Benji is the skater in the league who brings down the height average. Coming in at five eight, he’s used to players chirping at him all night about his height.
Including the sexy defenseman for the Carlisle Rush, Avery Lester, the defenseman with the stunning eyes and cute smile.
When Benji makes a single inappropriate comment about Avery’s ass, everything goes to hell. Add in Avery’s heroics during a hate crime, and things just go from bad to worse.
Abruptly it’s not his height Benji has to worry about, but the chance that his closely guarded secret is shared all over the Internet.
Can love find a way, or will keeping secrets tear Benji and Avery apart?
Originally released in the Changing On The Fly: The Second Period Anthology.
Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words – “This one was amazing, and I am not very good at expressing just how good it was but it was amazing. It is not only one of my most favourite stories from this anthology but this is like one of my most favourite stories ever.” (Review from Changing on the Fly Anthology)
I didn’t know what he was doing at first. I felt his fist tap my head, but the words were a blur. Lost beneath the volume of cheering from the Colts fans here to see us finally move to first place in the Eastern Conference. We’d been edging closer to that top spot, clearing opposition like they were young kids playing street hockey, one after another. A streak of ten wins in a row and we were riding high.
I felt another tap and pivoted to face whoever the fuck was patting me on the head. I didn’t really have to look; I knew it would be Avery freaking Lester, the defenseman for the Rush that dogged my every skate length, the asshole who was between me and the net. He’d been chirping shit all night, starting as he always did with a classic I’d heard a hundred times from him and others.
You look taller in skates.
I wasn’t the average six one that most professional skaters were; I was Benjamin Harding, aka Benjy-Short-Ass, one of the guys who pulled down that average with my full five eight in height. But that didn’t stop me. I’m fast and determined, and I’ve fought a hundred battles to get this coveted second line left wing place on the Colchester Colts. They don’t call me a scrapper for nothing. Hell, it was only November, and I already had twelve points under my belt: four goals and eight assists. I was flying, and fuck anyone who said a short guy couldn’t play hockey.
I looked up at Lester, easily six-six in his skates, looming over me like the tallest of trees in a tall-tree forest. He winked, grinned and flashed those white straight teeth He was the kind of defenseman who didn’t give a shit about throwing his body in front of a hundred mile an hour puck, or indeed an unwary forward like me, so for him to have all his teeth was a miracle.
I yanked myself away from where he could reach me, my irritation close to the surface, and near-growled at the man.
“Cute like a teddy bear,” he reached to pat my head again.
“Fuck you,” I snapped and pushed to skate away. I could hear the chuckles following me as I took my place in the face-off, to one side of our captain, Jens Rusty Rustad, the Norwegian with the big heart and a frown on his face. He’d seen what had happened; hell, he’d been watching me all night, all concerned and shit, and I shook my head at him. The message was simple: “Back off, captain; I don’t need you fighting my battles.”
For some reason, Lester had been dogging me solidly in every single game we’d played against each other, which to my memory was five, this being the sixth game between the Colchester Colts and the Carlisle Rush since they picked up Lester.
Avery Lester, with his grin that turned feral when he was playing, and the youthful hope in his eyes that hadn’t diminished one iota in his first year with the Rush. He was destined for greater things, maybe even a call-up from his development team to the Railers themselves.
You had a few defenseman stereotypes, and Lester was firmly in that ‘get into a guy’s personal space and wig them out’ category. The winking, the smiling, the pats on the head, and nicknames were all part and parcel of the kind of hockey he played, all enthusiastic puppy. It was driving me fucking mad.
It didn’t help that Lester was gorgeous. If I’d met him in a discreet bar, I would have been all over him in an instant.
Rusty gave me one last narrow-eyed frown and then hunkered down for the face-off, his focus entirely on the six-ounce vulcanized-rubber disk that was being dropped between him and the Rush face-off expert.
“Your little legs must be tired,” Lester said to me and knocked my arm, attempting to get his leg in front of mine to stop me from wheeling away and taking the puck if Rusty won the face-off and got it to me.
“Grow up,” I said and then ignored him, watching for the moment Rusty scooped the puck; it headed right to my tape. I caught it, spun, skated, and left Lester standing, passing it to Luke Candy Candiani, the other wing on this line. Candy one-timed it, hitting metal, but I was there, collecting the rebound, shoveling it untidily toward Rusty, who collected the puck, skated circles around the D that shadowed him, and slapped it straight through the tendies five hole.
Rusty, Candy, and I hugged it out, our D-pair closing in for the traditional five guy congratulatory circle; we were four goals to their two, and the Rush were becoming more ragged and uncoordinated in their desire to beat us with every passing second.
I clambered over the boards to sit on the bench with my linemates, adrenaline high, leg muscles burning, and grinning like a loon. Lester stared at me, and I made a tiny salute with my gloved hand that had him scowling.
Fuck him and his shortness jibes. I was used to them; I rose above them, well, not literally, obviously, as I didn’t rise above much.
“Is that asshole, Lester, giving you shit?” Rusty asked, elbowing me in the side.
“Nothing I can’t handle.”
