CHAPTER 1 – SERGEI 12/21
“I could watch this all night,” Robbie Rhodes said, looping his arm around Paul Dyson’s neck and peering over his shoulder at the replay of Sergei’s save playing on Paul’s phone. “Just for the look on Ollie’s face.”
On the screen, the thwarted attacker let loose a string of curses and smacked the pipes with his stick.
Sergei walked into the locker room wearing a clean pair of boxer briefs and rubbing a towel over his head and down his hairy chest.
“Could have been better. There was rebound,” Sergei said standing behind his defensemen and checking out the video. “No rebounds.” Born in Russia, Sergei had moved to Chicoutimi, Quebec, when he was sixteen. He’d learned Quebecois French first and then English. Fifteen years later, he still spoke both with a heavy Russian accent that he couldn’t shake.
“That is secret with someone quick like Ollie,” he continued. “You stop the puck dead. Like bam!” He clapped his hands on Robbie’s shoulder for emphasis, and the kid staggered, grabbing on to Paul for stability.
“Hey, Pergs,” Daniel Lipe yelled from across the room. “We’re going to hit the Puck for a round or two. You in?” Lipe was the assistant captain, a winger, a pain in the ass, and Sergei’s best friend on the team.
The Pucker Up bar was the unofficial team hang out, and after a win like this one, Sergei normally would go to celebrate. But he wasn’t feeling it tonight, despite the clip-worthy save and a near shutout. He didn’t feel like walking through the chilly drizzle and fighting the Saturday night bar crowd. His ears still rang from the blaring music and screaming crowd in the arena.
“No, thank you. I am very tired tonight. I think I will go home to my bed. Maybe read a book. Why don’t you take the boys instead?” he asked, indicating Paul and Robbie.
“Are they old enough to drink?” someone asked with a laugh.
“Yes, dad,” Robbie said with a grimace. “I’m twenty-one.”
“How about you, Alabama?” Lipe asked with a chin nod to Paul. “You a grown up?”
“Yes sir,” the Thunder’s newest d-man Paul Dyson said with a southern drawl. “I’m twenty-two years of age as of two months ago.”
Lipe clapped his hands once sharply. “Then put some damn clothes on and let’s go.”
The usual handful of fans waited at the arena doors for signatures and handshakes. Sergei signed anything handed to him with a kind word for the fan. It was the least he could do for the people that supported them and let him play the sport he loved for a living.
He couldn’t help smiling as he saw his car in the underground parking lot. The shiny black Mercedes SLS AMG was his baby. Expensive, impractical, and ridiculously over-powered for everyday use, Sergei loved everything about it from the gullwing doors to the seven-speed transmission. Opening up the doors made him feel like James Bond.
Leaning his head back against the headrest, he let the purr of the engine seep into his bones. He rubbed his palm across the steering wheel while he decided what to do. Should he go home, go to a hotel, or change his mind and join his teammates at the bar?
What he really wanted to do was see Alex. He wanted someone to talk to, to replay the game with. Alex didn’t play hockey, but he had been a competitive figure skater, and now coached several of the Thunder players in skating.
More importantly, he had been Sergei’s best friend since he’d been billeted with the Stauntons up in Saugany when he was playing juniors in the Q.
Alex had been eleven and already training to reach his goal of earning a gold medal in figure skating. His father had been a professional hockey player for a few years, bouncing between the ECHL, AHL, and for a few games, the NHL. Alex understood the demands of training and competing. He’d taught Sergei French and English, and Sergei taught him Russian. That had come in handy when Alex moved to Russia at sixteen to work with a renowned skating coach.
Though they’d often lived on different continents, Alex and Sergei had always kept in touch over the years, texting or messaging almost daily, and meeting together in Saguenay during the off-season.
Sergei never went back to Russia, and Alex never asked why.
He had been thrilled when Alex moved to Seattle after his run with a touring ice show ended. He’d assumed Alex would move in with him, and they’d see each other a lot more.
Instead, Alex had let Charles—his asshole, married, new lover—move him into some condo. And tonight Alex was cooking a special Christmas dinner for a jerk who didn’t deserve his food, let alone his company.
The leather creaked under his hands as Sergei’s fingers tightened around the steering wheel as he pictured the cozy scene. They’d eat, and maybe talk a little, though Sergei had never heard Chuck say an intelligent sentence the few times they’d met.
And then they would have sex. Pain flared in Sergei’s lower back. Damn that hurt. With a deep exhale, he made an effort to deliberately relax his muscles. He shook his head back and forth to loosen his neck. He rested a hand on the stick shift, but didn’t put it in gear. He still wasn’t sure where he wanted to go.
Maybe he should drive to Chuck’s condo. Pretend he’d forgotten about the dinner just to mess with him. He really hated that guy.
Chuck didn’t even appreciate what he had. As far as Sergei could tell, he treated Alex like a toy he could pick up and put down at will. Alex needed someone who understood how amazing he was.
Did Chuck know that Alex had finished all his work for high school by fifteen? Doubtful. Did he know Alex had been in such demand as a pairs skating partner that there had practically been a bidding war amongst the female skaters?
No of course not. So why would Alex want to spend time with Chuck and not Sergei. What did he have to offer that Sergei didn’t?
Sex, a small voice in his head that sounded like Alex answered almost immediately.
Was sex so important Alex would rather spend time with a dick who wanted to have sex with him than with his best friend who didn’t?
You sure about that last part? The voice in his head asked skeptically.
Yes? Maybe? Sergei rubbed his temples. Normally, Sergei didn’t want to have sex with anyone. But he knew he didn’t want Chuck to touch Alex in any way.
So why was he sitting in a parking garage obsessively wondering what they did in bed? And why did he find arousal mixing with the anger at the thought of it? Alex would probably tell him he needed to get laid, but the idea of sleeping with a stranger was better than a cold shower.
Maybe he should just go home, take care of himself, and go to sleep. Or read a book. Or take the car out on the highway and open her up.
A text from Alex interrupted his frustrating musing. A gif of Sergei at the moment his stomach hit the ice popped up on his phone. Glad to see the skating lessons are paying off.
A second text came on the heels of the first one. Charles canceled Xmas dinner. U hungry? Me and the cats all are dressed up with no one to impress.
A selfie of Alex with both of his hairless Sphynx cats on his lap followed. He wore a t-shirt three sizes too big for him with a picture of Santa Claus decked out in hockey gear on it. The text above Santa read I’m making a fist and checking you twice.
The cats had one what Sergei their pajamas. Torvil, the white female, had a black t-shirt with a pink mouse print. A black cat, Dean’s shirt was pink cotton with a black fish skeleton print.
Sergei grinned. That was the best news he’d heard in a while. Be there ASAP, he replied. Need anything?
A smack in the head for being a moron? Wine? Red.
You cooked yes? Sergei asked.
Oui. Beaucoup. Alex sent a picture of a beautifully set table spread with enough food for an army including an entire rack lamb.
Then I will be there
Be here in ten minutes, or I’m giving the lamb to the cats
Smiling, all the tension in his back suddenly gone, Sergei put the car into gear and headed to Alex.
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