Skating the Line:San Francisco Strikers, book 2(12)

By: Stephanie Kay

“Fine. I’m just trying to protect my team,” he sputtered, and she refused to soften at his words, at the sincerity in his voice. She was annoyed with him. To even suggest…

“Don’t assume that I’m infiltrating your ranks for an exposé or anything. That is not what I write or what I ever plan on writing. Ever.”

“Let’s get another drink,” one of his teammates said, slapping his hand on Ben’s shoulder.

“No. I’ve had my one. I’m going to head out,” he said, setting his empty glass on the high top table. The clank rang through her ears, and no one else moved.

“Come on. We’ve explained the article. Everything’s good. We just got here,” Ethan said. “What happened to drowning our sorrows together as a team?”

“I’ll see everyone at practice tomorrow,” he said, and without another look at her, aside from a cold nod, he left the bar.

She stared at the door, still swinging shut. “What the hell just happened?”

Ethan shook his head. “I have no idea. He’s prickly with the media, as you’ve gathered.”

“That’s prickly? I’d hate to see when he really despises something.”

Ethan barked out a laugh—an awkward laugh. “Yeah. We’re working on that. I’m not sure what happened, but something did and he doesn’t like to talk about it, so I haven’t pried.”

“Good thing I’m not a reporter, or I’d pry the hell out of that.”

He eyed her. “Yeah, good thing.”

“Ethan. I wouldn’t. You know that, right?”

“Yes. And he’ll figure that out in time.”

She scoffed. “Anyway. Now that that’s over, I think I’ll get another drink.”

A few of the guys clamored to buy her next round. She requested another pale ale and thanked Baz for the round. She liked him. He was charming, even without the teeth. And she pushed Ben from her mind. Far from her mind. At least that’s what she told herself as she sipped her new beer.

“When do I get to read this article?” Baz asked. “And I’m hurt. You didn’t mention any of us?”

She grinned. “It’s available on the magazine’s website. But you don’t need to read it. My hockey knowledge is minimal.” She hadn’t wanted to mention it or make a big deal out of it in front of the guys.

The article had been good. The perfect mix of information and anecdotes. And with the uptick in online traffic on the site today, Betsy had been pleased. That was all that mattered. The dragon had almost cracked a smile. Amanda had briefly toyed with the idea of asking the woman if it had hurt, but she’d resisted.

“Well, I think it’s a very interesting take on the game. Most sports articles are filled with numbers, percentages, and stats,” Penny said, the worry still on her face after the confrontation with Ben. Amanda definitely hadn’t heard the last on that topic from her friend.

Ethan chuckled, pulling his girlfriend close, and brushed a kiss across her curls. “You get this dreamy expression when you say stats. Should I be jealous?”

“I assumed you knew all about her weird number love by now,” Amanda chimed in, the tension around the table fading with every second that passed since Ben had left.

But Amanda was still wound tight. He’d thrown her for a loop tonight and then bolted before the dust could settle. All he did was drum up more questions. And while part of her wanted to shrug them, and him, off, she was too curious about the different sides of the captain.

“We aren’t making the post season if you play like you did last night. A different team better show the hell up tomorrow afternoon,” Bugsy barked out at the end of the team meeting. He’d handed them their asses over the last hour, and they’d deserved every remark that came from the coaching staff.

Ben grimaced. Six-one was unacceptable. They’d played sloppy last night, and their one goal had been a fluke.

They’d spent the morning on the ice, running penalty kill drills and two-on-one scenarios. The breakaways last night couldn’t happen with the regularity that they had. Ben still wasn’t sure what had happened last night and that pissed him off even more. He was the captain. He should always be on, always aware of what was going on with his team. And making a concerted effort to push the guys to be the best they could.

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