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Hope, Dreams & A Little Bit of Crazy

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It was far from the first time that Kent Parson had woken up in a bed that smelled of booze sweat and orgasms. Groaning slightly, Kent stretched and burrowed back down into the sheets, willing himself to ignore the still-damp splodge under his stomach as the previous night limped its way back into his consciousness.

Despite how hard the Aces had fought all year, they’d come to the end of their regular season just a few points shy of grabbing a wildcard slot in the playoffs. It had left everyone with a sour taste in their mouths, especially Kent. The team had been spoiling for an outlet for weeks, simmering with untapped rage over the bad plays, bad injuries and just plain bad luck that had dogged their skates all season.

And then, for their last game, they’d found themselves facing off against the Falcs.

It had been one of the few gongshows Kent had been part of over the years that was truly worthy of the term. The Falconers were similarly out of the running for a playoff slot, and somehow, seeing those angry ice-blue eyes across the rink had set Kent’s blood boiling. Somehow, in Kent’s mind, the fact that neither of them were getting near the Cup this year had become all Jack’s fault, and from the minute Thirdy had brutally checked him into the boards, the mitts were off. No one had come away from the game unscathed.

No one had wanted to go home afterwards, either. They were too keyed up. Too much adrenaline and thwarted ambition running through their veins.

Somewhere around the fourth or fifth row of shots, a bunch of the Falconers had found their way into the bar that the Aces had taken over, but by then no one cared about how much Hell they’d beaten out of one another on the ice. By then there was enough liquor-fueled good will for them to find camaraderie in how hard their respective seasons had sucked, and it hadn’t been long afterwards that Kent had lost track of how much he’d had to drink. His ethanol-fuzzed memory estimated that it had been sometime between switching from Jaegerbombs to tequila, and that his tab was probably enough to fund a small European country.

Try as he might, Kent couldn’t manage to dredge up the name of the person he’d obviously hooked up with at some point after the tequila had started flowing. But judging by the state of the bed and the way some very specific muscles were aching, he knew two things about them:

One: it had definitely been a man. With the kind of thick, heavy dick that Kent had always fantasized about but never seemed able to find before last night. So not Zimms (thank God for small favors).

And two: one of them had to have come at least twice before they’d both passed out from exhaustion. So even with alcohol in the mix, whoever that dick belonged to clearly knew what to do with it.

Clearly, it had been the kind of night that Kent would’ve liked to remember. Back in the Q, he and Zimms had each relieved the other of their v-cards, but they’d had to be careful since the age of consent exceptions in Canada didn’t apply to what they’d been getting up to. And once he’d been drafted, going to a gay club, finding somebody hot to dance with and then dragging them out into the alley for a quick blow was even riskier. He could probably count on one hand the number of times he’d actually gotten naked and sweaty with someone without being terrified that the details would show up on Page Six within the week.

Scowling at himself, Kent slowly pushed up onto his elbows and rolled around into a sitting position. If he didn’t even know who he’d hooked up with last night, he had no idea how many pictures were out there. No idea if whomever it had been was on the phone outing him to ESPN right now. He needed to get up and find the shower. Call the Aces’ PR manager and tell him what had gone down. See about someplace to get a hangover breakfast and about a gallon of coffee. Maybe even where he’d stashed his car, presuming he’d come here… in…

The room around him was dark, the drawn shades blocking out most of the daylight that would otherwise be painfully bright on his corneas. And he had had a lot to drink the night before: more than was his usual wont, even when his dreams conjured bright blue eyes and a Quebecois accent.

He could therefore be forgiven for it taking a minute to sink in that he was sitting in his own bedroom. That the mattress and sheets beneath his naked body were his own.

Holy mother of fuck. He’d brought his drunken hook-up home.

Scanning the shadowed room, it didn’t appear that anything was missing. No trail of clothes on the floor, which was odd considering what last night had entailed. Slowly, Kent stood up and grabbed for the hockey stick he kept mounted above the headboard: to the casual observer, a keepsake autographed by Bad Bob. Except the one with Bob’s real signature was locked away somewhere safe, and this one was a fake that he could grab fast as a weapon in an emergency. Not caring that he was naked, or sore, or hungover, Kent started easing towards his bedroom door, listening for any sign that he wasn’t alone in the house.

