Off the ice, elite defenseman Hawke Therrien enjoys his fair share of booze and good times. And why shouldn’t he? He’s worked his way up from the minor leagues and made himself a star. The only thing Hawke misses from that life is the pierced, tattooed free spirit who broke his heart without so much as an explanation. She’s almost unrecognizable when she walks back into his life seven years later—except for the look in her eyes that feels like a punch to the gut.
Vale Campbell isn’t the same girl she was at twenty. As crazy as she was about Hawke, her reckless behavior and out-of-control drinking were starting to scare her. She had to clean up her act, and that would never happen with Hawke around. Cutting him loose was the hardest thing Vale ever had to do—until now. Because she’s still crazy about Hawke. And if he could ever learn to forgive her, they just might have a future together.
The Carolina Cold Fury series from New York Times bestselling author Sawyer Bennett can be read together or separately:
And don’t miss her Arizona Vengeance series:
The Love Hurts series features sexy standalone novels:
SEX IN THE STICKS
And the Sugar Bowl series is one treat you’ll want to read in order:
“One of the best voices in contemporary romance.”—New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne
Praise for Hawke
“Wow! Sawyer Bennett delivers perfect chemistry that won’t be denied. Hawke is sexy, emotional, and fantastic!”—New York Times bestselling author Sandi Lynn
“Sexy, raw, and edgy, yet layered with emotion and utterly compelling . . . Sawyer Bennett does it again with Hawke!”—Award-winning author Katie Rose
“Utterly irresistible . . . a worthy addition to the Cold Fury hockey series . . . I loved Hawke’s nature, which had a classic alpha-natured edge to it.”—The Romance Reviews
“One-click right now and let me know! #MustRead”—OMG Reads
“I love hockey romance and Sawyer Bennett does a nice job with this series.”—Smexy Books
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
About the Author
A reformed trial lawyer from North Carolina, Sawyer uses real-life experience to create relatable, sexy stories that appeal to a wide array of readers. From new adult to contemporary romance, she writes something for just about everyone.
Sawyer likes her Bloody Marys strong, her martinis dirty, and her heroes a combination of the two. When not bringing fictional romance to life, Sawyer is a chauffeur, stylist, chef, maid, and personal assistant to a very active daughter, as well as a full-time servant to her adorably naughty dogs. She believes in the good of others and that a bad day can be cured with a great workout, cake, or even better, both.
Sawyer also writes general and women’s fiction under the pen name S. Bennett and sweet romance under the name Juliette Poe.
Read an Excerpt
I had been called up to the Titan minor league team and this was what I had been waiting for. My foot was back in the door and it was a moment of huge celebration. I was leaving, and if I was lucky enough to get solidified within the Titan organization, I probably wasn’t ever coming back here. In just a year, I had gained massive improvements in my conditioning, my skills, and my confidence. I was ready for the big leagues and they wanted me, so it was a night to party, celebrate, and say goodbye. I was going to be sad to leave this community where I’ve lived for the past four years, so I wanted to make it count.
Of course, I would be crushed to leave Vale, but in my mind, that was just temporary. I had to work on getting her to come with me. Despite her libertine ways, she was at heart a small-town girl deeply meshed within her community and even closer to her dad. So, we’d be separated for a while until I could get her to make that leap with me, but still . . . I’d be seeing her. Surely she’d come to visit me and we’d make our long-distance relationship work. But these guys . . . my bros that I’d played junior hockey with for so many years? This was my last night with them. Surely she understood why I didn’t want to leave.
Surely she wasn’t pissed at me for that?
Oliver made a quick call to Avery, his twin sister and Vale’s best friend. The call was short, and even though Oliver tried to find out where they went last night, the most he got out of her was that Vale wasn’t feeling well and was staying at her dad’s house. I’m sort of thinking that her “not feeling well” translates into her being pissed at me.
And as I look at the little gray house, which holds two bedrooms along the front and a small hallway that leads to a cozy living room and even cozier kitchen, my heads feels like it’s about to split open. I know that’s not from the hangover anymore, but has everything to do with the fact that something is seriously wrong for Vale to have stayed the night here without any word to me about it. I must have done something awful last night, and I’m practically choking on the dread rising within me.
