Authors: Lila Moore
Sledge: The Hockey Player’s Secret Baby
Copyright ©2016 Lila Moore
First published by Lila Moore 2016
Distributed by Amazon
Book Cover by Mayhem Cover Creations
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The crowd was on its feet. They cheered and shouted words of encouragement- not to mention insults- at the players. No matter what team they rooted for, everyone loved Sledge. He moved like lightning across the ice.
The team fought its way to their opponent’s goal. Sledge led the charge. He wasn’t one to hide behind the others. If anyone got in his way he knocked them out like a sledgehammer. His stick danced across the ice, passing the puck back and forth. He faked to the right, then slammed into one of his own teammates.
It was hard to tell if this was by accident or by design. With Sledge you never really knew. He had a hot temper and if one the guys on his team pissed him off he wouldn’t hesitate to body-check them in the middle of a game.
Two of his opponents were taken aback by Sledge’s aggression against his own teammate. They hesitated long enough for him to find an opening. He struck quickly. His stick slid across the ice connecting with the puck. The goalie tried to put himself between the puck and the goal, but he was a fraction of a second too slow. The puck found its destination inside the goal.
The crowd went wild. A deafening chant of ‘Sledge’ echoed through the small arena. The sound was so loud I could feel it echo through my bones.
I hung back in the shadows. I’m not sure why; no one was paying attention to me. Still, I didn’t want to risk being seen, especially not in my condition. I was long past the point of hiding my pregnancy with flowing, loose-fitting tops.
I touched my huge baby bump. I was already a week past my due date. I should have been at home in bed, but I couldn’t resist seeing Sledge one last time.
A group of guys moved in front of me blocking my view. I knew I was playing with fire by turning up to the game, but I just needed to see Sledge happy. This was his big moment. He’d worked his ass off to get here. I wanted to see him enjoy the fruits of his labor.
I stepped out of the shadows and walked- waddled is probably a more accurate description- to the aisle. Sledge was on the ice surrounded by his teammates. The guy he body-checked earlier seemed to have forgotten the incident. He was one of the players lifting Sledge onto his shoulder.
I smiled as the guys fought over who would get to carry the hero off the ice. Sledge was tossed around like a ragdoll, but they eventually managed to lift him into the air. Chants of ‘Sledge’ were so loud my chest reverberated with the sound. It was like being at a rock concert.
Sledge’s helmet fell off. I expected to see his big boyish smile and his sparkling hazel eyes. He had a small scar above his left brow and another on his chin. They were all the result of playing hockey. He’d been injured more times than I could count, but he always bounced back.
Sledge’s helmet fell to the side. His light brown hair was longer than he usually kept it. It hung in his face, wet with sweat. He ran a hand through it, pushing it out of his eyes. Blood ran down his face from a cut on his nose. His eyes were somber and dark. The boyish smile that had charmed me was nowhere to be found. Sledge grimaced as the guys carried him away.
Why wasn’t he happy? This was the moment he’d been waiting for his whole life. Scouts were in the audience tonight. He was sure to be drafted into the NHL. Sledge’s lifelong dream was going to come true: he was going to play professional hockey.
I tried to follow the movement of the team as they carried him, but the crowd kept blocking my view. I took a careful step down the aisle. I wanted to get close enough to see what was going on, but not so close that anyone on the team caught sight of me.
A man carrying two full cups of beer stood in my way. “Whoa!” he shouted. “Pregnant lady coming through!”
I rolled my eyes and stepped around him. I made it about twenty feet away from the glass. Sledge sat on the bench with his back to me. He was pulling off his pads and staring at the ground. He looked oblivious to the crowd’s adoration.
I spun around to find exactly what I feared- one of Sledge’s teammates. Chick- nicknamed for his missing teeth, or chiclets, as the players say- leaned on a crutch. His eyes narrowed, then widened when he noticed my pregnant belly.
“Where have you been? What happened to you?”
He made it sound as if my pregnancy was an accident that had befallen me. I suppose in a way it was; it certainly wasn’t planned.
“Hi, Chick,” I said lamely. “It’s good to see you, but I have to go now.”
He blocked my path. “Who did this to you?” he demanded.
“Did what to me?”
“Who’s the father?”
You’ve got to love Chick. He’s not one for subtlety.
“No one did this to me.”
