Excerpt, Chapter One

Chapter One - Anthony

"It was a dark and stormy night...." -- Charles Schultz

Well, goddammit, it was dark, anyhow. Dark enough for me to trip over the hockey sticks and other various pieces of my equipment that had found their way out the front door and into the night. Most of the contents of my hockey bag and part of the front hall closet were now littering the steps and snow-covered lawn. I cussed as I made my way through the pads and sticks and pucks, even as I was trying to avoid a concussion if I fell to the icy ground.

I sighed and looked up at the second floor bedroom window, our bedroom window, dreading what shit had hit the fan since I'd left that morning, sensing how much trouble I was in with my Josie, and looked again at the hockey equipment that defined my life, now scattered across the snow.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. My name is Anthony Vitale, and I play hockey. Well, what passes for hockey in the Central Canadian Hockey League. The Saskatoon Wolves, in particular. It's nothing that people would ever mistake for the NHL, but then again, neither am I. Having rid myself of the delusions of my youth, the ones making me the next Jeremy Roenick, Mike Modano, or God forbid, Wayne Gretzky, I settled in to life in the CCHL and did my thing; played hockey, chased after women, and drank too much beer.

I am a decent 2nd line center for our sometimes playoff-bound hockey team, racking up far too many penalty minutes to ever consistently play on the first line. And had things not happened the way they did, I’d be playing for the Chicago Blackhawks by now, as proud as anyone to wear the classic Indian head on my chest. But a knee on knee hit one night in Moosejaw took care of any future I might have had in the NHL, and no amount of rehab was going to bring me back to where I’d been before. Over time, I’ve come to terms with that, I really have. Of course, it might be part of the reason for the number of women and the amount of liquor in my life, but I wouldn’t count on it.

I was brought up to be a good little Italian boy. I was. Really. I was Scouts Canada Beaver and an altar boy, and spent much more time than I cared to at Kamloops Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. I helped out my old man at our family’s bed and breakfast, cleaning rooms and mowing lawns and carting eggplant in from the garden until I thought my hands would turn purple. No lurid past, no skeletons in my closet, just my Mom on my ass to stay out of trouble and Dad breathing down my neck to be sure I didn’t get anyone else into trouble either. So what the hell happened?

Maybe I got into the game too young. I started skating before I was three years old, and had a hockey stick in my hand less than a year later. It wasn’t long before I was playing in peewees, and Mom, bless her heart, was driving me to rinks before most people were out of bed with their morning coffee.

Soon I was spending more time on the ice than I did at home, and had more hockey bad boys to look up to that any little kid could stand. So I guess I could probably claim I was influenced by too many bad companions. Or I could say that my coaches didn't give me proper supervision, even though it wouldn't be true. Thousands of kids all across Canada start out playing hockey just like I did, and I’d bet that there aren’t very damned many that end up with their lives as screwed up as mine. But hell, there must be someone or something I can blame for the mess my life has become.

Been on the road with this gig for what, 16 years now? Almost half my life. Schlepping my shit from bus to crummy hotel room, to and from drafty past-their-prime arenas, back and forth across Canada's frozen tundra in the dead of winter. Nothing to do in those crummy hotel rooms either, but look at my beat-up roommate with his missing teeth, play poker with the married guys down the hall, or invite the more-than-willing puckbunnies up from the lobby for something warm in my bed. You spend more nights on the road than at home, most of them in fleabag motels in places like Thunder Bay, Ontario in the middle of January, and then tell me you wouldn’t have done the exact same thing. Puckbunny-wise, that is.

Ah, puckbunnies. They exist in every sport, I suppose, under different names. The girls hanging out at the ice arenas dressed for a night at the club. The bleached blondes with the surgically enhanced cleavage hovering in the hotel bars. The old-enough-to-know-better women yanking up their shirts and flashing the team bus as we leave the arenas after a game. Girls.. women, I suppose.... who know nothing more about hockey than wanting to fuck a hockey player. Women who think that a two-line pass is a come-on with two sentences and a blue line is that crap they put across their eyelids. Sometimes I felt like I was just another notch on their bedposts instead of the other way around.

And it’s not that I ever thought of myself as some kind of hockey sex god, irresistible to women. It was never that. OK, so my nose doesn’t look too bad and my teeth are all fixed and I don’t have any nasty looking scars in places that show when I’m dressed, but I’m not ever going to be posing in GQ with the hockey pretty boys of the world. If women chased after me, I just figured it was a generic fuck-the-athlete kind of attraction. It never had anything to do with me personally, or with them.

