Panther's Cage  - Book cover

Panther's Cage

Kali Gagnon

Age Rating


After her father’s death, Kate returns to New York to take over his NHL team. When she goes out for a night partying, Kate winds up kissing a handsome stranger.

Days later, she learns who the stranger is: someone completely off-limits if she’s to keep everything she’s worked so hard for. But you can’t control fate, and she and the man can’t seem to stay away from each other...

Age Rating: 18+

View more

Chapter 1


“What’s wrong?” I asked, finally biting my sister’s bait.

Through the seven hours on the plane from Paris to New York, she had audibly sighed the entire flight. Now, weaving through the masses of people inside JFK, I awaited her response.

She picked an invisible speck of dirt off her white sweater, then looked at me like I was the devil herself. “I don’t know why we had to be on a public plane since we have Dad’s jet.”

I glanced around at the nearby people, praying no one heard her ridiculous complaining. “You do realize we flew first class, right?”

Nicolette turned away from me, and whispered, “It’s not the same, Kate.”

I shook her complaints off and pushed forward.

Since the call from our uncle telling me that our dad had suddenly passed away from a heart attack, I had done what I needed to do.

Running the foreign sector of my dad’s company in Paris was no easy task, but I took care of business, then booked our flight.

I hadn’t expected Nicolette would feel so offended at my decision to not charter the Martin Financials jet.

“Why did you give that little girl on the plane your number?” she asked, without turning to look at me.

“Her dad paid her zero attention,” I answered. “It reminded me of me and Mom, so I felt bad for her.

“They live right in the city, so I made myself available if she needed anything…,” I stopped talking, seeing boredom glaze over her eyes.

On cue, Nicolette sighed again, but this time, she glared as a group of young twenty-something guys looked us up and down.

“Ugh. You are so embarrassing.”

I halted abruptly. “How am I embarrassing?”

Nicolette shook her head and continued several paces ahead of me. “Those guys were like my age, not yours. Maybe if you dressed more suitable for your age…”

She hated my existence, but it was a learned behavior from our mother, so I tried not to take it to heart.

Glancing down at my outfit of jeans and a white long-sleeved shirt, I quipped back, “I didn’t realize this was inappropriate for my old age of twenty-seven.” Then grabbing our bags, we stepped into the frigid November air.

Our matching brown hair blew around in the wind like a tornado. Both our blue eyes held an icy gaze, but for different reasons. She was stuck with me, and I was heartbroken at the loss of our dad.

A familiar figure leaned against a black SUV. He was the spitting image of my father: blue eyes, blonde hair, lanky, and tall. Running into him, I hugged him tight. “Uncle John!”

“I’ve missed my two girls,” he replied, before grabbing our bags and hauling them into the back of the Suburban.

Nicolette gingerly wrapped her arms around him, giving an awkward tap on the shoulder. Her headphones remained in her ears as she climbed into the backseat.

“How’s my little CEO?” he asked, pulling out into traffic.

“Exhausted,” I answered honestly. “I’m hoping you’ll help me sort through everything. I don’t want to do this on my own.”

Uncle John nodded, keeping his eyes steady on the road. “You’ll never be alone as long as you have me.”

I was grateful for him, and his declaration had much truth in it. He’d never let me deal with the mess my life had become on my own, unlike my mother, who was always praying for me to crash and burn.

“I know you just got in, Kate, but we need to meet with Richard’s lawyer to read the will and sign paperwork for what you guys have inherited.”

I nodded, though not wanting to hear about my dad’s belongings being split between his loved ones. “Trust me, I’d rather get it over with now and then never have to think about it again.”


Nicolette and I were facing each other in the kitchen of my dad’s penthouse, and I swear I could see steam floating from her forehead. Her posture stiffened, readying for a fight.

“I can’t believe you took everything!” she yelled at me.

I opened the refrigerator and grabbed the first thing with alcohol I could find. I grimaced at the bottle of Budweiser, but it’d have to do. My dad really was all-American.

“I took nothing, Nic. He left me the business.”

She followed suit, grabbing a beer from the fridge. At only nineteen, I should have stopped her from drinking, but I was picking my battles at the moment.

“But why you?” Her hand tightened around the bottle. I prepared myself to have it thrown at my head.

“Because I’m the one who has worked my ass off for this company,” I said, my anger rising with every word. “Also, first, I’m eight years older than you. Second, I have an MBA from Columbia.

“Third, I dropped my life here and moved to Paris to run the foreign sector of his company. I’ve worked for this, Nicolette.”

She finished the first beer and grabbed another, a steely look ever present in her pretty eyes.

“This is all your fault,” she complained.

