Chapter One

“Shit,” Courtney Abbott muttered under her breath as she picked herself up off the ice again. She glared at the woman who’d driven her hard into the boards and took a couple of strides toward her.

“What’s the matter, Abbott?” Jen Hilton asked, a wicked grin showing through the cage covering her face. “Are you finally realizing you’re getting too old for this?”

Court dropped her stick and moved toward her again, taking satisfaction in watching as Hilton’s grin slowly disappeared. She was getting tired of this rookie pushing her buttons. Maybe it was time to teach her a lesson.

Their coach, Gail Crawford, blew her whistle and quickly skated over to stand her ground between them. “Are you ladies finished? You know this is supposed to be a practice, right? Court, I need you in the lineup tomorrow night—not sitting in the stands with an injury that could have easily been avoided.”

“It’s all good,” Jen said as she skated backward and tapped her stick on the ice a couple of times. Court stayed in place and watched her, hoping like hell she’d fall on her ass. “Come on, Abbott, let’s show them how it’s done.”

This was a taunt, something Court was used to from the younger players who thought their shit didn’t stink. She looked around at her teammates, who were all watching the exchange with a little too much interest as far as Court was concerned.

“We’re done for today,” Gail said after a moment. When no one moved to leave the ice, she turned and looked at all of them. “What the hell are you waiting for?”

They all skated away, and when Court started to follow them, Gail grabbed the sleeve of her jersey, effectively stopping her.

“Hold up a second, Court,” she said.

Court turned and met her eyes. They’d known each other for years, since before Court even started playing hockey. Gail had been the older sister of one of Court’s best friends when Court was eight years old and Gail was fifteen. The best friend of her youth, Gail’s little sister Jeanine, dropped out of Court’s life when she came out to her at sixteen. Gail had always been there for her, though, and Court was forever grateful for her support.

“What?” Court asked, feeling a bit snippy. She shoved her right glove under her arm and pulled her hand out of it.

“What the hell’s going on between you and Hilton?”

“You should ask her, because I seriously have no clue.”

“Look, I know she has a chip on her shoulder, but she could be the future of this team,” Gail said. Court shook her head and looked down the ice toward the empty net.

“I know, but Jesus, Gail, she’s an ass.” Court knew Jen Hilton could be the future, but knowing it was true didn’t make it any easier to swallow. “But right now, I’m still here, and I have two years left on my contract. I’m thirty-four years old. I know I’m not going to be playing this game forever, but I’d like to enjoy the time I have left.”

“Christ, you make it sound like you’re in the death throes.” Gail laughed as she started to skate slowly toward the bench. Court matched her stride for stride.

“It kind of feels like it sometimes.” Court playfully nudged her with an elbow before unsnapping her chinstrap and removing her helmet. She handed it to Gail and ran a hand through her sweat-soaked hair. “If I was, it would certainly make Hilton happy.”

“No doubt, but you need to find a way to work with her, Court.” Gail stopped before stepping off the ice. “You need to teach her the ropes.”

“Like hell, Gail,” Court said, sounding as whiny as she had when she was ten. “She thinks she knows everything there is to know about everything already. I can’t teach her anything.”

“You need to try,” Gail said softly. “It isn’t me. This is coming from the front office.”

“Fuck.” Court took her helmet back with a little too much force.

“Hurry up and get showered,” Gail said. “You and I are going for pizza. My treat.”

Court nodded and headed for the locker room. She breathed a sigh of relief as she sat on the bench in front of her locker and leaned down to unlace her skates. She hoped Jen was gone and not simply in the shower, because the woman seriously rubbed her the wrong way. Sure, Court had been young once too, but she didn’t think she was ever as brash as Jen Hilton.

Playing professional ice hockey had been Court’s dream for as long as she could remember. Of course, she’d always thought she might be able to break into the men’s game, but she was convinced now it would probably never happen for a woman. So she was grateful there were small women’s leagues popping up over the years to give young women the opportunity to play other than just for a national and an Olympic team.

The league she played in consisted of eight teams, and she’d played her entire career with the Kingsville Warriors. She’d also been in two Olympics and had two medals to show for it, one of them gold and the other a bronze. Playing professional women’s hockey was never going to make her rich, though. Her day job was being a Realtor, which was okay and more than paid the bills, plus it was flexible enough to allow her to play hockey. If she had a game, or a practice, she just didn’t schedule any appointments during a time that might interfere. But she so wanted hockey to be her career in some way, shape, or form.

