Read On the Fly (Crimson Romance) Online

Authors: Katie Kenyhercz

Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary

On the Fly (Crimson Romance) (8 page)

BOOK: On the Fly (Crimson Romance)
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Her headache escalated to pre-aneurysm status when she entered the arena and stood next to Madden. He chatted up a camera guy, and the two shared a laugh betting who could score a date with the pretty female reporter checking her nails. Preseason attendance had been spotty, but tonight fans were out in full force. With their bullhorns. Relief surged through her even though most of the crowd probably came because of the singer she scored for the national anthem. But ticket sales were ticket sales, and this town needed another team to cheer for.

They went crazy when the Sinners skated out onto the ice and started their warm up. Several twenty somethings in the front row sported Broadway makeup and long hair teased to perfection. They wore second skin blue jeans and scoop neck T-shirts with PHLYNN written across the chests in rhinestones. They jumped and screamed “Carter!” as he skated by. An elbow nudged her arm and she looked over to see two, gleaming blue Aleve in Madden’s open palm. Wide-eyed, Jacey whispered a heartfelt “thank you” and downed them dry. She looked back to the women and arched a brow. “How can he have a fan club already?”

“Oh, them? Those are the Phlynn-addicts. You know, like fanatics? Their term, not mine. They follow the golden boy wherever he goes.”

Jacey frowned. Carter skated by again, waved to his harem with a grin and then looked directly at her, amusement plain on his face. She rolled her eyes and looked away. Madden opened his mouth — no doubt to comment — when the announcer directed everyone’s attention to the Jumbotron screen. The crowd stood and went silent as Wayne Newton sang the national anthem.

Jacey smiled to herself as she looked around the packed arena. Mr. Las Vegas finished to a deafening roar, and as he walked down the carpeted aisle on the ice, she stepped out and shook his hand. He kissed her cheek as he handed her the microphone, and she blushed in front of thirteen thousand people, not counting those watching at home.

Shell-shocked, Jacey ambled down the carpet to center ice. She licked her lips and glued on her best PR smile. “As owner, and on behalf of the Sinners’ organization, I’d like to welcome you to our first regulation game of the season. Whether you’re a fan of our impressive captain, or Mr. Wayne Newton … ” She paused for the whistles and applause. “We’re glad that you’re here and hope you’ll continue to be Sinners fans for years to come. Let’s go, black and green!” Amidst the cheers, Jacey beamed and strode off-ice. Madden smiled at her with something that looked like pride, and he clapped her on the shoulder. Headache forgotten, Jacey gave herself over to the euphoric adrenaline pumping through the entire arena.

As soon as the puck dropped, the cheering and jeering resumed. It was custom to watch from the owner’s box, but Jacey couldn’t pull herself away from the glass. She’d forgotten how exciting a hockey game could be. When the first buzzer sounded, the Sinners were down 2 to 1, and Carter seemed none too happy about it. He didn’t even look at her as they headed back down the tunnel to the locker room. She moved to follow, but Madden grabbed her arm. “But I should be there — ”

“Trust me, you don’t want to be. For one thing, when they take the equipment off, the smell could peel paint. And Nealy’s going to rip them a new one. It’s best to stay out here.”

Jacey laughed. It seemed absurd to imagine Nealy with her small, delicate bones and high, lilting voice screaming at a room of giant hockey players. It was almost as funny as the vulgarities that spewed forth when Reese missed the two goals. Even from the bench, Nealy sounded like a manic depressive pixie. Jacey just shook her head then looked out over the rink. Two Zambonis glided around, laying down a fresh sheet of ice. She inhaled slowly, deeply. “You know, this smell reminds me of him almost as much as his cigars and cologne. He really loved it, didn’t he?”

“Dad?” Madden gave her a sidelong glance then looked out at the ice too. “Yeah … he did.”

Jacey bit the inside of her lip and folded her arms across her chest.

“It’s in you too, you know.”

She blinked and looked back to him. “What is?”

“That drive. The business mindset. And even a little love for the game I think.”

A small smile etched across her mouth as she considered that. “Growing up, we spent more time in that arena than our own house. We used to watch games from the box seats in our pajamas. I never thought it would be my life though. I mean, I went away to school to escape it.”

