All Hail the Underdogs
by E.L. Massey
Series: Breakaway (Book 3)
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: August 29, 2023
Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex
Length: Novel / 78,100 Words / 347 Pages
Genre/Tropes/Keywords: Contemporary, contemporary, gay, interracial, YA/new adult, sports, ice hockey, team mates, writer, humorous, private school/ dorm life, slow burn, enemies to friends to boyfriends, enemies/rivals to boyfriends, coming of age, coming out, adoption, alcohol/underage drinking, family drama, emancipation, accidental baby acquisition
Roman and Damien have to decide: What do they really want in life?
When seventeen-year-old Patrick Roman is offered a scholarship to a top hockey preparatory school, he thinks maybe his notorious bad luck has finally ended. With a hearing for his legal emancipation on the horizon, he dreams of getting scouted and securing a place on a D1 college team. There’s only one problem: Roman has serious beef with his new winger on the team, Damien Bordeaux. They’re supposed to be perfectly in sync on the ice. But Roman, with his buzzcut and tattoos, has nothing in common with trust-fund-kid Damien, his floral scrunchies, and designer T-shirts that cost more than all of Roman’s secondhand hockey gear combined.
When eighteen-year-old Damien Bordeaux starts his senior year, he tells himself he’s going to focus on hockey and school. No more making out in the stacks, no more dorm parties. He needs to decide what his future will look like. Does he pursue his long-held dream of becoming an author? Or stay in his lane and do what he’s good at: hockey. Regardless, he’s not going to let any pretty boys distract him from figuring his shit out. Except his new center, Roman, is possibly the most beautiful boy Damien has ever seen. And his hockey—the way he moves on the ice—might be even more beautiful. Too bad he’s also probably a homophobic, racist asshole.
But their antagonistic beginning turns into an unlikely friendship and then turns into something much scarier for them both. Navigating relationships is hard enough for normal teenagers. It’s a lot harder when contending with lawyers, NHL scouts, and mutual past trauma. Roman and Damien have to decide: What do they really want in life? Are they willing to fight for each other—including fighting against their own pasts and prejudices—so they can have a happy ending?
All Hail the Underdogs
E.L. Massey © 2023
All Rights Reserved
Patrick Roman has his mother’s eyes and his father’s nose, and on his face, they’re still a family.
He considers his reflection in the filmy bus station bathroom mirror. He rubs his thumb down the raised line of scar tissue bisecting his chin: pink and new and only partially hidden in the drip-paint collage of his freckles, and then rubs harder, more habit than intention.
After spending the summer as a stern man on his uncle’s crab boat—sorting, banding, baiting, resetting, trying his best to repair the limping hydraulic trap hauler that should have been scrapped a decade ago—layers of sunburn have turned into a tan, multiplying the pigment across his nose and cheeks and shoulders to a point where he looks constantly dirty. As if he’d been working in his other uncle’s garage and absently smeared an oiled forearm over his face.
His cousin Saoirse once said that Patrick looked like a Jackson Pollock painting. He thinks she was trying to be mean. Or elitist. Or both. But he sort of agrees with her. He didn’t know who Jackson Pollock was, at first, but when he went with his aunt into town the following weekend, he used the library computer to google him.
At thirteen, with new calluses on his palms from his first-ever crab haul, constant peeling skin over his nose and shoulders, and the kind of secret that scrapes your insides hollow, he’d found the paintings, grainy and pixelated as they were on the old computer monitor, strangely familiar.
Maybe he is like a Jackson Pollock painting: a dark, incensed, anxious spatter of reds and yellows and blacks and blues. Too much color for one canvas. Too much feeling for containment. Too much, maybe, in general.
Someone bangs on the bathroom door, and he stops glaring at his reflection because there’s nothing much he can do about it.
He uses a paper towel to dry his hands, runs his fingers, still damp, over his buzzed hair, and shoulders his duffel bag.
St. James Academy is waiting.
He googled St. James when he googled the rest of the best hockey prep schools in the country.
Same shitty library computer.
Initially, he wanted to try to play for a junior team; he was good enough, he’d been scouted. But now, money issues aside, billeting would be all but impossible considering his legal situation. So he’d spent stolen hours at school and after work searching boarding schools with prep hockey teams, comparing stats and rosters and course offerings. He sent in his game tapes and paperwork with scraped-together application fees and letters of recommendation from his former and current coaches.
