First Chapter: Us by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy
Can your favorite hockey players finish their first season together undefeated?
Five months in, NHL forward Ryan Wesley is having a record-breaking rookie season. He’s living his dream of playing pro hockey and coming home every night to the man he loves—Jamie Canning, his longtime best friend turned boyfriend. There’s just one problem: the most important relationship of his life is one he needs to keep hidden, or else face a media storm that will eclipse his success on the ice.
Jamie loves Wes. He really, truly does. But hiding sucks. It’s not the life Jamie envisioned for himself, and the strain of keeping their secret is taking its toll. It doesn’t help that his new job isn’t going as smoothly as he’d hoped, but he knows he can power through it as long as he has Wes. At least apartment 10B is their retreat, where they can always be themselves.
Or can they? When Wes’s nosiest teammate moves in upstairs, the threads of their carefully woven lie begin to unravel. With the outside world determined to take its best shot at them, can Wes and Jamie develop major-league relationship skills on the fly?
Warning: contains sexual situations, a vibrating chair, long-distance sexytimes and proof that hockey players look hot in any shade of green.
Vancouver is a beautiful city, but I can’t wait to leave it.
We’ve just finished the longest road trip on our schedule, and I cannot fucking wait to go home. Standing in a fancy hotel room overlooking the waterfront, I shake the tissue paper out of a shirt I just bought at the boutique around the corner. Since I’ve been living out of my suitcase for so long, I’m out of clean laundry. But this is a great shirt, and it looked at me as I passed the storefront on my way back from signing autographs at a charity luncheon.
I unbutton it and slip it on. In the hotel mirror, I check the fit, and it looks fine. Great, even. The cotton is a fine weave, and there’s a lime-green checked pattern shot through the fabric. It’s very British, and the lively color reminds me that it won’t always be February.
Now that my dress code includes a suit and tie three or four times a week, I’ve had to pay more attention to my wardrobe. In college I wore a suit maybe three times a year. But it’s no hardship because I like clothes. And the hotel mirror says they like me, too.
I’m a sexy motherfucker. If only the one person I care about was here to appreciate it.
Last night we obliterated Vancouver, and it’s not bragging to say that I was the reason why. Two goals and an assist—my best showing yet. I’m having the kind of rookie season that makes headlines. Though right this second I’d trade it all for a night in front of the TV with Jamie and a blowjob. I am beat. Whipped. Knackered.
Luckily, all that’s left of this trip is one more ride on the team’s jet.
I grab my phone off the desk and unlock it. With the selfie cam, I shoot a picture of my abs, the shirt parted to reveal my six-pack, my hand over my crotch. It took me a while to figure out that Jamie has a thing for my hands. I swear he likes them more than my dick.
I send the picture. No commentary needed.
The hotel room gets one last glance, but I’ve packed everything. I’ve learned in a hurry not to leave charging cords and toothbrushes behind. We’re on the road so often that packing has become my new skill.
My phone vibrates with a text. Grrrr. Just get home, would you? I don’t need any pics. My poor lonely dick is so hard.
That reminds me of old vaudeville jokes. So I reply, How hard is it?
Hard enough to pound nails into our bare walls, he replies. It’s true that we haven’t exactly decorated our apartment. We both work a lot and there’s been no time.
But, as always, sex is a greater priority than home decor. Show me, I beg. There’s a reason I keep my phone locked down. Jamie and I like to indulge in some private photography.
He doesn’t answer, though. Maybe he isn’t at home. It’s afternoon in Vancouver, which means it’s later in Toronto… Fuck. I’m sick of doing this math all the time. I just want to go home.
I grab my suitcase and head downstairs. A few of the guys are already waiting in the lobby, just as eager to get home as I am. I wander over to where they’re standing.
“Jesus,” Matt Eriksson says as I approach. “My wife better be home and naked when I get there. And the kids had better be asleep. With, like, fucking earplugs in their little ears.”
Eight days is a long time, I inwardly agree. But I don’t say it out loud, because even though my teammates are great guys, I don’t engage in these discussions. It’s not my style to lie and pretend there’s a girl at home waiting for me. And I’m not ready to tell them who is. So I keep my own counsel.
Except Eriksson’s Nordic features have turned in my direction, and a goofy grin breaks out on his face. “Shit, my eyes! I think I’m blind.”
“Why?” I ask halfheartedly. Eriksson is always joking about something.
“That shirt! Jesus.”
“Seriously,” the veteran Will Forsberg says, laughing as he covers his eyes with one hand. “It’s so bright.”
“It’s so gay,” Eriksson corrects.
