Chapter One – Home
CHAPTER 1 – JOEY IN LOGAN AIRPORT
Joey Luciano stared at the luggage going around and around on the baggage claim carousel in Boston’s Logan airport and tried to ignore the people staring at him. Even with his eyes locked on the fascinating revolving display of suitcases and duffle bags, he could sense the ripples of recognition spreading slowly through the crowd.
With each suitcase spat out by the conveyor belt that wasn’t his, a frustrated sigh pushed its way up from the depths of Joey’s being. Waiting for baggage was only one of the reasons he normally drove the four hours or so between his home in the city and his family’s home in Southie.
But the Audi was in the shop getting a tune-up, and there was no way he was taking the Lamborghini out in the snow and salt. Aaand tiny violins all around the world were playing for him now. He snorted. That had sounded douchy even in the privacy of his own mind.
He thought about sighing or making a snarky comment to the woman standing next to him about how shitty airlines were, but the buzzing of the crowd was building enough to remind him of two things. One – everyone and their grandmother had a cell phone and two – he had signed a multi-year contract promising he would conduct himself ‘on and off the rink according to the highest standards of honesty, morality, fair play and sportsmanship, and to refrain from conduct detrimental to the best interest of the Club, the League, or professional hockey generally’.
Publicly trashing an airline probably would be detrimental to all of the above. Not to mention any future endorsement deals he might have come down the pike.
With those two things in mind, he put the brakes on his undeserved pity party. Oh, wah, poor him. His life was so hard.
Shifting his weight must have been some kind of signal to the fans, because some bearded guy in a Boston Bruins hat broke right through his personal space bubble. “Hey, aren’t you Joey Luciano?”
Joey turned with his public smile. “I am.”
“Awesome.” The guy grinned. “I’m a huge fan.” He touched the brim of his hat. “Even if you do play for the wrong team.”
Joey couldn’t hold back a sharp laugh. If the guy knew the truth that smile would drop from his face. Talk about detrimental conduct. What would happen to his fans, his job, his endorsements, if word got out that the Looch was into guys?
Two months ago, he’d had sex with Liam O’Reilly. Liam was a retired blueliner from the Minnesota Wild, the newest assistant coach for the Seattle Thunder, eleven years older than Joey, crazy intense, and, oh yeah, a guy. If the public found out, it wouldn’t exactly open up a discussion of the fluidity of sexuality. It would get a scarlet ‘G’ stamped on his forehead.
Not that Joey considered himself gay, he just kind of found some guys hot and easier to understand than women. But he didn’t think hockey fans would want to split those semantic hairs with him.
Joey checked his watch. That made three minutes and seventeen seconds since the last time he’d thought about Liam.
“Can I get a picture?” Bruin’s fan asked.
“Sure.” Joey made a show of straightening his tie, fixing his hair, and searching for the perfect angle. He dragged the guy to a window. “No, over here, the light’s better.”
He turned them so they faced the window and threw his arm over the guy’s shoulder. “Say Bruins suck!” He grinned loudly at the guy’s sound of outrage.
“I think I went to school with your sister and that O’Reilly girl,” the guy said as he inspected the photo.
“Yeah? Which one?” There were five Luciano kids. Anyone who had lived in the neighborhood over the last twenty years had a good chance of crossing paths with at least one of them. And since four of them had grown up to be professional athletes, people tended to remember them.
At the collective groan behind him, Joey turned to see the baggage carousel come to a complete halt.
“For fuck’s sake,” a woman’s voice rang out.
“Are all the bags out?” Joey asked, walking back to the claim area and searching for his box. If he’d lost the promotional posters and pucks he was supposed to be signing, PR was going to kill him.
“No,” a young girl next to him sighed. “I don’t see my suitcase. And it has my homework in it.”
She looked to be about fourteen, with long blonde hair in a ponytail and a sweatshirt from the Revere High School athletic department. Joey leaned down to whisper conspiratorially in her ear. “Yeah, but that’s a great excuse. Baggage claim ate my luggage.”
Several irritated passengers had started crowding up to the customer service desk. The middle-aged woman behind the counter viewed them with a look of resigned desperation.
Joey nudged the girl with his elbow. “Want to help me out?”
“Yeah!” she answered wide-eyed.
Joey handed her his cell phone. “I bet you take a mean selfie.” She nodded. “Good. You’re the official photographer.”
Joey hopped onto the edge of the baggage claim with a clang of thin metal. “Hey!” he called over the disgruntled rumblings. “If I could have your attention for just a minute.” A few people in the crowd looked his way.