It was Madden’s turn to be quiet. Jacey opened her mouth to add that she didn’t regret her current station, but Madden spoke first. “I think we both know I’m not ready to run this whole thing by myself, but … you could always sell the team … find your own place in life.”

“No.” With some surprise, that answer came clear and sharp. “This is his legacy. I swear I can still feel him looking over my shoulder when I’m at his desk. I just know he’s there. This game was the love of his life and such a big part of him. I want to hold onto that.”

“You were the love of his life, Jace. Sure I shadowed him — worked whatever hours, whatever jobs he gave me. But you were the one he told people about. His daughter, the business genius. The man’s desk looked like an F5 tornado had blown across it, but nothing touched the corner where he kept your picture. He’d just want you to be happy. If that meant going off to start your own PR firm, he’d still be proud. The truth is, he gave you the team because he knew you could handle it. And he knew I couldn’t.”

“Mad … ” Tears stung the back of her eyes.

He shook his head. “It’s okay. He was right.”

Her lips parted as she searched for something to say, but before anything came to her, a buzzer sounded. The conversation wasn’t over. She’d corner him later. And she would
not
give up the team.

The guys filed back up the tunnel to the ice, looking grim and smelling like low tide. She choked and held a hand over her mouth. “You weren’t kidding about the smell.”

Madden laughed. “Wait till they come back after the second period break.”

Jacey lowered her hand and settled for breathing strictly through her mouth. When she spoke, it sounded like she had a sinus infection. “Great.”

Like the last period, this one started with Carter in the face-off. The puck dropped, and in a flurry of stick blades, it slid to Dylan Cole, who ran with it toward the Kings’ goal. Just before he was slammed into the Plexiglas, he sent a backward pass to Carter, who shot it to Kevin Scott. And faster than she could follow, Kevin fired it into the net, right between the goalie’s legs. The foghorn sounded five times, and a track from
Jock Jams
filled the arena along with the screams and applause from Sinners fans. Jacey and Madden jumped and cheered too. The players embraced, patting each other’s helmets, then returned to the bench. Carter grinned and winked at her. She felt a jab to her side and frowned at Madden’s smile. “What?”

“Uh huh. Don’t suppose I have to tell you that it would be a disaster to get involved with one of your players.”

The next puck dropped. “I’m not involved with Carter.”

Madden raised an eyebrow, and she amended, “Phlynn.”

A burst of noise directed their attention back to the ice, and her heart fell when she saw the fight for the puck taking place a little too close to their goal. The fans screamed and so did Nealy from the players’ box. She leaned her palms on the railing. “Reese, you keep those legs together like a virgin on prom night!”

Hard to pick between laughing until her sides hurt and paying attention to the game. Jacey stopped laughing when more than half of the arena echoed with boos. Reese missed another one. The Sinners picked up the pace on defense after that, but by the time the second buzzer sounded, they were still down two to three. Going back to the locker room, the guys looked like a funeral procession. They could not be looking forward to what Nealy had to say.

“I don’t think she could make them feel worse than they already do.”

“Then you don’t know Nealy very well.” Madden barked a laugh. “They need to hear it. You know what makes a winning hockey team?”

“A good game plan?”

“Focused aggression. Nealy’s just … sharpening their focus.”

Jacey nodded and studied her brother from the corner of her eye. He looked sort of rough around the edges. His five o’clock shadow had a five o’clock shadow, he had bags under his eyes, and his skin appeared a little sallow. Madden on a bad day could out-charm just about anyone else on a good day. But he seemed tired and stressed. “You look like you missed a couple days’ sleep.”

“Huh?” His attention had been on the team’s devil mascot, Sinbad, and his lady helpers as they tossed T-shirts into the crowd. The lady helpers winked at Madden. He grinned back.

Jacey rolled her eyes and pinched his arm. “You. You look worn out.”


Ow
. Jeez. I’m fine. Just worked a couple late nights.” He rubbed his arm but didn’t look away from the women in spandex pants and child-size Sinners’ jerseys that exposed their midriffs.

“Late nights? Where? Not here.”

Madden opened his mouth. A flush crept up the back of his neck. Fair-skinned people couldn’t lie well. “Just a few business propositions I’m working on. It’s all on the up and up. I promise.”