This comment doesn’t faze me in the least. “This shirt is Tom Ford, and it’s killer,” I mutter. “Bet you twenty bucks it shows up on the puck bunny blogs before the end of the week.”
“Attention whore,” Forsberg accuses. More than any of the other guys on the team, Forsberg eats up the media attention we get. When my mug started showing up on HockeyHotties.com, he didn’t appreciate the competition.
Joke’s on him, though. He can keep the entire population of puck bunnies.
“Just sayin’,” Eriksson presses, “you could do well in the bars on Church Street in that shirt.”
“Yeah?” I ask. “You know from personal experience?”
That shuts him up. But Blake Riley is squinting at my chest now. He’s a big puppy dog of a guy with messy brown hair and no filter. “It’s, like, hypnotizing almost. It says, ‘Yowza. I fucking dare you to look away’.”
“It says, ‘Three hundred dollars, please’,” I correct. “It’s expensive to look this good.”
Blake snorts, and Forsberg says I should ask for my money back. Then the topic moves on to another brand of smack talk and speculation that the bus won’t ever show up and that we’ll all die of blue balls in Vancouver.
Eventually we board, though. I take a seat alone. We’re halfway to the airport when my phone buzzes with a text. I have it set so that none of my texts (especially the photos) show up on the screen unless I’m logged in. It’s a pretty crucial precaution and the text Jamie has just sent me proves it. When I authenticate my thumbprint, the screen fills with a picture that is not safe for work. It’s both dirty and hysterical all at once. Jamie’s very hard dick fills the shot. Only it’s angled toward the wall where the full, pink head leans against a flat nail that it’s presumably pounding. And Jamie has used some app to draw a happy face on his cockhead. The effect is startlingly transformative. His dick looks like…an expressive, alien creature performing some minor home repair.
I give a snort of laughter. And here they thought my shirt was gay. I’ll show you gay…
Blake rises from the seat behind me to say something, and I press down on the menu button of my phone so hard that my knuckle cracks. “Yeah?” I wonder what he saw.
“Remember how I asked you whether you liked living at 2200 Lake Shore?”
“My stuff got moved there yesterday. I’m your new neighbor on the fifteenth floor.”
“That’s great, man,” I lie. When he’d asked me if I liked the place, I should have told him all the drawbacks. It’s too far from the subway. The cold wind off the waterfront is a bitch. Nothing against Blake, but I don’t need any of the neighbors to know me. I work pretty hard to fly under the radar.
“Yeah, the view is killer, right? I’ve only seen it during the day, but the lights at night are probably spectacular.”
“They are,” I admit. As if I care. The view of my boyfriend’s face is the only one I want right now. And we still have a four-hour flight until I get home to him.
“You can help me find all the best bars in the ’hood,” Blake suggests. “I’ll buy the first round.”
“Awesome,” I say.
Fuck, I’m thinking.
It takes eighteen years to get back to Toronto.
By the time we’ve landed and gotten our luggage back, it’s seven o’clock. I’m really looking forward to spending some time with Jamie, but there’s a deadline. He has to leave at six o’clock tomorrow morning for an away game in Quebec with his major juniors team.
We have eleven hours, and I’m still not there yet.
Every red light on the way home makes me seethe. But finally I’m pulling into the parking garage (a feature of the building that I’d boasted about to Blake, damn it). I wheel my giant duffel into the elevator and luckily the car climbs toward our tenth-floor apartment without any stops. I fish my keys out so they’re ready in my hand.
At long last, I’m twenty paces away, then ten. Then I’m opening our door. “Hey babe!” I call out like I always do. “I made it.” I drag my duffel over the threshold, then toss my suit coat on top, abandoning these things beside the door, because all I need now is a kiss.
Only then do I notice that our apartment smells amazing. Jamie has cooked dinner for me. Again. He is the perfect man, I swear to God.
“Hey!” he calls, emerging from the hallway leading to our bedroom. He’s wearing jeans and nothing else except—and this is unusual—a beard. “Do I know you?” He gives me a sexy smile.
“I was going to ask the same thing.” I’m staring at the sandy-blond beard. Jamie has always been clean-shaven. I mean—we’ve known each other since before facial hair. He looks different. Older, maybe.
And hot as blazes. Seriously, I can’t wait to feel that beard against my face, and maybe my balls… Jesus. The blood is already rushing south, and I’ve been home fifteen seconds.
And yet I’m just stuck there in the middle of the room for a moment, because even though it’s been eight months since Jamie and I started up together, I’m still a little stunned at my own good fortune. “Hi,” I say again, stupidly.
