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The Risk (Briar U): Chapter 40


Returning to the locker room, I immediately feel centered. Strong. Motivated. Now that I know my parents will be in the stands cheering me on, I’m even more determined to play well.

I’m going to beat Michigan today, and afterwards I’m going to win Brenna back. I don’t care if I have to throw myself at her feet and beg. I’m getting my woman back.

Although the team’s uniforms and gear were brought here ahead of time, I always have my own equipment bag with me. It’s where I keep my spare hockey tape and other random gear, and I usually toss my bracelet in there. I pull the zipper open and rummage around in search of the familiar beads. But my fingers aren’t connecting with anything.

When memory strikes, it takes a second for the horror to settle in.

I loaned the bracelet to Brenna.

And then I broke up with her without getting it back.


Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck.

In the back of my mind, an angry voice is demanding to know why she hadn’t contacted me in the three days since we saw each other to remind me she still has it. She knows how important it is to me and she couldn’t be bothered to make a phone call? It wouldn’t have even required seeing me. I could’ve sent Weston to pick it up.

But Mike Hollis said her heart was broken. And I’m the one who broke it. Of course she’s not going out of her way to do me a solid.

Panic swirls in my gut, and I take a series of deep breaths. Force myself calm down. It’s just a fucking bracelet. I don’t need a child’s bracelet to win this game. A bracelet didn’t get us to the regionals. A bracelet didn’t get me drafted by the Oilers. A bracelet didn’t—


My head snaps toward the door. Hazel tentatively enters the room.

“You shouldn’t be in here,” I croak.

“I’ll be quick, I promise. I…” She keeps walking, stopping when we’re two feet apart. Her throat works as she gulps, several times from the look of it. Then she pulls something off her wrist and holds it up.

The wave of relief that crashes into me almost knocks me off my feet. I snatch the bracelet from her grasp. It takes all my willpower not to cradle it against me and start calling it my precious. But Jesus fucking Christ. That was a scare.

“I wasn’t going to give this to you,” Hazel tells me, and the shame in her tone makes me narrow my eyes at her.

“What the hell are you talking about? How did you even get this?”

“Brenna showed up and asked me to give it to you.”

“Right now?”

Hazel slowly shakes her head. “Maybe thirty minutes ago?”

“You mean thirty minutes before we spoke outside that door?” Anger rises in my chest, burning my throat. “Are you kidding me, Hazel? You had that on your wrist when we were talking just now?”

“Yes, but—”

“And you didn’t give it to me? You wished me luck and sent me away without fucking giving it to me?”

“Let me finish,” she begs. “Please?”

Once again, I rely on willpower in order to force my trap shut. I’m going to let her finish, out of respect for a sixteen-year friendship. But I’m so furious my hands are trembling.

“I wasn’t going to give it to you because then you would’ve found out that Brenna is here,” Hazel whispers.

My heart beats faster. Not from anger this time, but at the notion that Brenna is here. Even after I broke her heart, she still drove all this way to return my good-luck charm.

“But then I realized not only would that make me the worst friend in the world, it would make me an unbelievably shitty person. Messing with your ritual to try to keep you away from her? Because I’m jealous of her?” Hazel avoids my incredulous gaze. “There’d be no coming back from that.”

My stomach churns. This is not a conversation I want to be having right now. At least not with Hazel. Now that I know Brenna is somewhere in this arena, she’s the only one I care to talk to.

“I’ve always had a thing for you,” Hazel confesses.

Crap. Well, I can’t leave now.

And her confession takes so much balls I can’t help but admire her. “Hazel,” I start, my tone rough.

“It’s stupid, I know. But it’s hard not to develop feelings for the Jake Connelly, you know?” A sad half-smile lifts one corner of her mouth. “And I’m well aware that you only see me as a friend, but I guess a part of me always thought it would be like one of those cheesy rom coms, where you woke up one day and realized I was the one you wanted all along. But that’s not going to happen.”

No, it won’t.

I don’t voice the confirmation, because I don’t want to hurt her any more than she’s clearly already hurting. But I know she sees the truth in my eyes. I don’t feel a spark toward Hazel, only platonic love. Even if I weren’t in love with somebody else, there could never be anything between us.

“I’m so sorry, Jake.” Genuine remorse floods her expression. “You have every right to be pissed at me. But I hope the fact that I came back to return the bracelet, and to tell you that Brenna is here, might make up for me not returning it to you before. I messed up. I had a selfish moment, and I’m owning that.” She stares down at the floor. “I don’t want to lose your friendship.”

“You won’t.”

Her shocked gaze flies to mine. “I won’t?”

“Of course not.” I sigh. “We’ve known each other forever, Hazel. I’m not going to throw away years of friendship because you screwed up. I accept your apology.”

She slumps with relief.

“But if you’re truly my friend, you’ll make a sincere effort to get to know Brenna. I think you’d actually really like her. And if you don’t, then fucking fake it.” I tip my head in challenge. “If you were dating someone I didn’t like, I’d fake it for you. I’d support you no matter what.”

“I know you would. You’re one of the best people I know.” Hazel fumbles in her green canvas purse for her phone. “I know you forgot yours at home, but I can find her on social media and—”


“Brenna,” Hazel says. “She came all this way to return your bracelet, and she gave it to me instead of giving it to you herself, which tells me there’s trouble in paradise. And there’s no way you’re putting one skate on the ice until you fix whatever’s wrong.” She unlocks her password screen, her silver thumb rings clicking against the side of the case. “Is she on Facebook or Insta? You can DM her from my phone.”

“We don’t need social media. I have her number memorized.”

“Really? You memorized her number?”

I nod.

“Wow. I don’t even have my own mother’s number memorized.”

I respond with an awkward shrug. “I wanted it to be in my brain in case I ever lost it.”

Hazel goes quiet.

“What?” I say defensively.

“It’s just…” She looks oddly impressed. “You really are in love, huh?”

“Yeah. I am.”


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