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I’m not sure putting Taz on the roulette wheel table at this charity event was a good idea. He seemed to be very enthusiastic and more often the not the ball had to be retrieved from wherever it had landed under other tables. At least he was making everyone smile with his over enthusiasm.
Not least of all me.
All the players had a job to do, Taz wasn’t the only one who was in charge of a game, Goog was working the craps table, with a skinny blond woman in a scarlet dress hanging off his arm, and Alfie was running the raffle.
The team scrubbed up well, all in dark suits and bow ties, shoes shined, hair tidy, they looked like a different group of people than the sweaty, cursing men I saw all day.
“Is this on?” a voice said, and then there was the noise of tapping a mic, and as whole we turned to face Henry on the small podium, with a piece of paper in his hand and a smile that looked forced. Word in the locker room was that Henry wasn’t happy about raising money for the Carlisle LGBT Center, but he’d been outvoted because it was player’s choice.
I glanced sideways to where Taz was, and he caught my eye and winked at me. I felt hot all of a sudden, and so scanned the crowd for something to take my mind off how sexy Taz looked right now. I’d helped him get dressed, tidied his hair with gel, tied his tie, kissed his plump lips every second I could. Most of the time I was helping I actually wanted to undress him.
Yeah, I have it bad.
Henry cleared his throat. “Ladies and Gentlemen, just a few words. Thank you for attending tonight’s function to raise money for the Carlisle Center.”
I couldn’t be the only one who noticed that he’d dropped the LGBT part of the title. In fact I saw Taz stiffen, his shoulders taut and I willed him not to leap up there and drag Henry off the podium and pummel him. I think a few of the team and most of the staff wanted to pummel him actually, me included.
Particularly after this morning’s briefing, when he physically shoved me out of his office and slammed the door in my face. Ass hole. He was talking now, about the year, and the team, and the time he’d put into making the Rush the best up and coming team in the AHL.
I had the statistics to prove it wasn’t anything his style of management was doing that had gotten them into a position to potentially be one of the final sixteen in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
He finished and there was a short round of applause, and then in slow motion things went horribly wrong for him. And it wasn’t Taz who went up to the podium, it was Sam, his own son. He grabbed the mic from his dad, and I think maybe he’d been drinking, because he held onto the stand for balance. Either that or the passion he was feeling was too much for him to handle.
“Thank you dad, for that powerfully uplifting speech. I feel like I have something to add though.”
“Sam, leave it,” Harry said in a loud whisper, reaching for the mic.
“What dad forgot to mention was that the fundraising tonight is for something close to my heart,” Sam began, and moved himself bodily to block his dad taking the mic from him. I noticed two people approaching the podium, Taz from one side, cautiously making his way through the crowd, and Goog, heading in from the other direction.
“The Carlisle LGBT center has improved the lives of queer youth in this town. Up until they opened there was nothing for people like me to support us, but because of them I am able to stand up here tonight and tell people I am gay. Their counselling, and the friendship I find there is wholly the reason why I’m still alive, and that is no exaggeration.”
“This is not the time nor the place,” Henry snapped. By this time Taz was only a few steps away, and Goog nearly as close.
“No, I think you’ll find it is. The center was more of a family to me than you were. Because of them I had the bravery to fall in love, but because of you I had to turn him away.”
Goog stopped as still as stone, and I couldn’t be the only one to notice how pale he looked. Taz made it all the way to the small stage and put his arm across Sam’s shoulder, but he didn’t stop him talking.
“I loved this man with my whole heart,” Sam said and choked back a sob. “I was scared, and places like the Center make people like me not scared, so thank you for your donations.”
Taz took the mic from him then, putting a hand between Sam and his dad, and bodily hustling Sam off the stage even as people started to clap. Whether it was out of politeness or whether they were cheered by the impassioned speech I don’t know. What I did know though, was that Goog hadn’t moved, and he looked like he’d been hit in the head with a hundred mile an hour puck, dazed and confused.
It was easy for me to put two and two together, Goog and Sam? But then, the blond woman was there, linking her arm with Goog’s and reaching up to whisper something in his ear. After a short while Goog nodded at her, and the two of them moved into the crowd of people all back on their games. Goog looked wrong, pale, sad, devastated, but he managed a forced smile as he reached his craps table.
Taz and Sam had vanished, but Henry was still here, acting like nothing had happened at all. He was chatting and moving through the crowd, shaking hands, talking, but I could see he moved with purpose, heading to the door. He was going to find Taz and Sam and that couldn’t end well. Thinking on my feet I got between him and the door that Taz had gone through, thrusting out my hand. He couldn’t do anything but shake it.
“I was thinking about your point from this morning’s meeting,” I began.
He made a move to pass me, and I sidestepped as neatly as I could.
Irritated, he snarled at me. “Out of my way,” he demanded.
Then I couldn’t stop him anymore, not when he shoved me like he’d done this morning, and I tripped over my own feet ending up falling into Alfie who caught me neatly. Gotta love those goalie reflexes.
The door shut behind Henry, and he was gone.
I hope to hell Taz and Sam were well away from here. Because there was trouble brewing, and after a moment’s hesitation and thought, I followed them all out of the same door. If Taz needed me I’d be there for him.
*a new episode appears each Sunday, check the master list for updates.