He walks forward, his easy gait so familiar that my heart breaks a little bit. He puts his hands on my traps and squeezes the muscle there. “Don’t go away for so long. If you do that again, I’m going to have to sneak into your hotel room on the road.”
“Promise?” I ask, and it comes out like gravel. He’s close enough now that I can smell the ocean scent of his shampoo and the beer he drank while he waited for me.
“If I ever got a day off, I’d do it,” he says. “Hotel sex after a game? Sounds hot.”
Now I’m measuring the distance to our sofa and counting the layers of clothes I’ll need to remove in the next ninety seconds.
But Jamie takes his hands off my shoulders. “I ate already, but your plate is in the oven. I just put it in there a few minutes ago. Chicken enchiladas. They should take fifteen minutes to warm up.”
“Thanks.” My stomach grumbles and he grins. I guess I’m hungry for more than one thing.
“Want a beer?”
Do I ever. “I’ll get ’em. Sit down. Cue up the next episode. We can watch it while we wait.” I sound overly polite to my own ears, but coming home after a road trip usually feels a little weird. There’s this brief but awkward re-entry that I hadn’t known to expect.
I have little use for the domestic chatter my married teammates share. But if I were the sharing kind, it would be tempting to ask—will it always be this way? Do the guys who’ve been coupled up for ten years feel it, too? Or is it the newness of our relationship that makes things a little odd for an hour or two whenever I come home?
Wish I knew.
My first stop is our open-plan kitchen for two beers, which I open and then deposit on our coffee table. We’ve lived here almost six months, and still there isn’t much furniture. We’ve both been too busy to really furnish the place. But we have the real necessities: a giant leather sofa, a kickass coffee table, a rug and a big TV.
Oh—and there’s a wobbly armchair that I rescued off the curb and kept over Jamie’s objections. He calls it the death chair. Jamie gives it wide berth, insisting that it has bad karma.
You can take the boy out of California, but you can’t take the California out of the boy.
I need to change, so I take a step toward our bedroom. But then I stop to ask him a question. “Hey, what do think of this shirt? I picked it up today, because I ran out of clean stuff.”
Jamie points the remote at the TV. “It’s very green,” he says without turning to look.
“I like it.”
“Me too, then.” He turns and the beard catches me off-guard again. But his smile sends me jogging toward our bedroom.
The bed is made up perfectly, so I toss my trousers, my very green shirt and my tie on the comforter, in a hurry to get back to Jamie. I throw on a pair of sweats and make it back to the living room to find Jamie propped into the corner of the couch on his side, his legs stretched out across the cushions. I don’t bother pretending to play it cool. I lay down right in front of him, my head against his shoulder, my back to his front.
“Shit,” I complain when I realize my error. “I left the beers out of reach.”
He clamps a hand over my abs. “Go,” he says.
I stretch with both hands for our bottles and he prevents me from falling on the floor. While the table is positioned perfectly for our feet when we’re sitting up, this little maneuver is for beer emergencies while we’re cuddling. They happen sometimes.
I pass his bottle over my head and hear him take a swig. The opening credits for Banshee—our current show—are rolling. “You didn’t cheat on me while I was gone, did you?” I ask.
“Wouldn’t dream of it. The last episode wasn’t a cliffhanger, though. So you could say I haven’t really been tested.”
I snort into my beer and lean back into the solid warmth of his chest. Usually I’m really invested in this show, with its freaky plot and crazy fight scenes. But tonight it’s just an excuse to be skin to skin on the couch with my man while my dinner reheats. His beard tickles my ear, and that’s unexpected. I tilt my head back so his beard brushes my face, too. I can’t see the TV at all, and I just don’t care.
He dips his chin and rubs the beard against my cheek, then brushes his lips across my neck, leaving shivers in his wake. “What do you think?” he asks quietly.
I turn toward him carefully so as not to spill my beer. “You look fucktastic. Like J-Tim after he left NSYNC and got hot. But I want to feel it on my balls before I weigh in.”
He tips his head back and laughs suddenly, and that’s when the road-trip ice dam breaks. It’s just us again and his easy laugh and the comfort I feel when he’s around.
Yesss... I drop my head and lick his throat right below the border of the beard. Then I suck on his skin gently. Jamie stops laughing and relaxes his body against mine. We’re skin to skin from the waist up, and the feel of his heartbeat against mine makes me want to weep with gratitude. I nuzzle my nose through his fledgling beard, taking a circuitous route toward his mouth. The hair is softer than I expected.
“Fuck. Kiss me already,” he whispers.
