For two months, Lucas had been looking forward to this game. They were in Arizona, playing against the Hares, and he had a hot date—win or lose—with the Hares’ red panda goalie, Marc. For someone he’d never taken the time to notice before, he was noticing him now. Couldn’t stop thinking about him, in fact. Lucas had an itch, and no matter who he scratched it with, it wasn’t as good as Marc scratching it.
“I’d like to do this again.”
That was what Marc had said to him after they won Worlds. It was obvious neither of them knew what “this” was, but Lucas wasn’t about to argue. He wasn’t going to fight the undeniable chemistry between them. He’d been around long enough to know he should take what he could get, while he could get it.
And Marc, with his big amber eyes and his twin dimples framing the sexiest mouth Lucas had ever seen, was more than willing to give. Hell, it wasn’t like he got nothing from Lucas either. He could still perfectly picture the look on Marc’s face when he came, his plump, blowjob-swollen lips parted, his cheeks flushed dark, the color spreading to the tips of his ears, down his neck, the way his pupils dilated, black swallowing amber.
It was an image he’d used to get off more than a couple of times since that night.
He’d like to see it again. And again. And again…
He shook his head and pushed all that to the back of his mind. First and foremost, he had a game to get ready for. Everything else came later. Second on the list of his priorities. The first of which was to win.
Jake Cullen, Cully as he was known to his teammates, shouldered him, knocking Lucas lightly into the boards. “Spaced out, much?” he asked. “I said your name three times. You missed my spin-o-rama.”
Lucas grinned, mentally shrugging off everything that wasn’t here and now related. “Got bored watching you is all,” he said. He laughed and skated away before Cully could retaliate. The wolf shifter had been working hard on his fancy moves, and the best the team could figure was he was trying to impress someone. Wolves got weird when they were looking for mates.
They were in the middle of game-day practice, trying to get a feel for the foreign rink. They hadn’t played there since last season, and every time seemed different. Probably because the guys on the Hares tended to always be a new mix. Marc, Chandler Kipling, Chris Wentz… those guys were steady for the Hares, but they were a team looking to make it to the playoffs. They’d been trading players a lot, bringing in new blood and trying to acquire veterans with a good reputation. Not that the Aces didn’t do that. All hockey teams did. The sigh of relief that swept through the league when the trade deadline hit was audible worldwide. It was the one thing Lucas hated about the game. And since he was a solitary shifter, he couldn’t imagine how his more pack-oriented teammates felt. He’d had several friends end up on the opposite side of the country thanks to a trade, and it never got easier.
James Bordeaux, a fellow defenseman and the one Lucas was most often paired with, hooked Lucas’s stick from his hands, sending it clattering to the ice as he passed. He tended to be frisky on game days, energy level ramping up. He drove Lucas crazy. But maybe that was because his inner jaguar knew he’d be eating James’s meerkat form in the wild. He doubted it, though. James was the team chirper, constantly egging on anyone that came within hearing range. Knowing better than to encourage him, Lucas picked up his stick and got in line to practice his one-timers.
Practice ended following a few rounds of scrimmaging, and then, once they were cleaned up, they all got on the bus and returned to the hotel for pregame naps—every hockey player’s favorite part of the day. Several of the more pack-oriented shifters filed into the same room, planning on switching forms and conking out together. Lucas’s roommate, Ryan Williams, was a fellow cat shifter. A clouded leopard to be precise.
Neither of them had any desire to cuddle before a game.
They went to their separate beds, Lucas shifting and Ryan stretching out in human form, and they didn’t stir till their obnoxious, loud-as-all-hell alarms started screaming at them. Lucas always felt like a trick was being played on him, and he’d only been asleep for five minutes or so. He wouldn’t put it past his teammates to pull that kind of thing.
Yawning, he arched his back, lazily flicking his tail in the air behind him. He always managed a better stretch in his animal form, all his muscles bunching and flexing in a graceful movement.
Ryan turned off their alarms. “You got a text, bro,” he said sleepily, mouth stretching around the words. “From a Marc.” Lucas swung around in time to see him double take, confusion spreading across his face. “Marc, like Marc Lacroix? The goalie for the Hares? Since when are you two pals?”
Lucas shifted midleap from the bed, landing lightly on two feet instead of four. He held his hand out for the phone. “We played together at Worlds. He’s a nice guy.” Ryan had been there for a short time, but the US team had been disqualified early on. By Team Canada, of course. Marc had shut down a couple of attempts by Ryan.
Pale green eyes gazed at him skeptically, but Ryan handed it over. “Look at you being all friendly and shit,” he said.
Lucas rolled his. “Go get dressed. I don’t want you hogging the bathroom when I need it.”
“Yes, Dad,” snarked Ryan, adding a salute to the words to set the tone. He brought his knees up obnoxiously high as he marched toward the bathroom.
From years of experience, Lucas knew to ignore him. It was a recurring theme with many members of his team. He waited till the bathroom door had been shut to read Marc’s message. Normally I’d say good game, but I want you to lose tonight. So I guess I’m going to wish you a mediocre game.
Unable to hold it back, Lucas smiled and giggled. Which, he never giggled. If anyone caught him doing so, it would ruin his image as the tough guy. He couldn’t have that happening. He didn’t know what it was about Marc that charmed him this way, set him off-balance. He felt twice as ridiculous when it took him ten minutes to come up with a response. Especially when the only thing he could think of was a lame Hope you have a mediocre game too, loser.
Yeah, Lucas knew what he was doing…not.