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Changing on the Fly – The Second Period © April 2107 by Gone Writing Publishing



Rookie Moves © April 2017 by V.L. Locey

Head in the Game © April 2017 by Jeff Adams

Secrets © April 2017 by Rj Scott

Second Chance at Love © April 2017 by Heather Lire



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Changing on the Fly

The Second Period



M/M Hockey Romance Charity Anthology 2017



Table of Contents



Head in the Game by Jeff Adams

About Jeff Adams

Second Chance at Love by Heather Lire

About Heather Lire

Rookie Moves by V L Locey

About V.L. Locey

Secrets by RJ Scott

About RJ Scott

Thank you



This anthology would not have been possible without the support and donations from the following people:



Rebecca J. Cartee of Editing By Rebecca for donating her amazing editorial services in honor of VRW, 1965-1997.

Jen Needles for donating her beautiful cover design.

We'd also like to thank all the bloggers who are supporting us to help make this anthology the success we hope it will be. We deeply appreciate you sharing our work with your loyal readers.

We want to thank you for your purchase of Changing on the Fly - The Second Period. All authors involved have agreed to donate 100% of proceeds to You Can Play Project in the hope that one day discrimination in sports based on sexual identity will be a thing of the past.



Head in the Game

By Jeff Adams

1 Flaming Puck



After a disastrous breakup, pro hockey defenseman Roger Jacobson’s game is slipping. With his contract up for renewal, he has to do something quick because his fourteen-year career is on the line. Roger returns to his hometown to work with his old coach, helping run the summer hockey camp. But Dylan Barker, a handsome graduate student and the coach’s son, proves to be a romantic distraction that Roger couldn’t have anticipated. 


Can Roger’s trip home fix his game and mend his broken spirit?



*~~*

Roger Jacobson wasn’t sure what to feel as he pulled into the parking lot at his old rink. There was the usual excitement about being there, but there was trepidation too. He’d grown up in La Crosse, Wisconsin, but it wasn’t home any more. His parents had moved to Texas more than a decade ago. For Roger, home was in D.C., but he didn’t know how much longer he’d be able to stay there. La Crosse, however, was the right place to be for the summer.

Coach Barker was the one choice to get him whipped into shape. Nearly twenty years ago, Coach B, as his players called him, took an angry young man who liked to play hockey and turned him into a solid defenseman. By his junior year on the Logan High Panthers, Roger was a reliable D-man. He protected his goalie. He excelled at stripping the puck off of incoming forwards. He drew penalties only when necessary and wouldn’t allow himself to be goaded into a fight. He played his way to a scholarship at the University of Wisconsin and was then drafted by the NHL after his sophomore year.

Roger had kept in touch with Coach B over the years. He returned to La Crosse often to lend his expertise. He’d work with the high school team when there was some time off in the schedule. Coaching Coach B’s summer camp was also something he did as often as he could. This summer was different: Roger needed coaching too.

The late January call to Coach B had gone well.

Jacobson, great to hear from you son.” Coach B had said.

He was always Jacobson. Just like Coach B was always that and never Steven, even though Roger had permission to call him that.

Coach B. Hope everything’s good. Looks like the team is having a stellar season.”

Yeah. They’ve made a great comeback from last year’s rebuild. We getting to see you at camp this summer? I’m hoping that’s at least part of why you called.”

Yes, sir. If you’ll have me.”

What kind of talk is that? Of course we’ll have you.”

Think you can work with me too?”

Coach B was uncharacteristically quiet. “Your coaches going to be okay with someone else guiding you?”

I hope so. I…” Roger hesitated, not knowing what he wanted to say. “My game’s off. Way off.”

I know.” Coach was quiet, like he didn’t want to acknowledge it either. “I’ve seen it over the past year or so.”

That long?” Roger suspected that was the case, but had hoped he was wrong. “I wish you’d told me.”

I probably should’ve. Wasn’t sure it was my place. Get yourself up here and be in my office first thing on July fifteenth.”

Yes, sir.”

And here he was at a few minutes before eight in the morning. He’d arrived the previous afternoon and settled into the studio apartment he’d rented for the six-week term. Coach B always offered to put him up, but he refused to be an inconvenience to him or Gabriela. They’d always been good to him, and he’d never wanted to push.

Roger looked at the building, which had opened another rink last fall. He’d spent so much time here as a kid, back when it’d been a single rink facility. It was better than being at home where he always struggled to rise to the bar his dad set for him. No matter what, he never accomplished enough.

You scored, but you should’ve stopped two other goals.

An A? Too bad it wasn’t an A plus.

You won the Norris Trophy? Your team should’ve won the Stanley Cup.

Why aren’t you a dad yet?

What’d you do to get traded? Did you screw up?

Coach B, though, cut through all that. He’d molded Roger into the hockey player and, in many ways, the man he’d become. Something was missing, though. His time in Washington wasn’t great. He’d been traded to Washington from Phoenix four years ago. When the trade had gone through, it seemed like it was going to be a fresh start. All that happened, however, was that he was more miserable.

This past season it was bad, and he couldn’t shake it. He was moody, a pissy teammate, and, more and more, a sloppy player. He knew the team was considering not re-signing him. And if Coach B could see it, watching from afar, it was a wonder he hadn’t been sent down to Hershey or North Charleston.

From the driver’s seat, Roger watched as kids arrived with parents and some teens parked their own cars. Taking a deep breath, he got out and went around back to get his gear from the trunk.

He stared at the rink and the people walking inside

“Come on, Jacobson, Coach B is waiting,” Roger muttered under his breath as he slammed the trunk closed. He shouldn’t be having such a hard time.

