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The Penalty Box: Epilogue

MICA

I STOOD beside Ryan as we started to get dressed for the game. There was an excited vibe in the locker room. We had a three-game lead in the playoffs, and this was our fifth game. Tonight, we wanted to bring the cup home.

Ryan glanced at me. “How did your meeting go with Mark?”

I tossed my watch onto the shelf in my locker. “He signed me for another five years.”

Ryan’s eyes lit up. He lifted his hand in a high-five. “Nice.”

Mark had put his money where his mouth was, giving me an unreal contract that would be announced when the playoffs were over. “I’m happy. Happy to stay here.”

I was playing it low key, but I was ecstatic that Mark had signed me for another five years. This was our home. This was where our friends were and where we wanted to raise our child.

“Hockey is life, right?” He grinned.

My wife is my life. “You know it.”


WE STOOD on the ice as the music started to play. The stadium was dark and quiet as the singer belted out our national anthem. You could feel the energy of the crowd anticipating the biggest game of the season. I lifted my eyes to the family boxes, searching. There. There she was. Charlie stood, her hands cradling her beautiful baby belly. Beside her, my eyes found my mom. Zoey. Krista. Jasper and Mark. And Andrusha.

I momentarily reflected on how much my life had changed. A year ago, during playoffs, I had some faceless puck bunny cheering me on. Now I had a family, my whole family, standing behind me.

Charlie’s eyes found mine. Her face broke into the most beautiful smile. God, I loved that woman. I stared up at her, wondering for the thousandth time how I hadn’t fallen in love with her the first time I met her. She was, in my mind, the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. And she was mine. All mine.

She blew me a kiss and grinned cheekily. I didn’t think I could get any happier. Well, one thing could make me happier: winning tonight, and bringing home the cup.

I glanced at Ryan. We made eye contact.

“Let’s do this,” I mouthed.

He grinned back at me and mouthed, “All the way.”


TWO AND A HALF HOURS LATER, I stood on the ice in disbelief. We had won. Ryan skated over and jumped on me, giving me a hug.

“We did it!” he screamed. “We won.”

Gloves came off as our team piled together in a group on the ice, hugging and screaming at each other. We had done it. We had won the cup. The crowds were screaming and going crazy. People flooded onto the ice so they could get in on the action.

I skated around, breathing hard. I looked up at the box. I didn’t see Charlie, just my mom, Mark, and Jasper. Zoey appeared by my side, breathless and happy. I picked her up and hugged her.

“Charlie’s at the gate,” she yelled at me, pointing to the gate. “I have to go find Ryan.”

I fought my way through the growing, celebrating crowd on the ice, my eyes searching for her. She was standing at the gate, her hands over her mouth. Andrusha was by her side, protecting her from everyone around her.

I sped up and stopped short in front of her.

“Excuse me,” I said. “Have you seen my wife?”

Her eyes sparkled with laughter. “Not sure. What does she look like?”

“She’s ridiculously cute, and she has a smart mouth on her. More importantly, she hates hockey.”

She laughed. “Smart girl. She married a hockey player?”

“Crazy, hey?” I leaned over the gate, so I could press my mouth against her lips. She tasted fantastic. Like hot sex, love, and my home.

She put her arms around my neck and whispered in my ear. “Crazy in love.”

“You’re mine,” I whispered back. “You’re my wife.”

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