Home > Game Changer (Las Vegas Vipers # 1)

Game Changer (Las Vegas Vipers # 1)
Author: Stacey Lynn









“You need to call him.”

I closed Instagram, my new obsession when it came to Garrett Dubiak, goalie for the Las Vegas Vipers, also one of my best friends, and dropped my head back. My mom stood behind the couch in her living room, giving me a soft smile full of pity and sadness and worry.

“I know I do.” I reopened the app and showed my mom the picture. “I’m just scared. He looks happy.”

My chest burned, and it had nothing to do with my recent bout of heartburn that came and went with no rhyme or reason and on a sporadic timeline. My mom’s hand curled around my shoulder. I lifted my other hand off my stomach and placed it over hers. She was warm, kind and tender, and she loved me more than anything.

“Maybe he is. But he still has a right to know. You know that.”

Three months ago, Garrett and I met up in North Carolina for our friend’s baby christening a few days before Christmas. We hadn’t spoken for a year, due to a massive miscommunication on both our parts. We spent one night together. One night where I was sure we were finally on the same page and then Garrett dropped the news in my lap that he’d been traded from Chicago to Las Vegas where he was now the starting goalie for the leading team in professional hockey.

The next morning, uncertain of where we’d go from there, I’d left before the emotional goodbye we’d have, the arguments, and I asked for some time to figure things out.

Twenty-four hours later, I came down with a nasty sinus infection that required antibiotics, which must have affected my pills because I was now pregnant—

With Garrett’s baby. My best friend. My lover. The only man I’d ever loved.

He’d called. At first, I was too sick to talk. Then I was too fearful he’d want answers to questions I didn’t have.

Start a long-distance relationship? Give away everything I’d ever known for a chance with him in Las Vegas?

I was born and bred in Chicago. Outside of my three years in graduate school at Oxford University in England, I’d never lived anywhere else and never wanted to. My family was here. I loved my life here, the career I’d built, the success I had and all my friends and family and knowing Chicago better than I knew the back of my own hand. Could I walk away from all of that for him?

As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I had my answer.

Yes. Yes, I absolutely could.

And then I saw him on Instagram.

Nadia Belchinova.

Russian. Long legged, big boobed, and with striking features, I’d been about ready to book my ticket to Vegas and tell him everything, tell him I wanted this baby and I wanted it with him when the first picture of the two of them popped up on his Instagram feed. The first non-professional marketing photo he’d posted in over three years.

That was six weeks ago. Since then, I’d become obsessed with not only following his hockey career, but the pictures online of both of them, individually and together. She was the sister to a teammate, his back-up goalie. The comments of pictures they posted were filled with congratulations from teammates, old and current, along with fire flame emojis and others that made me want to throw my phone across the room.

I’d left him, hadn’t been brave enough to talk to him. Had I waited too long? Had I lost him? The unknown kept me from reaching out to him, even though my mom was right.

Garrett had a right to know.

“What if he loves her?” I asked, brushing my thumb over his face, thick beard he always grew once it came close to playoff season, and stared into his rich blue eyes. He was the best man I’d ever met, and I knew he not only wanted to have children, but how badly he wanted to be a dad.

“He might,” my mom said, squeezing my shoulder. “But he loved you at one time, too. You know the right thing to do with this. And I caution you, the longer you continue to put it off, the harder it’s going to be. On both of you.”

“I know.” I forced myself to close down Instagram and pulled up my text string with my best friend Katie.

She’d been my roommate in college and now married to Jude Taylor. I’d met Garrett back in college the same night Katie met Jude. Now, Jude played down in North Carolina for the Carolina Ice Kings hockey team. Katie and Jude were now married, the reason Garrett and I went to North Carolina in December, and it was Katie’s text that made my chest squeeze.

They’re at the Lantham Hotel. Please, go fix whatever you broke. And then someday, tell me why it’s taken you so long?

Outside my parents, I hadn’t told anyone I was pregnant except my boss. Shawna knew but that was because she saw the ginger ale I started drinking and suspected. I couldn’t tell Katie. I couldn’t ask her to keep it from her husband, who was Garrett’s best friend. I couldn’t ask her to lie to her husband or to Garrett.

Because this time, our brokenness didn’t come from a miscommunication. It was totally one hundred percent my fault, and I had no idea how to fix anything. I knew what Garrett wanted that night, but we were drunk, and while it was a lousy excuse, I’d replayed that night in my mind a hundred times. Would I still have slept with him, knowing it’d probably be the last time?

It was too late for shoulda-woulda-coulda’s. The baby in my stomach who started making his or her appearance known with morning sickness that lasted for half the day made that obvious.

Now, I needed to pick myself up by the bootstraps and do the most terrifying thing in the world.

Tell Garrett Dubiak I loved him. That I was having his baby. And I wanted to be a family.



The Las Vegas Vipers were in Chicago for a three-game series. They’d already won the first, and I watched them win the second two doors down from the Lantham Hotel at a bar, sipping ginger ale and slowly eating a steak dinner with asparagus and a baked potato. I was slowly coming out of the phase where everything made me want to puke. What I could manage to eat stayed down, but my diet had massively changed. I should thank the baby bean for making me healthy. Gone were my days of fried foods, onion rings, french fries, and chicken—in any form—in mass quantities. Now, I craved red meat and vegetables. For the first time in my life, I not only willingly ate broccoli, but thought it tasted like the best food in God’s creation.

I’d been to enough of Garrett’s games over the years to know the drill. They’d head back to the locker room, shower and change, and have a quick post-game wrap-up depending on how they played.

Then they’d hop on the bus. The hotel was five miles from the arena where they played which meant it could be either a ten-minute drive or forty-two. Chicago traffic was finicky like that.

Fortunately, based on my traffic app, traffic was moving relatively quick, so after I waited long enough, I paid my bill and slid off my stool.

It was nearing late March, which meant Chicagoans were equally prepared for the quick burst of spring during the days along with the lingering, blustery chill of winter. It’d snowed last weekend and for the last few days, the weather had been warm enough to melt the snow, but now there was slush, grayed from the roads and the curbs and mixed with the salt and sand mixture the plows used. I trudged over the wet and freezing sidewalks carefully to not slip in my black boots.

When I imagined seeing Garrett again, I’d hoped I could wow him with a slinky black dress. Hell, maybe the heels he’d so carefully stripped off my legs the last time we saw each other. Instead, I was dressed in Ugg boots, a knee-length North Face fluffy coat. My scarf was wrapped around my throat and all of it still barely stopped the chill from the lake effect wind.

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