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Chapter 25

Joe

She got over her initial fear and began walking toward me with her head held high. She was beautiful and I was in love and I still had no idea what was going on, but seeing her come to me, I didn’t care.

“Did you know about this?” I whispered as she got close and she shook her head no.

“Now, now, you two, no talking. We don’t want to spoil any of the surprises. And when I say surprises, I mean surprises. In fact; to help with the next part of the evening I would like to ask help from an unusual source. I would like Malcolm Story to join me on the ice.

Malcolm was smiling as he climbed the wall and skated over. The fans were gracious and didn’t outright boo, but they didn’t cheer either. I don’t think I could have asked for more for a visiting player. He skated up to Tammy but remained just on the ice.

“Yes I Know, Malcolm plays for the enemy, but many of you might not know, that if it wasn’t for Joe, Malcolm wouldn’t even be in the league, isn’t that right Malcolm?” She asked and Malcolm pulled out a microphone he was holding as well. Was everyone in on this but me and Cassie?

“That’s right Tammy. I grew up in Syracuse New York, the home of your minor affiliate, the Tailwinds.” He said and the crowd roared. “Joe here, took the time to start some youth leagues while working for the Tailwind club, and, well, I was a kid that needed something and someone positive. I came from a good home and a good family, but I needed something more. Joe found me, and helped me, and was there when I signed my first NHL contract.”

“Joe is the right man for many things, and in the case of this beautiful lady, for the right people. Your organization is lucky to have him, because I know for a fact, that many others have tried to steal him over the years, but he won’t leave.”

Cassie looked at me and I was blushing. I could feel my cheeks getting red. It was only three teams that tried to take me, but someone must have found out. It didn’t matter, I was happy here, and here is where I would always be.

“Exactly,” Malcolm said looking at me. “He won’t leave, and recently I found out that Joe signed a contract that would keep him here for life. The first contract of its kind. You are fortunate to have Joe, and I know, he is fortunate to have you as well.”

He finished and handed his microphone to Tammy and skated over and enveloped me in a giant hug. Then he hugged Cassie, who he never even met before, and skated back to his teams’ bench.

“This is the point I’m trying to make. We could have had any of our players come out and say a few words, and to a man, they all volunteered, but how real does it make it when an all-star player from another team tells you what a guy we possess in this organization. We have more surprises coming, but it’s time for the second presentation of the evening, so without further ado, your new General Manager, Cassie Lewis.” Tammy said to the applause and handed Cassie her microphone and left the ice to Cassie and me.

Cassie looked nervous and scared, but she also looked beautiful and determined. God I loved this woman. “Hey Joe,” she said into the microphone, and I finally remembered I was holding one too.

“Hey Cassie,” I said back.

“Tornado fans, let me first go back to something Tammy said. I am here, and I’m not going anywhere, and I am here because of Joe Miles.” She said and the crowd erupted again into applause. “Joe is what I thought all men should be. He is kind, caring, thoughtful and loving. He can be a man’s man, or he can be a friend in someone’s hour of need. He is the total package.”

“I am blessed to have met him and I thank the lord above that he agreed to be my boyfriend.” She said and the crowd erupted into applause again. “I don’t speak in front of crowds, so don’t take this the wrong way, if a lot of my thoughts and words are directed at Joe, because he is what tonight is all about, and I want to let everyone know how wonderful he is.”

“Oh, and ladies, don’t get any ideas. He is mine, and mine alone. I might look small, but if you try to take my man, I will show you what a cross check is in a second flat.” She said and laughter could be heard throughout the stands.

“I never knew what love was until I met Joe. We all play at love when we are younger, but I never knew real love, the kind of love that tells you who you are, until I met Joe. To me he is all I will ever need and all I will ever want. I’m terrible at this. I need help. I need my back-up now.” She said looking to the wings and all of a sudden people began walking out onto the ice.

