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- Secret Relationship
- Soul Mates
Tanner Mitchum is the youngest NHL coach in the league. All he wants to do is focus and help his team get to the finish line but he doesn’t expect to get derailed by the one thing he thought he'd never find.
Micayla isn’t looking for a long-term relationship. With her mind focused on finishing her masters degree and starting her new career, she doesn't have time for love. When a one night stand turns into something she didn’t expect, she allows herself to break some rules.
When she finds out that the man she’s falling for is her brother's hockey coach, an innocent night turns into something much more.
Intro Into Chapter One
Intro Into Chapter One
The moment I walk into the bar, I see her.
A woman with long, shiny, brown hair sits at the bar, a ball cap on her head. Her feet are perched on the bottom rung of her stool, her elbows placed delicately on the bar’s top, long, bare fingers wrapped around her beer bottle.
There’s an empty stool next to her, and before I realize what I’m doing, I allow my feet to carry me to her.
The Old Mill is just how the name describes it—old. The familiar scents of fried foods, the sticky flooring covered in decades-old beer, and the sound of friends coming together for a night out for dinner bring me right back home.
I never intended to leave Colorado for so long. I had plans in college to join the NHL and play hockey for as long as I could before coming back here to make a life for myself. Have a home, a wife, a family.
But an injury I couldn’t avoid had me out of the NHL sooner than I’d wanted, and a coaching job had been the next viable answer. So, I’d spent a few years in Minnesota working.
I had learned more in the few years working with the coaches of the Blue Jays than I had in any class I’d taken in college. I was able to go work alongside a professional hockey team, quickly proving myself to the coach and getting a glowing recommendation when I was ready to move on.
Which brought me back home.
After several years away, I was now the head coach of the Northridge University hockey team.
It was my home team, the one I’d played with throughout college. I knew the roster for the last fifteen years. I knew the stats, knew their chances. I also knew that they had had a chance at the finals last year.
Only problem was they didn’t have me. I know what players are good, which need more work, and which ones shouldn’t be on the front line.
I make it to the woman’s side, leaning in an inch or two so she can hear me over the cheers and chatter in the room. “Is this seat taken?”
She doesn’t look away from the TV above the bar when she says, “Knock yourself out.”
I take a seat on the rickety barstool. Its hardened wood creaks under my weight, and I wait a moment before settling, hoping that it won’t drop me to the ground in a heap.
When I feel relatively safe, I raise a hand for the bartender, and he makes his way over, taking my order before wandering off again.
I lean my forearms onto the bar top and sigh, my eyes unintentionally moving to the woman beside me before I snap my gaze to the TV above the bar, hoping to let it distract me.
It was the beginning of our season. I had only met the players on my team a few times during team meetings and practices, but it was enough for me to already start forming that bond between players and coach.
I’ve learned over the years that I can’t be friends with my players, and that’s okay. But there was a small part of me that wished I could go back.
Playing hockey at a university was like being a celebrity. The puck bunnies came out in swarms, the guys all worshipped you, your teammates became your best friends—some became your brothers.
I purse my lips and tap a finger on the bar, my attention snagging on the TV mounted on the wall. There was a Blue Jays versus Norks game on, and the Norks were having a hell of a start.
The goalie for the Blue Jays misses a save, and some people in the bar groan. A guy several bar stools down slaps the bar. “Come the fuck on, man!”
The woman next to me sighs, “You knew he wasn’t going to save that, Tom.”
He rolls his eyes at her and takes a swig of his beer. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Jameson has it this season. He’s been being groomed for this very game.”
The man—Tom—wasn’t wrong. Jack Jameson was being groomed to start this season. But sometimes even the most experienced goalies miss a puck.
“They should have put more emphasis on their defensemen,” the woman retorts, catching all of my attention. I haven’t even seen the entirety of the woman’s face, just the soft jawline, the pert nose, and olive-toned skin.
Still, I have never been more instantly attracted to a woman in my life.
My beer gets delivered as she continues, “If they had spent more time teaching Lander and Bear what defense meant, the Blue Jays wouldn’t be in this mess.”
The guy scoffs as I chuckle. I distinctly remember Coach Jefferies saying that at the end of the season, two weeks before I left, when he was begging me to stay on.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Mick.” Tom waves his hand at her, turning to his buddy on the other side of him and likely, complaining about the woman’s opinion—Mick.
I don’t know what it was about the name. It wasn’t completely out of the ordinary, nothing uniquely special about it. But it was somehow the perfect name for her.
She throws her hair over her shoulder, and her eyes connect briefly with my own before she shrugs, “Am I wrong?”
I’m momentarily shocked that she’s bringing me into the conversation, but there’s nothing flirty about her question. Her gaze only wanders over me once—quickly—before her eyes connect with mine. They’re brown, bright chocolate brown with flecks of gold.
“Uh.” I hesitate, my eyes and mind still comprehending the scene.
