My parents told me I skated before I walked. When I was eighteen I was drafted into the N.H.L third overall, playing in Los Angeles—the city of dreams. What more could I ask for? I played hard, but eventually, I partied even harder. Five years later I was traded a week after I entered rehab. There was no time for anything except my health and making sure I’d come out on top. I had to be better. There wasn’t another option.
One of the rules of recovery was ‘don’t fall in love’ and I made it a top priority. She was off limits in every single way.
Until it was too late
When you grow up surrounded by hockey players you know one thing for sure, I was never going to settle down with one. Heck, I didn’t even know what icing was. I was too busy climbing the corporate ladder, becoming one of the most successful realtors in New York City. I wasn’t interested in dating or anything that got in my way.
First, he was my client and then he became my friend.
One night, one decision, one act can derail everything.
When push comes to shove, I’m only certain that, This is Wild.
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“We can’t date each other,” he says. I don’t know why it bothers me, but my hand falls from his arm. “I mean, you’re hot and all that, but I can’t date you.”
“Um …” I start, ignoring the echoing of my heart in my ears. Ignoring that crushing feeling in my chest. I pull out the Zoe that just lets things not bother her, the fake Zoe, the Zoe everyone has met. “One, thank you, I guess, for thinking I’m hot.” He smiles, and now I put on my fake smile, but he doesn’t seem to notice. “And two, when did we say we would date each other?”
“I …” he starts. “Never really but I wanted to make sure you knew it was never a possibility.” I nod at him because I can’t say anything. The lump in my throat just gets thicker. “You can’t fall in love with me.”
I laugh and look down at my feet, giving myself an internal pep talk. Put the poker face on, Zoe. I channel it as much as I can. “I am a touch confused with this conversation, but just so we are perfectly clear”—I hold up my hands—“I don’t want to date you. You are good looking, but you aren’t anything that I …” I try to find the words.
“I play hockey,” he says, and I start to make a list of why I don’t like him.
“Yes,” I say louder than normal because I’m nervous and that is also number one on my list. “You play hockey, and I don’t really get hockey.” I use my hands. “It’s just something that I don’t ever …” Then I stop and look at him. “Did I say anything that made you think I wanted to date you?”
“No,” he says, shaking his head, and I at least breathe a sigh of relief that I wasn’t that transparent. “I mean, you got me dinner, and you gave me a key chain.”
“Um, yeah, because we were celebrating a big step,” I tell him. “I mean, the key chain was something that I saw and figured it would be a nice thing to do.” I shake my head. “You know, for a friend.”
“I’m a recovering addict, and I have to focus on me. I don’t have time for a relationship,” he says and then looks down at his bare feet. “God, this is the most awkward conversation I think I’ve ever had.”
“I mean, if it makes you feel better, I had an even more awkward conversation about an hour ago.” I smile at him, and he smiles back.
“Okay, well, now that we got that out of the way,” he says, and I put my hand up.
“Viktor, I think you are a great person.” It feels like a breakup, but we weren’t even together. “I don’t know what happened with everything that went down in LA, and I think them tossing you aside and looking for a trade was a crappy thing to happen. I think you got dealt a shitty hand and then you decided that shitty was what you deserved. That key chain was just a little reminder to let you know I don’t agree. I think you deserve more.”
“You sound like my therapist,” he tells me. “And my sponsor.”
“Well, I don’t know how to be a therapist,” I answer, “but I know how to be a listener, and I know how to be a friend. A friend.”
About the Author
When her nose isn’t buried in a book, or her fingers flying across a keyboard writing, she’s in the kitchen creating gourmet meals. You can find her, in four inch heels no less, in the car chauffeuring kids, or possibly with her husband scheduling his business trips. It’s a good thing her characters do what she says, because even her Labrador doesn’t listen to her…