It was Cindy and Mark and the whole Story family. Mamma Jade was there smiling and waving to the crowd and Malcolm came skating up and joining his family. Rhapsody was hugging her brother crying her eyes out. They all gathered behind Cassie and she looked at me. Then she dropped to one knee and pulled out a ring box and flipped up the opening and inside was the ring I picked out a long time ago.

I looked at it and then I looked at her. She was crying and trying to get the words out. “Joe Miles will you marry me?”

Cassie

I got the words out, in-between tears and blubbering, but I got them out. Joe saw the ring and the recollection of where it came from and when he looked at me I could feel his love. He smiled and he started crying and I felt sure he would say yes. Then he pulled me to my feet without saying a word and he went to one knee in front of me.

He spoke into his microphone but his eyes never left me. “Casandra Lewis, I was in love with you the first time I saw you. I would purposely take the stairs every day, hoping to see you. I lost ten pounds that first year.”

“I am shocked and amazed by you and the woman you are. I picked something up the other day and by chance, I just seem to be carrying it with me tonight.” He said pulling a small box out from his pocket. He opened it was the most beautiful ring I had ever seen. “I was just waiting for the perfect romantic place.” He said motioning with his hand around the whole arena and the crowd all laughed and screamed.

“I guess for a hockey guy like me, there is no other place. Casandra Lewis, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?” I cried and jumped into his arms. We kissed hard, and the crowd applauded.

“You didn’t answer me.” He said into the microphone.

“You didn’t answer me either.” I said into mine.

“Well, I will, if you will. Will you?”

“Joe Miles. I will. I will forever.” I said jumping into his arms again.

Then we were surrounded by the entourage who were hugging us and congratulating us all over the place. We were hearing the crowd applaud but we could only see each other and our friends, until a voice came over the loudspeaker.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Thomas Updyke, the owner of your Oklahoma City Tornadoes.”

The fans went ballistic as Thomas came out and waved to the crowd. He was a showman; I’d give him that. He had the fans eating out of his hand. I didn’t care, I had the man I wanted. And I be damned if I’d ever let him go.

Joe

Thomas was waving to the crowd and having a grand time as he came near us. He always liked playing up for the fans. I was almost as happy for him as I was for myself tonight. Everything was special and great, and it couldn’t get any better.

“Well Tornadoes, that was quite the welcome.” He said pulling a microphone out from his suit pocket. How many microphones di we have in this building. The crowd erupted. “I have some good news, some great news and then a little sad news. Let’s start with the good news. First every fan in attendance tonight will get a free Tornado T-shirt after the game. Just trade in your ticket at the entry way to get the new Tornado Twister T-shirt.”

The crowd erupted like everyone knew they would. T-shirts like that were not cheap, but I don’t think Thomas cared, he was having fun. He kept waving to the crowd and laughing.

“Well, this Hat Trick night is turning out to be quite the event. I thought that with each surprise we could out do the one before, but how in the world, can you out do that.” He said pointing to me and Cassie.

The crowd erupted again. He was having too much fun. I knew where he was going, I was betting on it. He was going to give us a trip somewhere to celebrate. The fans would eat that up. Well, I still had a lot of work to do, so as long as it was at the end of the season that would be fine.

“Before the last surprise, I want to lay some ground work. I never had a son, and I’m not sorry. I have Tammy, and what I thought I was missing with a son, I got when I met Joe. Tammy is the greatest daughter in the world, and when I have to give her away at her upcoming wedding, well, part of me will be crushed.” He said and the fans were on his side in a heartbeat.

Tammy came out and joined Thomas and hugged her father tightly. Tears began falling down his cheeks as he hugged his little girl for the whole world to see. Then he straightened up and said, “But I’m not above making sure she talks to me every single day. Even if I have to stalk her or make her feel guilty. Isn’t that right Malcolm?”

Malcolm nodded and hugged his Momma Jade tight. She was crying and Rhapsody was crying, hell the whole world seemed to be crying. I looked over at Cassie and she was crying.

“Of course, in order to do that, I need to have a little more freedom in my life, and I don’t know if any of you know this, but I’m kind of an important guy.” He said and the crowd began laughing and cheering.

