Home > The Chase (Briar U #1)(14)

The Chase (Briar U #1)(14)
Author: Elle Kennedy

“Fine. But their second and third lines are just as fast. Can you say the same about ours?” He lowers his voice. “Plus they’ve got a better D. Those two sophomores? Can’t remember their names, but they’re so good at keeping the puck out of their zone. Takes so much heat off Johansson.”

Johansson is Harvard’s goalie, and he’s phenomenal. Truthfully, Corsen’s right to worry.

“Kelvin and Brodowski aren’t that strong,” he mutters.

“No,” I agree. “But Matty is.” I nod toward Anderson, who’s texting on his phone.

Like the Harvard boys, Matt stepped up after Dean and Logan graduated. He’s now the leading scorer among the defensemen and one of our best penalty killers. He’s also the only black player on the team, which he’s damn proud of. He’s entering the draft this year and eager to make his mark in a pro league that’s predominantly white.

“True. Matty’s an asset,” Corsen relents, but he still sounds unhappy.

I get why he’s worried. He’s signed by LA and playing for them next season, so it’s always a concern if your draft team sees you shit the bed. A lot of the time that guarantees you a spot on the farm team, though sometimes that’s the better option, truth be told. That’s what Logan is doing right now, playing for the Providence Bruins and developing his skills. Not everyone is like Garrett Graham, a born superstar. And not every college player is instantly ready for the pros.

Coach marches into the room and claps his hands. “Let’s get started.” He doesn’t shout, just uses his speaking voice, but everyone snaps to attention as if he’d screamed like a drill sergeant. Jensen is the kind of man who just commands respect. He’s also a man of few words, but the words he does use wield a lot of power.

“Take a good look at this kid,” he orders. He presses play and the picture on the screen jumps to life.

A skater, jersey number 33, whizzes across the blue line. Coach pauses the frame, draws on his tablet, and a bright red circle appears on the player like a target.

“Junior, left wing,” he says briskly. “Brooks Weston.”

“The goon,” a sophomore pipes up.

“So?” Hollis cracks. “We’ve got our own goons. We can take him.”

“He’s more than an enforcer,” Coach Jensen tells us. “He’s a goddamn instigator and a scourge to this earth.”

We snicker.

“This little fucker has the superhuman ability to commit infraction after infraction without being called. And he’s very, very skilled at drawing penalties from other guys. His specialty is provoking fights. End result is him usually coming out smelling like roses, while the other guy draws a major or, worst case, an ejection.”

A mumble of general disapproval ripples through the room, even though I’m sure we’ve all been guilty at one point or another of trying to provoke opponents into committing an infraction. Some players do it habitually, though, using it as a strategy. Coach Jensen doesn’t believe in this strategy. If it were up to him, the NCAA would take a much stronger stance on penalty gameplay.

“No matter what trash comes out of this kid’s mouth, you don’t let it get to you, you hear me?” He fixes us all with a deadly look.

“I’m not scared of some rich kid with a potty mouth,” drawls Kelvin.

“How do you know he’s rich?” Hunter asks in amusement.

“His first name is also a last name. That usually means his parents called him that to honor two filthy-rich grandparents.”

“My first name is also a last name,” Hunter points out.

“Yeah, and you’re filthy rich!” Hollis chimes in, snorting with laughter. “Hell, you probably know this Wesley Brooke guy.”

“Brooks Weston,” someone corrects.

“I do know him,” Hunter admits, drawing another snort from Hollis. “We both played for Roselawn Prep. He was a couple years ahead of me.”

Coach nods. “Pain in the ass, those Roselawn guys.”

“I literally just said I went to Roselawn,” Hunter protests.

“I repeat—pain in the ass, those Roselawn guys.”

Hunter sighs.

We spend the next fifteen minutes analyzing the first period of the Harvard/Boston College game. Coach is right. Weston Brooks or Brooks Weston or whatever the hell his name is, is a damn nuisance. He’s aggressive as hell, getting away with high-sticking three minutes in, and almost instigating a fight before the buzzer. Weston manages to taunt his opponent into a couple harmless shoves, but just as the BC player is about to lunge, a teammate yanks him back. Weston is chortling as he skates off.

