Tripping (Iced #2) - Kristine Allen

“Chariot”—Gavin DeGraw

Don’t ask why a kid from Barrie, Ontario, Canada, wanted nothing more than to play for a hockey team in Texas. I wouldn’t have an answer for you. What I can say is that since the team was established, that was my goal.

Ask my parents. When I was six and the team was getting media play as an expansion team, I told them I was going to play for the Austin Amurs. People laughed, until they weren’t laughing anymore. I was selected first overall by the Amurs in the NHL Entry Draft, and I haven’t looked back.

I’m twenty-seven, Alternate Captain for the Amurs, I’m living my dream, and I have the world by the balls. I eat, sleep, and bleed hockey, women are plentiful, and I don’t think there’s a better way to live.

“You coming down to the lounge to have a drink with me?” I asked Alex as I dried off. We had returned to the hotel after the last away game before the Christmas break. One more game when we got home and then the holidays. Everyone was high on the win and ready to celebrate.

“Yeah, I just want to call Sydney first to see how she’s doing,” he said. I shook my head with a grin. The boy had it bad.

“I can’t believe you knocked her up,” I teased.

“Fuck. Me either.” He was staring at his phone, and I sat on the bed opposite his.

“Dude. You know that no one would blame you if you weren’t ready for this shit. You don’t have to marry her. People have kids together without getting married every day.” He was planning to tie the knot as soon as we got home tomorrow. I was going to be his best man.

“It’s not that. For the first time in forever, I can honestly say nothing has felt more right than our decision to get married ASAP.” He sighed. “I just hope I’m able to give her what she needs.”

“Are you serious? You make millions of dollars. What could she possibly want for?” I laughed at his ridiculousness.

“That’s not what I’m referring to. You know it’s not easy for us to maintain solid relationships. This is a demanding sport.”

“Well, it’s a little late to worry about that now. Look, she’s crazy about you, and I know damn well you’re just as crazy about her. You two will be fine. Now call her so we can go have a beer.” I stood and proceeded to get dressed.

Once he’d finished his call, we went downstairs where most of our teammates had already congregated. A shout went up as we joined them amidst much laughter and smiles.

“If it isn’t the soon-to-be groom,” said Halvorson with a smirk. Things were better between the two of them, but still slightly strained. Standing behind Alex, I gave Kris a narrowed-eye warning.

Kris and I had been friends since the junior leagues, but something had happened when Alex joined the team. There had been bad blood between them from the first day. Kris had believed Alex had been traded over one of his good friends because of who his father was. It was bullshit, but he’d gotten it in his head and there had been no changing his mind until recently. He’d been coming around, but something was still off with him.

“I propose a toast!” Dmitry Kalashnik shouted as he raised his glass of vodka in a timely intervention.

There was a chorus of cheers in agreement as glasses were raised. A busty blonde stepped up and wrapped herself around me. I gave her a wink and pulled her in closer as I tapped the rim of my glass to my best friend’s, then to my teammates’ glasses.

“To Kosinski. May he continue to have the ice under his skates and the love of a good woman in his heart!” Dmitry called out.

“Here, here!” we all agreed.

“I was at the game. You played amazing tonight,” the blonde said into my ear to be heard above the boisterous celebrating of my teammates.

“Well thank you, darling,” I said, then returned my attention to Jericho Baranov, one of our defensemen, who was making the next toast.

After several more, we were all feeling pretty good. I sat at the bar next to Alex and enjoyed the massage the blonde was giving my shoulders. She was exactly my type, and I didn’t need to look twice to know I’d be with her for the night—unless she wasn’t up for it.

“You have plans for tonight?” I asked her. She