Once he was in the lobby, the smell of the rink overtook him. That unmistakable aroma made up of the scent of the ice, the gear, and everything else. Unlike any other rink though, this one made Roger feel at home. For the first time in—he couldn’t remember how long—he smiled.

Panther’s red and black colors were everywhere. This was Logan High’s home rink, although other teams routinely played here as well. The Panthers, however, dominated everything.

Roger headed to Coach’s office, which was tucked into a corner of the lobby. As he walked by a bench where two teenaged boys were tightening skate laces, they stopped him.

“No way! You’re Roger Jacobson. Are you here to coach?”

“I am.”

“That’s awesome. I’ve been following your career since—” The boy stopped talking fast and seemed to be counting. “Well, since forever. I loved watching you in Phoenix. I’ve recorded some of your games so I can try and learn to steal the puck like you do.”

“I’ll try to teach you.”

“That’d be epic.” The boy stood suddenly. “I’m Troy Masterson. This is my friend Carson. We’re a D pair for the Panthers.”

“Nice to meet you.” Roger traded fist bumps with them. “I should get in there.” Roger gestured toward the office. “Don’t want Coach B mad at me on the first day. I’ll see you guys on the ice.”

“For sure,” Troy said as Roger knocked on the door.

“Come in,” came the Coach’s familiar deep voice, which could shake the rafters of a rink if he had to yell. No one ever wanted to hear that directed at them, but it was a tool in the coach’s bag of tricks if he needed it.

Coach B came around the desk smiling, his hand outstretched. They shook hands before Coach pulled Roger into a quick, backslapping hug.

“It’s good to see you, Jacobson. Great to have you back.”

“Thank you, sir. Happy to be here.”

“You know the drill. Today and tomorrow we’ll see how everyone looks before splitting them up into ages and skills. I assume you’re up for working with D.”

Roger nodded. He hoped the coaching, plus working with Coach B, would be the right combination to get his game back on track.

“Perfect. Go ahead and get your stuff put away. Grab an open locker in the clubroom. We’ll hit the ice on rink one in about fifteen minutes.”

“Thanks, Coach.”

“No. Thank you.” Coach headed around his desk. “You able to stay this afternoon so we can talk about you?”

“Of course. I’m available whenever you want to work.”

“That’s the Jacobson I know. Get outta here and let me finish this prep.” Coach smiled.

“See you out there.” Roger already felt a little lighter and the day had barely started.



* * * *



Dylan Barker loved the game. Loved being on the ice.

His father was a huge reason for that. The game hadn’t been forced on him, though. As soon as he asked for skates, when he was three, he got them. In high school, he’d gotten good-natured ribbing from his Panthers teammates because his dad was the coach. Coach B treated everyone the same so Dylan had never gotten off easy. His passion had never waned in the years following.

The campers were starting to come onto the ice for warm-ups. Dylan had been out for an hour or so. He was at the rink even before his dad to skate, shoot pucks, and enjoy the morning. Some people went to the gym; he gravitated toward the rink. He spent many mornings working on speed, endurance, and puck handling.

So why was he getting ready to go to grad school instead of going pro? He fielded that question a lot. It wasn’t where his heart was. As much as he loved playing, he didn’t want that to be his job. Besides hockey, his other passion was teaching, likely acquired from his parents. Mom was a history professor while Dad coached and ran the high school’s Phys Ed department.

There’d been many talks with Dad on the pros and cons of going pro and teaching later. But even while he played for University of Maine’s Black Bears during college, it was working with young people that made him happiest. Helping them learn to skate and play the game he loved was the best job ever.

This summer was going to be perfect. Dylan was coaching alongside Dad for the first time. He’d always attended summer camp as a player through high school. The past four years he hadn’t been able to get home because he’d spent the summers in Orono working with youth camps.

Those jobs paid off because Dad asked him to take over as head coach of the under ten group. It was fortuitous the previous coach moved to Ohio for a new job. Things were clicking into place better than expected. He was going to be an offensive coach for the Panthers this fall too. It wasn’t a full-time job because he needed to focus on grad school, but the job would help limit his student loan debt.

As he stick-handled, some of the kids opted to skate alongside for impromptu passing drills. Others tried to emulate what he was doing as he passed the puck from his stick to his skates and back.

The hulking guy who stepped on the ice next caused Dylan to lose the puck between his skates. The longish brown hair, lightly scruffed cheeks, and an expression that was an odd mix of happy and sad drew his attention. Dylan stopped against the boards and watched as the newcomer talked with a couple of the older campers. It didn’t hurt that the rest of the guy was solidly built. Even in the sweatshirt he wore, it was clear the guy had bulk. It was an easy guess he was a defenseman.

Recognition shot through him like a lightning bolt. That was Roger Jacobson. He’d seen the name on the coaching roster and was glad that one of Dad’s NHL stars was here this year. How was this guy not featured in the Hot Hockey Players group that Dylan was part of on Facebook? He might have to fix that personally.

A whistle blew from outside the rink’s Plexiglas barrier as Dad approached. More kids hustled to get on the ice and the rink filled with seventy-five of them, plus the dozen coaches. This was the biggest year yet for the hockey camp. He was excited that he’d be able to help Dad realize this by taking the empty job.

Drifting toward center ice, where he knew Dad would call everyone together, he watched Roger. The pull on him to go to the pro defenseman and ask what was wrong surprised him. What didn’t was his attraction to the man. In college, his attraction to older men had become clear.

