Chapter 1: The Devil Has Risen: Adam 1 THE DEVIL HAS RISEN Adam
“I FUCKED UP.”
The slurred words are buried in my pillow, where there’s definitely not a warm pile of drool gathering. There’s a steady beat pounding in my head, and I flip over, squeezing my eyes shut at the bright sunlight burning like laser beams through my bedroom window.
My fuckup revolves around the reason for the headache beating at my skull: the amount of alcohol I consumed last night, and Carter.
Fucking Carter. The reason behind 99 percent of my fuckups, especially of the alcohol-fueled variety.
Hence the video that’s currently the hot topic in our hockey group chat, Puck Sluts, when I manage to find my phone.
What’s the video of? Me, upside down and holding on to a keg of beer while my teammates Emmett and Garrett hold me by the legs, Jaxon videotapes, and Carter holds the spout in my mouth, shit-talking me to keep me going. And who are the Puck Sluts? Us, obviously.
Garrett: U still sleeping, Woody?
Woody’s a shortened version of my last name, Lockwood. Oh, and, uh, also ’cause the guys once caught me jerking off in my hotel room. Not my proudest moment, and one they won’t let go. But hey, I was, like, fifteen hundred miles away from my girlfriend, and only nineteen. Sue a guy for trying to get some relief.
Carter: sleeping off his hangover like a wittle baby, just like my wittle girl
Attached is a picture of his five-month-old daughter, Ireland, every ounce as sweet as her dad is annoying.
Carter: even ollie is up n she did 3 keg stands. get it together.
Okay, well, that’s not fair. His wife, Olivia, is a champ when it comes to drinking, even though she’s barely the size of the pup cup I get at Starbucks for my dog. Plus, I deserve to blow off some steam. My friends are all settling down, except for Jaxon, and we aren’t anywhere close to being on the same level. He goes on multiple dates a month to get laid; I go on multiple dates to come home alone, disappointed, and tired of looking for something that’s probably not even out there at this point. Not for me, anyway.
Emmett: You guys up for a rollerblade sesh this AM?
Garrett: 30 mins? Jennie’s about to take me for a ride.
Carter: fuck. u.
Garrett: Rather fuck ur sister.
Carter: i’m gonna fucking kill u
Emmett: Dad??? This is where you interject.
I’m Dad, and my unofficial job is to keep Carter and Garrett safe from each other. Carter’s still coming to terms with one of his best friends dating his little sister, and Garrett’s turned into a bit of an antagonizing shit who loves to throw in his face that he’s regularly nailing Jennie. It’s super entertaining to see someone annoy Carter as much as he annoys the rest of us, but I’m not physically capable of keeping them both alive today.
Me: I’m letting natural selection take its course today.
Garrett: WTF? Ur just gonna let Carter come after me?
Jaxon: Don’t know if I can make it. Think I pulled my groin. Also, RIP Gare-Bear.
Emmett: Doing what?
Jaxon: *smirking emoji* you mean doing who
Groaning, I swing my legs over the edge of the bed and sit up. All the blood rushes to my head, and I press my fingers to the throbbing ache in my temples before typing out my next message, which is more a beg than anything. I simply cannot function today without eating enough to feed a family of four.
Me: Fuck. Big Macs, please.
The boys are eager to fuck the rollerblading and go to McDonald’s instead, so I crank the shower in my bathroom to wash away what I can of this hangover before drowning the rest in greasy burgers and salty fries.
My dick stands tall, bobbing against my belly button, begging me to take care of my morning woody. When I step beneath the warm water and wrap my fist around my cock, my other palm flat against the marbled wall, I drop my head and groan.
I’ve been fucking my hand for so long now, I don’t even remember what it feels to be inside of someone. And honestly? I’m tired. It’s not the sex I miss but the connection. My person used to be my whole world, above hockey, above everything.
And in a single moment, she shattered that world.
She took so many pieces of me and threw them to her feet, ground them to dust beneath her pointy-as-fuck heels.
I don’t miss her. I miss the love that was once there, the body I held against mine each night, the way my heart soared every time she smiled at me. I miss the way she loved me before she…
She stopped, and now I don’t know if I’ll ever find someone who loves me for me.
Not Adam Lockwood, superstar goalie. Not the NHL’s golden boy, the ticket to luxury, A-list events, vacation properties, and never having to work another day in your life.
I shake away the thoughts at the same moment I realize my cock has gone limp. Chuckling, I grab the soap and lather up. Nothing kills a boner faster than thinking about Courtney.
When I step out of the shower, I realize my dog, Bear, isn’t in my room. He’s usually attached to my hip, all one-hundred-and-forty pounds of him, and enjoys when I’ve been drinking because I get extra cuddly. My phone says it’s after ten, so the poor guy is probably practicing his best dramatics, playing dead at his bowl in the kitchen.
