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Sin Bin (Carolina Comets #4): Epilogue

Smith

I’ve been officially retired for a few months now but looking out at the group of people smiling at me makes it feel real for the first time.

I am done with hockey.

Well, not done done. I’m still working for the Comets. I signed on the dotted line just a month ago and am now officially an assistant video coach for the team I love.

It’s weird, but I also can’t deny the weight lifted off my shoulders. It’s freeing in a way I wasn’t expecting. I miss it, but I also don’t. Not the way I expected to miss it.

That could be because I’m still involved in the game, but it could also be because my days are full of everything I didn’t realize I was missing. Spending time with Emilia and being able to be open with our relationship was worth giving up the game. Being with her gives me a better high than being on the ice ever did.

Emilia’s arm slips around my waist, bringing me back to the here and now. I tug her closer, relishing the way she fits so perfectly tucked under my arm.

“You good?” she whispers from beside me.

I peer down at the redheaded beauty grinning up at me. I know her well enough to know that the smile she’s sending my way is full of worry and uncertainty.

Probably because all our friends are standing in front of us with a sign that reads Happy Retirement, Old Man. I thought we were coming here for a quiet game night. Hell, I even have a puzzle tucked under my arm right now.

Apparently, I’ve been misled. This isn’t a game night. This is a surprise retirement party. Lowell’s house is decorated with streamers and balloons, and a few tables are set up with different kinds of snacks. There are members of the coaching staff scattered around, and even Blake is here with his husband.

Everyone stares at me with a grin, eagerly waiting for my reaction.

It’s hard to give one, especially with the emotion in my throat. This is the exact reason I didn’t want to make a big deal about my retirement and do it after the season ended. It’s tough handling the emotions that come with it internally, never mind in front of a crowd. Just standing here, I can feel the tightness worsening and the sting of tears threatening to form.

Emilia tightens her hold on me because of course she knows why I can’t talk right now.

“Dude, can you react or something? This is getting awkward as fuck.”

“Shut up, Miller!” Rhodes yells at him, smacking the back of his head.

Everyone laughs, and the tension in the room is broken.

“Thanks, guys,” I say, blinking a few times, hoping nobody notices I’m about two seconds away from crying. “I appreciate it.”

“Speech!” someone hollers from the back, and it sounds suspiciously like Collin is just deepening his voice.

Emilia gives me another encouraging squeeze.

I clear my throat. “I don’t have anything prepared because, clearly, this wasn’t what I thought tonight was going to be.” I shake the puzzle box as proof.

“What kind of old man brings a puzzle to game night?” Miller says, and it earns him another slap, this time from Lowell.

“Hockey has been my life for…well, all my life. It’s been everything to me for a long time, and spending these last few years with everyone in this room has made me love the game even harder…and that’s with having Miller on the team.”

“Aww,” the guy in question says, placing his hand over his heart.

“Because of that, deciding to hang up my skates wasn’t an easy one. It was easily the hardest thing I ever had to decide. But…” I peek down at Emilia, who is watching me with tears glistening in her eyes. “While I might love the game of hockey and you guys too, there’s someone else I love more. And I’d choose her every time.”

A single tear slips down Emilia’s cheek, and I wish like fuck we weren’t in a room full of people right now because I want so badly to haul her into my arms, kiss away the tears, then strip her bare.

“Fucking hell, Emilia, if you don’t kiss him after that, I will.”

Lowell groans at Miller’s outburst. “Can we duct tape his mouth and handcuff him in the spare bedroom until he promises to act right?”

“I just really want to know why you have duct tape and handcuffs on standby,” Miller says.

“You know, as much as I hate agreeing with him, I’m curious too,” Collin agrees.

“Got to be a kinky sex thing for sure,” Rhodes adds.

“Like you have room to talk about kinky sex things,” Ryan mutters to her husband.

Everyone turns their attention to Rhodes, whose cheeks are growing redder by the second. They all start talking over each other, trying to guess each other’s kinks.

I ignore them, grabbing Emilia’s hand and tugging her away from their idiocy. I sit the puzzle box on the table in the entryway and draw her into my arms.

She grins up at me. “You surprised?”

“Very much so.”

“You’re not mad, are you? I know you’re not super fond of crowds, but they really wanted to do something for you.”

“Not mad,” I assure her. “Grateful.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” I nod. “And mildly annoyed that there are so many people around because I really, really want to show you just how grateful I am.” I press against her tighter, and there’s no way she doesn’t feel my growing cock. “You think they’ll notice if we sneak off for a few minutes?”

“Even if they do, I don’t care.”

I grab her hand to drag her down the hall toward the bedrooms.

We don’t make it two feet before the front door flies open.

“Oh my gosh!” Scout says, scurrying over the threshold with a stack of boxes in her hand. “I am so sorry I’m late, Emilia. There was a whole thing with traffic, and the security guard wouldn’t let me in the neighborhood. But I brought donuts!”

“Don’t worry about it. We’re glad you made it,” Emilia says, stepping toward her.

She’s brushed aside by Miller, who comes out of nowhere, reaching for the boxes.

“I can take those for you,” he says to Scout, who is staring at him with wide eyes.

“T-Thanks,” she says quietly.

“Sure thing. I’m Grady, by the way. It’s nice to meet you.”

I’m about to tell Miller he’s an idiot for not recognizing Scout from the donut truck, but I don’t have the chance to. Scout pulls the boxes closer to her chest and brushes past him like he never spoke at all, clearly—and rightfully—annoyed with him.

“What’d I say?” Miller mutters, following closely behind her.

Emilia laughs, and I shake my head at the idiot, watching as he trails after Scout looking like someone punched him in the gut.

“He’s going to have some fun digging himself out of that hole he just created,” Emilia says.

“I don’t think fun is the right word, but I can’t wait to watch either way. But first…” I grab her hand, heading for the bedrooms for the second time.

This time we make it three steps before we’re stopped.

“Hey, Smith! Come tell Greer about that insane goal you scored my first season,” Lowell shouts, waving us over.

I groan because all I really want right now is to sneak away with Emilia.

She laughs, understanding my frustration.

“Rain check on showing me how grateful you are?”

Checks,” I growl, wrapping my arms around her and settling for a chaste kiss. “Plural.”

“Ooh. I like the way you think, Mr. Smith.”

“Owen. I’m not one of your players anymore, you know.”

“I know, and I love it.”

“Yeah?” I kiss the tip of her nose. “Well, I love you.”

She sighs, falling against me. “And I love you, Owen.

And I know at this moment that I’ll choose her for the rest of my life.

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