Jamie Gallagher marched down the hallway toward the Edwardston Eagles’ general manager’s office, his head high and his expression bland. He attempted to radiate confidence, which was total bullshit because on the inside he was tied up in knots.
He could only imagine what his boss wanted to talk to him about now. Their last chat certainly hadn’t been productive or pleasant.
Jamie was so busy trying to look bored that he was startled when Olle Svensson popped out of the locker room.
Olle stuttered to a stop and they eyed one another for a long moment.
“What?” Jamie asked, braced for anything.
He and Olle had just struck up a friendship when Jamie had made the monumentally terrible decision to hook up with some dude whose name he never learned, in a men’s room of a bar he’d been certain no one he knew frequented, and been caught by most of the defensive corps—including Olle—when they’d come to take a piss.
It had been an interesting start to the season since then.
“Wilson wants to see me,” Olle murmured, glancing away.
“Me, too,” Jamie offered.
Olle nodded, silent, and started walking next to Jamie without looking at him again.
It was weird how a guy as massive as Olle could be so quiet, could take up so little room. At six and a half feet tall, with light blond hair to his shoulders and pale blue eyes, he should have been a presence. On the ice, Olle was a force to be reckoned with—an excellent defenseman who’d spent most of his season so far in the penalty box, much to the chagrin of their coaches. But off the ice, Olle was quiet and kept to himself.
He’d joined the Eagles a couple months ago at the start of training camp, fresh off the plane from Sweden. Since then, he’d mostly looked like he regretted the decision, acting like he was ready to pull up stakes and bolt.
Jamie had thought it was weird at first. Now he could empathize. More and more, he’d been considering if it was time for him to leave Edwardston, and hockey, behind.
The hollow ache in his chest every time he thought about quitting hockey was the only reason he hadn’t walked already. He wondered if this meeting would be what changed his mind. If it would send Olle scurrying back to Sweden.
Jamie took a deep breath and rapped his knuckles on Wilson’s office door.
Jamie hesitated and Olle finally looked at him. That piercing blue gaze felt like it could see right through Jamie and his bravado.
Steeling himself, Jamie threw open the door.
He’d been expecting the angry, ugly visage of his boss’s face, but nothing else in the room made sense. For a second, he honestly wondered if he was dreaming.
He blinked, hard, but Chris Kimball, his friend from back home in Vancouver, was still standing there when Jamie opened his eyes again. And next to him was Rupert Smythe-Morrison, GM of the Moncton Ice Cats and one of Jamie’s fucking heroes.
Rupert studied Jamie and Olle with his arms crossed over his chest. Jamie searched the room for some explanation, his eyes catching on a stack of papers on Wilson’s desk.
Hope burst to life in Jamie’s chest.
Except his asshole boss, Olle didn’t know who any of the people in Wilson’s office were, though the older guy in the fancy-looking suit was familiar for some reason.
Not from Edwardston, but…Olle was sure he’d seen him somewhere.
He’d definitely never seen the gorgeous blond grinning at Jamie.
“Wilson,” the suit guy said, “if you’re satisfied the paperwork is complete, we should get going. We have a long drive and practice tomorrow morning.”
Olle stared at the paperwork Wilson picked up and tapped into a tidy pile. “They’re all yours.”
Finally, Olle clued in.
Holy shit, they’d been traded.
The weirdest combination of relief and alarm swamped Olle. Something must have shown on his face, because the unknown man paused in the act of shoving papers into his briefcase.
He held out his hand to Olle.
Olle took it automatically.
“I’m Rupert Smythe-Morrison, GM of the Moncton Ice Cats. Welcome aboard.”
“Please to meet you, Mr. Smythe-Morrison,” Olle murmured.
“Just Rupert is fine.”
Olle nodded, numb, and released Rupert’s hand. Jamie shook it next, the first hint of a smile that Olle had seen on his face in weeks.
It took a few minutes for Rupert and Wilson to conduct a final, terse discussion. Wilson wasn’t pretending he was anything other than relieved to see the back of Olle and Jamie. Rupert was managing not to sneer at him. Mostly.
Olle liked this Rupert guy already.
The thought had no more than settled in his mind when recognition struck. Rupert Smythe-Morrison, husband to Callum Smythe-Morrison, who’d quit the NHL to be with him. To be out. To raise a million kids or something.
The details were fuzzy, but Olle knew, at least, how he’d recognized Rupert’s face. He’d pored over the article in Hello Magazine about their wedding, less interested in the cutesy pictures of the handsome couple and more interested in the fact that they owned and ran a hockey team.
Olle’s hockey team, apparently.
Wilson shut the door behind them with a firm snap.
Their little group paused, alone in the hallway.
Jamie turned to the gorgeous blond. “Chris?” Something squeezed in Olle’s chest at the lost expression on Jamie’s face. Like he couldn’t believe what had happened.
Chris yanked Jamie into a tight hug. Jamie clung to him, his face buried in Chris’s neck, and absolutely melted in his arms. Chris held on and didn’t stagger when Jamie’s full weight leaned into him, which was impressive because Jamie may have been one of the smallest guys in the league, but he was all sleek, heavy muscle.
Olle caught Rupert watching him. He quickly wiped the frown off his face and looked away, only to do a double take when he found Rupert’s husband and another man walking toward them.
Callum Morrison had been one of the best goalies in the league for over a decade. Olle used to dream about playing with him when he was a kid. Come to that, Olle had dreamed about doing a lot of things with Callum when he was older, too.
So this was going to be awkward.
Not for the first time in the past few weeks, Olle seriously considered begging for his spot in the Swedish league back. Or maybe it was time to give up the dream altogether. Twenty-five wasn’t too late to start university.
Chris finally took his hands off Jamie when Callum fucking Morrison and the other man, a good-looking guy with a shock of dark hair standing up on his head, joined them.
“Jamie,” Chris said, a soft smile lighting up his face. “This is Tim. Tim, this is Jamie.” Chris slid his hand into the dark-haired man’s, their fingers weaving together.
Jamie grinned. Rupert and Callum looked on like a couple of proud parents.
Olle’s mouth hung open.
Had he been traded, or had he gone down the fucking rabbit hole?