Back in the game, p.1
Back in the Game, p.1Meghan Quinn
Published by Hot-Lanta Publishing, LLC
Cover design by Meghan Quinn
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All characters in this book are fiction and figments of the author’s imagination.
Copyright © 2018 Meghan Quinn
All rights reserved.
“No, daddy, like this.” Shea repositions the tiara on my head. “You can’t wear it sideways like that, you have to show off your jewels.”
“Showing off daddy’s jewels could get him in trouble. That’s called indecent exposure, sweetie.”
“Huh?” Shea’s head tilts to the side, a pull in her brow.
“Never mind.” I clear my throat and take a look at myself in the reflection of my car window.
Tiara . . . check.
Showing off the jewels (tiara jewels, that is) . . . check.
Pink scarf wrapped around at nipple height and tied like a bow . . . check.
Purple sparkly fairy wings strapped around my bulky shoulders . . . check.
Looks like I’m ready for lunch with my daughter. Let’s just pray there aren’t any super fans in the area, because I’m a walking Instagram story right about now. Although . . .
I squat down next to my daughter and pull out my phone. Opening up the Instagram app, I go to my stories and turn the camera so it’s facing me.
“Want to do a story with me, Shea?”
“Yeah!” She claps vigorously.
I press record and bring Shea closer to my side. “Off to lunch with this beautiful girl today. Fairy wings and tiara are on, I’m dad-ing hard right now. Blow a kiss.” She blows a kiss right before I stop recording.
“What is dad-ing hard?” She asks, twirling around in her pink, sparkly tutu.
“Eh, don’t worry about it.” I share my story and pocket my phone. “Grab daddy’s hand. We have some food to eat.”
I open the door to the restaurant for my little girl and usher her in, unfazed by the looks I’m getting. This isn’t the first time I’m dressed as Wanda the Fairy. Yup, I have a name and everything. I would do pretty much anything for Shea, not just because she’s my daughter and I love her more than anything, but because she hasn’t had the easiest life. Her mom, who we won’t speak of much, took off after one month of being Shea’s mom. She now lives in France, where she travels with her violinist boyfriend. We were never going to be a couple, ever—that shipped sailed after our one-night stand—so I’m not hurt about her being with someone else, but what makes me want to choke some sense into the woman is the way she totally abandoned her daughter. Especially since I play professional hockey for a living, and my schedule is demanding and hectic. It would have been nice to have her mom available to help out. Thankfully, my brother and his wife are there for me when I’m out of town.
“Wanda, what a treat to see you today,” Eduardo, the owner of Noodles and Donuts, greets me with a giant grin on his face. “And Little Miss Shea, looking beautiful as ever.”
“Thank you kind sir.” Shea curtseys then does a spin in her tutu. Kind sir . . . I shake my head, she must have picked that up from my brother.
“Would you like your usual table?”
“And two pink donuts,” Shea adds, holding up two fingers.
Eduardo tips her chin. “Coming right up, sweetheart.” He nods to the back of the restaurant. “You can go and take a seat. Coffee?”
“Please, and a Thai peanut chicken bowl for me, extra veggies.”
“Coming right up.”
We walk to the back of the restaurant and to the table that sits under the window, overlooking a tiny garden. Shea takes no time in hopping up on her seat and placing her elbows on the windowsill, looking out over the vegetation.
“One, two, three, four, six.”
“Five sweetie, don’t forget five, remember, that’s how old you are, you don’t want to skip it.”
“Daddy,” she gives me a “look.” “I said five in my head.”
“Ohh, okay, but when you’re counting let’s refrain from saying numbers in your head.”
“But it’s not fun like that, daaaaad,” she drawls out.
“My mistake,” I mumble.
Glancing around the restaurant, I’m surprised to see there aren’t a lot of diners today. Noodles and Donuts is a popular little hole in the wall in Philadelphia. It’s the perfect spot for something sweet and savory. What else do you really need besides noodles and donuts?
Well, plenty of things, but Shea loves it here, so it’s our special place.
“Eleven tomatoes, can you believe it dad? Eleven!”
“Wow, eleven, that’s crazy.”
“I KNOW!” She giggles and shakes her head. “Eleven tomatoes is definitely crazy.”
“The craziest.” My phone buzzes in my pocket, but I ignore it. Most likely it’s either my coach or my agent, and I’m less than interested in talking to both of them right now, especially since it’s my day off from an arduous road trip and we are coming down to the end of the season with playoffs looming over us. I just want to focus on my girl.
“Two pink donuts for the prettiest girl I know,” Eduardo says, holding out a plate.
