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Egotistical Puckboy: Chapter 34

ANTON

STANLEY CUP CELEBRATIONS

THE NIGHT IS A BLUR. The game, the crowd, winning. I still can’t believe it.

Seeing that Cup, being on the team presented with it, and watching Diedrich carry it into the locker room and lift it into the air …

The celebration with the team is over-the-top and manic. We all drink from the Cup before Diedrich puts his newborn baby in it. I would’ve spent all night drinking from it had that not happened. After that, all I could think about was how many babies had been placed in that thing and how many had pooped in it.

It’s almost midnight before we finally leave the locker room, heading out. The team is meeting at a bar on the Strip, but before Ezra and I join them, we’ve got a stop to make first.

Ezra and I hold hands in the elevator the whole way to the rooftop of the hotel Tripp said to meet them at.

When the doors open, obnoxiously loud cheers come from one of the rooftop cabanas, and the first person I see is Tripp standing in the entrance, pumping the air with both fists.

“You’re a lot happier than I was expecting you to be,” I say as he attacks Ezra with a hug.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m pissed you guys won.” He’s smiling though, so he’s obviously not too pissed. “But a queer collective win is a very close second to winning ourselves. A gay couple just won the Stanley Cup. That’s epic!”

Ezra shrugs. “Clearly the only reason I’m dating Anton. Leveling up from awesome to epic is my destiny.”

We join the others in the cabana, and even though I still don’t know these guys all that well, it feels like coming home. Foster, Ollie, Oskar, and Tripp are here, but Soren and West are both missing. Ayri still isn’t sure if he wants to join, but I do.

And as if Tripp can read the thoughts going through my head, he asks, “You finally in, Hayes?”

“Yep,” Ezra answers for me. “Tonight is his initiation.”

Ollie claps his hands, grin stretching across his face. “Perfect. It’s been a while since I’ve had some Macallan.”

“Macallan?” I ask, looking around at them all.

“It’s a queer collective tradition. When you join us, you solemnly swear to never take a sip of Macallan outside of an initiation.”

That’s definitely not what I expected. Or, not all I expected. “That’s it?”

“Oh, and you have to buy the bottle.”

“Of course I do.” But hey, what’s a few thousand dollars when I’ve just won the Stanley Cup? “You know, this is a thousand percent tamer than what I was imagining.”

Oskar snorts. “We’re not a frat. We’re a group of highly sophisticated gentlemen,” he says with a shitty British accent.

“Who like to beat the crap out of other guys at work,” Foster adds.

“Can you blame me for picturing the worst when Ezra is in charge of these things?”

He pats my arm seriously. “If you’re that distressed over getting off easy, I can paddle your ass later.”

“That’s what he said,” Ollie mutters.

“I’m starting to understand why Ezra loves you guys so much.” I leave to buy the expensive-as-fuck alcohol, and I get the feeling there’s a good chance Ezra and I will be puking by the time the night is over. Tripp joins me at the bar to help carry the glasses.

“No Dex tonight?” I ask.

“He wanted to come, but I said it was for the collective.”

“Why?”

“This is my space. Maybe that sounds a bit childish, but the next hour or so is for us. That’s sacred. I’ll catch up with him later.”

I can read the subtext in his words though. He needs space. I have no idea how long he’s been in love with Dex, but I bet it can’t be easy.

His mood lightens considerably when we get back to the cabana, and it’s like our own oasis on top of the world. The lights from the Strip are all around us, soft music playing and mixing with the laughter and conversation around us.

We pour the Macallan for everyone, but as I go to take a sip, Ezra’s hand catches my arm.

“You’re forgetting the most important part of the initiation.”

“I knew there had to be more to it.”

He pats my hand. “It’s just a toast, calm down.”

“A toast?”

“Yep. All you have to do is lift your glass and say ‘Hey’o, I’m gay’o.’”

“Or however-you-identify’o,” Foster adds. “Because I’m bi.”

“‘Hey’o, I’m bi’o’ sounds like you’re saying you’re science,” Ezra says. “And it doesn’t rhyme.”

I lift my glass. “Cheer’o to being queer’o? Is that inclusive?”

Ezra’s eyes soften toward me. “You’re perfect.”

“I know.”

We all cheers and drink down the extremely expensive whiskey that tastes like regular whiskey. At least to me.

“You know,” Ezra says after a few moments. “One day, when we have a queer member in every team in the league, we’ll need to book out the whole rooftop. Now that’s a goal.”

Ollie shifts. “Well, you might need to start looking for someone new to cover New York.”

“What?” I lean forward, pretty sure I know where this is going but not wanting to hear it anyway. NHL players, we’re all for the sport. It’s our lives. So when someone brings up the “r” word, I feel it in my soul, because I know that’s going to be me one day. To have to walk away and leave this part of my life behind.

Well … I glance at Ezra. Part of it behind. With any luck, Ezra will be right there alongside me.

“I’ve got one year left on my contract,” Ollie says, “and I don’t think I’m going to renew it.”

“What will you do?”

“Lennon was talking about creating my own hockey segment on his sports show. I don’t know if being on TV is for me, but I’d love to give it a try.”

“That’s awesome.”

Ezra lets out a long sigh. “Whose ass am I going to check out when we play New York now?”

He gives me an evil look, and I squeeze his thigh in warning.

“I think the right answer here is your boyfriend’s,” Tripp answers, and the others laugh.

“Real talk though.” Ezra leans forward. “NHL or not, you’re queer collective for life. Same as Soren. Same as any of us. We don’t need to replace you because while you might not be a hockey player anymore, you’ll still be one of us.”