The very last thing he’d expected to hear as he stepped clear of the bedroom threshold and reached the top of the stairs was someone in his kitchen singing along to what had to be obscure 80s rock in a Russian accent.

Feeling some of his (entirely justified) paranoia slip, Kent lowered the stick and ducked back into his bedroom long enough to find last night’s boxers tossed into his hamper. Not giving a damn on the grounds that he needed a shower anyway, Kent pulled them on and quietly made his way back downstairs, the stick held loosely in one hand rather than tightly at the ready in both.

Walking into his kitchen, Kent was greeted by the sight of a tall, broad Russian enforcer wearing a Falconers tee shirt and dark gray boxer briefs half-dancing to a band Kent had never heard in his life while cooking what smelled like steak and eggs on Kent’s stove. Kit Purrson sat on the kitchen island, clearly waiting with impatient flicks of her tail for the human handling the food to turn around and proffer her due as the true mistress of the house.

The hockey butt to which those boxer briefs clung so enticingly made Kent’s mouth go dry. He wondered if he’d left fingerprint bruises on it last night while its owner had been pounding him into the mattress. He wondered if he could talk his unexpected guest into letting him peel off the layer of soft cotton that kept him from finding out. Into another round or three before they parted company.

After all, it wasn’t like Kent didn’t have a couple of guest rooms they could defile before they ran out of clean beds to screw on. And that wasn’t even counting the two-person steam shower.

Kit trilled out a greeting to him and his guest turned away from the stove, his mouth halfway through a remonstrance about patience before he saw Kent out of the corner of his eye. He trailed off mid-sentence as he turned to face Kent, one hand lifting to rub self-consciously at the back of his neck as he blushed crimson.

It was entirely unfair of Alexei Mashkov to look this goddamned adorable when he was embarrassed.

“Morning.” It felt like a hollow word, all things considered, but Kent figured it was a better place to start than: “if I bend over the kitchen island will you please fuck my brains out”.

“Utro,” Mashkov greeted back, looking like he was groping for something to say as well. “Food is ready almost, and coffee, too.”

For half a heartbeat, Kent considered chirping Mashkov about making himself at home in his kitchen, but decided against it. It never paid to chirp a hook-up that could also make hangover breakfast. “Glad I had something for you to work with,” he opted for instead. “There are days when all I have in there are beer and sriracha.”

Turning back to the stove to finish attending to the food, Mashkov chuffed out a laugh. “I’m thinking nutritionist would have much to say if knowing about that.”

“Which is why she doesn’t know,” Kent replied as he finally propped his stick against the wall and went to the refrigerator in search of the organic maple sugar that he preferred in his coffee. “So I guess the question is: how much do I need to bribe you to keep it to yourself?”

“Considering how much of B’s baking we do not discuss with Falconers’ nutritionist?” Mashkov laughed again as he snapped the burners off and flipped two beautiful omelets onto the plates he had waiting nearby. “Your secret is safe with me, Kent Parson.”

The passing mention of Zimms’ little Southern belle had Kent going stiff at the spine, though he was pretty sure Mashkov hadn’t noticed in the midst of carrying the plates out onto the enclosed sun porch just beyond the kitchen. Kent couldn’t help wondering if Zimms had spent last night alone with his frustration, or if there was a tiny college boy that was waking up today with a new appreciation of what a thwarted Jack Zimmerman could be like in bed. The way the cords on his neck stood out… the way he somehow knew just the right moment to pull his partner’s legs up over his shoulders and let go… the way filthy French just poured past his lips right before...

Shaking himself from his reverie, Kent poured two cups of steaming hot coffee and brought them, along with his maple sugar, out to the table where Mashkov had laid out breakfast. The sunlight wasn’t too glaring, since the porch was on the north side of the house and the windows were tinted for both UV and paparazzo protection, and Kent sat down opposite Mashkov with a soft sigh of real gratitude. “Don’t have any cream, but there’s maple sugar if you take your coffee sweet.”