Training camp traditionally marks the beginning of puckbunny season, and that was always when my troubles began. Let’s be fair, I never slept with any of the local puckbunnies when I was home in Saskatoon. It was only on road trips, away games, cold nights in run-down motels far away from home ice. I’m not making excuses for my shitty behavior, but I’m just another hockey player taking advantage of a few willing women, I’m not Jack the fucking Ripper. And I had given them up when I met Josie. I had. All of them. I’d kept my promises, I’d walked the straight and narrow, and I’d behaved myself, all for the love of a redhead. Until now.

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Chapter One of "Eventually Yours."
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Excerpt Two, Chapter One

It had been pointed out to me, repeatedly, by friends and teammates alike, that Josie had been around for quite some time and I had just been too busy skirt-chasing bad-tempered big-boobed blondes to notice her. In fact, Josie had even told me that herself, on more than one occasion. But they were wrong. She was wrong. I had noticed her from the start, from the very first moment I saw her, that first night she’d appeared at the arena and took a seat down on the glass back behind the face-off circle. Not, of course, that I would ever have admitted it.

It had been a weekend game at the beginning of the season almost three years before, and too early in the evening for much of a crowd to have arrived. I saw them come in, the wives and the girlfriends and a redhead with a impossibly short skirt and long legs encased in dark purple tights. I couldn’t miss the tights; they were the same awful purple as the logo on the front of my Wolves jersey. I told myself that was why I was staring, even though it would have been a lie. She had great legs, purple or not, that appeared to go all the way up to her armpits. The skirt, what there was of it, hung only a few inches beneath her jersey, showing off even more of those long purple legs.

The girls came all the way down the stairs to sit on the glass near the face-off circle and wait for the pre-game warm-up, waving at their respective significant others. Except for the redhead. She sipped her beer and didn’t wave at anyone. I hiked my left skate up on the boards in front of the bench, stretching first to the left and then to the right, switching legs and stretching again, trying to look past my Captain and friend, Vinnie Coletti. He was standing betwen me and the new arrivals, waving at his new bride Gina, one of the women on the glass, like a lovestruck school kid, hockey glove and all. Newlyweds. So fucking typical. And he was in my way, dammit, standing directly in front of Gina’s friend with the purple tights. Finally, he moved, skating his usual figure eights from the red line to the goalie and back again.

Her hair was auburn, I noticed then, not red, and the color of oak leaves in October. I straightened up, pretending to inspect the tape on my stick blade while I stared at her. Gina had driven to Calgary to save her friend from some ex asshole boyfriend, Vinnie had told me. But he hadn’t said anything more. While I watched, Josie leaned to talk to Gina, and her long hair, hanging in waves past her shoulders, fell down to cover half the logo on the front of her jersey. She looked up and caught me staring, and God help me, I winked at her. I couldn’t stop myself. I was hypnotized and it was making the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Vinnie skated past me toward the bench and nudged me hard, bringing me back to earth. I tore my eyes from the redhead’s face and glared at my friend and Captain. He was scowling at me.

“That’s Gina’s friend, Josie. You leave her alone, do you hear me? Don’t make me have to break you in half. You’re leading the team in assists, I don’t want to be forced to hurt you.” He said it so calmly and quietly, it was a little jarring. I gulped.

“Oh? I hadn’t noticed,” I lied. So what, I thought at the time. It wasn’t like I was going to sleep with her, I was just looking. She wasn’t my type, anyhow, with that red-brown hair and those dark chocolate eyes. Hair that color should be giving off heat, for Christ’s sake. I had always been partial to icy blondes that filled out their jerseys a little more. Not that any of the women I slept with even owned a hockey jersey, let alone actually wore one. But damn, she did have great legs. I looked again, and she was heading back up the stairs, that few inches of skirt hanging from underneath the Wolves jersey. The view from the back was just as great as it had been from the front. Yeah, I lied, all right. Vinnie wasn’t just my friend, he was my Captain. So I lied.

Of course, I wasn’t really fooling anyone. Except maybe Josie, I seemed to have fooled her for a long time. But Vinnie knew. And Gina. They knew that I had fallen in love with Josie even before I did. “Eyes don’t lie,” Gina had told me. “Eyes don’t lie.” Just watching Josie from the ice that season had given me away.