My plane to Pittsburgh leaves in a little less than seven hours, but I have a four-and-a-half-hour drive to Halifax. I’m packed up and ready to go—made sure of that yesterday before the party—but I have to make things right with Vale, and that doesn’t leave me much time. My bags are in the car and Oliver is prepared to take me to Halifax, but I’m hoping a very sincere apology to my girl will put things right again and she’ll be the one seeing me off. Putting on my best hangdog look, I slowly walk up the immaculate sidewalk that Vale faithfully plants with flowers every summer for her dad. Apparently it was something her mom used to do before she died, and it was a tradition she took seriously.
Dave’s not home, and I know this because her father is the athletic trainer for the Oilers. At this time of day, he’s at the arena working on players before conditioning training, which I’m sure is filled with dudes that are as hungover as me. I noticed none of the people lying on Oliver’s floor this morning were my former teammates.
I knock on the door, hear the padding of footsteps, and when it opens, I’m staring at Avery. She’s Oliver’s fraternal twin sister and they look a lot alike, with auburn hair and dark brown eyes. You would think that with me being Oliver’s friend and her being Vale’s friend we in turn would be friends.
Not the case.
Avery and I don’t like each other very much and I’m not sure why. We know each other well because when I first came to live in Sydney, Oliver and Avery’s parents fostered me until I turned eighteen. We lived together for two years and never warmed up to each other. I find her abrasive and too princesslike for my tastes. She’s told me on more than one occasion, usually when she’s drunk and uninhibited, that I’m an egotistical brat.
Still, we try to maintain a polite existence when we are in the presence of Oliver and Vale. Neither appears to be around right now, so I cut right to the chase as I take a step toward the entryway. “Where is she?”
Avery sidesteps, puts herself in my path, and sneers at me with malice. “As if you even care.”
“Spare me the dramatics,” I mutter, trying to act as if I have nothing to be ashamed of, when in fact I’m not quite sure I know what happened last night. “Why did she stay here rather than at our apartment?”
I expect Avery to light into me, call me a creep, an a-hole, or some other equally “princesslike” curse she can come up with. Instead, she takes a deep breath while something wars within her eyes. She gives me what I might almost believe is a look of sympathy, but I quickly shake that off. Avery can’t stand me and wouldn’t feel sorry for me in the slightest over anything that could come between me and Vale.
Instead, she sort of lowers her head in resignation and backs away from the door so I can come in.
Vale’s bedroom—the one she grew up in, that is—is directly to my right, and I see the door is closed. Dave’s bedroom is just across the hall, so when Vale and I started dating when we were sixteen, I couldn’t have ever dreamed of sneaking into her room at night.
I give Avery a long look before turning to Vale’s door. I square my shoulders, put on my most apologetic look, and enter.
Immediately, I realize what I had been feeling as dread truly wasn’t that. I know this because now I’m feeling it. A cold, heavy pit of foreboding sits low in my stomach as I see Vale in her bed under the covers. The blinds are closed, curtains drawn shut, so the room is dim despite the early morning hour. I have her back, her small body clearly outlined under the burgundy quilt pulled up to her chin.
She looks lost, pathetic, and utterly alone. A sharp stab of pain hits me square in my breastbone.
“Vale,” I say quietly, and her body gives a slight jerk, but she doesn’t respond in any way.
“Baby,” I say as I take a tentative step toward her. I’m envisioning that I did the worst thing ever to her last night, without a single recollection of it. And yet that doesn’t seem right because no matter how drunk I may have been, no matter how out of control, I know deep in my heart I could never, ever do anything to hurt Vale.
I sit down gingerly on the edge of her mattress and lay an unsteady hand on her shoulder. “Vale . . . are you okay?”
I want to grab her and pull her onto my lap. I want to wrap my arms around her in comfort, even though I don’t know why I’d be offering it. I want her to cling to me in need, and assure me that I haven’t done something to screw all of this up.
Still, she doesn’t answer me, so I push at her, despite what I’m now feeling as a very thick and icy wall of tension between us.
“Vale,” I say, my voice a bit stronger. “You’ve got to talk to me, honey. Are you too sick to take me to the airport today? Because if so, Oliver can do it. I’d want you to stay in bed and get better, but I’m leaving, babe. We have to talk. Need to know why you’re pissed off at—”
“Hawke,” she says quietly, cutting me off.
I freeze, peer at her through the gloom, and she turns that beautiful face my way. Vale is wildly stunning in a completely unconventional way. She’s always been a bit of a rule breaker when it comes to fashion and norms. In fact, I remember the first time seeing her at school after I’d moved here, I was stunned that one side of her head was shaved, while the other side held a long, thick fall of raven-black hair. Those crystal-green eyes sparkled, but they did have competition from her facial piercings—one ring through an eyebrow, a Medusa stud piercing just above her upper lip, and one ring through her right nostril. She also has one through her tongue, a solid barbell that has slid across my own tongue and even my dick on hundreds of occasions.
