Icing (The Scoring Series)

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Domestic Disaster


What the fuck?

I froze after opening the door to my condo—my private condo—unable to believe my eyes.

No one paid attention to me. Not one acknowledgement.

Two of my teammates were immersed in a video game. But they weren’t the half of it.

My worst nightmare, in the form of an infuriating free-spirit hottie, was hunched over a sewing machine surrounded by piles of material and other sewing crap. Next to her was her snorting, drooling bulldog with bad breath and plenty of ’tude. In fact, both of them had plenty of ’tude.

A line of slobber ran down the once pristine leather. Hard rock music blared so loudly the walls shook, and my head throbbed to the beat. Empty beer cans, a discarded bowl half filled with popcorn, and various other shit littered my glass and chrome coffee table.

I saw red and every other color depicting anger.

“What the fuck is going on here?” I exploded, decimating my legendary calm-in-any-storm image. My head pounded, and any moment, I was certain it’d burst into a zillion pieces all over my light beige carpet and add to the chaotic mess in my once pristine living room.

The stinky canine’s head shot up and his beady little black eyes met mine. With a labored grunt, he pushed his pudgy body up onto his short legs and leapt off the couch, moving faster than I thought possible. Barking, he barreled toward me. I backed up against the wall, unable to escape before he launched himself at my face. He missed his mark and slid down my body, leaving lines of drool on my new shirt. After hitting the floor, he propelled himself upward again, over and over, barking and throwing slobber everywhere.

I didn’t much like dogs, especially this one.

“Herc!” yelled the hottie. She abandoned her sewing and flew across the room to grab him by the collar and pull him off me. “Sit,” she commanded.

After much grumbling, my attacker sat on his fat ass and glared up at me as if to say, Next time she won’t be here to save you.

I glared right back. I would not be intimidated by a pug-nosed, smelly dog.

“Steele, welcome home,” she exclaimed cheerfully as she scooped up the stereo remote and turned down the crappy shit that posed as music. I preferred classical music myself.

I glowered at her, even as I took in every aspect of this woman’s appearance. Hyacinth Meadows was my nemesis, and that beast, Hercules, was her sidekick. As my brain attempted to wrap itself around what reason she would have to be in my condo along with my teammates, my body wrapped its fantasies around something else. And those teammates weren’t invited.

“What the fuck are you doing here? All of you!” My voice vibrated with frustration and tightly controlled anger. I jabbed a finger at her and swept it in an arch to include my two asshole teammates, Ziggy and Cave. They barely glanced up from their game, completely unmoved by my fury.

“Kaden didn’t tell you?” Her dark brows shot upward, and her mouth twitched as she sought to control her smile, ratcheting up my annoyance another notch. This situation was not funny. This was damned upsetting. My fingers itched to get to work cleaning up this disaster, but I had to take care of the interlopers first.

“Tell me what?” I shot back, distracted momentarily by Herc’s guttural growl.

“I live here now. So does Ziggy.”

“What? Fuck. No, tell me this isn’t true.”

Her wicked smile said it all and then some. I shook my head in denial. My last roommate and his girlfriend had gotten their own place.

“I didn’t approve this. It’s a joke, right?” I relaxed a little. This was payback for the bachelor party entertainment I’d organized. “Okay, guys, you can come out now. Joke’s on me. Really funny,” I called out down the hall, expecting my buddies to strut out of one of the bedrooms laughing their asses off.

They didn’t.

Cin cocked a brow at me, way too fucking amused. “It’s not a joke.”

“It has to be,” I insisted, unwilling to face a grim possibility.

“Kaden let me take over his lease, and Ziggy took over Axel’s lease. Cave is just visiting. We’re your new roommates.” Cin grinned cheerfully, as if she’d delivered the best news possible rather than a stunning blow to my ordered life.

“They can’t do that.” I stood up straighter, jutted out my chin, and planted my hands on my hips.

“They did.” She mirrored my belligerent posture and lifted her chin higher so she could look me in the eyes. She was a little thing, probably a foot shorter than my six foot three, but my size didn’t intimidate her one iota. I admitted to a grudging respect for her courage.

“This is not happening.”

“Get over it. It is happening. It’ll be good for you. Maybe loosen up your overly tight ass.”

I bit back a few choice words because my mom had taught me to respect women, and the things sitting on the tip of my tongue were not respectful.

