Roman:A Cold Fury Hockey Novel(5)

By: Sawyer Bennett

Roman Sýkora is one of the team’s bad boys. Maybe the baddest. He’s a nonconformist, a pure beast on the ice and a man who marches to the beat of his own drum. I’m kind of the same, so it’s a quality I definitely can appreciate.

I follow the receptionist down the hall, noting the closed office door with a brass nameplate: gray brannon, general manager. I wonder just how much trouble Roman is in, but it can’t be too much. He didn’t seem that bent out of shape about it.

We turn right at the end of the hallway and approach Brian Brannon’s office. I can clearly see his name on the nameplate beside the door and my heart starts beating double time the closer we get. My hands sweat more and I rub them again along my thighs as I follow the receptionist.

When we reach the door, she knocks softly and then opens it without waiting for a response. She pushes it all the way open, stepping to the side and motioning for me to come through. I give her a thankful smile as I walk past her and watch as she closes the door behind me. When it clicks shut, I turn around slowly and face the man I’ve come to meet.

I’ve seen hundreds of Brian Brannon’s pictures. I’ve seen hours of video. I’ve analyzed every nuance of his facial expressions and tried to determine if that’s really genuine kindness and humility I see most often in his eyes when he’s talking to the press.

But as I come face-to-face with him and stare into the Irish green eyes—the same eyes his daughter, Gray, inherited—I can’t see anything but a slight look of curiosity as he stands from behind his desk and stares at me.

I swallow hard, trying to find my voice to introduce myself. He thinks I’m here for an interview for a college paper, and I’m terrified to finally lay down the truth before him.

Taking a deep breath, I walk across the expanse of his office and hold my hand out to him when I reach his desk. He leans forward slightly and we shake. “You must be Lexi Robertson.”

“Thank you for taking time to meet with me, Mr. Brannon,” I say, thankful my voice seems to be working just fine despite how nervous I am.

He looks at me thoughtfully a moment, then his curious expression morphs into vague recognition. He tilts his head slightly as he motions to the chair just behind me, indicating I should sit, before he asks, “Miss Robertson…have we met before? You look very familiar.”

I take a step back, lower my butt into the seat, never breaking eye contact as I set my purse on the floor beside the chair. I can do this. I am strong and I’m the type who will willingly jump into the unknown because I fear nothing. “You knew my mother. Sybil Robertson.”

Brian peers at me harder, his eyes narrowing slightly, and then they round in absolute recognition. He smiles as he places his hands on his desk and leans forward slightly. “Good God…you look just like her.”

“Not the first time I’ve heard that,” I say with a returned but reserved smile.

He nods and finally sits down in his chair, leaning back and causally crossing one leg over the other. He looks at me fondly, perhaps rooted in memory, as he says, “Gosh…it’s probably been twenty-five years since I saw her last.”

“Twenty-seven,” I say bluntly, and his smile falters somewhat.

His voice is still pleasant and curious when he asks, “Well, how is she? Does she live in this area now?”

I shake my head slightly and force back the swell of sadness threatening to overtake me. “She died about ten months ago.”

Instantly, sorrow and perhaps a tinge of regret flood Brian’s eyes and he pushes up out of his chair. I watch as he rounds his desk and walks right up to me, putting a large hand on my shoulder. “I’m truly sorry for your loss. I didn’t know your mother long, but she was an amazing woman.”

“Thank you,” I murmur as my gaze drops down to my hands, which are clutched tightly in my lap. “And yes…she was an amazing woman.”

His hand squeezes my shoulder in comfort, and then it’s gone. I lift my head and watch as Brian takes the chair beside me, turning it to face me. “So what can I do for you? My schedule said you’re here for an interview for your college paper?”

My gaze falters. Falls right back down to my hands as my nerves cause my stomach to cramp.

You can do this, Lexi. You’re brave and adventurous. Remember that.

“Miss Robertson,” Brian says kindly, trying to get my attention…to prod me.

It works, and I lift my face back up to find him looking at me patiently.

No clue that I’m getting ready to turn his world upside down.

“I’m your daughter,” I say bluntly, refusing to let my gaze drop again. I need to see exactly how he reacts, because that will tell me the true measure of this man.

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