As a freshman, he’d dated a senior on the hockey team, and it had actually lasted a few months after the guy’s graduation. Over the years, he’d dated a few grad students. There was also last summer when he went out with a guy he’d met while coaching. Gerald was eight years older and another coach. One thing led to another and it had become a summer fling.

What was he thinking? He’d known back then it wasn’t the best idea to go out with Gerald since he was a co-worker. No way could he do anything with Roger. This was work, not just his, but Dad’s too. Sure, his parents knew he dated older guys, but a colleague and friend of his father’s? That had to be a no. Roger would have to stay in the eye candy category.



* * * *



Roger felt better coming off the ice after the camp session than he had in years. He worked with the teen group after watching them go through the warm up, which was a complex set of moves Coach B liked to use. It was easy to spot the players from the Panthers because they fell right into it while the newbies took longer to catch on. Roger switched rinks with the teen group and enjoyed putting them through their assessment drills. It was a good group with a mixed skill level.

Afterward, Roger headed to the locker room to change. He only had a half-hour before he was going to meet with Coach B to figure out his personal training plan. There were jitters about that. He trusted Coach, but he wasn’t sure what to expect either. Coach was excellent at teaching strategy. What really made him great though was helping players navigate psychological blocks. It’s what transformed Roger in high school. Coach had helped him get past what his father dished out. His father still berated him the few times a year they talked. It was Roger’s ex who was no doubt part of his current issues because he couldn’t shake him off.

Coming into the locker room, Roger froze in the doorway, rooted to the spot by the sight of a young man draped in a towel standing two lockers away from his. All of his previous thoughts scattered as he took in the sight before him.

The man’s back was to him. He was dancing a little bit, and Roger saw the earbuds as the man moved. Roger liked what he saw—a toned body, including a tight ass that was in sharp detail when the man bent over to get his skates off the floor before putting them into his locker. Jet-black hair was wet and slicked back. His legs and arms were dusted with fine black hair. The rivulets of water trickling down his back were one of the sexiest things Roger had seen in a while.

He shook that thought out of his head. This wasn’t the place. He let the door close, and a squeak made it through the music. The guy’s head jerked around as he pulled one of the buds out. Roger recognized him as one of the coaches working with the younger players. His breath hitched as he focused on the handsome face, shining dark eyes, and lips that formed a broad smile. The jolt was something he hadn’t felt in a long while.

“Roger Jacobson, very cool to see you again. We didn’t get a chance to talk before.” The man held his towel closed while walking toward Roger. As he approached, his free hand extended for a shake. “You may not remember me though. Dylan Barker.”

Roger smiled now too. “No way.” He shook the man’s hand. “Coach B didn’t tell me you were working with him this year.” Warning bells sounded in his mind. Dylan was very handsome, and it was hard not to stare at all the flesh. “You were like waist-high the last time I saw you.”

Now Dylan was only a half-foot or so shorter than Roger.

“Sounds about right. I was glad to see Dad had an NHLer this year. The kids love that.” Dylan went back to his locker as he talked. “I’m assisting Dad with the Panthers this fall while I go to grad school.”

“Keeping the family legacy alive.” Roger shook off the attraction he felt and got back to the business of why he’d come to the locker room. “He must be proud.”

“That might be an understatement given his reaction when I accepted the job.” Dylan dropped the towel and grabbed briefs from the locker.

Roger couldn’t help but see in his peripheral vision. The stirring in his sweats surprised him. It was a good thing he wore a cup so it wouldn’t be obvious. He couldn’t allow the coach’s son to get a rise out of him.

“I’m sure my kids will love it when you talk defense with them.” Dylan continued dressing as if he wasn’t a distraction. “Looks like they’ll be a good group. How were the teens?”

“Really good.” Roger impressed himself being able to talk as Dylan pulled a t-shirt over toned pecs that featured the same dark hair as his arms. The perfect amount, Roger thought, and immediately mentally kicked himself for it. “I think there’s some potential college and pro material. A couple of them were outstanding. I’m not sure what I’ll have to teach them.”

Dylan raised an eyebrow at him as he buttoned his shorts. “You’ve got what, at least ten years of experience? You’ve got things to teach.”

Roger shrugged. “Hope so. Otherwise your dad may wonder why he brought me here.”

“Listen, I’d love to talk more, but I gotta go take care of some school stuff. I hope we can hang sometime. I’d love to hear stories from the pros and get some tips on working for my dad from a former player’s perspective.”

“Sure thing,” Roger said before he could stop himself.

Dylan slipped his feet into sneakers, closed the locker, and extended a fist to Roger. “See you tomorrow.”

Reflexively, Roger bumped the fist. “Yup.”

Dylan was gone as Roger chastised himself for only coming up with “yup” as his final word.



* * * *



Oh fuck.

Dylan leaned against the wall next to the door and took a couple deep breaths. Oh fuck had been the overriding message since he’d turned and found Roger Jacobson in the doorway.

Of course, he’d be in the clubroom since he was a special guest coach. Dylan was there because Dad told him to use it rather than one of the other locker rooms the rink’s patrons and camp coaches used.

Roger had been attractive from across the ice. Up close, those light blue eyes held a fascinating mix of emotions. They’d been haunting enough from a distance, but standing inches away, they were even more entrancing.

And he’d shown up while Dylan was in a towel. At least his cock hadn’t done anything stupid. After years of being in locker rooms, he had it trained pretty well on when to behave and when it was okay to show off. If he’d stayed long enough to see Roger getting undressed, the training would’ve likely gone out the window.

It didn’t help knowing that Roger was gay, which was common knowledge. It’d made the news when Dylan was in middle school. It’d actually helped him with his decision to come out because he knew his dad helped Roger do it.

