Author: Sawyer Bennett
Series: Cold Fury Hockey
SEVEN YEARS AGO…
“Dude…you are going to miss your fucking plane. We do not have time for this shit,” Oliver says in warning as we pull up in front of Vale’s father’s house.
My head is pounding, my throat is dry, and I feel like I’m about ready to hurl. Oh, yeah, and I’m still just a bit drunk from last night’s party.
“This will only take a minute,” I mumble as he puts the car in park and I practically fall out when I open the door.
Fuck, I’m hungover. No, wait…definitely still drunk.
Not sure how last night got so out of control on me.
No, wait…I know the answer to that too.
Because I love to get out of control. I love to party my ass off. Love the freedom that comes with a killer buzz. Love how happy and carefree it all makes me feel. Love partying with my boys. Love partying with my girl.
Mostly my girl. Fuck…Vale can hang right with me when it comes to our booze. She’s as crazy and as uninhibited as I am when we’re stone-cold sober, but when you get the two of us going at a party, we take it to a whole new level. We are young, boisterous, crazy daredevils. We get jacked up on alcohol and do stupid, whacko things. Hell, it’s not considered a real party unless Vale and I end a glorious, drunken night getting new tattoos together.
It’s what you do when you’re twenty years old, and we do it well.
Actually, I may have done it a little too well last night. I woke up about an hour ago on the floor of Oliver’s living room, along with about six other people that I didn’t even recognize. There was a girl lying next to me with her head on my shin, drool coming out of her mouth.
For a brief, panicked moment, I had no clue what the fuck was going on. I didn’t see Vale, but rather a strange girl lying there. We were fully clothed. Hell, everyone was, and after a few unsteady heartbeats, I realized we all had possibly passed out right there. Empty Solo cups littered the floor, a fifth of vodka lay next to me with maybe three swallows left in it.
So where the fuck was Vale?
We had come to the party together. Oliver had given it for me, a last farewell throw down, so to speak, in my honor. I was high on life before I even got there, and I actually felt drunk just on impending success. So much so, I considered not even drinking that night, but then Vale cracked open a beer and handed it to me, and without a second thought, I drank it down.
How could I not? All my friends and teammates had come out to wish me good luck. The small community of Sydney, Nova Scotia, nestled on the east coast of Cape Breton Island, boasts only a little over thirty-one thousand residents, but I’m well known around these parts.
As the league’s leading defenseman in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League—better known as the “Q”—my name is familiar to many throughout much of Canada. I’ve been playing for the Cape Breton Oilers since I was sixteen years old, and with my talents, I was drafted into the NHL by the Pittsburgh Titans when I was eighteen.
Third round, sixty-second overall.
For the next year, I had a brief and glorious rise up to Titan training camp, where I made the cut and survived seven games before I was scratched because I pretty much sucked.
Too young. Needs more development. Not ready.
I was sent back to Cape Breton to play another year in the “Q” rather than Pittsburgh’s minor league team out of Wilkes-Barre Scranton, a move that was decided best for me by Titan management. This was fine by me, as it put me right back with Vale, who was content to take some classes in a local college, not sure what she wanted to do with her life. While I had been gone maybe a total of four months, we were still rock solid together, so we just picked up right where we left off.
It’s not like I was happier to be with Vale than building a professional hockey career, but I was okay with the decision to send me back down to the “Q,” and so Vale was sort of like a bonus for me. I love that girl so fucking much, so what if it took me an extra year to make it back into an NHL game? At least I had my dream-come-true girl beside me.
Same age as me…twenty, but definitely the free spirit of the two of us. While I can get as wild and crazy as she does on any given day, I’m usually the voice of reason within our relationship when I bother to care enough to bring reason into a situation. Vale is such a fly-by-her-seat kind of girl, and it’s one of the things I love about her the most. She says “fuck the consequences,” and I’m usually right there beside her, urging “let’s do it.” We are more than lovers. We are the best of friends, two peas in a pod, Frick and Frack.
Which makes me wonder what the fuck happened last night that I woke up on a beer-soaked carpet without her, rather than naked in the bed we shared at our apartment?
I checked my phone as soon as I dislodged the girl’s head off my leg. She did nothing more than let out a soft snore and roll over.
I called Vale and it rang four times before I got her voicemail. “Hey,” I said with a voice crusted in some type of hangover gunk. I gave a hard cough and tried again. “It’s me. Not sure where you are. Hopefully at home. I’m on my way there now, so I’ll see you soon.”
I hung up, my stomach threatening to rebel on me, and stumbled down the hallway to wake up Oliver. I found him naked in bed with a girl I vaguely recognized from last night. It took me a good five minutes to rouse him so he could drive me back to our apartment, where I assumed Vale was waiting to drive me to the airport in Halifax.
Unfortunately, when I got there, my throbbing headache seemed to magnify even more when I realized she wasn’t. I started to get a sick feeling in my stomach—non–booze related—that something bad had happened. Bits and pieces were returning to me, and I did remember that she hadn’t been feeling well and wanted to leave the party. Period cramps, I think. I also distinctly remember me telling her I didn’t want to leave because this was my last night before flying out to Pennsylvania, and I wasn’t about to leave just because it was “that time of the month.”
I had been called up to the Titan minor league team and this was what I had been waiting for. My foot was back in the door and it was a moment of huge celebration. I was leaving, and if I was lucky enough to get solidified within the Titan organization, I probably wasn’t ever coming back here. In just a year, I had gained massive improvements in my conditioning, my skills, and my confidence. I was ready for the big leagues and they wanted me, so it was a night to party, celebrate, and say goodbye. I was going to be sad to leave this community where I’ve lived for the past four years, so I wanted to make it count.
Of course, I would be crushed to leave Vale, but in my mind, that was just temporary. I had to work on getting her to come with me. Despite her libertine ways, she was at heart a small-town girl deeply meshed within her community and even closer to her dad. So, we’d be separated for a while until I could get her to make that leap with me, but still…I’d be seeing her. Surely she’d come to visit me and we’d make our long-distance relationship work. But these guys…my bros that I’d played junior hockey with for so many years? This was my last night with them. Surely she understood why I didn’t want to leave.
Surely she wasn’t pissed at me for that?
Oliver made a quick call to Avery, his twin sister and Vale’s best friend. The call was short, and even though Oliver tried to find out where they went last night, the most he got out of her was that Vale wasn’t feeling well and was staying at her dad’s house. I’m sort of thinking that her “not feeling well” translates into her being pissed at me.