“I take black,” Mashkov told him by way of demur. “I like honey cubes in tea sometimes, but not coffee.”

“Works for me, then.” Kent dug into the omelet, letting his eyes close as the flavor hit his tongue and his stomach didn’t immediately riot at the prospect of something solid. “Oh, man… either I’m really hungry or you’re a really good cook.”

“Fair cook,” Mashkov replied, clearly amused by Kent’s reaction. “But is nice to hear.”

Kent’s answer was a long hum of appreciation around a second mouthful, and the two proceeded to eat in relative silence after that. Kent’s house was in a quiet, wealthy neighborhood; in the stillness of the morning, it was hard to believe that he lived a scant few miles from the garish lights and hyper-oxygenated rooms of downtown Sin City. Being one of the best players in the NHL didn’t make him immune from being traded, so he hadn’t looked for a house to fall in love with, but he’d had the money and means to make it into the haven he needed it to be between games and seasons, and that was all that mattered.

He wondered where Mashkov lived back in Providence. Was it near Zimms’ house? Did Zimms even have a house? Or had he just leased something, given how tenuous his situation probably was in the NHL? Kent knew that Jack was likely to be under scrutiny by the GMs for a lot longer than most players, given the incident that had taken him out of the 2009 draft. It was why he’d offered to go to bat for Zimms with the Aces. They’d been an unstoppable team, once upon a time; with Kent backing him up, Jack could’ve stayed afloat long enough that-

“You are thinking hard this morning.” Mashkov’s voice cut into his train of thought, snapping him back to reality. “You are not regretting last night?”

A sly smile pulled across Kent’s face. “No… though I was pretty drunk for most of what I think were the good parts. Memory’s a bit fuzzy.”

Mashkov’s brown eyes flickered, something chasing across his face too fast for Kent to catch before it smoothed out into a seductive glint. “Maybe is just needing refreshed.”

“Maybe.” Standing up from the table, Kent stretched, his eyes tracking the way the big Russian drank in the flex of Kent’s muscles. “I need a shower, though. I usually don’t sit down to breakfast smelling like gongshow leftovers.”

Turning before the enforcer could reply, Kent walked with deliberate casualness towards the doorway into the kitchen. He could feel those brown eyes trained on him the entire way, a thrill tripping down his spine at the knowledge. He looked damn good and he knew it, even in last night’s boxers. When he reached the door, he stopped and cast a look over his left shoulder. “You coming?”

Hooded eyes slowly traveled from his face to his hips, lingering for a heartbeat on the front of his straining boxers before drifting back up again. “I should clean up kitchen.”

There was a strange stab of disappointment in Kent’s chest, but he hid it behind a casual shrug. “Suit yourself, man,” he said as he turned and went back upstairs.

* * *

There had been few improvements that Kent had needed to make to the house when he’d purchased it, given the size of his house-hunting budget at the time. But by far, installing his steam shower had been his favorite: large enough for two people, with a ceiling rain feature, dual massage wands, plenty of storage niches and even a proper kit for the sexually-adventurous and hygiene-conscious. After brushing his teeth while the water heated up, it was that very feature he made use of first, sighing softly as the warmth soaked into his muscles.

It shouldn’t have surprised him that Mashkov had turned him down. After all, it wasn’t like he and the Falconer had ever gotten along, and he knew that Mashkov was chummy with Zimms and the new boyfriend. The previous night had probably just been an itch getting scratched, and that was all it needed to be. Kent didn’t need the headache that would inevitably come with fucking around with someone from another team, anyway.

After his unexpected guest finally bailed, he’d check out who was playing in town tonight. It would be good to get out of the house. Out of his head.

He’d just switched the rain feature over to steam after cleaning up when the enclosure door opened and a very naked Mashkov stepped inside, a coy smile playing beneath sparking brown eyes. Kent was so surprised that he couldn’t even manage a sound before those big, warm hands clamped onto his hips and pulled him in, Kent’s compact body colliding against the other man’s broad chest as those lips came down across his own.