I dislike him already.

When the second period starts, Harvard is leading two-zip.

“Does Connelly’s slap shot look a lot deadlier this year or is it just me?” Kelvin asks warily, his gaze glued to the screen.

“Oh, it’s deadlier,” Coach confirms. “And he’s even faster now. He’s scored on every breakaway he’s had this season.” He points a finger around the room. “Don’t let him rush the net. Understood?”

There’s a chorus of “Yessir.”

An aforementioned breakaway kicks off the second. Sure enough, Connelly dekes out four opponents, including two defensemen who literally look like they don’t know where they are. It’s like this old ’90s show I binge-watched last year, where the main character time-jumps into random people’s bodies in order to change history. Dude spends the first five minutes of every episode trying to figure out where the hell he is and whose body he jumped into.

That’s what Connelly does to these defensemen. Their heads swivel around in confusion as if they were just dropped onto the ice in the middle of a hockey game. By the time they realize what’s happening, Connelly has blown past them and is already taking a shot. The puck sails into the upper left corner of the net with laser precision, like an osprey diving into the ocean to pluck up its dinner. Coach pauses on the goalie’s look of sheer frustration as the lamp lights behind him.

“Beautiful shot,” Nate says grudgingly.

“Yes,” Coach agrees. “And I don’t want to see anything like it tonight, unless it’s coming from one of you. Got it?”

“Got it,” everyone answers.

We settle in to examine the rest of the tape. As Coach points out what he deems to be weaknesses on Harvard’s team, we hang on to his every word. We’re gonna have to exploit every single weakness if we want to kick their asses tonight.

10

Summer

“Can you believe he said that?” It’s been a whole day since my kitchen encounter with Fitz, and I’m still fuming.

“Yes, I can believe it,” Brenna answers irritably. “I believed it when you told me during the first period, and I believed it during the second period, and now it’s the third and I still fucking believe it, so will you please, for the love of little baby Jesus, just let it go?”

“Never,” I declare.

Her response is a cross between a groan and a laugh. “Omigod, you’re so stubborn. Have you always been this stubborn?”

“Yup. I am stubborn. I’ll own that. But you know what I won’t own?” I cross my arms tight to my chest. “Being illiterate. Because I know how to read!”

Brenna stares up at the rafters as if to ask the heavens for help. Or maybe she’s meditating, though that’d be difficult to do in a packed arena. Plus, we need to stay vigilant, because we showed up late and got stuck sitting in a section overrun by Harvard fans. We’re two black-and-silver dots drowning in a sea of crimson.

There are tons of other fans wearing Briar colors, but most of them seem to be congregated on the other side of the arena. Despite Brenna teasing me about it yesterday, we’re not wearing Briar jerseys. I’m glad for that. We’ve already received more than enough dirty looks for not representing the Crimson.

“Summer. Honey. He didn’t accuse you of being illiterate.” Brenna’s tone is one you’d use on a preschooler you’re teaching to paint with watercolors. Barely checked patience.

“He implied I was too stupid to read Shifting Winds.”

“Everybody’s too stupid for Shifting Winds!” she growls. “You honestly think all those people who claim to love the series actually read the damn books? They haven’t! Because they’re fucking five thousand pages long! I tried to read the first book one time, and the dickwad author spent nine pages describing a tree. Nine pages! Those books are the worst. The absolute worst.”

She runs out of breath, grinning when she notices me laughing my butt off.

“And that was my TED Talk about Shifting Winds,” she says graciously. “You’re welcome.”

My good humor doesn’t last long. “He was just so condescending, Brenna.”

Her tone becomes cautious. “Was he? Or are you just extra sensitive to everything he says now, because of what he said about you being surface level?”

I bite my bottom lip. It’s true. I am overly sensitive these days, especially about Fitz. It’s just… I keep trying to perceive myself through his eyes, and the picture that forms isn’t something to be proud of.

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