fighting for more
Buffalo Bedlam series
When Leo Brennan is traded to the Buffalo Bedlam two weeks after knocking their captain out of the line up on a badly timed hit, the enforcer’s dream life becomes a nightmare. He should be happy about going to a Cup contender, but the fans hate him, his teammates are lukewarm, and everything that could go wrong with the transition, does. He vows to play through the next few months to fulfill his contract, hopefully win the Cup, and then get as far from Buffalo as possible. No way will he stick around.
Kelsey Fraser pulls double duty working for player services and the Bedlam’s fan outreach team. When the organization tasks her with leading a series of media events designed to change the fans’ negative opinion of Leo, she wants no part of him — after all, he gave her brother a concussion. But the opportunity would take her career in the right direction. She can’t turn it down. Professionalism will have to surpass her desire to hit him with a hockey stick.
Spending hours together, Kelsey and Leo learn they are far more alike than different. Both are fiercely protective of and devoted to their families, and their chemistry is strong enough to make them reconsider everything they thought they wanted. The question of what will happen after the playoffs looms like an impending blizzard. Pulled in different directions by offers and obligations, they must decide what matters most…and if they can give it to each other.
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Blowing out a breath, she relaxed into the chair and picked up the check the server had set on the table.
He reached for his wallet. “Let me get that.”
“No. This is my treat. Well, it’s actually the Bedlam’s.” She placed her company card in the folder.
“All right, but I’m buying the ice cream.”
She packed up her laptop, pocketed her credit card, and shrugged into her coat. “The ice cream place isn’t far. It’s pretty much a straight shot, so just follow me.”
Nerves fluttered again as she drove, eying Leo in the rear view mirror when stopped at red lights. He stood close to her at the counter when they both ordered chocolate frozen custard, and sat close enough that their knees brushed under the small table. Conversation wasn’t easy with the crowd of kids wearing basketball uniforms, jumping out of their seats and rushing around, hyped high on a win and tons of sugar. But amid the noise and chaos, Leo seemed more relaxed, content as he shared smiles with her.
Without the laptop and broadcast to the fans, this was more like a date. She didn’t date Bedlam members, not ever in her six years with the team. The possible drama that could stem from a relationship had never seemed worth it.
But could she really go there, after what had happened to Dylan? The family loyalty that the one fan had questioned came roaring back. What would Dylan say? What about her parents? She still couldn’t look at Leo without remembering what had happened. But Dylan was getting better, was insisting that he was nearly back to playing shape, and if he could return as good as new, then what was really holding her back?
Leo set down his empty cup. “Ready to go?”
She glanced at her own, surprised that she’d finished the whole thing. “Sure.”
The night had turned colder. Wind whistled through the trees and a layer of clouds made spotting stars impossible. More snow was in the forecast. At times, it seemed like winter would never end. Staying close to Leo shielded her from the worst of the steady breeze.
When they reached her car, she turned to face him. “Thanks for doing the show.”
He slid his hand along her arm. “Tonight was fun. My lips finally stopped tingling.”
“Chocolate custard for the win.” She fought off a shiver.
He stepped closer. “So, about Canalside or Niagara Falls. Are they going to be Kelsey’s Corner segments, or are they not team-sponsored activities?”
She licked dry lips and tilted her head to keep connected with his gaze. “I…”
“Because I know which one I’d prefer.” His body shifted until scant inches separated them. “Just the two of us.”
Her pulse throbbed at his scent and nearness. The intensity in his expression deepened as he lowered his head and leaned in. The urge to pull him down and kiss him rushed through her like a rapid river. She rested her hand on his chest. Even through the thick layer of his coat, the touch was intoxicating.
But once she kissed him, she couldn’t take it back. Her mind spun, thoughts jumping as emotions pulled her toward Leo and reasoning pushed her away. “Wait.”
“I don’t normally do this. Correction, I don’t ever do this.”
He raised a brow. “Ever?”
“Not with a Bedlam player.”
“Oh.” He slowly lowered his hand. Disappointment clouded his gaze, but he nodded and stepped back. Wind whipped in between them, teasing her for her choice. “Conflict of interest?”
Kelsey wrapped her arms around her torso. “I can’t say that I don’t want this, but after what happened with Dylan…”
He scrubbed a hand over his face and then a heavy sigh escaped his lips. “I’m never going to be able to escape that, am I?”
Regret swarmed in, blanketing her wants and worries. She grasped his hand. “I’m not saying no. I’ve always been confident in my decisions because I’ve trusted my gut. And my gut says I need to think some more about this.”
Some of the light returned to his gaze. His strong fingers squeezed hers once and then let go. “I can wait.”
If he’d pushed, that would’ve been a red flag. But his response—the immediate patience and understanding—made her want him even more. She made herself take another step away and dug her keys from her coat pocket. “Good luck on the road trip.”
“I’ll see you at Saturday’s game.” He back-walked a few more steps. “Drive safe.”
Tightening her hand to retain some of his warmth, she climbed into her car. She hadn’t felt the connection she’d had with Leo in ages, if ever. Could she really turn her back on it?