So I do. The beard caresses my face as I fit my mouth over his, diving in like I’ve been gone from him eight months, not eight days. He makes a happy sound deep in his chest. I kiss him thoroughly, reacquainting myself with his taste and the warmth of his breath on my face.
He sighs, and I slow things down, brushing my lips over his lazily.
We won’t get crazy right now, but it’s not out of awkwardness. Rather, we’re both holding a beer bottle, my dinner is in the oven and we have all night.
This is my happy thought just as I hear an unfamiliar sound—someone knocking on the door. It’s so unusual that I actually assume it’s part of the TV show in the background at first. But the knock comes again. “Wesley! You crazy bastard. Open up, I have beer!”
Jamie pulls his head back, his eyebrows shooting up. “Who is that?” he mouths.
“Fuck,” I whisper. “Just a sec!” I call. Then I drop my mouth to Jamie’s ear. “My teammate. Blake Riley. He moved in upstairs.”
Jamie gives me a little shove, and I get up. I have to adjust myself in my sweats to make my semi a little less obvious. I approach the front door, opening it a crack. “Hey. You found me.”
Blake gives me a big, stupid grin and pushes past me into the apartment. “Yeah! I have boxes stacked up all over my new living room. Total disaster. My sisters found the sheets and made the bed for me, but otherwise it’s hell up there. So I ate a burger and bought a six-pack and thought I’d come see you, eh?”
For a moment I think of throwing him out. I really do. But there’s no way to do it that isn’t hella rude. I mean, I’m standing here in sweats, a beer in my hand and the TV blaring behind me. I look exactly like a guy who has time to drink a beer with his teammate. And this is a guy who’s asked me out for beers a handful of times already, and I always beg off unless we’re on the road.
“Come on in,” I say, hating the sound of it. He’s already in, for one thing. That bastard. And sixty seconds ago I had Jamie’s tongue in my mouth.
Blake doesn’t notice my discomfort. He sets the six-pack on the coffee table and sits right down on the sofa where Jamie was a minute ago. Jamie’s beer is on the bar dividing our kitchen from the rest of the room, but he’s vanished.
“You ready for another one?” Blake asks, grabbing a bottle.
“I’m good,” I say, taking a swig of my own.
Jamie reappears from the hallway, wearing a T-shirt now, ruining the view I had of his muscular, golden chest. “Hey there,” he says. “I’m Jamie.”
“Ah, you’re the roommate!” Blake hops to his feet and leaps over to engulf Jamie’s hand in his big paw. “Nice to meet you. You’re a coach, right? Defense? Teenagers?”
“Uh, yeah.” Jamie’s gaze lifts to mine, a question in them.
I’m just as confused, though. I’ve mentioned my roommate to maybe two people all season, but apparently Blake was one of them. I never talk about Jamie to my teammates, because I don’t want to have to try to figure out when to stop, or how much detail is too much.
And I never want to tell a bold-faced lie about him. That’s just not my style.
Blake is a big guy with a quick smile, and honestly I’d always assumed he was a little slow. That might have been inaccurate. “Want a beer?” he asks now. “Hey! I love Banshee! Which one is this?” He gallops back to the couch and sits.
I don’t know quite what to do, so I sit down on the opposite end from him.
Jamie heads into the kitchen, and I stare at the screen for a minute, trying to figure out what’s happening with this episode. Hood is trying to escape from a building where he’s stolen something. His colorful trans friend is in his earpiece, trying to help him navigate out of there.
I have no idea what’s happening. On the screen or in my living room.
Jamie returns a few minutes later with a plate covered with enchiladas in melted cheese. He’s using a tray because the plate is hot from the oven, and I’m famous for burning myself in the kitchen. My mouth waters when I see a generous blob of sour cream and a pile of diced avocados, too. He’s even thought of a napkin and silverware.
To have your boyfriend bring you a homemade dinner is just about the best thing in the whole fucking world, except Jamie’s eyes are asking if he should hand it over, or maybe this looks weird? Too domestic?
I stand up and take it from him, because goddamn it, this is my home and I can do anything I want here. “Thank you. This looks amazing.”
He gives me the world’s quickest wink, and I sit down on the couch to eat the dinner he brought me. It’s not all I want from him, but it will have to do for now.
I’m not pissed. Nope, not pissed at all. I mean, what else was Wes supposed to do? Slam the door in his teammate’s face? Gesture to his rock-hard dick and say “Sorry man, I’m about to bone down with my boyfriend”? The boyfriend he hasn’t seen in eight days, the one who’s been anxiously waiting for him in this empty condo and making sure there’s dinner on the table when he got home and—
Okay. Maybe I’m a teeny, tiny bit pissed...