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As it turned out deciding on whether or not to get pizza was the least of my worries this morning. When we separated, stealing a final kiss in the car, I walked into chaos. The Railers had called up Rick Primula to cover at least tonight’s game, and probably the next four if he kept his head on straight and did well. He was excited, leaving the office just as I arrived, with a huge grin on his face. That was the lot of the AHL team player, working hard to get called up to the big league, to make a good show and maybe get a call up long term. Not that any of them wished harm to the players on the Railers, but still, everyone wanted a chance. Or at least it was my experience they wanted a chance.
I filed away the question for Taz. What if he got called up? He was twenty-three, and settled and steady in his alternate captain role, a positive force for good in a team that really needed focus right now. If he went to the Railers I’d be unlikely to see him again. Part of the deal we had going was sex-by-proximity, I knew that if he was all the way over in Harrisburg that this thing we had would fizzle out.
As it needed to really. There was way too much at stake.
“Sit, sit,” Henry McAllister ordered as I walked into the owner/manager’s office. “They called up Primula, we’re fucked aren’t we?”
“Jesus, Henry,” Coach Cole snapped. “The team can stand to lose a player here or there, hell, the Cougars lost two last week up to Boston. Tell him Michael.”
Both men looked at me like I had all the answers, which I guess in a way I did, only I hadn’t run the figures with Rick Primula, first line left wing, out of the lineup yet. I did a quick mental calculation. Rick’s stats were solid and steady, same as Taz, and he had put up points this season, an effective brick wall in front of the goalie, an agitator who got dirty goals off of rebounds. That was what the Railers were missing at the moment, and as of right now, that was our problem.
I could give them the dry numbers, but Rick had a fiery passion that I couldn’t account for. I moved the lines around in my head and looked down at my notepad. I didn’t write anything, I actually didn’t need to, but I envisioned a board with the team in lines.
Then I imagined the Colts, the Cambridge team that were here tonight, and ran their possible lines, and finally I scribbled down a rough idea of what I felt was our strongest lines statistically.
“I need some time to run through this for sure, but this is what I have so far.” I handed the paper to Henry who looked at it, grimaced, and then threw it on his desk.
“I’m not doing that,” he said, and crossed his arms over his chest. In all my time working with teams I had never met an owner/manager like him before. He was obstructive, demanding, needy, angry, and right now was getting on my last nerve.
Thank goodness for Coach Cole, who picked up the discarded paper and ran his finger down the potential lines.
“You moved Mac from the fourth line,” he commented, but it wasn’t a criticism, there was a glimmer of respect in his voice. He probably understood that I’d taken the Colts being our opponent into account, and that in other situations moving Niall ‘Mac’ McKinley wouldn’t have been a good idea.
I stood up and moved to the door. “I’ll run specifics, and write up a report, but that is mostly what I’d be saying.”
“Not sure what we’re paying you for,” Henry muttered, “first of all he wants to keep Goog and now he wants to promote Mac up to first line when he’s been shit this month.”
I backed out of the room before the anger spilled over and fucked up my day and walked straight into someone. Turning I came face to face with a model. Seriously, this man had to be a model, or an actor, or just one of those annoying people who fell out of bed looking perfect. With sharp blue eyes, and soft blond hair, he was gorgeous.
“Sorry,” he apologized, and smiled at me, gripping my arm when I did this kind of swaying thing at the abrupt stop.
“No, I was walking out backward,” I said, and could have kicked myself. Where was Taz when I needed him? He wouldn’t be all tongue tied at the appearance of a model/actor.
I really need to give Taz an answer for post-game pizza.
“Sam!” Henry roared, “Finally, did you bring the paperwork.”
Sam, who was, I guess, the man I’d walked into, sent me a grimace and rolled his eyes. “Dad calls,” he murmured, only loud enough for me to hear. Then he stepped around me, and into the office. I beat a retreat before I was asked back in, and only let out a sigh of relief when I was in my small space with the door shut. My cell vibrated and the text was from Taz who had put his name in my phone as Mr. Sexy.
So, this pizza?
I typed out a yes, before I even had time to think about it, and he sent me emojis of a kiss, a smiley face, and a teddy bear. Not sure what the bear meant, but I didn’t have time to ask.
Half an hour later, newly run analytics in my hand I returned to Henry’s office, by way of coach to pick him up. This was my report and what I really wanted to do was hand it off to the coach, given he was the one who should be making decisions. But that wasn’t the way things were done here, and I had the feeling that the iron grip and constant criticism from Henry was part of the reason that the team didn’t feel entirely cohesive.
Something else to talk to Taz about. Or not.
Was that crossing a line?
Coach was talking all things Railers, as we neared Henry’s closed door, and then the shouting became more apparent, louder and focused, and it was all from Henry.
“…your mother then told me that Vivien called and said you’d stood Maria up? Do you know who Maria is? She’s the daughter of hockey fucking royalty, and you stood her up?”
“I texted,” I heard Sam protest. “Jesus Dad—”
“You’re a fucking disappointment Sam, you couldn’t hold a hockey stick, you can’t hold down a job, and now you’re telling me you break up with girlfriends by text?”
Coach pulled me to a stop and looked stricken, shaking his head.
“Poor kid,” he faux whispered, “Henry wanted a hockey player son, and he got an artist, a freaking good artist, with his own shows and everything. But, shit do we hear about that all the time.”
I felt for Sam, listened as the shouting got louder, from Harry, and Sam’s tone grew more determined. Then the door flew open and Sam stalked out, not paying us any attention and vanishing down the corridor. I wanted to go after him and tell him that I thought his dad was an asshole, but what would that achieve?
“Well don’t just fucking stand there, get in here!” Henry shouted.
I couldn’t wait for Taz, pizza, and kisses, followed by more lovemaking, and falling asleep in his arms. Focusing on that, I actually managed to get through the meeting.
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