Home > Saved by Love (Bellevue Bullies #7)

Saved by Love (Bellevue Bullies #7)
Author: Toni Aleo

 

 

one

 

 

Callie

 

It’s hard not to look back at life and wonder how in the world I ever lived without Nico Merryweather.

I’ll never forget the moment I met him. In our sub shop with gooey eyes for my sister. In true Aviva style, she wasn’t having it, nor was she even trying to date anyone. But Nico was ruthless. He knew what he wanted, and soon, my sister realized her future would include a six-foot-seven professional goalie who would give her anything she ever could want. Not just material things either, but unconditional love. Now, after selling the sub shop, they’re married with a little baby boy—my world, Vance. I thought I loved my sister and Nico, but Vance, man, that kid has my heart. Since I’m the only sibling between Nico and Aviva, I’ll obviously be his favorite aunt, which is good since I have a shirt, socks, and shorts with his face on them.

I’m a proud aunt.

Vance’s curls tickle my nose as I hold him to my chest. I’m sure the loud noises and flashes of cameras are making him nervous, but Nico was adamant about having him here too.

Here, being a press conference all for Nico. Not the IceCats or the captain or Owen Adler, who is always being asked why his twin brother, who is a badass defensemen, retired from the NHL. No, none of them. Just Nico.

Since we are a part of him, we stand by his side. I flew in this morning and have to fly out tonight to be back in the Bellevue Bullies’ gym tomorrow, but it’s okay. I wouldn’t miss this for anything. I want to be here for Nico, and I’m glad I am. I feel his nerves coming off him in waves. He always gets this tic in his jaw when he is overwhelmed. We know this about him, so Aviva holds one of his hands in both of hers as I hold the other tightly. Just so he knows we’re here and we support him. Love him. God, we love him.

Nico is the dad I always needed. I don’t mean to shit on my dad, but he was as worthless as Frank Gallagher from Shameless. I know that’s rude and really disrespectful, but it’s true. I binged that show when I took Vance at night for Aviva when Nico was at away games, and I’d find myself crying because Frank had to be based on my dad. The similarities are uncanny. When my mom died, my dad decided being a dad wasn’t his jam. I know he could have been suffering from the trauma of losing her, but hell, so were Aviva and I! What about us?

We survived, though. Even through Aviva’s cancer and being broke as jokes. Aviva has and always will be my rock. She made sure I had everything I needed and did everything she could to keep me in the sport I love. I don’t know how many nights she went to the gym to clean or she ran my gymnastics meets for the gym just to pay my tuition. She stepped in and not only became my mom but my dad too. I know it was a lot, but she never gave up on me. I hate feeling this way, but I was her burden to bear, and she wasn’t giving up on me. When Nico came along, he took a lot of that burden from her. He stepped into the dad role, and I couldn’t be more thankful or proud of him for that. He didn’t have to, but he wanted to—thankfully.

I watch the side of his face as he looks out into the crowd while the coach of the IceCats, the hockey team for which he is the franchise goalie, speaks about the start of the season and stuff like that. I’m not really listening; I’m too concerned for Nico. I’ve met this coach a few times and I still can’t remember his name, but today, he isn’t even on my radar. I know how huge this is for Nico, and I almost can’t believe he’s doing it.

When he told me he was giving this press conference and wanted me here, I was speechless. We don’t talk about his autism, even though it’s part of who he is. It’s his superpower. He can do math like no other and keep pucks out of the net like a ninja. I guess since he spent his whole life hiding it, it’s all he’s ever known to do. But that’s about to change.

I look out into the crowd, and unfortunately, I see his mom. I don’t like his mom, but since I’m away at college in Nashville, Tennessee, I don’t have to deal with her a lot. Ever since she outed him for his diagnosis, I have disliked her. Surprisingly, she’s good to Vance—but let me find out that changes, and Aunt Callie is gonna have some words. I would honestly kill for my little dude. Hell, all my family.

When my gaze falls on Nico’s mental health coach, I smile as a warmth fills me. I met Angie Paxton this summer when I was home, and she is so devoted to her job. She’s the reason Nico is here. She wants to make a change, and she wants to help people. To me, that’s beautiful, and I’m all for it. Beside her is her fiancé, Owen Adler. A walking dreamboat. All thick and sexy with dark hair and killer blue eyes. He has his arm wrapped around Angie, holding her close, and man, she is a lucky gal. Owen is a hot commodity, and she locked him in quickly. Thankfully, he is a twin, and rumor has it, his brother is at Bellevue now, but I haven’t seen him since the start of school. Which is probably for the best, because if I do, I don’t think I’ll be able to walk away unscathed. I know I’ll throw myself out there for the taking, and when he rejects me, I’ll be crushed. Word is Evan doesn’t date, especially after all the crap he’s been going through. It doesn’t derail my crush, though; he is yummy, and I’ve always thought so. I know for a fact that those Adler twins are what romantic movies are inspired by.

To keep from fantasizing about Evan, I tear my gaze from Angie and Owen when I hear Nico’s name.

“Now, I’ll turn this over to Nico Merryweather.”

Nico moves toward his coach, bringing us with him. He lets go of Aviva’s hand to shake the coach’s, and I smile when Coach whispers good luck to Nico. The meeting to prep for this press conference was last night, and thankfully, the IceCats’ coaching staff and owner were extremely supportive. Nico told Aviva how his teammates reacted, and I cried when Aviva called me in tears because of how the whole team was so supportive and loving. Nico walked away from those meetings confident and ready for this.

I wish he were still on the high from last night, but instead, I find that I’m holding my breath as Nico looks between Aviva and me before leaning to kiss Vance on the head. He winks at me before kissing Aviva, and then he goes to the mic, not letting us go. I hold his hand tightly, rocking back and forth so Vance doesn’t get fussy. I watch as Nico stands taller, pushing his shoulders back before clearing his throat. A smile plays on my lips as I see Nico Merryweather, all-star hockey player, standing beside me, not hiding behind the cage of his mask. He leans in, and I can’t tell if he has his eyes open. But soon, it doesn’t matter; his voice fills the space we’re in.

“Good morning, and thank you for coming.” He clears his throat, his breathing a little labored as he glances down at the sheet of paper on which he’s written what he wants to say. “I am here today to make an announcement about something personal. First, I want to thank the IceCats and the mental health department of our facility for their love and support. Special thanks to Angela Paxton—she knows why.” He pauses, taking in a deep breath and letting it out in a whoosh. “I want to thank my teammates for not only being my team, but my brothers. I want to thank my mom for being here, and then thank my beautiful wife, Aviva, and our children, Callie and Vance, for loving me no matter what and reassuring me that I am worthy even when I struggle to remember so. I love you. So much.”

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