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Making an Impact (Men of the Ice Book 6)
 


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Making an Impact (Men of the Ice Book 6)


  Making an Impact

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Making an Impact (Men of the Ice, #6)

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Breaking the Ice

  Books by Michele Shriver

  Authors Notes and Acknowledgements

  About the Author

  Michele Shriver

  SMC Publishing

  Making an Impact: A Men of the Ice Novella

  By Michele Shriver

  Copyright 2016 Michele Shriver

  Published by SMC Publishing

  All Rights Reserved

  This is a work of fiction. All characters, locales and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  “Age is no barrier. It's a limitation you put on your mind.” - Jackie Joyner-Kersee

  Chapter One

  Forty. There was life after forty. Charlene Simmons proved it, because she crossed the milestone at 12:22 p.m. Central Standard Time and was still awake, alive and breathing. That was the good news. The bad news was that she was also single, alone, and at this particular moment in time, depressed.

  Perhaps depressed was too strong a word. Char knew people who struggled with chronic depression, and she understood the seriousness of it. Besides, she didn’t have an official diagnosis of depression. Char simply wasn’t happy about turning forty and being single, so more appropriately, she should perhaps be called a moody old maid, and not depressed.

  “Moody old maid. There you go. That’s more like it,” Char muttered to herself as she eased her brand-spanking-new cherry red Mustang convertible into a parking space in front of the Electric Eel Nightclub. The car had been an early birthday to herself, and why not? She had the money, and worked hard for it, and since she had no husband and would probably never have kids, why not spend it on herself?

  Char worked as the Executive Director of the San Antonio Generals Hockey Club Charity Foundation, a position she considered to be her dream job. Over the past year and a half, since the Generals began their first season of play in the National Hockey League, the Foundation had raised millions of dollars for various charities throughout the San Antonio area. One of the most successful fundraisers to date was the Bachelor Auction to raise money for the awareness and prevention of teenage suicide.

  Char used that occasion to arrange a date for her best friend, news anchor Jessica Rowan, with Generals forward Ryder Carrigan. Despite a few rocky moments, their first date blossomed into love, with Ryder and Jess now firmly established as a couple. Char was thrilled for them, because Jess deserved the happiness, but sometimes she still wondered where her happiness was. She sure hadn’t found it with Graham, since their marriage had lasted all of three years, and looking back, had probably only been happy for about half of that.

  She couldn’t quite explain why, since she loved her job and loved her life, but Char’s moodiness over not finding her happily ever after had grown more pronounced over the past several weeks, leading up to the big Four-Oh milestone. It was silly to get so worked up over a birthday. Age was only a number after all. That’s what everyone said, anyway, but Char still had a hard time accepting said number as her age.

  She didn’t want to do anything special to mark the birthday, and she sure didn’t want to spend it at a night club. She wanted to go home, fix dinner and sit on the couch drinking wine while she watched a sappy movie. Instead, Jess had insisted Char join her at the Electric Eel for a celebratory drink. Fine. One drink, then she could go home and have her pity party, complete with chocolate popcorn.

  Char took a minute to smooth her dress when she got out of the car. The little black dress. One she hadn’t worn in years, but still managed to fit into thanks to a fairly relentless gym regimen. It was the one saving grace of this day. If she had to turn forty, Char at least wanted to look good for the age.

  The club was dark when she pulled open the door, and Char wondered if she had the right place. Why did Jess suggest meeting at a nightclub? If they had to do something to commemorate Char’s birthday, why couldn’t it just be dinner?

  “Surprise!”

  Char heard the shouts as the lights turned on, and she found herself facing Jess, Ryder, and a handful of other people from the hockey club, including a few of the players from the team, along with a whole bunch of black balloons and streamers, all proclaiming her new age. Great.

  “Are you serious?” Char asked. “You decided to throw me a surprise party?” She didn’t know whether to be angry, mortified, or flattered, that’s how screwed up her emotions were lately.