“Wake up, Abbott,” Jen said with a slight shove to her shoulder, her hair still wet from the shower. “Is it past your bedtime?”

Court said nothing in response, but simply went about removing her jersey and pads. She knew Jen saw her silence as a sign of weakness, but she didn’t really care. Jen could think whatever she wanted.

“Hilton, back off,” said Charlotte Lincoln, their starting goaltender. She was young too, but she wasn’t full of herself like Jen. Court liked her.

“This is none of your business,” Jen told Charlotte without looking away from Court.

Court stood, and she felt a small amount of satisfaction when Jen took a step back from her. Being almost six feet tall was an advantage at times like these.

“You have a problem with me, Abbott?” Hilton asked.

“Nope,” Court replied with a shake of her head and a slight curve of her lips. “I don’t have a problem with anybody. I’m the most laid-back person you’ll ever meet.”

“Truth!” a couple of women a few feet away from them called out. Court smiled to herself and grabbed the shampoo from her locker. The Warriors were a family, and Court loved how they stuck up for each other, on or off the ice.

Court was a bit surprised when Jen turned her back and started getting things from her locker so she could leave. Why was she backing off so easily? I don’t trust her. Court slammed her locker shut and headed for the shower.

“Maybe your teammates would be interested in knowing they’re sharing a shower with a lesbian.”

There it was. The idiot kid who thought she could get under Court’s skin. Better people had tried and failed over the years. She turned back and faced her, but her line mate, right winger Savannah Wells, shoved Hilton hard against the locker. Court stayed where she was. Court was the captain of the team, but there were some things she’d rarely get involved in. Especially when there was someone who needed to be put in their place.

“Listen, you little bitch,” Savannah said, getting right into her face. “Most of us have been playing together for longer than you know. If you think any of us didn’t already know that about our captain, then you’re more stupid than I thought.”

“And she’s not the only one, Hilton,” a voice said from the other side of the room. Court looked at her left wing Kelly Rawlins, and they smiled at each other. “So you might want to watch what you say, and who you say it to.”

Court went to the showers. Her family had her back.

By the time she emerged from the shower, a towel covering her body, Jen Hilton was long gone. Savannah and Kelly were waiting for her at her locker, though.

“Please tell us the Warriors are going to use her as trade bait,” Savannah said.

“I wish I could,” Court answered as she pulled on her underwear and a pair of jeans. She rubbed her hair with a towel she then tossed into the dirty laundry bin before quickly putting on her bra and pulling a T-shirt over her head. She finger combed her hair and took a seat to put her shoes and socks on. “You know as well as I do they think she’s the future of this team.”

“Fuck,” Kelly said. “We have good chemistry on this team. Why do they want to mess with a championship roster?”

“None of us are getting any younger,” Court said, pointing out the obvious. “You have to make changes so the team doesn’t suffer.”

“What if the team suffers because of the changes?” Savannah asked, looking pissed off.

“We’ve all dealt with women like her in our careers,” Court told them. “And they generally settle down and become productive and valuable parts of the team.”

“Why are you defending her?” Savannah asked, looking as though her head might explode. “She ran you hard into the boards in a practice, Court, and then continued to ride you here in the locker room. That is not acceptable.”

Court shoved her equipment into her athletic bag and shut her locker. They played their games in this arena but didn’t have a dedicated locker room. Other teams and even the public used them during the times they weren’t scheduled to either play or practice, so they couldn’t leave anything behind. She hefted the huge bag and slung it over her shoulder before turning to face them.

“She’ll either mature, or she’ll get what’s coming to her from someone on another team,” she said quietly. She shook her head because she so wanted to be the one to put her in her place, but knew that line of thinking would get her nowhere. “Just let it go, okay, guys? As far as I’m concerned, at this point in her career, she isn’t worth a suspension or having one of our contracts bought out. We need to show her through our actions how she should carry herself.”

Her teammates stood in defiance for a moment, but they finally nodded their agreement. Court breathed a sigh of relief.

“You want to go out with us tonight?” Kelly asked. “There’s going to be a lot of women at the bar.”

“No, not tonight,” she answered as she headed toward the door. “I’m going for pizza with Gail, and probably her family too. I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”

 

Chapter Two

“Lana!” Joey yelled from the kitchen. She stopped what she was doing—getting a customer a pitcher of beer—and looked back at him. “Order up!”

