Penalty Play - Lynda Aicher

Chapter One

“So that’s it?” Henrik Grenick stared at the retreating back of his latest girlfriend. Probably ex-girlfriend now. “We’re done?”

Patricia—don’t you dare call me Patty—flung her wavy blond hair over her shoulder to level an icy glare at him. Her perfectly outlined and colored lip curled up in what he assumed was supposed to be a sophisticated sneer. The sophisticated part didn’t work so well for her, not that he’d say anything. There was no sense in poking the already angry cat.

“If I have to tell you the answer to that—” she scanned him with a disgusted flick of her eyes, “—then you really are dumber than I thought.”

Was that barb supposed to hurt? It barely fluttered over his skin as it sailed past. “I’m just making sure.” Experience had taught him it was always best to clarify when it came to women. With the hockey season starting next week, he didn’t have the bandwidth to deal with an ex-girlfriend versus new-girlfriend fight.

And there would be a new girlfriend.

She huffed out an exasperated snarl then whipped back around. The handle on her designer roller bag snapped up with a soft click that contradicted the applied force. He quickly covered his mouth to hold in his chuckle. He definitely didn’t want to antagonize her and draw out this latest breakup.

The faster she was out the door, the smoother it would go for him.

“I can’t believe I put up with your stupid ass for so long.” The pointed heels on her leather boots fired parting shots of disdain on the hardwood floor as she stormed to the front door, the bag adding a low purr of pending departure. With her designer handbag—one he’d bought her along with the roller bag and leather coat and, hell, her entire outfit—hooked on the crook of her elbow, she flung out the door, pausing long enough to send one last scathing look his way. “You were a lousy lay, too.”

The slam of the door echoed through the vaulted ceilings and bounced around the open floor plan. The artwork on the hallway walls shook but held strong. He’d had them remounted with secured hangings after one crashed to the floor following a similar exit from a similar girlfriend three years back. Maybe four.

Her last remark was just another in a long list of complaints filed against him by an equally long list of people. Whatever.

“So that’s a yes then?” he asked the silent house. He’d have to take Patricia’s non-verbal reply as an affirmative. They were over.

His heavy sigh rattled through his lungs and dragged his shoulders down, along with his head. In relief or resignation? Both probably. Discerning the truth would take a level of self-analysis he was too tired to go into.

He reached for a beer in the cold depths of his beverage fridge, only to switch his choice at the last second. The bottle of water wouldn’t be nearly as mentally satisfying, but he was in full-on training mode, and a breakup wasn’t going to shove him off that path.

Hell. He could have a new girl attached to his arm this weekend, if not earlier. The Minnesota Glaciers had a big promo event scheduled for Saturday night, and there would be plenty of women there looking for a hockey player boyfriend just in time for the start of the season. He’d have his fucking pick of women.

If one didn’t find him first.

That was how it usually worked, and he was completely fine with that. It was less effort for him and had the same end-result. A woman on his arm to absorb the echoes around him.

He slugged down a gulp of water and wandered out to the balcony. The late September breeze held a bite of cooler air from the Northerly flow, but the sun warmed his skin and kept the temperature almost perfect.

His house was built on a slope with the lower floor hidden from the front and surrounded by three acres of woodland. It’d been the floor-to-ceiling windows on both levels that opened to the view of the trees that he’d fallen in love with. He marked the seasons by the changing state of the forest and enjoyed every phase. The orange and yellow blasts of color were a sure sign winter was coming.

He lifted his face to the sun and let it soak away the remnants of Patricia’s wrath. All that angst because he’d neglected to buy the diamond necklace she’d wanted. Or was it because he’d snapped at her for setting