Home > Jett (Arizona Vengeance #10)(6)

Jett (Arizona Vengeance #10)(6)
Author: Sawyer Bennett

Doesn’t matter. At the moment, I have a date with Emory Holland, and I’m going to do my damndest to score a second one before the night is over.

I head out of the locker room, through the outer ring of the basement level of the arena, and to the stairs that take me up one flight to the player parking lot.

Half of the guys have already cleared out and I enjoy the light breeze that hits me as I step into a perfect November day that’s hovering right at seventy degrees. I head toward my vehicle—a Lamborghini Urus—because I’ve got a thing for nice cars. When I made it to the NHL from the Swedish Hockey League, the amount of money paid to me was overwhelming.

And so very tempting to just spend it all on expensive clothes and fine cars.

Let’s just say I had a few years where I blew through almost every dime I had earned, and my early twenties are a bit of a blur. But since coming to the Vengeance, I’ve settled. I’ve had some amazing role models to pattern myself after, most of all our owner, Dominik. He takes a very active interest in his players and part of joining his team in the expansion draft meant having a very serious conversation about an extended future with the team.

I remember that meeting vividly because I was nervous as hell. But Dominik put me right at ease and even took on a bit of a paternalistic role which included asking me if I was investing my money for retirement.

I was like, “Retirement? I’m going to play hockey forever.”

God, I was such a dumhuvud when I think back to my foolish thinking. Dominik pointed out to me the average span of an NHL career is only five years and I about had a heart attack. I’d been with the Toronto Blazers for four years before coming to the Vengeance and if I was an average statistic, I didn’t have much opportunity left to secure my future with my earnings. Noting my panic, Dominik reminded me I could have many more years left, but that I shouldn’t take them for granted. I left Dominik’s office with a recommendation for a good financial planner, and I’ve since changed my spending habits.

Except for the nice cars. The Urus is badass. Sleek, sexy, and functional as well, and it’s a purchase I refuse to have regrets over. Past that and a nice condo downtown, I sock away most of my money for retirement.

As I make my way to my Urus, I hear something clatter to the ground on the other side of an SUV one spot over, followed by a string of curses. I recognize the vehicle and voice.

My linemate, Riggs Nadeau.

I drop my duffle near the front bumper of my car—as I’d backed carefully into my spot—and walk around the back of his vehicle.

He’s squatting near the front tire, which is clearly flat, with a tire iron in hand. I watch as he puts it back onto the lug nut near the bottom and note his knuckles are bloody. I’m guessing his hand slipped and had a nice collision with the concrete, thus the clatter and curse.

“Need help?” I ask him.

Riggs is as surly as they come, but he’s also unflappable. He doesn’t even jerk in surprise from my words or appearance. Casting me a short glance, he shakes his head. “Nah… I’m good.”

I lean against the back passenger door. “Bloody knuckles to the contrary.”

Riggs snorts but works the lug nut loose with ease before moving to the next one. “I’ll just tell anyone who asks I got them in a fight.”

That would not be a hard sell on anyone asking about such an injury. Riggs is a brawler and while he might not seem to connect personally to us as teammates, he takes great offense if one of us are attacked on the ice.

That’s been Riggs from the start.

He takes his job with the Vengeance seriously, at least he has since his not-so-great start when he was late for the first day of practice. Word around The Euchre Club was that he had some type of issue with his younger sister he’s caring for, but no one knows for sure. He’s tight as a clam when it comes to his personal life.

It doesn’t stop me from poking though. “What are your plans for the rest of the day?”

“Not much,” he mutters, his concentration mostly on the flat tire. “Hang around the house, I guess.”

“With Janelle?” I hazard a guess.

“Yup,” he replies and offers nothing else.

“She’s like… seventeen or something, right?”

Riggs glances up at me, and I actually feel bad that I’ve not once asked specifically about her before. I guess his brusque refusal to join The Euchre Club, or any invitation to be social with us, has been a put-off not only to me, but to many others as well.

His expression turns into a frown. “Why are you asking?”

“Because I’m trying to establish a friendship with you,” I retort with a smirk. “You don’t make it easy though.”

Riggs shrugs as if he doesn’t care if he makes it easy or not. He starts working on another lug nut and I almost turn away, but he says, “She just turned seventeen a few months ago. She’s feeling a bit out of place here in Phoenix.”

I’m actually stunned at that tidbit of unsolicited personal information. I’m afraid to ask more, because I know deep down, that’s all he’ll give. Instead, I remind him, “You should get with Jim and introduce Janelle to his daughter.”

“Yeah,” Riggs replies somewhat vaguely. “I’ve got to do that. But it’s hard to find the time with games, practice, and her never ending schedule of things she already has planned, none of which involve me.”

“Typical teenager,” I mutter.

Riggs laughs, eyes still on his work. “You got siblings?”

“Nah. But seventeen was less than a decade ago for me. I remember the heartburn I gave my parents.”

“Yeah, I remember that too,” he says flatly and there’s something in his tone that tells me his parents weren’t quite as forgiving as mine were over my antics.

He doesn’t look back up at me, but the expression on his face has turned cool and his focus on the last lug nut is intense. I recognize that look… it’s a disconnect when things get too personal. I’ve seen it many times with Riggs and I have found the key to keeping communication open with him is to back off at the right time.

I make a show of looking at my watch. “Listen… I gotta go. You sure you don’t need help?”

“Thanks, but I’m good,” he replies.

“See ya, man.” I move around the back of his SUV, bend over to grab my duffle from the pavement, and unlock the doors to my Lamborghini. It’s time to go home and mentally prepare myself for my upcoming date with Emory.

It’s going to take every ounce of charm I have to score that second date.

 

 

CHAPTER 4

 


Jett


I was expecting Emory to fight me when I offered to pick her up. I anticipated her saying, “Just give me the address of the restaurant and I’ll meet you there.”

You know… so it would not seem like a date at all.

Instead, she gave me her address and told me to knock on the door when I arrived as the doorbell was broken.

It could mean nothing, but I find it encouraging she trusts me enough to know where she lives.

Emory’s house is in a neighborhood that I would call typical Arizona, where the residences are all stucco in various shades of white to taupe with rust or brown colored tiled roofs. It’s Phoenix middle class, where the yards are all landscaped the same with mostly rock and native species of succulents that don’t require irrigation. The streets have sidewalks and nice lighting, setting a mood for evening strolls around the block. It’s suburbia, an idea that’s never appealed to me very much. This neighborhood just oozes monogamy, marriage, and an average of 2.7 kids to each house. I’m a little surprised someone like Emory—educated and working an executive position—would choose to live here rather than the more hip city life.

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