“I own so many businesses, that I don’t even know them all. The fact of the matter is, my managers are in place to help with all that, and they have done such a good job, that I have been able to hang out here and play at being a hockey team owner, president, general manager and all the other fun stuff. I love this team and I love all of you.” He said and the fans went crazy.

“However, I love Tammy even more. I want to be able to spend time with her and her new spouse away from work, so I needed to make some decisions. I did, and earlier today, in my lawyer’s office I signed some papers. Joe was there and witnessed me doing so. Isn’t that right Joe?” He asked and I nodded.

“You didn’t read any of them did you?” He asked again.

“No,” I said into my microphone. “I just signed where the witness needed to sign. It wasn’t any of my business.”

“Well, yes and no.” Thomas said laughing. “Joe I have owed you a great debt for many years, and to be truthful, I never knew how to repay it. Tonight was part about that, and mostly, because you are the son, I’ve never had. The first surprise was Cassie being named General Manager, that would make her your boss.” He said laughing and the crowd did as well.

“That’s ok, I think I will like my new position.” I said and I got a round of applause from all the guys in the stadium.

Even Thomas was laughing at that one. Tammy just smirked at me.

“Cassie, took care of the second surprise, even though I knew about the ring you had bought for her, and conned you into bringing it with you tonight, to show it to someone. That was priceless, I don’t know which of the two of you were more surprised?”

“The third surprise, well, it was always going to happen. It was just a matter of when and where. When I said I needed more time with Tammy, I meant it. I am stepping down as President of the Oklahoma City Tornadoes, effective tonight.” Thomas said and the crowd and everyone else were speechless.

I was speechless. Thomas was the heart and soul of this team. He was the man who brought them here. He was the man who brought hockey to the Midwest. He was hockey. I was about to complain before he stopped me.

“I need this break, and before you think you are getting rid of me, remember, I am also the biggest advertising donor to this team and I already gave myself a lifetime luxury box right up there to watch every game that I can.” He said pointing to the box next to the teams’ box and a banner came down.

The banner was simple and read “Thomas Updyke Box, Tornadoes biggest fan.” The fans applauded again.

“So, the hard part was, how to take all the roles I was playing and assign them to other people. I mean, not to blow my own horn, I was the man.” He said and the crowd was erupting again and chanting his name. “President, CEO, Owner, CFO. That’s a lot of positions to fill. So at first I thought about the first one. Who could I assign as President of the Tornadoes?”

The crowd began chanting “Joe, Joe, Joe.”

Thomas laughed and waved them down. “I know right. It would be the easiest decision. In fact; Joe has been doing that position for years, he just never had the title. I kept running out of titles to give him, so he didn’t sound as important as he was. Every team in the league knew Joe was the President, and thought because I didn’t give him the title, they could steal him.”

“Little did they know; it was Joe’s idea to not have the recognition he deserved. He has been President of Hockey Operations for the Tailwinds for four years as well as head scout for the organization. He just didn’t want the notoriety, so I honored his wishes. Well, until tonight.” He said and the crowd began laughing with Thomas.

Oh shit, he was going to name me President. I wasn’t ready for that. Cassie squeezed my hand and then whispered in my ear. “Well it was fun being your boss, while it lasted, Mr. President.”

So we both knew where this was headed. Ok, I could do this. Thomas needed a break, and it wasn’t like he wasn’t going to be around. Hell his Box was going to be sitting right nest to mine. If I needed him or Tammy they would be right, there.

“Do you see his face folks. Already he is freaking out and analyzing the position of President. He’s carefully thought it all over in his head and that last look was one of acceptance. Right now he is thinking, yeah I can do this, and Thomas will still be here if I have any questions. How close am I Joe?” He asked still playing for the crowd.

“Nail on the head,” I said looking at him again.

“Cassie, is that what you were thinking too?” Thomas asked her.

