Page 14 of Protective Player

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Even though I didn’t understand what was going on most of the time, we all had an amazing time. There were eight of us in the plush, fully catered suite Dawson provided. It was an unbelievable experience. And I was a hero to all my friends for the night. Most of them had been to a hockey game before. Many games. But they’d never been to one in such style before.

Honestly, I think I could get to like hockey. And if I’m being honest, watching it from a suite is even better.

“Devon Kirkpatrick?”

We all turn to find a large man in a dark blue suit standing in the doorway to the suite. He’s got an earpiece in like he works for the Secret Service or something and a pin on his lapel bearing the team emblem.

I raise my hand. “That’s me.”

“Mr. Davis asked that I escort you down to the tunnel to wait for him.”

Sammy turns to me with a grin on her face. “Well, ain’t you all fancy?”

I laugh. “You going to be okay?”

“I’m sure we’ll muddle through.”

My friends are still busy eating and drinking everything on the back table, talking about the game excitedly. The fans are starting to file out of the arena, but as I look around, I see people still partying in the suites. I turn back to Sammy with a worried frown.

“You don’t mind, do you?” I ask.

“You’re kidding, right?” she replies. “Get out of here. Go meet your Prince Charming.”

I grab Sammy and hug her tight. “I love you.”

“I love you back. Now, go. Oh, tell him I said great game, and if he’s in the mood, I wouldn’t mind an autographed sweater.”

I laugh. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“You’re the best, babe.”

“Yeah, I know,” I reply with a wink.

The man smiles at me and leads me out of the suite. I follow him downstairs and through a labyrinth of hallways until we come to a wide corridor. The walls are adorned with murals of what I assume are team legends.

There are clusters of other people in the tunnel waiting. Most of them are behind a rope line and look like they’re waiting for the teams to come out so they can get autographs or something. Standing alone on the other side of the tunnel makes me feel a little conspicuous, and I can’t help but notice people are casting curious glances at me.

Mostly to avoid the weird looks from the other people across the way, I settle the hat with the team logo on my head then look down and smooth out the black and purple, long-sleeved t-shirt I bought in the team store before the game.

Sammy wanted me to get Dawson’s sweater, but I quickly vetoed that idea. I thought it would look way too desperate. So, I settled for a generic team design so I could support Dawson without looking super needy.

“Hey, you guys got lucky tonight.”

A big, burly guy wearing a Seattle sweater is leaning against the rope line staring hard at me, a scowl on his face. He’s obviously had a few tonight.

“Hey, little girl. I’m talkin’ to you,” he growls.

I look away, trying to ignore him as his friends try to hold him back. But he shrugs them off, ducks under the rope line, and marches over to me. He stops just a foot or two in front of me, his belly straining against his sweater as he leans forward, his dark eyes narrow, his lips curled back into a sneer.

His warm breath—reeking of beer and cigarettes—washes over my face, and I turn my head to the side, trying to avoid breathing it in.

“I said you guys got lucky tonight.” He emphasizes each word as if I’m hard of hearing.

“I heard you the first time.”

“So? What do you have to say to that?”

“I have nothing to say to that. And I have nothing to say to you. So, please. Just leave me alone.”