That got her a head tilt from Langley and more than a few side-eyes from her fellow reporters.
“I’m sorry, what magazine are you from?” Gage asked.
I moved my hand so he’d know I had this covered.
“Oh!” She preened. “I’m from Charleston Chatter. Our readers just love you.” She laid on the drawl and winked. Fucking winked.
It was a gossip rag I’d seen in the checkout stands, but I knew from Langley’s dinnertime vent sessions that they had an online following and were pushing the Reapers hard as the newest celebrity obsession. Personally, I liked being left alone.
“Right, so usually I’d tell you to mind your own business,” I said with a smile, throwing her off balance. “But I don’t like what you’re insinuating, so I’ll go ahead and address it. I’m married to a woman who values hard work, and that means her own as well. My brother’s injury coincided with something you guys like to talk about a lot and rhymes with Pannon Crice.” The press core rumbled with muffled laughter. “Not only did Mrs. Langley Pierce-Nyström,” I emphasized every word in her name, “who happens to be the head of public relations for the Reapers, have to handle some very irate officials and very interested reporters,” that one earned me another chuckle, “she was also setting up a massive open call to find a new head of the Reapers Charitable Foundation, which is set to begin tomorrow and go through the week given that she’s had to screen over two thousand applicants before they could even move onto the interview stage. After all, we need to give Asher Silas something to do with those billions, right?”
The reporter pursed her lips, and hands shot into the air, all wanting the next question, but I wasn’t finished with Ms. Charleston Chatter.
“So if you’re insinuating that my wife chose to stay home so she could get a manicure, then I’m insulted, and the answer is no. She stayed here, where our Reaper family was in crisis, because she knows her worth and that she is irreplaceable. No one could have handled that situation as well as she did.” Logically, I’d always known that. Langley was the best at what she did, just like I was. We were so well-matched in that regard. It didn’t mean I wasn’t still hurt, angry, and heartbroken that I wasn’t on her priority list, but I’d never let someone attack her job performance.
“I didn’t mean to insult you,” she drawled with a smile that might have fooled a less-intelligent man.
“When you come at my wife, you come at me,” I told her. “And as for the rest of your questions regarding my marriage and personal life? That’s none of your damned business.”
She paled but forced a shaky smile and nod.
“You know what is your business? There are now thirty-three teams in the National Hockey League. Do you know how many women sit in the front office as the head of communications and public relations like Mrs. Pierce-Nyström does?” She blinked at me. “No? Let me help you: four. In fact, the moment she left the Seattle Sharks, Mrs. Pierce-Nyström was replaced by a man. Four women to twenty-nine men. You know how I found those numbers out?”
She shook her head, and her eyes darted to the other reporters quickly before she dragged them back to mine with more than a little indignation.
“I looked them up online.” I shrugged. “Never once did my wife tell me how hard it is to be a woman in this industry, or that she was a rarity. She simply did her job, like the team, the front office, and the fans expect her to. She did her job like I needed her to. But here’s the biggest question, Ms….” I leaned forward.
“Whitmore,” she finally offered.
“Ms. Whitmore, would you have questioned the family integrity of any of those twenty-nine men if they chose to tend to the raging dumpster fire the Reapers were in with the league instead of sitting by their brother-in-law’s bedside for a non-life-threatening injury?”
“Right. You would have focused on how competent and professional they were. But because she’s a woman married to a Reaper, you think she’s fair game, and she’s not. And by the way, I sure as hell haven’t fielded a single question on why I chose to miss three games—games that resulted in losses—because I chose not to do my job. If you want to question my on-ice performance, look at my choices, not my wife’s.”
The room sat silently for a few seconds, and I saw Gage’s mouth quirk upward.
Then hands raised with voices as a new round of questions flew at me. I stood and left the dais without another word. Langley met me at the bottom of the steps with wide, searching eyes.