Lana Caruso sighed in frustration. He couldn’t have waited for her to finish with the beer? Working in her family’s pizzeria at the age of thirty-six wasn’t what she’d ever thought she’d be doing, but her father had suffered a pretty major heart attack and Joey had asked her to come back home to help with things at the pizzeria. She’d never been able to say no to Joey. Unfortunately, that meant taking a leave of absence from her position as second violin in the Chicago Orchestra. And now, here she was, more than seventy miles from the nearest metropolis, and stuck in Kingsville, Pennsylvania, once again.

“I was helping someone, Joey,” she said as she grabbed the pizza and walked away to deliver it to the table of hungry customers without waiting for a response from him. No doubt it would just be something likely to piss her off anyway. He should be grateful she was helping him out at all. Thankfully, the orchestra gig paid her well, and she had plenty of money saved. She just wasn’t happy about making Eric change schools for the rest of the year. Also, living in the room she’d grown up in wasn’t helping matters. At least she had an appointment in the morning with a Realtor to see about leasing a house.

Where the hell were all these people coming from anyway? It was a freaking Tuesday night, and she hadn’t had an opportunity to even sit down for more than thirty seconds. She pointed at an empty table, a hot commodity apparently, for the two women who’d just walked in. They’d just have to wait for her to catch a minute to be able to take their order.

She finally made it to their table a few minutes later and held her order pad in front of her. She spoke without bothering to look at either one of them.

“What can I get you?” she asked, pen ready to start scribbling.

“Large pepperoni, please,” one of the women said.

“Drinks?” Lana asked.

“A pitcher of whatever’s on tap will be fine.”

She put her pad in her front pocket and picked up their menus just as she looked at them and smiled. She faltered for a moment, hoping the two women didn’t notice. She was looking into the bluest eyes she’d ever seen in her life. The woman smiled back at her, and Lana nodded once before walking away to put in their order.

The pizza gods seemed to be looking out for her, because the steady stream of customers they’d seen for the past couple of hours was finally slowing down. More people were leaving than coming in. Lana escaped to the kitchen and let out a deep breath.

“How you holding up?” Joey asked, wiping his hands on the towel he had hanging out of the front pocket of his jeans.

“How do you do this every night? And since when did this place turn into such a hotbed of activity?” Lana asked.

“You’ve seen the menu,” he answered with a shrug. “Best pizza outside of New York City.”

“Whatever.” Lana rolled her eyes. Obviously, her brother knew nothing about Chicago deep dish. Now thatwas pizza. She stood and went to look through the pass to the two women waiting for their pizza. “Who are they?”

“Who?” Joey stood next to her, looking out at the dining room.

“Those two women over there.” She pointed, and Joey followed her line of sight.

“Customers?” he asked with a grin.

“You’re an ass.” She threw an elbow to his side, making him wince.

“Sorry, sis, but I don’t know them,” he said as he went to check on what Lana assumed was their pizza. “They come in a lot, though, if that helps.”

She watched the women while Joey sliced their pizza. They didn’t look like they were together, and one of them appeared to be older than the other. The younger one might very well be the most attractive woman Lana had ever laid eyes on. Her light brown hair was cut short, above the neckline of the T-shirt she was wearing, but it was the gorgeous eyes holding her attention. They were so blue, Lana thought she could actually fall into them. She shook her head to dispel the thought as Joey shoved their pizza onto the counter in front of her.

She concentrated on making it to their table without dropping their pizza, because her knees were shaking, and she didn’t know why. Well, she did, but she certainly didn’t want this beautiful woman to know why.

“Here you go, ladies,” she said as she set it on the table between them. She deposited some extra napkins as well before the older woman looked up at her.

“You must be Lana,” she said, and then she laughed when Lana was sure she had a look of confusion on her face. “Your brother said you were going to help him out here for a bit.”

“Funny, but he told me he didn’t know you,” Lana said, risking a look over her shoulder. She saw Joey in the kitchen laughing. She was definitely going to kill him. She plastered a smile on her face and focused on her table again. “Yes, I’m Lana.”

“I’m Gail,” she said and held out her hand. Lana took it briefly before turning toward Gail’s friend.

“Courtney,” the other woman said, but then she smiled and shook her head. “Court.”

