Page 37 of The Keeper

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“And this halt—it’s a breakup, right?”

“I mean, I guess? But the kind where you know you’ll eventually get back together. We just need time to get through this. I need to focus on my work here. You need to settle into your new team. We need to see where the wind blows us. Maybe it will bring us closer together. Maybe further apart. But for now? I just need to focus. I still care for you, but I just need space.”

Well, that’s about as clear as mud. In my mind, it’s all systems go for moving on. At least for now. Still, I need to know for sure. “So, in a break, are we seeing other people?”

She laughs. “Well, I suppose you can try.”

The fuck? I can try?“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means you’re not exactly a lady killer.”

“I’m a professional hockey player, Emily. I don’t have to be a lady killer. The ladies come to us.”

She scoffs at me. “Calum Lefleur, you’re not talking about sleeping with one of those hockey hoes, are you?”

I raise a shoulder and make a noise, just to spite her.

She laughs out loud. “Well, good luck with that.”

I’ve already had sex with another woman, Emily, and no luck was needed. Just incredible chemistry.

Of course, I can’t say that. I’m not that disrespectful. I am still trying to process her words though. “We need to see where the wind blows us. Maybe it will bring us closer together. Maybe further apart.”She didn’t say whether or not she still loves me. She wants to live her life without me untilthe wind blowsand we possibly end up together. And what it also boils down to is that she doesn’t believe anyone else would want me. As if she’s the only woman who would want to be with me.

It’s as if she thinks of me as this puppy, this little dog to be petted, sitting patiently, awaiting her attention. Well, I’m not.

“I was going to ask if you wanted to have phone sex.”

“Only you would be oblivious enough to ask for phone sex after talking about a breakup,” Emily says, shaking her head.

“I said I wasgoingto ask. Just trying to reconnect is all, to see if we still have something there. Remember how we did phone sex when I was on the road that one time?”

“Cal, phone sex is not the way to reconnect.”

“Well, Em, neither is actually reconnecting, I guess. Romantic dinner? Weekend in a fun city? No, and no.”

Emily is quiet for a minute, and then she says, “Things change, you know?” It’s probably the most honest thing she’s said to me in a long while. At least she finally sounds sincere, and her tone isn’t bitter.

“They do,” I agree. I blow out a loud breath and add, “I’m sorry, Em. If a break is what you need, then let’s take a break. I want you to be happy.”

“I know you do, Cal, but right now I’ve got to go. We’ll talk in a few weeks, okay?”

She hangs up before I can even respond.

* * *

We’ve just wonour first pre-season game, three to one. I’m in awe, really, of the precision of our starting lineup. I guess I shouldn’t be since I played them in last season’s divisional finals.

Of thirty shots on goal by LA, only about eighteen came close enough to need a save. Only one went in, which I consider good odds. Not great. I hate letting anything in, but the score was fair and sharp, and I can’t fault someone with good aim. The LA team was ready for us, and they put up a good fight.

Now we’re in the hotel bar, where a raucous country band is playing. The guys with wives and girlfriends are sitting around a few tables, shoved together haphazardly, various empty beer bottles and soda glasses strewn about.

Some of the rowdier guys have gone out for the night, but a few others sit at the bar with me. It’s nice to be included, and I’m getting a lot of claps on the back, but I feel like a fish out of water just sitting there, not understanding their inside jokes or knowing which puck bunny they’re referring to with their bedroom bragging.

I’ve never been into one-night stands or sleeping with groupies like some of my teammates have. It’s not that I judge them. I understand, I guess, the allure of it, of the party scene, of living fast and free. It’s just…I’m not built for that. I’m too reserved, too set in my ways, too reliant on structure.

“You look miserable, dude,” a voice says to my left. It’s Evan. “You stopped a shit-ton of shots tonight. You should be happy.”