Anatomy of a Player (Taking Shots #2)(8)


by Cindi Madsen

I shuddered at the “conservative dress shoes” suggestion. Cute sandals with bling were one thing, but I had to draw the line somewhere. “What about boots? With maybe, like, a baby heel?”

Lyla patted my shoulder, a placating move that also said she understood. “Okay. But it needs to be a really tiny one—there are hundreds of stairs in Kelley Rink, and heels are like catnip to hockey players. Of course, so are skirts, boobs… You get the point.”

“So, that leaves me with a potato sack?”

“Perfect!” Lyla declared, adding a dramatic clap that made us both laugh. “Seriously, though, that still won’t prevent guys from thinking about what’s underneath, so you might want to take a page from one of my many books on awkwardness. I used to repel guys by talking about cats a lot. I accidentally jabbed one in the eye with a pen. Chemistry jokes scare off a lot of them, too, if you want to go that way…”

“The joke would be that I don’t know enough about chemistry to attempt a joke.”

“Everyone has a nerdy thing about them, even if they try to hide it. What’s yours?”

There was the beauty pageant thing, but I didn’t think that really qualified as nerdy, and admitting to it wouldn’t help me seem less like I belonged in the puck bunny group. “Well, I love research. Like, really digging in there and finding out cool facts I never knew before. Which is why I’m such a fan of documentaries. I know some people think they’re boring, but my daddy and I would get so excited when a new one came out. We’d watch every one we could find, whether it was a hard-hitting one about kids being wrongly imprisoned, or the bad crap the food industry puts in what we eat, or pretty much anything.”

I missed those nights on the couch with my daddy sometimes, when we’d make popcorn and watch documentaries. They were what made me first want to be a journalist, actually.

“I’m bored just thinking about watching a whole documentary, so I think that works.” Lyla nudged me with her elbow and shot me a grin.

The wheels in my mind spun. I could definitely pull out statistics and facts from the many documentaries I’d seen—no one liked a know-it-all. Plus, I loved words. I also knew correcting grammar made people super grouchy, so I could throw some of that in, too. “Okay, so I’ve got guy repellent conversation, but I do need the hockey players to talk to me. I need to get close enough to find out about their perks.”

Lyla tossed her books and highlighter aside and tucked a leg under her. “Stick to sports questions first, so they take you seriously, and if any of them even attempt a flirty line, shut it down. We’re talking hard stop, no wiggle room, or they’ll try to work their way right in there again. Then, over time, relax a bit.” She brought her finger to her lips and nodded. “Yeah. They’ll get used to seeing you, and then you can infiltrate and get the scoop.”

“Dang, you can be a little scary when you get focused.”

“That’s what Beck says.” Her eyebrows scrunched together. “Which brings me to a subject that might be crossing a line, but I’m going to broach it anyway. Beck’s off-limits. No mention of his name in the article, and I don’t want anything about his family getting into it. I need that assurance, or I can’t in good conscience help you any more than I already have.”

I didn’t know the full story about Beck’s family, but I did know it was a sensitive subject. I wanted to be all about journalistic integrity, but I was sure plenty of journalists were careful about not burning their sources, especially when said source was one of her best friends. “Deal.”

With that out of the way, Lyla threw herself even more into helping me, offering up her wardrobe. We went into her bedroom and I tried on a few items. Since she had huge boobs that my push-up bra couldn’t dream of competing with, none of her shirts fit. Her long bohemian skirts hid my butt better than my jeans, but they said “peace and love” more than “serious sportswriter.” I was having fun, though, so I piled the scarves she used to hide underneath around my neck, two deep.

“It’s kind of funny that last semester you were helping me dress sexier, and now I’m helping you dress less so.” Lyla slid her glasses on my face and I blinked at my blurry reflection in her full-length mirror.

I moved closer to the mirror and then farther away, like the lens of a camera, but there was no focusing. “I think I might need to actually see to report on the hockey games.”

“We can go to the mall and find some non-prescription lenses. I don’t think any of my clothes are really what you’re looking for, anyway.”

I removed the glasses and held them out to her. “True. So, would you be up for going with me and helping me choose proper attire for Operation Serious Reporter, colon, no looking like a puck bunny?”

Lyla’s spine shot stick straight and then she saluted me. “First Lieutenant, Lyla, other-official-sounding-terms-here, reporting for duty.”

We both broke into laughter. This whole thing was going to be more fun than I expected.

Suddenly I couldn’t wait to go try on boring outfits and make myself look as dowdy as possible. Take that, beauty pageant training.

Chapter Seven

Whitney

Lyla vetoed the cute plaid editor pants at Express, as well as a bright red pair I tried on, but gave in to the tweed. I’d added them to the pile of boring black and gray slacks, all a size larger than I would usually buy. At least the tweed made me feel like I was taking a fashion risk, even if a conservative one.

When I’d come out in the white button down, she’d instructed me to do up one more button, because apparently even the hint of skin and cleavage meant that no hockey player would take me as seriously. She’d also insisted on the jacket, which, while not very fashion forward, did provide protection against the chilly air in the hockey arena.

My boring black shoes made an equally boring thump as I followed Lyla down the concrete steps. No clacking, no noise to turn a few heads. Just muffled thwak, thwak, thwaks.

“Here we are,” Lyla said, settling into one of the plastic maroon seats.

I sat next to her and readjusted the dark, too-chunky and too-wide frames that were a total no-no for my heart-shaped face. My mama had told me a hundred times—you need to balance the width of your face and hide the fact that your forehead is so much wider than your chin.