As captain of the dance team for the NHL’s Las Vegas Sinners, it’s Miranda Evans’ job to make sure a quality product goes on the ice between periods whether it’s choreographed numbers or short scrimmages, but she’s not blind. Her squad gets eye rolls and applause in equal measure. The chance to start a community intramural hockey league is her shot at legitimizing the Lady Sinners, but there’s a catch. To maximize good press, Miranda has to work with a retired Sinner who’s shut himself off from everyone in the organization. He’s stubborn, broken, and unwilling to say the least, but in unguarded moments she can see the man underneath, and he might just be worth fighting for.
Ben Collier’s NHL career came to a crashing halt five months ago after a monster hit paralyzed him from the waist down. Feeling is coming back at a mind-numbingly slow pace. He’s attacking rehab to the point of obsession. All he wants is to be left alone to focus on his three goals: walk, skate, play hockey. He absolutely doesn’t need the distraction of the beautiful cheerleader who won’t give him a moment’s peace, but her optimism rubs off when he’s not looking. Despite himself, the glass is starting to look half full for the first time since his injury. And that’s terrifying. To love something means to accept the risk of losing it, and he’s not sure he can do that again.
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His gaze stayed on a warm, slow smolder, his voice low and soft. The air seemed to crackle, and it wasn’t just embers from the fireplace in front of them. Whatever this was, was completely new. Every time she was near him, the connection sparked an inner flame that reflected back in his eyes.
Speaking came slowly, and the words felt thick in her mouth. “Okay, Ben. Tell me your story.”
He nodded once and swirled the whiskey in his glass. It caught the flickering light and glowed golden. “Well, let’s see. I’m from Sherbrooke. That’s in Quebec. It’s small, just over two thousand people, but it’s a big university town. Very picturesque with mountains, rivers, and lakes. My parents, my brother, and his family still live there and want me to move back, but Las Vegas is my home now. Like every other good Canadian boy, I was skating as soon as I could walk. Hockey came as naturally as breathing.”
“You’re French-Canadian, but you don’t have an accent.”
“It comes out sometimes when I get heated, but I went to school in the states. Shattuck St. Mary’s for prep school then the University of Minnesota. I was drafted into the NHL at eighteen but put it off to finish my degree. I played in Ohio for a few years before the team moved to Las Vegas, and I’ve been here … for almost eight years now. What about you? What’s the story of Miranda?”
“Oh, I’m a Vegas baby through and through. Born and raised in Henderson. I was captain of my cheerleading squad in middle school and high school. We didn’t have dance teams back then, but it was pretty close anyway. I was into gymnastics, too, so the tumbling came easy to me. My dad split when I was ten, ran off with a girl almost half his age. So it’s been my mom, my older brother Spencer, and I for a long time. Spencer manages UNLV’s Aces hockey team. I graduated from there three years ago, so now it’s just a matter of balancing the Lady Sinners and being Saralynn’s assistant. And … now my own hockey team.”