Shea goes to reach for her donuts but I snag the plate away before she can shove the whole thing in her mouth. She has a goal in life, a ridiculous goal mind you, to shove an entire donut in her mouth. She watched my brother do it once and now any chance she gets, she tries. Thanks, Chuck.
My leg bouncing, I really have to go to the bathroom, I point my finger at Shea and say, “Listen here you fairy princess, we are not shoving the entire donut in your mouth, and you will have a bowl of my veggies as well before you can even think about that second donut, got it?”
“But daddy, how am I going to fit a donut in my mouth if I don’t practice?”
Sighing, I eye Eduardo, who’s chuckling to himself. “Can you watch her for a second while I go to the bathroom?”
“No problem, man. But if she shoves a donut in her mouth, that’s her business.”
I stand, my height five inches taller than Eduardo. “Don’t let her shove the damn thing in her mouth, break her off a piece. Come on, be the adult.”
“But she’s so cute.”
Yeah, she’s cute, which makes it so much more difficult. I make my way to the bathroom while I pull my phone from my pocket.
Voicemail from Greg, yup, my agent wants something and I’m not in the mood to find out what it is. I love my job, being able to play hockey for a living, feeling the scrape of the ice beneath my blades and making money doing it, there is nothing greater than that, but I’m more of a homebody when it
When I reach the bathroom, I quickly take care of business, wash my hands, and take a look at myself in the mirror.
Fuck am I a pretty little lady.
Wanda, sparkling from glitter, pretty in pink, and shiny jewels for days. Even though I wouldn’t trade this life for anything, I kind of feel like I’m in a rut. Like I should go put on some nineties mom jeans, perm my hair, and start jogging around with a fanny pack.
I can’t remember the last time I went on a date, or even had a woman around. I don’t fuck around on road trips, and I don’t bring girls home because of Shea. So to say it’s been a while is an understatement. Maybe that’s the reason why I’ve been extra aggressive on the ice recently.
Sighing, I take one last look at myself, and exit the bathroom, just as my phone rings in my pocket again. Jesus, Greg.
Reaching into my pocket, I pull out the phone and see Chuck’s idiotic face displayed on the screen.
What does he want?
I’m about to answer the phone when I’m bumped to the side by a slim shoulder. I really must be off my game, because I lose my balance and fall into the wall, knocking down a picture frame. Before it can hit the ground, I spin to catch it just in time as I hear someone from behind grunt.
When I turn to see who so easily pushed my six-foot-three stature to the side, I’m greeted by a woman maybe five inches shorter than me, her blonde hair curled and bouncing at her shoulders while her bangs pull my attention to her deep blue eyes. Her hand is cupping her cheek as she looks me up and down, humor lighting up in her features.
“Oh shit, are you okay?” I ask, even though I was the one who flew into the wall.
“I think so.” She pulls her hand away and checks her palm then pats her face again. “This is the first time I’ve been bitch slapped by a fairy wing before, so I’m trying to see if you left any of your pretty fairy dust on me. I’ve never been tested to see if I’m allergic.”
A slow, lazy smile spreads across my face. “I heard getting tested is an intense process where they dangle fairy wings over your face and every thirty seconds they lower the wings and give you butterfly kisses.”
She tilts her head to the side, studying me intently. “From your knowledge of butterfly kisses, your obvious dress-up game, and the tiara that seems to fit you perfectly, I’m going to guess you either have a daughter, or are the best, most invested uncle or big brother on this planet.”
“Daughter,” I laugh. “She’s five and I don’t get to spend a lot of time with her, so when I do, I go all out.”
“I can see that.” The twinkle in her eyes that sparkles when she looks at me does something funny to my stomach, something I haven’t felt in a while. “If it matters, I have to say, you’re quite fetching in a tiara. It’s very becoming of you.”
“Do you really think so?” I pretend to primp my buzzed hair.
“Oh it’s so you.”
“Thank you.” I rearrange the picture back on the wall and then hold out my hand. “Calder, also known as Wanda, the fairy princess.”
Chuckling, she takes my hand in hers and says, “Rachel, also known as . . .hell, I don’t have a fairy name, and now feel like I’m missing out.”
“All the cool kids have fairy names.”
“Apparently.” She crosses her arms over her chest and looks me up and down. “You know, it takes a very confident man to strut around in your outfit.”
“Confident or desperate to put a smile on his daughter’s face.”
“I think both.” She eyes my hand and says, “From the lack of ring, I’m going to say there is no wife?”
“You’re assuming right.” Is she about to . . . ask me out? I don’t think I’ve ever had a girl ask me out before. I’ve had women throw themselves at me because I’m a professional hockey player, but from what I can detect from Rachel, she for one doesn’t recognize me and two, doesn’t seem like the kind of girl who just throws herself at men.
