Devon Rhodes
Humor, Heat and Happy Endings

Burning Up the Ice

Book Five in the Men of Sports series

Two men, two very different sports and one rink--sharing ice has never been so hot.

“I understand your situation,” Ethan tried in vain to soothe the upset coach on the other end of the line, watching every single incomingtelephone line his family’s ice rink had blinking at him, “but you mustrealise that concessions will need to be made. The unexpected closure has affected every league and sport—”

Coach George Allen, who coached in the youth hockey league, interrupted him. “There’s only one important sport that’s affected, and you know it! These kids need practice time! They’re right in the middle of their season—”

“Concessions will need to be made,” he repeated, interrupting right back, sticking to the line he’d used ever since the news had spread thata faulty compressor cooling system had caused an ammonia leak at the new municipal ice rink. Not only had the rink been forced to evacuate, but it had damaged the equipment that maintained the ice. Now the city, the rink managers and the manufacturer were throwing blame back and forth, and the rink was closed indefinitely until a solution could be found.

“Look, Ethan”—George’s tone of voice became pleading—“we go way back. Surely there’s something you can do for me.”

This was another thing he’d heard an incredible number of variations on already from the hockey league reps, private ice skating coaches and residents who enjoyed coming down for open ice time. Unfortunately, beyond the other municipal rinks, which already had maxed out schedules and were only going to allow for games, not practice time, there were only two other regulation size ice rinks in the city. One was Riverside Skating Club, a private club for which membership was well beyond the reach of most citizens. The other? Campbell’s Ice Rink, Ethan’s family’srink, which was the oldest one still in operation in the area.

His family’s rink had enjoyed its heyday, but when the city had expanded its facilities, everyone had flocked to the newer rink and better amenities. So about a decade ago, the Campbells had quietly takenmost open ice time off the schedule and had instead fostered a relationship with some of the curling leagues in the area. They’d been thrilled to get public ice time where the surface wasn’t regularly gouged up by skates, but where they didn’t have to pay the big bucks at an arena curling facility.

It was a small niche, but it worked for Ethan’s family and their customers.

Ethan winced. The curlers weren’t going to be happy with his decisionto share ice until the big city rink reopened, but he had a soft spot for the winter sports community, especially the youth sports leagues.

Even if they hadn’t always returned the sentiment.

“Ethan, please?”

He sighed. The heartfelt plea coming from an authority figure he’d known almost all of his life was tough to take. “Okay, Coach. I will seewhat I can do. But you’re going to have to give me some time to sort things out.” George began to break in, but Ethan talked over him to ask,“What is the absolute minimum amount of ice time your team needs? And be reasonable, please.”

“Thank you, Ethan.” He paused. “Um, is three after-school or evening sessions a week too much to ask? Two hours a pop?”

Ethan jotted that down on the pad of paper in front of him. “Let me look at everything I have. I’ll do my best.”

“I appreciate it, son. Say hi to your dad for me.”

“I will, Coach. I’m sorry, I really have to go. Goodbye.” He disconnected, then, rather than pick up one of the other lines, he took the coward’s way out and hit the button that would send calls to the default after-hours message then to voicemail.

He stretched his hands up over his head and glanced at the clock on the wall. It was almost closing time anyway. Just a figure skating coachwith two of her pupils in a private lesson. He could hear the music start over the speakers. She was nothing if not punctual, so she must begetting one last run-through to end on and would be done soon. Then he could run the Zamboni over the ice to prepare it for tomorrow.