Charisma was in a light slumber but a strategically placed kiss or two could easily remedy that. It was the perfect time to propose. Derek reached down on the floor for his jeans to get the ring box out of his pocket. Suddenly the sound of his announcement ring tone for the Slap Shot boomed around the room.
“Score! It’s the Pirates for the win!”
He tried to silence the cell phone it but it was too late.
“Who’s that?” Charisma stirred.
“It’s the Slap Shot. I told them no calls tonight.” Derek groaned.
“Then it must be important. You better answer.”
“No. They have to start making decisions on their own.” The phone stopped ringing, to his relief. He nestled closer to her. “See, they figured it out.”
“Aren’t you the least bit curious?”
“No. What’s the point of having management if they can’t handle a problem on their own?”
The sound of another ring tone cut through the air again. This time it was the house phone.
“See, it is important.” She giggled as she peered at the caller ID display.
“I stand by my statement.” He yawned.
“I’m getting it. If the Slap Shot were on fire you’d never forgive yourself.” She reached over to the night table and answered. “Hello. Hi Nick.”
“He’s in Nova Scotia!” Derek yelled.
“He’s right here.” Charisma passed him the phone.
“Nick, what’s going on? They did what? Was there anything broken? Where are they now? Did you call the police? No, that was the right thing to do. Thanks for calling.” Derek disconnected the call and sat up.
“What’s wrong?” She frowned.
“It’s Jonas and Mike. They got into a fight at the bar. They practically tore up the place.”
“Déjà vu.” She stood and put on her robe at the foot of the bed then started collecting their clothes off the floor. “What happened?”
Derek jumped up and gently tugged his jeans out of her hand. “Jonas was at the bar getting plastered when Mike walked in. They got into it.”
“They’re always fighting about something.”
“That’s no reason to have the fight of the century in my bar.” He stealthy put the ring in his underwear drawer.
“Where are they now?”
“Nick took Mike outside to cool off, he hadn’t been drinking. By the time he went back to check on Jonas he was gone. He’d left his car keys but the little shit took off with a bottle of my private reserve whisky.” He sighed.
“The good news is he’s not driving.” She said as she went into the walk in closet, looking for something to wear.
“I can’t believe they’re pulling this crap.” Derek started pacing the floor. “This is why I didn’t want to vacation with them. When they’re not smashed and fighting each other, they’re trying to hit on you.”
“Jonas likes to tell me I’m pretty because your face ticks every time he says it. They do it to get under your skin.” She laughed.
“Nobody compliments my woman except me.” He walked over and kissed her. “What are you doing?”
She held up a T-shirt and jeans for him. “Aren’t you going to check on the bar and see where Jonas is?”
“Right now, I’d prefer to take a shower with you.” He took the clothes from her and threw them on the bed, scooped her up into his arms and headed in the direction of the bathroom. “The season is over which means my babysitting duties are too. I’ll go assess the damage in the morning. Nick said he’d send me a pic after they’ve cleaned up some more so I won’t have a heart attack.”
He’d almost made it over the threshold of the bathroom with her when the buzzer like sound rang through the air. This time it was coming from the intercom system downstairs. They had a visitor. Who the hell could that be? He gently put Charisma down and went over to the wall panel next to the bedroom door and opened it. He pressed a button and the monitor came on instantly. “Are you kidding me? It’s Jonas. And he’s at the wrong entrance.”
“Where is he?”
“Looks like the side of the building. Maybe the loading bay.” Derek took another look at the monitor.
“Well, at least he’s not out somewhere getting into more trouble.” She went back into the walk in closet.
He stabbed at the talk button. “What do you want Jonas? If you’re here to apologize for destroying my place, we can discuss it tomorrow.”
“Pop, it’s Jonas.” Jonas slurred.
“I know it’s you, idiot. I can see you on the monitor.” Derek let out a big sigh and shook his head.
Jonas looked around for the camera and after he finally looked up, he waved. Then he started grooming himself like he was looking in a mirror.
“Hey man, it’s not a good time. I can’t guarantee I won’t beat you to a pulp until Nick sends me a photo of the damage.” Derek’s jaw ticked.
“That son of a bitch Mike attacked me at your bar! Can I come up?”
Derek took his hand off the button. No way was he getting involved in their drama, especially tonight of all nights. His romantic plans were going straight down the tubes. Knowing Jonas and Mike, they were probably fighting over a woman. He was mulling it over until Charisma came over and gave him a look. “What?”
“Let him up.”
He shook his head like a toddler who didn’t want to eat their vegetables. “They’re immature idiots. I’m not getting involved this time. It’s bad enough I referee during the season.”
“We can’t let him roam around in that state. Some gossip site is liable to get a photo of him stumbling around Philadelphia intoxicated.” Charisma handed him the T-shirt and jeans again.
“This is not how I wanted our night to end.” He caressed her cheek.
“I know. I was looking forward to giving you a wash and wax.” She flashed a wicked grin.
“You’re killing me.” He groaned and reached for her but she moved out of the way. “Jonas can sleep in the lobby, assuming the concierge doesn’t run him off.”
