The stakes have never been higher for Carolina Cold Fury goalie Ryker Evans. With his contract running out, he’s got a year left to prove he’s still at the top of his game. And since his wife left him, Ryker has been balancing life as a pro-hockey star and a single parent to two daughters. Management is waiting for him to screw up. The fans are ready to pounce. Everybody’s taking dirty shots—except for the fiery redhead whose faith in Ryker gives him a fresh start.
As the league’s only female general manager, Gray Brannon has learned not to mix business with pleasure. And yet even this tough, talented career woman can’t help breaking her own rules as she gives Ryker everything she’s got. She hopes their hot streak will last forever, but with Ryker’s conniving ex plotting to reclaim her man, the pressure’s on Gray to step up and save a tender new love before it’s too late.
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 Ryker
“A hot hockey player with a heart of gold . . . a smart, ballsy heroine . . . and enough heat between them to melt any hockey rink. Sawyer Bennett scores another solid hit with Ryker!”—Katie Rose, award-winning author of The Heat of the Moment
“Ryker is some of Ms. Bennett’s best work yet.”—Shh Moms Reading
Praise for Sawyer Bennett and the Carolina Cold Fury series
“Sawyer Bennett never fails to deliver heroes I fall hard for and heroines I adore.”—New York Times bestselling author Violet Duke
“Wow. Just wow. Sawyer Bennett is my new favorite author.”—Jami Davenport, USA Today bestselling author of Skating on Thin Ice
“Garrett is a sizzling and emotional read with laughter and secrets thrown in for good measure. Sawyer Bennett had me at hello.”—New York Times bestselling author Lexi Ryan
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
It all seems to happen at once.
The washing machine starts shaking hard during the spin cycle, and while I’m able to easily ignore the way it bangs up against the dryer while I braid Violet’s hair, I can’t help the full body cringe when I hear the liquid laundry detergent that I had sitting on the top fall and hit the tile floor.
Yup . . . that resounding splat was the sound of the plastic splitting open, and I can clearly see in my mind the slick blue detergent leaking out onto the floor. I can imagine it vividly because I did the same damn thing last week. Overloaded the machine because I’m too lazy to do two loads when I can cram it all into one, causing the machine to tip off balance and dislodge all the crap I had sitting on top.
My fingers, however, never miss a beat. They keep grasping and crossing over the thick, dark locks of Violet’s hair while she quietly hums a song to herself, swinging her little legs back and forth happily while she sits on the kitchen chair. At age seven, she’s the quiet one . . . the dreamer. I don’t have to see her face at this moment to know that there will be a tiny smile and a faraway look in her gray eyes as she spins another epic fantasy story she’s creating in her beautiful head.
“D-a-a-a-d,” Ruby shrieks from upstairs.
It’s a sound that once used to cause all the hair to stand up on my arms and on more than one occasion caused me to go tearing after the call of my youngest daughter thinking she was being murdered by an intruder. I’ve since come to recognize that particular shrill cry as one of excitement and wonder, and I can’t help but grin over what Ruby is possibly into now. At almost five years old, she refuses to accept the concept of a well-mannered, indoor voice and goes balls to the wall in everything she does.
“Is the house on fire, Rubes?” I call out.
Her little voice shouts back to me in a squawk. “No.”
“Have aliens landed?” I keep my voice just loud enough to carry up the stairs but still decibels below her own.
“No,” she yells, and there . . . right there . . . that’s a little giggle from her.
“Did Timmy fall down the well?”
“No, Dad . . . but you have to come here,” she yells, and, to give her credit, it’s toned down just a bit. When I don’t answer her right away, she calls down in a sweet voice that makes my heart pitter-patter. “Please, Dad.”
Brilliant, little brat. Throwing in some manners to throw me off my game.
“I’ll be right there,” I tell her as I finish the last of Violet’s braid and manage to efficiently bind it with a hair elastic. Leaning over, I place a kiss on her head. “All done, dreamy dwarf.”
Violet leans her head back and gives me an upside-down grin. I love the sprinkle of freckles on her nose and it compels me to kiss her again.
“Do me a favor,” I tell her as I turn toward the living room. “Get the cereal and milk out for me while I go see what your sister needs?”
