Home > Jett (Arizona Vengeance #10)

Jett (Arizona Vengeance #10)
Author: Sawyer Bennett

 


CHAPTER 1

 


Jett


“Jett,” a voice rings out and I stop in my tracks, leaning back to look inside the room from where my name was called. Sitting in a bed, propped on pillows, is a boy in his early teens. His bed is neatly made and he’s on top of the powder blue linens with a Nintendo Switch in his hand.

Taking a step backward, I turn his way and enter his room without invitation. He clearly recognized me, and I’m never going to not talk to a young fan.

Particularly one in a rehab hospital, missing his left leg from the knee down.

The boy grins big, eyes shining with incredulity that I’m in his room. “Whoa… you’re really Jett Olsson.”

“Last I looked at my driver’s license,” I quip and hold my fist out for him to bump.

“Think I could get an autograph?” he queries, his voice turning slightly timid now that he’s indeed confirmed I’m Jett Olsson, second-line right-winger for the Arizona Vengeance.

Current defending Cup champions.

“I’ll do you one better,” I assure him. “Let me go visit my friend, then I’ll come back and hang with you for a bit. Maybe you can give me a crack at that Nintendo Switch.

“Really?” he asks, brown eyes flaring in surprise.

“Most definitely.”

“Awesome,” he exclaims and pumps his fist.

After I leave his room, I expertly navigate the halls of the Edward W. Freely Rehabilitation Hospital. It was originally built in the mid-fifties, but it went through an overhaul about five years ago. Now it’s completely state of the art with gleaming hardwood floors, colorful artwork gracing the walls, and large, spacious rooms filled with home-styled furniture to make the long-term residents feel more comfortable.

It’s where my buddy and teammate, Baden Oulett, has been recovering following his last spinal surgery three weeks ago. Since then, he’s miraculously regained not only feeling, but movement in his legs.

It’s not the type of movement that lets him get out of bed and run out of here, but it’s a start. It’s the reason he needs to start working his ass off to regain function.

It’s also the reason he needed to pull out of the deep depression he’d sunk into after his injuries. His price for saving a woman from a mugging was a lacerated spleen, a brain hemorrhage, and a long scar down the side of his face. Those weren’t the worst though.

The worst was a spinal contusion, the result of a vicious crowbar blow, paralyzing Baden from the waist down.

Things were grim until his latest surgery, but now sunshine seems to be illuminating this rehab hospital.

He’s probably sick of it, but all of his teammates visit regularly. His parents are in Montreal and we’re his family here, so not a day goes by without someone checking in on him.

I veer away from the hall that leads to Baden’s room and head toward one of the rehab gyms. These gyms have specialized equipment, designed to assist those suffering from paralysis. I know I’m visiting during his daily physical therapy session, but I’m dying to see him in action.

I pass more rooms with open doors and some of the longer-term residents wave or call out greetings as I’m not a stranger to these halls.

I find Baden at a set of parallel bars and my heart quickens to see him actually standing up. He’s in an overhead harness, a therapist before him, and another behind. Sturdy braces on his legs, his arm muscles bulging as his hands grip the bars. I’m amazed that he’s holding himself up completely on his own.

Holy fuck.

Baden is standing on his own.

He doesn’t see me, and I don’t say a word, not wanting to break his concentration. His face is etched in pain, jaw locked so tight that the red scar that runs from temple to jaw on the left side of his face actually goes pale.

“Okay… first step,” the therapist to his front says. “Connect that brain to your leg.”

Baden’s forehead furrows, he grunts with effort and with a heave manages to sort of swing his right leg forward maybe three inches.

Three small inches and I feel like he just won an Olympic medal, and I should know… I’ve got one.

Gleaming silver from playing for my home country of Sweden in the last winter Olympics.

I want to cheer for Baden, but I hold myself in check, watching as he uses every bit of strength and determination to force his legs to move. Sweat breaks out on his forehead, trickling down his temple. His arm muscles quiver as they hold his six-foot-three frame upright. Since his injury, while his legs may have been dead, his upper body was not, and he’s religiously thrown every bit of strength training to that part of his body. As such, he’s not relying on the harness or trusting the nominal strength in his legs, but rather letting his arms be his main support.

With incredible focus, he manages to take perhaps five or six small steps, moving forward no more than a total of a few feet before he starts to sag. With efficiency, the therapist at his rear brings a wheelchair and they gently lower him while disengaging the harness straps.

I start a slow clap of appreciation as I walk toward Baden. His neck twists and he grins when he sees me.

“Someone’s ready to get back on the ice,” I say as I meet up with his wheelchair on the other side of the parallel bars.

Some might think that insensitive, since chances are Baden will never step foot on the ice again, but I’ve come to know him well over the last year and a half.

Even better since his injury and all the visits I’ve made to him in the hospital, and now the rehab center.

Baden is at a place where we can add levity, tinged with hopefulness, to the conversation. While he was doing chest presses in the hospital gym the other day, he told me with a sly grin that he was thinking of giving up being a goalie to become a right-winger like me. Preposterous, even when he was in optimal health, and we had a good laugh.

Wiping the sweat off his head, he replies, “Slap some skates on me. I’m ready.”

Baden gives a nod to his therapists, a silent thank you for their work, and turns the wheelchair toward me. He’s become adept at moving around in it, and has taken to cutting wheelies in the hallway, sometimes catching me in the shin with the footrest.

To which he just laughs and laughs.

Yeah… there’s been a huge change in Baden’s spirits since the feeling returned to his legs. I’m not sure if he cares about playing again—which is the longest of long shots—but is overjoyed at the potential to walk.

We chat about last night’s game against the Houston Jam, a seven to two route that almost made me feel bad for the other team.

Almost.

I only had an assist, but it was a damn good one that set up Kane for an unbelievable deke, followed by a backhanded shot for a goal. As a goalie, Baden agrees it was practically unstoppable.

“How was the birthday party?” Baden asks good-naturedly as he turns into his room.

“Good,” I reply, thinking back to the low-key affair the night before last with Kane, Jim, and Bain at the Sneaky Saguaro. Dinner and beers to celebrate me turning twenty-six.

Bain and I flirted with the waitresses in skimpy outfits, but for the most part… it was about hanging with my linemates. Normally Baden would have been there, but he passed, not wanting to go out in public in his wheelchair, which I understood.

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