Anatomy of a Player (Taking Shots #2)(10)


by Cindi Madsen

“We’ll get it tuned yet,” she said. “Just keep at it.”

“This is exactly why I’ve sworn off dating and sex.”

The older woman in front of us turned and scowled. Oops. Considering the noise of the game, I was surprised she could even hear me. But thinking about how long it was going to be before I got to have sex again made me want to scowl, too.

Better focus on my research again. Where was I…?

Oh, yes. The unequal distribution of college funds. I opened up the second article I’d made notes on and skimmed through it again. This one talked about how the smaller sports that didn’t get recognition—like, oh, all of the women’s sports programs—were in danger, to the point they might be cut. Meanwhile, the attention-grabbing teams—such as the one playing on the ice at this very moment—paid their coaches hefty salaries, starting in the half a million range. Every year their budgets grew, which actually made it seem like they didn’t have a budget. They insisted they needed more money because they weren’t making a profit, when it was their own damn fault for paying too much for coaching staff and perks.

Okay, that last part might be more my opinion than fact as of yet, but I was working on gathering more evidence to support my theory. While a significant amount of the athletics department’s funds came from donations, it was a fact that the student body and the university paid more and more of the expenses every year, which meant the non-athletes were literally paying for the athletes to get special treatment.

So they were treated like kings while the rest of us studied our asses off and tried to convince ourselves that we weren’t sick of ramen noodles.

The unfairness of it all fed into my determination. This story had serious potential.

The crowd around me cheered and I glanced up, getting momentarily distracted by Number Nineteen once again. He’d just stolen the puck, and I watched as he shoved off a defender, dodged another one, and moved toward the goal, each long stride eating up the ice.

How can he skate that fast all game? He must have killer endurance. My mind accidentally drifted to how nicely his quick moves and all that power and endurance might transfer to other areas…

Stop it right there. This is how it always starts. You get distracted by hotness and forget all the ways guys screw you over.

I wasn’t doing that anymore, though, so as the people around me cheered for Hudson’s second goal of the night, I forced my focus back to my notes and my plan to write the kind of killer exposé that’d put my name front-and-center on the journalism map.

Chapter Eight

Hudson

This week had sucked, and while I’d been hitting the weights and cardio hard, I’d also been drinking too much and not sleeping enough. I’d paid for it every day at practice, but the adrenaline of the game pushed me past all that, washing away everything that didn’t matter.

I slammed one of the Harvard boys up against the ice so Dane could steal the puck away and break for our goal. Dane passed the puck to Beck, and he hit it home, scoring another point—this game was a total cakewalk.

I shot the Harvard boys an extra big grin through my mouth guard and one skated up in my face. He was the same jackass who’d been holding the whole game—not that the refs called it.

Dane zoomed in between us and put his hands on my chest. “Bro, these guys barely qualify for competition, but we’re going to need you for the next game. Don’t get into a pointless fight right now.”

I wished they’d let us hash it out, like back in the day, when Dane and I played neighborhood hockey with very little rules, but the NCAA strictly prohibited fights. Lately they’d been enforcing it extra hard, handing out several game suspensions.

“These pussies would cry about it, too,” Dane said, nice and loud. The ref neared, and we all scattered.

The next chance I got, I shoved into the jackass, satisfaction going through me when he wobbled and struggled to regain control. That’ll teach you to hold me the whole damn game.

When the whistle blew, I made a halfhearted attempt to look clueless about what I’d done wrong, but the ref threw me in the penalty box for two minutes.

Coach would probably be mad, but I’d kept it clean enough to keep from being called for fighting, despite the desire to knock the guy on his ass. Plus we were far enough ahead that I wasn’t worried my team would fall behind while being a man short.

After serving my time in the box and then a spin on the bench, I headed back onto the ice for the last minute and a half of the game. Once Beck passed me the puck, I skated around my defender and made another goal.

If the Harvard boys hadn’t been such babies, I might’ve felt bad about beating them so badly. As it was, I couldn’t help gloating a bit, and I wasn’t the only one. The air of victory hung in the locker room, along with the scent of twenty sweat-drenched guys. As a collective group we didn’t smell great, but we sure knew how to play hockey.

The door swung open, and along with the usual suspects who came into the locker room after the game, a blonde entered the melee, looking completely lost.

A female in the locker room—well, one dressed like that, who hadn’t snuck in—was a rare enough thing that most of the guys turned to stare. She lifted her chin and headed toward Beck.

I stripped off my jersey and tossed it into the laundry bin a few feet away, retrieved my spare water bottle, and drank about half of it in one gulp. Then I dumped the other half over my head and ran a hand through my hair.

Dane poked his head around my locker door. “Apparently that’s the new sportswriter for the Heights. If they were going to send in a female reporter, couldn’t they find a hotter one?”

Ox spared a quick glance at the girl, but didn’t comment as he started shoving gear in his locker.

I cast another look at the female in question. She dressed like the professor who was currently making my life hell, but there was something intriguing about her.

She pushed up her thick glasses and then wrapped her fingers around her pen so tightly I thought she might snap it in half. “She needs loosening up a bit, but I bet there’s a hot, freaky girl underneath, just waiting to get out.”

“Oh yeah?” Dane said, gripping the edge of his locker door. “Who’s going to unleash her? You?”

I glanced at her again. She reached down and scratched at her knee, which made the jacket rise up in the back. It was no wonder her legs were itchy—that fabric looked scratchy as hell, but I couldn’t help but notice the way her pants hugged her ass when she bent over.