THE SCORING SECRET: Coming January 2024
The next book in the Off the Ice series is The Scoring Secret! It doesn’t have a formal blurb yet, but it’s basically You’ve Got Mail for the Tinder age.
What follows is the unedited first draft of the first chapter. This is subject to change as the book is written! Don’t hold me to any of this, but here’s a sneak peek at what I’m planning for Ty and…Kiley!
Chapter One: Ty
Chapter One: Ty
It sounds obnoxious, but I really do have the best fucking life. I don’t remember the last time I needed an alarm to wake me up for my early morning run, for example. The South Florida sun calls to me—a hockey kid from upstate New York—like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.
I roll out of bed whistling and pull on shorts and athletic socks, then stride to the kitchen. I drink a supplement mix while I warm up, already imagining the waffles I’m going to devour after my skate down the South Beach strip.
Visualization is one of the most important sports psychology tricks I’ve learned. Picture the steps it takes to achieve the success you want, and for me, that’s strapping on my rollerblades, finding someone hot to treat to a nice brunch, and then bringing them back here for a hard and fast tumble across my sheets.
Step one: grab the skates from their spot by my front door.
Step two: head downstairs, no music today. Keeping myself wide open to the possibility of a warm, tight body stumbling across my path, and being able to give them my full and undivided attention.
Step three: look fucking good as I step outside and gaze down Ocean Drive. My playground, where I am king.
It’s a warm one today, and the bright morning rays feel good on my bare chest. I take the first lap down the strip easy, warming up, then pick up my pace. Sweat pricks my skin in that lazy, good workout kind of way.
Ahead of me, a beautiful Black woman bounds into view, her long legs stretching in an eye-catching way that drags my gaze to her high, tight ass, just in time to realize she’s not alone, and the lighter brown-skinned man she’s running toward doesn’t appreciate this white boy ogling her.
I give him a shameless grin and glide past them. No harm, no foul.
And just ahead of them is a curvy redhead with a jiggly tummy that would look real good beneath me on a bed. Back arched, pale tits turning pink as she gets closer to a release…all the creamy white skin painted with my own release, after she has another.
It’s not hard to imagine how we could spend the next few hours, if she’s single and willing.
And if she’s not, then there are plenty of fish in the sea. Or in the sea-adjacent park, as it were.
Best. Fucking. Life.
I’m about to pull alongside her and introduce myself when my phone vibrates.
Slowing down, I answer it, not bothering to look at the screen. Nobody calls me at seven in the morning unless it’s important. “Yello.”
It’s the general manager of the NHL team I play for. The team I’ve helped lead to two Cup finals, although not last year, and it’s not looking good for us this year, either. “Ty, I’m sorry to call so early. Do you have a minute?”
I hear myself reply as if from a distance. My rollerblades feel like lead on my feet, and the redhead bounds ahead, suddenly out of reach.
Waffles aren’t going to happen, either.
The conversation is brief. I’m being traded to the newest team in the league, the Hamilton Highlanders. Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, on the shores of Lake Ontario. Not that far from where I grew up outside Buffalo, New York.
I tip my head up to the sun, as if I’m a photovoltaic battery and I might be able to store just a little bit more of this best fucking life before I need to put on a fucking parka.
Their mascot is a bagpipe playing wild boar, for God’s sake.
My next call is is to my agent. “Hamilton?” I ask incredulously. “We didn’t put them on my no trade list? You know I don’t do snow, Nina.”
She makes a soothing sound in my ear, as if she were my grandmother, and not an ambitious baby shark who graduated from law school like ten minutes ago. “Hamilton is great. You’re going to love the owner, Jack Benton. He’s going to arrange for a private plane to take you to meet the team later today. They’re playing in Montreal tomorrow.”
“Sounds fucking cold.”
“He likes players who are from the area,” she says, continuing as if I hadn’t made it clear that while I might be from the area, I do not like the area. “You’re going to fit in great. They’re still working on some of the details, so the trade won’t hit the wire for another hour or so. Go home, pack up. Do you want to go to the arena there and pick up any of your custom gear?”
Of course I do. That barn is my home. I want to go there, pick up my gear, and put it on, because I have a game tonight. Here.
