I’m trying a new thing.

I’m going to upload my new books as I write them. I tend to go back and forth through the chapters, so you’re going to see a bit how the sausage is made. This will be somewhere between a first draft and a final draft. There will be errors. If you want, feel free to email me about them, so I can fix them! Some things will undoubtedly change between being posted here and the final version that will be available on Amazon. When the book releases, I’ll take it down from here.

Each chapter will be a blog post. You can click on the tag City Boy to find them all.

Let me know what you think about the idea or the book! I hope you enjoy it.

Chapter One- BRYCE

 

Inside the Pucker Up, the unofficial bar of the Seattle Thunder, Bryce Lowery, the six-foot-five, two-hundred-and-twenty pound team captain, hid in the bathroom from a tiny blonde woman in four-inch heels.

The bathroom wasn’t very big; two stalls, two sinks, and an out-of-order urinal, so Bryce occupied most of the room. The door slammed open, and Bryce jumped.

Robbie, the Thunder’s rookie defenseman, came in, the sounds of laughter and music from the bar wafting through the open door along with him. “Hey. So this is where you went. People were looking for you. Jess in particular.”

Bryce sighed before he could stop himself.

Robbie laughed. “She who you’re hiding from?”

“I’m not hiding,” Bryce said.

“If you say so,” Robbie replied, closing the door of the stall behind him.

Bryce tried to psych himself up to leave the bathroom. He stood awkwardly as Robbie came out and washed his hands.

“Want me to go out with you for moral support?” Robbie asked.

Bryce crossed his arms over his chest, testing the limits of the material of his black t-shirt. “Is she still out there?” he asked.

“Yeah, those women are relentless, man.” His voice was loud in the confined space, and his eyes were glassy and sleepy from too much alcohol drunk too quickly. “I told my boyfriend that he’s lucky I’m not into that.”

“Boyfriend?”

Robbie gave him a look. “Yeah? Drew, that guy who is always with me? Who did you think he was?”

“I haven’t been around much,” Bryce said defensively. He and Robbie hadn’t spent much time together, even though Bryce was team captain.

A serious knee injury during a game had benched him right at the start of the season, and it was the kid’s first year with the pros. Just looking at him, all young and shiny and barely twenty-one, made Bryce feel old. He could swear the rookies were getting younger every year.

At thirty-four, Bryce was thirteen years older than Robbie. Bryce had been a kid when he’d left his family behind him in Chicago and moved to Quebec to play Major Junior Hockey in Canada. Fourteen years old and already on his own. He’d felt like a grown up.

When Bryce had been learning to play hockey at a whole new level, Robbie had been learning to walk.

God, Bryce felt old. “Is he, Drew, here tonight?”

Robbie grimaced. “No. He went back home for a while. He’s trying to decide if he, quote, wants to be part of this life or not, unquote.”

“Well, I guess at least you know he’s not just sticking around for the money and cheating on you behind your back,” Bryce said. It happened all the time.

The door banged against the wall as a striking brunette woman in tailored trousers and a deep red sweater strode in. “You can’t hide in here forever, Lowery. There’s a cake with your name on it. Literally.” She smirked at her own joke.

“Nikki, this is the men’s room!”

She scoffed. “Like I’ve never seen a dick before.” She caught Robbie looking at her with a big smile. She tilted her chin at him. “Hey, Rookie.”

“You’re Nikki.” He sounded starstruck.

“The one and only.” She held out her hand for a shake.

Bryce hobbled over to his ex-wife who was still somehow, miraculously, his best friend. “Hey, Nikki.” He kissed her on the cheek. “Did you just get here?”

She hugged him tightly. “Yeah. When I didn’t see you in the crowd, I knew I’d find you hiding somewhere.”

“I’m not hiding,” he muttered not needing to see Nikki’s face to know she didn’t believe him.

“Right,” she said. “So what are you boys talking about?”

“Robbie was just saying his boyfriend is still deciding if he wants to move here or not.” He stressed the word boyfriend a tiny bit.

Nikki looked sympathetic. She dropped a hand on Robbie’s shoulder. “It’s a tough call, Rookie. Being a hockey player’s partner is hard. You guys are on the road a lot, and there is a lot of temptation. But at least you know he isn’t into you just for the money.”

“That’s what he said.” Robbie pointed at Bryce.

“Don’t be fooled by the pretty face; he’s actually smart about a lot of things.”

“Does that happen a lot?”

“Every day,” Nikki said. “Half the women in the bar and a some of the guys would marry a player right now for their share.”

“That’s cold, Nik,” Bryce said. “Not everybody is so mercenary.”

Nikki squeezed Bryce’s rock-solid bicep. “True, some of them are in it for other reasons.”

Bryce let it drop. Though he’d gotten over Nikki leaving him years ago, it was still hard for him to understand how he had let her down.

God knows he’d tried. He’d planned on being married forever. Nikki called him a hopeless romantic. She’d also told him she could never be what he was looking for, and they both deserved someone who could give them exactly what they needed.

