Axel (Carolina Reapers 1) - Page 57

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But I couldn’t.

Not yet.

Because I was Langley fucking Pierce.

And a Reaper had set fire to our house.

It was time I put it out.

* * *

“I don’t care what you have to do, who you have to call. Get. Those. Tapes.” I almost felt sorry for the security director who handled all the security footage at Reapers’ arena. Almost. Because from the annoyed look on his face, he was being difficult on purpose.

“It will take me a couple of days to track that footage,” he grumbled.

I took a step closer to him, never losing his gaze. “You have twenty-four hours. Get it to me, or I’ll have a discussion with Asher Silas about hiring a security team who is faster.”

He jolted at that, perked up, and nodded. “I’ll get to work.” He spun on his heels and hurried down the hallway to where his office was located.

I gave myself a moment to breathe before clicking into the locker room.

“Is he still here?” I asked Gage, who sat with his head between his hands in the coach’s office.

“I sent him home. Had Connell and Logan follow him to make sure he actually went to his house.”

Gage’s voice was…defeated.

I sighed and took the empty seat across his desk.

“I’ll handle this, Gage. You know I will.”

I hurt Axel.

I hurt Axel in order to handle this.

I shoved the pain storming my chest into a box that I would crack open later.

“I know,” he said, raking his hands through his black hair. Those blue eyes locked with mine. “Do you think it was a mistake?”

I furrowed my brow. “Signing Cannon? No. He’s one of the best right wings I’ve ever seen. He needs some grooming—attitude wise—but it was the right call.”

Gage shook his head. “Not him.”

I tilted my head.

“Me.” He sighed. “Do you think Silas made a bad call choosing me to be the head coach of the Reapers?” I parted my lips, but he cocked an eyebrow at me. “I want the business Langley to answer. Not the woman who has been my friend through bad seasons and Stanley Cups.”

“You had no coaching experience before Silas offered you the job.”

Gage’s shoulders sank as he nodded like I’d confirmed all his blistering doubts.

“On paper,” I hurried to continue. “On paper, Gage. And official documents are overrated.” My own marriage contract was simply a piece of paper compared to what Axel and I had—or hoped we still had if I hadn’t ruined it…

How the hell could I fix this? The League had me on lock down for at least three days while they deliberated and I gathered evidence. If I couldn’t get on a plane right this second, how could I possibly make Axel understand?

“Half the boys on the Sharks are better players because of you,” I continued, forcing my aching heart and the emotions storming my body into a tight box. “You led that team, Gage. The players looked to you for guidance before they looked to Coach Harris. You were approachable and the best on the team. Who better to hone their skills and make the Sharks nearly unstoppable?”

He pressed his lips together.

I leaned forward, ensuring he heard every word. “There are coaches and owners who only care about wins and losses. Cups and checks. But there are incredible coaches who take an interest in the players, who learn how to teach each one individually based on their specific learning style. There are coaches who show up when a player’s personal life takes a turn for the worse, and coaches who listen first and react second. Those are the ones who last. Those are the ones whose players will fight longer and harder. Because they’re fighting for a family. Not a team. And you’ve always been that kind of coach, Gage. You just didn’t have the official title.”

Water shimmered in his eyes, but he quickly cleared his throat. “Well, shit,” he said, laughing softly. “Hiring you was certainly an easy decision.”

I smiled at my friend as I scooted back in my chair. “Like you had anyone else who could wrangle these Reapers as well as me.”

“No question,” he said, watching as I walked to the door. “This week is going to be rough without Axel, not just on the ice. He’s the glue that holds this group together. Hey, are you sure you want to stay? Anyone would understand if you wanted to get on the next flight. Faith could step in.”

I chewed on my lip for a second, debating. This was the first time in my entire career where I was split down the middle. I wanted to go to Axel. To be there for Tage. But this was bigger than delegation. If things went south, this incident could ruin the Reapers.

“Faith is phenomenal,” I finally said. “But I’d hardly throw her to the wolves with something like this.” Of course, Gage knew what had happened. Axel was in danger of violating his contract for leaving the Reapers shorthanded. “Axel is taking care of our family in Sweden, and I’m taking care of our Reaper family.”


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