He applied to six schools and was accepted at two.
St. James was the closest, not that he really cared about staying close, but his lawyer said it would make things easier for possible future hearings if he was within a few hours’ drive of Port Marta.
St. James was also the cheapest, which he did care about, and it routinely produced D1 prospects, which was his primary concern. A full scholarship with housing, a meal plan, and a chance to elevate his game to the point that maybe, next year, he could get a scholarship to college? An easy decision.
After getting a handful of salt-crusted hundreds from his uncle at the harbor early that morning as payment for his summer of work, he’d hitched a ride with another stern man from Port Marta to Brunswick and then took a Greyhound from there to Concord, and then a city bus to the station closest to St. James.
And now he’s here, standing outside with a paper map from his library’s equally shitty printer, a duffel bag from the army surplus store full of abused hockey gear, and an address written in permanent marker on his wrist. It’s three miles away, but he’s not about to waste money on an Uber.
He shoulders his bag and starts walking.
The campus looks exactly like the online pictures—sun-dappled and idyllic, with people lounging under trees and throwing frisbees and weaving colorful bikes in and out of foot traffic on immaculate sidewalks.
He’s too hot in his leather jacket, and the strap of his bag is rubbing the side of his neck raw, but he walks with a purpose and doesn’t make eye contact when people look at him.
And people do look at him.
He’s six foot two, dressed all in black and carrying a bag over his shoulder that’s nearly as big as he is. Doubtless, he stands out like some sort of hulking freckled raven among songbirds.
By the time he finds the administration building, his palms are so sweaty it’s hard to get the stupidly ornate door open. Once inside, standing in line on the marble floors, looking up at the vaulted ceiling, the whispered assertion that’s been following him since he stepped foot on campus gets louder: You do not belong here. He’s felt that way for most his life, though, wherever he was, so it isn’t that disconcerting.
He clears his throat when it’s his turn, stepping up to the counter at the student center.
“I’m a transfer,” he says. “Patrick Roman. I need to pick up my dorm keys.”
Before the receptionist has a chance to answer, though, the person behind him speaks.
“You’re our new center?”
He turns to look at the speaker and pauses.
Because he recognizes the boy’s face.
He’s seen it on rosters and game footage and even a few news articles.
During his research, Patrick memorized the names of three players at St. James Academy. Three players he thought were exceptionally good. These would be your peers, he told himself.
The first was Aiden Kane. Junior. Winger. Number 5.
The second was Justin Lefevre. Senior. Defense. Captain. Number 73.
The third is now standing in front of him.
Damien Raphael Bordeaux. Senior. Winger. Number 21.
What he didn’t anticipate is that, off the ice, Damien Raphael Bordeaux looks a lot less like the goon he does on the ice and a lot more like the kind of boy Patrick’s father warned him against becoming, sometimes with words, but sometimes with fists.
Because off the ice, Damien wears cuffed skinny jeans stretched tight over the bulk of his thighs and half-unbuttoned floral shirts and velvet scrunchies to hold back his long, curly hair. His dark skin is clear and pore-less, and the delicate gold chain around his neck should look out of place on someone so broad, but it doesn’t.
He is irritatingly well-groomed.
He’s also waiting for an answer.
“Yeah?” Patrick manages, and it maybe comes out more aggressive than he intended.
“I’m Damien,” Damien Raphael Bordeaux says, extending a hand and smiling with straight white teeth and the easy confidence that comes with money. “I’m on the hockey team too.”
He has the slightest accent that might be French. Of course, he does.
Damien’s hand is warm and dry, and the torn calluses on Patrick’s own chapped hand scrape jarringly against his palm.
“Rome,” Patrick says. Because if there’s one thing hockey has given him, it’s a name that his father didn’t.
Damien squeezes his fingers, holds on a moment past comfortable, grins wider so the skin around his eyes crinkles, and says, “Rome. Cool. Coach says you’re going to be my new center.”
And all Rome can think is:
Meet the Author
E. L. Massey is a human. Probably. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her partner, the best dog in the world (an unbiased assessment), and a frankly excessive collection of books. She spends her holidays climbing mountains and writing fan fiction, occasionally at the same time.
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