We hope you liked this excerpt from
Chapter One of "Eventually Yours."
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Excerpt, Chapter Two

Chapter Two - Josephine

"Men are so stupid. " -- Cowboy Bebop

I knew I was hooked for good, forever, the night I drove all the way to Calgary for an away game. Three hundred and eighty-eight lousy miles, 625 kilometers, wearing his Saskatoon Wolves jersey far into enemy territory. It wasn’t like I hadn’t gotten beer dumped on me before, I was even spit at once for wearing his jersey to an away game in Regina.

I hadn’t asked him what he’d thought about me going to a game that far away, I hadn’t even told him. But Calgary was a long way to come home from with my tail between my legs if he wasn’t going to be happy about me being there. And he certainly didn’t seem to be. He shot me his crankiest kicking-ass-and-taking-names look from center ice at the pre-game warm-ups, and proceeded to make an ass of himself for the rest of the game, finally getting tossed in the third period just for being a jerk. I had obviously pissed him off, my presence so far from home implying something in our relationship that he didn’t believe existed. I felt as stupid and small as I had when the Ex had railed against me for not doing his laundry correctly or buttoning his dress shirts at the collar before putting them in the closet. I debated fleeing back to Saskatoon then and there, driving nonstop cross country in the dead of night, but decided to stop for coffee at JJ’s Pub, maybe even getting a cheap hotel room to get some rest before running home to hide from extreme embarrassment.

Tony looked awful, really awful. I was shocked at how damned awful he looked. He was sitting in the corner at JJ’s sulking over a beer, his nose bloody and stitched up and his eyes heading toward black. That damned lock of hair was falling down over his forehead, and his shirt collar was hidden under black waves once again threatening to reach his shoulders. The fingers wrapped around his beer bottle were red and battered. As upset as I was at getting glared at and then ignored after driving over six hundred kilometers in the snow, I’d ventured over to politely ask him how he felt. I knew I’d stepped over the invisible boundaries of our friendship, traveling across the country for an away game like some kind of puckbunny on his trail, but the damage was already done. At least it appeared to be when he ripped my head off and I had to flee the bar without even finishing my coffee, if only to save myself the humiliation of bursting into tears in front of his teammates and the locals.

It wasn’t as if I’d walked over and gushed over him, or sat in his lap, or ooohed and aaahed over the wonder of his stitches and the scar they would produce, which had been done in my presence more than once. After all, I wasn’t one of those women who yanked up their jerseys and asked for autographs across their push-up-bra-enhanced cleavage, or leaned over in an overly tight overly skimpy blouse so that everything I had fell out the top to greet him. All I did was ask how he was. I had feared his unhappiness about my cross-Canada trek, but I wasn’t prepared for the nasty snarl I got in response to my concern.

“Are you okay?” I almost whispered. I was afraid to get too close to him, hovering at the furthest edge of the table. His nose looked so awful, so painful, I was afraid to speak any louder. It was hard to keep the tears from springing to my eyes, he looked that damned bad.

Tony grunted and sipped his beer. “What are you doing here?” he had finally snapped at me. He didn’t even look up at me. Surprisingly, I was thankful for that.

“I came to see the hockey game.” I gulped. It was a bald-faced lie. I’d driven 6 hours across Canada in the snow to see him.

“Yeah. Well, leave me the fuck alone, will ya? I don’t need you to fucking fuss over me, goddammit. Who asked you to come all this way anyhow?”

“I’m sorry, I just…” I never got to finish before he started bellowing at me to leave him alone and mind my own business, that he didn’t need my goddamned fussing. So I turned and left him sitting there, wallowing in his self pity. He was being an ass, and I was furious with him, and with myself for letting him upset me. Angry tears were burning my eyes and it was all I could do to carry on a conversation with one of the puckbunny locals, smiling and sipping my coffee, gritting my teeth, trying to keep flames from bursting from under my eyelids. Finally, I faked an exaggerated yawn and told my second lie of the night, insisting that I needed to find a hotel room for the night before heading back to Saskatoon in the morning. I gathered up my coat and my purse, and restrained myself as best I could from running out the front door. Once I hit the sidewalk, though, all bets were off, and I hurried across the frozen parking lot as quickly as the ice slicked surface would permit, finally allowing the tears to stream down my face. Damn him, damn him to hell.

