One baby daddy, p.1
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       One Baby Daddy, p.1

           Meghan Quinn
 
One Baby Daddy


  Published by Hot-Lanta Publishing, LLC

  Copyright 2018

  Cover design by Meghan Quinn

  This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. To obtain permission to excerpt portions of the text, please contact the author at [email protected]

  All characters in this book are fiction and figments of the author’s imagination.

  www.authormeghanquinn.com

  Copyright © 2018 Meghan Quinn

  All rights reserved.

  Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Epilogue

  Chapter One

  HAYDEN

  “Do you have any regrets about that fight with Marcus Miller?”

  “No.”

  Flashes of light repeatedly go off, the clicks a sound I’ve become accustomed to.

  A sound I hate.

  Sip my water.

  Look around the room.

  Cameras point in my direction, stage lights blare from above, the bill of my hat being the only protection from the onslaught of light. I adjust it, curving down the sides as reporters raise their hands for the next question.

  I know what they want to prove, what they want to get at, but I’m not taking the blame.

  “So you don’t think the fight cost you advancement in the playoffs?”

  Of course he would ask that question.

  Bob, I think his name is.

  He’s a dick. He makes it his mission to turn any story into something completely fabricated for more reads on his news site. I’ll never understand why the Brawlers still let him in the media room.

  “The shots O’Reilly deflected cost us our advancement. He played a hell of a game and shut down our offense.”

  “You were tied heading into the last five minutes of the game, right before you were sent to the penalty box, leaving your team short a man. You don’t think that has anything to do with the loss?”

  I cap my water bottle and clear my throat. Pinching the microphone with my fingers, I lean in and look directly at the smarmy reporter with yellow teeth, sporting a brown suit and a cue ball of a head. “Tell me, Bob, if someone came up to you and slapped a hockey stick across the back of your legs, would you bend over and ask for another? Or would you have retaliated?” He’s about to answer, but I cut him off. “From the look of it”—I eye him up and down—“you would have bent over, but that’s not how I handle things. Miller deserved to be brought down to the ice, and I won’t apologize for my actions.” I grip the table’s edge and look around, ready to stand. “Unless you have any other questions about the actual game, I’m done for the night.”

  Questions fly but I don’t listen, I zone out and stand from the table, taking my water with me.

  Gripping the curve in the bill of my hat, I walk down the steps of the podium and head out of the media room, my publicist hot on my heels.

  “Could have handled that better,” he says, trotting next to me to keep up with my pace.

  “Well, we just lost our chance at fighting for the championship, so excuse me for being fucking pissed.”

  “Steinman is not going to be happy about that comment.”

  Greg Steinman is the owner of the Philadelphia Brawlers, and the controlling nitwit sure as hell won’t be happy with that comment, but he can deal with the repercussions. I’m allowed to be pissed. I answered their questions, I played the media game, but I don’t deal well with being blamed for the loss. There are a lot of factors that went into that game, resulting in us being knocked out of the playoffs. We are a team. Everyone contributes to every aspect of the game, for fuck’s sake.

  Do I regret cracking Marcus Miller’s jaw with one solid punch to his face? Fuck no. That dickhead had been on my ass the whole series taking cheap shots with his stick. Today was the only time I lost my cool, which is rare for me. It takes a lot for me to shuck my gloves and fight on the ice.

  And maybe the Renegades will be going to the championship, but Marcus won’t be playing. I made sure of it when my fists connected with him over and over.

  I squeeze my hand, pain searing through my bruised and swollen knuckles.

  “I’ll deal with Steinman,” I huff out. Turning the corner to the locker room, the space is silent, my teammates either quietly packing up or already gone after Coach’s speech.

  Next year, we will train harder. We will study harder. That championship will be ours.

  It’s the same damn thing you hear after every hockey season. I might be a rookie in professional hockey, but I’ve heard my fair share of end-of-year speeches and this one is no exception. Did I think we would win the championship my rookie season? No, but fuck, it would have been awesome.

  “Are we not meeting?” James asks, looking so goddamn put together it’s pissing me off. One hair out of place would have been nice, one button undone, one showing of how upsetting our loss was would be fucking comforting at the moment.

  “Does it look like I want to meet with you right now?” I toss my water bottle into my locker and shift around my gear, pulling my wallet and keys from the locked box. My phone is already in my pocket, and the suit I’m supposed to be wearing is hanging from the coat hook. Fuck that shit. I’m walking out of here in a T-shirt and athletic pants. “Can’t you tell now is not a good time?”

  “When will be a good time?”

  Head turned down, my hand gripping the back of my neck, I answer, “When I’m fucking ready.”

