Caged (Gold Hockey #11) - Elise Faber

Chapter One



She was painfully shy.

Great with tech. Horrible with people.

But that was okay because her job was tech. As a video coach for the Gold, her livelihood depended on how well she could interact with the tech surrounding her at any given time—tech that currently consisted of multiple monitors on her office wall, a desktop, a laptop, and a trio of tablets. She actually had a dozen tablets at her disposal, but the rest were currently being used by the coaching staff.

The Gold had just finished their third game of the season, and though she wouldn’t say her job got lighter as the season progressed, this time, in particular, was dizzying.

There were new players to get up to speed.

Changes to the system that needed to be addressed.

Specific plays the coaches wanted highlighted.

And she was down her assistant—who was out with the stomach flu—and an intern—who’d lied on his resumé, couldn’t actually isolate and/or edit video, and hated everything to do with the game of hockey.

Video. Coach.

Both of those were important—okay, both were critical to her job.

She needed to understand the game, needed to be able to anticipate what the players and coaching staff would need, and she needed to be able to move fast to isolate, tag, and make that content available, both during and after each of the eighty-two regular-season games, not to mention any additional playoff games the team might be lucky enough to participate in.

So, an intern with no interest in the sport was useless.

And an assistant coach, who was confined at home with the stomach plague, was similarly not helpful for the fingertip tap dance she had to conduct during a normal game. It meant she’d played double-duty for the contest, watching eight feeds at once, layering alternate angles together of different parts of the matchup—zone entries, injuries, penalties, or power plays—in addition to being prepared to advise the bench coaches on whether or not to challenge a particular goal.

In a word, by the time she was finishing up her end of the game process—superimposing stats pulled by the NHL onto the various video clips and making them accessible to players and coaches alike—Dani was exhausted.

But, crying over spilled milk and all that.

She didn’t have time for exhaustion or crying or . . . well, not much except to be staring lovingly into her screens, her fingers caressing the keyboards and tablets . . . and yes, she realized that her referring to staring lovingly and caressing anything tech-related meant that she’d probably been single far too long.

Not that single was an uncommon adjective to describe Dani Eastbrooke.

It was usually included, right along with quiet, shy, and painfully awkward.

“Stop,” she whispered. She was who she was, and she didn’t have time for reminiscing or self-flagellation, not when she had enough work for three people and only one person to do it.

A ping came across her cell.

Glancing down, she saw it was a request—or technically, three more requests, and . . . see? No time to think about her pathetically empty life.

On that pleasant thought, she straightened her shoulders and rolled out her neck, focusing on the screen in front of her as she began transferring the video.

Then turned and focused on the next one, repeating the process.

Once the third was complete, she gathered the tablets, pushed out of her chair, and hurried into the hall.

“Oof!” She skidded to a stop, warm hands gripping her shoulders, steadying her.

Unfortunately, she’d hurried without looking.

Unfortunately, because the tablets she’d been holding tumbled from her grip, hitting the ground with a sickening crunch. Yes, they had protective covers. No, she didn’t normally launch them at concrete floors.

Also unfortunately, because she had crashed into a giant muscled mass of sweaty man. He was tall and blond and too fucking pretty for her mental well-being, especially with gentle gray eyes sliding to hers, with the warmth of his large hands soaking through the fabric of her shirt.

A sliver of heat slid through her stomach.

Oh, no.

That would not do.

Tearing her eyes away, she dropped to her knees and picked up the first tablet she could reach, running her finger over the screen and checking for damage.

“Do you stroke everything so carefully?”

Desire coated her spine in honey, filled her throat with cotton.

She glanced up, saw that he’d crouched next to her, and in an instant, was lost again in his eyes, the pale gray of the sky hinting at a thunderstorm.


Well, that was fitting, considering the storm that had awakened inside her the first time she’d