Kent’s melancholy dissolved in the heat of it, his arms lifting of their own volition to wrap around Mashkov’s neck, his mouth opening easily and his tongue darting up into Mashkov’s as the big Russian devoured him where they stood, the steam billowing around them and beading on their skin.

Holy fuck, but this was exactly what Kent needed. It was so easy to get lost in the sensation of another person wrapped around his body, of confident lips exerting just the right pressure against his own and moving with intention. He barely noticed the way Mashkov was pressing him a few steps backwards, and then the kissing tapered off as Kent was turned around, the curve of his spine fitted against Mashkov’s damp, furred chest and his hands being guided up to brace against the wall.

“Krasivyy,” murmured across his nape in the wake of soft kisses brushing the axis of his shoulders. It made Kent shiver despite the heat surrounding them, the tremor followed by hockey-callused hands gliding along his sides in an almost gentling motion. “Just be still for me, solnyshko.”

Kent wanted to chirp his lover for the Russian he didn’t know. For the tender way he was being touched, as if Kent was someone who needed gentle handling. He couldn’t seem to manage it, the subtle command underpinning the words sending shocks tripping down his spine. Vibrating, Kent could only nod as kisses started to drift lower… lower… those big hands slipping down to frame his hips as Mashkov sank down to the floor… “Oh, God…”

“Nyet,” came the rumbling chirp. The air behind the words puffed against his cleft and Kent’s whole body shook. “Is only me.”

And then there was no more room in Kent’s mouth for words. Only for a shocked shout as his cheeks were parted and Mashkov’s tongue teased at his rim.

It wasn’t like he hadn’t been rimmed before. Zimms had done it once, but they’d both been weirded out by how awkward it felt and they hadn’t tried it again. There was nothing awkward about this. Kent’s elbows gave and he wound up leaning his forehead against the cool acrylic walls with sounds coming out of his mouth that he’d never heard himself make before. And all the while, Alexei’s clever tongue kept exploring, certain like he’d done this a hundred times before. Like he enjoyed having Kent under his mouth. Like he’d been just waiting for a chance to eat Kent out and now that it was happening he was going to savor it.

That thought hit Kent’s hindbrain just as that tongue wriggled into him and Kent keened, whining and shoving back against Alexei’s face and earning him a sharp nip to his left cheek that stung so hot it brought tears to Kent’s eyes. Words started pouring past his lips: babbling begging words that made no sense even as Alexei put his mouth back where Kent couldn’t believe he needed it so badly, tongue thrusting and teasing and tracing as if Alexei could spend all day on just this. It had Kent so hard it almost hurt, dripping steadily until his thighs were slick with more saline than steam and his knees wanted to buckle and it was so good, so good so close “oh, fuck…”

The dam finally broke with Alexei’s lips sucking lightly on quivering muscle, big hands holding Kent up while his knees turned to rubber and he came hard enough to see spots behind his eyes. Alexei’s mouth didn’t back off until his orgasm had finally receded, leaving Kent sensitive and whimpering at the loss.

Strong arms came up under his own, bracing him upright. “Beautiful,” Alexei murmured, lips never touching his skin now. Kent didn’t care about where they’d just been; he wanted them on his own… wanted the reassurance… “So good for me…”

Alexei’s right arm moved, shifting Kent’s weight onto the left as he reached for something in the closest niche on the wall. Kent almost didn’t notice the soft snap of a cap before fingers slick from more than just water were brushing over the place Alexei’s mouth had just been, pressing in with maddening slowness.

Fuck,” Kent breathed again, the word shivering out as Alexei pushed two thick fingers in to the knuckle and started curling them in a gentle, undulating rhythm. “How the fuck long are your fucking fingers?”

“Long enough to not get complaining.”

Kent could hear the smirk in his voice; had a perfectly good retort all lined up. But then those fingers found his prostate, brushing back and forth over it with ruinous intent, and every word on Kent’s tongue curled up into a long moan of want.

“So pretty when you come on my tongue,” Alexei purred, the heat of a mouth that wouldn’t make contact driving Kent a little insane. “Going to work you right back up… watch you come on my cock…”

“Don’t have to be hard for you to fuck me.” The words earned a mild startle from his lover; Kent had somewhat surprised himself, truth be told. But he also knew he meant them.