He and Ollie share a smile. The kind that can only be understood by them. Ollie and Soren were first, but Ezra wasn’t far behind them. He came out after being signed to his first team. They only ever had each other, and I understand why he needed this. Why we all do.

“Better make it one hell of a last season, then,” Foster says.

Ollie lifts his glass. “Cheers to that.”

We all tap our drinks together, but then Tripp lets out a loud groan.

I turn in the direction he’s looking and see Dex heading right for us. At the look on his face, Tripp goes from annoyed to concerned in a second flat.

“What’s wrong?” There’s an edge to his voice that sounds like he’s ready to attack whoever made Dex look so dejected.

Dex steps up into the cabana, takes Tripp’s glass, and downs the entire contents.

“Fuck, Dex,” Ezra says. “You don’t shoot this shit. You’re supposed to sip it.”

“What’s the point?” He slumps into Tripp’s side and face-plants into his shoulder.

I exchange a look with Ezra.

“Ah, Dex? What’s up, buddy?” Ezra asks.

“Jessica.”

Tripp immediately scowls. “What’s she done now?”

“She used the ‘I’ word again.”

I’m confused. “Idiot?”

Irresponsible.” Dex looks up to pout at Tripp. “Is it true? Am I an irresponsible fuckboy who will never be ready to get married? I can commit.” The panicked look on his face and the way he tugs at his collar says otherwise. “I can—could. If I wanted to. Obviously.”

“Uh-huh.” Tripp pats his head, avoiding eye contact with the rest of us.

“Hug me, Trippy.” Dex pulls Tripp’s arm around him and buries his face again. Tripp’s eyes fall closed, and the poor guy looks in pain.

“Hey, Dex,” Ezra says, standing suddenly. “You look like you could use some shots. Come get them with me.”

The two of them disappear, and Tripp slumps forward, letting out a long breath.

“You okay?” I ask.

“Yep,” he says, sounding more like he’s trying to convince himself than us.

“You need to get over that,” Ollie warns.

“I’m working on it.”

“The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else,” Oskar says at the exact moment one of the servers arrives to collect empty glasses and bottles from the table.

The server almost trips over himself and then turns bright red.

“Hey,” Oskar says to him. “This is our man Tripp. He’s a professional hockey player and is very bendy.”

“Hi, I’m going to go die now.” Tripp tries to get up, but Oskar pushes him back down on his seat.

“What do you say?” Oskar says.

The server looks back toward the bar and then to Tripp. “I get off in an hour.”

As he walks away, Oskar calls after him, “I promise Tripp can get you off faster than that.”

Tripp sinks farther into his seat while the rest of us laugh.

Ezra comes back, and I pull him down into my lap. I’ve never been more grateful to have found him than I am at this exact moment.

“What are you doing?” he asks playfully.

I press a hard kiss to his lips. “Holding my prize.”

“Normally I’d call you out on being cheesy, but do go on.”

I tug him down so my lips are pressed to his ear. “Remember what I said our first time together?”

“What part?”

“That when you see me lift that Stanley Cup, all you’re going to think about is me fucking you.”

Ezra shivers.

“Did it work?” I ask.

“No.”

Well, fuck.

He pulls back and laughs at the look on my face. “Because I’m constantly thinking about it. Always. Whenever I look at you, whether you have the Stanley Cup or not.”

I stroke his cheek. “Okay, I like your way better.”

When he kisses me, it’s softer, slower. “Want to head out soon?”

“Yeah, we should probably meet the team.”

“We should … after a celebratory quickie?”

“You’re on.”

“Ah, guys?” Foster says. “We can hear you.”

The others shake their heads at us.

“Well then,” I say, standing and taking Ezra’s hand. “I guess we don’t need to make an excuse to leave, then, do we?” I grab the bottle on the table. “And we’ll be taking this with us. See you guys in a few weeks.”

Ezra’s organized a trip with them that I’m more than ready for.

We leave the way we came, hand in hand, and when the elevator doors slide closed, I step in close. “Where are we going?”

“I’ve got a room.”

“Smart man.”

“I’ve been telling you this the whole time.” He squeezes my hand. “We’re going to be celebrating for a bit, but once that’s finished … we have the whole summer. Just us. No practice, no games, no hockey.”

“That sounds perfect.”

“And I was thinking, since you’re not in love with your place, maybe, while you look for something else, you could stay with me?”

“Move in with you?”

“If you want,” he hurries to say. “No pressure. We’ve been basically together the whole season, and let’s face it, with all this free time, I’m going to want to spend at least ninety percent of it naked, and being naked at home alone feels sort of sad—”

I cut him off with a kiss. “Let’s do it.”

“Yeah?”

“You’re pretty great, you know that?”

His smile is huge. “You know, I distinctly remember you saying you’d never say those words.”

“I can admit when I’m wrong.”

“You’ll be doing that a lot, then.” Ezra kisses me. “But you’re pretty great too, babe.”

The thing is, nothing with us is guaranteed. Our careers, our teams, even the cities we live in. I want to spend as much time as I can with Ezra while I have it, so then if we are ever separated, we’ll be stronger and ready to face that together too.

The NHL might be a big part of our lives now, but that won’t always be the case.

Ezra will be though.

I can feel it.

No matter what happens, no matter what we go through, we’re going to do it together.

Boyfriends who win Stanley Cups together stay together.

That’s my superstition.

And I’m sticking to it.


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