  “Yes, I did,” Jessica said. “And don’t even bother yelling at me, because it won’t change anything.” She held out a crown that said ‘Forty and sexy’ and said, “Here. Put this on.”

  “’Forty and sexy?’” Char raised an eyebrow. “I thought it was supposed to be forty and fabulous. Not that that’s any better, or more accurate.”

  “Oh, stop it. Both are accurate. I chose this one.” Jessica placed it on Char’s head. “Just have fun tonight. No one deserves it more than you.”

  Happy. She should try for happy. After all, Jess went to a lot of trouble to plan the party. Char could at least attempt to have a good time.

  ***

  Casey Denault’s reputation as a playboy and a party animal was well-earned. When it came to women and sex and parties, he seldom said no. Especially not when his attendance at a party was as a favor to one of his teammates. Reputation aside, Casey was all about helping his team.

  He only knew Charlene Simmons in passing, having met her at a few of the team’s charity events, but Ryder was one of Casey’s best friends, as well as his linemate. His wingman, in essence, since Casey played center to Ryder’s left wing. That made his decision a no brainer. When Ryder asked a few guys on the team to attend a surprise birthday party for his girl’s best friend, who also happened to work for the team, Casey was first in line to accept.

  It was weird, being the single guy, since many of his teammates were pairing off now, but here he was, nursing a beer and hanging out in the corner until it was time for the big shout of ‘Surprise.’ Okay, duty done. How long did he have to stay? Would there be any other guests? Like, say, any other women? Preferably hot, single women who were looking to score?

  Casey would get some ribbing from the other guys if they were privy to his thoughts, but fortunately they weren’t. Anyway, he did his part by showing up. Now he’d finish his drink and make his exit; go somewhere a little more exciting. Translation: Some place with a lot more single women.

  He didn’t want to be rude, though, especially as much as Ms. Simmons did for the Generals organization. Besides, she was one very attractive woman, with brunette hair that fell just past her shoulders and green eyes. There was no point in denying it. She might be sixteen years older, but Casey found her damn hot. That silly crown that was perched on her head, proclaiming her to be ‘forty and sexy’ sure didn’t lie. Maybe it was true what some said about women getting better with age. Casey wondered if it was also true about women and their sexual peak. No. Don’t go there. That was dangerous te
rritory for sure.

  Either way, Casey decided to stay at the club a little longer. “Hi, Ms. Simmons,” he said, stepping up beside her at the bar. He set his now-empty empty beer bottle down.

  “Call me Char,” she said. “The other makes me feel old, which is the last thing I need right now.” She let out a chuckle, just one, and barely that. Definitely not a full laugh, and it struck Casey as forced. Yeah, this birthday was hard for her. He didn’t know why, but he could sense it was.

  “Okay, then. Char.” He flashed his most dazzling smile. Well, most women found it dazzling, anyway. Would she prove to be the one that was immune? “I’m Casey Denault, but you already know that.”

  “Yes, I think everyone knows who you are.” Another laugh, longer this time, and it seemed to carry a little humor with it, too, even if it was at Casey’s expense. He didn’t mind. He liked the sound of her laugh, as well as the twinkle that appeared in her green eyes. One that hadn’t been there a moment before.

  “Ah, my reputation precedes me. You shouldn’t believe everything you hear, though.” Casey extended his hand. “Would you care to dance with me, birthday girl?”

  ***

  Char hesitated. She knew Casey’s reputation, and it wasn’t a good one. Not at all. Then again, maybe he had a point that she shouldn’t believe everything she heard. Whenever the Foundation asked any of the players to volunteer their time for charitable causes throughout the community, Casey was among the first to step up and offer his time, or anything else that was requested.

