Ryker has intrigued me and I was looking forward to his story. Fortunately for me, it went beyond what I expected. Thank goodness for Sawyer Bennett!
by Sawyer Bennett
Book 4, Cold Fury series
The rugged men of the Carolina Cold Fury hockey team are winning hearts once again in another scorching novel from New York Times bestselling author Sawyer Bennett.
The stakes have never been higher for Carolina Cold Fury goalie Ryker Evans. With his contract running out, he’s got a year left to prove he’s still at the top of his game. And since his wife left him, Ryker has been balancing life as a pro-hockey star and a single parent to two daughters. Management is waiting for him to screw up. The fans are ready to pounce. Everybody’s taking dirty shots—except for the fiery redhead whose faith in Ryker gives him a fresh start.
As the league’s only female general manager, Gray Brannon has learned not to mix business with pleasure. And yet even this tough, talented career woman can’t help breaking her own rules as she gives Ryker everything she’s got. She hopes their hot streak will last forever, but with Ryker’s conniving ex plotting to reclaim her man, the pressure’s on Gray to step up and save a tender new love before it’s too late.
Wow, this is my favorite kind of contemporary love story. It is the best sports romance I’ve read in ages. Ryker hits all the right marks – it features infinitely likable characters, relevant hockey passages, and introduces an interesting groundbreaking scenario.
Ryker is the best part of the story. I love him because he is not only likable, but admirable. I deeply appreciate his mature approach to looking at the issues and patience in taking action. I adore his brand of protectiveness. He is a man who knows his mind:
His dedication and loyalty. The way he loves deeply and surely. His joy and the way he just masters his life as if it’s effortless. He has such confidence in himself and doesn’t waste time on second-guesses once he’s given something careful consideration.
Gray is also worthy of respect. She is a highly educated, experienced businesswoman with an intense love of hockey. Her Ph.D. is in statistics and she brings that analytical skill to the front office of the Cold Fury, breaking new ground as the first female GM in professional hockey. However, because of her early focus and success, she has never been in love…until Ryker.
Ryker is not interested in a one-night stand with Gray. He’s a relationship man (this makes me swoon). Yet, their relationship is complicated. They both know there will be extra scrutiny because she is the GM and female. Furthermore, Ryker doesn’t want to introduce a new woman into his daughters’ lives until there is a firm commitment. Smart and mature.
What really seals the deal with Ryker is his willingness to look at the bigger picture and put her needs before his. At a critical juncture, one of them is going to need to make a change. Given where he is in his career and where she is, he is willing to make the sacrifice: "I’ve reached all my goals and Gray is just starting to seek hers out. She not only deserves this chance more than me, but this team deserves her vision more than they need me.”
I also enjoyed learning more about what happens in the back office, a glimpse into the business end of sports. I have to wonder if Sawyer Bennett ever wanted to be a executive for a sports team. She certainly knows her stuff!
In A Nutshell
I cannot recommend this story enough. Ryker hit a chord in me with exemplary, honorable characters and an arousing love story. Best in the series, this one is not to be missed.
My father has never been one for pomp, sugar coating, or long segues. He cuts right to the chase. “I know you all have seen the news stories and I hate that it was leaked before I could talk to you. As of today, I have officially stepped down as the acting general manager of the Cold Fury.”
No one utters a word. Not a sound is made. This tells me that indeed, everyone has already heard the news.
“I’m appointing my daughter, Gray Brannon, in my place.”
And there it is . . . a distinct rustling sound as bodies shift in their seats. My father continues on, making firm and clear statements about my qualifications.
Graduated Princeton when I was nineteen.
Got my MBA from Kellogg at twenty-one.
Ph.D. in statistics from Berkeley at twenty-four.
Genius level IQ of 142.
Okay, Dad . . . that’s a little much. Get to the good stuff.
As I half listen to my father talk with pride about my two Olympic medals while playing for the U.S. women’s ice hockey team—one silver, one gold—I let my eyes roam over the group. The two front rows are composed of the coaching, equipment, and training staff. The players sit in clique-type groups based on what lines they play on. This isn’t by design, but I’m betting more because they have a unique bond and camaraderie. They almost have a sixth sense that enables them to read each other while on the ice.
