Karson King pushed himself as he skated up the ice and back along with his teammates. A cloud whooshed out with every breath he let out; his lungs were burning, and so were his legs. The rink was cold, and he loved the sound his skates made against the ice, along with those of his twenty-nine teammates. It was seven in the morning, and he was tired from staying out way too late the night before, but he loved this. Hockey was his life. He had eaten, slept, and breathed hockey since he was old enough to stand in his skates. It was all he knew; it was all he cared about. This was his life, and he was ready to do everything he could to make his dreams come true.
And that was making it into the pros.
He had done everything to get there. He played hockey 365 days a year, trained with the best coaches, went to the best camps, and never started a day without a morning skate and a little puck handling. He was taught to be the best by his father, who played for twenty-one seasons in the pros before getting hurt and having to retire. Karl King was the best on and off the ice, and Karson had every intention of following in his father’s big footsteps.
He, along with his family, believed that the Chicago Cats were one of the stepping-stones to get him to the pros. He loved his Cats family. In the two years of being here, since he skipped going into the draft at eighteen, he had made friends for life and worked to polish his skills even more. His mother, Regina, was very adamant about his going to college for at least two years to make sure that hockey was really what he wanted to do with his life, despite the many scouts who begged him to go into the draft. So he did, and while he believed it was a complete waste of time, he was glad he was able to meet the guys he had and to be trained by one of the greatest college coaches around. He had enjoyed the life he had here in Chicago, but he was ready to be drafted. He was ready to play for the big leagues.
Passing the puck up to his friend, Grady Martin, Karson crashed the net, going around it before hitting the slot where Grady slid him a beauty of a pass, resulting in an awesome top-shelf goal. Doing a small fist pump, Karson turned to congratulate his teammates before throwing his arm around Grady.
“Way to pass, Grad!”
“Thanks,” he said, sending him a wide grin. “Let’s do that tomorrow.”
“Sounds good to me,” Karson agreed before skating back to where Coach was waiting for them. Tapping Karson’s shins before doing the same to Grady, he nodded.
“Good pass, great goal. Let’s do it again. Passes have to be hard and accurate if we are going to beat NYU tomorrow. Come on, boys. We got this,” he encouraged before blowing his whistle.
Karson nodded, turning to get set for the next drill. Leaning on his stick, he took in a deep breath and noticed that Coach had skated up beside him.
“Scouts will be here tomorrow. They are looking at you, Martin, and Fellows. Go out hard, and make me proud.”
A man of very few words, Coach skated away. Karson’s stomach fluttered but only for a second. He wanted this, he was ready for this, and the pros were his for the taking. Barely able to contain his excitement, a grin pulled at his lips as he set up for the upcoming pass, shooting the puck past the goalie and then lining up to do it again. Adrenaline was coursing through his veins, his heart was pounding, and he couldn’t wait to call his dad to let him know what was going on. More than likely his parents would fly out for the game, since he always played better when they were there, and they’d probably catch his sister Kacey’s game the following day. Like Karson, Kacey was one of the best, too. They were both offered full-ride scholarships to Chicago, and that was the main reason they left Wisconsin. Not wanting to put a financial burden on their parents, even though they could afford it if it came down to it, they both worked hard to make sure their college was paid for. It was just the way the King kids were raised.
You worked hard for the things you wanted.
After doing the drill again, Karson found himself behind Grady and tapped him in the shin.
“Big day tomorrow,” he said, leaning on his stick.
Grady nodded. “I know. Nervous as shit.”
Karson laughed as he shook his head. “I’m not. This is what we want. It’s ours. This time next year, we’ll be in the pros.”
“Or the AHL,” Grady said, always the level-headed one between the two.
“Sure, and we will be one step closer to the pros. We got this.”
Grady could only nod before kicking off to accept the pass that he quickly shot toward the goal, but the goalie stopped him. When the whistle blew again, Karson dug into the ice, accepting the puck before shooting it hard to the goal, through the five-hole. He hadn’t missed a shot yet and didn’t intend to. Being the captain of the Cats meant being the best, and he wasn’t going to accept anything less.
Skating toward where the next line was, he glanced up at the stands to see who had braved the cold to come watch them practice. Usually, the guys’ girls would come out, some parents, and maybe even Kacey if she woke up on time. But she didn’t come often though, not that he minded since he never went to her practices. His stare traveled lazily over the almost-empty stands as he waited for his turn. When his gaze met a pair of pale green eyes, he stopped dead in his tracks.
He had no clue who she was. He hadn’t seen her around campus either, but he wished he had. She wasn’t his normal type, but that didn’t matter as he watched her move her gaze from his to look out on the ice. He was thankful she looked away since it gave him the opportunity to enjoy her without her knowing. Her legs were folded up against her chest with her arms wrapped around them. She wore a large Chicago Cats sweatshirt, her jeans hugged her every curve, and he wanted nothing more than for her to stand so he could drink in every single detail of her. From where he stood though, he could see that her eyes were large and round, framed by long, dark lashes. Her cheeks were a bright pink color, maybe from the cold or maybe because she felt him watching her, but he couldn’t stop. Her lips were a sweet, light pink color and pursed as her eyes followed the guys. He wanted to know who she was watching, instantly jealous as his eyes traveled up to where her blond hair peeked out in spikes under the thick, knit hat she wore. She had a pixie cut, something he wasn’t really into. Usually, he liked long hair, but something about this girl had him drooling when he should have been paying attention the game. Nothing ever distracted him, but this girl had the power to. That should scare him, make him want to run the other way, but he only wanted to run to her.