Book 1 – Ryker, coming September 2018
This new series, a spin off from our Railers’ series begins with Ryker. In Changing Lines we meet Jared, and his son Ryker, and the interfering Grandfather who thinks he knows best for Ryker.
Excerpt from Changing Lines when we first meet Ryker
Casey’s latest text said she was fine, and sorry, but her dad, Ryker’s grandfather would be the one picking him up to take him home, and that it would be before the game this weekend. She was always so organized, and strict. She’d said no to Ryker staying for the Boston game, said he needed to get home to study for tests and Ryker didn’t argue. He respected his mom and even though he was disappointed about missing the game, he admitted he needed the extra studying time. Casey was a good mom, responsible in a way that I admired. She hated Ev as much as I did, although she’d had to handle him being in her life while I could get away with avoiding him.
I didn’t envy her that at all.
The text had arrived at some point in the night but we’d only just woken up to it, me still on the sofa where Ryker had left me at ass o’ clock this morning, and him stumbling out of the spare room rocking a serious case of bed head.
Coffee. I needed coffee, a shower, and more coffee, in that order.
Ryker’s grandfather would be here in thirty if I read the text right.
“I don’t know what’s up with your mom, but grandpa is picking you up,” I informed Ryker on a yawn, and when he didn’t answer I looked at him curiously. He looked guilty, like there were a hundred secrets behind those crystal-blue eyes. “Ryker?” I asked.
He took one wide-eyed look at me and went back into his room.
It’s too early for this shit. Even if it is ten thirty, it’s still way too early.
I made coffee, had my shower, and still had ten minutes to spare before Ev arrived at my door. I picked up a throw cushion to tidy it, then threw it back on the floor. I wasn’t changing the way I lived for Ev, and my place was clean, and homey, and mine.
Knocking on Ryker’s door, I heard a muffled “come in” from inside, and pushed in. The room was his place at my place, so to speak. The posters were of the Railers, all signed, but he also had some pictures up of me and him together, and one that his mom had done of the three of us together at his fifth birthday. That day had been the very first day I was, by law, allowed anywhere near my son. A beautiful day. Hockey gear in the corner filled the room with a stale, sweaty smell, but it was one I was used to, and he was a teenage boy; their rooms stank.
A very dejected-looking Ryker sat on the edge of his bed in one of my Railers hockey jerseys. The dusky blue looked good on him, but he was pulling at the hem and unraveling the stitching.
“Wassup?” I said, and sat next to him.
“I’m sorry, Dad,” he murmured, but didn’t look at me.
I wasn’t sure what to think of my son sitting there not able to look me in the eye, or of the fact that he’d actually willingly called me Dad instead of his normal Jared.
“I told grandpa what you said, about me staying on at school, but he said I didn’t need to do anything you said, and that he’d pay for everything, that I didn’t need your money…” He stopped talking.
“He’d pay for what?” I asked, ignoring the whole concept of my own child not having access to my money. Twenty-five percent of everything I earned went into a fund for Ryker, not that he knew that yet, not until he was twenty-one. Of course, he’d likely be earning his own millions then, but I was the father and I was providing for my child just like I sent another twenty-five percent to Casey every month, regular as clockwork.
“CHL,” he mumbled.
I couldn’t hear properly. “Enough with the muttering,” I snapped, because I couldn’t help myself.
“The CHL,” Ryker said, and this time he looked up and met my gaze and he looked absolutely torn, gutted, sad.
“Your grandpa wants you to go into the Canadian Hockey League?” I said, spelling out exactly what I knew CHL meant just to give myself time to get my head around all this.
“Grandpa says I’m being scouted and I could be playing for real up there, ready for the draft.”
Temper coiled low inside me. Next time I saw Ev, I was going to kill the bastard. Of course Ryker was being scouted-he was fast and accurate, and his hockey sense was steady. Any team would be lucky to have him. But being scouted didn’t mean he had to take up a place anywhere.
“We talked about this,” I said as calmly as possible. “You promised me you’d stay in school and get your diploma.”
The knock on the front door was loud and demanding, and I stood up with angry words right there on the tip of my tongue. I stalked through my house and wrenched open my front door, the wood smacking back against the coat rack. Ev was standing there in a suit, looking a hundred kinds of smug. I turned away from him and he followed me in, closing the front door behind him. I thought I heard something like “nice welcome,” but I didn’t care one bit what the man wanted to say.
We went through the large entrance hall and into the front room. I stopped just inside the threshold of the room and let him pass.
“Is Ryker ready?” he asked as he brushed at his jacket with his hand and straightened it. “We have a meeting at twelve.”
“A meeting,” I said, and how the hell I kept my voice even I don’t know.
“With a prospective agent who’s flying out to meet us in Harrisburg,” he said, and then just waited for me to say my bit. He looked like he was relishing every single moment of this.
“An agent,” I repeated.
He opened his mouth to say something and I don’t know, maybe I had a face like thunder, or maybe it was because I was taller, stronger, and younger than him, but he abruptly went from smug to looking concerned as I stalked him.
“Sit. Down,” I said, and pointed at my sofa.
“I am talking to my son, and you will sit out here and wait.”
He made a show of looking at his watch. “I can give you five minutes.”
I stepped closer. He stood his ground. One more step, and this time he moved back, almost falling over the discarded throw pillow.
“Sit. Down,” I said again.
“Now listen here-”
I was right up in his face then. “You will sit yourself the fuck down and you will wait until I have goddamned finished talking to my son, and you will not say a fucking word.”
I jabbed at his chest with my finger, and he caught my hand and twisted it. Thing was, there were only twenty years between us. He was a fit guy, an ex-hockey player, and he had moves.
But by the time I had him flailing back on the sofa with shock on his face, he knew for damn sure that this defenseman still had the strength and power to topple any kind of man.
“Now sit there and shut up, or leave,” I said.
Going back into Ryker’s room, I closed the door behind him and went to the window. Fresh air, even this crisp Fall air, was exactly what I needed to clear my head.
“Dad?” He sounded so incredibly lost.