Page 26 of The Keeper

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“She didn’t fall for me right away. Didn’t throw herself at me just because I was a pro athlete. I’m sure you’ve had that before, right? Women who want to sleep with you just so they can say they made it with a hockey star?”

“I have. It doesn’t impress me.”

“Well, Holly wasn’t like that. She was driven and smart and she wanted to keep her job. But there was this…chemistry. Something. It drew us to each other and while I maybe started out thinking of it as a challenge or a conquest, it quickly turned into something more. More meaningful. I saw the puzzle pieces fitting together. I wanted to be better because of her, for her. I wanted her to know I was worth something. Worth her love.”

“I’m not really into the love stories, though.” I shrug. It’s the God’s honest truth.

Evan frowns at his beer, but only for a moment. When he looks up, he says, “Then maybe that’s what’s wrong with your relationship.”

Touché. He’s got me there, so I change the subject. “Are you going to retire at some point?”

Evan’s eyebrows shoot up into his hairline. “That’s bold. Looking to get rid of me?”

“No. Sorry. It just seems like you’re a happy homebody. Ready to get home and do dad stuff.”

“Well, I won’t lie, I miss them when I have to travel. But I still love playing. I’m still good at it. Body’s still holding up and I’m notthatold…”

I can’t help but grin at this. Evan is probably ten years older than me. It’s not ancient for hockey, but a lot of guys go to the front office once they settle down.

Evan pays the bar tab and says he’ll see me later.


That’s what I’m feeling right now. It’s not just about being here in Vegas. It’s about life in general. Evan’s got me thinking. WhatdoI love about Emily? I felt like we barely connected when she was in town. It could be blamed on her hyper-focus on schoolwork, but really, I think we don’t have that much in common. And if her negative, somewhat patronizing comments were anything to go by, I think she feels that way too. There was a constant, uncomfortable strain between us that I’d never noticed before. I slept in the spare bedroom and Emily didn’t even comment about it. There was no kissing, no cuddling, no…connecting.The first real smile I saw was when she was texting someone just as she got to the airport to return to Montreal. Am I a fool for trying when she’s probably already left our relationship? Am I simply coldhearted that I can’t see clearly what I love about her?

It’s as I’m pondering this that I receive three texts from Emily. Ones I should have been expecting if I’m honest.

Emily: I think we need some space.

Emily: This weekend was weird, and I think the distance is hard.

Emily: I’m sorry. I just need a break.

I have no idea how to respond to them, so I walk out into the evening and look for a bar with live music. It’s what I need right now. Music. When I find one worth listening to, I step in and take a seat at the bar, ordering another beer.

The music is good. Not as good as Billie’s band, if I’m comparing. Thinking back on our impromptu jam session, she really is an amazing drummer. Expressive about music in a way I could never be. I feel a little badly about how I reacted to the low-cost musical equipment she purchased for the program. In hindsight, I was still smarting from the weekend with Emily, which did not go as I envisioned. I think I took it out on Billie, who was totally valid in her point about buying cheaper equipment for kids who are just starting to learn the instruments.

I’m two beers in when someone sits next to me. A woman, with dark hair. At first, I pay her no attention as I watch the band. The crowd is picking up, and the music is growing on me.

When I turn, though, I realize it’s Billie. She smirks at me. “Hello, Cal.”


“Wondered when you’d realize I was sitting here.”

“Just here to listen to some music,” I say, taking a sip of my beer.

“Well, don’t let me stop you. I just wanted to say hi since I saw you sitting here.”


Billie’s nose and mouth do a crinkly thing that’s cute but makes me think I didn’t answer the way she wanted me to. I don’t know. I’m not good at reading people, I guess.

“Can I buy you a beer or drink of choice?” I ask after a moment.

She shrugs. She’s dressed simply, in a white T-shirt, jeans, and tall boots. Her hair is piled up big on top of her head in a wild way. It’s pretty though, the purple ends falling down, making me want to touch it. I like how she looks. Real and approachable. Sexy, but in an understated way that I like very much.

“You look nice,” I say before signaling the bartender, who comes over and gets her drink order.

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