“Yeah, the meeting went fine, Dad. I feel good about it.”
Jordan Ryan hustled through the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, heading to the terminal where he’d catch his flight back home to Nashville, Tennessee. It had been a long day. He’d flown out that morning to meet with the Rangers and the Sabres NHL hockey teams. Both appointments, though stressful, were over before lunch. Now late in the day he was hungry, tired, and a little anxious. Based on the interviews, it seemed that neither team wanted him, which he knew he couldn’t share. Jordan loved his father, but Bill Ryan, who was not only his father but also his agent, did not accept anything but perfection. Since Jordan hadn’t been perfect for the last two years, he had learned it was best to keep disappointing details out of their conversations.
“Good, I’m glad. So you’ll fly home for the game tomorrow, take a break, another home game, then to Carolina for a meeting with the IceCats?” Bill Ryan asked.
“Yeah,” Jordan said, as he arrived at the departure gate and took the first seat he found available. Leaning his head back, Jordan closed his eyes and finally began to relax.
He hated traveling so much, but right now it was necessary. After tearing the meniscus in his left knee two years ago, he went through surgery and rounds and rounds of physical therapy. Eighteen months of rehab later, he was finally able to play again, but because of his long absence he had been replaced by Tate Odder, who was now considered the best goalie in the league. Fucking A.
As a result, Coach Bacter wasn’t giving Jordan enough playing time—that is, not until Tate’s girlfriend was brutally beaten. When Tate took the much-needed time off from the game, Jordan became the starting goalie. Jordan had missed playing, and being back between the two steel pipes was like coming home. Unfortunately, that was short-lived. His knee had not quite healed, and it went out during the game. Bacter then took him out for good and brought in another backup. Yup. Fucking A.
Jordan understood Bacter’s concern—hell, he had been concerned too—but what he didn’t understand was why he hadn’t played since. He’d had clearance from his doctor for almost six months now, and after a little R and R his knee was fully healed. Not playing was driving him crazy, and even though he loved the Assassins and didn’t want to leave the team that had started his career, he knew he had no choice. He was never going to get playing time being the backup goalie to Tate Odder.
With a defeated sigh, Jordan opened his eyes as his dad continued to talk.
“Fantastic. I feel good about South Carolina. Be good to have you home.”
Nashville is my home, Jordan thought.
He loved Nashville and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else—or playing for another team—but he was going to have to start imagining it. It was happening, and going home to South Carolina was for the best. His whole family lived in South Carolina, and he did like the idea of being there with them rather than living thousands of miles away. Plus, as a kid, he had always dreamed of playing for the IceCats. When growing up he’d practically lived in the IceCats arena, watching his favorite player, Guy Richardson, defend the goal while his own dreams took shape. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe he would finally find his place in South Carolina.
“Yeah, it would,” he agreed as he heard the attendant’s announcement. “Hey, Dad, I gotta go. They’re boarding now. I’ll send you a text when I land.”
“Sounds good, Jordy. Talk to you soon,” and his dad hung up.
Jordan grabbed his things and rushed to board the plane. Once seated by the window, he stretched out his legs before reaching into his duffel bag for his neck pillow. His teammates always made fun of his pillow, but he reminded them he never had the neck pain they were plagued with after long trips. Neck pain—no. Knee pain—another story. While situating his pillow, he glanced to the aisle and paused when he saw her.
Wow. She had red hair, long and lustrous. He had the insane urge to smell it. Smell her. He had always loved redheads. Her face was round, with freckles scattered along her nose and cheeks. Her lips were full and luscious but were completely overshadowed by her eyes. They were a light green and sexy as hell. As she moved down the aisle, she looked at her ticket, then right at the row where Jordan was sitting. The day was definitely starting to improve.
Her eyes met his and he knew he was in trouble. She blushed before looking away, color creeping up her neck. Jordan felt dizzy. A confident man would get up and help her with her bag before trying to seduce her. Unfortunately for him, Jordan wasn’t that kind of a man. The injury had changed him. He used to be the kind of guy who could talk a lady out of her panties and straight onto his lap, but now he was lucky if he could utter a word to the opposite sex.
Jordan hated how much he had lost after his injury. Not only did he lose his number one spot, but he lost the woman he was convinced he was going to marry. Leanna Masterson was everything Jordan thought he wanted. Big blue eyes, long blond hair, hottest body ever, with legs that went on for days. He thought they’d be together forever, but when he woke up after surgery and the doctor told them that it was going to be a long and rough road to get to where he was before the injury, Leanna was out the door. Good riddance. He was glad she left.
Too bad, though, that she took a part of him with her, a part he hadn’t been able to find since: his confidence. It had been a long time without the company of a woman, and he was lonely. He wanted someone to come home to, someone who would love him unconditionally, but he also knew that right now wasn’t the time. He didn’t know what his future held, and it would be unfair to get involved with someone.