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By:Amanda Bridges


Chapter 1





Tori Cavanagh was no stranger to the world of hockey. With retired player for a father, and five brothers who had played competitively, she had lived and breathed hockey from the moment she was born. In fact, she was sure she had spent more time hanging around a hockey rink, watching games, than she had spent in school. However, all those years being surrounded by the sport had not prepared her for this moment.





She stared up at the large building in front of her in awe, taking in its blue tinted windows, curved walls, and bizarrely tilted roof.


She was here.


She was finally here.


Granted, when she had dreamed of this moment as a child, she had always imagined that she would be a player or a coach, not just a secretary. And in those dreams she was always discovered and hired by a scout based on her own merits, not because the General Manager was a friend of the family. However, the economy was struggling, and despite her experience and degree she had failed to find a job back home. When Daryl had called up her father and offered her a position working in the front office for his hockey team she had leapt at the chance. Her student loans weren’t going to pay themselves after all!


The Pioneers were one of the newest teams in the league and had been added in the latest expansion along with the Las Vegas Aces. They had been announced the year before, but wouldn’t play their first game until this fall -- just a few short months away! -- and Tori was excited to be a part of their inaugural season. She still wasn’t entirely sure what she would be doing for them, but she would take whatever job she could get as long as she was involved in the sport she loved.


Taking a deep breath, she smoothed the skirt and jacket of her dress suit one last time and opened the glass doors in front of her. Cool air washed over her body as she stepped into the lobby and crossed over to the large wood and glass desk that dominated the far wall. The receptionist sitting behind it glanced up at her approach. “Welcome to the office of the Portland Pioneers. How can I help you?”


“Yes, I’m here to see Daryl Olson.”




“Name?”




“Tori Cavanagh.”




“Oh.” The woman frowned as she looked at something on her computer screen. “Mr. Olson is out and I don’t see anything about a Tori Cavanagh on his calendar . . .”




Tori sighed. “Try--”




Before she could finish her sentence though, a large man wearing a dark suit walked into the lobby. He hesitated for a moment, frowning briefly as he tried to place her face. Then he broke out into a broad smile as he finally recognized her. “Vicky!” He hugged her, then held her out at arms length, looking her up and down. “Look at you! You’re all grown up!”




“Hi, Daryl.” Tori blushed and brushed a stray strand of hair behind her ear. “You look well.” His hair was a little grayer than she remembered, but other than that he still looked like the same man who would sit on the couch and watch Maple Leafs games with her dad.




“Come on, come on.” He motioned for her to follow him and led her deeper into the front office of the Pioneers, past empty cubicles and meeting rooms. Pictures of hockey players leaned against the walls where, Tori assumed, they would eventually be hung and the air was heavy with the heady smell of fresh paint. Men and women struggled to work around the contractors still building cubicles and hanging lighting fixtures. Daryl waved at the chaos along the way. “We’re still in the process of moving in.”




“I can see that.” Tori nodded as she eyed the random boxes sitting here and there.




Finally he stopped and opened a door, revealing a large office beyond. Two walls held floor-to-ceiling windows looking over the street outside and the pedestrians passing by, while the third was covered by the Pioneers’ logo. Daryl patted the back of one of the black leather chairs sitting in front of his desk. “Take a seat, Vicky, take a seat.”




“Thank you, but I prefer Tori, remember?”




“Oh, yes, right, right.” He sat down behind his desk. “How’s your mother?”




“Fine now. I think she was just worried about me leaving home.” Her mother had always been overprotective of her.




“Ah, yes.” He picked a pen up from the top of his desk and spun it between his fingers. “And your Dad? How’s the rink doing?”




“Good; they bought a new Zamboni.”




“Great, great.” Daryl put down the pen and leaned on the desk. He steepled his fingers in front of him. “Now, about your position . . .”




“Yes.” Tori smiled, eager to leave behind the awkward small talk and learn what she would be doing. “My dad said something about being your administrative assistant, but the contract wasn’t clear about any details.”

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