Mar 17 2017 12:02pm
Hot on Ice Sampler #3: Hockey Romances by Nana Malone, Kimberly Kincaid, and Heather Long
The New Orleans Cajun Rage professional hockey team just won the Cup. No one thought they’d do it: they were a team of shoulda beens, never coulda beens and a star or two. They’d only been in the Crescent City for three years before this year’s Cinderella run that had them skating off the ice with the championship. Over the following summer, each player gets to keep the Cup for a day. Nobody knows why, but whoever has the Cup falls in love.
USA Today best-sellers Robin Covington, Kimberly Kincaid, Nana Malone and Virginia Nelson, Publisher’s Weekly Bestseller Angi Morgan, along with Xio Axelrod, Christi Barth, Andie J. Christopher, Avery Flynn, Kim Golden, Lena Hart, Desiree Holt, Robin Kaye, Katie Kenyhercz, Heather Long, Kate Meader, Susan Scott Shelley, and Misty D. Waters bring you 18 romances with smoking hot heroes—both on and off the ice.
Get a sneak peek at Hot on Ice: A Hockey Romance Anthology (available March 21, 2017) with exclusive excerpts from three of the books in the collection.
Ransom by Nana Malone
“I knew who you were, Lexa.” His words were soft, his voice washing over her like warm chocolate.
“You were nicer than most. At least you always smiled and said hi, and didn't pretend you didn't know me.”
“Why would anyone do that?”
Lexa laughed again. “Ransom, you have to know that you lived in a completely different orbit, right? You were a hockey God. All the varsity girls could do nothing else but talk about how cute you were. Every time you scored a goal, they talked about it in the morning announcements for nearly twenty minutes. You were in a very different orbit than I was.”
A wrinkle marred his beautiful brow. “Perspective, I guess. A funny thing, though. In those moments, all I could think about was my own shit. All the stuff that was going on with me internally. My mom, dad, survival. It didn't even occur to me how it looked to the outside world.”
She looked at her hands. “It's not an indictment. We were in high school. Our worlds were supposed to be a little self-centered. Look at me. I could have sworn you had no idea who I was. But you say you did. See, self-centered. I can only think about what was going on in my little world. My perception.”
He shrugged. “I guess.”
The smell of pasta sauce, and garlic, and herbs and spices filled the air. She should've hopped down. Said thank you again, put physical distance between them, but she liked this. Too much. Liked having Ransom Cox standing right in front of her, like he might put his arms around her at any moment. Kiss her, hold her, do other things. His gaze pinned on her lips, and this time Lexa was sure what she saw in his eyes. That was awareness. That was desire. His pupils dilated, and he licked his lips, and all Lexa could do was sit and stare at him. Ransom Cox wanted her? Even if that's true, you still can’t have him. He's all wrong.
For once, she just wanted to shut up her inner-doubt demon and simply live in the moment. Haven't you done enough living in the moment?
Ransom leaned forward, his hips gently pushing her legs apart. His heat enveloped her, and he was so close. All she had to do was tip her lips up, and he might brush them with his. He may kiss her. And she wanted him to. Her sister hadn't been kidding. She'd always had a thing for him. But this, this right here, was living a fantasy. And she'd already promised herself that she wasn't going to do that anymore. But just as he angled his head, the oven timer beeped.
He immediately pulled back and blinked rapidly, a frown once again marring that beautiful face. He looked confused, disoriented. Yeah, welcome to my world.
Deep Check by Kimberly Kincaid
January was having an out of body experience. But between the rich decadence of the pinot noir the waiter had brought out to accompany their tasting menu and the borderline extravagant atmosphere of the cozy, candlelit dining room, everything around her was surreal.
And that was before she factored in the drop-dead gorgeous man sitting less than two feet away from her.
