Page 17 of The Keeper


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“I’m sorry. That wasn’t a nice thing to say. But I know your type. You’re spoiled and rich and you’ve been the superstar, but now you’re just one superstar among many and that feels uncomfortable to you. Frankly, I’m not impressed. I grew up among celebrities and they put their pants on one leg at a time, just like I do. Superstars are overrated.”

“That’s not really it,” Cal says. “I mean, it’s not all of it. But whatever. Let’s just get this figured out so I can get back to the arena.”

I breathe in and out through my nose quickly. It’s such a shame when the really hot-looking guys turn out to be spoiled rich boys.I’ve seen my fair share over the years, I but had hoped that this one would be different.Calm, Billie. He’s keen to leave, so give him what he wants so he can get out of here. “Okay, well, I’d like to have you here on a consistent basis. Like, the same day and time every single week. Is that doable with your schedule?”

“I’m not sure. As you know, we have a game schedule that will have us on the road. It’s likely we can set a schedule based on that, but it’s unlikely I can guarantee Tuesdays at four every week or whatever.”

“These kids need someone they can count on,” I tell him plainly. He needs to know this is not just some photo op for his image.

“I understand, but I have hockey responsibilities, and while the team is supportive of this, they also pay me to play hockey. So, we just need to look at the calendar and work something out.”

I feel my face twisting. Maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe the events of the other night are coloring my opinion of this guy. And really, that’s uncool since I’m the one who kissed him in the first place. And he’s right, of course, that hockey is a long season with a lot of games and practices and training sessions.

Calum Lefleur is a very attractive guy. As pretty in the daylight as he was the other night in the dim light of the evening. His hair has gorgeous golden highlights throughout and enough of a natural curl to look artfully messy. Great lips, not too full, not too thin. And his eyes—yeah, well, suffice it to say I’ve dreamt about those sea-blue, Van Gogh iris-colored eyes of his more than I should’ve since we met the other night. He’ll look fantastic on those larger-than-life posters the Crush likes to hang outside the arena every season.

“Okay, sure,” I finally say. “I just want you to be clear on this one point, okay? These kids need role models. They need people who show up consistently. They need people who care about them in authentic ways. If you’re just going to phone this in, I’d rather not do it.”

“I’ve been asked to do this by our public relations team,” he answers, shoving his hands in his pockets. “I’ll do what is expected of me.”

My nostrils flare as I grit my teeth, biting back the response I’d really like to give him. I need to stay civil, though. “Okay. Well, let’s go up to one of the homework rooms. There are a couple of home-school kids up there doing some work. They’ll be happy to meet you and it’s on the way to Tara’s office.”

I walk off, assuming he’ll follow me. I don’t look back. I’m not going to hold this guy’s hand.He’s going to do what’s expected of him?What a joke.

He does follow, at a meandering distance, and I spend the whole five minutes being angry at myself for kissing a guy who is clearly an arrogant asshat. Or if not arrogant, at least aloof enough to be annoying. Boy, do I know how to pick ‘em.

Inside the homework room, the ten kids who do homeschool work here look up as we walk in.

“Hi, Miss Hirsch,” they all say.

“Hey, guys. Thought you might like to meet Calum Lefleur. He’s the new goalie for the Crush.”

“Whoa!” one of the kids yelps, jumping up and running over.

Pretty soon, the excitement spreads, the kids asking Cal questions about being a professional hockey player. He answers but seems kind of overwhelmed. I get the impression he hasn’t been around a lot of kids before. Still, he’s not unkind, so I think he’ll do okay, especially in the small-group lessons. Kids are so perceptive and know when adults are ingenuine.Please be kind to these kids, hockey hero.

Man, I hope he can play guitar. I hope he has the people skills toactually teach it.

After a few minutes, Cal announces that he needs to get to a team meeting, and I walk him back to Tara’s office, where the head of the Crush Foundation whisks him away with a promise to be back in touch soon to firm things up.

“How was it?” Tara asks after they walk out.

“I’m not sure, honestly. He’s a strange dude.”

“Great,” she says, rolling her eyes. “Just what we need.”

“Let’s hope for the best,” I say, puffing out my cheeks and blowing out a breath. “We need this money.”

“Yes, we do.”

God, please don’t let this be a colossal disaster.

9

who's nick?

Cal

Em is one of the last people to come down the escalator to baggage claim. It’s been a month since I’ve seen her in person. As she approaches, I hold out the bouquet of flowers I brought for her. She takes them, and when I lean in for a kiss, she turns her head so that my kiss lands on her cheek.

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