Sunday, May 12th
Shane closed his eyes and tried to will away the nausea. He’d made it to Nealy’s office door, and that was hard enough. No one else on the executive level today, but after practice, her majesty had requested a word. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, his heart beating like a jackrabbit’s. No idea what she wanted, but mandatory meetings were rarely good.
“In or out, Reese, don’t be a tease.” Her tiny voice came through the wall as if she could sense him hesitating.
He eased inside, closed the door and stood in front of her desk. “Wanted to see me, Coach?”
“Have a seat. And for God’s sake, take that look off your face. I’m not going to demand your firstborn.” Expressionless as usual, but a lighter, more teasing tone than normal.
A smile started at the corners of his mouth but didn’t quite make it. He dropped into the chair opposite her and folded his hands over his stomach, thought better of it, and set them on the arm rests.
“Christ,” she said in mock disgust and shook her head. She stared at him for a long minute. Was that compassion in her eyes? “I want you to start in game one.”
He blinked. “What?” It sounded like she said she wanted him to start. But that wasn’t possible. If it was a joke, her sense of humor had taken a wicked turn.
“You heard me. You’ve been through your bullshit. Gotten it out of your system. I liked what I saw in practice today. You’re ready. Gotta get back in the saddle and lead this team to the finals. You’re the franchise goaltender, and it’s time to remind people of that.”
Funny. Felt like she was reminding him. A warm and fuzzy moment with Nealy never seemed possible before, but damn if he didn’t want to hug her now. “Thanks, Coach.”
“You want to thank me? Win on Tuesday. Simkins had a comfort level with the Sharks, got in their heads. You have an undefeated record with the Blackhawks. This one’s all you.”
He nodded. Instead of pressured, he felt raring to go. Tuesday couldn’t come fast enough.
“All right, now get outta here. I gotta solidify the rest of the lineup.”
“Yes, Coach.” He grinned and couldn’t stop, even as she shook her head watching him leave.