“Yeah, he can do it. Like you said he’s been doing it all along, so nothing really changes, but the title.” She said smiling and the crowd was hanging on her every word.

“Exactly, that’s what my thought was, the only problem with that is, Joe likes a challenge?” He said smiling that smile when he is up to something. Something never good.

“No, no I don’t.” I said at him.

“Of course you do Joe, and we all know it. You have taken on more roles in this organization than anyone, including me. You’ve excelled at all of them. And, not to pry, but I bet when you began chasing after Miss. Lewis here, you were determined.” He said and Cassie nodded and the crowd laughed.

“So the only question was, how can we challenge the great Joe Miles? The man who has done it all. All the cups we have won are because of Joe, and we all know it. So what can we do to keep the streak alive? First we make him sign a lifetime contract. Check.”

“Then we make sure the woman he loves never will leave, check. The next part was a little trickier. We have to surround Joe with friends and family. Me and Tammy will be here, in Oklahoma City, because we love you people.” He screamed and the crowd went wild.

“So that part was covered, but in his new position, he will be going back and forth to Syracuse a lot, so we had to make some arrangements. This morning I signed two new employees to the tailwind organization, Cindy and Mark. Cindy will be leading our business office in Syracuse, and with her extensive banking experience, she will be an asset to the organization. Mark has agreed to take on a role of usher. He wouldn’t give up his day job.” Thomas laughed and the crowd laughed with him.

“Of course, nothing makes you feel more at home than food, and when Joe is in Syracuse he always eats at Mamma Jade’s restaurant, where her husband Charles, is the best meat smoker that side of the Mississippi. Their son Tiny,” Thomas said pointing to the biggest man on the ice” is going to open one of the promenade station and continue that tradition in our own Tailwind Stadium.”

The crowd was roaring again. Oklahomans love their Bar b Que.

“That brings us back to Joe, and his new position. Ladies and Gentlemen, Tornado fans of all ages, let me be the first to introduce you to the new Owner, of the Oklahoma City Tornadoes.” He said. The crowd erupted and my face fell.

How, why, how? I was confused and scared. What did he mean by owner? Did he give me some stock in the organization? I wasn’t even sure how the legal side was set up. What did this mean.

The crowd never stopped cheering and Thomas’s smile never left his face and Tammy was balling and Cassie was gripping my hand harder than ever before. I looked around, women were crying, men were slapping hands, Thomas stood above it all just smiling that Thomas smile.

“I don’t understand?” I said.

“The papers you signed my boy were transfers of stock ownership. You are the majority stock holder. You own fifty-one percent of the organization. You are the new CEO, President, CFO, and all the other damn titles I have been wearing. I am sure you know someone with banking experience that can help with CFO duties, but the rest falls on you Joe. Tammy and I still own the rest of the stock, so we are counting on you to keep this team a winner. You can do it my boy, you always have.”

“I’m nervous.” I said.

“You should be. A day won’t go by that you won’t second guess yourself on something, but in the end, it will be worth it. Now wave to the crowd and say a few words, then let’s get off the ice, so the game can go on.” He said clapping me on the back and he walked back out followed by everyone but Cassie.

“You can do this,” she said kissing my cheek and followed the others.

I stood out on the ice surrounded by the loyal fans of the Tornadoes. They were die hards, and they were determined, and when push came to shove, they shoved back.

The applause dies down and I put the microphone to my lips. “To say I am overwhelmed would be an understatement. I became engaged and an owner all in less than fifteen minutes.” I said and the crowd roared with laughter.

“I need you.” I said to the crowd. “You are Tornado fans and you remember what it was like in the beginning and you stuck with the team, and we became the organization everyone else wanted to be like, and that’s because of you.” They cheered again. “I will need you going forward. I might make mistakes and I might stumble, but when it all clears, we will continue to be winners. We are Tornadoes, and if we stick together, we will blow the other teams away.”

The crowd erupted again and I waved to them. “Thank you all, and let’s get back to hockey.” I said and then I walked off the ice to the applause of twenty thousand screaming fans.

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