  Doesn’t he get it? The last things I want to talk about right now are endorsement deals and positive publicity during the off-season. Let me fucking mourn my loss for a day. He should know this. Working with athletes, we take a loss hard, let alone a loss that ends the season.

  Shifting behind me, his shoes rubbing against the short carpet of the locker, he says, “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

  Tossing an almost empty roll of tape across the room, I spin on my heel, suit hooked in my finger and hanging over my shoulder, I say, “Don’t bother. I’m heading to Binghamton for a few weeks, clear my head. I’ll call you.”

  “Hayden.” He walks next to me as I make my way to the parking lot. “We have some important matters to discuss. You have business meetings you have to attend.”

  I ignore him and continue on my path.

  “What about the power drink deal? They have a promotional photo shoot scheduled.”

  “I’ll be there; send me the information.”

  “
I really think we need to talk about this.”

  Halting, I come within inches to James’s face, bending at the knees to meet his shorter height. My voice is menacing when I speak, my jaw tight with each syllable uttered. “If you want to keep your job, I suggest you leave me the alone for now. Give me fucking space, man.”

  Startled, James backs up, hopefully well aware of the kind of damage I can cause despite my usual sunny and outgoing temperament.

  I’m a fucking fun guy, easygoing, but when it comes to my sport, my job, I take it seriously and expect nothing but the best from myself. When I lose, I need time to regroup.

  Succumbing to my request, James backs off and leaves me to walk alone to my black Porsche Cayenne, one of three cars still left in the parking lot.

  Unlock. Toss the suit in the back.

  Everything feels so . . . robotic.

  Sitting behind the wheel, I let out a long breath and press my forehead against the cool leather.

  The season is over. “Fuck,” I whisper and push the start button, the car coming to life.

  The windshield is glistening, the leather seats chilly, and since I’m only wearing a T-shirt, my entire body stiffens, aches. I know I should have showered. I know I should have worked out the lactic acid currently burning my muscles. I know what I should be doing as an elite athlete.

  But I welcome the chill.

  Philadelphia in spring isn’t pretty and isn’t easy on you. It’s chilly and dreary, which is perfect because that’s how I’m feeling right about now.

  Letting my car warm up for a few minutes, I take my phone from my pocket and let out a long sigh.

  After the game text messages are either fun to read or fucking dreadful. Tonight’s round of messages are going to fall under the category of torture, especially when I get to my dad’s text. I know it’s there, and I can tell you what it’s going to say before I even read it.

  Call me.

  Two simple words that hold so much weight I dread seeing them come from him. I might be an adult now, twenty-three to be exact, an old rookie in hockey years, but I still fear the wrath of my dad, the lecture I get whenever I get in a fight.

  I taught you better than that.

  True men don’t fight on the ice; they prove their point with their footwork.

  Do you enjoy upsetting your mother?

  It’s the same thing every time, and frankly, even though I’m grateful for the time my dad has put into getting me to where I am today, I’m not up for the lecture.

  Bringing my phone to life, I press on the green text message button.

  Ten. Christ.

  Scrolling through, I see a few from Calder, one of my best friends, telling me to call him when I’m done with the press. Some from my friend Racer congratulating me on a stiff right hook—I chuckle at that one—one from my publicist—insert eye-roll—a few from my mom, and the infamous text from my dad.

  I can deal with the text from my dad when I’m in a better headspace, so I call Calder.

  “Where are you?” he answers.

  “In my car, in the player’s parking lot.” My car starting to warm up.

  “Rachel made some bread pudding and I have some beer chilled. Come over.”

  I strap my seatbelt on. “Does the bread pudding have raisins in it?”

  “No.”

  “Be there in twenty.”

  My keys fall against the marble countertop as I take a seat at the kitchen island of Calder’s house. One of our defensemen, Calder Weiss, knows exactly how to sulk. In private with beer and sweets.

  When I joined the Brawlers, Calder took me under his wing, and through the season we grew incredibly close, relying on each other for the good and the bad. This being the bad.

  “Saw your interview.” Calder hands me a beer and chuckles. “Steinman is going to have your ass.”

  “Tell me something I don’t know.”

  He chuckles some more. “But the guys are worshipping you for finally telling that piranha off. Bend over . . .” Calder sips his beer a smile on his face. “Man, that was great.”

  Taking a gulp of beer, I feel the faint tug of a smile on my lips. “I’m not sorry.”

  “Evidently.”

  Rachel strolls into the kitchen wearing an apron, looking domestic and right at home. A month ago, Calder met Rachel at a noodles and donuts restaurant . . . outside of the bathroom. Romantic, right? The best part, Calder was dressed up for his little girl, Shea, as a fairy, so he was decked out in fairy wings and a tiara looking like a real man-lady. For some reason, Rachel couldn’t say no to giving him her phone number.