  She couldn’t deny he was good-looking, with sandy brown hair that hung over his forehead, gray-blue eyes, and a boyishly sexy grin. Char didn’t doubt that if Casey played on the Generals’ top line, rather than being stuck on the depth chart behind the team captain and face of the franchise, Colton Tremblay, he’d be considered one of the most eligible bachelors in the NHL. Instead, he flew somewhat under the radar, as a second-liner on an expansion team, and playing in a non-traditional hockey market. In spite of that, it didn’t take him long to earn the title of the team’s biggest playboy, especially once Colton shed his bad-boy image, settled down and recently became engaged.

  “Come on, what do you say?” Casey grinned as he reached for her hand. “I don’t bite.”

  He was cocky, for sure, but so damn cute at the same time. What the heck. She’d promised Jess that she’d try to have a good time. Besides, it was only one dance. Char drained her glass of wine and set the empty glass down before taking Casey’s hand. “When you put it like that, how can a girl refuse?”

  She let him lead her to the dance floor. The DJ was playing 1999, a song Char liked, so it was easy to settle into a dancing rhythm. Casey’s moves weren’t fantastic, but they weren’t bad, either, and she found herself relaxing. She had been too tense lately, and Jessica obviously sensed it. Maybe thus surprise party wasn’t such a bad idea after all. “Thanks for the dance,” Char said when the song came to an end all too quickly.

  “One more?” Casey asked, his brows arching up.

  As tempting as the offer was, Char planned to decline. Casey was cute, yes, but way too young. Besides, he wasn’t interested in her. He couldn’t possibly be. Then Bryan Adams’ (Everything I do) I do it for You began to play. One of Char’s favorite songs. Jess must have had a hand in this playlist. “I don’t know. Are you sure you don’t bite?”

  “Only if you ask me to.” There was that sexy grin again.

  “In that case...” There were plenty of reasons to say no, but at the moment, Char didn’t care what they were. She settled into his arms for the slow song, which brought back plenty of memories for her. Some were good, others not so much. “This was the most popular song my freshman year of high school.”

  “Which was?”

  “1991.”

  Casey chuckled. “That’s the year before I was born.”

  Ouch. “Great. Way to make a woman feel even more like an old maid on her birthday.” Char planned to have a chat with Jessica about the song selection.

  “Sorry,” Casey said. “I didn’t mean to make you feel bad, or old, or whatever. You’re a very attractive woman.”

  “You mean for an old maid.”

  “No.” Casey shook his head. “I mean you’re very attractive, period. That crown you’re wearing doesn’t lie.”

  The crown? It took Char a second to realize he meant the silly tiara on her head. Forty and sexy. “You’re kidding, right?” He had to be.

  “No. I’m dead serious,” Casey replied. “Should I kiss you to prove it?”

  Char stopped moving to the beat of the music. “What?” He said he was serious, but surely not. Someone must have put him up to this? That had to be it, right? “Am I the charity cause now? Kiss the over-the-hill girl to make her feel better on her birthday?”

  Chapter Two

  Whoa. The accusation made Casey forget about the song for a second. The only thing that mattered was that he said the wrong thing, and he couldn’t quite figure out how. He thought he was being nice, paying Char a sincere compliment. Apparently she wasn’t good at accepting them, though.

  It must be the birthday, Casey decided. She was having a hard time with this birthday milestone. Old maid, over-the-hill, Casey couldn’t keep up anymore. He didn’t understand why some people, especially women, got so wrapped up in their age. Maybe he just didn’t get it because he was young. Or was it because he was a guy? Either way, it seemed silly to him. Everyone got older. Wasn’t that the objective? It beat the alternative. That’s what his mom always said.

  He sure didn’t understand why Char was so down about turning forty, because she wore the age well. Damn well. “Charity? Heck no,” Casey said. “I already told you, I find you attractive. Why is that so hard for you to understand?”

  “Because, I don’t know... Long story.” Char let out a sigh. “I’d rather not get into it right now.”