“You wouldn’t be able to live with yourself. Maybe not tonight, but in a few days you’d feel guilty about not helping a friend. It’s one of the reasons I love you so much.” She slipped on a pair of yoga pants and her favorite Pirates T-shirt.
“OK.” He put on his jeans. “I’ll go downstairs and get him.”
“Take your time coming upstairs. I’ll tidy up the living room real quick and turn on the coffee machine.” She stood on her red painted tip toes and kissed him.
Derek pulled on the T-shirt as he called downstairs to alert the doorman that he had a visitor at the wrong door. Who would opt to go to a weird side door on a platform instead of an elegant, brightly lit front entrance? Jonas would when he was schnockered. He slipped on his sneakers and did a slow march out of the apartment. He loved his teammates but there were days when he wanted to throttle them all.
He punched the button for the elevator and the doors opened immediately. He stepped inside, hit the ground floor button and sighed. He totally felt Seth’s pain about grooming the next generation. He’d really become the father figure of the team. He counseled and gave as much guidance as he could but there was only so much you could tell grown, single young men with a ton of money and some celebrity about being discerning. They weren’t looking for love. They were looking for fun and good times. It was what he did when he was their age. Two minutes later the doors opened on the ground floor.
The lobby was empty with the exception of a disheveled looking Jonas perched on the arm of the couch talking to the doorman. He could see Jonas’s black eye as he approached. He was clutching the bottle of whiskey Nick said he’d snagged earlier that evening.
“Terrence, thanks for getting him from the loading bay.”
“Not a problem Mr. Popovich.”
“Would you believe he’s the center for my team?” He smiled, trying to take the edge off.
“That’s Jonas Dudikoff? I hardly recognized him.”
“Yeah.” Derek sighed.
Terrence nodded and smiled as if the name now put the black eye in perfect context.
“You look terrible.” Derek rubbed the back of his neck.
“Yeah.” Jonas put his hand on Derek’s shoulder. “Well, Mike looks much worse.”
“Come on. Let’s get you upstairs.”
Jonas talked his ear off as they rode up in the elevator together. It was mostly incoherent babble but Jonas had a look on his face as if he were a scholar giving a lecture at a university. The mood was further dampened when he returned to the apartment and found Charisma had turned their love nest back into a functional living room. The candles had indeed been extinguished and the music was turned off. The romance had been sucked out of the place all because of a drunk hockey player that was unfortunately, a friend.
“Hi Charisma.” Jonas slurred as he went over and gave her a hug.
“Hi Jonas. Whew.” Charisma drew back and waved her hand in front of her nose. “You’ve been hitting the good stuff pretty hard tonight.”
“I was minding my own business at the Slap, drowning my sorrows when Mike comes in like a maniac.”
“I hope you know that bottle costs five grand.” Derek seethed.
“Really?” Jonas looked at the label.
“How did you get here?”
“Woman troubles?” She asked.
“I hope you know drinking can’t solve everything.” She gently pried the bottle out of his hands.
“I know. Why can’t I find a woman like you?” He gave her a lopsided grin. “You look so pretty today. Doesn’t matter if it’s those fancy clothes or yoga gear, you’re gorgeous. Popovich hit the lottery when he got together with you. I hope he knows how lucky he is. Does he treat you good?” Jonas spied Derek.
“Thank you, Jonas. He treats me like a queen.” She smiled.
“Why can’t I meet a nice woman like you? If I had met you first–” He outstretched his arms to hug her again.
“Hey.” Derek stepped between them. “Reel it in Romeo. She’s mine.”
“I was just telling the truth.” Jonas scowled at him.
“Tell your truth over a cup of coffee.” Derek pushed him in the direction of the kitchen, Jonas clumsily went on his way. He turned to Charisma. “You have no idea how much I want to kick his ass for ruining our evening.”
“I don’t know, you were planning to surprise me with a special evening and someone popped up. It was to be expected.”
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t you remember two weeks after we moved in together and we’d cleared our schedules so we could lock ourselves in and Trina claimed the heat went out at her place so she came here?”
“I’d forgotten about that.” He laughed.
“And remember when we decided to have that romantic weekend before the playoffs started and Theo shows up for a visit?”
“You’re right. We do have terrible luck when we try to carve out time for ourselves. I wonder why that is.”
“Grandma says it’s because we radiate so much love and happiness that people are attracted to it. I guess that’s why Jonas came here tonight.”
“I can still kick him out.” Derek caressed her arms.
“I know but you won’t because you are a good teammate and a good friend. Have Jonas suck down some of those hot dogs with the works, maybe it will balance out all that whiskey.” She laughed.
“I love you.” He kissed her.
“I love you too.”
Derek watched as she walked toward their bedroom. If he could get Jonas sober and out of the apartment, he just might be able to salvage the night. He had a very important question to ask her and he hoped she’d say yes.
Derek and Charisma’s love story continues! I hope you enjoyed the pre-edited excerpt! Release date February 24th!
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