“And there is no husband in the picture either?”
Laughing out loud, I shake my head. “Definitely no husband. Straight and single.”
“Hmm.” Her hand plays at the base of her neck as I await her next move. “Well, Calder, it was a pleasure meeting you. Don’t forget to polish your tiara, a foggy headpiece is an ugly headpiece.” She taps me on the shoulder and starts to walk away, leaving me in a wave of what the fuck.
“Hey, hold up.” I jog after her and when she turns toward me, I’m hit with an unsettling yearning. For the first time in a long time, I actually want to spend some time with a woman, with her wit, with those beautiful eyes. Clearing my throat, I ask, “By any chance, would you be willing to go out on a date with Wanda?”
Shit, why did I say Wanda? The guys would just about roast me right now if they were hearing this conversation.
“Wanda?” She raises a questioning brow in my direction. Yeah, she doesn’t want to go out with Wanda. I don’t blame her.
Shucking the tiara and undoing my nipple covering, I tuck them in my back pocket and try to look like the masculine defender I am on the ice. Speaking in a deeper voice than normal, I repeat, “Would you like to go on a date with me? You know, since you asked about my relationship status and all.”
Eyeing me up and down, the wheels spinning in her head, she says, “You know, I’ve never picked up a fairy princess outside of the men’s bathroom before . . .”
Why do I feel like this is a moment that will forever be engrained in my memory, the day I tried to ask a girl out wearing a tiara and fucking fairy wings?
“Is that a bad thing?” I stick my hands in my front pockets and try to flex my arms at the same time, showing off my triceps. Yes, I’ve sunken to that level. I have to display any ounce of my masculinity I have.
Her lips twist to the side, it’s evident she’s trying to hold back a smile. “I think for a lot of women it is, but for me, I find it intriguing.”
“Sooo . . . is that a yes?” I wait on bated breath for her answer.
“You know, Calder, I think it is.”
A large smile spreads across my lips as I pull my phone out of my pocket, unlock it, and hand it to her. “Put your phone number in there and I’ll call you tonight, how does that sound?”
“Call, huh? That’s very old fashioned of you. I’m so used to a text, a call might be a little intimidating.”
I shrug. “Old fashioned isn’t a bad thing, just means under all this glittery dust and pink bedazzles, there’s a real gentleman waiting to take you out.”
She finishes typing her information into my phone. “A real charmer. My, my, my, I might just have scored myself a real winner outside the bathrooms of a donut and noodle joint. No one will ever believe me.”
“Especially if you tell them the man you scored got your attention by bitch slapping you with his fairy wings.”
She chuckles and shakes her head in disbelief. “You are so incredibly right. I might just have to make up a story. Maybe something like I met you outside the library, where I tripped and fell and you caught me and my books before we wound up diving head first into oncoming traffic. A hero, that’s how I could describe you. A true, spur-of-the-moment, meant-to-be-there kind of hero.”
I pull on the elastic of my fairy wings and snap it against my chest. “That’s what I am, a true hero.”
“I believe it.” Her eyes soften. “You probably are to that little girl of yours.” Patting my arm, she says, “I look forward to your call tonight. Until then, have fun with your daughter and don’t eat too many donuts. I love a good set of abs.”
Walking backwards, she says, “We’ll just have to see.”
Commence countdown until Shea goes to sleep.
“Do I wear something nice?”
“What? Why would you wear something nice?” Hayden, my best friend and teammate asks. He’s a rookie this season and even though I’m older than him and have more experience, we’ve quickly bonded through the season and now he’s the guy I go to for everything.
“I don’t know. It just seems like something I should do. I took a shower, so I smell good.”
“Dude,” Hayden deadpans on the phone. “It’s a phone call. It’s not an actual date, you’re just going to be talking to her, it’s not like you’re going to be dry humping on your kitchen counter while she licks your Adam’s apple.”
“Have you had someone lick your Adam’s apple lately? Why is that something you would say?”
Frustration comes through the line as he sighs. “I’m trying to help you here, man. There is no need to get dressed in anything nice, just make sure your dick isn’t hanging out, because to me that seems a little inappropriate.”
“Why is that inappropriate?”
“I don’t know, you just met the girl, talking on the phone with your dick out almost seems like something a pervert would do. Like she’s telling you about her day and you’re over there on the other end, legs spread on the couch, your nuts snuggling against the fabric, and your cock bobbing up and down, just doesn’t seem right man.”
Naked phone talk with someone I barely know does seem odd, not that I planned on being naked for the conversation, but from the “pretty” picture Hayden just painted for me, I’m one hundred percent sure I won’t be dangling my balls against the couch while talking to her.
Back in the Game by Meghan Quinn / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes