Now Available! The Season: Kaufman
by Nicole Edwards
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When I signed on to the NHL, I promised to give 150% to the game. Iâve done that.
Little did I know, but they would ask more from me than merely my skill on the ice. The team wanted me to be their captain. Itâs an honor, one Iâve done my best to fulfill. Although I canât take all the credit, I was there to lead when we won the Stanley Cup.
Iâm still at the helm now, when weâve hit rock bottom. I know I have let my fears get in the way. Iâve let down the team, even if they donât realize what Iâve done.
Now that the new seasonâs underway, Iâm being called out. I deserve it. I can deal with that. It wonât be easy, but Iâll persevere.
What I canât deal with is her.
She surprised me.
She came out of nowhere and blindsided me.
And thereâs one serious issue.
Now that I have her, I refuse to let her go.
*This is a full-length, standalone novel. It is part of the Austin Arrows series, but can be read independently.
The SEASON: Kaufman (Austin Arrows, 2) Chapter 1
Thursday, October 6th
âI MADE AN EXTRA CHICKEN breast. You want one or two?â I chuckle, canât help it. âSeriously. One or two? Can I possibly ask a dumber question?â
That unladylike snort â¦ yeah, that was me.
While I fork my chicken breast onto my own plate, I donât bother waiting for a response. I know what the answer will be. Two. Always two. Extra protein is never a bad thing.
After adding a heaping spoonful of steamed vegetables to my plate, I grab my wineglass and head to the table. Iâm starving because I missed lunch today. That sometimes happens with my job. There are days thatâll go by when Iâm bored to tears, standing behind the bar, and others when I can hardly stop long enough to take a breath. Sometimes Iâll snag some fried pickles if I get a chance. Today was the lack-of-breath kind of day. Go, go, go. All day long.
As I step out of my small galley kitchen, a knock sounds on my door. My bare feet squeak on the linoleum as I come to an abrupt halt. I manage to do that fancy lift and tilt thing to keep my wine from sloshing over the edge.
âNoelle! Honey, itâs Mom and Dad!â
âCrap, crap, crap.â I glance between my front door and the small, two-seat table in my breakfast nook currently set up with, nope, not one but two place settings. For the record, two is not a good number when the single girlâs mom comes banging on the door.
âOpen up, Noelle! We thought weâd surprise you!â
Okay, well, I have to say my parents definitely accomplished their goal, because I am completely befuddled as I stand here debating what I should do. To a normal person, it might be a no-brainer. Open the door, let the ârents come on in.
Iâm not so sure this situation is going to qualify me as normal.
To answer or not to answer? That is the question.
On the other hand, I could be as quiet as possible and pretend Iâm not home. Which, with my luck, wonât work. The fact that all the lights in my apartment are blazing and my baby blue Prius is parked directly in front of my window doesnât help my cause any. Since no one else in the world drives a baby blue Prius, I canât very well hide it.
But I couldâve gone out with friends, right? Could I be so lucky that theyâd think that? It is a possibility. Maybe. Or, better yet, maybe theyâll think Iâm at the Penalty Box. I tend to work a lot.
Yes, thatâs definitely more logical.
Except, yep, you nailed it, the car is here.
Then again, if I werenât so pathetic and didnât choose to spend all my free time at homeâunless Iâm at my best friend Ellieâsâit might be an easier sell. They know me. Iâm not the going-out type. Plus, theyâve probably already stopped by the bar to see if Iâm there. They know that I much prefer a microwaved dinner at home, especially on a rare evening that I donât spend waiting tables and slinging beer because I choose to.
Another knock makes my heart skip a beat.
âStay calm. Itâs cool.â Iâve been telling myself that far too much lately.
âNoelle! Are you all right, honey?â
Knowing my grumpy upstairs neighbor is likely going to have a cow any second now, I rush to the front door, unlock the deadbolt, and turn the knob. Instantly, Marie Dexter barrels into me, pulling me into her arms, crushing my face to her generous bosom.
My mother smells like roses. A sweet, familiar scent that makes me hug her back, despite the inconvenient timing of her arrival.
âHi, Mom,â I say, my words muffled against her boobs.
She pulls back to look at me. âWhat took you so long? I was getting worried.â
My dad slips past my mother, giving me a knowing smirk. Ed Dexter loves when Marie goes all motherly on me. Come to find out, when my sister and I arenât around, he gets to be the one Marie mothers. Not that he minds. Theyâve been married for thirty-six years, so heâs used to it, or so he says.
âOoh. You got new curtains.â My mother gently pulls away to admire the floor-to-ceiling cream sheers hanging on the wide front window.
I follow her gaze, glaring at my car sitting right there. Traitor.
I focus on the comforting hand my mother has on my arm. Always keeping me close, that woman.
Iâm the oldestâmy sister, Julie, who is seven years younger than me, was an oops babyâwhich shouldâve meant my mother didnât coddle me quite so much. That isnât the case. Never has been. Iâm not sure if itâs because thereâs such a huge age gap between me and Julie, but whatever the reason, my mother likes to baby both of us equally. Iâm thirty-four. Youâd think she wouldâve toned it down by now. Nope. In fact, I think she might be getting more motherly.
Honestly, sheâs been this way since I was little. And, truthfully, I was the normal kid. The kind who wanted to do nothing more than be outside. Yep, totally me. Right up until sixth grade, when we moved to Austin, next door to the girl who would quickly become my best friend in the world. Either there was something in the Texas water or someone injected me with a doofus hormone, because upon moving here, I became stupid, which translates to: boy crazy. I think my mother worried about me more then. That lasted about two years. Three tops. When it became glaringly obvious that Tony Something-or-other wasnât going to fall madly in love with the short, frumpy girl with glasses and braces, I decided to focus on my schoolwork and left the flirting with boys up to my best friend, Ellie. She was much better at it than me.
Luckily, Iâm not so frumpy anymore, and Iâve shed the braces and glasses. Sure, Iâm still short, and my boobs never did really develop, but that no longer bothers me. Iâm me. Thatâs what matters.
âWhat does bother me is the fact that Mom and Dad pop in unannounced all the freaking time. Of all nights, why did it have to be now?
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