Seven years later, Bryce still hadn’t found it. Hadn’t even come close.

“So Drew left?” Nikki asked.

“You knew Drew was his boyfriend?” Nikki’s lack of surprise surprised Bryce. Did everyone know but him? Did nobody care?

Nikki didn’t bother asking him, just gave him the little head shake she often directed at him. He felt like he constantly disappointed her in some way he couldn’t place. He hated that feeling.

“I thought we could make it work,” Robbie said. “It could be the start of something huge for us, you know?”

Bryce felt for the kid. Despite constantly being surrounded by teammates and fans, this could be a lonely life without knowing someone special was waiting at home for you.

“Oh, I know,” Nikki echoed, giving Robbie a sad smile. “Let me give you my number. Tell your guy he can call me if he wants some real talk about what he might be getting into.”

“Really?” He smiled at her, wide-eyed.

“Really. But don’t get your hopes up. If we talk, I’m going to give him the whole gory truth: good, bad, and horrific.”

The excitement in his eyes dimmed. In a way, it made Bryce feel better. It showed that the kid had at least some idea what he was asking of his boyfriend.

Robbie stared at himself in the mirror and fixed his hair. Bryce had envied that hair from the first second he’d seen it. A deep reddish-brown, he kept it long on top, and razor-short at the back and sides.

“You know,” Robbie said, looking at Bryce’s reflection, “I always thought you’d come out after you guys split up. I mean, I get why you didn’t. Different times and all that.”

What? “Who? Come out of what?” Bryce felt like he had missed some part of the conversation somewhere.

Nikki put her hand on Bryce’s shoulder and gave him that damn look again.

Robbie caught Bryce’s eye in the mirror and gave him a shy drunken smile. “I had the biggest crush on you.” He blushed and turned away. “It just would have been cool, having a role model and all, you know? But I get it. You gotta be careful in this gig. Maybe when you retire. Have you decided what you’re going to do yet?”

Bryce didn’t want to discuss retirement with a kid just starting his first season, nor did he want to think about tonight. He’d take his time off and decide later. For now, he was still on the team roster. He was still going forward with his new contract negotiations as if he had years more ice time in his future.

Thinking about it made him tired and made his body ache with the memory of twenty years of abuse.

Bryce did some quick math. “You would have been, what, fourteen when Nikki and I split up?”

Robbie’s eyes drifted to the ceiling as he tried to remember. “Yeah. About. Had a poster of you and everything.”

“You knew you were gay at fourteen?” Bryce couldn’t remember even caring about anything but hockey at fourteen. Possibly the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles.

“I just kind of always knew. I didn’t admit it until I met Drew in college, though.”

“What do your parents think about it?” Bryce couldn’t imagine talking to his mother about his sex life under any circumstances.

Every few months, she asked obliquely if he’d met anybody. He sidestepped the question, figuring she didn’t want to know about his ever more infrequent one-night stands or first dates that went nowhere.

If there ever were someone important, he’d tell her, although it looked like that was never going to happen.

God, not only was he getting old, he was getting maudlin. Hiding in the bathroom from women wasn’t helping.

“They were cool with it,” Robbie said, answering the question Bryce had almost forgotten he’d asked. “My mother loves Drew. I think she’s more upset than I am that we might break up. But they still, you know, worry about me being in sports and all. If I’m out will it hurt my career, etcetera.”

“I can understand that,” Bryce said, trying to imagine it. Bad enough his marriage and divorce had been splashed all over hockey and celebrity magazines. At least he hadn’t had people telling him he was going to hell on top of it.

Robbie turned to Nikki, expression serious. “Do you think I’ll be okay if I’m out? I mean, the team knows, and the coach. But the fans? Should I get a beard girlfriend? Keep the ladies off my back? Maybe one of the women from the NWHL. Think Drew would appreciate that?” He laughed humorlessly. “Would it be okay?”

“I don’t know,” Bryce admitted. “I mean, someone’s going to come out eventually, right? Given the way the world is going.”

Robbie shrugged. “You’d think. God knows I’m not the only one in the league. I’m not even the only one on the team. And Seattle seems like a safe place to be out.”

Grasping Robbie with both hands, Nikki turned him towards the door. “Okay, Rookie. Back to the party. And I think it’s time you switched to water.”

“I’m not gay,” Bryce blurted out.

Robbie exchanged glances with Nikki who kept her expression carefully neutral. “Oh, man. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean-” He blushed to the roots of his hair.

Nikki put her arm around Bryce’s waist. She was tall for a woman, almost five foot ten, but she looked small next to him. “Come on, big guy, let’s go meet your adoring fans. The Rookie and I will keep those tiny, scary women away from you.”

Bryce rolled his eyes at her. “I think I would know if I were gay.”

“You’d think.” She kissed him on the cheek. “Let’s get out of here.”

Bryce checked his hair in the mirror and then adjusted the brace covering his leg from mid-thigh to below the knee. “Come on,” he said over his shoulder. “I have cake to eat.”

 

 

 

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