“But you were placed at a Carolina Reaper wedding in Vegas last month,” she tried again as I pushed through the doors into The Barn. The indoor field stretched out before me like the finish line in a race I had zero desire to run with the press.
“Yep. That would have been Cannon Price and Persephone VanDoren, which has already been well-reported. Again, not my brother. Or do guys in hockey gear all look the same to you?” I arched a brow at the over-eager brunette who looked like she was still in college.
“No, of course not,” she bristled.
“Right. We done?” I asked over my shoulder.
She simply stopped following me as her answer, thank God.
Cannon and Persephone had been on that same Vegas trip, but the two had woken up married that second day and had some serious history…of hating each other. Guess all that hate was just for show since they were hot and heavy and planning a second wedding now, but I was glad I wasn’t the one who’d accidentally gotten hitched to my charity auction date.
Not that I wouldn’t have minded at least seeing Liberty again. Shit, we’d had so much to drink that weekend that most of it only came in flashes. When in Vegas, right? Talk about an awkward plane ride home. She’d hidden behind a book and blushed ten shades of red every time I’d dared to look her way. It’s better this way. No distractions.
I pulled my ball cap on and walked through The Barn doors into the heat and humidity of the one o’clock sun.
“Sir,” Owen Hamilton, the security guard who always stuck by me, said in a rumbling, deep voice as he offered me a Sharpie.
“Thanks, Owen. And for the hundredth time, call me Nixon, you stubborn ass,” I said under my breath as we approached the rope that separated the field from the fans. Some of my teammates were already spread out down the line, signing shirts and taking pictures.
Owen’s wide smile said he’d heard me.
I greeted every fan I could as we walked down the line. Hats, pictures, balls, I signed them all and took selfies with whoever asked. If they were willing to sit out here for hours and watch us practice, then I was more than happy to sign whatever they wanted. I drew the line at body parts, though.
We’d just about gotten to the fifty-yard line when I looked into a pair of green eyes I’d been dreaming about for a month.
“Liberty?” Christ, could you sound any more like an over-eager puppy? I dropped my voice. “What are you doing here?” That’s better. Now, if I could do something about the quick little jump my heart had pulled.
Damn, she was even more beautiful than I’d remembered. Her silky, dark hair was up off her neck in a ponytail, and her skin glowed with a summer tan. Any model would have killed to have her facial structure with her high cheekbones and sweeping, thick lashes, but fuck, it was her eyes that nearly took my knees out. They were pale green with a jade ring, and they dropped away from my gaze too quickly.
“Liberty?” I asked again.
“Hi, Nixon.” She tugged on her lower lip with her teeth as her hands gripped the rope so hard her knuckles turned white. “Can I talk to you for a second?” Her eyes darted to the crowd around her.
“Yeah, of course.” I lifted the rope and nodded to Owen, who made sure only Liberty came through, then stood watch.
“Thank you.” She ducked under the rope in a white tank top and a long, flowing skirt with some kind of bohemian print on it.
My memory flashed with an image of her smiling up at me, wrapping her legs around my hips—Knock it off. I tried to control my thoughts, but they were firing on all cylinders as she followed me to mid-field for some privacy. No distractions, that’s what I’d promised myself, but that was before I’d thought Liberty would ever show up at training camp.
I thought I’d never see her again, given the way she’d pretty much ran off the plane once we touched down in Raleigh. Hell, she hadn’t even been the one to bid on me during that charity auction—it had been her roommates.
I turned and faced her once I was sure no one could hear us, but she couldn’t seem to find her tongue. Her mouth opened and shut a few times, and her eyes darted around us. I could almost see the conversation she was having inside her mind, but she sure wasn’t sharing it.
“It’s really great to see you,” I said softly, meaning it.
Her eyes focused on the Raptor logo just above my heart. Coach liked us to wear polos when we walked the sideline after practice.