It Had to Be You (Christiansen Family)

It Had to Be You (Christiansen Family) by Susan May Warren Read Free Book Online

Book: It Had to Be You (Christiansen Family) by Susan May Warren Read Free Book Online
Authors: Susan May Warren
Tags: Fiction / Romance - Contemporary, FICTION / Christian / Romance
for the younger enforcers to take a swing at.”
    “Are you saying I can’t hold my own?”
    Graham held up a hand. “Nobody’s saying you aren’t still the best enforcer out there. But you come with risks. Liabilities. The franchise doesn’t want to put all their eggs in the J-Hammer basket only to have you go down with the next hard hit.”
    “It would take more than one hard hit   —”
    “Not according to Doc. He says you’re about at your limit. And don’t tell me you don’t know it. When was the last time you ended a game without a headache rolling in?”
    Jace looked away, tapped his stick on the ice. “This is all I got, Graham.”
    “That’s not true.”
    Now Jace met his gaze with his own steely eyes. “Really? Because we tried, remember? I can’t read the teleprompter fast enough to announce, and I’m not necessarily the pretty face they want for endorsements.”
    “What about that opportunity to coach?”
    “The guy wanted me to teach kids how to fight. Not even I want to do that. If anything, I want to teach real hockey. Play real hockey.” He sighed, running a hand through his hair. “What if I didn’t take the offer? What if I finished the contract and threw my hat into the ring as a free agent?”
    Graham checked his watch. “You’d have to make sure you weren’t hurt, not even once.”
    “And if I wasn’t? If I ended the year injury free?”
    He had Graham’s attention now. “The Blue Ox might pay more for you if they feared losing you.”
    “Now you’re talking.”
    “But you’ll have to be at the top of your game. And I mean best play of your life.”
    “Are you kiddin’ me? I can still outskate any of those rookies.”
    Graham raised an eyebrow. “Like him?”
    Jace turned and spied Owen Christiansen stepping onto the ice. He should have guessed the kid would be in early, warming up.
    He reminded Jace of himself in that way also.
    Owen warmed up like Jace, skating around the oval, then diving in for a sprint. Jace watched him in silence, studying his glide, the way he dug into the ice.
    “Yeah, I can outskate even Owen Christiansen.”
    “Show me,” Graham said.
    Really? Fine.
    Jace skated to center ice, singled out a puck. “Owen!”
    The kid skated closer. He looked like he’d done hard time facedown on a mattress, the lines still embedded in his growl. He wore cracked red eyes, his beard scraggly.
    Jace smiled, something of a dare in it, and met Owen’s eyes. Then he glanced down at the puck. “Can you get past me?”
    Whatever Owen had sucked down last night, it vanished in a second. He snaked out his stick to hook the puck, but Jace saw it coming and checked him away, flicking the puck between Owen’s legs. Owen caught up fast   —a second before Jace slapped the puck into the goal, Owen checked him hard, and he flew into the boards behind the net. By the time he’d turned around, Owen had the puck, scooping it out of the crease and into the open.
    Jace took off, breathing hard, and charged Owen into the far end of the ice. They slammed together against the glass. Jace was first to find the puck and danced away with it. Owen reachedhis stick in, trying to trip him up, but Jace stepped over it, then stopped hard, and the kid skated right past him.
    Jace shot toward the goal as Owen regrouped. He faked again, left, then right, and it just seemed too easy, with Owen scrambling to catch up. He was nearly parallel to the goal. One flick of his wrist and   —
    Owen came right at him and, in a move he hadn’t expected, slammed his elbow into Jace’s chin.
    The blow turned Jace’s vision gray, just long enough to lose the puck.
    And in that second, Owen found it.
    Jace stifled a word and lit out after him, but Owen had put on the gas, and Jace couldn’t catch up. He finally reached out to spear him, but Owen was too fast; with a flick, he sent the puck into the net.
    He raised his stick and glided backward around the goal, pointing at Jace, grinning.

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