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We’d fallen into a routine. For some time we’d enjoyed this thing between us. I’d never been in a relationship that had lasted this long. If it wasn’t my job which took me all over the world, it was the fact that I’d never found someone who wanted me in the way I was able to give them. I never held back with Alfie, and he wanted me the way I was. Hell, we wanted each other badly and nothing we did changed that.
The team was doing well, I’d instigated a few changes, worked individually with a couple of the team, and I thought I had everything under control when a fourth line forward at the Railers was checked too hard, and cracked a bone in his leg. He’d only been traded into the Railers the week before, and now he was out injured. Of course, that left a hole in the Railers, and everything in the Rush changed as soon as it became obvious we were losing one of our players up to the big leagues.
First I heard was Taz knocking on my door, and then closing it behind him after he came in.
“Shit,” was all he could say. “Shit, fuck, crap,” he added, and then he did a very un-taz like thing, he sat on the nearest chair, quietly. Where was the usual blast of energy I associated with him? He never sat still, he was a mass of positive vibes, a central pillar for the team and part of the reason we were second in our conference. Only one point separated us and the Minnesota Marmots, and tonight’s game could be the turning point of our entire season if we could grab a win. We’d beaten them last time we were matched up, and in that game Alfie had got a shutout. We were flying, and my job here was nearly done.
In fact, it was time for me to consider moving on. Layton hadn’t said he needed me at the Railers, the contract was still in place with the Rush, but it was actually Las Vegas who said they were interested in hiring me, some issue with a hint of blackmail directed toward a player. This made me happy, because hell, I was on speed dial with Vegas, and I had work, but also bitterly sad because leaving the Rush meant leaving Alfie.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, when Taz didn’t immediately start to speak.
“Railers have called up Rick Primula.”
I wasn’t someone who reacted immediately to information or events, I considered options, I weighed up everything before I let anyone see how I felt. Still, right now all I could do was exhale noisily. Losing our first line left wing right at this moment was going to be hard on the team. The Rush was here for that, for honing skills, improving players until they are ready to move up if needed, but it still hit me.
“And Alfie is in the skate room.”
I sat bolt upright in my seat. That didn’t sound good.
“He’s not taking it well?” I attempted to keep my voice level, but Taz was one of the ones who knew I was seeing Alfie, and I wondered if Alfie had talked about us.
“Weirdly, he’s fine, he’s quiet, didn’t lose his temper or anything. But, I think…” he stopped talking and I filled in the blanks.
“I’ll talk to him.”
It was nearly an hour before I got to see him, one crisis meeting after another, wishing Primula good luck, bemoaning his loss with other players. I had a lot of settling to do, when all I wanted to do was see Alfie.
He was sitting patiently in the skate room on a table, waiting for me.
“Hey,” I said, cautiously. I was nervous wondering what side of me he needed right now, and I’d never felt nervous with another man in my entire life.
“I think losing Primula will impact the team more than I like,” he said evenly.
“Everything will be okay,” I murmured. I was so proud of him thinking things through, staying calm. But it wasn’t just that. I was more than proud of him. Way more.
“I love you.” The words slipped out so easily, and his eyes widened.
“You don’t have to say that to calm me down, you can see I’m good. He held out his hands to indicate just how goodhe was.
I stepped closer, nudging his legs apart and taking each hand so he wrapped his arms around my back. Then I tilted his chin so he could look right at me. I loved his eyes, so full of emotion.
“I mean it,” I said. “I love you.”
He blinked at me, and I could imagine his thoughts twisting and turning around that fact. The smile he gave, when it happened, was beautiful, and hope flared in my chest.
“I love you, too.”
“Let’s get out of here, back to mine?”
We left the arena just as darkness fell, talking about how it would impact the lines now they’d lost Rick Primula, concluding that unless he fucked it up, he would be up in the Railers for a while. I know that Alfie wanted a chance with the Railers, and I knew that one day he would have it. He’d worked so hard and was making a name for himself day by day, he’d had four shutouts in the last month alone, and some of the saves he made were crazy good. Maybe it wouldn’t be the Railers he’d end up with, there again, maybe it would.
We parked and hand in hand we walked to the main door.
“Privet sacha ty ublyudok,”a voice came from the left of us, and ice gripped me. I recognized that voice calling my name and cursing me as a bastard. In a smooth move I had Alfie behind me, then turned to face my nemesis.
And looked straight into the barrel of a gun.
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