Audrey Parker is up against the boards. She’s stuck in a job she hates and pining for a total jerk. Meanwhile, her sister Fallon is moving out and getting married to hockey star Lucas Brooks. Where is Audrey’s Prince Charming? Nothing she does has ever seemed to be good enough for any of the men in her life. Audrey’s about to hit rock bottom . . . until she wakes up next to Tate Odder.
The thrill of moving up from the minors to the Nashville Assassins was a welcome distraction. But not even becoming the first rookie goalie to tally three shutouts in the Stanley Cup finals alleviates the pain. With the loss of his parents and sister weighing as heavily on his soul as ever, Tate Odder can’t keep pretending he’s okay. That’s when he meets smart, sexy Audrey. Her gentle warmth and quirky sense of humor make him feel whole for the first time in too long. But to stay that way forever, Tate must find a way to accept his past and learn to live for love.
Praise for Toni Aleo’s Nashville Assassins romances
“Aleo melts the ice and hits it into the net with her Assassins series.”—Award-winning author Jami Davenport
“Taking Shots is really the whole package. You get romance, humor, steamy sex, drama, and then it all wraps up with a great conclusion. I am amazed that this is Toni’s first book. She has come out in a huge way. I can’t wait to read more from her. Don’t hesitate for a moment to grab this book.”—Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews
“A little steamy, a little heartbreaking, and a whole lot of fanning yourself are in order this time around, readers. Are your cheeks feeling a little pink yet? Get used to the feeling.”—Dreaming in the Pages, on Trying to Score
“Empty Net is an honest, heartwarming, endearing story. . . . Toni Aleo doesn’t just write a story. She gives you the ability to experience the journey of her characters right along with them. Her stories are enveloped with passion, emotion, humor, love; and let me tell you, that girl knows how to write a sex scene that just makes you sweat!”—Guilty Pleasures Book Review
“Sexy and riveting . . . the perfect combination of love and lust.”—USA Today bestselling author Heidi McLaughlin, on Blue Lines
“Funny, charming, sweet, sexy . . . [Falling for the Backup] has everything you want in a story.”—Blushing Reader
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
“Someone as beautiful as you shouldn’t be sad.”
Audrey looked over and then up, locking with a pair of ocean blue eyes. She blinked as she took in the hotness that stood beside her.
A strong, square chin was covered in blond stubble, his nose had a pronounced bump, his top lip thin, while the bottom lip jutted out a little, just begging to be bitten. His hair was in a messy, tousled cut, and reminded her of the sparkling vampire she often fantasized about. While “Flightless Bird” by Iron & Wine instantly played in her mind, her eyes drifted down his neck to his broad shoulders. She could see he was strong, but not overly muscular. What he was—was perfect. Her eyes met his again and she couldn’t breathe. He oozed sex. She couldn’t believe how quickly she got turned on just by looking at him.
She breathed in and out a few times before croaking, “Excuse me?”
She watched as his lips moved. “I was wondering why someone so beautiful, looked so sad,” he said.
Audrey’s eyes left his mouth, to gaze into his eyes. “I’m not sad,” she lied.
“Yes, I think you are.”
He had an accent.
“I’m fine. My sister is getting married, that’s probably why I look sad.”
He shook his head. “Isn’t a wedding a good thing?”
She smiled again. “Of course it is, but I’m losing my sister.”
He nodded. “Yes, but you are gaining a brother.”
Her smile grew as she gazed up at him. He was tall, really tall. She had always been with little guys, since she was so short herself, but at that moment she liked being with the giant who stood in front of her. “I think you’re right,” she said.
He chuckled, a deep throaty sound that made Audrey’s stomach flutter. Oh, he was sexy. “I am always right.”
She giggled at his cockiness. It was totally something Lucas would say, and thinking of him made her smile. “Is that right?”
“Yes. I’ve been watching you, and I’m glad I came over to talk, because honestly, you are the most gorgeous woman I have ever seen.”
* * *
Tate Odder was nervous.
