First Season (Harrisburg Railers Hockey Book 2)

By: Rj Scott & V.L. Locey

Chapter One



Layton



This was turning out to be the worst day of my life. Worse even than the time the football team decided to shove me in a locker, and then wedge the door shut.

Everything started out okay. The Railers appointment was my third job since leaving college and choosing to specialize in crisis management. Call me a spin doctor or a marketing guy, it doesn’t matter; I was there with my bright, shiny degree in business in my back pocket, to solve a problem using social media, training, and careful planning.

“We want to hire you, but are you gay?” The caller asked when he contacted me.

He couldn’t really ask me that, but at that point, with bills to pay, I worded it a lot better than just blurting out a “What the hell?”

“I’m not sure how that’s relevant,” I said.

The man on the other end of the phone, who hadn’t even identified himself, just that he worked for a hockey team, sighed noisily. “Fucked if I know,” he said. “I just need someone to help us through this.”

So I asked him what he meant, and at the point when he completely lost his shit over whether to use the word homosexual in a press release, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

“I can handle this,” I reassured him. “You need me.”

I didn’t care how I got it, I just knew that I was the best person for the job.

He told me he was the GM for the Railers hockey team, and even though my heart sank and my chest tightened, I had to do this. A hockey team, a player coming out of the closet—this was a high-value client.

I did my research after the call; I didn’t watch hockey, but I knew of it, and it was basically a bunch of jocks on skates. Right? They needed to be told when to talk and when not to talk, and what was appropriate and when. I could do that. Add in the fact that I would be managing the first official coming-out in the hockey world, and this could make or break my career. I could become a crisis management expert in the field of sports.

The irony of that didn’t escape me, given my past.

I had breakfast, wore my newest suit, a crisp white shirt and a brand new blue tie to match the team colors. I’d shaved off my non-ironic loggers’ beard, and my man bun was gone. I felt a little naked, but I wanted to be taken seriously, and what used to be hot in styling now seemed to be the butt of jokes. I didn’t want to be the butt of anyone’s jokes.

Honestly, I’d thought of everything.

Except.

Walking into the East River Arena, home of the Harrisburg Railers hockey team, freaked me out. It was the smell, I think, and the cavernous expanse of seats. I could imagine the shouting, the jeering, the excitement, and all of that became a ball of fear inside me.

Jocks. I can handle them. They’re adults now, and I’m not the same nerdy kid I used to be.

Still, it didn’t stop me losing my breakfast in the first bathroom I could find off the tunnel from the parking garage. So much for eating to give me energy. I was a wrung-out mess, clinging to porcelain and wishing I could get a handle on my nerves. I’d had two clients before this, big companies with interesting problems, where my lectures on sensitivity awareness had been well received. I could handle rough feedback, crappy tweets, Facebook discussions about inappropriate shit, but they were corporate clients, not hockey players.

It was me and them.

Alone.

Talking one-on-one with hockey players and the support network around them about how it was okay for one of their players to be sleeping with their coach. Also that gay was good, love was love, and oh yeah, could they stop tweeting shit about anything to do with gender, politics, and sexual orientation, to name three things on my list.

These guys were jocks. Well-paid jocks, with a whole army of fans who hung on their every word. The captain had over eighty thousand Twitter followers, mostly because he seemed to be the poster boy for sex on skates. Lots of tweets with videos of him half naked. Not to mention Ten’s Instagram, which was new, but which already had an explosion of followers, probably for the same reason—he was hot, and a skater. I noticed links to a lot of websites that featured the hottest men in hockey. Without knowing it, Ten and the team captain were probably gay icons. Go figure.

And it was for Ten and his boyfriend that I was here. Ten was the hotshot on the Railers team, one of those players who were making a mark on the NHL. Or so the press releases said. All I saw was a gay man coming out in a hostile sports environment and that was what I was dealing with.

Ten, hockey player, and his partner, Jared, coach, were in a committed relationship and I had to make people see that this was normal. Okay. A good thing.

I can do this. I am strong. I will not be sick again.

I relaxed each tight muscle and swallowed around the dryness in my throat. Today was going to go well. Why would anything go wrong? I’d prepared what I needed, researched enough about the team to know the personnel, if not the game of hockey itself; there was only so much I could do in the week since I’d been called to do this job. I even had an office, apparently.

So I’d been sick; lots of people got sick before significant events. I could handle being sick.