Rookie Move(8)

By: Sarina Bowen


“Got it,” Leo said, fingering the device’s cool edge. Talking on this thing would be like holding a large slice of bread up to the side of his face. But that was a small price to pay to join the team.

“There’s a narrow light strip all around the phone that changes color when it wants your attention,” Becca continued. “You’ll see. If the edges of the phone glow yellow, there’s an update you need to see. If it glows red, there’s an emergency, or an important change of plans.”

“Groovy.”

“And one more tip?” Becca offered. “When you ask the phone a question, if you say Nate’s name first, you’ll get a priority hyper-connection. So don’t just say, ‘What time is the jet leaving?’ Say, ‘Nate, what time is the jet leaving?’”

“Got it.”

“That feature will even swap you onto another cell phone network if you don’t have enough bars. It’s awesome. If a bit egotistical.” She whispered this last bit, and Leo grinned. “Well.” She clapped her hands once. “Let’s get you to the players’ lounge.”

She led him past a big open room which was set up for a press conference—with a table at one end and rows of folding chairs lined up all the way to the back of the room. Beyond that, she opened another door to reveal a large lounge area, with sofas and a pool table. It was a gorgeous, comfortable room, and it was full of hockey players wearing suits and purple ties—the team color for the Brooklyn Bruisers.

Several heads turned in his direction, and Leo was confronted with the reality that this should have been a really exciting moment for him—meeting his new NHL teammates. But Coach Karl had robbed him of that joy. In order to become a true member of this team, it would be an uphill battle against all of Karl’s objections.

He didn’t know if it was possible, but he’d die trying.

And hey, he comforted himself, scanning the guys in this room, at least if Karl succeeds at tossing your ass by the end of the day, you’ll never have to wear a purple tie.

“Gentlemen,” Becca said, clapping her hands. A couple of conversations stopped, heads turning in their direction. “This is Leo Trevi, a forward, and Mr. Kattenberger’s newest trade.”

There was a murmured chorus of “yo” and “welcome.”

“Hey, man.” A player waved from the sofa, and Leo recognized him as the team’s current captain, Patrick O’Doul. At thirty-two years old, he’d been scoring for this team long before Nate bought it and brought it to Brooklyn. They’d had a difficult couple of seasons, but it wasn’t O’Doul’s fault.

“Hey,” Leo said. “Glad to be here.” He wanted to be a member of this team so fucking bad. But walking into this room wasn’t a moment of victory—it was more like the preparation for battle. Knowing that didn’t make Leo feel like the friendliest guy in the world.

“He doesn’t have a locker yet,” Becca said. “Will you do any rearranging? Or shall we give him the, um, open spot?”

O’Doul transferred a toothpick from one side of his mouth to the other, gazing up at Leo with his hands at the back of his head. Maybe he affected an easy disposition, but Leo could still see him sizing up the new guy, looking for weakness. “Put ’im in the open spot,” he said finally.

Until that moment, Leo hadn’t properly appreciated the fact that getting a crack at the NHL was like being the recipient of a donor organ—someone else had to suffer to give him his big break. Hopefully he wouldn’t be offering up a lung to some other soul before the day was out.

“The publicist will arrive shortly to brief everyone on the press conference,” Becca said. “Until then, make yourself at home.”

“Thanks. I appreciate it.”

“So where you from?” O’Doul asked lazily.

“Here. Grew up in Huntington on the North Shore. Been watching this team forever. When I was five is the first time my dad got season tickets to the . . .”

O’Doul held up a hand to silence him. “Don’t say it. Kattenberger doesn’t allow anyone to speak the old franchise name.”

“Sorry?”

“Inside this building, you can only call us the Bruisers.” O’Doul winked. “See? I can say it easily now. Took me a year to break the habit. I mean—Kattenberger is a bit of a whack job on this particular point. It’s like a Voldemort thing. The Team That Shall Not Be Named. But since the boss man paid his left nut for the franchise and changed the name, he can do it his way. If you want to avoid his wrath, you never say that old name.”

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