New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Toni Aleo’s sexy eBook original novella featuring the Nashville Assassins will have you believing in the power of love at first sight . . . and second sight . . . and third.
After serving as a dutiful bridesmaid in the wedding from hell, Aynslee Shaw just wants to slink home to Nashville and forget the whole trip. That is until the hottest guy she’s ever seen is seated next to her on the flight and charms her with his easy laugh and killer smile. But just when she thinks things are getting good, he vanishes, leaving Aynslee wondering, was that guy the one? And did she just let him slip through her fingers?
Former superstar goalie Jordan Ryan is back on the ice—finally. After a crippling knee injury that had him wondering if he’d ever play pro hockey again, he’s got his full attention on rebuilding his career. So a pretty—okay, beautiful—girl on a plane shouldn’t be a distraction. But Jordan is very, very distracted. And when Aynslee crosses his path again, he’s not sure any job in the world is worth missing his second chance with a woman like her.
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
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as an excerpt from the Loveswept title Empty Net.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Aynslee Shaw was having a rough day.
She wasn’t supposed to leave Buffalo until tomorrow but a call from her landlord informed her that a water main had burst in her beautiful Victorian home and her basement was flooded. She only wished she could have seen her niece get married this afternoon. True that she would probably be divorced in no time, but it stung that Lane had gotten married before her.
Heck, everyone had.
Four of her sisters as well as her two brothers were now married. Aynslee and her younger sister Quinn were the only ones left. Quinn was seventeen. She had time. But Aynslee was thirty-one, and her insane Irish family took every opportunity to remind her of her single status. Even though she was going home to face a massive mess, she was more than ready to leave the constant questioning behind.
When was she going to settle down? Find a man? Have a baby?
It wasn’t that Aynslee didn’t want those things—she did. It was just hard to find someone when she was busy with her new job and adjusting to a new town. After going to college in Knoxville, she’d worked in that city for the last seven years, teaching third grade at a nice private school. Aynslee had thought life was perfect. She had a beautiful condo, a well-paying job, and she had Dan McGee, her boyfriend since her senior year in college. They were happy, and things were great. She was sure they would marry eventually. Then suddenly it all felt wrong. She didn’t love Dan the way she had when they’d first started to date, and after Aynslee told him this, Dan said that he felt the same way.
They parted on good terms, but after Dan left, Aynslee didn’t love Knoxville the way she had before. Her mother had begged her to come home, but she preferred being away—it took a lot of patience to handle her big family. She knew, though, that she needed a change. She checked out the job opportunities in other cities before deciding to look for something in Nashville. A week after applying to New Life Christian Private School, Aynslee learned she had gotten the job. Ecstatic with her good fortune, she packed up her life and made the three-hour trip to Nashville. She moved in to her little house and was beyond happy with how great everything had turned out for the last nine months. Things seemed to be unfolding nicely for her. Aynslee quickly became friends with the other third-grade teachers at New Life, as they all had so much in common. Soon her colleagues began to set her up on blind dates, and although the dates were fine, there was no one she wanted to see a second time. She didn’t know what it was, but she’d decided she couldn’t settle for average after Dan. She wanted that burning love, the one that she would feel from the tips of her toes to the top of her head, and if she had to wait for it, then she would. Her eggs could survive for a little while longer, despite what her mother said.
After a week of her crazy family, Aynslee had been ready to change out of her bridesmaid’s dress and rush to the airport so she could get home. But that would have been too easy. When she went to change, her suitcase was nowhere to be found. She soon learned from Quinn that Aunt Fern must have “accidentally” taken her suitcase.
So now she was stuck wearing the stupid pink bridesmaid’s dress, her boobs on display for God and everyone to see, while her feet ached in the stripper shoes that Lane wanted all of her bridesmaids to wear. With each painful step she took, the more she cursed herself for making the trip to Buffalo in the first place. She should have just stayed home and given some stupid excuse as to why she and her made-up boyfriend couldn’t attend. Good Lord, her cousin had five other bridesmaids to round out the wedding album, so one less would not have been missed. The only thing that kept Aynslee from balling up into a fetal position on the airplane seat and crying her eyes out was her cup of caramel macchiato from Starbucks. Thank God for Starbucks. Thank God for the sexy hottie it looked like she was going to be sitting next to on the flight.
Hello, sex on legs.
