Home Ice

By: Catherine Gayle

I steeled my spine for the task at hand—figuring out a way to extricate her without either ripping his jacket or instigating a temper tantrum—and reached for her again. “Maybe someday,” I said, trying to pry her stubby fingers free. “But it’s going to have to wait. He’s got to do work today.”

“That’s what I was saying,” the drop-dead gorgeous older man said.

He gently eased Sophie’s grip open and lifted her out of Levi’s arms, setting her down on the ground. More than that, she let him do that. Sophie didn’t let anyone get away with something like that so easily. There was something about this man that made her trust him, and I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. My hormones were leaning toward the good thing part, but trusting them to make decisions for me wasn’t something I could—or should—do.

“What were you saying?” I asked, mentally telling my hormones to get in line, or else. Ha. Like they’d ever paid attention to my threats.

“There’s nothing he has to do today except cater to you and your girls,” the older man said, grinning at Sophie.

That smile? The way he was looking at my baby girl? That was a panty-melting move for me, only I wasn’t positive he meant it to be one.

I shook my head. “I’m sorry. My head’s in the clouds and I’m not quite following.”

“I’m not either,” Levi said. “What am I supposedly doing today?”

My girls all tittered nervously, blushing up a storm, just because he’d opened his mouth. He could speak gibberish, and their response would be the same. Still, he was as lost as I was about this whole thing. At least I wasn’t the only one confused.

That amazing smile turned to me. Cue panty explosion.

“Sorry. I’m Mattias Bergstrom, the Storm’s head coach.” He held out a hand, but I was too nervous to shake it.

“Paige Calhoun,” I spluttered. “And my daughters, Zoe, Evie, Izzy, and Sophie.”

Then he kept going, dropping his hand back to his side as though I hadn’t just been exceedingly rude. “In our last game, 501 got tripped up and hit his head on the goal post. He had some concussion symptoms that night, so we’ve got to hold him out of all activity for at least a week. That means he can’t take part in any of today’s events…which means he gets to be your personal companion for the day. All day long, he’s going to take care of you five ladies. He’ll take you up to the press box to show you around. He’ll sit with you through the different events and explain whatever you want him to explain. After it’s over, he’ll bring you back down to the locker room and introduce you to the boys so you can get autographs. He’s going to make today special for you and your girls.”

“He is?” I spluttered at the same time as Levi said, “I am?”

I shook my head. “There’s got to be some sort of mistake here, some confusion.” I reached for Sophie’s hand, determined to corral my girls and head toward our seats without any further boy issues. “We’ve just got regular tickets for the event. Nothing special. We should go.” I tugged on Sophie’s hand, but she didn’t budge.

“Mom,” she said in the long, drawn-out way that was unique to her when she was annoyed with me. “We’re spending the day with Levi.”

“There’s no mistake,” the coach said. “The other coaches and I will help him out where we can, but I want to make this happen.” He looked off to the side at a gray-haired man with glasses, another one of the suits who’d been listening with a good deal of interest and a slight smile. “We can make this happen, can’t we, Jim?”

“I don’t see why not,” the older man said. “Rach—”

“Not to worry. I’m already on it,” a petite redheaded woman said, stepping into our circle. Even with only those few words, I could hear her thick Southern accent. She definitely wasn’t originally from around here. She fished through a messenger bag for a moment and came up with a handful of passes on neck straps. She counted off five and handed them over to me. “Be sure you’re wearing these at all times. Just keep them around your necks. They’ll get you access to wherever Bergy wants 501 to take you.” She smiled at me, then at each of my girls. “I think y’all are going to have a great day.”

With fierce determination, Sophie released my hand, took her badge, settled it around her neck, and reached for Levi’s hand. The whole time, she was grinning from ear to ear.

I supposed that settled that. With a sigh of resignation, I handed the other girls their badges and put one around my own neck. “I guess we’re getting the royal treatment today, girls.”

Not that I didn’t want to give them the world. I did, and they knew I would do everything I could for them. I didn’t make a ton of money as a massage therapist, though, and I worked hard for every penny I earned. Their father paid child support, but that money only went so far. The only reason we were here at all today was because he had won tickets in a raffle at work, but he had to be out of town this weekend. He couldn’t bring the girls. That left it to me to corral them and herd them in the direction of our destination without veering off our course too far, as usual, and so here we were.

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