial killer. The plan is to meet up with everyone at the bar to celebrate the win.

When I’ve finished texting, I look over at Alex. He’s staring at me.

“Why didn’t you respond to any of my messages today?” He sounds like I kicked his pet beaver.

“Do you have any idea how expensive the roaming charges are in Canada? It doesn’t even make sense. Canada’s kind of like a huge state in the north. I know it’s a commonwealth and all, but wouldn’t it be more convenient if we had the same money and government?”

Alex’s mouth hangs open. I fear I may have insulted him. “Every text I send costs seventy-five cents outside of the US, and I didn’t buy a package. I figured I’d see you soon enough, and if I sent you messages I’d tell you I was coming, and I wanted it to be a surprise.”

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