With how toppy the enforcer was being, he half-expected an argument. For Alexei to insist on on playing with him until he was hard and aching again. But his lover must’ve been harder up than Kent had guessed, because a long shudder went through the body pressed against him as the invitation hung in the misty air, unqualified and unashamed. “Where are rubbers?” Alexei asked, his voice already almost wrecked.

“Too far away.” Kent’s legs braced a little further apart, his hips shoving back against the fingers still buried inside him. “I’m clean, and I’m pretty sure you fucked me bare at least once last night anyway.”

“Solnyshko…” The control in that voice was threadbare… thick with want as naked as they were…

Kent reached up and back, grabbed a handful of Alexei’s flow and craned his own head around. Alexei pulled away despite Kent’s grip, refusing him access to the Russian’s lips, but they were close enough that his shallow breath still panted against Kent’s mouth. “Get in here.

Deep brown eyes flared in response. Before Kent knew it, Alexei had broken Kent’s grip on his hair and pulled his fingers free, wrapping them around Kent’s hip in a hold sure to leave bruises as the broad head of him lined up and pushed in.

Just the first breach set Kent’s eyes rolling up into his head. He moaned, loud and unashamed, his fingers splaying against the wall and his hips canting back to give Alexei a better angle. Thick heat seemed to cleave him in two, burrowing inexorably deep until the Russian bottomed out with a heartfelt groan of his own.

Even winning the Stanley Cup couldn’t compare to how good this felt. Alexei wasn’t any longer than Kent himself, but the girth of him… the way it stretched Kent just that much more than he’d ever taken before and tunnelled into the empty space that Kent felt like he’d been aware of forever… it was like electricity in Kent’s veins, lighting him up and making his whole body feel like it was flying even as it sighed in relief. The lack of thorough re-prep burned, but it was the kind of burn Kent loved: like after a hard skate or a long run. Except this was better.

He wasn’t alone when he burned like this.

Alexei pulled out slow, dragging back until the ridge of his head was almost past Kent’s rim. One long shove and he was hilted again, and Kent could feel his shoulders loosen as it happened again, and again, his whole body opening up and relaxing into the rhythm he craved.

“Look at you taking me.” Something in Alexei’s voice made warmth blossom in Kent’s chest. He was long past the point of chirping in response; all he could do was moan and push back against every measured stroke. “So sweet… almost as lovely as your hockey, solnyshko…” Kent moaned again, his whole body shaking as one thrust finally hit the right angle, and he could almost hear Alexei’s smile. “Is that what you’re liking, malen’kiy?” Another hard thrust glanced off Kent’s prostate, making him cry out and shove back into Alexei’s grip. “Are you liking to be told that you are beautiful while you fuck?”

“Not a goddamn girl,” Kent spat out between gasps, the end of the sentence twisting into a moan as Alexei responded by picking up the tempo. It was a default deflection, a fast cover so automatic that he couldn’t have held it back if he’d tried. Not with how easily the truth could be read in his responses.

“Definitely not,” Alexei mused. He tugged on Kent’s hips just a little, until Kent’s body was bent over a fraction more and the angle he wanted was easier to hit. Every stroke glanced Kent’s sweet spot now, and the enclosure echoed with cries of approval from the blond’s throat. “But do not have to be woman to be beautiful… or to like being told so… and you are, solnyshko… such good boy for me…”

The endearments kept coming, flowing like honey over his senses as Alexei worked his way up to a hard, pounding cadence. Kent was diamond hard again, shaking from the desperate need to feel Alexei come inside him… he’d already gotten his and a stray caress would give him another but he needed to feel it… he needed…

“Come again for me, solnyshko,” urged the deep voice in his ear. “Want to see it again…”

One finger worked inside, a bright flash right on the edge of too much, and Kent was gone: screaming Alexei’s name as he spilled and shattered around thick heat still pounding into him as he came. Only as his own release was ebbing away did he realize that Alexei had come with him, a groan erupting as he emptied himself into Kent’s body.