  Right now? Or with him? Either way, it was personal. Fine. Casey wouldn’t pry. “Okay,” he said with a shrug. “Let’s just dance, then.”

  “Fine,” Char said, and they danced in silence through the song’s chorus, Casey knew all the words to it, even though he hadn’t even been born when it had been released. Maybe it was because the singer, Bryan Adams, was Canadian, too, or because Casey had seen the movie the song was featured in a couple of times.

  “I don’t mind if you kiss me, though.”

  The words jolted Casey from his thoughts. Was she serious? Now she wanted him to? He couldn’t keep track, but it didn’t matter. He didn’t even want to try to understand her. Not now. Char’s lips, adorned with a light red lipstick, curled in a half-smile that he found quite sexy, and yes, extremely kissable. For a man who took great pleasure in kissing women—their lips, their necks, their breasts and every other part of their body—that almost-smile, combined with the request, was all Casey needed.

  He put his hand at the base of her neck, underneath her hair, and tilted her head, brushing his lips over hers. Only once, then he stopped to take a read on the situation. Char’s lips were parted, and her green eyes gazed up at him. In Casey’s vast experience with women, that usually meant they wanted more. Once, he’d been wrong and taken a knee to the groin, but that was six years ago. Casey’s track record was much improved since.

  He took the chance, kissing her again, and sure enough, Char’s lips stayed parted, allowing Casey’s tongue to dance with hers. She knew how to do this, that was for sure, and she tasted good, too. Very good, and it turned Casey on. Then the music stopped, way too abruptly, and so did the kiss, when Char pulled away.

  “Thank you, Casey, for the dance,” she said. “And the rest, too.” Her eyes twinkled. Yeah, she’d liked it, all right.

  “Are you in interested in another?” Dance, kiss, whatever. He was flexible. And she was...wow. Casey couldn’t think of another word to describe her at the moment. Beauty, brains, devoted to raising money to help others, and damn... she could kiss. Yet there was an insecurity and vulnerabil
ity about her, too. Yeah. Wow would have to do.

  After a moment, she shook her head. “It’s tempting, but I better not.”

  Why? Was she afraid of where things might lead? Too bad, because that’s what Casey wanted to find out. He wouldn’t push, though. There were other women. Maybe none this intriguing, with this total package, but plenty of others. “Okay,” he said, and gave a shrug of his shoulders, trying to appear nonchalant. “I should probably head out, anyway.”

  “You’re leaving?”

  Was it his imagination, or did she look disappointed? “Yeah, I never planned to stay long, but I wanted to come by for a little bit. Happy birthday, Char.” Casey smiled. “I hope you’re not feeling too down about things.”

  “I’m better now,” she said. “Thank you, again.”

  Casey’s eyes followed her as she walked to the bar, enjoying the way her skirt hugged her hips. Forty and sexy? Make that forty and smoking hot.

  ***

  The kiss left Char breathless and wanting more, but her brain overruled, and she broke it off. She couldn’t resist stealing one more glance at Casey, though, before sidling up to the bar. He may be young, basically a kid, but he knew how to kiss. Then again, he got plenty of practice. All the more reason for Char to stay away.

  “What’ll it be, birthday girl?” the bartender asked.

  Char pondered the question. Wine was usually her poison, but a girl only turned forty once. “Give me a strawberry cheesecake martini,” she said, and sat down on a barstool. She’d never tried one before, but heard they tasted exactly like the dessert. A claim she didn’t entire believe, but left her curious nonetheless.

  “You’re drinking hard liquor?” The question came from Jessica, and Char tried to read the look on her friend’s face. Surprise? Concern? Disapproval? No, not that, but there seemed to be a mix of the first two, at least.

  “You told me to have a good time, remember?” The bartender set the martini glass in front of Char, and she picked it up and took a drink. “Well, I’ll be damned. It does take like strawberry cheesecake.” She held the glass out to Jessica. “Want to try a sip?”

 
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