Page 24 of The Keeper

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“I just think—”

I put up a hand to stop him from saying anything else. “Look, I need you to just chill out and teach the guitar. Do the little PR thing and then move on. Can you do that? Do you even knowhowto teach someone to play the guitar?”

He glares at me for a second but then sort of tunes me out, going back to the red guitar and tuning it a bit more before plucking out a familiar tune. I think it’s a White Stripes song, and I listen in, adding in a drumbeat to confirm. Well, hell…

Calum Lefleur is a decent guitarist.

He’s clearly very technical in his approach, but good, nonetheless. At one point, I catch him looking at me as I drum, the same look of rapt fascination on his face as when he watched us play at the bar. He appreciates music and musicians—that much is obvious. Which will be the tie that binds, the thing to make this partnership work, I think. I hope…

We riff off each other for a few minutes, and when he stops playing, I give him my full attention, and while it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, it’s the best I can do for him at the moment.

“Okay, you’re not fired.Yet. See you next week for your first lesson with the kids.”

The handsome bastard stares at me for a second and then gives me a sharp nod.

A nod.

No words, no gesture, no smile or readable facial expression, just a firm nod. A firm nod that just might melt my panties away if I must define it.

It’d be a lot easier to work around him if I didn’t have to look at him.

Calum Lefleur may need charm school, but damn, he’s a beautiful man.


let loose, try new things


“How’s it going?” Evan asks as we huddle up for practice instructions.

I lift a shoulder. “It is what it is.”

He huffs a laugh and rubs his bearded chin. “I see you’ve not yet gotten comfortable in your new home.”

“This isn’t home to me. Montreal is home.”

“I get that. It’s hard to assimilate somewhere new, with a bunch of people you don’t know. And this is your first trade, so it’s doubly hard. Maybe we can grab a beer one night, talk it out? I want you to feel welcome here. I want you to be part of the team. I, for one, am happy to have a goalie like you on the squad.”

Evan has always been nice. He’s the team captain and it’s his job, I guess, but his words do give me some comfort. No one really talks to me here. People are pleasant, I suppose, but I see their relationships and their bonds, and I feel very out of place. I just don’t know how to fit in.

“I’d like that. To grab a beer sometime.”

“Great,” he says with a sharp clap on my back. “Let’s make it happen. Now, I think, fundamentally, our team totally gets how good you are. They saw you in action in the finals. Butknowinga thing is different than integrating it into a team environment. They loved Manny, not just the goalie but the man and their very good friend. It’s hard to let go of someone you love, and they’re possibly in mourning right now. It was not just a season-ending injury for Manny, it was the end of a twenty-year career for a guy who’s a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame one day. But, having said all that, they can love you too, when they see what you can do for the team.”

“I don’t need to be loved.” As soon as I say the words, I wish I’d not said them.

“Then respect. Whatever. They’ll step up and protect you as best they can, but you want more than that. You want to feel a sense of place with this team.” He puts up a gloved hand as soon as I open my mouth. “I know, I know. You’re going to say you don’t care about this team, that you didn’t want to be here in the first place. I get it. You want to go back to Montreal. But you can’t. You’re under contract here, dude, and you’re serious enough about the game to make the best of it, even if it’s just on the ice. Thing is, that won’t be good enough to sustain you here, not for the duration of the contract.”

I bite back the automatic argument that buds in my throat. He’s just trying to help, I remind myself. I nod, and he claps me on the back one more time just as the coaching staff lays out our next drill.

It’s a simple shot-on-goal exercise. The team splits up into two lines as I take my place at one goal and Dante Castellano takes his place at the other end of the ice. He stares me down like he wants to tear my head off. He probably does want to tear my head off. What he doesn’t realize is that he should be directing all that energy to the drill, to stopping goals. He could outshine me here, prove his worth.

Tugging down my goaltender’s mask, I crouch in front of the goal, hyper-focused as the first in line skates forward with the puck.

The players have been instructed to come in hard, fast, and from different angles. This exercise is partially about their ability to pivot and shoot from various positions, but partially about my ability to see the shots and react quickly.

Each time a player scores on one of us, the buzzer goes off, loud and obnoxious in an empty arena. The team wings shot after shot, and I get into a game-based mindset. Stop the puck. Don’t worry about anything else. What angle is it coming from? Where do I position myself? Should I come out or pack in tight?

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