I don’t bother waiting to see what she does, because Violet has become my metaphorical right hand over the last few months. While she still loves for me to braid her hair and help with her homework, she’s also relished taking on a bit of a caretaker role since the girls moved in with me permanently this past summer.
They’ve been here almost six months and I actually feel like I know what the hell I’m doing now. It wasn’t always like that, and thank God for Kate’s help or I would have gone insane in those first few months of becoming a single parent of two little girls. Kate patiently helped me establish a routine and taught me how to braid hair, distinguish excited shrieks from cries of pain, and most important . . . how to conduct the perfect princess tea party.
I skirt my way through the living room, bending over to pick up one of Ruby’s dolls from the floor, and bound up the stairs taking two at a time. I find Ruby in the bathroom that she and Violet share, bent over the toilet and peering at something.
She shares the same dark hair and gray eyes as Violet, except her locks spring out everywhere in a mass of tiny curls. I have no idea where that came from, but assume it’s a rogue strand of ancestral DNA from either me or my soon-to-be ex-wife, Hensley. Both of us, as well as Violet, have fairly straight hair, so Ruby is definitely dipping into the family gene pool with her wild curls, but damn . . . they totally fit with her personality.
“What’s up?” I ask as I walk over to the toilet.
She straightens up, shoots me a grin, and points. “Look . . . a spider.”
I cautiously take a step forward and lean over, grimacing as I look into the bowl.
And holy crap . . . a spider the size of a T rex is floating on the surface, all eight legs spread out, bent and poised to look as if it’s ready to leap out and attach itself to my face. I suppress a full spinal shudder and reach a tentative hand toward the handle to flush it.
Two things happen almost simultaneously that take at least three years off my life.
The spider somehow manages to skitter across the water, the beast so large it actually creates waves, and Ruby shrieks at me, “No! Don’t kill it, Dad!”
It is with a major blow to my pride—as a man, as a dad, as a six-foot, six-inch professional hockey player nicknamed the Brick because I’m as big and tough as a brick wall—that I jump backward at least two feet from the monster-infested toilet and banshee-crying sprite, causing my hip to slam into the corner of the sink.
“Crap,” I curse loudly, and Ruby’s eyes go round, followed by her lips.
“Oh, Dad . . . that’s a bad word.”
I smile at her as I rub my hip. That’s definitely going to leave a bruise. “Sorry, Rubes. I’ll put a dollar in the swear jar.”
She merely nods her acceptance of my apology and turns worried eyes back to the toilet.
“You have to save it,” she implores.
Yeah . . . that’s not going to happen. Not now. Not ever.
“Sure, baby,” I tell her as I take her by the shoulder and turn her toward the bathroom door. I swear the spider glares at me with a million red, evil eyes. “Go on down and get breakfast. Violet’s fixing your cereal. I’ll get the spider out.”
“Okay,” Ruby says as she pulls away from me, but continues to give me instructions. “But let it out the front door and I’ll bring it some food later.”
“Sounds like a plan,” I assure her as she disappears down the stairs. When I hear her feet hit the bottom landing, I turn toward the toilet, intent on a quick flush to put me out of my misery.
Except when I look in the bowl, the thing is gone.
I’ll just go ahead and admit it. Spiders scare the living heck out of me. I have no clue why, and while I would battle the biggest, baddest monster to the death for my daughters, I’d much rather flush a little spider down the toilet.
I immediately scramble backward out of the bathroom, grabbing the doorknob and shutting it quickly behind me. My heart is racing a million miles an hour, the thought of that furry hell beast now loose in my house.
Just one more thing on the list of things I still need to do today.
Get the girls dressed and ready for school.
Take the girls to school.
Clean up the spilled laundry detergent.
Finish the laundry.
Arm myself with a can of hairspray and a lighter to torch the rogue spider in the bathroom.
Pick up my dry cleaning.
Pick up the girls from Kate and Zack’s house.
Story time and cuddling.
Go to bed because I’ll be exhausted.
Easy as pie, and I’ll get up and do it all over again the next day with a smile on my face. I’m finding life as a single parent isn’t as daunting as I thought it would be and I’ve finally found my groove.
And my role as a single dad isn’t the only place I’ve found my groove, because as it stands right now I happen to be playing some of the best hockey of my career with the Carolina Cold Fury. That would be the same team that I let down during the playoffs last season, ending our shot at a Cup run.