Dylan pushed himself off the wall and headed for the lobby. He did have things to do. He also really hoped Roger was serious about getting together sometime. Dylan loved collecting stories. They were helpful when coaching, as he’d learned from his dad.

Could he sit across a table from Roger? Could he look at those eyes for any amount of time? Could he avoid asking for an actual date?

Was Roger even single? Did Roger know about Dylan? He couldn’t imagine that his dad would throw that into conversation.

Oh fuck.

The summer was going to be about being careful. Dylan didn’t want to cause issues with his co-workers or piss off his dad. It was only six weeks and then Roger would be on his way. And Dylan was an adult; he knew how to keep things professional—even if he didn’t want to.



* * * *



That cannot happen. Oh man, it really can’t.

Roger sat down on the bench in front of his locker. The locker that would be two away from that sexy, handsome, smiling man—the man who was Coach’s son— all summer.

Looking around, and seeing he was alone, he jammed his hands down his pants and adjusted his stiff cock. It was a relief to ease the pressure in his cup.

Dylan was a very attractive young man. There were aspects in his face that reminded him of Coach—the eyebrows, the nose. You could see a twenty-something Coach B in there. But other qualities clearly came from his mother. Roger had met Gabriela Barker years ago at games and player banquets, and he always saw her at least once when he was in town. She was a beautiful woman of Brazilian descent. Together, she and Coach B had made an eye-catching son.

The combination of Dylan’s expressive face, fit build, and dark hair that was sprinkled in all the right places was hard for Roger to ignore. If Dylan wasn’t so young—he couldn’t be twenty-five yet—and, more importantly, Coach’s son, Roger might be willing to give in to the lust he felt.

As it was, Dylan was off limits.

At least he could still feel that way about someone. He hadn’t been sure it was still possible. It’d been so many years since the last time. Specifically, the first day Ivan showed up in Phoenix. Ivan was a solid forward and known to be a good teammate. Roger would find out later that Ivan was also deep in the closet.

Roger’s gaydar pinged when he’d met Ivan. If he’d been asked what the trigger was, he couldn’t have answered. Maybe Ivan, knowing about Roger, caused its own subtle ping.

Six months later, Roger gave Ivan a ride home from the arena because his car wouldn’t start. In his driveway, Ivan pulled Roger close and laid a scorching kiss on him. That led to more kissing and Ivan insisting that Roger come inside.

It’d been the start of an intense couple of years. Ivan, however, refused to come out and acknowledge them as a couple in public. But it didn’t stop him from introducing Roger to his family, or to some of his close non-player friends. Ivan simply said he wasn’t ready, even though Roger told him it’d never been a problem for him to be out in the league.

It ended when Ivan was traded to L.A. Ivan had insisted on a clean break. He didn’t want Roger to request a trade. He was against making it long distance. The declarations of love they’d shared no longer mattered.

And then—

Roger’s phone chirped from inside his locker.

Shit.

He checked the time on his watch and saw he was five minutes late. There was no doubt who the text was from. He scrambled to get the locker unlocked and get his phone. Sure enough. The text didn’t make it sound like Coach was annoyed, which was good, but he wanted to know where Roger was.

First day and he was late. Not a good way to start, even if Coach was a friend.

He shot off a text with an apology and said he’d be there in two minutes. Before he locked up, he pulled a protein bar from his bag so he could munch on it as he went to the office.

Thoughts of Dylan Barker swirled in his head. He couldn’t spend the summer thinking about him or have him dredging up thoughts of Ivan. It was all Roger could do not to fixate on how messed up they were. Even if Dylan weren’t Coach’s son, he wouldn’t put himself out there. It wasn’t worth the potential heartache.

And yet, he’d said he’d hang out with Dylan. It’d be difficult, but he could pull it together. He’d been around hot people before, although no one that pulled at him like Dylan did. Was the guy even gay?

There was no time to think about this now. He headed off to Coach’s office, determined to put these thoughts away.



* * * *



Dylan was thrilled, three days later, when it was Roger’s day to start doing assessments with the under ten group. Roger started with stories of how Coach B turned him into a defenseman when what he’d wanted to be was a center. Coach B saw the instinct Roger had about where the puck was headed and how he read plays as they were setting up.

Even though these players were young, there was no reason not to start training them for that now. One of the issues novice players had was wanting to cluster around where the puck was. In reality, forecasting where it was going was the better choice. It was a key skill for defenders to learn.

Dylan worked with the offense, but he made sure he had a reason to skate by periodically. The tone Roger used with the young people was kind but authoritative. He was great at breaking down what he drew on the play board.

After the day’s session was done, Dylan waited for the last of the kids to leave before he skated up next to Roger.

“You’re really good with them.” Dylan helped Roger gather some stray pucks so the Zamboni could run.

“Thanks. I like working with them. The under ten groups are my favorite to work with. They’re usually more eager to learn than the older guys who already think they know it all.”

“That’s exactly why I always go for the younger group. I’m not too much older than the teenagers, but I still want to smack them sometimes.”

“Ah, you see, with the teenagers, though, I do sometimes knock them on their asses.” The glint in Roger’s eye warmed Dylan’s heart. “If they run a play too often against me and keep doing what they think is right, I’ll either check them or make sure to set up one of their teammates to do so.”

Dylan laughed. “That’s evil. And I kind of like it. I’ll keep that in mind if I ever have to coach that group.”

He’d been trying to get Roger out of his head. Standing close and seeing the easygoing smile, which he’d not seen before, wasn’t helping. Dylan liked the feelings that came with the smile. Why did this guy have to be his dad’s friend and a co-worker?