For a long, suspended moment, they remained as they were: Kent trying to right his senses around the sensation of Alexei softening inside him, the other man all but draped across his back as his breath evened out. Slowly, before Kent really wanted him to, Alexei withdrew and stepped back.

“Is all right, solnyshko,” Alexei soothed, running one hand up the length of Kent’s spine at Kent’s mewl of protest. One hand stayed on Kent as they eased down to the floor of the shower, neither of them feeling particularly steady on their feet. “Am not going anywhere.”

Kent nodded from where he now crouched on his knees, absorbing the heat of Alexei’s hands and barely even feeling the sauna-like air around them. He gave another short sound of surprise when Alexei used the hygiene attachment to clean him again; the big Russian merely crooned reassurance at him, the words indecipherable to Kent but the tone read easily enough. And then Alexei was turning Kent over and letting him sit on the floor of the enclosure, giving Kent a clear view of him as he turned off the steam feature and stepped out of the enclosure to retrieve towels from the warming rack on the wall.

It wasn’t until Alexei was picking Kent up after wrapping him into the warm, soft terrycloth that he tried to protest. “I can walk,” he informed the larger man loftily. “I just needed a sec for the blood to go someplace other than my dick.”

The soft, indulgent smile that he got in response was maddening. “As you say, solnyshko. Is there spare toothbrush?”

“Yeah, I think.” His own responses were still rattling him, making Kent suddenly uncertain of being too far away from the man that had just taken him apart so effectively. “I usually keep a couple spares for my go bag in the vanity.”

One large hand reached up to stroke Kent’s face. The expression Alexei was wearing right now made Kent’s entire body want to yearn into him again. “I will be out soon then, solnyshko.”

Shaking himself, Kent tucked the towel a little more firmly around his own body. “Yeah… okay.” Determined to not let the bigger man see how off-center he was feeling, Kent turned and walked from the bathroom with deliberate steps.

* * *

By the time Alexei had emerged from the bathroom in search of his clothes, Kent was feeling a good deal more centered. He’d pulled on a pair of clean boxers and a tee shirt, and was in the process of finding pants when Mashkov’s big hands found his hips again from behind. He straightened into the bigger man’s embrace as Listerine-scented kisses drifted along the curve of his neck, a little startled but not opposed to the affection.

It was a weakness of his after sex, and one that hadn’t been easy to indulge after Zimms.

“Flight back to Providence does not leave for a few hours,” Mashkov whispered. How it was possible for such a deep voice to be so silky, Kent had no idea. “We have a bit of time.”

Kent laughed, turning around to half-push the amorous Russian away. “Yeah… except you gotta go back to your hotel, change clothes, get your shit, check out… not to mention how many of your teammates have to have noticed you weren’t cleaning out the continental breakfast buffet with them this morning.” Mashkov’s expression grew disconsolate and Kent laughed again. “Come on, man: you got time for me to make us one of my trademark walk-of-shame smoothies and call an Uber, but that’s about it.”

“Only shame is that we do not have more time for fun.” Mashkov turned away and found where he’d folded his clothing from last night neatly on the dresser, pulling it on with an almost resentful flair. “You might be brat on ice, but you are beautiful in bed, Kent Parson. I would be liking more time to spend there with you.”

Heat suffused Kent even as he bristled at being called a brat and he turned back to his search for pants, finally electing a pair of loose athletics that he could pull on. “Yeah, well… that’s not in the cards today unless you want the rest of your D-squad to come beating down my door because Zimms has decided I’ve got you chained up in the basement.”

One of Mashkov’s eyebrows quirked at that as they left the bedroom. “This house does not have basement.”

Kent snorted as they descended the stairs, heading back into the kitchen and retrieving what he needed for smoothies from his pantry and refrigerator, but let that pass without comment.

The smoothies went together quickly, and Kent was in the middle of searching out a travel cup he wouldn’t mind losing for a while when the doorbell started ringing. Insistently. Kent’s eyebrows furrowed even as Alexei picked up the stick that Kent had left in the kitchen earlier. “I’ll get it,” he told the Russian, heading for the front door.

