Home > Coen (Pittsburgh Titans #4)

Coen (Pittsburgh Titans #4)
Author: Sawyer Bennett

 

CHAPTER 1

Coen


Since the crash, the atmosphere in the Titans’ arena has been nothing short of electric. Now that the playoffs are in full swing and the Titans have earned a spot, the energy output from the fans is almost painful to bear.

Especially since I’m sitting in the upper tier of the arena and watching my team from afar.

I have no fucking clue why I’m here.

I’ve made my position clear—I don’t give a fuck about hockey anymore.

And yet… here I am.

Watching my team.

Or is it still my team since I’m suspended through no one’s fault but my own? In the split second before I attacked that ref, I knew it was the end for me this season. I can’t even claim heat of the moment, because I knew what I was doing. More importantly, I knew what the consequences would be before I did it.

Regardless, no one has recognized me. It’s been three weeks since I was suspended for that attack. I’ve grown my beard, not in solidarity with my teammates who have their playoff scruff blooming, but because I don’t give enough of a fuck to shave.

Plus, living in Stone’s cabin in the deep woods, I’ve got this whole mountain-man thing going on.

I’m wearing a hat pulled low and my glasses, not because I think they offer a disguise, but because I didn’t order my replacement contacts in time.

The whole look allows me to sit up here among the throng of fans too amped up on playoff energy and beer to pay me too much attention. But if someone does happen to recognize me, so be it.

I’m just a regular fan like them now.

It’s game three of this first round of the playoffs. The first two games were played against the New Jersey Wildcats who had home ice advantage. They soundly whipped the Titans’ asses both games.

I by no means think it’s because I wasn’t there to help. Yes, it’s been tough on everyone losing me as well as our primary goalie, Jesper Keane, but I wasn’t contributing all that much to begin with.

Some would argue I was hurting the team with my shitty attitude.

Outside of that, it’s just been hard for a team of players to come together after the tragedy of the crash. It’s unrealistic to expect us to have much in the way of synchronization and connection on the ice. Playoff teams have had months to gel in all the ways needed to play at the highest caliber, and the Titans just haven’t had that.

This isn’t shocking or unexpected.

The team’s chances of amounting to much this season after the crash were incredibly slim, and it’s an amazing accomplishment to have even made the playoffs.

They won’t be here long, though.

Currently down three to zero with only five minutes left in the third period, this is going to go down as another loss, and they’ll only be one game away from elimination.

I’m not sad for me, but I do pity those guys down on the ice who are playing their hearts out, trying to eke out a win for the fans. They’re giving all they’ve got, but it won’t be enough.

I consider heading out and beating the mass exodus once the buzzer sounds. I’ve got a little over a three-and-a-half-hour drive to get back to Stone’s cabin. I moved in the day he gave me the keys, and this is the first time I’ve left the small town of Coudersport.

Still not quite sure what possessed me to come to Pittsburgh to watch this game, but fuck if I could help myself.

It’s nothing but torture.

Self-flagellation.

Making myself watch what I’ve willingly given up.

And I have given it up, even though I’m here. The day Brienne and Callum notified me of the suspension, I told them I was done for good.

I was numb, sitting in Brienne’s office. The cool-as-a-cucumber heiress to the Norcross fortune, and now sole owner of the Titans after her brother’s death in the crash, regarded me not with ice in her eyes, but with a warmth and understanding I hadn’t earned.

Yeah, she was mad as hell I attacked the ref, which came on the heels of my arrest in New York for assault and drunk and disorderly. But without words, her gaze told me she understood.

I’m glad she did, because I sure as fuck didn’t.

I didn’t understand a goddamn thing in this world anymore.

“Coen.” My name on her lips was both gentle and unyielding at the same time. “You certainly have the right to appeal this suspension.”

“I won’t,” I’d replied. “I’m done.”

Brienne was unnerved and exchanged a look with our general manager, Callum Derringer, before bringing her attention back to me. I braced, waiting for her to pitch the same shit that Gage, Baden, and Stone had been throwing at me.

You’re too good to walk away from this.

This team needs you.

You can come back from this.

I braced and I waited, ready to deny Brienne’s pleas for me not to give up on this career.

But it never came.

Instead, she nodded. “I’m not going to beg you to stay. I’m not going to tell you that you’re throwing away a Hall of Fame-worthy career. I’m not even going to tell you this team will suffer with you gone, because I’ll find someone to replace you.”

I was so stunned by her words and the matter-of-fact way she laid them out, I know my jaw sagged slightly.

“I won’t try to influence you in any way,” she continued, her eyes locked onto mine with an intensity that punched deep. “But I won’t hear another word about you quitting or giving up until training camp starts in September. You want to leave this behind? Fine. But you are doing a disservice to yourself if you do it now. You need some time away from all this. From the horror of the crash, the guilt I know is consuming you, and the pressures of trying to perform on the ice with a team that isn’t the team you want, nor the team you can have, since they’re all dead.”

I glanced at Callum, who was listening intently but had his gaze averted out the window to the Pittsburgh skyline across the river.

And then she made it impossible for me to not do as she was asking.

“I don’t know you at all, Coen.” Her eyes seemed to mist over a bit, and she smiled sadly. “But my brother was a big fan of yours. He thought you were one of the greatest sports heroes this city had ever seen, and I know you had mutual respect for each other.”

That was just fucking low because I owed my start in this career to him. Had he not been on that plane, if he were the one here asking me to stay with this team, I would’ve been hard-pressed to walk away.

“I’m asking you to honor Adam and not leave this team until you’ve had the summer to think things over.”

Ultimately, I promised her that, but mentally, I was sort of crossing my fingers behind my back. I knew in my heart of hearts I couldn’t step foot on the ice because I didn’t deserve that precious spot. If Brienne didn’t want my answer until training camp, I could hold my tongue until then.

The crowd erupts in a roar that I swear to fuck shakes the building and jolts me out of my memories. Thousands upon thousands of Titans’ fans jump to their feet, screaming as we score.

I don’t even fucking comprehend what’s happened at first and have to look up at the scoreboard for the instant replay while the guys on the ice celebrate.

What do you know?

Boone Rivers scored.

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