“You want to grab some lunch?” The words were out of Dylan’s mouth before he could stop them.

Roger looked toward the clock up on the scoreboard and seemed conflicted. “It’d have to be fast. I’ve got a session with your dad in ninety minutes.”

Dylan cocked his head just a bit. He couldn’t imagine why the pro player had a session with Dad.

“He’s helping me with some stuff.” That didn’t help fill in many blanks, but Dylan nodded anyway.

“We could grab a sandwich from the place around the corner.” Dylan decided not to let it go since he hadn’t gotten a flat no to the invitation.

“Okay. Lunch it is. Let me go clean up a bit.”

“Cool.” Dylan smiled big. “I need to go log some info about today’s session before I forget, and then I’ll get ready to go too. I’ll meet you at the lockers.”

If it’d been easier to walk in skates, there would’ve been a distinct bounce in Dylan’s step. Despite the fact his imagination was playing overtime with fantasies about Roger, he was sure he could behave.



* * * *



Roger enjoyed the morning skate. The kids had been great and reminded him why he enjoyed coaching and that he really did love the game. His distractions faded while he’d been teaching them how to predict puck movement.

That feeling was no doubt what allowed him to say yes to lunch with Dylan. He’d been aware of the younger man’s eyes on him as he went through drills. Maybe there was something there. It was a terrifying thought.

That wasn’t totally true. There was a small voice, buried somewhere deep inside, that encouraged him to find out. Even more curious was the fact that they’d both avoided seeing each other in the locker room. Roger was done and dressed before Dylan had come in from the office. As Dylan came in, Roger said he’d meet Dylan in the lobby.

“I saw Ian’s dad earlier,” Dylan said as they walked in the bright summer sunshine. “He loved watching his son starting to anticipate. He said he’s been waiting for that for a couple of years. He sends his thanks for whatever you said that finally made it happen.”

Roger smiled, bigger than he thought he’d done in a while. “We’ll see if it sticks. I told him I’d be watching when he least expects it.”

Dylan chuckled, and the sound of it made Roger’s stomach flutter. He liked making the younger man do that.

“You’re not going to make these kids have therapy bills are you?” Dylan asked.

“Oh, God. I hope not. I’ve had enough of those to last a lifetime. I don’t wish them on anyone else.” He shouldn’t have said that. He held back a sigh before he continued. “My game’s slipped a lot over the past couple of years. Most of it’s mental. That’s why I’m working with your dad.”

Dylan looked concerned, but not freaked at the revelation. “Slipped?”

“My heart hasn’t been in it, and it shows.”

Roger had no reason to lie; although this man was only the second person he’d said these words to. Even his best friends on the team only called it a slump, saying that it would eventually run its course.

“I can’t seem to shake it. My contract’s up, and I know this is going to factor into whether I’m re-signed, sent to the minors, made a free agent, or whatever.”

“Is that why you’ve—” Dylan stopped himself. “Sorry. It’s none of my business.”

They reached the sandwich shop, and Roger held the door open. They were quiet as they ordered. Roger guided them to the most private table they could get considering the lunch crowd. He parked the number for their order on the table so the staff could see where to bring the sandwiches.

“What were you going to ask?” Nerves washed over him, but he wanted to know. He’d already shared more than he’d expected, so there wasn’t much to lose.

Roger watched Dylan considering the request. “I don’t think I know you well enough yet.” Roger cocked an eyebrow, and Dylan shrugged before he spoke. “Is that why you’ve got a sadness around you?”

Roger didn’t know what to say, but quietly managed to get some words out. “I’ve tried to hide that.” It felt like the air had been sucked out of him, preventing him from saying more.

Their food arrived, but they ignored it as they watched each other.

“Sorry. Like I said, I shouldn’t have asked.”

Roger had never seen Dylan so measured. He was usually bubbly and perky. “It’s okay. I didn’t have to answer.”

Dylan covered Roger’s free hand with his own, sending a jolt of energy up Roger’s arm and right to his heart. Roger fought not to pull his hand back in surprise; instead, he only flinched. He was sure Dylan noticed, even though he didn’t remove his hand.

“I’m glad you did,” Dylan said, the smile returning. “I hope we’re becoming friends so you can tell me whatever.” He gave Roger’s hand a squeeze before pulling back and grabbing his sandwich.

Roger was shaken to the core by what he’d felt at the man’s touch. He’d forgotten what that was like. He was a little ashamed to admit, even to himself, that he’d enjoyed it.

They steered back to simple things—stories from having played under Coach B and what they enjoyed about coaching. As if Dylan was a drug, Roger’s happiness level rose throughout lunch.



* * * *



Oh fuck!

Holding Roger’s hand, even for that brief moment, was so wrong. Dylan wanted him to know he was okay with what he’d said. So much sadness swept over Roger as he spoke that something had to be done. A hug wasn’t practical, but the touch seemed right.

Except Dylan hadn’t expected such a feeling of warmth to spread through him. It cemented the feelings Dylan was having—feelings he should be doing everything possible to quash.

Roger Jacobson was his father’s friend and current employee. The man had a career to return to in a few weeks. A career that, from what he’d just heard, wasn’t going as it should be. He had baggage, and it wasn’t clear how much there was.

Did it even matter?

There was grad school coming up in the fall. That’s where the focus should be once camp was done. Not to mention he wanted to make Dad proud as his assistant. There wouldn’t be time to pine for a hockey player who lived in another state and traveled a lot. And what would it be like if Roger was cut from the team? That would be a big mess.