At that moment, I could safely say that I hated Tony Vitale completely and without reservation, and briefly entertained the thought of never attending another hockey game as long as I lived, peewee, minor or pro. As much as I loved the sport, at that moment, I hated him far more. I hated the way his hair waved down over his collar. I hated his jade green eyes that looked right through me. I hated the way his long fingers had curled around that goddamned bottle of beer, his knuckles scraped and red from his latest fight.  I kicked the side of my VW bus in frustration and held on to my keys with both shaking hands, steering them toward the door lock and blinking fast to clear the tears out of my eyes. I missed.

 We hope you liked this excerpt from
Chapter One of "Eventually Yours."
The full novel will be available
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Excerpt, Chapter Two

"Josie, don't hang up. It's Vinnie."



"If you're calling to defend that piece of shit you call a friend, don't bother."


"I'm not defending him, Josie. I don’t know if I can even forgive him. But he loves you, Red. You have to talk to him. He loves you, he’s sorry."


"Of course he says that. It's one of the rules. It's on page 152 in the ‘Big Book of Guy Things’."


"Very funny, girl. Talk to him, will you? You two belong together. You can work this out.”


"I can't think, Vinnie, I can’t think. And I can't stop puking." My voice broke and the tears almost started again. It was only by sheer force of will that I stopped them.


Vinnie’s tone changed. “’Don’t cry anymore, Josie. Please don’t cry. It’ll all work out, it will. It’s fixable. We’ll fix it. He’ll fix it.”


I sniffled, still willing myself to calm down. “You knew about this all along, didn’t you, Vinnie. You didn’t even tell Gina.” I unceremoniously wiped my nose on my shirt sleeve and sniffled again.


"Josie, please talk to him. I'm sure he has an explanation." Vinnie ignored my comment about him not telling Gina, and I didn’t push him, not really in the mood for one of his “certain things are kept in the locker room” speeches.


"I'm sure he does," I said dryly. "I just don’t know if I’m ready to hear it quite yet. I'll talk to you later, Vinnie." I hung up, debating on whether to turn the phone off and hide it back under the pillows. No, I thought, Tony would never have the nerve to call, not after Vinnie tells him what I said. And I knew Vinnie would, word for word.


I got back up then, the equipment littering the front lawn nagging at my brain. I pulled on boots and a jacket and went outside, gathering up all of Tony’s sticks, trying to find pucks in the dark, saving the lucky sweatshirt from a snowbank along the driveway. Why did I feel guilty? Was I crazy? I was out in the cold, in the snow, at 3 o’clock in the fucking morning, feeling bad because I pitched all of Tony’s stupid hockey shit out into the yard while he was over at Vinnie’s crying in his beer. Why did I care that he had a game tomorrow? Why was I worried about his damned $170 Eastons out in the front yard? Yes, I was crazy. I dragged his things into the garage, stacking the sticks and pucks and pads against the wall, draping the sweatshirt over the top like it was some goddamned shrine. Damn him. Damn him to hell.


I remembered the first time I’d littered the front yard with hockey equipment. It was the end of a long road trip two years before, the Wolves had clinched a playoff spot, and the team had partied its way from Saskatoon to Red Deer to Moosejaw and back. It was always worse when the team was winning. People thought that movie  “Slapshot” was so exaggerated, but unfortunately, I knew better. I’d been there the night a convertible full of topless puckbunnies drove by, baring all to the cold night air for the sake of the team.  And again, when the girls in the Calgary hotel lobby, practically pantiless beneath their short skirts, gave the rest of us more of a view than we cared to have while they distributed hugs and invitations to the guys coming off the team bus.


When Tony had finally arrived back in Saskatoon, hung over and bits of grey threatening his three day beard, he still reeked of some other woman’s cheap perfume and kept asking me if the earring in his pocket belonged to me.  I’d insisted that he find somewhere else to clean up, and definitely somewhere else to spend the night, unceremoniously pushing him back out the door and sending his equipment bag flying out in the snow after him. And predictably, he didn’t have any idea what he’d done wrong. Not then, and probably not now either.



Frozen, I went back in the house and crawled back under the comforter, still fully dressed, marveling that I'd gotten through the entire day without a drop of alcohol. Then again, I guessed that I'd done enough barfing already. Stranger still, I knew that no matter what Tony had done, that I still loved him. And that nothing that had happened in the course of the day had changed that. I drifted off to sleep with a new mantra beating in my head. Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.

 We hope you liked this excerpt from
Chapter One of "Eventually Yours."
The full novel will be available
for purchase and download soon!