Lana tilted her head to the side. “Really? Your parents named you Courtney Court? That just seems cruel.” She winked at her, which caused Court to laugh, and Lana felt warm all over at the sound. She shook her hand as well, then left the two of them to their dinner and headed back into the kitchen.

“You are so dead,” she said as she stalked toward her brother, who was laughing hysterically. “Do you want to be buried or cremated?”

“Oh my God, you should have seen your face,” Joey managed to spit out between bursts of laughter. He motioned at Greg, one of their employees. “You can go home, man. See you tomorrow.”

“I’d think you’d want a witness to what I’m planning to do to you,” Lana said. She looked at Greg, who was laughing as well, but at least he had the decency to stop when he realized she could easily turn her anger toward him. She nodded when he clocked out and practically ran through the back door.

 

v

 

“She was so flirting with you,” Gail said with a grin before taking a bite.

“She was not,” Court replied, but she couldn’t stop grinning for some reason. Lana was hot, there was no doubt about it. Dark hair, dark eyes, beautiful bone structure in her cheeks and jaw. And the voice? Sexy as all hell. Court shook her head and grabbed a slice of her own.

“You were just thinking about her.”

“Stop.” Court glanced over her shoulder and saw Lana watching them from the kitchen. What if she had been flirting? It wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, would it? She sighed because it really didn’t matter one way or the other. Between her work at the Realtor’s office, hockey practice and games, not to mention the travel for road games, there wasn’t much time left over for anything, let alone a relationship.

“Court, listen to me,” Gail said. She set her slice down and wiped her hands on a napkin before turning her attention to her. Court knew this meant she was being serious, and she’d better listen if she knew what was good for her. Gail was the big sister she never had. “You can’t live your life without companionship. As far as I know, you never even have sex.”

Court almost choked on the bite of pizza she was trying to swallow. She got it to go down without any lasting damage, then took a healthy swig of her beer before leaning back in her seat.

“Speaking of companionship, where’s your husband tonight?” Court asked. “He’d tell you to back off and leave me alone.”

“He’s home with the kids.” Gail batted her eyes. “Too bad for you.”

“I have sex, okay?” Court whispered as she leaned forward. “Not that it’s any of your business.”

“By yourself doesn’t count.”

“Jesus.” Court hung her head. She felt her cheeks flush, and she couldn’t remember the last time she’d been embarrassed enough to blush. After a moment she met Gail’s eyes again. “Not by myself. You can be such an ass sometimes.”

“Wait, you never masturbate?” Gail looked shocked, and Court was blushing again just as Lana returned to the table.

“How is everything, ladies?” she asked. Court hoped to God she hadn’t heard any of their conversation. Her smile gave away nothing.

“Fine,” Court said, perhaps a little too quickly. Lana’s head tilted to the side. “Everything is great.”

“Good.” Lana stood there a moment longer. “Can I get you anything else?”

“Actually,” Gail said as she was looking back and forth between Lana and Court, and Court knew exactly what was coming.

“Gail, don’t,” she said, trying to sound threatening.

“I was wondering if you could settle a bet between us,” Gail said. Court fought the urge to slide out of the booth and under the table. She was going to kill Gail someday.

“Okay,” Lana said, sounding intrigued and hesitant at the same time. “If I can.”

Court started to stand up, seriously considering leaving, but Gail kicked her in the shin under the table. She managed to not yell out in pain, but Gail had achieved her goal. Court wouldn’t be getting up any time soon.

“I say you were flirting with her earlier,” Gail said, pointing a finger at Court. Court refused to look at Lana. This was so not cool. “She insists you weren’t.”

“Oh,” Lana said. She was silent for a few seconds, and Court was unable to keep from looking up at her any longer. She placed a hand firmly on Court’s shoulder and leaned down to speak into her ear. “Maybe I wasn’t doing it right? I’ll be sure to make it more obvious next time.”

Lana winked at her and walked away then, and Court felt as though she were frozen in place. The pulse was pounding in her ears, but she saw Gail speaking to her, even though she wasn’t able to hear her.

“What?” Court asked when her heart finally slowed down.

“What did she say?” Gail asked, sounding impatient.

“She said she wasn’t.” Court lied before shoving more food in her mouth. Yeah, Gail had been the impetus, but Court didn’t want to share just yet. It was almost as if she could still hear Lana’s voice in her ear, and she could definitely still smell the peppermint that had been on her breath.

