***A Standalone novel in The Pucked Series***
I"m NHL defenseman Lance Romero, AKA Lance "Romance.”
I"m notorious for parties and excess. I have the most penalty minutes in the league. I get into the most fights. I take the most hits. I"m a player on and off the ice. I"m the one women with no inhibitions want.
Not because I like the notoriety, but because I don"t know how to be any other way.
I have secrets. Ones I shared with the wrong person, and she used them against me. Sometimes she still does. I should cut ties. But she makes it difficult, because she"s the kind of bad I deserve.
At least that"s what I believed until someone from my past gets caught up in my present. She"s all the good things in this world. She lights up my dark.
I shouldn"t want her.
But I do.
I should leave her alone.
But I won"t.Books in Series:Pucked Series by Helena HuntingBooks by Author:Helena Hunting books
I grip the steering wheel and take a few deep breaths, willing myself to put my Hummer in reverse. It"s what I should do. But I don"t. Instead, I shift into park and cut the engine. I don"t move, though. My internal battle is fucking endless. This is the very last place I should be. But I"m here anyway. Because even though I know better, I can"t help myself.
The whole breaking-the-cycle thing is hard to do. And this is part of my cycle. I come back to the people who hurt me, and I let them do it over and over again, always hoping maybe one day the end result is going to be different. Or that the process is going to cure my guilt and alleviate my need to atone.
It never does. But I"m still here.
I check my phone and scroll through the messages that began to accumulate late last night. Tash, my ex"or whatever the fuck she is to me"is in town. I ignored her until an hour ago. There are twenty texts. One every hour. I scroll past the first nine to the ones that brought me here, to this place I shouldn"t be:
Around and around it goes. So I"m sitting here staring at the last two messages"the one containing her room number, and the one from an hour ago telling me she"s getting impatient and won"t wait much longer for a response.
I might"ve been able to ignore the last one if my teammates and closest friends, Randy Ballistic and Miller Butterson, weren"t nailed down by their balls. But they are. They"re both in committed relationships, so a call at nine at night for an impromptu trip to the bar isn"t an option. Besides, Miller"s girlfriend is expecting a baby soon, so he"s not interested in being anywhere she"s not.
It"s understandable, but it means I don"t have any wingmen to stop me from doing this. Truthfully, I could probably call Randy. But I don"t really want to.
I open the door and step out into the unseasonably warm night. I let the numbness set in as I cross the parking lot and enter the hotel, heading for the elevators. I try not to think about how things went down the last time I saw Tash. I try not to feel much of anything.
When the elevator doors open at the twenty-third floor, I almost don"t get off. Almost. But I"m weak for Tash. I don"t know how to say no to her, even though she"s bad for me. I step out into the hall. My palms are sweaty, and my stomach starts to roll the way it used to after a game when I was young. The way it used to when I didn"t perform the way I should"ve and my mum expressed her disappointment.
But I deserved it. I took the best thing in her life away.
My feet feel like they"re made of lead as I walk down the hall to Tash"s room. When I get there, I shove my hands in my pockets and wait for the memories to fade. I need a drink. I need the past to stop haunting me. I need to stop doing this with Tash.
My fist doesn"t feel like it"s attached to my body as I lift it to knock on the door. The click of the lock turning twists the knot of my anxiety tighter. Then the door opens, and there she is.
Tash is wearing a T-shirt. My T-shirt. I don"t think there"s anything on underneath it. Her hair is loose around her shoulders. I know what it feels like between my fingers and on my chest. Her lips curve in a smile that looks more devious than welcoming.
"Hey." I jam my hands back in my pockets so I don"t touch her like I want to.
"I"m so glad you decided to come." She reaches out and skims my forearm. I tense when her fingers wrap around my wrist, tugging my hand free of my pocket.
"I can"t stay long."
"You always say that." She pulls me through the door, which closes behind me with a metallic slam.
Tash runs her hands up my chest, inciting the sensation of spiders crawling over my skin. She knows I hate that; I grab her wrists. "Don"t."
"You"re so jumpy. I"m not going to hurt you, baby. I just wanted to see you. Can I hug you""
I want to believe her, but we"ve done this so many times in the past year. It"s hard to know when she"s being real and when she"s playing games.
I release her wrists, and she wraps her arms around me, stepping closer until her hard body is pressed up against mine. I try not to tense, but the reaction is as conditioned as the sensation it inspires.
"It"s okay, baby," she whispers. "Just relax."
I drop my head and turn my face into her hair. It smells like my shampoo. She does this every time. It"s the little manipulations that make it so much harder to walk away and stay away. She makes me believe she actually cares, and then she finds a way to take it all back again.