“Looch!” A fan called, waving wildly.
God, he loved his fans. Their energy fed him. The louder they screamed, the better he played. It was an awesome symbiotic relationship.
Like Tinkerbell, Joey could only do his magic if someone believed in him.
“Since we’re all trapped here, waiting for the lovely hardworking baggage-claim people to release our painstakingly packed suitcases from the bowels of whatever lives at the bottom of this conveyor belt, I thought we could kill some time together.”
There was some scattered applause. A security guard made his way towards them.
“I have a prize package of a poster of the N.Y. Rangers—” A chorus of boos interrupted him, but Joey only grinned wider.
“Rangers suck!” A male voice boomed from the back of the crowd.
“Mom? Is that you?” Joey shaded his eyes with his hand and pretended to scan the crowd. He laughed and waved the heckler away. “Yeah, yeah. I know you all think the Rangers suck. Personally, I love them. Great guys. But in deference to your delicate Beantown sensibilities, I will give away two tickets to the next Bruins game.” That drew a ragged cheer from the hockey fans in the crowd.
“All you gotta do to win this unbelievable one-of-a-kind prize package is come have your picture taken with me by my lovely assistant—” he looked down at the girl.
“Annaliese,” she supplied.
“Annaliese. The most ridiculous photo as decided by…” he looked around and caught the security guard’s eye. “That guy,” he said, pointing at the guard, “wins the tickets and the poster.”
The security guard stopped in front of Joey and grinned. “Yeah. Okay. But I’m gonna hafta aks you to get off the machine, please.”
“No problem.” Joey hopped down. “Okay. Children and single women first,” he said, with the grin that had gotten him into—and out of—a lot of trouble over the years.
“You in town long?” the security guard asked, standing next to Joey. “Finally get traded to a real team?” He was a tall African-American man with graying hair who looked like he had put in his twenty with the police force before taking this job for a little extra cash on top of his pension.
Joey laughed and shook his head. “Nope. Just flying up to see my grandpa. He had a bit of scare last night, and I had the day off, so I thought I’d try to get him to slow down a bit.”
An elderly woman patted him on the arm. “You’re a good boy.”
“Thank you, ma’am. Okay. Who’s first?”
By the time his older sister Gina swept in with a cloud of hairspray and a giant eye roll, Joey was kneeling down on the floor next to three little boys mugging at the camera. The boys’ mother, looking young and exhausted in blue jeans and an Army Wife sweatshirt, smiled at Joey. “Thank you so much,” she said. “We’re all huge fans. My husband loves you.”
The oldest of the five Luciano siblings, Gina was ten tons of pure energy packed into a five-foot-nothing body. Her big boobs, high hair, and loud voice gave her a presence way beyond the physical. At thirty-three, she still got carded at bars. She had her first kid at twenty-two, her third two-years ago, and hadn’t slowed done one bit.
“Don’t tell him crap like that,” she told the woman, her thick Boston accent comforting and familiar in Joey’s ears. “His head is already big enough. Come on, JoJo. I’m paying by the minute for parking. Well, you’re paying. Whatever.” She flicked her long black hair out of her face.
Sensing their chance for a photo and a chance at tickets to a game slipping away, some fans shoved closer to Joey.
“Joey! Joey!” a youngish sounding woman called from the edge of the crowd. She had bleached blonde hair, tight jeans, and a small t-shirt that pulled up to her ribcage as she pushed her way throw the crowd. “Joey,” she said with a breathy sigh and a flutter of her eyelashes. “Sign my chest?”
There was certainly enough room across the top of her gravity-defying breasts. They looked firm enough to handle the pen as well.
Gina yanked the woman’s shirt down. “What’s wrong with you? What are you, seventeen? Pull your shirt down. It’s fucking February; you’re gonna get pneumonia.”
Joey bit back a smile as the woman glared at Gina. “I’ll sign a piece of paper if you want,” Joey said apologetically.
The blare of a klaxon heralded the restarting of the baggage conveyor, and the crowd cheered.
It took a while, but Joey’s bag finally appeared. He watched it go around and around a few times as he signed autographs and posed for the last few pictures. Setting it down on a clear spot, he pulled a poster out of the bag and motioned the security guard over. They scrolled through the photos on Joey’s phone.
“This one,” the guard said, pointing at a picture of the young woman with three sons.
“Definitely,” Joey whispered, then turned to the crowd. “We have a winner!” He pointed to the wife of the soldier, and the little boys jumped up and down and clapped.