“You are such a liar,” Gail said. “You forget I know you so well.”

“Sometimes, I would seriously like to forget it,” Court said. Gail looked so shocked, Court simply smiled. It wasn’t often she could put Gail in her place.

 

Chapter Three

Lana walked into the Realtor’s office the next afternoon, thankful she was on time since Joey hadn’t really wanted to let her have time off to do it in the first place. They were still working on what the best work schedule for her would be, so she didn’t have times set in stone where she had to be there. She had the newspaper with the listing she was interested in rolled up in her hand as she walked up to the woman sitting at the front desk of the office.

“Can I help you?” she asked, her voice just this side of being too cheery for Lana.

“I have an appointment with Bill Crawford,” Lana said.

“Oh, Mr. Crawford is running late this afternoon,” the receptionist told her, sounding genuinely apologetic. “He isn’t sure what time he’ll make it in, but he’s set you up with one of his agents if that’s all right with you.”

“Okay,” Lana said, not really happy about it since she’d spent so much time on the phone with Bill the day before, but she took a calming breath. She didn’t like when things didn’t go the way she’d planned.

“If you’ll follow me, I’ll take you to Ms. Abbott’s office.”

Lana nodded and let her lead the way. The office as a whole was nice, albeit small, and Lana assumed there were only a couple of agents working with Bill Crawford. The woman in front of her stopped so abruptly, Lana almost plowed her over.

“Ms. Abbott, your appointment is here,” she said.

Lana gave herself a quick once-over, making sure there were no wrinkles in her blouse or her slacks, although she wasn’t quite sure why she felt the need to impress the real estate agent. The receptionist stepped aside and motioned her in, and Lana walked past her. When she looked at the woman behind the desk, she froze, not quite sure what to do.

“Hello, Courtney Court,” she managed after a moment, hoping no one had noticed her slight hesitation. She relaxed a bit when Court graced her with a big smile. “But the receptionist said I was meeting with Ms. Abbott. Please don’t tell me your name isn’tCourtney Court. To be honest it’s kind of grown on me.”

“Please, have a seat,” Court said as she reached out a hand. Lana took it briefly, but she had a hard time letting go of it for some reason. “Sorry to disappoint you, but I am Courtney Abbott. You can call me Court.”

“Okay, Court it is.” Lana sat and crossed her legs.

“So, Bill tells me you’re looking for a six-month lease, is that right?” Court asked as she was sifting through the papers she had in front of her.

“Yes, I’ll be going back to Chicago in a few months.” It sounded as though Bill had filled her in on what they’d talked about, so Lana felt better about being handed off. And the fact Court was surely nicer to look at than Bill would have been didn’t hurt matters either.

“Oh, okay,” Court said, sounding disappointed, though Lana simply smiled. The thought she might be saddened by the news of her leaving left a warm feeling in her chest.

“I’m interested in this one,” Lana said, holding the newspaper out to her with the ad circled in bold black lines. She watched Court as she read the ad, then began typing something into the computer. God, she was gorgeous. Lana shook her head. She wasn’t here looking for anything. She was here to help out her family while her father recovered from his heart attack. But damn, a fling with Courtney Abbott would be something to remember, she was sure. “I know it’s listed for sale, but I was hoping they might be willing to do a lease.”

“Are you free to go take a look at it now?” Court asked when she finally looked at her again.

“Sure,” Lana said, nodding.

“Let me call the listing agent and let him know, then we can head on over there.” Court picked up the phone on her desk and talked to Lana as she was dialing. “I’m pretty sure these people really are more interested in selling than leasing, but we might be able to work something out. It’s probably best to look at it first before I even bring it up to them, though. You might not even like it.”

Lana nodded again, thinking she was pretty sure she would like it, unless the inside was a complete and total mess. She’d driven by the house yesterday. It was a cute little ranch and was within walking distance of the school, which would be great for Eric. An added bonus was it was also fairly close to the pizzeria. And it wasn’t her parents’ house, so there was that.

“Okay, we’re all set,” Court said as she stood and grabbed her jacket. She smiled at Lana again, and Lana thought she just might melt right there on Court’s office floor.