It was my turn to sigh now. Nicolette was exhausting. “You heard the will. As soon as you discover what you want to do for a career, I will give you access to your trust fund.

“And that is a crazy amount of money, so don’t act like you got nothing. Okay?”

She turned away, stalked off into her childhood bedroom, and slammed the door behind her. A picture fell to the ground, shattering glass across the floor.

I swept up the pieces, then held the old picture in my hand. Dad looked young and carefree, hair blonde as the sun. It was really gray now, though he’d been getting it dyed for years.

The beer would not cut it anymore, so I searched for something stronger. A crystal bottle filled with Dad’s expensive scotch sat atop the bar.

I filled a tumbler to the brim with the spirit; sinking to the floor, I was careful not to spill even a drop. I leaned my head against the stainless steel stove behind me and took my first sip.

My dad had a love for scotch, like most men in his generation. I hated it and was drinking it then only because I wasn’t able to find anything better.

I gulped the scotch down, ran my fingers through my hair, and searched for my phone. A text message popped up from my best friend, whom I hadn’t seen in two years.

PiperI can’t believe I’ll see you in only ten minutes. Also, I’m coming to the game with you tonight. Xoxo

I gulped down another glass of scotch, gagging as it burned my throat.

The game that night... I couldn’t wait for it. I missed the game itself and the time spent there with my dad. In France, even sitting in my corner office, I live-streamed the New York Blades games.

I pretended I was there with him, back when my life was filled with simplicity.

I’d met some of the hockey team’s veteran players when I was younger, but none of the new guys. And now that I had taken over my father’s ownership of the team, I hoped I’d be respected by the players.

I made my way through the pristinely kept penthouse. Photos of Nicolette and myself ran along the walls, and even some of my mother. I assumed our father enjoyed reminiscing about the way she used to be before she had children.

A framed picture could be seen at the end of the long hallway that led to my old bedroom. The frame was tattered and worn; the picture had been taken many years ago.

My dad had his arms wrapped around my shoulder, my smile wider than it’d ever been as I held a hockey stick.

We were standing on the center ice at Madison Square Garden. Julian, the Blades’ head coach and Dad’s best friend, stood with us.

I pulled the barn-style door to my bedroom open and without pausing to look around, I fell face down on my bed and screamed into the silky red and black comforter.

Rolling on my back, I trained my eyes on the chandelier hanging above my bed. My dad had it custom made for me when I was thirteen. Crystals punctuated with gold exuded an air of elegance that even a teenager could appreciate.

“I miss you, Dad. I only hope I can make you proud,” I whispered, praying he could hear me from above. On cue, the crystals of the chandelier bounced streams of light across my snow-white walls.

“Well, if it isn’t my boring corporate best friend.”

I swiftly sat up to see Piper’s beautiful face only a few feet away from me. A flask of God-knows-what was held up to her lips. I ran to her.

“I missed you, my slutty drunken best friend.”

We stayed in a tight embrace for minutes. Piper was the one person who I always needed in my life, and I’d never been happier to be home than I was at that moment. I’d need her help if I was to survive filling Dad’s shoes.

“So, you’re coming to the game?” I asked her, eyebrows raised. “I thought you hated sports.”

“I do,” she replied. “But I love you more. Now drink up.” She handed me the flask, and I immediately felt the bite of tequila.

Piper laughed at my reaction, then chugged some herself. A fog passed over her brown eyes, telling me she’d been drinking for a while now. Piper was a partier, always had been.

She squeezed me one more time. “Sorry about Richard, babe,” she said. “My heart is broken for you.” I offered a small smile of thanks. “How bad was the will reading?”

“It was brutal, Pipe. Like really brutal.”

“Sorry. Let me guess, Nicolette’s being a bitch?”

“You have no idea, but I’ll tell you about it later. We only have twenty minutes till we have to meet my uncle,” I said, regretful about cutting our alone time that short, but she understood.

Digging through my suitcase, Piper found the black pair of skinny jeans I used to wear practically every day in college and threw them to me. She then tossed over a loose white tank top and a nude jacket to pull over it.

Next on her agenda was makeup. Despite knowing I preferred a more natural look with soft colors, my best friend forced me to go for vibrant red lips and dark eye makeup to make my ocean blue eyes pop.

I rummaged through a small box of jewelry and picked out two large diamond studs. Checking my reflection in the full-length mirror, I saw the old me, the fun me.

“You look hot as shit,” Piper chimed, bringing me back to the present.

I raised a brow. “Is shit hot?”

“It is if I say it is.”

She stood beside me in the mirror, dropping nude stilettos at my feet. We agreed we looked good enough to leave. I stopped by the kitchen to pen a note to my sister.

