Home > The Chase (Briar U #1)(13)

The Chase (Briar U #1)(13)
Author: Elle Kennedy

When Fitz doesn’t answer, I look over and glimpse the skepticism flickering through his expression. When he speaks, his voice is laced with the same doubt. “You’ve read the Shifting Winds books?”

“The first three. I haven’t gotten around to number four yet.” I hold up the paperback, which is well over a thousand pages. “I heard it’s even longer than these ones.”

“Blood of the Dragon? Yeah, it’s double the length,” he says absently. Still eyeing me uncertainly. “I can’t believe you read this series.”

A frown forms on my lips. “Why’s that?”

“It’s just really dense, and…” He trails off awkwardly.

It takes a second for the implication to sink in.

It’s not that he can’t believe I’ve read these books.

It’s that he doesn’t believe I’ve read these books.

Indignation rises in my chest and sticks to my throat, forming a hot lump. Well, why would he, right? In his eyes, I’m surface level. The dumb sorority girl couldn’t possibly comprehend such lengthy, dense material! Hell, he probably thinks I’m illiterate too.

A growl rips out of my mouth. “I know how to fucking read.”

He startles. “What? I didn’t say—”

“And just because I don’t have dragons and fairies and elves tattooed all over my body, doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to read fantasy books—”

“Allowed? I didn’t say—”

“—however dense they may be,” I finish with a scowl. “But it’s good to know your thoughts on the matter.” With a tight smile, I drop the book on the table. Thud. “Goodnight, Fitz. Try not to stay up too late.”

“Summer—”

I’m out of the kitchen before he can say another word.

9

Fitz

Pregame skates aren’t usually grueling, but this morning Coach wants to run a few shooting drills he anticipates will help us tonight. Harvard has been unstoppable this year. They’re well on their way to a perfect season, and although I’d never say it out loud, I think they might be the better team in this matchup.

Coach must secretly think so too, because he pushes us harder than usual. I’m a sweaty mess by the time I lumber off the ice. My hair is plastered to my forehead, and I swear there’s cartoon steam rolling out of my helmet.

Coach smacks me on the shoulder. “Good hustle, Colin.”

“Thanks, Coach.”

“Davenport,” he says to Hunter. “Show me that same ruthlessness tonight, son. Shoot through Johansson, not around him. Feel me?”

“Got it, Coach.”

We have thirty minutes to shower and change before a mandatory meeting in the screening room to review game tape. This will be our first of two games against Harvard this season, and we want to send a message. It’s an away game, to boot, so it’ll be extra tough—but extra sweeter if we can get a W in their arena.

In the locker room, I strip off my sweaty practice gear and duck into the shower area. The stalls are divided by partitions and have saloon-style doors that mean we can’t see each other’s junk, but chests are fair game. Stepping into the stall next to Hollis, I crank the cold water and dunk my head. I swear I’m still sweating even under the cool spray.

“Are we really not gonna acknowledge the fact that Mike shaved his chest?” Dave Kelvin, a junior defenseman, demands.

Laughter bounces off the acoustic tiles. I glance at Hollis and lift a questioning brow. I’ve showered, worked out, and gone swimming with the guy enough times to know that he usually has hair on his chest. Now it’s smoother than a baby’s bottom.

Nate Rhodes, our team captain this year, grins. “Home job or salon?”

Hollis rolls his eyes at the tall senior. “Home. Why would I pay someone to do something I can do myself? That’s stupid.” He twists around so he can wave at Kelvin. “And you? Get off your ivory horse, dude—”

“Ivory tower,” I say helpfully.

“Whatever. We all know you wax your chest and your back, Kelvin. Hypocritical fucktard.”

I snort and rub soap over my chest. My body temperature is finally dropping.

“I don’t wax my back!” Kelvin protests.

“Yes you do. Nikki Orsen ratted you out, you back-hair motherfucker.”

Nikki is a right-winger on the Briar women’s team. She’s a great player and an awesome girl, but she also happens to be a serious blabbermouth. You can’t tell her anything you don’t want anyone else knowing.