They rode to the house in silence, although Court kept looking at her as if she wanted to say something. Lana didn’t really think she was so intimidating, but she was kind of enjoying the effect she seemed to be having on Court. When they arrived, Lana followed Court on a paved path leading to the front door. It was October, so there weren’t a lot of flowers still around, but she could see the pathway was flanked with many plants that would no doubt die under her care once spring arrived. Oh well, plenty of time to worry about killing flowers later.

Court got the key out of the lock box and opened the door, motioning for Lana to walk in ahead of her. Lana stopped just inside the doorway and took it all in. The house was obviously well cared for. A nice hardwood floor led from the front door to the kitchen, which was straight ahead of them. A living room to the right, and a hallway leading to what Lana assumed was the master suite. A hall to the left led to the second bedroom and bath. Eric would like being on the opposite end of the house.

“Shall we look around?” Court asked, walking past her and into the kitchen.

Seeing the kitchen almost made Lana wish she knew how to cook. Almost. She could make lasagna, but not much else that didn’t come out of a box or a can. The stainless steel appliances were fantastic, and the island situated between the stove and the small kitchen table was almost big enough to use as a dining table itself.

She followed Court down the hallway to the second bedroom, and nodded as she stood in the middle of the room, picturing Eric there. Since the owners were looking to sell, Lana was a little surprised to find the house fully furnished. She hoped the furniture was going to stay, because otherwise they might be sleeping on air mattresses for the next few months.

“This is perfect,” she said, not realizing she’d spoken out loud.

“For an office? Because the master is at the other end of the house,” Court said.

“No, for my son,” Lana said, and she thought she saw a hint of panic wash over Court’s features. For some reason, the notion of Court not liking kids worried her, though logically she knew it didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

“You have a son?”

“I do. Is that a problem?”

“No, of course not,” Court said as she looked down at the sheet she held in her hand and scratched her neck. “Nope, kids are great.”

“As long as they’re someone else’s?” Lana walked toward her and ducked her head to try to look at Court’s face.

“Something like that.” Court chuckled. “Is there a husband too?”

“No, there isn’t.” Lana thought back to the night before. “Do you really think I would have been flirting with you if I were married?”

“It’s not unheard of.”

“I’ve never been married.” Lana walked out of the room and headed for the master suite. Without looking to make sure Court was following, she tossed over her shoulder, “Maybe someday I’ll tell you all about it.”

 

v

 

Tell me about it? Lord, I don’t think I want to know.

Court didn’t have a problem with bi-women, but she sure as hell didn’t want to hear about what they did with guys. She was definitely not into that much sharing.

She hurried to the other end of the house to catch up with Lana. She was waiting outside the double doors, which were closed. Court reached around her and opened them, revealing a short hall leading to the sleeping area on the right, and the master bath on the left.

“This is a great bathroom,” Lana said with a nod as she ran her hand along the marble countertop. “Oh. My. God.” Lana stopped and simply stared at the shower in front of her. There were two showerheads, one on each side, and a clear glass door, twice the size of any conventional shower door. “This has got to be big enough for four people.”

Four? Now Court was sure she didn’t want to hear about what Lana had alluded to a few minutes before. But seriously, would she do that with a child in the house?

“Of course, I’d never have more than one other person in there with me,” Lana said with a smirk and a wink, and Court wondered if she could read her mind. “You should see your face.”

Court looked at herself in the huge mirror behind the sinks and took a step backward. She looked horrified by what she’d been thinking, and she couldn’t help but laugh at herself.

“I’m sorry,” Court said, shaking her head.

“Don’t be. It’s kind of cute.”

More flirting? Really? Court was so far removed from the last time she’d flirted, she wasn’t sure she even remembered how to do it.

“Okay, well, what do you think of the house?” Court asked, deciding a change of subject was a good idea. “I can call the listing agent and see about a lease if it’s what you want.”

“Six months for sure, and maybe a month-to-month for one or two more, if they’d be willing to do it,” Lana said. “If not, I suppose I could go back to my parents’ for the last month or so until school is done for the year.”

“You’re here from Chicago, right?” Court asked, remembering her mentioning it earlier.

“Yes, I’m subletting my apartment there through May, so I can’t go back until at least then.”

“Can I ask why you’re here?” Court began walking back toward the front door. “Unless I’m being too personal. I’m sorry. It’s none of my business.”

“I don’t mind.” Lana shrugged as they got into Court’s car to head back to her office. “I grew up here. When I left for college, I just never came back. I’ve been in Chicago ever since, but my father had a heart attack about a week ago, and my brother asked me to come home to help with things while he recovers. Which is why I’m working at the pizzeria with him.”