He wasn’t lying to the beautiful brunette when he said he had been watching her. He was sitting at the bar when she walked in with her phone at her side, looking so gorgeous it took his breath away. There was something about her that had him begging to know her name. He’d spent the last hour or so watching her with her friends. He recognized the team’s owner, Eleanor Adler, and assumed that one of them was Fallon, the soon-to-be wife of his good friend Lucas Brooks, but he wasn’t sure which one. Not that he cared. He had eyes only for the curvy brunette and had to figure out a way to approach her. He was not one of those guys who would mess with another man’s woman, but from where he’d been sitting, he saw that her ring finger was bare.
Since coming to Nashville eight months ago, he still hadn’t adjusted to dating in the Music City. There was something different about the girls here than in his Swedish homeland. Maybe it was their accents, or his, but he always felt like an idiot. No matter how much Lucas coached him on the art of picking up women, Tate couldn’t do it. He was worried they would make fun of his accent or the gap between his teeth.
He was just becoming popular in the National Hockey League. Even though he was ranked fifth in the NHL in goalie saves, he still wasn’t confident enough to walk up to a woman.
But that was about to change.
When the beauty walked to the bar alone, he’d channeled his inner Lucas and made his way toward her.
Tate couldn’t help but notice how sad she looked. She was petite, but he loved that. After dating nothing but tall Swedish women, he was ready for a change. He liked that she wasn’t bone thin either, and that she had hips and a nice round tush. When his eyes fell on her large breasts, he was in heaven. There was something about big breasts that did it for him. Call it cliché, but he loved big-breasted women.
As his eyes met her heavy-lidded, bright brown ones, he couldn’t help but smile. They sparkled as a bright smile crossed her luscious, glossy lips. “Watching me, huh?” she said now.
There was something uncommonly beautiful about her. Maybe it was the shape of her face. Maybe it was her big beautiful eyes. Or maybe it was the absolute perfection of her breasts. What it was, he didn’t know. All he knew was that he wanted her.
Nothing was said as the two stood gazing into each other’s eyes. When Tate asked Lucas to help him pick up women, he thought Lucas’s advice was going to make it easier for him. He was completely wrong. He had spent the last four months listening to every pickup line his friend gave him, but now he couldn’t think of even one. All he could do was stare into the depths of her brown eyes. They were mesmerizing.
“You’re beautiful,” he finally said.
She bit into her bottom lip, and Tate’s grip on the bar tightened. “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me. I should be thanking you for gracing this world.”
Good one, he thought, as a blush dusted the beauty’s cheeks.
“Oooh, that was smooth,” she whispered. She lightly brushed her hand against his, and Tate was convinced his hand was on fire. She must have felt it too, because she gasped, moving her hand away quickly before looking up at him.
“I have to tell you,” she said with a shy grin, “it’s usually not this easy.”
He looked down at her. “Easy how?”
“This easy to pick me up. I usually make guys work for it.”
He grinned, and her smile widened. “So you want me too?”
She moved closer, her eyes dark with lust as she said, “I do, but I don’t even know your name, though you do look kinda familiar . . . “
“Do you want to know my name?” he asked with a cocky grin. It was another line out of Lucas’s book, and Tate couldn’t believe he remembered it. He was drunk and horny, not a good combination when trying to pick up a woman. Especially one as gorgeous as this one.
He expected her to nod, so when she shook it, stepping closer to him, he mentally prayed he was ready for what she was about to say. Things were so much different in the States than in Sweden. Back home all he would have to do was nod at a female and she would be on him quicker than he could blink. He was a hockey god there. But not here. He wasn’t used to feeling like he wasn’t good enough or that he couldn’t succeed, and hated it. He knew his confidence would be broken if she told him to f*** off, so he took a deep breath as she went toe-to-toe with him, her head only reaching to his chest before she looked up.
“All I want to know is when you can leave,” she said. “I have a room not even a mile from here.”
A slow grin spread across Tate’s face as his hands came to rest on her hips. She inhaled sharply and brought her bottom lip between her teeth as she gazed up into his eyes. He had never felt such a connection with a woman before. He wanted to push her up against the bar and have his way with her right there.
Fast. And hard.
He had never in his twenty-one years felt the need to completely devour a woman, but he did now. And if they didn’t leave fast, he was going to lose all control.
He didn’t hesitate, or even think, for that matter. “Let’s go.”
As they walked through the crowded bar together, hands locked, Tate couldn’t help but thank God for Lucas Brooks.