“Does Sledge know?” he shouted over the crowd.
I caught a curious glance from a girl standing to my right.
“Why would he know?” I replied trying to play it off.
“Well, I just thought the two of you were-”
“No, we’re not. We never were. This…” I pointed to my belly. “…has nothing to do with Sledge.”
Chick chewed on his lip. His eyes darted past me to where Sledge was sitting. I prayed he wasn’t watching. I glanced over my shoulder. Sledge was still pulling off his equipment. I needed to get out of there before he noticed me.
“Look,” I said, “Sledge doesn’t need to know about this. It would only hurt him if he knew I was…” I couldn’t bring myself to say the word pregnant. “This is his big moment. We can’t spoil it for him.”
Chick looked as if he disagreed, but he said: “Yeah, I guess.”
“It’s important, Chick. Promise me you won’t tell him that you saw me.”
“Good. Now I have to go. Excuse me.”
I tried to move past him, but he blocked my way. Chick was a big guy. He had wide shoulders that took up most of the room in any space he occupied. He’d been seriously injured in the last game, breaking his leg. It must have been heartbreaking for him to watch his team’s victory. I was sure he wanted to be out there on the ice with them.
“There’s going to be a big party afterwards. You should come.”
I frowned. Clearly, he hadn’t been listening. “Sledge doesn’t need to have his moment ruined by my presence. You know he’d be upset to see me again.”
“I’m not sure about that…”
“Well, I am.”
“Now, can you step aside? I have to go.”
I was starting to lose my temper. Chick was a sweet guy, but he could be a bit dense sometimes. I could only hope and pray he would keep my secret.
I managed to push my way past Chick and head up the stairs. I took one final look at Sledge before I left. At the time, I was convinced I’d never see him again. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Sledge stood and walked over to my dad. He was the team’s coach. My father only nodded to him. When my father discovered I was pregnant, he wanted to murder Sledge. Then he remembered that Sledge was the man he always wanted to be: athletic, rich, handsome, a hockey star on the rise. That’s when my dad decided to turn his anger on me. He was furious. He claimed I’d ‘ruined’ Sledge’s life. He said there was no way he’d leave town to become a professional hockey player.
He’ll be nothing more than a small town loser
,’ he’d shouted.
It broke my heart to know I’d ruined Sledge’s life. I wanted him to be happy and successful.
He can never know
,’ my father said. ‘
Don’t you want him to be a pro
Of course I did. I immediately cut off all contact with him. It wasn’t easy. I’d cried myself to sleep for weeks. Sledge showed up to our house and called relentlessly. I never answered. Eventually, the calls became less frequent, then they stopped altogether.
My father was sickened to know his teen daughter was knocked up. I hid it at first behind loose-fitting tops, but eventually it became impossible. When my bump could be hidden no longer, he sent me to stay with my aunt a town over from us.
I was supposed to be there the night of the big game. If my father knew I’d snuck out, he’d kill me. I just wanted to see Sledge one last time before the baby was born.
As if sensing my presence, Sledge stood and looked my way. I darted into the shadows, hiding behind a pillar. Had he seen me? It was impossible to know for sure. I ran out the front of the stadium, jumped into my aunt’s car and headed back to her house.
One year later…
An illustrated image of a man stripped of his skin was projected onto the screen before me. Brightly colored segments highlighted different muscle groups. The professor was lecturing about the muscles of the lower legs, but I wasn’t listening.
Sledge had been injured in the game last night. It was completely his fault. He got into a fight with one of his teammates and thought it was a good idea to punch him in the face in the middle of a game. The guy fought back, knocking Sledge to the ground. Two of his teammates piled on and started beating Sledge. He had several broken ribs, a broken nose and he needed stitches for a cut inside him mouth.
There were rumors that his new coach was reconsidering Sledge’s role on the team. It had been all over the local papers. Sledge was the hometown hero. He’d escaped to the big city, made it to the pros and now he was blowing it.
It was more than a little crazy, but I followed Sledge’s life closely. I had his name set up on Google Alerts so I could follow any stories about his hockey career. I tried to follow him online, but strangely he’d deleted all of his social media accounts about a year ago.
What I knew about his life came from what I read online. There were a lot of stories about his temper. No one could deny he was talented, but the way he walked around looking for a fight got him into trouble.