My eyes pass over Ryker Evans, our team’s goalie, and then snap right back to him. He’s not watching my father but rather me, and I find myself unwillingly sucked into those silver-gray eyes. It happens every time I look at him, whether it’s in person or he’s giving an interview on TV, which is again proof that I am indeed a woman.
His lips tip up in acknowledgment of me and his eyes radiate congratulations. He gives me a nod of approval and then slides his gaze to my father, who is now lauding my scouting efforts for the Cold Fury. I’ve been the senior scout for the past two years and have scored some great players for the team.
I don’t immediately move my own gaze on, but rather take an unfettered moment to appreciate Ryker’s bold handsomeness. He’s called the Brick Wall in this league because he’s big. I mean really big for a goalie, but he’s still one of the most agile net minders I’ve ever seen. And still speaking as a woman for just a second, he has the face of a GQ cover model. In fact, I think he’s actually graced their cover twice if memory serves me. Dark hair, liquid silver eyes, and a beard of what looks like no more than three days’ growth that never gets shorter or longer, even during the playoffs. I’m quite sure when he’s ready to retire he could have a second career as a model if he was so inclined.
As it stands, however, I am far more interested in Ryker Evans for his athletic abilities than his face and I consider him to be one of my greatest acquisitions as a scout. I thought that even when our playoff hopes were crushed during Ryker’s first game in a Cold Fury jersey when he failed to stop a penalty shot, securing for us a big fat loss. I thought he was still a fantastic prospect even when the organization’s CFO, Bill Bowman, berated me in a staff meeting for insisting on such a pricey acquisition to the team.
I remember that day with actual fondness. Bill got all red in the face as he ranted at me, and my father just leaned back in his chair at the head of the conference room table and let me take it all on my shoulders. My father never fought my fights once I became an adult and I loved him for it. It meant he respected me.
It didn’t matter that it was wholly unfair to put that loss on Ryker’s shoulders. The fact is, the team—as a whole and with our regular starting goalie, Max Fournier—blew a three-game lead in the playoffs against Atlanta. Ryker came in cold off the bench when Max suffered a season- ending knee injury and was immediately placed in the net to face off against one of the best players in the league for a penalty shot.
And when he missed it, he became the pariah of the Cold Fury team.
At least for a little while.
But right now, it’s kind of hard to be the outcast when you have a .936 save percentage.
Yes, now my boy is back. He’s become a team leader—a man the younger guys look up to. He’s killing it on the ice, and I believe nothing is going to stop him this season. I can see it in his eyes, the tilt of his chin, the set to his shoulders. Ryker Evans, the Brick Fucking Wall, is going to lead this team—my team—straight into the playoffs. He has something to prove and that’s fine by me . . . whatever motivates him best.
“—which means that the only one who has to prove herself to you is Gray. I’m not even asking you to give her a chance because I know she’d never ask that of you either. I’m just telling you to watch and judge her on her own merits.”
My dad steps away from the podium and gives me a wink. He sweeps a hand out, indicating that I now have the floor. I didn’t have any expectations that I was going to be greeted with open arms. I didn’t expect applause, wolf whistles, or even metaphorical banging of hockey sticks to welcome me. In fact, I got more than I ever anticipated just from that quick nod of approval from Ryker Evans.
That’s fine by me.
Just makes this all the easier for me as I step up to the podium and prepare to cement my place in history.
USA Today and New York Times Best-Selling Author, Sawyer Bennett is a snarky southern woman and reformed trial lawyer who decided to finally start putting on paper all of the stories that were floating in her head. Her husband works for a Fortune 100 company which lets him fly all over the world while she stays at home with their daughter and three big, furry dogs who hog the bed. Sawyer would like to report she doesn’t have many weaknesses but can be bribed with a nominal amount of milk chocolate.
Sawyer is the author of several contemporary romances including the popular Off Series, the Legal Affairs Series and the Last Call Series. She will be releasing her third book in the Cold Fury Hockey Series with Random House Loveswept, June 2015.
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