Rookie Move(10)

By: Sarina Bowen

The backup goalie job wasn’t an easy one. “I hear you,” Leo said. “Gotta say, if Coach Karl likes you, that’ll make one of us.”

He laughed, and it was big and loud. “Really? You two have history?”

“We have a little.” Even if I’m not quite sure what it is.

“How’d you get called up, then?”

Leo shook his head. “No clue.”

The door to the room banged open. “Gentlemen,” said a female voice.

He turned toward the doorway, his fingers freezing midtwist on the cap of the water bottle as he stared at the girl in the doorway. No—scratch that. At the woman in the doorway. His chest seized, because Jesus Christ. Georgia was even more beautiful than she had been six years ago.

She addressed the team. He thought so, anyway. But he didn’t hear a word she said, because he was too busy cataloging everything that was familiar about her. Adulthood had thinned her face a little, revealing cheekbones so shapely that they might have starred on the cover of a magazine. His ex had always been a pretty girl, but now she was stunning. Her blond hair had darkened somewhat, but it was still shot through with golden streaks. He knew exactly how silky it would feel under his hand if he brushed it away from her face.

There were unfamiliar parts to this picture, too—her stern expression, for one. He’d always hoped that Georgia had gone on to find her smile again, even if he wasn’t the lucky recipient. But he didn’t see any evidence of smiling now. And she was all dressed up in a suit and filmy blouse. And heels. His Georgia never wore stilts like that. They made her legs look a mile long. They were killer. But they weren’t her.

“. . . We’ll begin in fifteen minutes. Coach Worthington will thank Mr. Kattenberger for the opportunity to lead the team, and he’ll say a few words about how excited he is to work with all of you. All most of you have to do is sit up straight and clap. Any questions?”

His brain was still playing catch-up. If Georgia was talking about the press conference, she must work for the team. An assistant? A publicist?

O’Doul raised his hand, a goofy smile on his face.

“What is it, captain?” Georgia asked with an edge of impatience in her voice.

“Is it a coincidence that our new coach has the same last name as you?”

“Yes and no,” she said, eyes on her clipboard. “It is a coincidence that we both work for the same team. But we have the same name because Coach Worthington is my father.”

O’Doul grinned. “Thanks for clearing that up, babe. Is he pretty, too?”

Her expression darkened. “You can decide for yourself, Mr. O’Doul,” she said coolly. “And you’ll have a good view, because I need you sitting on the dais up front. After Coach Worthington gives his remarks, you’ll say a few words of welcome. I’ve drafted something for you here.” She flipped to another page on her clipboard and extracted a sheet of paper, handing it to him. She actually had to lean down a bit, because her shoes made her so much taller than usual.

Leo was openly staring now, but he couldn’t help it. She looked both the same and different. Her legs, always shapely from playing tennis all her life, looked ten miles long in those heels. But there was something about her that was . . . harder. She seemed more brittle than he remembered.

She hadn’t looked at him yet, either. Did she even know he was here?

“Do I have to say this exactly as it’s written?” O’Doul asked, skimming the page.

“No, as long as you sound warm and articulate.”

“Just like I am every day.” He chuckled. “Fine. What else?”

“One more thing.” She cleared her throat and shifted her weight. “I need you to welcome a new player after you welcome your coach. Georgia dropped her eyes to the page in front of her again. As if she needed notes to get Leo’s name right. “Mr. Leonardo Trevi, rookie forward, formerly of the Muskegon Muskrats. Traded from Detroit to Brooklyn for a second round draft pick this spring.”

“Got it,” O’Doul said.

Leo saw Georgia gather herself together. She took a deep breath and looked straight at him, as if she’d known exactly where he was the whole time. They locked eyes for a nanosecond before she blinked and broke off their staring contest. “Why aren’t you wearing a purple tie?” she demanded.

After six years, that’s what she wanted to say first? Her terseness took Leo by surprise, delaying his answer by a beat. “Sorry. Didn’t own one. Muskrats don’t wear purple ties.” He smiled at her, hoping to put her at ease. I know this is weird, Gigi. But we can survive it.

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