Dylan banged his hand against the steering wheel as he drove to the apartment he was renting for the summer while he looked for something permanent. Even though Dad said he could stay at home for the summer, he was too used to having his own space. Home for the holidays was one thing—six weeks, or more, in his parents’ house didn’t seem practical.

Especially if he wanted to start anything with a certain defense—

No.

They could be friends, close friends even.

Friends with benefits?

There was no denying that he wanted to see what the man looked like naked. He’d been glad and disappointed that Roger was already out of the shower when he’d returned to the locker room. As much as he wanted to see him, he knew it would push him in the wrong direction.

His cock coming to life in his shorts only reinforced that he’d enjoy whatever he could get with Roger. He adjusted himself to ease the pressure as it continued to harden.

“Not helping,” he said to no one as he pushed his bits into a more comfortable position.

There were plenty of ways a relationship could work. They could see each other on breaks, especially in the off-season. Plus there were school breaks and other options.

No.

His brain wasn’t cutting him any slack. And it shouldn’t. Roger might even have a boyfriend. He didn’t know much about him.

Dylan had a few things to do to get ready for a meeting with his grad school advisor. But he could spare a few minutes to finally look up details on Roger. He was an award-winning NHL player, so details shouldn’t be hard to find. If he was lucky, maybe there were some Tyler Seguin ESPN Body-type pictures out there.

No.

He laughed out loud. His good boy voice was extra loud and determined to keep him from falling down the Roger rabbit hole any more than he already had. The fact of the matter was that he’d be around Roger for five more weeks. Since he’d said he wanted to be the man’s friend, Dylan had to find a way to do that without trying to seduce him. Which is what his bad boy wanted to do.

It’d be too easy to let the bad boy win because Dylan hadn’t gotten laid in a while.

Was that all he was feeling? He didn’t think so. There was no denying he wanted to be devoured by the big defenseman. But he also wanted to curl up in bed and watch a movie, or hang out with friends after a pickup game, only to go home with him.

Those feelings were stronger than they’d been with anyone else. Even his college boyfriends had been little more than good friends to get off with.

It wasn’t the right time, though. There was too much going on, and it wouldn’t be right.

* * * *

For Roger, it didn’t get much better than this.

Skating solo on the ice—a little puck-handling, some footwork, sprinkled in with some sprints to keep the blood pumping.

They were into the second week of camp, and Coach B had brought this up yesterday. He reminded Roger how much he used the ice in high school, even when there was no practice, to work out hard and clear his head.

The fresh, clean ice, and the sound of his skates scraping over it, was a soothing elixir for Roger. He’d forgotten its effect on him.

He’d run defensive drills with Coach yesterday, and it’d been a thrill. He hadn’t skated against Coach B in a decade and, even though the man was in his fifties, he couldn’t be taken for granted. He faked Roger out more than he wanted to admit and more than he should’ve been able to. Coach called him on his occasionally drifting focus.

The doors of rink three slammed shut, and he turned to find Dylan walking alongside the rink. There was still an hour before the kids would show up. Why was he here so early?

“Hey,” Dylan called out as he opened one of the doors to the ice. “You’re here way early.”

Roger sprinted over to the door and stopped in a spray of ice that made both men smile. “Yeah, just wanted to skate and play around for a while.”

“Want some company?”

“Sure.” That was out before Roger could think twice. Skating with Dylan felt like a good idea.

“Cool. I’ll be right back.”

Dylan jogged off toward the locker room. Roger wondered what he’d just done and why he was so happy for doing it.

Roger skated backward, dragging the puck back with him when Dylan came on the ice. There were dressed nearly identically—black nylon sweat pants and sweatshirts. Dylan’s was for the University and Roger’s was Washington. Each had gloves and a stick.

Dylan tapped his stick on the ice twice, and Roger fired the puck over to him. They fell right into one of Coach B’s passing drills—constantly moving and passing the puck between them. It was clear it was ingrained in them because they moved fluidly across the ice in different patterns, always sending the puck to the right place. It was as if they’d been linemates rather than merely coached by the same man almost ten years apart.

“Wanna try some offense/defense drills?” Dylan called out.

Roger stopped the puck so they could reset.

“All right.” He snapped the puck to Dylan.

“Just remember, I’m not a pro.”

“Don’t think for one second I’m going to make this easy.” Roger skated back so he was over the center red line. “You’d tell Coach, and I’d never hear the end of it.”

Dylan chuckled barely loud enough for Roger to hear. Without a word, he started coming at Roger. He watched as the younger skater moved in, impressed at the ease of his stride. Dylan might not play pro hockey, but he was a confident, strong player. Roger started moving before Dylan got near him. He didn’t take his eyes off Dylan—trading looks between the middle of his chest and his eyes. That’s where most players had their tells.

Dylan was good, but he still fell for the trap Roger set, allowing the defenseman to knock the puck away.

“That might’ve worked here, but my own D would’ve picked the puck up and run with it.”

“I’m okay with that, you didn’t get out of the neutral zone, which would give my guys plenty of options. Besides, in this case, it’s about not letting you by.”

Dylan skated backward, not taking his eyes off Roger. “Don’t think you’re doing a good job of hiding that smirk.”

He swung around, picked up the loose puck, and skated behind the net before starting the run again. This time he stayed close to the boards, and Roger moved to intercept. As Roger stepped up on him, Dylan knocked the puck against the boards so it bounced around Roger. Dylan, however, couldn’t get around the big man to pick it up. The momentum pushed Roger back a little, but they stayed pressed shoulder to shoulder.

“Interference!” Dylan called.

“Nope.”

“It totally is.”

“I was on you before you let the puck go.”