Covertly, she slid a glance at Finn as he listened to the waiter describe the different whiskeys available from La Lumière’s private reserve. Although January had spent over an hour with him this morning at Station Seventeen (not to mention nearly five years as his best friend), the difference between gruff, tough, T-shirt-and-jeans-Finn and the Finn beside her put night and day to shame. He’d shaved and (mostly) tamed his dark hair, which curled softly over his ears and at the nape of his neck. His black suit was cut to perfection, flawlessly outlining his broad shoulders as his charcoal-colored shirt did the same for the lean, muscular plane of his chest, and oh God, there was no way around the truth.
He might only be here for a few days, but she wanted Finn Donnelly.
“So,” January said with a shade more enthusiasm than necessary. “This view is honestly incredible. Although being a famous hockey player, you’ve probably seen your fair share of swanky restaurants.”
“The view is stunning,” Finn replied, keeping his gaze firmly fastened to hers as he spoke, and January’s heart thrummed faster in her chest. “But I’m hardly fancy. Or famous.”
Her laughter popped out, scattering her nerves along the way. “Uh, you play a highly popular sport at the professional level. The anchors on SportsCenter nicknamed you and Flynn Kazakov ‘The F-Bombs’, for Pete sake. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you aren’t exactly small potatoes.”
“Okay, how about this? I don’t feel famous. Although I will admit, the thing with Kazakov is pretty accurate.” Finn paused as the waiter quietly delivered his drink, the amber liquid glinting against the intricately cut crystal as Finn lifted it for a sip before continuing. “I mean, I travel a lot, which is pretty cool, and sometimes I get recognized if I’m out in New Orleans, but other than that, I’m still just a guy who likes to play hockey.”
“Funny, I’m still just a girl who likes to watch hockey,” January said, and Finn assessed her with a smirk that made the space between her hips flood with heat.
“You still a Rogues fan?”
Of course he would remember how diehard she was for the Charlotte-based team. “Maybe.”
“A yes if I ever heard one.” His smirk grew even sexier. “For the record, your poker face still sucks.”
Blocked by Heather Long
Grabbing a magazine, he sank into one of the sofas and began to flip through it. Nice thing about the studio was they didn’t allow the press inside. The studio might have its own network and news show, but they deemed their recording studios a safe zone for celebrities and other figures.
Hunting and fishing was really not his thing, and the magazine reminded him how much he really didn’t enjoy either activity. He’d gone on more than one shoot with his cousins, but he preferred the ice. The hard thwack of slapping the puck, the scrape of the skates as he skidded to a swift halt, the curse of other players as they clashed.
He really needed to go for another run or maybe get some time on the ice. His aggravation level seemed to only be climbing the longer he sat there. Of course, he didn’t have to sit there, he could’ve just left his car to meet her at the hotel—but that wasn’t what a gentleman did. If he were honest, it had less to do with being a gentleman and more to do with the shyness in her smile, the way a blush warmed her cheeks, and the way she shifted the conversation away from his humiliation so adroitly it seemed as if the scandal had been her own.
Overhead, the evening news began, or at least a late afternoon report. Hoshi Sato’s face appeared on the screen along with images taken from the hotel that morning. There was Archer, front and center. His phone must be buzzing back at the hotel. Pleased he hadn’t brought it with him, he mentally apologized to Felicity and the litter of kittens she’d probably birthed. The camera kept focusing on Archer’s face as he kept the press away from her.
They seemed to especially like the close ups on when he scowled at the one cameraman who kept getting right up into Hoshi’s space. Then there was the freeze-frame when he shoved the reporter aside, though it hadn’t really been a shove. He more or less put his arm out and held the idiot off. It wasn’t Archer’s fault the guy was a wimp.
“I’m so sorry,” Hoshi’s voice interrupted from just behind him, and he leaned his head back to glance at her. She was staring at the television screen in quiet horror.
“It’s not so bad,” he said and meant it. “At least I have my clothes on in this video.”
Her sudden laugh made him grin. The wry comment did exactly what he’d intended. Tossing the magazine on the table, he stood. “Ready to go?”
Still stricken, she hid the smile reflected in her eyes behind the hand clasped over her mouth. “You didn’t have to wait for me.”
She was so very soft-spoken. He really needed to hear her sing, to see if she used that whispery voice to seduce or if she could really belt out a tune.