“Not a hockey fan?”
I smile, glad she doesn’t know who I am.
Though we’re not on campus, a lot of students and faculty used to come to this place, and when I’d been announced as the new head coach, the fanfare was both comforting and overwhelming.
I relax my shoulders. “No, I am. And no, you’re not wrong.”
She nods a little, her hand coming up to grasp the neck of her bottle of beer. Her lips pucker as the taste hits her tongue, and I watch the way her throat moves as she swallows. I clear my throat.
“Though your friend over there isn’t wrong either. Jameson should have blocked it.”
She lets loose a deep sigh, her brown hair swishing as she shakes her head. “Everyone always puts pressure on the goalie.”
I turn my attention fully to her, interested in talking about hockey as a fan rather than for work. “The goalie will always feel the pressure. It’s the way it is. It’s like putting pressure on a kicker in football; it’s inevitable.”
She moans out a little laugh. “Yuck, boo.”
I laugh with her, settling in comfortably. “Not a football fan?”
Turning to face me, she smirks. “I’m a born and bred hockey lover. We’ve had Phantom season tickets since I was little. Hockey runs through my veins.”
Fuck, if there were words in the English language that would make a woman instantly attractive to me, it was the sentence that just fell out of this woman’s mouth.
She was a local, too, since she mentioned the Phantoms, the local pro hockey team, which was interesting. She looks to be in her early to midtwenties, a little too gorgeous to be here alone. But judging by the familiar way the staff looks at her and interacts with her, I’d say she’s a regular.
It’s been years since I’ve frequented this bar. The staff is all new now. Though back in the day—I can’t believe I’m old enough to use that phrase—I knew just about everyone in here.
“You hungry?” she asks, nodding toward the menu above the bar.
I lean an elbow on the bar, glancing back at her. “You asking me to dinner?”
The smirk that crosses her mouth diverts my attention. “Would you be bothered by that? Let me guess.” She holds up a finger. “You’re an alpha male and hate when women ask you out?”
I click my tongue. “Oh, I’m definitely an alpha.”
She rolls her eyes, and I laugh.
“But I can’t say a woman has ever asked me out.”
A brow raises. “I find that hard to believe.”
She’s so fucking confident. I’ve met confident women—puck bunnies were no strangers to the life of hockey players, and I’ve participated in… plenty of activities—but she was confident in a way that was intriguing. It had me hoping that tonight wouldn’t be our only conversation. Which is why I continue to flirt.
“Well.” I clear my throat. “Not without me finding out her name first.”
She regards me for a moment before sticking her hand out. “I’m Mick.”
I grasp her hand. It’s soft in my calloused hand. “Tanner.”
She gives me a wide smile and gestures for the bartender.
“So, what’s a girl like you doing in a bar like this?” I ask, accepting the menu the bartender hands over.
“Ugh,” Mick groans, letting her head fall forward, her long hair covering her face for a moment before she looks back over at me. “You did not just use that line.”
“I did.” I smile without regret. “I find it hard to believe that someone as gorgeous as you would be stuck here with all of us middle-agers.”
She bites her lip, her eyes moving from mine to her menu. “I don’t really frequent the campus bars. Too many college kids.”
“Fair enough,” I quip, thinking about the local college bar that I frequented regularly. They opened it with the sole intention of bringing in the local sports fans, and it worked. Whether it be hockey, football, baseball, basketball—you name it, Rose Hill had it, and they catered to it.
A groan goes through the bar when the goalie misses another goal.
“So, let’s hear it.”
I finish my sip of beer and set the bottle on the bar, turning to face her. “Hear what?”
She waves her hand in my general direction as if just looking at me will tell you anything you need to know about me. “You know, the lines you use to pick up women.”
“The lines.” I clear my throat. “How do you know I have lines?”
“Oh, come on.” She rolls her eyes under her ball cap and smirks. “A guy like you always has the lines. Hell, you just said one.” Her lips pucker slightly, drawing my attention. “Let me guess, something like, Do you know CPR? Because you just took my breath away.”
“Ooh, that’s good.”
She raises a brow, smiling at me. “You like that one?”
“I do.” I feign looking around the bar and say, “Let me go try it out, see if it wins her over.”
Her brows furrow under the brim of her ball cap, and she glances around. “Now?”
I hop off the stool, taking a few steps away, and glance back to see her watching, that adorable crinkle still nestled between her brows. I turn away, standing up straight and shaking out my hands for exaggerated effect.
Then I turn and march back to our seats. “Excuse me, miss?”
I see her lips twitch as she tries to contain her smile.
“Do you know CPR? Because, wow.” I place a hand on my chest and give her as serious of a face as I can manage. “You just took my breath away.”
Mick laughs at me, making my smile spread across my face, and I take a deep breath at how that laughter makes me feel.
I have a feeling that my lucky night is only just beginning.