Out for the night. Call if you need anything. I love you. Kate.

Thirty minutes later, we stepped out of the car, staring up at the towering Madison Square Garden. The people of New York City never failed to amaze me.

In a two-minute span, four people bumped into my shoulder, almost knocking me over. All failed to apologize or even acknowledge their lack of courtesy.

Paris was eerily similar, but New York was my home.

My two uncles, Fred and John, met us at the front and ushered us inside the building and out of the cold. It was odd standing next to two men who looked identical to my dad.

When they were kids, people always inquired if they were triplets. They weren’t, just three brothers who looked way too similar.

We were then escorted to the owner’s suite inside the arena. Hockey games never failed to give me butterflies in my stomach.

There was still some time before the game began, but my excitement gave me a shaky leg. A bottle of expensive champagne chilled in an ice bucket with glasses hanging around the brim.

“It’s good to have you home, kid,” John said, patting me on the back. “And of course, it’s wonderful to see you, Piper. Let’s celebrate.”

“What exactly are we celebrating?” I asked.

John’s eyes lit up. “The wonderful life your father lived, his love for you, and the fact that you now own the majority of your father’s precious hockey team.”

To that, I smiled. Once our glasses were full, we tapped them together in the center of our circle. “Salute.” And we drank; Piper and I more than my uncles.

The notorious team song boomed through the speakers and the guys skated onto the ice. The lights dimmed, except a spotlight lighting up the NYB across center ice.

The voice through the speakers announced a moment of silence in memory of my father. The entire arena fell silent, men taking their hats off, all bowing their heads.

It was quite moving to witness the respect everyone held for Richard Martin.

I spotted the numbers of the veteran players and couldn’t wait to see them. Hans and Jaromir, I hadn’t seen either since before I started at Columbia.

“Are all hockey players smoking hot?” Piper asked, looking at the large screen above the ice displaying the faces of a few players.

“Pretty much.”

“Lucky.” She tucked a long lock of brown hair behind her ear. “I can’t believe you own a fucking hockey team.”

Ours was one of the few teams left that was owned and run by my family. My two uncles and I owned the team, and the Blades’ general manager was my cousin, Kevin.

We never got along, and I could promise I’d have no problem firing him if he did things that wouldn’t make my father proud.

Two hours later, the game ended with our team winning 6-2. I stood to cheer with my co-owners, and we all laughed our way out of the suite.

“They’ve done it again.”

“I have missed these games. Actually being here for them,” I told them wistfully.

Piper and I were both grinning ear to ear as we walked down to the locker room to meet the players. Just outside, Fred caught up with Head Coach Julian, and pulled him aside to make introductions.

“No,” Julian said. “This can’t be my little Kitty-Kate.”

“It’s me in the flesh.”

His hair had turned completely gray and lines sliced through his cute old face. Julian used to play hockey with my dad back in college, and they’d worked side-by-side ever since. Julian was also my Godfather.

He pulled me in for a hug and I squeezed him back. A minute later, he excused himself, telling us to wait for reporters to leave. We talked among ourselves in the corridor until others began clearing out.

A few reporters stopped my uncles for a word; luckily they had no idea who I was yet. Piper and I inched closer to the door, hearing Julian scold one of the players for a dirty hit on the ice.

The sounds of lockers banging open and bags unzipping and zipping indicated the players were heading for their showers. Bummer. I leaned against the wall closest to the door.

“You see those hot chicks in the owner’s box?” A male voice spoke from inside. I gasped, looking at Piper’s eyes turn sultry. We edged closer to the door to hear more.

“Yeah,” a different voice said. “I wonder which one they fucked to sit up there.”

I nearly choked. Okay, Kate. This is it. Be a tough businesswoman.

This was my chance to either make them realize I owned the hockey team they played for and demand respect or sit back and pretend like I hadn’t heard anything. Aiming for the latter, I shoved the door open with my palm.

Piper broke into a fit of laughter. Four men were within sight, two of whom weren’t dressed. I tried to ignore that. Tried being the keyword. They didn’t bother covering up, confident enough not to.

I turned away, glaring at the two men closest to the door—the ones with clothes on, to my relief.

“That would actually be incestuous,” I said, commanding their attention. “I did not fuck anyone to be sitting in that owner’s box, as you so eloquently pointed out.”

Sticking my hand out with an air of confidence, I added, “I’m Kate Martin. The new owner of the New York Blades.”

Next chapter
Rated 4.4 of 5 on the App Store
82.5K Ratings
Galatea logo

Unlimited books, immersive experiences.

Galatea FacebookGalatea InstagramGalatea TikTok