Behind the Bench Chapter 1 Sneak Peek



         Behind the Bench

Chapter 1

           Trey Mason strode into the press conference room. He glanced over at the players’ pit and, without turning his head, barked at his assistant. “Who’s the queen bee in the pit?”
Rudy Stock, a full head shorter and a greater deal rounder than the man he was trying to keep up with, looked over. Dr. Danni Angelo, wearing black slacks and a snug yellow and black floral sweater, stood casually with a group of Clarington Quakes hockey players, laughing at something one of them said.

“Danni Angelo. She’s–” he said, trying to catch his breath at the effort of keeping up with his new boss.

“Get rid of her,” Trey interrupted, and without a backward glance, he strode to the podium set up at the front of the room.

Rudy stopped in shock and, mopping his brow, walked reluctantly over to the group gathered in the roped-off section.

“Hi, Rudy,” Danni said as he approached. Her welcoming smile reached the depths of her green eyes.

“Hi, Danni. Ah, can I speak to you for a moment?”

“Sure. Excuse me, guys.” Danni and Rudy moved to a quiet corner. “What’s up?”

“Well, Trey is about to start the press conference, and he asked that only players be in the pit.” Rudy shuffled from one foot to the other.

“Really?” Danni raised an eyebrow and glanced over at the new coach.

“Well, yeah. He’s concerned about appearances, what the press might think…” Rudy rubbed the back of his neck and looked away. Danni had been an integral part of the medical staff for the past three years and had an easy camaraderie with the players. They were all anxious to hear what the new head coach had in mind for the team.

“That’s ridi–”

A flush crept across his cheeks. Danni stopped short and blew out a breath. “No problem, Rudy. I was just heading out anyway.”

Rudy nodded gratefully at the lie.

Danni waved to the players. “I’ll see you guys later.”

Three of the players smiled and saluted in return. Danni turned and caught Trey Mason watching her from across the room. She seared him with a look, then turned on her heel and strode out.

Rudy sighed in disappointment and hurried to join his boss.


Who the hell is she? Trey’s eyes narrowed as he watched her leave with sexy grace and arrogance. He hadn’t expected the jolt when she’d glared at him across the room, and he worked to keep his face impassive. He was in front of a room full of reporters, for chrissakes. That was exactly the kind of drama he didn’t need on his first encounter with the press. He had a reputation to build and a standard to set. The team needed to focus on winning, not some hot, raven black-haired beauty.

He sipped his water. He’d have to deal with her later. Right now he had a press conference to run.

He waited until the noise level in the room subsided. “Good morning everyone and welcome. Let’s get this started.” Two days before, the owners had announced that Trey would be the new head coach for the Clarington Quakes. He’d met briefly with the players and the rest of the coaching staff. The press conference was a chance to introduce himself to the fans.

Trey fielded questions from the reporters and relaxed into the rhythm of it. This was something he had done countless times before.

Yes, he was young to be a head coach, but he’d been around hockey all his life. He’d played in the minors, had been drafted at a young age into Ontario’s premier hockey league, and had a few years of professional hockey under his belt.

“Look where I’ve played. I’ve been in three hundred different cities. Even as a healthy scratch, I wasn’t just sitting up in the box eating popcorn. I was following the plays, watching the coaches, and taking notes.”

His reputation as a coach had built as he’d moved from the minor teams to varsity level hockey in both Canada and the United States. Players liked his style and bought into his vision. He could get them to do what other coaches couldn’t.

“It’s not just about the team. I often hear, ‘That’s a hell of a team you coach’, and I always correct them. I coach individuals. Each player is unique. Each one is wired differently and has his own set of skills. I treat them all the same when it comes to discipline and work ethic. That’s a given. But when it comes to their motivation, their goals, I want to know what makes each one tick.

“Right now my job is to get to know thirty players. The way to do that is to get them one on one. Grab them for coffee. Catch them when they arrive at the rink for a practice. It’s every day. At every opportunity. It’s even about following the media. What are they reading about themselves in the news? Are they going to be the guest of honour in the next parade? Are they getting hammered? If they say they don’t listen to the media, they’re lying. And what they’re hearing affects their game, so I need to know.