“But the puck is—” Dylan looked around in the offensive zone.

“There.” Roger pointed behind Dylan to the puck that sat along the far boards inside the neutral zone.

“Your geometry was off. You thought you got it around me, but I popped it back out. So, technically the play is going the other way and our collision had happened before the puck was off your stick.”

The men stayed in place, staring at each other. Roger felt he was being sized up as Dylan’s happy expression washed over him. His eyes, which were filled with several shades of brown, were gorgeous.

What?

Roger had been this close to many hockey players and couldn’t remember thinking about their eyes.

Except for Ivan. Ivan’s eyes were one of the first things he’d noticed about the man.

Roger skated backward away from Dylan. “Wanna try some other moves? You’re oh for two so far.” He tried not to sound as off-kilter as he felt.

“Oh, it’s on.”

Dylan fetched the puck and headed down the ice. He parked behind the opposing net and waited as Roger skated like a sentry near center ice. When he finally took off, he zigged and zagged all over the ice. Roger moved more toward center and started to match Dylan once he crossed into the neutral zone.

Once he was over the center red line, Dylan shot hard, sending the puck in deep behind Roger.

“Cute!” Roger called out as he raced for the opposite side to get the puck as it traveled along the boards.

It turned into a foot race as Dylan showed exactly how fast he was by pulling alongside Roger as the puck sped along behind the net. Roger found an extra boost and cut Dylan off as they got to the boards. With the younger man behind him, the puck was his. Dylan left no space between them as they grappled. Roger kept moving to make sure Dylan stayed behind him as he controlled the puck.

Dylan continued to make attempts to get the puck, causing Roger to make quick directional changes while at the same time keeping the puck on his stick. Dylan wasn’t giving Roger much space, forcing Roger to focus even more intensely. Finally, Dylan made a misstep and stumbled, knocking into Roger. That was Roger’s moment to break the stalemate. Roger shot the puck back behind the net and took off, diagonally, headed toward the blue line at the far side.

“Umph,” Dylan said as he scrambled to keep his balance and take off after Roger.

The seasoned defenseman turned into a forward as he intercepted the puck crossing into the neutral zone. He heard Dylan’s skates scraping the ice as he sprinted to catch up. As soon as Roger crossed into the offensive zone, he shot, and the puck went in the far top corner.

“Oh, man, did my plan backfire.” Dylan skated to a stop where Roger stood at the top of the circle.

“Little bit, yeah.”

Roger noticed the beads of sweat on Dylan’s forehead and watched one fall into his eyebrow, redirect toward his nose, and then continue its journey downward until it dispersed along Dylan’s lips. Roger fought against the urge to lick his own lips in response.

“It only worked because we both shot with deliberate force. If we’d shot at full power, we’d have never caught up to the puck.” Roger looked away, back toward the other end of the ice where all that had played out, hoping Dylan would shift his gaze as well.

The man’s eyes were still on him though, and there was no choice but to look at him again.

“You put up a good fight, though,” Dylan said. “You didn’t give me an inch. You’re a big guy to have to get around. And you know how to move.”

Roger’s cheeks went hot as he considered other ways that could be taken. Ways he wouldn’t mind taking it. He hoped Dylan couldn’t see any redness. They’d both worked hard, so any coloring could be because of that—not because of any sexy thoughts Roger might be having.

“Hey coaches,” someone called from the door that had just opened. Dylan’s expression shifted from mischievous to his happy yet serious coach’s look that Roger had seen often. “Can we warm up with you guys?”

Roger turned to find Troy and Carson. Were they early, or had so much time passed?

“Sure,” Dylan called out. “We’ll finish this later,” he said only for Roger before he skated off to get the puck.



* * * *



Roger was glad he hadn’t gone with his first instinct, which was to say no to the pickup game Dylan suggested. But he was working to find his love of the game again. He’d enjoyed the one-on-one with Dylan and was enjoying Coach B’s coaching.

It was Coach B who convinced him to play during their session earlier in the week.

I heard you haven’t committed to Dylan’s pickup game yet,” Coach had said.

Roger held back a sigh. “Not yet, no.”

You should. He even talked me into it. You’ll be the only coach not playing if you don’t. It’ll do you some good to play a game with no stakes. Every day I see more focus and more of the you I remember from high school. Besides, I want to score on you.”

A glint in Coach’s eye had forced Roger into saying yes. It was that subtle thing Coach had that always got him what he wanted from players. He’d seen a lot of coaches yell and scream to get their way, Coach B rarely did. It was like he had Jedi powers.

They were in the final ten minutes of their two-hour session, and Roger didn’t want it to end. As promised, Coach B made it a point to challenge Roger at every turn. He was sure Coach was telling people how to get by him because he was working hard to keep the scoring low during his shifts. It hadn’t taken long for him and his defense partner to get into a groove. Roman was a friend of Dylan’s who’d played for Wisconsin, and they clicked well and stopped a lot of onslaughts—not all of course, but enough.

The freedom on the ice was incredible. It reminded him of his junior year in high school on through his time in Colorado. His defensive choices were solid. He had good communication with Roman and his teammates. The only distraction was watching Dylan. The guy was a solid forward. He was on a line with other coaches, but Roger couldn’t take his eyes off of Dylan’s fluidity. Luckily, they were teammates this time out, so it was easier to watch him. Dylan was lithe and moved with goalie-like reflexes. He’d seen only a little of that in their one-on-one earlier in the week.

Dylan and Roger were on the ice at the same time as the clock ticked under three minutes. Roger stopped a rush from the opposition. Seeing no good options for a pass, he deked out the wing who had brought the puck in and started his own offensive push. Dylan saw it and left the D that’d been covering him and took off after Roger, who was leading a breakaway.

