Rookie Move (Brooklyn Bruisers #1)


by Sarina Bowen

CHAPTER 1

FRIDAY, JANUARY 29TH

31 Days Before the NHL Trade Deadline

Brooklyn, New York

TOP TEAM HEADLINE:

Will the Brooklyn Bruisers Name a Coach At Last? Press Conference Called for 10 AM

—New York Post

COBBLESTONE STREETS DID NOT PAIR WELL with high heels. So Georgia Worthington took her time walking to work through Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood.

Luckily, the office was just another block away. Her job didn’t often call for heels and a suit, but today she needed to look authoritative. That wasn’t easy when you were five-feet-three-inches tall, and every athlete and coach in the Brooklyn Bruisers organization towered over you. Today she’d need those extra inches. The press conference she’d planned would prove to the organization that they didn’t need to hire another senior publicist to replace her boss, who had left two months ago.

Every day that went by with Georgia at the helm of the hockey team’s PR effort was a victory. She only needed a little more time to prove she could handle the job alone.

Just like she needed a little more practice time in these shoes. Georgia was practically invincible in a pair of tennis shoes. She could serve a ball down the court at a hundred miles per hour. She could dive toward the net for a short shot, return the ball, and then pivot in any direction. But walking down Water Street in her only pair of three-inch Pradas? That was a challenge.

It was a sunny February morning, and a stiff breeze blew off the East River, though Brooklyn was especially beautiful at this hour, when the slanting sunshine gave the brick facades a rosy hue and sparkled off each antique windowpane. She turned (carefully) onto Gold Street, quickening her pace toward the office. The doormen of the buildings she passed were in the midst of their morning routine—sweeping the sidewalks, hosing off any filth that may have landed there in the night. That was more or less what she’d done herself for the past few years—leaning hard into the morning sunshine, banishing the darkness into the well-scrubbed corners of her mind.

In two hours she would host a press conference where the team’s owner would announce that the newest NHL franchise had finally anointed a new head coach. She’d set the whole thing up by herself, and it needed to go off flawlessly.

They all had a lot riding on this announcement. As the youngest team in the conference, the team needed the visibility. It had been not quite two years since Georgia’s boss had bought the Long Island franchise and rebranded it as a Brooklyn team. It was a risky maneuver, one that many sports pundits had already decided would fail.

As if the stakes weren’t high enough for Georgia already, the new coach just happened to be her father. After twenty years coaching college teams and then a stint as assistant defensive coach for the Rangers, he’d just agreed to take the riskiest NHL job in the nation.

Having your dad show up and outrank you at the office wasn’t exactly a dream come true. But Georgia had always been close to her father, and she knew this was a big step for him. She was just going to have to make the best of it.

And anyway, he was a tough coach, and she wanted her boys to win, right? No, she needed them to win. There was a chorus of voices ready to write the team off as a failure. They said the tristate area had too many hockey teams. They said the Internet billionaire who’d bought the team didn’t know what he was doing. It was Georgia’s job to help combat all those unwanted opinions with a polished public image.

Their critics were wrong, anyway. In the first place, there could never be too many hockey teams. And she’d seen signs that the young owner knew exactly what he was doing.

She climbed the steps to the team’s headquarters and tugged on the brass handle. Georgia wasn’t ashamed to admit that she loved the office building with the glee that other people reserved for obsessing over a new lover. She liked the weight of the big wooden door in her hand, and the golden sheen of the wooden floors inside. Like many of the buildings in this neighborhood, their headquarters had been a factory at the turn of the century. The team’s owner—Internet billionaire Nate Kattenberger—had bought it as a wreck and had every inch of it lovingly restored. Every time she stepped into this entryway, with its exposed brick walls and its old soda lamps overhead, she felt lucky.

Just inside the entry hall hung a wall-mounted screen showing clips of the boys winning in Toronto. Back when she’d just started as the publicity and marketing assistant, Georgia had edited that film herself. It gave her a private thrill to know that the first thing every visitor to headquarters saw was her handiwork.

Working for the Bruisers was her first job out of college. She’d landed it when Nate Kattenberger had just begun his tenure as owner. He’d fired nearly everyone from the old franchise and started fresh. That was a bad deal for the lifers, of course, but pretty lucky for a twenty-two year old new graduate. In the early days she’d done everything from fetching coffee to answering phones to arranging photo shoots.

Nate still referred to her as Employee Number Three. You had to know Nate to understand that the nickname was a high form of praise. At Internet companies, being an early employee was a status symbol.

Georgia didn’t care if she was Employee Number Three or number 333. But she really wanted to hang onto the top post in publicity.

When the senior publicist quit eight weeks ago to move to California with his boyfriend, Georgia was given his job on an interim basis. But so far the general manager (Employee Number Two) had been too busy trading players before the deadline to shop around for a more seasoned PR replacement.

At twenty-four years old, she was (at least temporarily) the senior publicist of an NHL franchise.

Pinch me, she thought as her heels clicked importantly on the shellacked floors. From the lobby, a girl could follow the left-hand passageway toward the athletic facility and the brand-new practice rink that Kattenberger had built. But Georgia went the other way, toward the office wing on the right. The double doors in her path were made from wavy old bottle glass, and she loved the way they gave the hallway beyond an underwater sheen until she pushed open the door.

The first sound she heard on the other side of the door was her father’s voice. And he was yelling.

Uh-oh.

Later, when she reran the events of the day in her mind, she’d remember this as the moment when the wheels came off. And it wasn’t even nine o’clock yet.

“Why am I even here?” her father hollered. “You said I’d have veto power over your trades. But I’m in the building ten fucking minutes when I find out that you took a player I don’t want.”

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