Her black hair is now worn in long, choppy layers, but she still sports all of her facial metal, including two high nostril piercings, and her body holds a variety of tattoos she’s had done over the past two years. While Dave is an easygoing and laid-back type of dad who had no problem with her piercings, he wouldn’t let her get a tattoo until she turned eighteen. That was too permanent in his mind to agree to for a minor.
So on her eighteenth birthday, I picked her up at Dave’s house and took her straight to a tattoo parlor. He just shook his head with a knowing smile, because he had no doubt that’s where his spitfire daughter would be on that day.
With me. At a tattoo parlor.
He sure wouldn’t have wanted to know that we ended the night with her in my bed, losing her virginity.
“Hawke,” she says again . . . quietly, and I’m displaced from my memories. Her hair is lank, her skin pale. Dark circles under her eyes tell me she didn’t get any sleep last night.
I reach a hand out to touch her face but she shrinks away from me, and the pit in my stomach grows tenfold.
“I don’t want to see you anymore,” she whispers as tears fill her eyes. “You’re leaving, I’m staying, so we just need to end things now.”
“Did I do something last night?” I blurt out in a panic, my hands coming to her shoulders. I need to hold on to her . . . desperately. “Please tell me, I don’t remember.”
She shakes her head and pushes up in the bed. Her hands come out from under the quilt to pull it up to her chest as she rests against the headboard.
“What, Vale? Why did you stay here last night?”
She looks at me with dead eyes and says, “It doesn’t matter.”
“It does matter. The only thing I remember is you wanting to leave the party and me not wanting to. I woke up on Oliver’s living room floor. Now what happened in between?”
If it’s possible, Vale’s eyes look even more fatigued and she takes in a shuddering breath. Just as I think she’s getting ready to enlighten me, her door opens and Oliver sticks his head in. “Dude, you have got to hit the road. As it is, you’re going to be lucky to make your flight.”
His eyes cut from me over to Vale, who turns her head away to stare at the wall.
I scrub my hands through my hair, which I’ve always worn long, between chin and shoulder, depending on my mood. “. . . give me just a minute, man.”
Oliver nods and eases out, shutting the door quietly.
I turn to look back at Vale and she won’t give me the courtesy of a return glance. So I take her jaw, squeezing slightly, and force her to turn and look at me. When she does, I feel my heart shrivel up and die.
There’s nothing there.
It’s just . . . dead.
“Are we over?” I ask her quietly.
“Yes,” she says, with absolutely no hesitation, but there’s a warble to her voice and a quiver to her lip.
“Will you at least tell me why?”
“No,” she says just as resolutely, but tears fill her eyes. “I don’t want to discuss it with you.”
I have one more question as I feel my entire world start to darken. Depending on how she answers, this decides whether or not I miss my plane. Because if there’s even a chance that I think I can reach her, I’m going to sit on this bed and talk to her until I’m blue in the face.
“Do you still love me?” I ask, practically choking the words out.
I brace as if I’m about to get pounded by the biggest goon in the league. I know that her answer has the power to hurt me worse than I ever have been before on the ice.
She stares at me a moment . . . a single, silent tear slips down her cheek. Then she lowers her face and says, “No. I don’t love you, Hawke.”
In that one moment my entire world stops spinning. I go deaf, my vision dims, and I swear the breath just evaporates from my lungs. Time stands brutally still, holding me captive in a nightmare. I can do nothing but stare at the girl who in one instant has my heart, and in the next instant makes it disintegrate.
Absolute and utter quiet.
Me staring at her.
Vale staring at her lap.
This moment could go on for an eternity, but then I hear Oliver’s car engine start from out on the street, a subtle reminder I have places to be.
Everything starts moving again.
My heart begins a steady thumping. I can hear Avery emptying the dishwasher in the kitchen, and I can hear Vale’s ragged breathing as she refuses to look at me.
I stand from the bed and look down at her, willing her to look up and tell me she just lied to my face.
But she doesn’t.
So I turn around and walk out of her room, but not without letting her know that this isn’t over. “I’ll call you tonight after I land.”
She doesn’t respond, and somehow I just know. When I call tonight, Vale’s not going to answer the phone.