“Got your back, Jacobson,” Roger heard from behind him. It was the center who would fill his defense post.

“On your left.” That was Dylan, who was a step or two behind him but close enough that Roger saw him in his peripheral vision.

Roger’s head was up, focused on the goalie who watched him and Dylan come in.

“D coming in fast,” Roger’s center called from behind.

Roger was just over the blue line. Would the D look to block a pass to Dylan or block the shot? Roger would block the pass and leave the shot to the goalie. Rather than risk the pass as he got into the slot, Roger shot high and hard at an open corner. The puck sailed through the air, on target. The goalie barely tipped it away with his blocker, sending it into the corner.

Roger stayed in the slot as Dylan went into the corner and grappled with the defenseman who’d come in trying to block the pass. Roger’s other wing came into place, and Roman and the center took up point on the blue line. Roger looked up to the center who waved off changing positions.

Dylan continued jostling with the D, making Roger flash back to the puck battle they’d had during the one-on-one. Roger skated closer, but not too close. It was the right move as Dylan popped the puck out with his skate. Roger got it and made a pass to Roman who shot low, creating another rebound. This one Roger caught and put away into the far corner.

His teammates erupted around him, but he was acutely aware that Dylan got to him first and wrapped him in a hug. They were wearing full gear so it wasn’t as much of a touch as during that one-on-one when they were only in sweats. They might as well have been naked for the jolts of pleasure that pulsed through Roger. The hug was brief and ended with Dylan’s gloved hand shaking his head.

“Good job, man,” Dylan said as other team members slapped at him and offered congratulations.

The goalie swiped the puck out of the net, and everyone skated out to get another play in before the clock ran out.

Everything about the game had been great, Roger thought as he collected his stuff from the bench.

“See, I told you this would be good for you.” Coach B came up as Roger skated toward the rink door.

“I had a blast.” Coach B smiled and nodded at Roger’s declaration. “I haven’t had that much fun in a game in a long time.”

“And you were focused. I saw it. It wasn’t just that you had fun—hockey is your job so it’s not always going to be fun. You were in the game today.”

Roger thought about that, and Coach was a hundred percent right. During the game, he didn’t realize it, but he was right there in it the whole time. What had clicked? He’d have to think about that, because he needed to capture that more often.



* * * *



Dylan was in front of his locker when Roger came in. He no longer had to stop himself at the door. He was able to go to the bench and take a seat.

“You were great out there,” Dylan said, stealing a look at Roger as he unlaced his skates. He was already shirtless, and Roger had to force himself not to stare.

“Thanks. And thanks for inviting me. I enjoyed that.”

“It was obvious.” Dylan put the skates in his locker, which was already standing open. “I haven’t seen you smile that much in the past two weeks.”

Roger’s cheeks heated. Dylan was looking at his smile?

“It’s a good smile. You should show it more often.”

Dylan’s gaze held Roger’s, making Roger’s cheeks burn all the hotter. Was that a ping on Roger’s gaydar?

“What are you up to the rest of the day?” With that Dylan was back to getting out of his gear as he talked.

“Not sure.” Roger finally got moving and took his jersey and pads off. “Probably just relax with Netflix.”

“It’s a beautiful day out though.” Dylan’s pants dropped, and he stored them in the locker. The sight was awesome—Dylan in a jock with a garter holding up his socks, which still secured his shin guards in place. It was locker room porn ready to happen.

Stop it.

Roger turned to focus on cleaning off his skates to put them away.

“I’m not great at figuring out what to do with downtime.”

“What’d you do in the summer when you were growing up?”

“Hung out at Pettibone Beach a lot. Relax in the sun, swim sometimes.”

“Nothing changes.” Dylan’s energy infused Roger, making him want to do something. “It was the same for me. Why don’t we go check it out?”

Was he serious?

Suddenly, Dylan was naked and standing next to Roger. He didn’t stay still, thankfully. He moved off toward the showers, but it was enough that Roger saw everything for the first time.

“We should do it. Grab some drinks, maybe some munchies, and go.” The water turned on. “What do you think?” Dylan shouted over the sound of the water.

“Yeah. All right.” Roger couldn’t believe he’d said that. It was like some other force was speaking for him. It seemed doubtful any good could come from going to the lake with Dylan.

He stripped out of the rest of his gear and realized he had no choice but to go shower. There were individual stalls, but it was still a pretty wide-open space. He’d see Dylan, dripping wet no less.

He left his gear on the floor since his routine was to put it away after the shower. Walking to the shower room, he grabbed a towel off the stack by the door. Dylan was in the second stall, standing with his eyes closed under the spray. Water flowed over his body, causing Roger’s mouth to go dry with want. The man was the definition of hot.

Roger stepped into the third stall, next to Dylan so they couldn’t see each other. The stalls across from them were empty. Roger fired up the water, keeping it cold. It was clichéd, but he needed to make sure Dylan didn’t start a fire that Roger might not be able to control.



* * * *



“There you are,” Dylan said, speech slightly obscured by water flowing into his mouth.

He’d hoped Roger would go into one of the stalls across from him so he could get a good look. Even if nothing was going to happen, he wanted to see. The Internet had not had any revealing pictures.

“I’m afraid I’m not very up on your stats, are you a scoring defenseman?” Dylan busied himself getting clean.

“More assists than anything. It’s always been that way. I pick up a few goals a year, but more assists from rebounds. I’ve never done a breakaway like I did today.”

“I’m glad I got to see it and be part of it. It was a great cap to the game.”


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