Home > Shot Taker (Vegas Vipers #4)

Shot Taker (Vegas Vipers #4)
Author: Stacey Lynn

 

 

One

 

 

Max

 

 

“Three concussions. One knee surgery. You’ve already had one lower back surgery and a dislocated shoulder.” The team doctor peered down at me as he read through my file.

Like I didn’t already know the litany of injuries I’d had over the last few years. Hockey was a tough game. I was an even tougher player. It happened.

But never during a freaking weekend I was supposed to spend relaxing and rock climbing with my teammate and friend, Alix Halvrick.

I glared at him through the excruciating pain in my head while he stood, arms crossed over his chest in the corner. He was most likely taking in every single word the doctor said, every furrowed brow as he scanned my chart and the x-ray results the doctor was going over.

If my shoulder didn’t feel like it was boiling inside, I’d tear the damn file out of his hand.

I was fine. Or I would be. It was the very beginning of July. I could still be ready to play before the season. So my head currently felt like it was being beaten from the inside out with a mallet and every time I moved, the room spun and vomit rose in my throat.

A minor concussion. I’d had worse ones.

“What’s the plan then? Physical therapy?”

The doctor glanced at Alix before meeting my eyes and when he did, I swore I saw pity in them. “You have a greater than fifty percent tear in your rotator cuff, Max. Not to mention the concussion.”

“And?” I dared him with my glare to say it. Suggest I quit the game, the only thing I was good at.

He blinked first. The doctor I’d always respected and now wanted to punch, dropped his file to his side and rubbed his hand across his forehead.

Oh… was the threat of me losing my job stressing him out? Poor guy. Too bad if something happened to him, he had a college degree to fall back on. I didn’t even have that. Nothing except hockey. Like hell I was giving it up.

“We’ll schedule you for an MRI and see how things look, but I’m not going to bullshit you. The shoulder will most likely require surgery. And recovery time, plus PT… you’re looking at a long road ahead.”

“Fine then.” I tried to adjust the way I was leaning back in this stupid fucking hospital bed where Alix brought me after I slipped, slammed into the rocks, and screamed in agony while I’d tried to re-find my footing.

Fucking rock climbing.

The small movement in my bed made the room tilt, and I grabbed the damn plastic bowl before I could throw up in my lap.

I might lose my career, but I sure as hell wouldn’t lose my dignity.

“Let’s do the surgery. Right now.”

It was early July. I had my brother’s wedding in four weeks. I still had plenty of time to get back into shape for pre-season in September. Worst case, I was back on the ice by Thanksgiving. Maybe Christmas. Plenty of season left.

For now, I was going to ignore the fact this was my last year under contract and I was looking at being thirty-one, a free agent with a roster of injuries that would make anyone hesitate.

Fuck.

“It might not be that easy, Max. With the history of your back and shoulder…”

“Don’t even fucking think it,” I growled at him. If I could move, hell, if I could blink without wanting to throw up, I’d lunge for the man.

“Max…” Alix said, stepping forward. “Listen to him.”

“Fuck that. I’m a hockey player. That’s what I do. Who I am.” Shit. My goddamn head. I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth together. “I’m not going to listen to this guy suspect what he’s thinking of saying without any goddamn proof.”

I turned back to the doctor. “Get me the MRI. And do whatever you have to do to get me ready for the season.”

“I’ve called Vik. He’s on his way, too. I’ll let you know when we’re ready.”

Coach Vik was going to lose his shit. Ignoring the fact I’d most likely be fined for participating in a dangerous sport in the off-season which was already against our contract, he’d definitely be pissed about my shoulder.

“Fine.” I practically spit out the word through clamped teeth.

As soon as he was gone, I dropped my head to the pillow and closed my eyes.

“Don’t say whatever it is you’re thinking, Alix.”

Alix Halvrick was my best friend on the team. A few years younger than me, we were always together. Mostly because the majority of the team had started falling in love and getting married. The lucky fuckers. We were two of a handful of single guys on the team remaining and we liked to hang out. Today’s adventure was supposed to be a relaxing climb at Red Rock Canyon.

“This is all your fault,” I muttered to him. It had been his idea.

He was silent, which meant I’d hurt him.

I opened my eyes enough to see him through the blur of my eyelashes and the disco ball of colors swimming in my vision. “Sorry. Fuck. I didn’t mean that.”

His blond brows furrowed together and he was chewing on the inside of his cheek. All of his usual playfulness had been left at the canyon, because there was no happiness in him when he said, “The doctor is not wrong about your shoulder. Your rotator cuff, Max. That’s serious. And your head…”

“It’ll be fine.”

Because it’d have to be.

I was thirty. My career only had a limited number of years left. But it was the only thing I knew.

If I didn’t have hockey, who in the hell was I?

No one. Just some rich asshole without a college degree and a handful of stories, meaning I could someday say, “Back when I played pro hockey.”

Fuck that.

I wouldn’t leave the sport until they had to drag my dead body off the ice.

 

 

Coach Vik swiped his hand over his bald head and stared at his feet before raising his face. As soon as his eyes met mine, my teeth ground together.

It’d been hours. I’d sent Alix home, only to have him return showered and now pacing the small area on the opposite side of my bed, wringing his hands together so fiercely it was a wonder he had flesh left on them.

“Surgery,” I surmised, based on the ravaged look on Coach’s face. Not because he thought of me as a son, but because I was a weapon. I was the man who helped him win games and keep him as the coach of one of the most winning teams in professional hockey history.

“To be determined,” he said and took another swipe across his bald head. It shined beneath the harsh lights of the hospital room and he cursed. “We have some other options we can try first along with physical therapy to see if we can get it healed without surgery. If you’re careful with the shoulder, keep it in a sling and meet with your physical therapist daily, we might be able to avoid surgery altogether.”

I’d pulled up my phone and scanned Google regarding rotator cuff surgery when Alix left after my MRI. Bad idea. Not the worst I’d ever had, but definitely not the best. Besides the fact I could barely read due to the concussion, everything I read about shoulder surgery only made my headache worse.

“What options?”

Our coach glanced at the doctor, his brows lined with stress. “There’s stem cell replacement where they take some cells from your hip and inject it into the site. There’s what’s called platelet-rich plasma injection. Those only take a few hours, and results can be seen in a few weeks.”

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