Anatomy of a Player (Taking Shots #2)(6)

by Cindi Madsen

Oh, shit. My brain whirred, words tripping over each other as they tried to form a coherent idea. “How about a story on how this generation of college guys don’t want to commit because they’ve had everything handed to them their entire lives? How they’d rather have a lot of shallow relationships than actually work at one?”

Lindsay tilted her head one way and then the other. “That’s a hard sell since the population the paper caters to is just over 50 percent male. We don’t want to look like an angry women’s publication. We need provable facts.”

“My dating life has provided a lot of proof,” I muttered, and Lindsay actually cracked a smile.

“You and me both. But again, it’s hard to prove the level of commitment from the entire male student body of Boston College, with only you and me reporting on it. Not to mention the whole ‘Sex and the Univer-city’ column that pissed off the administration, what with the fact that we’re a religious school and supposed to pretend that kind of thing isn’t going on. Since it’s been about a decade, we’ve probably got more leeway, but I’d need to really believe in a story to risk the admin’s ire.”

As a lover of words, I appreciated her use of “ire.” I was a big fan of finding exactly the right word, but I found that nowadays, using them only brought blank looks from people my age. I wanted this job so bad I could taste it—and it tasted like smooth, rich chocolate, the addictive kind that made you crave more and more.

“I belong here—I know I do.” I put my hand on my chest for emphasis. “Like I said, I’ll do anything. You tell me to report on it, and I’m there.”

A light sparked in Lindsay’s eye, and I could see an idea forming as she lifted her pen and clicked it against her lip. Hope rose, and I held my breath again, awaiting her next words and telling myself to just agree with whatever she said, no matter how crazy.

“How much do you know about hockey?”

I paced the apartment, waiting for Lyla to get home. Einstein watched from the couch, his whiskered face following me back and forth across the room.

I’d decided to do whatever it took to get an in at the paper, but what I’d agreed to… Well, I might just be in over my head. Like miles and miles, with no boat or lifesaver in sight.

The door swung open, sending a gust of crisp fall air through the apartment, and I nearly pounced on Lyla the way Einstein usually did when she showed up. “I need to talk to you.”

Lyla slid the pencil out of her bun, and her hair fell down around her face, the ends wavy from being twisted up during her hours of studying. “What’s up?”

I started with my meeting with Professor Jessup and then told her about going down to the newspaper office. “So she asked how much I knew about hockey, and I wanted a job there so badly that I told her I knew the game well—I actually said that. ‘I know the game well, and watch it all the time.’ I figure the few NHL games you and Beck made me watch at the end of last semester practically qualifies as all the time.”

Lyla made that focused face that meant she was doing some kind of calculation in her head—it was the chemist in her, always balancing out equations and weighing possible outcomes. “Oh-kay. So you fudged a bit. And you’re worried you’re going to get caught?”

“Yeah, because I fudged a lot. I was sure she’d ask questions I didn’t know the answers to, but she didn’t. Seriously, Lyla, I didn’t even really pay attention when we watched those games on TV. Not to anything besides guessing how hot the hockey player would be after he took off the helmet and I could see his face. I, like, had this bet with myself, and if he was hotter with the helmet on, I got sad, and if he ended up being all rugged sexiness, I enjoyed watching him play extra. Which makes me seem totally shallow, I know, but I do at least want our college team to do well, and that’s something, right?”

I felt short of breath after cramming that many words into one long stream.

“It’s definitely something,” Lyla teased. “Honestly, that’s how I started out with hockey—I mean, I already knew how the guy looked under the helmet, but I was only there for him. But now that I know most of the rules, I genuinely like watching the games.”

“Which is perfect, because I’m going to need your help in order to pull this off.”

“What is ‘this’ exactly?”

“I’m…” I hesitated. Lyla might not like it—her boyfriend was a hockey player after all.

After my minor lie about how much I knew about hockey, Lindsay had said, “Ever since our team won the NCAA hockey championship last year, they act like they walk on water.”

Of course, I, displaying my usual grace, said, “In a way they do—frozen water.”

Lindsay’s expression had made it clear it wasn’t time for jokes, so I quickly told her that I agreed, that I was sick of guys and their entitlement. Which was totally true. Sure I’d been thinking more about guys in general, but I was positive there were plenty of player-type guys on the hockey team. In fact, the guy who’d hit on me the other night proved it.

He’d honestly thought all it’d take was a grin, a drink, and a few minutes with him, I could tell. Well, the joke was on him, and now he can go down with the rest of his teammates.

“Whit?” Lyla snapped her fingers in front of my face. “You just left me totally hanging.”

“Sorry. Anyway, I will be covering the sports section, but I’m also going to use it as an opportunity to expose the perks that jocks—namely, um, the hockey players—get at this school, and how unfair it is to other students.”

Lyla pursed her lips, no doubt thinking about her hockey player boyfriend, who I also sorta hoped would help me with hockey terms and getting closer to his teammates. But maybe asking for his help was an ethical boundary I shouldn’t cross—the guy had grown on me after the crazy display he’d made to win Lyla back.

I probably shouldn’t have told her the exposé part, but I’d feel like the worst friend if I lied to her, especially after everything we’d been through together.

“I know it puts you in a bit of a difficult spot, but Lyla, if I pull this off, the editor promised me the front page, plus a full-time job doing real articles. Most people have to start off doing grunt work and crappy stories, and this would help me with my future career.”