It was only mildly surprising when he noticed that Alexei was right behind him; it was obvious that the D-man was as protective in life as he was on the ice. But the surprise on the other side of the door was totally unexpected. Zimms was there, blue eyes slanted and ever so faintly murderous. But his former lover was standing just behind Eddie Vontag (head of Aces’ PR), Michael Wolstead (Kent’s agent), and a third man that Kent had seen in the Falconers’ entourage in passing but had never met before.

“Um…” Trying to avoid the weight of Zimms glare, Kent focused on his agent. “Mike… what’s going on?”

“We need to come in, Kent.” His agent’s usual bon vivant tone was muted, and no one’s expression screamed good news. “Now.”

Kent stepped back, letting them come in past him. Alexei had set aside the stick in his own confusion and picked up the curious Kit before she could try for the open door. It made Kent’s heart melt just a little that the big man was so good with her, but he pushed that aside as he closed the front door and followed along as his agent led everyone into Kent’s living room. “Mike?” Kent asked again hating the suspense.

“This is Greg Alder,” Mike offered before explaining. “He’s the member of the Falconers’ PR team that traveled with them for this game. We felt it was important that he be here as well, since both teams are involved.”

“We tried to reach you both by phone,” Eddie added. “But neither of you responded, and this can’t afford to wait. It’ll be all over the major outlets by this afternoon, and we need to have a strategy in place before that happens.”

“What will be on major outlets?” Alexei asked, his own tone careful. “Zimmboni?”

“I can’t believe you did this,” Jack directed at Kent. His tone was quiet, seething. “Especially with a member of my team.”

“What?” Kent snapped, reacting instantly as hurt flashed through him. “You made your position clear, Zimms, and you’ve got your little peach now. If I decide to fuck my way through the NHL, that’s none of your business anymore.”

“Unfortunately, it does involve him tangentially,” Alder put in. “Given the rumors about the nature of your relationship back in the Q, something like this is going to bring his orientation back under heavy scrutiny.”

“And Eric’s not out yet,” Jack snarled. He fixed a baleful glare at Alexei. “I can understand why that wouldn’t mean anything to Kent, but I thought at least you liked Bitty, Tater. Do you have any idea what could happen to his life once this gets legs?”

“So somebody saw us drunk flirting, maybe even leaving a bar together, and is making wild claims to the stalkerazzi press?” Kent sneered, trying to pull attention away from Alexei. He didn’t like the hurt expression on the enforcer’s face. “Shit, man: Benn and Segs give them more to chew on every other fucking week, and that’s when they’re dead sober. Not to mention the way Nicki and Ovi are together. It’ll blow over.”

“This is a little more complicated than that,” Eddie cut in. Before Kent could ask, he opened the briefcase he’d brought with him and withdrew a set of documents, handing them to Kent.

His eyes narrowed, then widened as he realized what the documents were. At Alexei’s concerned look, he angled them so that the Falconer could see what they said, and met the Russian’s shocked expression with one of his own.

“Since they’re public records,” Eddie continued, watching as the situation sank in with both men, “it’s common for celebrity sites to have someone keeping tabs on the licenses that get filed in Vegas. TMZ has it. Radio stations, ESPN and the 24-hour news channels will be reporting it within the hour and it’ll probably be one of the top stories during the evening news broadcasts by the big four and their local affiliates. We need to manage this, which means we need to get a strategy and response together now.”

Until Alexei’s hand covered his own, Kent hadn’t realized that it was shaking. The Russian’s face was as pale as his own felt, but there was a steadiness in those eyes now that made Kent feel somehow calmer. As angry as Zimms was with him; as much as this was going to raise ten kinds of Hell, there was no help for it now. And much as they’d never gotten along on or off the ice before last night, Kent had an irrational urge to believe that the way Alexei was looking at him right now meant that he wasn’t on his own in dealing with this.

Nodding, Kent pulled his eyes away from his husband’s and looked at the suits. “Okay… somebody please tell me that there’s a secret emergency NHL contingency plan for what to do if two players get drunk married in Vegas.”