As Nate and a couple other seniors hoot loudly, Kelvin’s face turns beet red. “I’m gonna kill her.”

“Oh relax, princess,” Hunter drawls. “Every dude you see on Instagram waxes some part of his body.”

“Yeah, what’s the big deal?” Hollis says. “There’s no shame in manscaping.”

“This is a safe place,” Nate agrees solemnly.

“Exactly. Safe place. We all manscape here—or at least we all fucking should if we consider ourselves fucking gentlemen,” Hollis chides.

Swallowing a laugh, I place the soap back in its tray and start rinsing off.

“Seriously, bro, what’s with the makeover?” Matt Anderson pipes up. Like Kelvin, he’s a junior D-man. The two of them were beyond shitty last year, but our new defensive coach, Frank O’Shea, has been working the D-men hard all season, and he’s really whipped them into shape.

“Got a date after the game tonight,” Hollis reveals.

“What, the chick has something against body hair?”

“Hates it. She swallowed a pube once, and it triggered her gag reflex so she threw up all over her boyfriend’s dick. And then he started ralphing too because vomit makes him vomit, and they broke up right after that.”

For one long moment, the only sound in the huge room is the rushing water.

Then it transforms into the weeping laughter of a bunch of buck-ass naked dudes.

“Oh my fucking god, that is the best thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” Hunter moans.

“She told you all this?” Our team captain is doubled over, and I can’t tell if it’s tears or water streaming down his face.

“Said she wouldn’t even consider boning down if a guy had body hair. That includes chest, arms, legs, so…” Hollis shrugs.

“You did your arms and legs too?” Nate squawks.

Hunter laughs harder.

“Women are nuts,” Kelvin grumbles.

He has a point. Women are messed up. I mean, Summer told me off last night for no good reason other than me being surprised that she’d read Shifting Winds.

Apparently she took that to mean that I thought she couldn’t read?

Seriously?

Although…fine, if I look at it from her perspective, I can see why she overreacted. Maybe it did come off a bit like I was implying she wasn’t smart enough for the series or that she was lying about reading it.

That wasn’t my intention, though. Those books are legitimately tough to read. Hell, I barely got through them myself, and I’ve been reading fantasy religiously for years.

If she’d given me a chance to respond, I could’ve told her that. And I would’ve apologized for insinuating I didn’t believe her.

But, just as I’ve always suspected, Summer is all drama. Ten measly words could have cleared it up—I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that, forgive me—if she’d let me speak. Instead, she’d stomped off like a five-year-old.

I grab a towel and hastily wrap it around my waist. Drama, I reiterate to myself. I’m not interested in drama. Never have been, never will be.

So why can’t I get her hurt expression out of my mind?

Briar’s top-notch hockey facility is the land of luxury. We’ve got state-of-the-art equipment, well-ventilated locker rooms, an awesome shower setup, a lounge, kitchen, physio rooms, whirlpool—name it, and we’ve got it. The viewing room is especially sweet. It resembles a small movie theater, only with three semicircular rows of tables and huge padded chairs. At the bottom of the gallery, the coaches have an A/V setup similar to that of sports announcers, with an input for laptops and a video screen they can write on. When they highlight plays or circle players, their scribbles show up on the big screen too.

I plop down in the chair next to our goalie, Patrick Corsen. “Hey.”

“Hey.” He’s staring at the screen, which is frozen on a shot of the Harvard arena. It looks like last week’s game, Harvard versus Boston College. BC got creamed that day.

Harvard is definitely the team to beat this year. In the past, they were an easy divisional opponent for us, because Briar’s always had the superior program. But this season they’re on fire, with more talent on the roster than ever before. After last year’s seniors graduated, the lowerclassmen who didn’t get a chance to shine were given more ice time, and every single one of them has stepped up. Harvard’s no longer relying solely on the skill of their team captain like they did last year. Jake Connelly is damn good, but he can’t carry an entire team.

“Connelly’s line is wicked fast,” Corsen says glumly.

“Our line is faster,” I assure him, referring to me, Hunter, and Nate.

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