Beside him he can hear Chandler parroting the standard thing all captains say. “We played a good, hard game. We can do better, but tonight was a good night overall.”
And then they ask him about Dustin.
“Charleston’s taking some time to adjust. He’s a good player, but I think he could be better with this team behind him.”
It’s a nicer answer than Dustin could have hoped for. Very media friendly.
“Has he got a team nickname yet?”
“He’s our Buttercup,” says Chandler, grinning so big it’s damn near blinding.
Dustin makes his excuses and flees for the shower before they can descend on him and ask him what he thinks about the name. His thoughts on it are nothing that can be shared with the public.
He comes out after the media has left and ignores the knowing looks from his teammates. Marc flicks him with his towel as he walks by. “We’re going out to Chiller’s. You’re coming. We’ve got to get you acquainted with the gems of Phoenix.”
“There’s this thing called jet lag,” he says, and they all start talking over him about how they’re experts and they know just what he needs to do. Of all the things to make him laugh with this team for the first time, it’s that. When he sees Chandler, he doesn’t understand the pleased look on his face.
It’s still there when he slides into the booth next to Dustin at the bar. He hands him a beer. “Drink up, Buttercup.”
“Why do you keep calling me that?” he asks.
“Because every time I look at you, I think ‘chin up, Buttercup.’ Maybe stop looking like we’re about to eat you, and we’ll give you a new name.”
“I don’t look at you like you’re about to eat me.” Inexplicably, once he hears the words aloud, his face flushes red. The heat to his cheeks is near instantaneous.
Chandler smirks, leaning in far too close. He bares his teeth. His canines are wickedly pointy. Dustin thinks they might all be real, rather than dentures from a long hockey career.
“Would that make you look any happier?”
His breath noticeably hitches. The tips of his ears join the rapidly heating party.
Chandler comes impossibly closer. Dustin feels like all his air is trapped in his lungs. “If it’ll put a smile on your face….”
His beer sloshes over the side of the glass he sets it down so hard. “Bathroom,” he says. “I’ve got to pee. Sorry.” It’s a weak excuse, and Chandler sees right through it, but he backs away and doesn’t follow him. He slumps against the wall once he’s in the restrooms and covers his face. Fuckity fuck. His gorgeous captain whom he hates and can’t stop fighting with on the ice wants to sleep with him. All but propositioned him.
He inhales shakily.
It’s not a good idea. Just because his dick is on board doesn’t mean it will end well. Chandler may be handsome and hunky, and his muscles might literally be the stuff of dreams, but he’s a cocky asshole. He’s a bulldozer on the ice. He gave Dustin a dumbass nickname. He’s not the type of person Dustin should get involved with.
He crosses to the sink and turns the tap on cold. He splashes his face. His cheeks are red in the mirror and hot to the touch. Now his eyelashes are dripping. He can barely tell where his pupil meets his iris, the brown has darkened so much—something that happens on rare occasions. His lips are chapped from the cold air of the rink. He licks them, absently chewing at his fat bottom one.
As much as he would like to, he can’t spend the rest of the night hiding out in the restroom.
Drying his face, he takes a deep breath and ventures out. He hopes he doesn’t look like he had to go splash water on his face to cool down. Chandler’s at the bar, so he squeezes between Marc and Joki. When Joki’s not a tiger, he’s a towering six foot four and surprisingly skinny. It’s all muscle, but when compared to his height, it doesn’t look as big as it should. He’s so graceful on the ice, Dustin thinks he could have been a figure skater. He’s currently talking to David about something that’s leading him to use grand sweeping gestures while he spouts out sentence after sentence in Finnish.
They’re not bad guys. If Chandler’s managed to get a team that’s so put together and close, maybe he isn’t all bad.
Dustin’s still not going to sleep with him.