I pull on a pair of boxer briefs and jog down the stairs, not pausing at the sound of dishes clanging in the kitchen. It’s typical to wake up to a few teammates still around the morning after a party, but I don’t expect the leggy blonde strutting down the hallway, right toward me. She finishes applying her pink lip gloss as her eyes roam over me, standing here mostly naked. “Thanks for the fun, handsome.” With her hand on my torso, she presses a lingering kiss to my cheek, making it heat.
“Uh…” I run my hand through my mussed curls. “I don’t know who you… what… fun?”
“All of it.” She winks, steps into a pair of red heels, and takes off, leaving me super-fucking confused.
No, because I wouldn’t ever do that. Right? And if I did, I’d definitely remember. Sex with a stranger? Not me, not in my right mind.
Unless I wasn’t in my right mind.
I shake my head, sighing when I spot Bear at the edge of the kitchen. “There you are, buddy.”
Chocolate eyes flick to me, heavy with disdain.
Sinking to my knees, I bury my fingers in his thick, dark fur. “I know. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to lock you out of bed, and I’m late for breakfast. I had too much to drink last night. Forgive me?”
He huffs, licks my nose, and goes right back to glaring.
Except it’s not me he’s glaring at.
Following his stare over my shoulder, my heart stalls at the bare legs at my stove. I track the long limbs up, to my Vipers tee that barely covers her ass. Up farther, to the vibrant red hair falling down her back as she fucking cooks in my kitchen.
“He’s being super grumpy this morning,” a chipper voice tells me as she adds bacon to the sizzling frying pan. “I made his breakfast an hour ago, but he hasn’t touched it. Just keeps staring at me.”
Rising slowly, I glare at the back of the fiery redhead, waiting for it to, oh, I dunno… combust? My fists clench, blood thundering in my ears. Bear climbs to his feet at my side, a low growl rumbling in his chest.
“There he goes again with the growling. You’re babying him too much, Adam. You always have.”
“Get the fuck out of my house.”
My ex-girlfriend spins, patronizing blue eyes pinning me with a pout I used to crumble for.
“Is that any way to talk to me, honey?” She saunters over, fingertips sliding through my patch of chest hair before her palm curves around my neck. “Once upon a time, this house was mine too.”
“And then you fucked someone else in my bed.” I had to get a new mattress, and Carter talked me into the outrageously expensive one I sleep on now. A win-win, really, all things considered.
She slings an arm around my neck, giving me those big blue eyes I used to love. “If you’d paid me more attention, I wouldn’t have looked for it elsewhere. But I’m willing to move past it if you are.” Her lower lip slides between her teeth. “You seemed willing last night when you let me in.”
Let her in? Drunk or sober, there’s no fucking way I’d let this she-devil into my home.
I sort through last night’s memories as I pry her arm off me but come up empty. “I didn’t let you in.”
“Then how did I get in here, Adam? Why am I in your T-shirt, making breakfast in your kitchen?”
“Beats me. Witches have all kinds of superpowers, I’ve heard.” Pushing by her, I turn off the stovetop and shift the pan off the burner, jaw clenched.
This isn’t the quiet girl whose hand was clammy when I reached for it on our first date. Not the woman I gave my virginity to at seventeen. Not the partner I built dreams with, shaped my life around.
Soft hands glide slowly down my back, and I close my eyes as she wraps her arms around my waist, stepping into me.
“I miss you,” Courtney whispers. “Please, Adam. We can be happy again.” Warm lips touch my shoulder, and for a moment, I sink into the connection.
I want something. I want to be needed. Appreciated. Loved.
No, I don’t just want it. I fucking crave it.
And she can’t give me any of that.
“I deserve more.” Turning, I pull her arms away and take her chin in my hand, forcing her eyes to mine, making sure she hears my words. This will be the last time I speak them. “I deserve more than what you can give me, Courtney. I deserve better.”
And I’ll find it.
Her eyes widen, glossing over as she shakes her head. “No. Adam, no.”
“Yes. There’s nothing left. Walk away, and don’t come back.”
I walk forward, forcing her down the hall, until her back hits my front door.
Her expression holds all the betrayal of a master manipulator. “How can you throw away everything we had? I’ve given you so much time to get over this, Adam. Why can’t you get over this?”
Does anybody ever really get over coming home to his girlfriend screwing another guy in their bed, the engagement ring he’d planned to give her tucked in his underwear drawer?
I open the closet, finding her purse and shoes tucked neatly inside, like she’d already decided on staying. I shove them into her hands and look at the shirt she’s wearing. I don’t want to know how she got her hands on that. “Give me my fucking shirt, and leave.”
Her gaze darkens, and she tugs the shirt over her head, chucking it to my feet.
“Jesus Christ,” I mutter as she stands before me, stark naked.
