Pulling his phone out of his pocket, he found the number he needed and hit call.
After only two rings, Elli Adler answered.
“Hey, Phillip, what’s up?”
“I need your help, Elli.”
She paused, and he could hear kids in the background. She probably wasn’t the greatest person to help him since she was busy with owning a team and raising a family, but Elli wasn’t only his boss, she was his friend. He trusted that she would know what to do.
“Absolutely, what can I do to help?”
PHILLIP SQUIRTED a mouthful of water, and then spit. Doing it again, he spit farther on the ice as he watched his teammate, Jordie Thomas, move around the net with the puck. Doing it for a third time, he spit even farther before turning to make sure Claire was still behind him.
When she sent him her signature glare, he rolled his eyes before turning to look back at the ice. She was not happy with him, more like furious. He thought when he asked Elli to help him that everything would be okay, that he would be giving Claire what she wanted. But he was dead wrong. Since Elli was busy with the kids and the team, like he knew she was, she suggested that Jakob Titov’s wife, Harper, take her on. Harper was a lot like Claire, and Phillip knew that she could handle the hellion he loved. Harper was all for it, and guaranteed him that Claire would be in great hands.
One would think that Phillip suggested that Claire have all her limbs amputated. She cussed, she screamed, and she threw things, saying that Phillip was just throwing her off on someone else. That was so far from what he was doing that it wasn’t even funny. He was trying to get her the stability she wanted while he was gone. Harper said that she could have her own room, and he worked hard to duplicate it to the room Claire had in their house. He thought it was the perfect idea, but Claire didn’t think so. She was under the impression that he was going to leave her alone at his house.
Cold day in f**king hell.
She needed supervision. Two nights before, they were in the room, watching a movie. When Claire got up to use the bathroom, she was wobbling. He asked her what was wrong, and she started to slur her speech. Phillip got up, going to her, and she reeked of alcohol. Reaching for her orange juice, he took a sip to confirm what he hoped he was wrong about. She was drinking. He asked her why, and she told him that she felt numb when she drank, and then she promptly passed out. Clearing out the mini-bar while she slept it off, he actually wanted to cry. He had no clue what to do about her, and it was killing him.
Claire’s issues were also affecting his game, and he didn’t know how to leave her out of his mind when he was on the ice. The only reason she was there right now was because he told her he would send her to Alice if she didn’t straighten up. She blew him off, but he could see the fear in her eyes and, even though he hated to threaten her, he didn’t know what else to do. He had done research. Everyone said to make her feel at home, to give her space and try to talk to her, but the only thing that seemed to make her happy was to leave her alone, and that didn’t work for him. She did stupid things when she was alone, so really he was f**ked either way. God, he really needed this thing to work out with Harper.
“Go,” Coach Baxter said, tapping Phillip’s helmet, and off he went. Rushing the puck, he looked left to see E. Titov waiting for the pass. Whipping the puck over to him, a forward from the Sharks stopped it, and passed it to his right wing, but Phillip was there, stealing the puck and rushing down the ice on a breakaway with Karson King, with Erik right behind him. He could have dropped it back to either of them, and they would have had a clean shot, but he knew he could deke the goalie out and get it in when the goalie went the wrong way. After doing just that, the Sharks’ goalie laid on the ice, slamming his fist as the King, Erik, Adler, and E. Titov wrapped him up in a hug. As the guys headed to the bench with the crowd going nuts, the biggest smile came across his face. God, he loved a home crowd. It was his first goal since Claire came home with him and, when he glanced up to where she sat, she was on her feet, cheering. He didn’t know if it was the atmosphere of the crowd cheering or if she was really cheering for him, but it made his heart swell. A little ounce of hope was renewed as he watched her smiling face.
Maybe they would be okay.
Or maybe not.
Phillip was starting to think Claire was drunk at the game because, the next day, she was back to her angry self. Throwing her things in a box, she pinned him with a look that said she was pissed. He moved a packed box into the hall as she yelled.
“If you think I’m going over there and being her personal babysitter, you got another thing coming!”
Phillip shook his head. “Harper isn’t going to ask you to do that.”
“Whatever, that’s probably the only reason she agreed to let me stay there, free babysitting,” she sneered at him as she slowly packed her music stuff.
“No, Claire. She agreed because I needed the help.”
“Help? You act like I’m a burden or something! If you don’t want me, get rid of me. I don’t f**king care.”
Phillip was two seconds from pounding his head against the wall.
“Claire, I do want you. I love you, as I continue to tell you. This is what you wanted. You said you didn’t want to travel with me. This way, you can go to school at a really great private school. You can make friends, and you can enjoy being a teenager.”
“I don’t want to live with a stranger. I want to live with you,” she said, before turning to look at him. Her eyes were so sad, and he felt like the bad guy.