Tending Tara (Alaska Blizzard #7) - Kat Mizera
The arena was frigidly cold, but it was perfect for a hockey game. Picking up her stick, Tara Laasonen skated out onto the ice. These early morning games were a lot of fun, and she was grateful she’d found a group of women to play with. It had been a couple of years since she’d played hockey and hadn’t realized how much she’d missed it until now.
Circling the ice, she got her bearings and looked around for her teammates. Sara Ferrar had played in college, Hailey Hatcher had been an Olympic champion, and Laurel Caldwell had been both an Olympic champion as well as the coach of an Olympic team that won a gold medal. There were some local college and high school hockey players here as well, offering a variety of ages and skill levels, which made it that much more fun.
“Looking good,” Dani Petrov called from the sidelines. She was seven months pregnant and a former Olympic champion who couldn’t play at the moment but had come out to support them anyway.
“Where’s your skates?” Sara called out to her.
Dani held up a pair. “I’ve got them, but I’m way too off-balance to play with this belly of mine!”
“Baby will be here soon enough,” Laurel said, skating over to her and resting a hand on Dani’s protruding stomach. “And you’ll be back on the ice before you know it.”
“I hope so.” Dani laughed and rubbed her belly.
The game started, and Tara’s team took an early lead. She was in the zone today, scoring twice in the first few minutes and losing herself in the game. She’d played her whole life and loved hockey, but after her brother Miikka left for the pros, it wasn’t the same. Now that she was here in Anchorage, surrounded by hockey and hockey players, she’d found her passion again.
“Anna mennä, Tara!” Let’s go! She knew her brother’s voice anywhere, especially since he’d yelled in Finnish, and she turned in surprise, lifting her stick in acknowledgment. He didn’t usually get up this early on his days off, but he was here with his pretty new wife, which was nice.
“One more for the hat trick, Tara!” This was a different voice, with a teasing lilt, and Tara turned in surprise, trying to ascertain who it was.
Then she saw him.
He was one of Miiikka’s teammates and the back-up goalie for the Alaska Blizzard. Not to mention one of the hottest and most talented men she’d ever met. He was also arrogant and standoffish, but there was something compelling about him. They’d hung out socially a few times since she’d arrived in Anchorage, and she found him attractive, but he’d never shown any interest, so she’d kept her distance. Seeing him here today was confusing, but she tried not to glance in his direction while she sat on the bench, waiting for her next shift.
“How come the guys are here today?” Dani asked, leaning over.
“I don’t know,” Tara admitted. “Miikka didn’t tell me he was coming, much less anyone else.”
“There’s Ryder and Logan, too,” Dani said. “Is it a special occasion?”
“I don’t think so,” Laurel said, dropping down next to Tara and glancing around. “Are we having a party?”
“Don’t look at me,” Tara protested with a chuckle. “I’m new in town.”
She got up and swung her legs over the boards, getting back on the ice. Sara passed her the puck, and she took it down the ice. She didn’t have a shot and looked around for someone who did.
“Tara!” Hailey’s voice was off to her right, and she moved on autopilot, sending the puck behind her and right into the blade of Hailey’s stick. Hailey promptly put it in the net, and they high-fived as they skated back to the bench. They tried to let the younger girls get more ice time since they were less experienced, but Tara played a lot more than anyone else. She’d been in Alaska about a month and felt comfortable with her new life but was still getting used to it. Hockey was something familiar, essentially the same here as back home in Finland, just with different teammates, so it energized her.
Not that she wanted to go home.
She shuddered just thinking about it.
Moving to the U.S. had been all she’d thought about for a year, so the last thing she wanted was to go back. Her life in Finland had been pretty laid back, but she’d been bored. Since moving to Alaska, her life was completely the opposite, and she didn’t have