I’d stumbled upon a hockey gossip blog online about a week ago. I’d been shocked to discover Sledge was dating a supermodel, a Russian girl named Svetlana. She was tall and wispy with cheekbones for days. I couldn’t deny her beauty any more than I could deny my jealousy. I didn’t expect Sledge to spend the rest of his life pining for me, but I didn’t expect him to forget me so quickly either.
I doubted he was cyber-stalking me the way I was him. My obsession was beyond embarrassing. I had to get it together and move on with my life.
The lights turned on. Students rose from their seats and filed out the door. I packed my notebook away and followed behind them. I wandered across campus in a fog.
Did Sledge ever think of me? I doubted it. He was making a ton of money as the bad boy of hockey. Supermodels wanted to sleep with him; guy wanted to be him. He had a lucrative contract and a bright future, assuming he didn’t blow it with his bad temper.
Before I knew it, I was back at my dorm. I walked in to find my roommate Astrid doing yoga in the middle of our very tiny room. I threw my bag on the floor and stretched out on the bed. I watched her do a Pigeon Pose. It was insane. Her body bent like a pretzel.
“Doesn’t that hurt?” I asked feeling envious of her flexibility.
“No, it feels great. You should try.”
“No, thanks. I’m not that limber.”
I rested my hand on my flat stomach. Only a few short months ago, I’d been heavily pregnant. My belly had been so big that I couldn’t see my feet. When I sat, my pregnant belly rested on my legs. I could feel the baby kicking against my thighs. It was amazing how quickly my body had snapped back. To look at me, you’d never guessed I’d had a baby. No one knew I’d been pregnant. Not even Astrid.
We’d become fast friends. After an awkward introduction we soon found that we had more in common than not. We loved the same music and the same movies. And more importantly, we had the same sense of humor.
“Have you seen Miranda’s new boy toy?” she asked.
“He’s insanely hot- easily a ten. And the best part: he has an identical twin brother.”
“Are you going to ask his brother out?”
“No, but you should. He’s perfect for you.”
“What makes you say that?”
“He’s hot and rumor has it he has a big dick. What more do you need?”
“There’s more to life than a big cock.”
I laughed and pulled out my phone. I checked my updates. There was a Google Alert about Sledge. He’d been suspended from tonight’s game for his fight.
“What are you reading?” she asked.
Before I could stop her, Miranda snatched my cell phone from me. Her face twisted with confusion as she read the article about Sledge’s suspension.
“Seriously?” she said. “You’re into hockey? Why?”
“I don’t know,” I said with a shrug. “My dad was a hockey coach. I grew up with it.”
I’d been guarded with Astrid when it came to my home life. My relationship with my father had gone to shit since the baby was born. I hated him for making me hide like a leper. No one knew that I’d had a baby except for him, my mother, my aunt and Chick. I didn’t think much about Chick. I assumed he’d kept my secret since no one knew I’d had a baby.
“So, do you think he’s hot?” Astrid asked.
“This Sledge character.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“I bet you could fuck him.”
“What are you talking about?” I said with a laugh.
“His team is based here in the city.” Astrid scrolled down through a gossip article about Sledge. “According to this fan forum, he likes to drink downtown. I know this bar. We could go stake it out. I bet you could hook-up with him.”
It was out of the question. I’d had no communication with Sledge in over a year. I couldn’t see him. Knowing we’d had a baby together would just make things worse. He was oblivious. What would happen if I just blurted it out? His life would be devastated. He’d probably drop off the team and blow his amazing future. I couldn’t ruin Sledge’s life like that.
I ran my hands over my belly. Holding our baby for the first time had been unlike anything I’d ever experienced. He had hazel eyes just like his daddy. He was Sledge’s clone. The only feature he’d inherited from me was my fine, blonde hair.
“No way,” I said. “I’m not going to stalk Sledge downtown, then try and drunkenly hook-up with him.”
“Astrid, you can’t be serious.”
“Of course I’m serious. What’s wrong? You don’t think you’re hot enough? I’m telling you, you are. You’re a lot hotter than you think.”
“What? It’s true. I don’t know why you hide your body behind all those layers of clothes.”
Since having a baby I was self-conscious about my body. I always wore sweaters and hoodies with loose fitting yoga pants. Even though my body snapped back after birth, I still felt huge. I didn’t want anyone checking me out or judging me.
