They call me the Badass of Hockey.
The Beast of the Northeast.
And I"m not just referring to my stick play on the ice.
As Captain for the Boston Blades, I"ve spent years working toward bringing home the Stanley Cup.
But when the owners sell us out to Hollywood, suddenly we"re not just playing for thousands of fans, we"re cracking open our lives on a new reality show, Getting Pucked. They want all the dirty details, and I"d rather take a puck to the gonads than peel back the curtains on my life.
Not when it could take me out of the game for good.
I agree to sign the contract on one condition: they hire New England"s reigning queen of media to call the shots.
Holly Belliveaux Carter.
The woman who drives me to insanity and turns me on with nothing but a quirk of her lips and the sound of her laugh. The only woman I"ve ever loved.Books in Series:Blades Hockey Series by Maria LuisBooks by Author:Maria Luis Books
The groom is sporting hard wood.
And I"m not referring to the hockey stick he wields around TD Garden for the Boston Blades. No, I"m talking about the metaphorical type of wood"the one that sprang to life in his black tuxedo pants the minute his bride, Zoe, began the walk of all walks down the center aisle of Boston"s historical Trinity Church.
My knees burn against the scratchy red rug as I angle my camera to snap a photo of the groom"s awestruck expression. While Andre Beaumont"King Sin Bin to hockey fans across the country"may have hired me as his wedding photographer, I"m pretty sure he"s not interested in having his erection memorialized in between pictures of Zoe"s gorgeous, ivory lace gown and the flower girl prancing down the aisle like a cotton ball made of tulle.
Then again, it"s the ball-busting kind of photo that his teammates and brothers-in-hockey-gear would kill to get their hands on, and Andre should have known better than to rope me into this gig.
Swallowing an ill-timed laugh, my fingers slide over the camera"s familiar black, plastic frame.
One inappropriate photo down. Only one hundred-plus elegant ones to go.
Wedding photography isn"t my thing. And, sure, maybe it"s because I lived the Happily Ever After fairytale and came out on the other side with my gold band tucked away in my dresser and my newly signed divorce papers doused in wine, sweet-and-sour sauce, and dried tears.
It was a rough night.
Scratch that"it"s been a rough three years.
Like a moth to a flame, I lower the camera and slide my gaze to the second groomsman standing to the right of Andre. My grandmother once called him "strapping." Accurate, I"ll admit, albeit begrudgingly. He"s built like a linebacker: tall and broad with muscular thighs that strain the fabric of his tuxedo pants. Dark brown hair that"s casually tousled in the same style he"s worn for years now. Even when he graced the glossy front page of Sports Illustrated last February, he looked exactly the same.
Some things change . . . he hasn"t.
Hard, square jaw. Formidable body. Shrewd brown eyes that I imagine terrify his opponents on the ice when he comes barreling toward them.
Captain of the Boston Blades.
Otherwise known as my ex-husband.
Those astute dark eyes meet mine now, and I wait for the rush of familiar emotions to hit me like a freight train. Only, before I have the chance to do my usual shushing of my heart, Jackson"s full lips part and he mouths something that looks suspiciously like, "Did you just take a picture of his dick""
And that right there, that"s the reason why I"ve felt so lost for the last three years.
Our marriage didn"t crumble because one of us cheated. Jackson isn"t that sort of guy, and I"ve always been a one-man kind of woman.
It didn"t combust in a ball of fiery flames because we fought like we were prepping our audition tapes for that trashy reality TV show Marriage Boot Camp.
No, we simply . . . grew apart.
He passed out on the couch.
I slept in the bed.
He ate meals with his teammates.
I chowed down on mine alone at my desk, late into the evening hours after my employees had already gone home to their families.
He reached out to Andre or the Blades goalie, Duke Harrison, when he needed to talk.
I acted like smothering my emotions was as easy as breathing.
Eleven years ago, I married the man who swept me off my feet during my first semester at Cornell University.
A year ago, we sat opposite each other at a wooden table, our feet locked on our respective sides instead of tangling together the way we"d always done, nothing but our signatures standing in the way of a divorce.
The cry fest with the Chinese food and wine came later that night. No matter how alone I"d felt prior to finalizing our divorce, spending that first night in our house"empty but for the select furniture I"d kept"had been a hard pill to swallow. Accepting the fact that we"d failed at the till death do us part of our vows was even more difficult.
Camera feeling heavy in my hands, I lift my gaze from Jackson"s mouth and return silently: "Blackmail."
His eyes crinkle at the corners, and my pathetic heart dives into an incessant thud-thud-thud that could rival the quick-paced tempo of an EDM song. Dammit. Those creasing laugh lines are more attractive than they have any right to be. Hell, the fact that I still find Jackson attractive at all feels like unjust punishment, doled out for some unknown bad misdeed I"ve committed in life. Considering my worst transgression of late is accidentally tossing half a burger into a recycling bin, the unyielding attraction seems a bit unfair.
He drags his thumb across his bottom lip, in that revealing way of his that tells me he"s trying to wrestle back a grin, and I nearly hurl my camera at his head in retribution.