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


by Cindi Madsen

I could tell by the way he’d dragged out the words and wrapped his arm around Lyla’s waist that he didn’t want to go without her. I didn’t want to hold her back from a party—during the first part of last year it was all I could do to get her to go out. Now she had a better social life than I did. Although I knew she often tired of the party scene quickly, it was good for her to get out, and even better that Beck liked to show her off.

“Go,” I said, making a shooing motion. “I’ll be fine. Maybe we can have a girls’ night tomorrow, and then I can really bitch about guys without hurting Beck’s feelings.” I gave him a teasing smile, even though I was serious about the bitching part.

“Or…” Lyla wound a strand of her fiery red locks around her finger, and since she’d just been to the salon for a color touchup, it reminded me I needed to do the same for my blond highlights. “Remember how you forced me to get out last year, even after Beck and I had that rough spot, and it ended up being the best thing ever?”

Yeah, because Beck got up onstage and groveled to get her back, not because the party was so great.

“Why don’t you shake off that idiot’s loss and come to the Quad with us?”

Chapter Two

Hudson

I’d lost count of how many drinks I’d had, but I no longer felt the anger or frustration from earlier in the day, so it seemed to be about the right amount.

The phone call I’d received this afternoon rose up again, and my hand automatically drifted to my right side—I’d sustained dozens of injuries through the years, but broken ribs and the bruised lung were the hardest to forget, and a residual ache went through them now.

I changed my mind. I need another shot.

Of course the call from my mom had come on the same day I found out I’d failed my first sociological statistics test.

A fuzzy brunette head popped into view as I reached for the bottle of vodka. I blinked, and my vision cleared enough to see the sloppy smile curving her lips. “You’re one of the wingers on the hockey team, right?”

“That’s what they tell me,” I said, and she giggled.

“I know all of the positions.” She leaned in, resting her breasts against my arm as she curled her hand around my elbow. “Hockey positions, I mean. I went to every game last year and watched you play. I can’t believe I’m getting a chance to actually talk to Hudson Decker.”

I grunted, the most minimal required response, and refilled my cup. As I suspected, she was the chatty type, so she continued to talk, mostly about how much she loved hockey.

“You know…” She walked her fingers up to my shoulder. “While I know all of your hockey stats, there are a lot of other things I’d like to learn about you. My place isn’t far from here.”

Too easy. Usually I wasn’t opposed to that kind of thing, but I didn’t have the patience to nod and mumble at the right places. I certainly didn’t want to suffer through her trying to pry out details about the supposed other side of me. Girls always thought they could discover my sweet, thoughtful side, but I didn’t have one. If I slept with a girl, the only thing she’d ever get was superficial information. Despite what girls might think, I was actually doing them a favor by holding back. No one wanted the ugly truth about me, and I’d rather take a skate across the face than spill it. But the biggest mark against this particular girl was that she didn’t intrigue me enough to keep my mind off other things.

We were supposed to be celebrating the start of the season, but with the past rising up to haunt me I felt like I was fifteen again, helpless in a shitty situation and wondering if it was worth the fight, or if I should let go for good.

When I was fifteen, I really didn’t have much of a choice. A lot of things had changed, but considering the bomb my mom had dropped, and the fact that I was already struggling with a class, maybe not enough to truly make a difference.

For now I needed to focus on my stupid statistics class, because without my scholarship, I couldn’t afford to stay at Boston College. Then I’d end up back home, no degree, and between the mess there and no longer having hockey as an outlet, I’d completely lose my shit.

This girl, with her over-the-top eye-batting as she put on bubble-gum-colored lipstick, certainly didn’t look like she could help me with anything educational.

Whoa. A little harsh there, Decker. Apparently I’d had enough alcohol to turn into a judgmental asshole, which was a bit too much. Made me think of the very guy I was trying my best to not think about. His image brought on a burst of rage, and I curled my fists, wishing for the ice and an opponent to slam into to take the edge off.

Shit, I need to shake this off before it screws up my life all over again.

“Nice meeting you,” I said to the brunette, even though whatever we’d done barely qualified as “meeting,” and then I headed toward my boys. My real family, no matter what was going on with the one I’d been born into.

My roommates, Dane and Ryder, clapped me on the back as I approached. One of them shoved a beer in my hand, and the flimsy plastic cup dented and sloshed foam onto my shoes. As the rest of the team gathered and grabbed drinks, toasts were made, more alcohol was consumed.

After a bathroom break, I stumbled back toward the group, but stopped short when I caught sight of a blonde with a killer ass. Her jeans were blessedly tight and the glittery designs on her back pockets begged to be stared at and studied.

With the lights dimmed, and as much alcohol as blood buzzing through my system, it was hard to fully make out her features, but from what I could see of her profile, she had the face to match. She swayed her hips to the beat of the music that pumped through the room, and my heart gave a hard thump. Something about that girl said she’d be far from easy. That she’d make me forget everything for a while, even my own name.

I ran a hand over my face, trying to shake away the haze that dragged my limbs down and made walking a challenge. I wished for skates, because at least the ice helped you glide. While I’d probably fall on my face if I got anywhere near a hockey rink right now, the bonus of crashing on ice was it’d be right there to numb the pain.

Then again, I felt pretty damn numb right now.

Finally I made it to the sexy blonde and tapped her on the shoulder. I grinned when she spun around, but she didn’t crack even a hint of a smile. “What?”