Icing (Aces Hockey #1)(10)

By: Kelly Jamieson

None of the guys was as big as he was. He wasn’t worried about any of them. “You need to apologize to her,” he said to the dude in his grip.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” the guy’s friend said, and took a swing at Duncan.

“Oh my God!” Amber cried.

Duncan released the asshole with a little shove, fast enough to block the punch from the other man and give him a shot in the abdomen that had him doubling over. Two additional guys rushed him and he shoved one back, punched the other in the nose, then hit the first guy as he came back at him. The heat of adrenaline flashed through Duncan’s veins.

Chairs toppled, shouts filled the room, and Duncan deflected another shot and punched again. The guy ended up on the floor.

“Oh my God!” Amber cried again, eyes wide, hands to her mouth. “Stop!”

She grabbed hold of Duncan’s arm and tried to pull him away, and then she gave a sharp cry. Duncan glanced at her. Fuck! That dickhead’s punch had hit her instead of him.

Amber staggered back, hand to her face.

“Asshole! You fucking hit her!” He laid another blow on the guy whose fist had just connected with Amber’s face.

More people crowded around now, including his teammates, who’d each taken one of the shithead dudes and held them back. It was part of their bro code—if a buddy is outnumbered, outmanned, or too drunk to defend himself, you must jump into the fight. He was probably all three of the above. Now it was a bench-clearing brawl and there was no way any of these other guys was going to get the best of them.

“You guys are outta here,” Rupper yelled. “I own this place. Stop this shit right now!”

Duncan gave the guy he was fighting with a shove away from him and stepped back, hands in the air. Three guys were on the floor, and a few others who were wrestling also stopped.

Elliott, the manager Rupper’d hired to run the place, appeared.

“What the hell?” Elliott shouted. “Do I need to call the cops?”

“No need for the cops,” Duncan said. “Sorry, Elliott.”

“We got it, man,” Rupper told his manager. “Jesus Christ.”

“He started it!” the asshole who’d grabbed Amber yelled.

“What are you, two?” Duncan snorted dismissively. “You put your hands on a lady. I told you to stop. Your asshole friends rushed me. Phht.”

Things got sorted out. The guys paid their tab, chairs were righted, the table cleared. Amber had picked up her tray and disappeared.

Duncan searched the room for her, and spotted her behind the bar, looking very unhappy. He made his way over there.

“Hey,” he said. “You okay?”

She gave him a dirty look that he couldn’t fail to recognize as contempt. “I’m fine.”

His gaze dropped to her hands, which were trembling as she reached for a glass. “Are you sure? You got punched in the face.” He paused. “By shit-for-brains.”

She touched her left cheekbone. “It wasn’t hard. It startled me more than anything. I’m fine. Go on back to your friends.” Disdain edged her words. “You did not need to do that.”

“I was helping you.”

She shook her head, her pretty mouth tight. “I don’t need help. I can look after myself. There was no need to start a brawl and make a big scene.”

“I didn’t start it,” he protested. “I was just trying to get you away from that jerk. And tell him to apologize.”

“I could have handled it myself.” She took a deep breath. “Look. I just got this job. I don’t need to get fired for starting a brawl.”

“It wasn’t your fault!” Jesus, he’d tried to do a good deed, and what the fuck, she was pissed off at him? And how the hell was she going to handle it while the guy had her on his lap and his hands all over her? “And you’re not going to lose your job. Rupper won’t fire you over that.”

“Apparently he’s a friend of yours. You didn’t mention that earlier.”

“Uh…it didn’t come up.”

She rolled her eyes. “Whatever.”

He paused, studying her. “I was about to come over and see if you’d go out with me when that happened.”

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