“Might as well get a good look,” Courtney snaps, tearing a dress from her purse. She slips it over her head before stepping into panties. “It’ll be the last time you ever see this body.”
She gasps, and her palm strikes my cheek.
I whip open the front door. “Get out.”
Bear barks his agreement at my side, making Courtney jump.
She steps onto the porch and opens her mouth, but before she can use it, I slam the door in her face.
Bear nudges my thigh with his wet nose. He smiles up at me, tongue hanging out his mouth, and I bark a laugh.
“I thought it was a nightmare too,” I tell him, scratching his ears and heading back to the kitchen. “How else does Voldemort show up here?”
Bear woofs, prancing ahead to devour his breakfast while I survey the disaster before me. The inside of my house isn’t too bad, but I cringe at the sight of my backyard. Floating unicorns litter my pool, and among them, two giant inflatable penises Carter and Emmett were sword fighting with at one point. Thank you very much, Cara, for bringing those. Red cups are scattered across the yard, a few haphazard bikinis, even though I don’t remember a single naked girl in my pool last night. In fact, Jaxon’s the only one who threatened to take off his bathing suit.
Cleaning is last on the list of things I want to do right now. I’m desperate for a Big Mac, or five, so I head upstairs to dress, forgoing the mess.
One of the bedroom doors opens, and Jaxon slips out, tugging a shirt over his head. He grins, shoving his fingers through his hair before hiding it beneath a ball cap. “Where’d you disappear to last night?”
“You dropped off the face of the earth, bud. Figured you went to bed. You don’t remember? Those keg stands really fucked you, huh?”
I rub my temple. “I haven’t done a keg stand since high school.”
“And yet you let Carter talk you into doing three of them.”
I let Carter talk me into a lot of things when I’ve been drinking, because he has a way of making most things sound like ingenious ideas. Last night excluded, obviously, because I’m still trying to figure out how and when Courtney got in here.
“Hey, did you happen to see a redhead here last night?” Jaxon only joined our team last year, so he never had the displeasure of meeting Courtney. He’s also the only other single guy in our group, so if anyone was around long enough last night to notice her, it’d be him.
“Redhead? Is this the devil you were referring to last night?”
He shrugs. “Yeah, we were in the pool with some girls after Carter, Garrett, and Em left, and a new wave of people showed up. All of a sudden, your eyes got all huge and you said, ‘Holy fuck. The devil has risen.’ Then you jumped out of the pool, said, ‘I was never here,’ and ran away like your ass was on fire.”
Shit. Okay, so she was definitely here. I shudder at the thought, but at least I’m certain I’d never touch her again, no matter what she insinuated. But what about that blonde from earlier? The one who thanked me for the, um… fun. Was she talking about the party, or…?
“You didn’t, uh, see… I mean, I didn’t, uh… did I”—I clear my throat into my fist—“sleep with anyone last night?”
Jaxon’s brows dip before laughter explodes from his chest. “Dude, how would I know? I wasn’t sitting outside your door. I was busy.”
Right on time, pink nails land on his torso, slipping beneath his shirt. A little blonde peeks around his side, and Jaxon whispers, “Mornin’, baby,” before pressing his lips to hers.
“Call me.” She tucks a piece of paper into his hand, smiles up at me, and kisses my cheek. “Thanks for the party, Aaron.”
“Adam,” I mumble as she walks by. I turn back to Jaxon, lifting my brows at his irritating grin. “You can’t go a single—” My jaw drops, a brunette popping out from behind him. He calls her baby, too, when she leaves him her number. I shake my head. “No.”
He grins wider. “Yes.”
Unbelievably, a third girl with jet black hair steps out, another baby, another number. I’m 99 percent sure he’s only calling them baby because he doesn’t remember their names.
Still, my jaw drops a little lower. “No.”
“My parents sleep there when they visit! That’s a new mattress! I just bought it!”
“It’s been christened for their next visit. Deacon and Bev can thank me later.”
He follows me to my room, telling me about his wild night as I tug on shorts and a T-shirt. That shit goes in one ear and right out the other, and I drop an elbow to my dresser and open my Tinder inbox. The bright red bubble telling me I have ninety-seven waiting messages spikes my blood pressure. I ignore them and navigate to the third one on the list.
Alessia: Can’t wait to c u tonight *kiss emoji*
The kiss emoji throws me for a loop. We haven’t met in person, so it feels a little forward. Carter says I’m just old fashioned, but I don’t know.
Me: Me too. See you at 7. *smiling emoji*
Alessia: *kiss emoji* *kiss emoji*
I tuck my phone away, trying not to catastrophize. I’m already regretting tonight’s date, but to be fair, life’s been one dumpster fire after another for the last fifteen months or so.
I look down at Bear. “Food, then hikes?”
He licks his nose and rushes from the room.
Jaxon grins. “Big Macs?”
“Fucking Big Macs.”