“I know I don’t, I offered. Give me a minute, I’ll have the car brought around.” He reached into his pocket, pulled out the small pager and pressed the button to notify the driver he was ready. “First things first,” he said giving her a once over. Her hair was still pulled into tight little pigtails, though several layers of it had been braided upward, leaving only the ends free in a really interesting hairstyle that kind of reminded him of a cartoon. A really sexy cartoon.
Did they make sexy cartoons?
The rest of her was garbed in workout clothes, from the tight leggings to the bodysuit, to the oversized sweatshirt, which had been cut to allow it to hang over one shoulder. Like the 80s threw up on her. Her hands were full with what looked like a script, a bottle of ibuprofen, and a bottle of water.
“Stuff all that extra stuff inside your bag and then hand it to me. You want your hands free whenever you’re going through a crowd. Where’s your phone?”
“It’s in my backpack. I have it turned off for the time being.”
“Perfect, especially when you’re going through really dense crowd. If someone wants to, all they have to do is get close enough and they can clone your phone. If your cell is off, it’s a lot harder for them to do that.”
She paled. “Clone it? Doesn’t that only happen in the movies?”
Archer shrugged. “I’m still not entirely certain how they got their hands on that video. Since the woman in question sent it to me first, it’s entirely possible some eager beaver cloned it off my phone or hacked my cloud account. Either way, it’s better if we don’t take any chances.” Actually, he knew exactly how the video in question had been obtained, but accepting some culpability seemed to amp up her comfort level.
“Thank you again,” she said as she sealed up her backpack and then handed it over to him. She was so trusting. Why hadn’t they given this child a handler? And where the hell were her parents?
“How old are you?” Because he felt really guilty about being attracted to her in the first place.
“Twenty-two. I’ll be twenty-three in a couple weeks.”
Oh, definitely above the age of consent, but it didn’t matter. She still needed a handler. “So, this is what we’re going to do. When you step out of any facility, you put on the professional face. You were doing it earlier; you showed no emotion. You keep everything kind of blank, but you don’t want to go for resting bitch face.”
“I beg your pardon?” Surprise mingled with amusement in her question.
So, Archer mimicked it, the not quite grimace kept his mouth flat and his brows drawn tight together as though he were in deep thought. “Resting bitch face. You don’t really feel anything, you’re not really mad. Generally, think about what you look like. You’re also not relaxed.” Even as he spoke he forced his expression to ease. “Imagine all the tension in your face, let it drain away. It’s not really that you don’t care, it’s that you’re not letting anyone see you care. The moment you feel tension, it appears in your face, and that’s where you have to control it.”
She nodded, soaking in the information. For a moment, Archer paused. How many times had he heard this exact same explanation from his valet when it came to an event he had to attend for the family? God, he’d hated those conversations, and he’d always hated having to pretend to be someone he wasn’t. Having a title didn’t mean anything if you didn’t have a pot to piss in. Of course, projecting an image, well, that he was acquainted with, because image was everything in this business.
“Okay, I can do that.” Was she really that eager to please him? Or just so desperate for someone to take charge that she was gonna latch onto the first jerk who gave her a piece of advice? Archer made a promise to himself—it didn’t matter how crappy things got, he needed to look after this woman, at least until someone else better showed up to take over the job.
“All right, so we’re gonna exit, then go straight to the car and get in. Never slide over when you get in, especially when wearing a skirt. Move casually, but with dignity and awareness.”
“Essentially, if you can be made to look like you’re in a compromising position, no matter what you’re doing or how innocent it is, don’t. You want to move with short, but brisk motions. Stay athletic, but not thoughtlessly.” With a quick glance around the lobby to make sure they didn’t have an audience, he nodded to the sofa then said, “Take a seat.”
Still giving him a skeptical look, she circled around then perched on the edge of the sofa, knees together and ankles slightly crossed as she leaned forward.
“Okay, you look very uncomfortable, but proper. Now I want you to stand up and take a seat again but I want you to be comfortable and a little casual but not informal.”
