Rookie Move(7)

By: Sarina Bowen


Coach Karl returned Leo’s greeting with nothing but a nod. Leo bet the two of them looked like a pair of angry dogs who were trying to decide who’d be the first to attack.

Becca cleared her throat. “Nate, would you like Mr. Trevi to wait in the lounge?”

The team’s owner stepped in front of Coach Karl and offered Leo his hand. He looked just like his photos—a lanky man with untamed hair and shrewd eyes. “Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Trevi. I’ve been following you for years. I’m a Harkness College man myself.”

Leo offered his hand for what turned out to be a surprisingly fierce handshake. “Hey, I remember reading that. Which house were you in?”

He gave Leo a grin. “Turner. Inner tube water polo champions of 2006.”

“Congratulations.”

Coach Karl didn’t like that bit of alumni bonding at all. While Nate Kattenberger smiled, he actually let out a little growl.

But fuck ’em. The owner was trying to give Leo a chance, and he was grateful enough to do a little harmless ass-kissing. Even if Coach already had steam coming out of his ears. “I still have a couple of Frozen Four T-shirts from last year. I’ll bring you one.”

“Awesome,” the billionaire said, clapping him on the shoulder. “Now if you’ll excuse us, we have a press conference to prepare for. You’ll be briefly introduced at the end, before Coach Worthington’s Q and A.”

“Thank you. That sounds great.” Since Becca had drifted toward the door, Leo knew he was supposed to follow her. But instead, he stuck out his hand toward Coach Karl. “Good to see you, sir.”

There was a very awkward beat while Leo waited to see what he’d do. The coach’s eyes narrowed, as if sensing a trap. Then, having little choice, he grasped Leo’s hand, giving it a bruising shake that threatened to break his arm in half. He muttered something that was supposed to be a greeting, and Leo refrained from giving him an inappropriate smirk.

Having survived the handshake, Leo turned his back on him and followed Becca into the hallway again, feeling victorious.

“I’m taking you to HR first,” she said. “There’s paperwork. And then someone will walk you into the lounge, where the rest of the team will gather for the press conference.”

“Thanks,” he said, tugging at his necktie. He was experiencing a very quick comedown from the high of forcing Coach Karl to be civil, because playing for a man who hated his guts would probably end in disaster. He’d been so ready to celebrate this milestone, but now that seemed premature. Instead, he’d be putting in a call to his agent to discuss disaster scenarios. If Coach Karl wanted to be a dick, he could send Leo back to the minors. At least his signed contract probably meant that they’d still have to pay his NHL salary. Unless there was some loophole Karl could activate—a way to send him back to the minors empty-handed.

He sure hoped not.


* * *

In the HR office, Leo filled out approximately seven thousand forms. There were contact forms and health forms. Tax documents. A public relations survey—favorite charities and past experience. The stack of paperwork was endless.

Yet if Coach Karl had his way, he’d be on the next plane to Michigan.

When Leo took a break to raise his agent on the phone, the man confirmed that Coach Karl could send him back to the minors at his whim. “They have to honor the financial parts of your contract,” he said, “so you’ll make the big bucks for two years, no matter what. But they don’t have to keep you in Brooklyn. They can stash you in the minors.”

“That’s the worst that can happen?” he asked.

“Pretty much,” the agent hedged. “I mean, if the new coach really hates your guts, he could prevent you from being traded to another team that wants you. But that would be both expensive and extreme.”

Jesus. “Good to know,” he grumbled.

After that uplifting conversation, and his hour in the HR office, Becca brought him a shiny box. “Here,” she said. “Everyone on the team gets a party favor.” He lifted the lid to find a large, sleek, nearly weightless titanium phone. At least he assumed it was a phone. “I’m going to port your number onto the Katt Phone . . .” She covered her mouth. “Whoops. That’s our nickname for them. The real name is the T-5000. Anyway—you’ll carry this for as long as you’re a member of the team.”

“Okay.” If only he knew how long that would be.

“The big app on the front page will always know everything about your schedule—where to be, and when. When you’re traveling, we push local weather and traffic information to you, as well as cab company numbers and restaurants. The floorplan of every hotel where you’ll stay. Your room number. Everything.”

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