Crashing the Boards–Seduced by the Game Charity Anthology for Cancer

Posted Apr 5 2014, 3:16 am

Here’s a sneak peek at my contribution to this anthology due to be released next week.

Chapter 1—Shutdown

Cooper
Black skidded across the ice on his ass and slammed into the boards behind the
net, taking the puck with him. The Boston defenseman was on the puck like
Coop’s old tabby cat attacking the neighbors’ chickenshit dog. Cooper scrambled
to his feet, digging the blades of his skates into the ice, trying to get his
balance, only to fall again. Stevich fought like a crazed man, gaining control
of the puck, and executing a perfect pass to his center.

If
Cooper hadn’t been so preoccupied with keeping one eye on the clock winding
down and the other on the puck, he might’ve seen the Russian coming on his
blind side. He might have had one more chance on goal, one last desperation
shot for a tie to send game seven of the semifinals into overtime.

Only
he didn’t get that chance.

The
final buzzer sounded.

This
wasn’t how it was supposed to end with Boston celebrating on the Giants’ home
ice. His five-year-old nephew skated better than he had tonight. Struggling to
his feet, Cooper skated around the victors and headed for the locker room with
his head down. Boston moved on to the Finals, and his team moved on to prepare
for next season. Always next season.

He
couldn’t avoid the press blocking his exit. Too weary to put up a good
fight—he’d left all his fight out on the ice—he patiently answered their inane
questions.

How do you feel after coming so close but
coming up short?

“How
do you think I feel?”

What are your plans for the off-season?

“Take
a few weeks off for my body to heal and go back at it.”

How many more seasons do you plan on
skating?

“Heck
if I know.”

And
so it went, he’d just managed to extricate himself from the bloodsuckers when
the Giants’ PR guy pulled him off to the side. “There’s a group of kids from
Make-A-Wish anxious to meet you for pics and autographs.”

Cooper
almost said no. He was that tired, but he never said no to kids, especially
kids with disabilities. He’d never forget his childhood hero walking right past
Cooper and his little brother as if they didn’t exist despite their pleas for
an autograph. They’d waited outside the visiting locker room shivering from the
cold for what seemed hours, and the jerk couldn’t take one minute to make two
small boys’ dreams come true, completely destroying Cooper’s image of the man.
Cooper would never be that guy. As long as a kid wanted a moment of his time,
he’d give it.

Several
minutes later, he put on his best team captain face and yanked open the locker
room door. Despite how miserable he might be inside, he’d never let the guys
see him defeated or discouraged. Cooper paused in the doorway and swung his
gaze around the solemn locker room. He’d attended funerals more cheerful than
this.

“What
the fuck is going on? Who died?” Cooper faked a grin he didn’t feel and strode
into the room, the picture of upbeat confidence. There were too many young guys
on this team to let this setback get them down.

No
one even looked up at him.

“Hey,
guys, we’ll get ’em next year. We were that close.” He held up his hand using
his thumb and forefinger to illustrate just how fucking damn close they’d been
to winning that last game and making it to the Finals—the dream that had eluded
him for thirteen years.

Finally,
Cedric, his best buddy on the team, lifted up his head and rubbed his beefy,
scarred hands over his face. Heaving a deep sigh, he turned toward Cooper.
Cedric’s stricken expression struck fear deep in Cooper’s gut. “They fired Coach.”

“They?
Who the fuck is they?”

“Our
new ownership.”

Cooper
stared at his friend, certain he’d heard wrong. “New ownership? I’ve been gone
from the locker room thirty minutes and we lost a coach and gained new owners?
You guys are playing me.”

Ced
just stared at him.

“Right?
You’re bullshitting me. Isn’t he, Crandall?”

Crandall
glanced up and then buried his head in his hands again. The young guys wouldn’t
even look at him.

A
cold shiver sliced through him. They weren’t shitting him.

“What
new owners?” Sure, there’d been all sorts of rumors, but there’d always been
rumors. He’d been with this organization since he’d come up from the minors,
thirteen years ago. And he’d heard every rumor known to man until he quit
listening.

“The
Puget Sound Hockey Alliance.”

“That
Seattle group that’s been stalking every team with a shaky fan base and
money-starved owners?”

“The
very one.”

“They
do have deep pockets, so that’s a good thing.” Cooper forced himself to remain
positive. The team’s now former owners had been douches that bled the team dry.

“Sure,
if you like rain.”

Cooper
sank onto the bench. “No.”

“We’re
moving to Seattle.” Cedric confirmed his worst nightmare.

Cooper’s
future turned as dismal as a gray Seattle sky. He knew all about Seattle
weather. As a kid, he’d been forced to spend a few weeks there every summer
with a crotchety old aunt. He hated it there, swore it was one place on earth
he’d never live.

He
looked at all the down faces in turn, and the truth was reflected in each one.
“We’re going to Seattle.” He said the words with such despair, a guy would
think he’d been sentenced to death row. In his mind, he was.

As
captain of this team, he should be singing Seattle’s praises, waxing poetic
over the billionaire owner, and convincing the team this was the best thing
that had ever happened to them.

He wasn’t that noble. In fact, he was fucking
pissed.

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