“At this level of hockey, the bottom line is about winning. Not one game, or one season, but making sure we’re in the running to win every year. Every year. From this moment forward, everything we do will be about maximizing our players’ potential so we can win.

“We’re going to be committed to a high standard of professionalism, to a high fitness level, and to playing tactical hockey. If a player plays for the Clarington Quakes, he’s going to compete. First line forward, fourth line defenseman, thirtieth player on the roster, it doesn’t matter. That’s how you win games, and that is my commitment to this organization.”

A reporter raised his hand. “Will you be coaching defensive hockey?”

“I don’t think you can just be a defensive team. Or just an offensive team. I think it’s straightforward. When we have the puck, we’re going to challenge the other team. If we lose the puck, we’re going to push until we get it back. We’ll do it with our speed, by finding the best line combinations, and with consistency.” He put his hands on either side of the podium. “All of our players are talented.” He looked at the players in the pit. “I say it’s not enough. I want a player to be so fit that he’ll play his twenty-eighth minute like it’s his first. If we’re in a playoff game and we go into triple overtime, I want to see the same energy as the first shift. My goal is to find the most creative scoring combinations and the best defensive partners. It might mean big adjustments, but the bottom line is that we’re here to compete. We’re here to win. And, I assure you, we will.”

Trey answered one more question and then indicated that the press conference was over. As he strode out, with Rudy close behind, the reporters murmured their approval. Competitive? High level of fitness? Setting the bar high right off the bat? That, combined with a talented, driven head coach was just what this town of hockey fanatics lived for.


Danni watched the tail end of the in-house broadcast of the news conference and flicked off the screen. How could you not be impressed with that? Trey Mason was confident and eloquent, and spoke in a relaxed and engaging way. The beach-bum blond hair, sculpted cheekbones, and easy smile would win over the non-hockey fans, and his passion and knowledge of the game would impress the followers. He had it all, and landing in a town like Clarington must be a dream come true. For him.

And a nightmare for her.

She had worked part-time as the team physician for the Clarington Earthquakes, Quakes for short, for the past three years. It had taken time to gain the players’ confidence. Being a female physician for a men’s hockey team hadn’t been easy, but she’d built a solid professional relationship.

She loved everything about the job – the energy of the games, working with high-level athletes, and a new clinic in a state-of-the-art arena. Two years ago, the Ontario community of a hundred thousand had banded together and invested countless hours of sweat equity into building a new arena. It was spacious and bright. From the wall of glass at the entrance to the wide well-lit hallways, lined with gleaming stainless steel and interspersed with elegant navy tiles, it drew people in. Moving ramps carried fans up to three levels of seating, and rumbling seats mimicked an earthquake when the Tectonic Plate mascots riled the crowd.

She didn’t know how a building could affect her so much. The sight of fans streaming in or players waiting restlessly in the wings before a game sent shivers down her spine. She had a feeling of utter contentment, at times like this, when it was quiet. There was always an underlying sense of anticipation, an expectant excitement, and she loved it all. She certainly didn’t want it to change because of a new head coach.

Trey Mason couldn’t fire her. Theoretically. That would be up to the owners of the team. He could, however, make her life miserable. And if there was friction between them, it would affect the players, and ultimately, what affected the players influenced the owners. There were two other physicians who shared the job with her and a few more who would be eager to take it on.

He, on the other hand, could be set for a long run if he delivered half of what he’d promised today. She certainly hadn’t seen any charm when he’d walked into the pressroom, and yet it came out in spades when he spoke. She could only hope that her initial impression had been wrong, because between the two of them, it wasn’t likely that he’d be leaving any time soon.

Bottom line – she needed to suck it up and get along with the new guy. She sighed. She hated sucking up. She’d thought she was done with that after building a solid reputation with the team. Apparently not. She shook her head and gritted her teeth. Time to smile and play nice.

I hoped you loved the 1st chapter of Behind the Bench (In the Game Romance, Book 2)!  It’s available exclusively in the Coming in Hot 2: Rescue Me medical romance collection!