Grimacing, I turned to confront my teammates and caught a whiff of something. I sniffed the air and smelled the distinct odor of dog and something else. Pot? No one smoked in my condo. No one. It was a sacred rule I’d had with my former roommates. I hated cigarette smoke, pot smoke, any kind of smoke, and everyone abided by my rules.

Until now. Until them.

I stomped past Cin, fury boiling out of my pores, preparing to pounce on the two unsuspecting idiots sitting on my couch. My shoulder touched Cin’s, and a shot of sexual electricity sizzled through my veins, catching me off guard. Even my current state of white-hot anger wasn’t enough to override the blistering chemistry between us. Damn this traitorous body. I might be sexually deprived as of late, but she was the last person I’d pick to end my self-imposed drought.

I stalked to the TV and yanked out the plugs for all the electronics.

Cave and Ziggy came out of their video-game-induced trances and glared up at me.

“What the fuck? I was kicking his ass.” Cave glowered as he tossed the controller on top of the stack of crap on the coffee table.

“You were not,” Ziggy argued and turned his attention to me. He didn’t look nearly as annoyed as Cave. In fact, he might even be somewhat contrite. Cave, on the other hand, came by his nickname honestly. Not only was he a slob, but he didn’t worry much about anyone’s needs or concerns beyond his own.

“I’m going to kick your fucking asses. Both of you.”

They gaped at me, as if they’d never seen this side of me, and I guess they hadn’t. I was the guy always in control, always cool and calm on the ice. I never lost my temper.

Never say never.

“It’s time you went home. I need to talk to my roommates.” I said the word with as much disdain as I could muster, and that was a lot right now.

Cave opened his mouth to argue, but Ziggy elbowed him sharply and gave him one of those not now looks. Grumbling in a manner that reminded me of that fat-assed dog, Cave got to his feet and left the condo.

Once he was gone, I turned to Ziggy and Cin, who’d crossed the living room and was standing near the window, watching me warily. She ordered her dog to his dog bed. With one final threatening glance over his shoulder, he waddled off to his bed and was snoring within seconds. So much for guarding his owner. He’d left her to fend for herself.

“I didn’t approve any of you as roommates,” I said.

Cin said nothing, and Ziggy grinned.

“It’s probably payback for your stunt at the bachelor party.” Ziggy echoed my earlier thoughts. If I wasn’t a law-abiding citizen raised by two cops, I’d murder my former roommates, and they’d never find the bodies.

“It’s not supposed to work like that. That was penance for breaking the code.” Some of my fellow teammates and I had a pact, and anyone who broke it was subjected to paying a penance. I’d planned Axel’s penance, and it’d been epic, if I did say so myself.

“Whatever,” Ziggy said, sounding bored.

If Ziggy’s suggestion was true, Axel was in a deep snit. “You can’t stay here.”

“Why not?” Ziggy said.

“Why not?” I shot back. My voice rose to a very disturbing pitch. I was the guy who always had his emotions under check. I was legendary for having the best poker face of all my buddies. I wouldn’t let these two get the best of me. I took a deep breath and started again. “Because we’re not compatible.”

“We aren’t?” By the expression on Ziggy’s face, he was dumbfounded. Ziggy was a party boy, always up for a good time. He wanted everyone in his presence to have a good time, like it was his mission or something. I’d just hurt his feelings, and I did experience a twinge of guilt over it.

“Uh, no, look at this mess.” I pointed at the coffee table for starters.

Ziggy swept his gaze around the room as if seeing the disaster for the first time. “I’ll, uh, start picking up.” He didn’t though. He just looked around helplessly as if not knowing where to start.

I directed my attention to Cin. “You can’t stay either.”

“I don’t think that’s your choice. I signed a lease. In fact, both of us did.”

“You can’t have dogs here,” I countered, smug in my certainty I had her on that point.

“Actually, I can. I already paid the doggie damage deposit. You don’t have to worry about me breaking any rules.”

I truly doubted that. She didn’t seem like a rule follower to me. She was a rebel. A fucking hot rebel if you liked the hippie pixie type covered in a jungle of tats and topped off by a smart mouth. Her tight tank top revealed a good portion of her tattooed breasts. She had this jungle theme inked on her skin that made a guy want to discover what kinds of animals lurked there. What little I’d been around her in the past, I’d already spotted a zebra near her cleavage, a tiger peering around a tree trunk on her arm, and a leopard crouched on a branch on the other. It was mesmerizing. And all kinds of sexy. She was a bad girl to my good boy. I didn’t need a woman like her around, especially considering what she did to my legendary control.