“What do you do in Chicago?”

“I’m second violin in the orchestra.”

“Wow,” Court said, wondering if she should be impressed, and figuring she probably should be. “How long have you been doing that?”

“Seems like forever. They were nice enough to grant me a leave of absence so I could be here for my family.”

“That’s great.”

Court saw Lana look at her out of the corner of her eye, but she didn’t want to look back at her. She didn’t want to let on she knew nothing about orchestras. To Court, it had always been something for people with a lot of money, and she’d never been included in those groups.

“Have dinner with me tonight,” Lana said.

“I can’t,” Court told her, feeling more disappointed than she should. “I have a game tonight.”

“A game?” Lana was obviously confused, and Court tried to hide her smile. “It’s too late in the season for softball so, basketball?”

“Ice hockey.”

“No shit,” Lana said, sounding happy at the admission. “You play for the Warriors?”

“I do.” Court pulled into her parking spot outside of the real estate office and turned off the engine. She turned in her seat to face Lana. “But they haven’t existed very long, so if you’ve been in Chicago since college, how do you know about the women’s ice hockey team here in Kingsville?”

“Ever heard of something called the internet?” There was that smirk again, and Court was starting to like it.

“You know, I think I might have.” Court nodded, enjoying their easy banter.

“What time does it start? I might have to bring Eric to a game.”

“Seven tonight.” Court got out of the car and waited for Lana to join her. “I can leave tickets for you if you want to come. Eric is your son? He likes hockey?”

“Please, Eric loves hockey.” Lana laughed and bumped Court with her shoulder. “He lives and breathes Blackhawks hockey. He started playing when he was ten, and yes, he’s my son.”

“What position?” Court finally relaxed since they were now onto a subject she knew a lot about.

“Center.”

“Me too. You should definitely bring him to the game.” Court held the door open for Lana to go ahead of her into the reception area. “Should I leave tickets for tonight?”

“Yeah, if it’s not too much trouble.”

“Not at all.”

“Court, Gail called, wants you to call her back,” said Rikki, the office receptionist.

“Thanks, Rikki,” she said as they disappeared into her office.

“Gail?” Lana asked. “The woman you were with last night?”

“She’s our coach,” Court answered with a nod. “Bill, the guy you were supposed to meet with this morning, is her husband.”

“So, not a girlfriend then?” Lana asked with a smile. Court felt her cheeks flush, and she looked down at the paper on the desk in front of her. She shook her head. “Good to know. Is there a girlfriend somewhere?”

“No,” Court answered.

“What’s wrong with you?”

Court whipped her head up and saw the smirk again. The one telling her Relax, I’m just teasing you. She sat back in her chair and held her hands clasped in her lap as she met Lana’s eyes.

“Depends on who you ask.” It was cryptic, but it was meant to be, and was apparently having the desired effect. Lana leaned forward and looked at her eagerly.

“Do tell,” she said.

“I have work to do,” Court said, putting an end to the inquiry. She smiled at the look of frustration on Lana’s face. “As much as I would love to spend the day talking with you, I have to call the agent who listed the house you want, and I have to call my coach back. How many tickets do you need for tonight?”

“Two,” she said, but hesitated. “Unless you’ll have dinner with me after the game. Then I’d need three so my mother would be there to take Eric home.”

“I’ll leave two,” Court said. “I always have dinner with Bill and Gail after games.”

“Oh. Okay. Maybe some other time, then.” Lana stood and walked toward the door. She stopped and looked back at her. “You’ll call me if the owners agree to the lease?”

“I will.” When she was gone, Court took a deep breath. What the hell was wrong with her? A beautiful woman asked her out to dinner, twice, and she turned her down. It was for the best, though, because Lana was going to be leaving again in a few months. While it might be fun to spend some alone time with Lana Caruso, she wasn’t really wired that way. Sure, a one-night stand was fine when she was going out to bars with her line mates, because it was the purpose of those particular excursions. Something told Court she wouldn’t be satisfied with a fling where Lana was concerned. And besides, Lana had a kid. Not something Court needed—or wanted—in her life.

Still, there was something about Lana she couldn’t quite put her finger on. She wasn’t anything like the women she usually met, and she was intrigued, for better or worse.