She had never been attracted to someone as suddenly as she was at that moment. He held her gaze for maybe a second before he looked down to situate his yellow neck pillow. She couldn’t keep her eyes off him as she put her laptop case up in the overhead bin, making sure to grab her Kindle and her own blue neck pillow. She knew for a fact that reading the new Kristan Higgins would never happen on this trip, especially with Mr. Sex sitting right beside her. But she had to act as if she was doing something, or she’d more than likely stare at him the whole flight back. Not that that didn’t sound like fun.
Exhausted from the day, Aynslee practically fell into the seat beside him. She crossed her legs and rested her coffee on the seat beside her knee as she buckled her seat belt. Letting out a breath, she looked over, hoping to lock eyes with him. Thankfully, he did look over at her, but as her luck would have it, she didn’t receive a nice smile or a hello. Instead, she got a lap full of her hot coffee.
“Ack!” Aynslee yelped as she jumped up, her Kindle going one way while her neck pillow went another.
“Shit,” a deep voice said from beside her. “I’m so sorry. Can we have some napkins?” he said, the first to her and the next to the flight attendant who happened to be near their row.
Aynslee was speechless and totally forgot the coffee as she looked up into Mr. Sex’s beautiful face. He was gorgeous and had long legs that made her think he was super tall. He had a strong jawline and light-blue eyes that were framed by thick brows. His nose was on the larger side, but she found it hot. Hello, everything about this man was hot. His lips were full, and his jaw was covered in stubbly hair. He had dark wavy hair that curled behind his ears and fell messily along his forehead. She had the craziest urge to run her fingers through it. And then lick him. Everywhere.
His eyes were filled with concern as he helped her pat her dress dry, apologizing over and over again.
“It’s okay, it was an accident,” she reassured him.
She was proud of herself for being able to speak, but when he looked at her, Aynslee promptly forgot how to talk. Her dress was also forgotten as they stared at each other.
Holy fireworks, Batman!
“Ma’am, your things,” someone said, but Aynslee couldn’t tear her eyes from his.
He glanced away first, freeing her from his intense gaze. She then turned and thanked a nice older lady for retrieving her things.
As the woman went back to her seat, Aynslee used her free hand to pat the wet spot on her dress.
“I am really sorry.”
She knew if she looked at him again she wouldn’t be able to stop staring, so she just nodded as she continued to pat.
“Do you have something you can change into before we take off?”
Aynslee shook her head. “Nope. This is all I have.”
She peeked over at him, and he seemed stricken.
“I feel horrible.”
She smiled as she waved him off. “Don’t worry about it. Happens all the time.”
“It does?” he asked.
“Actually, this is the first time it has happened to me.”
He let out a hearty chuckle that caused her stomach to flutter with want. Jesus, he was hot.
“That makes this even worse.”
“No, I mean it, it’s okay. It will be a nice memory and a great story to tell my friends.” Spilled coffee and Mr. Sex. Yum.
He gave her a perplexed look. “How is having coffee spilled all over you a great story?” Mr. Sex asked.
Aynslee smiled as she said, “Well, you see, it only adds to my horrible day—”
“Terrific. I’m glad I could contribute to that,” he interrupted, with a shake of his head that caused her to laugh.
“You should be—it really is a great horrible day. First, I have been in Buffalo for the past week for my eighteen-year-old niece’s wedding and was reminded every day that I am single. Then this morning, the day of the wedding, my landlord calls to tell me a water main broke in my house, flooding the basement. Fantastic, right? But it gets better,” she said, his horrified expression making her laugh again. “My klepto aunt Fern ‘grabbed’ my suitcase instead of hers, and now I have lost a week’s worth of clothes and shoes until my mother can get my bag back and send it to me. My feet are aching because my niece thought that her thirty-one-year-old aunt should wear stripper shoes, and now I’m soaked with coffee. I’m telling you, this is one of those days for the books.”
“I’m not sure what to say. I feel horrible for being the cherry on top of your horrible-day cupcake.”
She flashed him a grin as she jokingly said, “I think the least you could do is tell me your name so I can bad-mouth you later to my friends.”
She could tell he wasn’t sure if she was joking or not, but soon he was smiling back at her.
Holding out his hand, he said, “Jordan Ryan.”
She looked down at his hand and then took it, enjoying the way his large fingers swallowed hers. With heat and tingles running up her arm and other places, she said, “I’m Aynslee Shaw.”