“Nice pass,” Candy reached around and high-fived me.
The Rush’s coach, ruddy-faced and pissed as hell, decided that Lester would be my nemesis tonight. We were out and facing yet another thirty seconds of togetherness before I could even blink.
“Hey big guy, you up for some more?” I asked as I came to a stop and deliberately snowed his skates. I didn’t mean to use my flirty voice; it just happened.
“Hey squirt,” he said with a tap of his stick to my ass after a moment’s hesitation when his eyes widened at my tone.
I leaned into him. He outweighed me, I was only 175lbs to his fuck-ton in weight, but you know what they say, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Which I proved when he attempted to check me right in the boards. I sidestepped and let momentum carry him over into our bench. I caught the guys on the team roughing his face with their gloves, pretending to help him back on the ice, and all I did was skate away, a picture of pure Canadian boy innocence.
And now it was my turn to chirp, and boy, was that something I was good at.
“Enjoy visiting our bench?” I asked as we skated in tandem past the linesman watching us with an eagle eye.
“Fuck you, squirt.”
“Wow, your vocab is severely limited,” I said.
He looked at me, and I swear he growled. “Fuck you,” he said again, like he didn’t get the irony in that one.
“Not if I fuck you first,” I said, without thinking, because he was up in my space, and I could see his startling eyes, and I couldn’t think of any other way to get to him.
I skated past him, did a fancy pirouette courtesy of five years learning to become the next great figure skater, stole the puck, and got it as far as our captain. It didn’t result in a goal, but it was a damn good try.
Lester tried, but he was slow, and as I headed for the bench; he was right on my ass.
He prodded my calf with his stick, skating between me and the bench as the period ended.
“What,” he kept saying, “what the fuck did you say?” He wasn’t shouting. If anything, he looked like he was angling for an opportunity to pummel me into the ground. I’d implied a lot in that single stupid sentence, not if I fuck you first. What the hell did I say that for? I faced his rising aggression, tried to move past him, but he blocked me with his massive body, a wall of muscle that would not move.
I knew better than to poke the bear or even think of using the suggestion of sex with a guy as a weapon. Didn’t stop me though; I enjoyed needling Lester.
I feinted left, and he fell for it, allowing me to get to the bench and down the tunnel to the locker rooms.
Rusty stopped me with a hand on my arm. “What was that?” he asked.
“It’s nothing,” I said. “I just pushed him too far.”
Rusty looked at me like he wanted to ask questions, and then he shook his head. “Don’t fuck with his head,” he advised.
Of course, as soon as we were back on the ice, with Lester right there next to me, I couldn’t help myself.
“Ready Smurf?” Lester asked as he caught up with me next shift.
“That makes no sense,” I said and very deliberately looked down at my uniform. “This is scarlet and gold, not blue.”
He blinked at me and frowned like I didn’t understand his chirp. “Smurfs are small,” he blurted.
“Yep,” I agreed, “they are.”
I rolled my eyes. “You don’t say. You really are thick as shit, aren’t you.”
By the time we were out again, I knew Lester was steaming. His skating had an edge to it, a temper from his chirping and his checking getting him nowhere, and I even knew where he was coming from. I was undersized and fit every criteria that Lester would have in his head as to how easy he could crush me.
He wasn’t the first skater to be left in my wake when I escaped checks or sped away; he wouldn’t be the last either.
Next face off and he was right there again; this time, I wanted to wipe the aggression off his face and make him squirm. Especially when he looked deliberately at Candy next to me, a solid six six in skates, and asked him where I was, before looking down, and down, and saying, “Oh wait, there you are.”
That was a new one, and I nearly laughed, but hell, fuck him and all who rode the bus in with him.
“So good seeing your tight ass facing the sky up on our bench,” I said, loudly, firmly.
“What?” he snapped his head around to look at me.
I smiled benignly. “Sexy,” I added and indicated my own ass as best I could, while he stood spluttering and off-kilter. I took control of the puck from face-off and twisted my way through what seemed like a sea of dark blue jerseys and neatly, perfectly, hammered a shot that hit twine.
And just like that we were three goals up with only two minutes twenty left on the clock in the third and final period. The other team was done, tired, grumpy, with an edge of desperation, and they knew it. They tried, but we were better, and the group hug and goalie head-bop at the end of the game was the icing on the cake.
I caught Lester’s gaze focused in on me; he followed his teammates off the ice, but he was looking back, enough so that one of his teammate’s feet caught on his and he nearly went ass-over-head onto the rubber matting.
I didn’t laugh.
Well, I did, but it was internal, so that doesn’t count.
I just loved seeing that kind of confusion in tall, dark, and sexy Avery Lester. Of course, not any more than I would in any other D-man who decided they could revert to chirping about my height or my prowess, or try to push me into the boards. I certainly didn’t have any confusing thoughts about the man, or wish that he knew the secret gay handshake that meant we could hook up.
Because I would so love to ream his ass and show him how a short guy could top the fuck out of a mouthy defenseman.
Who was I kidding? I loved winding Lester up; he fell so easy for it. And yeah, if he’d ever showed any interest, I would have been all over him.