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Jett (E-Book)

Jett (E-Book)

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Jett Olsson isn’t looking for anything serious and she’s not looking for anything at all, so why does it seem so hard to keep it professional?

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I love my life—the thrill of being on the ice as part of the Arizona Vengeance, the rush of winning, the adoration of the fans. And if that adoration means I don’t have to spend the night alone, well even better. I’m content being single and always ready to mingle.

But the day Emory Holland walks into a Vengeance team meeting my attention is caught like never before. I can tell right away she’s full of smarts and sass, and the fact that she’s hot as hell sure doesn’t hurt either. She immediately shuts down my advances, so I opt for the road less traveled—straight to the friend zone.

My approach works like a charm, and when she invites me into her bed for a no-strings, friends-with-benefits arrangement, I vow to give her everything I have. She’s been hurt before, and if I’m able to help her heal while giving her a spectacularly satisfying time *pats self on back*, then I’ll be happy.

Or at least that’s the lie I keep telling myself as the time ticks down on the final buzzer of our “relationship”. Now the real question is, can I score the winning goal in a game neither of us realized we were playing? 

Read Chapter One

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.

Riggs, one of our defensemen, couldn't come because his sister had a school project he had to help with. At least, that was his excuse. I'm not quite sure what's true. We still know next to nothing about the man and why he's guardian to his seventeen-year-old sister.

My eyes go to the large plant in his window, with vines dripping over the edge and trailing on the floor. "I see your hero plant is doing well."

Baden snorts. He complains about that damn thing and having to take care of it every time I come, but he must enjoy doing it because the thing is thriving. It was given to him by the woman whose life he saved. I'd think it would be a bad reminder of his injuries, but I guess he chooses to look at the gratitude it represents. Regardless, he doesn't say much about the incident at all, and the men who attacked the two of them have never been found. I suspect it's hard to get closure with that hanging over your head.

Baden doesn't bother transferring out of his wheelchair onto his bed or one of the two deep-cushioned chairs set by the window. He merely turns his wheelchair toward the chair I take and latches the brake, slouching down comfortably.

"Give me the thirty-second update on everyone," he demands.

There's no need to talk specifics on stats. Baden has been following our games diligently because he’s still a member of this team.

No… Baden is talking personal.

Gossip.

"Hmmm," I say, lifting my eyes briefly to the ceiling to ponder. "Jim and Ella have fully reconciled."

"Excellent," Baden says with a nod, motioning with his hand to continue.

I fill him in on the others. Blue and Erik are due to have their baby next month and Erik is having mini panic attacks when we travel for away games. We laugh over the fact that Kane is actively participating in planning his wedding to Mollie and seems to enjoy looking at flowers and venues, something the guys all give him shit for.

"Looks like Dominik and Willow are going to adopt Dillon," I tell Baden.

"Holy shit," he exclaims. "That's awesome. Is the little dude still killing it in peewee hockey?"

I nod with a laugh. "Yeah... I bet he's headed straight for a position on our team."

Dominik Carlson, the owner of our team, and his new wife, Willow, have been fostering the young boy for several months. I always thought their end goal was adoption, but I don't think they really wanted to say that out loud, lest they jinx themselves.

"How in the hell have you really been doing?" I ask him, although I'm pretty up to date. While I visit as much as I can, I talk to Baden every day via text—which is most often—and also by phone.

Baden grins slyly and shakes his head. "Uh-uh. You know all there is to know about my narrow existence. I'm working out and rehabbing. That's it. I'd rather know how you're doing and if you’ve officially struck out with the hot new social media chick in the front office."

I sigh loudly, because he's talking about Emory Holland, who has become the bane of my existence. She's utterly unmoved by my charms.

Our first meeting didn't go so well. She was hired as the Vice President of Digital Marketing and Analytics by the Vengeance. I have no fucking clue what that even means, but one program she's instituted is a fan outreach program via Instagram. She met individually with all the players to assess their social media footprint and give advice on how to tailor it to draw in more fans.

During our first meeting, she was all business.

I was trying to get a date.

I crashed and burned hard, her letdown line being "I don't date co-workers," but I could tell she just wasn't interested in me. Admittedly, that stung.

"I've got a new plan," I reply to Baden with a grin. "I'm actually meeting with her this afternoon."

"And what's the plan?" he asks.

"I'm going to show her I've got the best social media game around. She's going to be so impressed by the fact I've done exactly what she's asked for, and I've done it with exuberance, that she'll have no choice but to agree to a date out of gratitude."

Baden snorts. "Be prepared to get shot down again if that's your game."

"She's a tough nut to crack," I admit thoughtfully.

"I found her delightful," Baden says, and I blink at him in surprise. He laughs at my reaction. "Yeah... she came here to meet with me. Asked if I'd consider starting an IG account to track my rehab and recovery."

I frown. That seems a bit intrusive.

Baden reads my expression and assures me, "It's all good. She was very non-pressure and only wanted me to think about it. But I think it could help inspire others who are facing the same types of injuries. I want them to see there is hope."

It hits me in the feels—yes, us hockey players have them—that Baden wants to help others out of this tragedy. He's just that type of dude.

Since he’s being open, I take the risk and ask, "What exactly are your chances of playing again?"

Baden manages a smile, but it’s one of almost pity for being scared to ask the question. "There's a very slim chance. It's going to take a lot of hard work."

"Which you can do," I assert.

"Which I can absolutely do," he affirms, but then his expression sobers. "But I'm not setting it as my goal right now. I just want to be able to walk functionally for now, then I can set my next goal."

That's smart. Setting yourself up for unrealistic milestones can only lead to massive failure and crush further dreams.

We talk more about the season and how it's progressing. As the defending Cup champions, the pressure to outperform ourselves is immense. As it stands, we're second in our division, which is nothing to sneeze at, but we need to make a push to take over that first spot.

We gossip about the other players. So many this past year settling down.

Not on my horizon, of course, but I'm happy for my teammates who are satisfied with the monogamous lifestyle.

I glance down at my watch. "Dude... got to get going."

I stand from my chair as Baden unlatches his brakes to wheel alongside me to the door. "I thought you weren't meeting with Miss Holland until this afternoon?"

"I'm not," I say with a laugh, sticking my hand out for him to grasp and I bend to pull him in semi-close and clap him on his shoulder—classic bro hug. As we release, I tell him, "But I've got a Switch date with some kid in the children's unit."

While I've never wanted kids myself, because that's a fuck lot of responsibility that just doesn't seem appealing to me, I never, ever miss a chance to hang out with someone else's kid.

Because I know, I can always hand them back over and walk away without looking back.

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Product Release Date: July 20, 2021

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