But I don’t anymore.
Fuck. Well, yeah, I still want my shit. And I need to say a quick goodbye to some of the staff. “How much time do I have?”
“The plane will wait for you. You’re the only passenger.”
I make it back to my apartment. Toss my rollerblades into a closet because I’m sure as shit not going to need those in Hamilton, Ontario, in fucking February. Pack a bag. Do an aimless circuit, trying to figure out what needs to be done. Someone needs to make a so you’ve been traded checklist of tasks for stunned hockey players. I empty out the fridge, shoving everything perishable into my freezer. Text my cleaning lady to let her know the apartment needs to be closed up for the next couple months. I might not be back until May, I tell her. I don’t want to say June. That might be hoping for too much. That would mean we’ve made it into the final rounds of the playoffs, and I don’t think Hamilton is good enough yet.
That has to be my last critical thought about the team, I tell myself. My new team has all the raw talent it needs to go all the way.
I’ve seen guys make the shift, coming to Miami from other places. Now it’s my turn.
By the time I land in Montreal, I’ll be one of them.
I leave the keys to my car on the counter, in case I decide to have it transported north, but more likely, I’ll buy something up there. Something appropriate for the Snow Belt. And now I’m having flashbacks to early morning practice at rinks with unheated dressing rooms.
Whatever I get up there—some kind of truck with monster wheels, maybe—has to have heated seats. And a remote start.
I need to distract myself from the thought of blizzards. Once I’m settled in the backseat of the car that will take me to the rink—and then on to the airfield where Benton’s plane will meet me—I do the next thing that comes naturally to me. I open the Lusty and Tinder apps on my phone and change my location from South Beach, Miami, Florida, to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Lusty first. It’s not technically a hook up app. The tag line is XXX, and it started as an anonymous travel and food reviewing blog for Millennials. But the message boards can be pretty horny, and they’ve recently added a profile browsing feature that feels a lot like a dating app. Smart decision, because the user base is mostly single and we already have a lot in common. I’m incognito on Lusty because nobody needs to know what restaurants in Miami Ty Connor goes to—but a guy who writes reviews as BeastMode doesn’t get a second glance.
I can’t imagine I’ll find a lot of must-eats in Hamilton, but you never know.
Once that profile is updated, I go to Tinder. The familiar scroll, scroll, swipe is soothing, I guess. Nice to get a heads up about who I might get a chance to meet in a few days.
Lots of nice smiles. Big tits, small tits. Scroll, scroll.
And then I stop on a banging body. Tall curves poured into blue jeans and a black tank top, the type of body that screams I used to be on the volleyball team and now my preferred cardio routine is riding hockey players’ faces. No face. I usually swipe past anonymous profiles, because they’re looking for more than a single night of fun, but there’s something about her.
Her name is Kiley. And her bio puts my theory on anonymous profiles immediately into question.
Here for a good time, not a long time, because I’m working on my boundaries. Likes: Road trips. Dislikes: Clingy liars.
I check out her other pictures. Thick thighs at the gym. A glimpse at a pale belly in a selfie taken from above, on a bed, as she unbuttons a baseball jersey. An angle that promises, this could be your view after a softball game, jiggle jiggle.
And the last one makes me laugh. It’s just of her legs—with a close up on those calves that look like they could lock around a man and hold him in tight—but she’s tangled up in a dog leash. The pup in question is off screen, but I don’t care. All I can see is the way the leash presses into her soft flesh.
Didn’t see myself being jealous of a strip of nylon cord today, but whatever. It’s a weird day, bring on the unexpected cock twitches.
I swipe right. And I save her profile to come back to later.
Then I keep scrolling but no one else grabs my attention. Just as I arrive at the rink, I get a text message from Nina. The trade is finalized and will be announced in moments, which means I need to text the team. My old team, now.
Ty: Heads up, fellows. I’ve been traded. I love you all, and I still expect wedding invites this summer.
Ty: But once I grab my shit from the arena, it’s on until the end of the season. Nothing personal.
And then I leave the group chat before anyone can reply.