I’d battled my attraction to her the first time I’d laid eyes on her, even as we’d sparred like enemies sizing each other up before a prizefight. The second time around wasn’t going any better.

Ziggy grabbed a garbage sack from the pantry and began gathering up trash from the coffee table and elsewhere. He kept his head down and his mouth shut, leaving Cin to fend for herself.

“I’m going to straighten this out with Axel and Kaden.” After I strangled them. Kaden hadn’t paid his penance yet for falling in love, but I was going to be working on that one. He’d be sorry he set me up with these two.

“There’s nothing to straighten out. We’re here to stay, like it or not,” Cin challenged me with a defiant glare.

“Regardless, until this is straightened out, there are rules, and I expect you to follow them.”

Cin rolled her eyes, and Ziggy stopped what he was doing to gape at me.

“Rules?” Ziggy said, as if he’d never heard the word before.

“Yeah, rules. You know, like those requirements you need to follow to keep from getting kicked off the team again?”

Ziggy cringed, and even I had to admit that was a low blow. Just before the playoffs this spring, Ziggy and two other teammates had gotten into a barroom brawl and suspended from the team. Losing three key players before the first round destroyed our chances in the postseason. Ziggy was still on shaky ground with management.

“I’ll do whatever you want. I need to stay here. I don’t trust myself living on my own.” Serious for once, Ziggy pleaded with me.

“Are you insinuating that I would be a good father figure?” What the fuck? Ziggy was a couple years older than me.

“How about older brother?” he said, trying to smooth my ruffled feathers.

“I’m not interested in the job.”

“Coach suggested I move in with you because you’re responsible.”

Well, that really screwed shit up. The coach wanted him here so I could babysit him? Wonderful, just wonderful.

It appeared that I was the one who’d have to find a new place, which I didn’t want to do. This place was perfect, just a few blocks from our practice facility, great water view, and lots of incredible places to eat. That last point was a huge plus because I didn’t cook.

“All right. I have rules.”

“You don’t mean like the ones that were taped to the refrigerator? I thought they were a joke and threw them away. But you were serious?” Cin’s big blue eyes were round with innocence, but she didn’t fool me.

“Yes, I was serious. My former roommates didn’t have an issue with them.”

“Well, I do. Don’t we get a say in them?” Cin narrowed her eyes and sniffed as if she smelled something even worse than the dogs and pot smell.

“No, I was here first.”

“I’m good with that,” Ziggy rushed to add, ignoring Cin’s disgust. He started tossing beer bottles—and there were a lot of them—in the garbage and making a terrible racket.

“Stop that for now and listen,” I shouted over the din.

“Sorry.” Ziggy hung his head and shuffled over to the couch, where he plopped down. Cin joined him, not nearly as compliant. Jealousy sliced through me, along with the shock of being jealous. I wasn’t the jealous type, and we weren’t dating, hooking up, or anything else. What did I care if Ziggy and she were? I had to get a handle on myself. She wasn’t the right woman for me, even for a one-night stand.

“No smoking whatsoever. No pot, no cigarettes, not even vaping.”

“I told you he wouldn’t like that. He’s such a tight-ass.” Cin rolled her eyes once again, but Ziggy was smart enough not to acknowledge her comment.

“No illegal drugs whatsoever,” I added.

“Pot’s legal in Washington,” Cin pointed out with a saccharine-sweet smile.

I shot her one of my best scathing glares. She rolled her eyes.

“Fine. Not a problem,” Cin said, while Ziggy nodded.

“Clean up your messes. Not a day later. Not an hour later. Immediately.”

“Yes, your pickiness.”

“And stop with the smart mouth.”

“Not possible where you’re concerned. You give me such great ammunition.”

“Lock and load,” Ziggy added with a laugh. One look at me, and he snapped his mouth shut. “Sorry.”

“No parties, no loud music.”

“You are really a drag,” Cin sighed.

I raked my fingers through my thick hair and mentally counted to ten. She was the most annoying, obnoxious woman I’d ever wanted to—

I killed that line of thought right away.

This was truly a nightmare of epic proportions, and I wasn’t going to be waking up from it anytime soon.

All day on the long flight from DC to Seattle, I’d looked forward to arriving home after spending a week with my mom. My three original roommates had significant others and had moved into their own places, leaving me as the sole occupant of this condo until now. The peace and quiet I’d craved had been blown to bits by these interlopers.

My new fucking roommates?

I’d get through this. Somehow. Once the season ended, I’d renegotiate my contract, buy this place, and boot them both out.

If I survived that long.