“You could wear one of my dresses,” Astrid offered.
“I don’t think so.”
“Why not? You don’t like my clothes?”
“It’s not that. I’m just not as confident as you.”
Most of Astrid’s dresses were skin tight, low-cut and tiny. She wasn’t self-conscious about her body at all. I envied her that.
“You should be. You’re smoking hot.”
“Oh my God, Astrid. Stop…”
“Why? You’ve got to learn to love yourself. And for fuck’s sake, live a little. C’mon, let’s go check him out.”
“Why not? What’s the worst that could happen?”
Astrid had no idea what she was talking about. If she found out I’d had a baby with Sledge she would flip out.
“You might be surprise,” I muttered.
“Don’t be such a pessimist. When I’m through with you, he’s going to want to fuck your brains out.”
“Oh my God!” I put the pillow over my face.
Astrid cackled. “C’mon, it’ll be fun. Please?”
I was curious what Sledge was up to these days. Had he changed much in a year? There was no harm in going to the bar. I could stick to the shadows out of sight. Sledge didn’t need to know I was there. There was one major problem though: it was Friday. I went to my aunt’s house every weekend. My parents agreed to pay for my college, but only if I promised to focus on school. And by ‘focus on school,’ they meant no boys, no exceptions. They were so paranoid about me getting pregnant again that they forced me to return to aunt’s house every weekend. I wasn’t allowed to hang around campus or go to parties. If I violated the rules, they wouldn’t pay for tuition. I couldn’t afford to go to school on my own. If I was forced to drop out, I had no idea what I would do with my life.
“I can’t,” I said.
“Why not? Do you have a date?”
Astrid thought I spent the weekends taking care of my sick aunt. I never went out. My life consisted of studying and class. I’d leave on the weekends to go to my aunt’s house. We never did anything except watch television together and play cards. It was beyond tedious. My aunt had always been good to me, but I wanted to hang out with people my own age.
“I just can’t. I’ve got a lot of studying to catch up on and my aunt’s expecting me later this evening for dinner,” I lied.
“You’re killing me. College is supposed to be the best years of your life. You’re pissing it away to go home and hang out with your aunt every weekend. When you graduate, you won’t have time to go out. C’mon. It’ll be fun. Your aunt can live without seeing you for one weekend.”
“But she’s sick…”
“That’s not your responsibility. You can go out for once. She won’t mind.”
Out of excuses and secretly dying to see Sledge, I grudgingly agreed.
“Yes! Makeover time.”
“What? You are not giving me a makeover,” I replied.
“Yes I am. You’re going to look amazing. Just trust me.”
Three hours later I emerged from the bathroom. Astrid had dyed my hair red and given me a full makeover. My makeup was strange. I had smoky, dramatic eyes and dark red lips. I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror. Usually, I didn’t wear makeup.
“It’s perfect!” Astrid declared. I gave her a skeptical look. “What? You don’t like it?”
I wore one of her tight black dresses. I barely fit in to it. I felt like an over-stuffed sausage.
“This dress is too small,” I said.
“No, it’s perfect.”
“My fat stomach is too big for this.”
“You’re nuts. You look amazing. Your stomach is flat as a board.”
I stepped in front of the mirror. Since having a baby, I was used to my stomach being huge. It was how I still saw myself. Strangely, I looked normal in the mirror. I recognized my pre-pregnancy body in my reflection. The only thing that had changed was that my breasts were fuller. I rubbed my chest. I hadn’t had the chance to breast feed my baby. They’d taken him away from me almost immediately. I wished I’d had the opportunity to bond with him. I wanted to feed him and hold him. He was mine, no matter what my father said.
“You look hot,” Astrid said.
“Stop, what? Do you think I’m lying? I wouldn’t mess with you like that. If I thought you were making a fool of yourself, I would tell you. You look like hot.”
I took a second look at myself in the mirror. The dress was so tight I could barely breathe. “It’s too small. My stomach looks horrible.”
“Are you crazy? You look amazing. Your stomach is flatter than mine and you don’t even workout. It’s a crime. Don’t you trust me?” Astrid asked.
“Do you trust me or not?”
“Yes, I trust you.”
“Then wear the dress. You look amazing.”
I rolled my eyes. “Fine.”
“Good. Now, let’s go meet Sledge.”