Pucked Off (The Pucked Series)(8)By: Helena Hunting
I don’t retaliate right away, aware that if I do, it’s no longer self-defense. But it’s more than that—I want this pain. I would’ve screwed these two girls and maybe gotten them to do something that, under any other circumstances, they wouldn’t have considered. This is retribution for what could’ve happened.
When Mindy throws herself between us, I’m forced to absorb the third punch—in the jaw—so she’s not on the receiving end. It feels like his fist is made of titanium. I reel and stumble back, hitting a table and knocking over chairs as I go down. The tank is on top of me before I have a chance to do anything beyond raise a defensive arm.
I’m past letting him have the advantage now, but being on the bottom makes it tough to gain leverage. He grabs me by the shirt and yanks me back up, slamming me into the table while high-pitched girl screams echo in my head. They’re joined by a hollow ringing when my head hits the wooden tabletop a second time. His fist connects with my face, and I taste blood. An elbow to the ribs and subsequent searing pain tells me tomorrow is going to hurt.
I roll to the side as Mindy comes flailing at the tank, screaming for him to stop.
No matter how much Tash has fucked me around, no matter how bad it’s been between us, it doesn’t give me the right to headfuck someone else, I remind myself. And particularly not someone else who’s already involved, even if the relationship was undisclosed and appears to be screwed.
But I’m still not willing to take any more hits now. Especially when the tank comes after me with a chair. He doesn’t get very far, though, because that’s when the police show up.
I give the police my statement while a doctor fly-bandages my eyebrow. Just because I didn’t start this doesn’t mean I’m not going to catch heat for it. I’m notorious for starting shit on the ice. I never throw the first punch, though. I’m smarter than that. I push buttons and needle players until I piss them off enough that they lose their cool.
This isn’t like a hockey fight, though. This was a brawl in a very public bar that caused more than ten thousand dollars damage. Because of Tash. Because I can’t stay away from her, and I keep letting her screw with my head. I’ll need to call my publicist to deal with the fallout, but right now I’ve got a throbbing headache, and I just want to go the fuck home.
I hate hospitals. I’ll do almost anything to avoid them. I’d rather get stitched up on the bench without any kind of painkiller than be sitting here. I’m edgy because of it, and a little panicky. Hospitals bring back all sorts of shitty memories.
The last time I was in a hospital was when Waters, our team captain, took a serious hit that knocked him unconscious. The time before that was the night my brother died.
I was eleven. He was eight. It was my fault.
The doctor wants me to stay the night for observation, but I lie and tell him I’ve got a roommate who will wake me up. I can’t stay here. I’ll lose my mind if I do.
The doctor makes me call my “roommate.” Ballistic is the most likely to wake up and answer, as well as give me the least grief over this.
As predicted, he doesn’t ask any questions, just says he’ll be there as soon as he can.
I sit in the chair rather than on the bed while I wait. I stare at the empty mattress and fall back into memories I’ve tried to bury for years, but can’t.
We were going to be late. It was my fault because I’d been screwing around, playing ball hockey with some of the guys after school even though my mum said to come right home. Now we’d have to run if we were going to make it.
Quinn wasn’t a fast runner, though, so he kept falling behind, and he was whining about being out of breath. He had asthma, so I slowed down and found his puffer in his bag.
There was a shortcut we could take, but my mum always told us never to go that way, ’cause it was through a bad part of town. It’d cut ten minutes off our walk, though, and then we wouldn’t be late and Quinn wouldn’t have to run.
“Don’t tell her we came this way,” I ordered. “We’ll get in trouble if we’re late.”