At the arena, the security guard is surprised to see me. I break the news. Inside the team space, though, word has already started to spread among the trainers and the coaches, so I’m spared needing to say the words again.
I grab a bundle of my sticks, my skates, and a box of extra blades from the equipment guys, and the custom base layers I love with the special pads built in over my collarbones. The new team will have them made for me in their colours, too, but in the meantime, I’ll wear what I have.
I leave the rink carrying a Miami equipment bag for the very last time.
It’s a short drive to the private airfield, and I spend it staring out the window.
I don’t check my phone again until my gear has been stowed safely and I’m sprawled in one of the four oversized leather seats on the plane.
No match from the hot girl on Tinder. And that’s still the case when we land in Montreal, where isn’t a jiggly belly in sight, because it’s February and Montreal is 1500 miles due north of the south Florida sun I already miss more than I should.
This is professional hockey.
Ty Connor, say goodbye to the sun, say hello to a series of hotel rooms as you learn the systems and structures of a whole new organization.
Because the team that drafted you, where you once won the Cup and got close two other times, no longer has need of your very specific, spectacular talents.
Time for a rebuild in Miami, and rebuilds don’t happen around thirty-year-olds who eat up too much cap space.
It’s not that I’m unfamiliar. I’m fucking familiar. Hamilton is only an hour and a half from where I grew up outside Buffalo. It’s what you drive past—gritty steel plants and all—on your way to the hockey centre of the world, Toronto.
I mean, it could be worse. I could have been traded to Toronto.
Fucking hell, I miss my apartment with a clear view of the Atlantic Ocean already.
And when I’m peering out the car window at the restaurant where I’m about to meet most of my new teammates for the first time off the ice, all I can think is, I wish I’d packed a warmer coat.
Shit goes from bad to worse when I can’t play the next night in Montreal, because moving from an American team to a Canadian team comes with some immigration logistics that we can’t just magic away on a Saturday afternoon. I have to watch from the press box up top as my new team loses.
The team itself is fine. Good, even. Different vibe than Miami. Younger, but not as young as the Miami team will be when they’re finished their rebuild stage one. Keen, but still figuring out their systems.
Not so entrenched in what structures work that they aren’t open to new ideas, and as a former captain…I have ideas. A lot of them.
So then I think, all right, this ain’t all bad.
We get on the team plane, which is nicer than Miami’s plane, and win in Minnesota.
Four days after I’m traded, I finally land in Hamilton. It’s not quite a blizzard, but it’s definitely not running shirtless weather, either. I settle into a long-term suite hotel, and Shannon Tilman, the captain’s wife, puts me on a group chat with a real estate agent she likes.
I buy a truck. The Lambo can stay in Miami for when I visit.
And then I get serious about finding some recreational activity.
There’s an art to being on apps as a professional athlete. My profiles are pretty anonymous, even with photos that show enough to not be a creep. My standards are reasonably high. She has to be roughly the same age as me or older. I want our early conversations to cover the basics in a straightforward way, like protection and no strings and this is probably just once. If all of that turns us both on, we’re good to go.
I know I shouldn’t rush into finding a warm bed just because I miss the fucking sun, but I was horny as fuck back in Miami, and now that I’ve got a (temporary) bed in Hamilton, I’m still fucking horny.
So when I match with a woman named Anna on a night off, and she brings up all of my basic requirements within a few minutes of chatting, I figure it’s meant to be.
She introduces herself as Ava when she opens the door, which makes me pause. But when I repeat it, with a question mark, she looks at me like I definitely misheard.
“Anna,” she says with a pretty enough smile that it’s fine. It’s not as if I’m using my real name either. “And this is Daffodil.”
A warm panting body nudges against my calf, and I nearly jump out of my skin. At my side is a dog that looks like her name should be Inky or Brownie. Does Anna/Ava know that Daffodils are yellow, not black?
“You said you like dogs.” She says it smoothly, like we talked about dogs for longer than a nanosecond before pivoting to do you use toys and do you like to watch, because yes and yes. That’s why I’m here.
No offense to Daffodil.
“Sure,” I say smoothly. “But I like making women moan even more.”
Her smile gets even brighter. “Then let’s have some fun.”