Jacey had a rebuff ready, but the buzzer sounded to begin the third period. When the players filed back onto the ice, Jacey thought the yogurt and M&Ms she had for dinner might make a second appearance on her suede pumps. She held her wrist under her nose, breathing in the soapy scent of her perfume. Madden smirked, and she wanted to slap it off his face, but he wasn’t done rubbing it in. “I told you.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Why aren’t you ready to puke?”

“Believe it or not, but you get used to it.”

She didn’t believe it. The puck dropped. Nealy had replaced Carter with Ben Collier. Carter seemed fine with it, even encouraging his teammate from the bench. Ben proved his worth by winning the face-off and moving the puck down toward the Kings’ goal. According to his game history, Carter did what he thought best for the team — this only proved it. He could see beyond his ego and accept necessary changes where his coach saw fit.

The goal didn’t come right away. They spent the first seven minutes of the period going back and forth across the ice, both teams determined. But a pass stolen by Dylan Cole afforded the Sinners an unguarded net, and they evened the score three to three.

Both teams were especially vicious in trying to get the last goal. Fights broke out more often, and Jacey took notice when one of them involved Carter. He'd stayed clear of fights for the whole game, but when one of the Kings went after Dylan, Carter jumped in like an older brother and held the opposing player in a headlock while trying to deflect the blows aimed at his face. They fell to the ice in a tangle of kicking, punching, limbs, and finally the refs stepped in to pull them apart.

Carter panted on his hands and knees, blood dripping from his nose. The Phlynn-addicts shrieked and swooned. Jacey strode toward the ice. Madden grabbed the back of her suit jacket just before she stepped over the threshold. She smiled a sheepish thank you before assuming her previous position, leaning against the glass. Bill, the athletic trainer, hurried over to Carter and helped him up. Instead of going back to the box, they went down the tunnel toward the locker room. She looked at Madden. This time her brother nodded in clear grudging approval, and she hurried down the hall after Phlynn and the trainer. It might not be the ownerly thing to do, but honestly, that ship had sailed long ago.

Carter hopped up on the examining table like it was business as usual, and the trainer held his chin, turning his head to assess the damage. She looked on from the side and held her hands at waist level, wanting to do something but not knowing what. His olive-hazel eyes followed the trainer’s finger back and forth, up and down, then found hers. Her palms felt slick and she swallowed hard. “Are you okay?”

He gave her an amused half-smile as the trainer wiped away the blood and pushed cotton up his nose. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

She glanced down the tunnel then back to him. When had she ever felt so awkward around a man? “Well, I just didn’t … know how bad it was.”

The trainer finished up and slapped Carter’s shoulder. “You were lucky they didn’t give you a game misconduct for being the third man in. You only got five for fighting. You should get back — it’s almost up.”

Jacey’s eyes went wide. “You’re going to play? Like this?”

“You’re more fun than a rookie.” Carter slid off the table. He moved past her down the tunnel and glanced over his shoulder. “Prettier too.”

She trailed after him, arms folded across her chest. When she got back, Madden looked at her and lifted his brows. “So? Is he okay?”

“He’s got a terminal case of asshole, but aside from that … ”

Madden laughed, and she couldn’t help but smile. “What’d I miss?”

“Not much. Reese has been earning his keep and made two saves. The Kings got a guy in the bin too since he started the fight, so we’re even, and that’s good. If we were down a man, this game would be over in two seconds.”

The announcer boomed. “Your Sinners, full strength!”

The Budweiser Crew chimed in too. “Always were!” And with his helmet and gloves back on, Carter stepped onto the ice and skated into the action.

The last five minutes of the game, Jacey’s fingernails dug into her palms. Nealy’s brand of coaching didn’t help the tension as she screamed chipmunk-pitched obscenities and waved her tiny fist at the refs. With one minute left in the game, the arena took a collective breath as Dylan passed to Carter, Carter fired a slap shot … and scored the winning goal.

Jacey jumped and held onto her brother’s arm as he humored her with an amused grin, and then she clapped with the rest of the crowd. Sudden bright lights hinted that her enthusiastic reaction would be on the eleven o’clock news, but she couldn’t help it. She caught Carter smiling at her from the ice as he embraced his teammates, and her heart clenched.

Madden tugged on her elbow.

“What?”

“Gotta go. Interviews. We’re due in the pressroom.”

BOOK: On the Fly (Crimson Romance)
8.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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