“Kelly Jamieson is my go-to author for hockey romance.”—USA Today bestselling author Jami Davenport
Big move . . . Jodie’s motto is “Don’t wait for the perfect moment—take the moment and make it perfect.” And that’s just what she decides to do when she moves to Chicago with her two-year-old daughter. Now all Jodie needs is a place to live, and her best friend’s boyfriend has just the answer.
Big stick . . . Nick Balachov has zero interest in socializing, partying, or flirting right now. It’s not that he doesn’t like women. He loves them. It’s just that hockey, casual hookups, and hanging out at home are enough for him these days. Now Nick has a big problem—because the woman living in his empty coach house is a major distraction.
Big deal? The more Nick tries to keep his distance, the more Jodie needs him—around the house, that is. First he helps with the snowstorm, then the power outage. Nick even finds himself trying to impress her little girl. What the hell is wrong with him? Jodie represents everything Nick doesn’t want. But maybe she’s just what he needs. . . .
Praise for Big Stick
“Oh, the feels! Big Stick is a sexy romance that will leave readers begging for the next in the series. Kelly Jamieson has me hooked.”—Tracy Goodwin, internationally bestselling author of Ice Hot: A New York Nighthawks Novel
“Kelly Jamieson’s characters fly off the page. I wouldn’t kick grumbly hockey-hottie Nick out of bed—even if he did pass out on accident. One-click Nick and Jodie. You won’t be disappointed.”—Tricia Lynne, author of Moonlight & Whiskey
“I enjoyed the plot. The hockey scenes are well written. It was easy to visualize what was happening on the ice. Big Stick was a perfect addition to the Aces Hockey series.”—Diane’s Book Blog (five stars)
USA Today bestselling author Kelly Jamieson’s epic Wynn Hockey series can be read together or separately:
PLAY TO WIN
IN IT TO WIN IT
FOR THE WIN
Don’t miss any of Kelly’s captivating reads:
The Aces Hockey series: MAJOR MISCONDUCT • OFF LIMITS • ICING • TOP SHELF • BACK CHECK • SLAP SHOT • PLAYING HURT • BIG STICK • GAME ON
The Bayard Hockey series: SHUT OUT • CROSS CHECK
The Last Shot series: BODY SHOT • HOT SHOT • LONG SHOT
The standalone novel: DANCING IN THE RAIN
This ebook includes an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Nick would rather have his back, sack, and crack waxed than be going to a party, but it was his best buddy Hallsy’s birthday, and Hallsy had been through a rough time the last couple of years. Actually, so had he; they were a sad pair. Anyway, after what they’d been through he could at least do this. One little birthday party with all their teammates. He’d managed to get out of the Super Bowl party a few weeks ago at Rosser’s place, but he couldn’t turn down this.
Hallsy totally deserved this bash his new girlfriend, Kendra, was throwing him.
Seeing his friend happy and in love again was great, but it was February, which was almost March, which was a bad month for Nick. He knew he should just get over it, but it wasn’t that easy.
Kendra opened the door to him, a big smile on her face. He’d gotten to know her somewhat better over the last months, and she was . . . fantastic. He wasn’t one to get all excited about things, and he was irritated about having to be here, but even he didn’t have it in him to be an asshole to Kendra.
Her smile glowed, her long red-gold hair flowing back over her shoulders. “Hi, Nick!” She went up on her toes and hugged him.
He wasn’t a huggy person. His body stiffened, and he circled his arms around her body without really touching her. Shit. He was being an asshole. He couldn’t help himself.
She drew back, still smiling, like she hadn’t even noticed his awkwardness. “This must be for Max.”
“Yeah.” He handed over the parcel, an expensive single malt Scotch collection that included some Scotch stones and a tumbler, which thankfully had come gift-wrapped in glossy black and white paper, because he was good with his hands, but not when it came to flimsy paper and sticky goddamn tape.
“We said no gifts,” she admonished him.
“I know, I know, but it’s not much, really.”
She shook her head but smiled. “Come in, I’ll go put this away. What can we get you to drink? Beer? Scotch?”
“Scotch would be great.”
Kendra bustled ahead of him carrying the gift, and Nick followed her into the spacious living room of the condo Hallsy had bought last year. He’d been there plenty of times, but this was the first time he’d seen it like this—filled with people talking and laughing, music playing, the atmosphere warm and vibrant.
What a difference.
It was good though, really good for Hallsy.
He exchanged bro handshakes, hugs, and backslaps with some of his teammates and their wives, forcing smiles for them. “Hey, Benny. Jenna. Hi, Dupe. Army. Good to see you, Lovey. Amber.”
