I halted when I cleared the kitchen, noting the array of boxes piled in the dining room. A weight sank on top of my chest.
He came out of our bedroom, hefting another huge box in his arms. He made his way down the stairs and set it on top of another one in the dining room.
“Axel, what’s going on?”
“What do you think?” he grumbled.
“Are you…do you have to go back to Sweden? I thought your brother was recovering well. Lukas said—”
“So you could speak to Lukas regarding my family, but not bother trying to talk to me? Too busy, huh?”
I gaped at him. “You’re not going to let me explain?”
“There is nothing to explain,” he said, his voice like liquid ice. “This was never more than a contract to you. One where you got guilt-free sex and got your boss the Reaper he wanted. Good job, Langley.”
A broken sound ripped from my lips, and he flinched.
“You know that isn’t true!”
“Do I?” He was shaking, all the muscles in his body coiling and trembling. “You’ve never said it. Never said you loved me. Hell, I don’t think you’ve ever told me you liked me.”
“I…Axel, please.” The words were choked, my head spinning. His harsh words slicing through me like the sharpest blade. “You know me.”
“I thought I did.” He raked his fingers through his long hair, his eyes lingering on mine for a breath. “I’ll send someone for these boxes,” he said, kneeling down to pet Slytherin and Hufflepuff, who pounced at his ankles. “The divorce papers are on the counter. You’re free.” He stood, sparing me one broken glance before walking through the house.
“Axel, please,” I begged, tears choking my words. “Please.”
The front door opened and shut.
I heard his car start and roar down the street.
My hand flew to my chest like I could stop my heart from shattering.
Porter shot the puck up the boards just before the Hurricane’s wing got to him. Two left in the third period, and we were tied.
This one wasn’t about the record. Despite the losses we’d suffered while both Cannon and I were out, we’d clawed our way back into first place in our division and second in the conference. No, this was about pride.
And I’d lost enough in the last three weeks. I wasn’t losing this game.
Every ref call had gone against us in the three weeks since Cannon decked one of their own, and there was nothing I could do to change their minds out there on the ice. Good thing no one but me, Porter, and Noble—the assistant captains—were allowed to talk to the refs, because I had a feeling the refs wouldn’t just talk to Cannon Price.
I switched directions, my legs pumping to carry me across the ice. Cannon caught the puck and shot forward, evading the Hurricane center as he crossed over the blue line. The defender came at him, and he flicked the puck over to me.
I made contact on my stick and took it straight for their goalie. In my peripherals, I saw both Lukas and Cannon covered by defenders and figured I had only seconds before their center caught up to me.
Faking, I threw my weight—and the goalie—to the right, only to deke and shoot stick-side off my backhand. It hit the back of the net and the lamp lit.
I threw up my hands, pumping my fist as Lukas tackled me with a hug. On the line change, I tapped the quarter-sized area just behind my shoulder, where Tage’s number had been embroidered by the Reaper staff. I’d keep it there, mostly hidden by my hair, until my brother was back on the ice, carrying him on my back just like I’d promised.
As I hit the bench for the line change, I glanced toward the family box, where the Reaper wives and kids stood cheering. Naturally, Langley wasn’t in there. She’d be behind the scenes, making sure everything ran smoothly. Half the time I never knew if she even saw me skate.
But it wasn’t like I watched her handle the media, so I couldn’t really get offended.
Not that I had anything to be offended about now, anyway. As of tomorrow, we’d be divorced. At least once she signed the papers, we would be.
She’d be free to pursue her dreams.
And I’d already lived mine.
The buzzer sounded, and I went through the motions of the victory, but it didn’t taste as sweet as it had before when I had Langley waiting for me.
I hit the showers, packed up my bag, and headed for the press room to do the post-game interviews. This was one piece of being captain that I could live without.
“Are you ready?” Faith asked, hand on the door.
“Let’s get this over with.” I walked through the door and was immediately assaulted with bright lights of the press corp.