Series: Play Hard #1
on 30th June 2020
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I stare at Hunter. At his shirt plastered with sweat and how it clings to his body, despite the chill of the ice his skates are standing on. He has his warm-up pants on and is without a helmet, his hair curling at the ends from the sweat.
And all I see in his eyes is anger I didn’t put there. Or maybe I did. Rejection can do that to a man . . . but there’s something more here. Something I walked in on that doesn’t make sense.
“Don’t give me that look, Kincade,” Hunter mutters as he skates over to the penalty box where his electrolyte drink sits.
“What look?” I ask.
He half laughs, half snorts and meets my gaze across the distance. “Disappointment. Disproval. Disdain. I’m the king of all of them, so save your breath—or in this case—your glare, because it’s not going to work with me.”
“Are we working on emotions that start with the letter D today?” I ask. A hint of my embarrassment and anger over how I acted last night creeps into my voice, but I mask it with sarcasm. “If that’s the case, I’m more than impressed with your answers thus far.”
He clenches his jaw in response and then skates back over to line up more pucks so he can shoot them. And he does, one after another, each shot taken with laser precision and a healthy dose of fury behind it.
He goes through the first ten lined up and then stops to catch his breath.
His talent and skill are undeniable, but so is the beer bottle in my hand.
“Just because you’re the captain and star of this team, doesn’t mean management won’t frown upon this,” I say, unable to let this go.
“Screw the management.”
“No one likes a player who’s hard to handle and honestly, Hunter, you’re becoming hard to handle.”
“No one likes unsolicited advice from someone who has no bearing on his career, either,” he counters, the rebuke stinging but deserved.
The problem is, I do care about him. Doesn’t he get that’s where my hostility stems from?
And only a crazy person would say that, Dekker.
I put my hands up in surrender to both him and my own thoughts. “You know I only want the best for you.” I take a few steps in his direction in the first row of the stands. I’m close enough to catch the hitch of his movement and to see uncertainty flicker in his eyes. It’s almost as if he needs to talk but doesn’t see me as someone he can trust. I hate that. “What is it, Hunter?”
“Nothing. It’s . . . never mind.”
But I see it, and he knows I see it. The question is what do I see, though?