Joey gave the woman the poster and got her contact information, assuring her he would send the tickets. He made a mental note to include some swag and some extra vouchers for food and drinks for the whole family.
Gina finally got tired of inching their way through a crowd of admirers. “Fuck this,” she muttered under her breath. “Hey, Joey,” she said much louder than necessary. “Isn’t that Tom Brady?”
Joey looked where she pointed down an empty hall. “It totally is.”
The crowd around them thinned slightly as the people checked out what she was saying, and Gina shoved him through the crowd with both hands on his back.
She didn’t talk to him directly until she handed the parking valet her ticket. “Well, that was fun.”
“Sorry,” Joey said.
She scoffed. “You love it, you attention whore.” She smiled though and hugged him to take the edge of her words. Joey knew she was proud of his success and happy for him. “Maybe if you didn’t dress like a fashion model just to come home, Mr. GQ, you could sneak out unrecognized.
“What’s wrong with the way I dress?” He’d put on his most basic suit. A plain navy wool two-piece suit, a dark blue paisley tie, and a wool overcoat.
Gina looked pointedly at her sweatpants and parka combo.
Gina tipped the valet and hopped into her bright red minivan. Then she forced her way through late afternoon Boston traffic in a hail of curses, honking, and rude hand gestures.
“Damn, Gina,” Joey said, grabbing onto the door handle as she lurched around a double-parked taxicab and made disparaging remarks about the driver’s parentage. Unfortunately, traffic came to standstill just then, and the driver leaped out of his cab, holding a small baseball bat.
“Oh my God,” Joey said, eyes wide.
Gina leaned around him, rolling the passenger’s side window down and leaving Joey much too close to the angry man. “Yeah? You got something to say?” she snapped.
“Jesus, Gina.” He held up a placating hand to the angry man one inch from the car. “It’s okay, sir. She’s off her meds.”
Gina snorted a laugh. The light turned green, and she rocketed the minivan through the intersection.
“Holy shit, G,” Joey said with a nervous laugh. “You’re a fucking maniac.”
“And you’re a pussy.” She slapped him on the arm with the back of her hand. “You can’t let jerks get away with shit.”
“Easy for you to say. Last thing I need is some Twitter post saying ‘Joey Luciano assaults taxi driver.’ The club’s already threatening to take away my phone.”
“Pshaw. Not going to happen,” Gina assures him. “It would say ‘Sister of Joey Luciano assaults taxi driver.’ I deserve my fifteen minutes as much as you.”
Joey exhaled as the finally reached the quieter streets of their neighborhood. “So, tell me the truth, how’s Nonno Lollo?”
“He’s okay,” Gina said. “Cranky. Crankier than usual.”
“Was it a heart attack?” He hadn’t been able to get a straight answer from his mother.
Angie, the oldest of the O’Reilly kids, was a nurse and the two families’ first go-to for medical issues.
Gina shook her head. “Nah, just some agita this time. But Angie got him to make a doctor’s appointment next week. She’s worried about his heart.”
Angie, the oldest of the O’Reilly kids, was a nurse and the families’ first go-to for medical issues.
“How seriously is she worried?” Joey loved his grandfather. Lorenzo Luciano had spent more time with Joey than any other adult in his life. The thought of him dying made Joey break into a cold sweat.
“Yeah, well, he is ninety. It’s not nothing,” Gina admitted. “Angie said he’s gotta quit smoking and stop eating so much rich food.”
“He said he’d rather be dead than quit smoking.” That was an exact quote.
“Well, he keeps it up, he’s gonna get his wish.” She pulled into the driveway that separated the Luciano house from the almost identical O’Reilly house next to it. Even though Joey knew for certain that Liam, the oldest of the O’Reilly siblings and the source of all of Joey’s current stress, was in Seattle working with the Thunder players, he couldn’t help shooting a glance in that direction.
“Looking for someone?” Gina asked.
“Nope. Just looking. Who’s around anyway?” he asked, as if the answer meant nothing to him.
“You talk to Liam recently?” she asked, in that scary big sister way she had of reading his mind.
“Not since Christmas day,” Liam answered, without looking at her. Also known as ‘The Morning After’ in the privacy of Joey’s head. Or Day One, After Sex. The day that rocked Joey’s world.
She snorted. He thought he heard her say bastard under her breath.
“Come inside. I’ll feed you, and you can tell the old grouch to take better care of himself. Maybe he’ll listen to you. You’re his favorite.”
Grabbing his bag, he followed him into the house he considered home even though he hadn’t lived there since he was sixteen, eight years ago.