  That’s some game right there.

  They’ve been together ever since and I have to admit, I adore Rachel. She’s perfect for Calder and has really taken on the role of a female figure in Shea’s life. You can tell Rachel loves that little girl.

  “Are we ready for bread pudding, or do you need more time to drink your manly beer?”

  Calder takes the seat next to me. “Bread pudding.”

  I nod in agreement. “Bread pudding.”

  “You got it.”

  Making her way around the kitchen, she pulls a few plates from the cabinets, some spoons, and dishes out three heaping helpings of her banana bread pudding. She tops them with some melted caramel and a little scoop of vanilla ice cream.

  God bless this woman.

  “Here you go, boys. Sulk away.”

  “Thanks, babe.”

  “Yeah, thanks, babe,” I mimic. Calder territorially eyes me—a playful warning—and then dives into his dessert.

  I do the same, scooping up ice cream, caramel, and bread pudding all in one bite.

  Heaven.

  “Was this supposed to be a celebration dessert?” I ask, mouth full.

  “I figured it could go either way. I did pop the congratulations balloons I’d bought, figuring a congratulations on your loss wasn’t appropriate.”

  “It’s appreciated,” Calder says.

  We sit in silence, enjoying our dessert, no need to speak about what happened on the ice. No need to hash it out. What’s done is done; we can’t go back.

  When I finish my dessert, I take my plate to the sink, rinse it, and then stick it in the dishwasher. “That was really good; thank you, Rachel.”

  “Anything for the tripod.” She winks.

  It’s what we jokingly call ourselves, a nickname Calder doesn’t quite appreciate, being that Rachel and I get along so well that we joke around with Calder more than he wishes.

  Calder takes his empty plate along with Rachel’s, presses a light kiss across her temple, and then hands me the dishes to take care of. It’s hard not to be a tripod when we look like a goddamn old married couple, a weird threesome married couple.

  Wrapping Rachel in his arms from behind, Calder asks, “What are you going to do now? Take some time off?”

  Propped against the counter, I grip the edge of the marble. “Yeah. I’m sure my parents will want me to stay with them for a few weeks.”

  “Where do they live?” Rachel asks.

  “Scranton.” I drag my hand over my face and let out a long breath of air. “Not sure I want to go there though. I know my dad, and he’ll want to rehash every angle of the game until I’m blue in the face. And staying here in Philly”—I shake my head—“I don’t want to be sequestered to my apartment in fear of running into Brawlers fans.”

  “They’re brutal.”

  And that’s the goddamn truth. Beyond brutal. They’ve been known to flip cars over because of a loss, and I can only imagine the kind of beating the city is taking tonight.

  “Vacation then?” Rachel asks. “I heard Europe is beautiful during the summer.”

  I chuckle. “Yeah, I wish. As much as I would love to leave the country after tonight’s game, I have some obligations keeping me close to Philly and New York City.” I push off the counter and snag my keys. “I think I might spend a few weeks visiting my hometown.”

  “Binghamton, right?
Calder asks.

  I nod. “Yeah, my friend Racer lives there. It might be good to play catch-up. Thanks for the dessert and half a beer. I’m going to head out.”

  “You sure?”

  “Yeah, I’ll talk to you guys later.”

  As I’m leaving, Rachel calls out, “For what it’s worth, Miller deserved a hell of a lot more than the ass-beating you gave him.”

  I shut the door with a smile. Rachel is good people. Marcus, the prick, deserved so much more. Reaching into my pocket, I scan through the contacts on my phone and press send.

  I turn the car on, and listen to the phone ring on my Bluetooth.

  “Dude!” Racer answers. “You dropped that motherfucker so hard.”

  I pull out onto the street and head to my apartment. “How are you, man?”

  “Semi-drunk after watching that game, a little turned on from your right hook, and wondering why you’re calling me when most likely your dad is frothing at the mouth to recount your entire game for a good three hours.”

  Racer is one of few people who know my family well. That’s what happens when you grow up together. You end up knowing the ins and outs of each other’s lives.

  “Haven’t called him yet. Kind of waiting on that phone call.”

  “Smart.”

  Feeling awkward, I ask, “So, what would you say if I decided to come to Bing for a few weeks?”

  He doesn’t skip a beat when he asks, “Too afraid to go home?”

  I laugh. “Not afraid, more not in the mood.”

  “Yeah, I would avoid that lecture train for as long as I could.”

  “Tell me about it.”

  “Are you asking if you can stay at my house? Because I’m on the hunt for a girl, and I don’t want you stealing her away with your brawny athletic body and good looks. It would actually be detrimental to have you around.”

 
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