All three women were pregnant. They looked huge. Okay, that was exaggerating, but pregnancy scared the crap out of Nick. Where was that drink?
He wandered farther, greeting more of the guys, spying Kendra in the dining room at the buffet that had been set up as a bar. He headed that way and accepted the glass she handed him. “Thanks. Cheers.” He held up the glass.
An arm hooked around his neck and yanked him. Hallsy.
Nick shook his head, smiling. This time the hug was easy. “Happy birthday, old man.”
“Thanks, bro. Glad you came.”
Hallsy said it lightly, but Nick heard the serious undertone in his voice. Nick had been blowing off invitations all month, and Hallsy knew it and he knew why. He’d taken to dropping in at Nick’s new house at random times, just for a beer or coffee or to hang out. Nick knew he was checking up on him. It bugged him and made him roll his eyes and . . . he’d never in a million years admit that it struck him square in the heart.
“Wouldn’t miss the birthday party. Big three-oh. Dude. You’re practically retirement age.”
This was an exaggeration, but not by that much. The average age in the NHL was now something like twenty-seven, which was Nick’s age. Sure, there were guys who were older than that still playing, but it seemed like the league was getting younger and younger.
“Yeah, not ready for retirement yet. Just worked my ass off to get back to playing. I’m good for another ten years at least,” he boasted.
He could be right. When Hallsy’s wife had been diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago, he’d taken some time off from the game, and it had turned into more than a season after she’d passed away. He’d needed that time, but it had definitely set him back when it came to playing one of the most grueling sports in the world. Hallsy had worked hard to get back in shape. He’d made an amazing comeback and was keeping up with kids a lot younger than him. Nick had mad respect for Hallsy’s determination and dedication.
“Help yourself to food.” Kendra waved a hand at the dining table loaded with platters and bowls of all kinds of snacks.
Nick grinned at the balloons above the table that read dirty 30. “Fitting.”
Kendra grinned. “I thought so.”
Nick moved over to the table and picked up a plate. He selected a few items—some meatballs, veggies, bacon-wrapped scallops. Those stuffed mushrooms looked awesome, so he grabbed a couple of those too. He moved to a corner of the room, standing by himself as the party went on.
Movement at his feet caught his attention, and he glanced down to see Molly, Hallsy’s puppy. She sat gazing up at him with big brown puppy eyes, tongue hanging out of her mouth. “Hi, dog,” he said. “What do you want?”
The dog didn’t answer.
“Food, huh?” Sure, he could have a conversation with a dog. Why not? “How about a meatball?” He selected one of the small balls and held it up. Molly’s ears perked, and her spine straightened. “How’re your catching skills?”
He tossed the meatball to the dog. She watched it hit the floor.
“Damn, needs some work,” he murmured.
Molly sniffed the meat then scarfed it down, resuming her sitting pose to gaze at him imploringly once more.
Nick bent to wipe the sauce off the hardwood floor with a paper napkin. “Probably shouldn’t do this,” he muttered. “But you’re kinda cute. Try harder this time.” He tossed a meatball again, and this time Molly caught it. “Hey, good girl.” He felt unreasonably pleased, considering he didn’t really even like dogs. Or cats. Or kids. Or adults, for that matter.
“You probably shouldn’t be feeding her people food.”
Nick started and glanced to his left where a woman stood holding a glass of red wine.
He eyed her. He didn’t know who she was—dating one of the young guys maybe? He couldn’t help but glance at her left hand. No ring.
She was pretty enough, although big dark-framed glasses hid half her face. Okay, not really. Looking closer, she had nice enough eyes behind the hipster glasses. Her mouth though was hot—full-lipped, with up-tilted corners. Messy brown waves brushed her shoulders as she shook her head. “Don’t worry, I won’t rat you out.” She smiled.
“It’s meat. It won’t hurt her.”
She looked down at Molly, still shamelessly begging. “Molly, you’re so cute. It’s hard to resist giving you whatever you want.” She handed the dog a little piece of cheese from the table.
She gave him a mischievous smile. “She’s adorable.” She set her drink down, bent, and picked up the puppy, cuddling her and letting her lick her chin. “Aren’t you adorable, you little mooch.”
He watched Molly lavish affection on the woman as if she knew her and loved her. Huh.
“I’m Jodie.” The woman extended a hand. “A friend of Kendra’s.”
Right, right. He was a tool. Introductions were polite. “Nick. Nick Balachov.” He set his plate down on the table and took her hand to shake it. As his fingers closed around hers, he was struck by how soft and delicate her hand felt in his, yet her grip was firm and strong.