“I’m not entirely sure I understand what you’re asking me to do.” She looked so hesitant, he had to smile.
“I’m asking you just to trust me. Put all those pieces together be as natural as you can. Be a little casual, but don’t be informal. You don’t want to just come in and fling yourself down, but you do want to sit and look like you belong.”
Rising, she gave him another look of uncertainty. After taking a deep breath, she walked away a couple paces then returned. This time, when she sat, she crossed one leg over the other almost immediately then leaned back but without leaning into the sofa.
“Perfect. So, when you go out to sit in the car, that’s exactly how you do it. You go out there, you get in the car as if you own it. You take a seat and you make yourself comfortable, but you don’t get informal and don’t look out and try to make eye contact. That’s another mistake, the minute you make eye contact with someone shouting a question at you, they know they have you. Your instinct, when you are eye to eye with someone, is to respond.” To emphasize the point, he sat opposite her and locked gazes.
“Oh,” she said and he could see the red flush rising in her cheeks. “Okay, so don’t engage, don’t meet their eyes, walk like I own the place, and sit but don’t be too informal. Whatever I do, don’t make myself look like I’m in a compromising position.”
“Hey, you’re a natural.” He gave her a wink. She’d relaxed a little bit more because there was less jerkiness to her movements as she rose. So self-conscious and blushing, she really was adorable. He glanced at the front doors. The car pulled up, but fortunately no press lingered on the sidewalk. Whether he could see them or not, he knew the cameras would be outside.
“When you walk outside, just forget the rest of the world. Forget the people on the street, forget the cameras, and even forget the possibility of press. You just had a long day, you’ve done your work, and now you’re going to get in the car and head back to hotel to have dinner. That’s it. It doesn’t matter what anybody else is doing, that’s the only part you have to play right now.”
“Real life shouldn’t involve playing a part,” she complained and he empathized.
“All the world is a stage,” he reminded her as he offered her hand. “So what are our lives, but a play upon it?”
When she slipped her palm into his, a shock rioted through his system. It had to be static, though there were no rugs on beneath their feet. Maybe it was the dry air.
“Thank you, Archer,” she murmured as he led her to the door. “Thank you for being a good guy.”
“Eh, you could say playing keep away is what I’m good at.” It was time to keep away from where his thoughts went while she held his hand. He didn’t do sweet, or gentle—or darling angelic faces.
Then she glanced up at him from beneath her lashes and their gazes locked. He forgot all about not engaging. When she smiled, his heart fisted.
“It doesn’t change how I feel, or the fact you don’t owe me anything. So, thank you,” she repeated.
“You’re welcome,” he assured her, then ushered her to the car. “It’s my pleasure.”
Copyright © 2017 by Nana Malone, Kimberly Kincaid, and Heather Long
Learn more about or order a copy of Hot on Ice: A Hockey Romance Anthology by Nana Malone, Kimberly Kincaid, Heather Long, et al., available March 21, 2017:
USA Today best-seller Nana Malone's love of all things romance and adventure started with a tattered romantic suspense she “borrowed” from her cousin. It was a sultry summer afternoon in Ghana, and Nana was a precocious thirteen. She's been in love with kick butt heroines ever since.
Kimberly Kincaid writes contemporary romance that splits the difference between sexy and sweet. When she's not sitting cross-legged in an ancient desk chair known as “The Pleather Bomber,” she can be found practicing obscene amounts of yoga, whipping up anything from enchiladas to éclairs in her kitchen, or curled up with her nose in a book. Kimberly is a USA Today best-selling author and 2016 and 2015 RWA RITA finalist who lives (and writes!) by the mantra that food is love. She resides in Virginia with her wildly patient husband and their three daughters.
USA Today best-selling author Heather Long likes long walks in the park, science fiction, superheroes, Marines, and men who aren't douche bags. Her books are filled with heroes and heroines tangled in romance as hot as Texas summertime. From paranormal historical westerns to contemporary military romance, Heather might switch genres, but one thing is true in all of her stories—her characters drive the books. When she's not wrangling her menagerie of animals, she devotes her time to family and friends she considers family.