Page 94 of The Keeper

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“I do,” I say, grabbing the outfit and heading into the bathroom to change.

Mia has me sit while she styles my long, brown hair into a messy bun, telling me it makes my neck look sexy when I wear my hair up. I pull on a pair of nude, peep-toe heels and she declares me “perfecto,” while kissing her fingertips.

I keep my makeup simple, just eyeliner and mascara and a light-pink lip gloss, getting a thumbs-up from Mia, who grabs my hand practically drags me from the safety of my room.

3: really rusty


Iloosen my tie as I make my way down the hall to my room, finally allowing myself a full breath.

I am now the new General Manager of the Las Vegas Crush.

Two weeks ago, I’d have laughed you in the face if you said I’d be moving to the States to run an NHL team. But here I am, having just accepted a rather lucrative deal to take over a team that is full of superstars and within the immediate sphere of the Cup for the second time in a few years.

Holy shit. How did this just happen?

I pull off my tie and flip open my laptop, sending a video call through to my parents, who are waiting anxiously for an update. My dad’s face appears first, then my mom’s.

“So?” My dad asks without preamble.

“I won two-hundred bucks in BlackJack,” I say.

My dad rolls his eyes as my mom says, “Stop that. What happened in your interview?”

“You are looking at the new GM for the Crush.”

My mom cheers and my dad gives me the half-smile that tells me he’s proud of me. “Did you talk to Tim about it first? Get the best deal?”

“I spent two hours with the owner, an hour with the head coach, and then we spent two hours on the phone with Tim while we hammered out a deal.”

“Good man. Go get a drink to celebrate.”

“Las Vegas has a bit of reputation,” my mom warns. “Just be careful not to call attention to yourself before you even get started there.”

“Have you met me?” I ask, grinning. “I’m not exactly the run-the-city type. I’ll just have some dinner in my room and hit the hay, I think. It was a long day.”

“No, no,” my dad says, shaking his head. “Grant. It’s a dream job in an amazing city. Go out and enjoy it. See what it feels like. Maybe take in a show or something.”

We talk about the deal a little bit and when we hang up, I decide I’ll at least go down to the hotel bar. I’ll get a steak and a finger of whisky and that’ll be celebration enough for me.

Unbuttoning the top button of my shirt, I decide to leave on my suit pants and jacket to save time, heading back out to the elevator and down to the concierge level. There are a ton of people in the bar, so I head straight to the restaurant, asking for a table.

“Why so many people in the bar?” I ask, eying the crowd.

The hostess seats me with a view of the bar, saying, “There’s a conference here all week. They’re having a mixer.”

I nod and take my seat, ordering a drink right off the bat as I peruse the menu. Once my server returns with my drink, I order my meal and scroll through my phone, checking emails and finding the initial paperwork for my new role already awaiting my review.

Scanning quickly, I decide that I really need to pull it up on my laptop later, so I close it down and look up at the mingling crowd in the bar. It’s one of those awkward, professional networking things. People holding their wine glasses, smiling and nodding, trying to connect on a level that is professionally distant. My eye catches on a petite woman near the end of the bar. Some kind of light club music is playing and she’s dancing along, clearly uninterested in the crowd around her. It’s silly, really, and I realize she’s purposely trying to annoy the person she’s with.

The person she’s with. She turns away from her friend, holding out a hand to stop. Her smile is infectious and as I take in all of her, it’s like I’ve hit a brick wall. My heart practically stops. She might be the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Like, ever. She’s tall and willowy. Her dark hair is piled messily on top of her head, exposing a long, elegant neck.

I have to shake myself to stop from staring. I don’t think anyone has ever stopped me in my tracks like that. I try to push my thoughts elsewhere, but find myself stealing several glances, drinking in her creamy skin, her perfect profile, and the length of her legs in her slim jeans. I think about getting up to talk to her, to introduce myself but when the server returns with my meal, I settle back into my chair. What’s the point, really? I’m moving here soon. She’s probably just here for this conference. Our orbits are crossing but likely only for this instant. And frankly, I’m just out of a marriage that went down in flames and I just don’ know if I’m up for any kind of thing, even in the short term.

As I eat my steak and drink my whisky, I watch Crush highlights on my phone. They’re good. Organized. They have good chemistry and they have a natural pass that speaks to team unity and trust. It’s a good vibe, at least among their first string players. From my interview conversations, I gather they’re worried what happens if one of those superstars retires or gets hurt. They play second and third string players but not often, and not for more than a few minutes at a time. This team relies on those heroes, and the rest are untested.

Frankly, I’m surprised they haven’t had a bit of an uprising from the bench. Guys don’t join pro teams just to sit on the bench. But I also get the coaching team’s nerves around upsetting the apple cart. They have a good thing going. Why fix what isn’t broken?

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