Blocked (Boston Terriers Hockey #3) - Jacob Chance by Jacob Chance

Chapter One





Maddie





Sitting between two of my classmates, I proudly watch as my best friend, Clover, receives her diploma from our principal and shakes his hand. Shoving two fingers between my lips, I let loose an ear piercing whistle. Clover beams in my direction, taking the opportunity to bask in the applause before she confidently strides back to her seat.

I’m incredibly nervous as they get further through the alphabet. One of the advantages of having the last name Winters is being near the end. But the reprieve only lasts so long, and all too soon it’s my turn.

When I stand, my legs are shaking so badly, my knees are almost knocking together. I can’t believe I have to walk up to the stage in front of hundreds of people. I hope I don’t trip over this horrible gown.

The entire way, I can barely breathe. My chest is so tight with anxiety. I feel each and every pair of eyes on me with every step I take. When I finally have my diploma in hand, I inhale and exhale fully for the first time since my name was called and smile toward Clover.

My eyes scan over to where my family is seated. I can see my dad, Marshall, and wait a minute… is that Shaw beside my brother? I take in the dark, curly hair and stunning smile, and I know it’s really him.

Oh God. Now I’m nervous all over again. Shaw Masters has been my secret crush for as long as I can remember. Clover is the only person who knows about my feelings for him.

Somehow, I manage to make it back to my seat without taking a faceplant. Since there are only a few kids left to announce, I’m free to go within a few minutes.

Clover and I hug one more time and promise to talk later on. Weaving in and out of the other graduates, I make my way over to my family.

The principal makes an announcement to give our class another round of applause, and the crowd roars. I release another long, high whistle.

“Maddie, must you behave like a hooligan?” my mother scoffs in annoyance.

Hi, Mom. How are you?

She hasn’t seen me in a week, and that’s the first thing she has to say?

“How is whistling a bad thing?” I carelessly shrug one shoulder. “It’s not like it’s illegal.”

My dad’s hand settles on my back for a moment. He leans over, whispering, “Just ignore her. It’s not worth arguing.” He pulls me into his arms. “Congratulations, honey. I’m so proud of you.”

I hug him back before I get passed on to Marshall, my older brother.

“Sis, congrats. You’re finally out of this hellhole.”

“Finally,” I agree as he gives me a quick squeeze. When I step back from Marshall, I notice Shaw.

“Hi, Maddie. Congratulations.” He smiles and my stomach spins.

“Hey, thanks.” I chew on my bottom lip.

For as long as I can remember, it’s been Marshall, Shaw, and me. The two of them, the best of friends, and me, the tag-along they put up with. I’ve always loved my brother and his friends and thought of them as my protectors, my heroes. But one day, I looked at Shaw and noticed how much he’d grown up. And the same testosterone that makes my brother annoying as fuck, made Shaw the sexiest guy on the planet. In the past year, my feelings for Shaw have changed from friendly to something more complex, something I can’t define and have no experience with.

There’s an awkward moment where neither of us is sure of what to do. Shaw makes the choice for both of us, drawing me into his embrace. He’s so much taller than me, his chest cradles my cheek. I can’t help but notice his familiar, clean, outdoorsy scent. He’s smelled the same for as long as I can remember. His arms briefly tighten before he releases me.

At this point I expect my mom to step in for a hug and to congratulate me, but she does neither of those things. And should I really be surprised?

My parents have been divorced for five years. That’s what happens when one spouse catches the other having an affair. She didn’t even try to deny it or keep it a secret from Marshall and me.

It’s bad enough that she broke up our family, but what was more upsetting for me is that she broke my dad’s heart. He’s the best father I could ask for, and I’ll never forgive her for hurting him.

I live with my dad, and if there’s anyone who knows how to deal with my mom, it’s him. She’s difficult on a good day and damn near impossible on a bad one.

I tell myself to focus on how great it is that I officially have my diploma in hand and will be heading off to college in a few months. I wish I could go sooner, but I’ve got the summer to make it through first. And I know that will mean visiting my mother at some point. As much as she has hurt our family, my dad still makes me spend time with her, even though I’m eighteen and legally considered an adult. At least I no longer have to adhere to the visitation schedule set forth by the court.