Hockey star Brett Sillinger’s never been afraid of a little trouble. But when his personal life ends up in the tabloids, he knows his career is on thin ice. Luckily, a new team decides to take a chance on him. All he has to do is keep his head in the game. But when temptation walks up wearing black knee-high boots, searching for a night of nameless, no-strings passion, well, what's a guy to do?
Chelsea London is looking to misbehave. What’s being good ever gotten her, besides getting dumped and passed over for a big promotion at work? But her delicious night of rebellion has unexpected consequences—her hot one-night stand is the latest addition to her father’s hockey team. And suddenly, a single night of bad-girldom isn’t nearly enough.
But one false move and Brett might spend this season in the penalty box...
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Chelsea London took a deep breath and unbuckled her seatbelt, ignoring the lack of gravity in her stomach.
Here goes nothing.
She turned to face her chauffeur/moral support. "How do my boobs look?"
"They are definitely putting the wonder in Wonderbra." Her best friend, Shanna, sent her a worried look from across the darkened interior of the Jetta. "Are you sure about this? I know you're upset that Andrew got the promotion instead of you ..." The mention of her brother made Chelsea dig her nails into her palms. "... but there's still time to drown your sorrows with a vintage romcom and a chocolate milkshake. My treat."
It sounded so good that Chelsea almost relented. But she forced herself to stay the course, flipping down the visor and reapplying her Chapstick in the light of the vanity mirror. "No. That is how good girls spend their Friday nights."
Shanna sighed. "Chelsea, I know you don't want to hear this right now, but we are good girls. You made a checklist for your quote-unquote spontaneous night of debauchery, that even included a shaving diagram. I bailed on being your wingman because I have to work on my thesis tomorrow, and if I don't get to the library before eight a.m., that creepy TA always steals my favorite study carrel."
Chelsea tucked the tube of lip balm back into her purse next to the breath mints and the extra pair of undies. Check and check.
"Shanna, I love you like a sister, but you really suck at being the devil on my shoulder." The insult was punctuated by the sound of the visor thwacking against the roof. The car went dark until Chelsea opened the door and the interior light revealed that she'd done nothing to calm her best friend's misgivings. Shanna was manically twisting a lock of her blond hair around her index finger, a sure sign she was worried.
A frisson of doubt ran down her spine, but Chelsea ignored it. In retrospect, Shanna might not have been the best choice to help her on her quest to let loose. She definitely should have sprung for a cab, she decided as she got out of the vehicle.
Her black knee-high boots with three-inch heels were more about form than function, purchased specifically for tonight, and she bobbled on the snowy pavement as she stood, steadying herself on the car door. It wasn't easy dressing sexy in Billings, Montana in January. The icy air slipped through her sweater, raising goose bumps across her back. "Wish me luck."
"Have you got your phone?" Shanna leaned across the Jetta's gray interior. "Make sure you turn on the Find a Friend app so that if you get picked up by a serial killer, I can tell the police your last known location and they can find your body quickly enough that your dad can have an open casket at the funeral."
"I know you think I'm making a mistake, but I just ..." Chelsea tried to find the words. "Being good all the time has gotten me nowhere."
"That's not true."
"My brother is the world's biggest screw-up, and now he not only has more life experience and better party stories than me, he also outranks me. It might not make sense, but I just want to see what I've been missing out on. I just want one wild night. And I promise, tomorrow I'll go back to being punctual, accountable, responsible old me."
Shanna sighed. "Couldn't you just put a pink streak in your hair? Or steal some eyeshadow from the drugstore or something?"
Despite her nerves, Chelsea managed a smile. "I'm going to be okay. People have one-night stands all the time."
The reminder was as much for herself as for Shanna.
"I know, I know. You have a condom, right?"
Chelsea reached into her push-up-assisted cleavage and pulled out the foil square.
"Are you sure you should keep it in your bra? I heard body heat can break down a prophylactic and — "
"Stop worrying. The whole idea is that it won't be in there for long." She tucked it back into the red lace. "I did the research and picked a classy hotel in the good part of town during a marketing conference. Every man in there will be gainfully employed and a little bit jet-lagged. As far as wild nights are concerned, this one has training wheels."
"Watch for wedding rings. Text me so I know you're safe. I love you."
"Love you, too."
She pushed the door closed and watched until the Jetta's taillights disappeared from view. With a deep, icy breath, she approached the imposing front entrance of the Hotel Burke — the site she'd carefully chosen for her fall from good- girldom. One night of rebellion. No rules, no self-imposed two-drink maximum, and every intention of finding some hot businessman to fit the condom in her bra — the Cinder-fella in her own little X-rated fairy tale.
Some inner-responsibility alarm started clanging in her brain, reminding her that two drinks was plenty. She had to work tomorrow and showing up hungover to the Ice Gala Silent Auction was not okay. Not only was it the Montana Wolfpack Charity Foundation's biggest fundraiser of the year, but she was the event director. Everything had to be perfect. Which reminded her — she still needed to confirm that the ice sculpture delivery had been moved an hour later, now that the hotel wouldn't be able to give them lobby space until ... No.
She gave her head a shake, dislodging that thought. She could be responsible tomorrow. Tonight, she was going to get laid.
The blunt thought rocked her confidence, and a chill skittered along her spine. She was so out of her element.
She should have gotten this kind of stuff out of her system back in college. But then she'd met Dustin when she was eighteen. He'd been studying to become an English professor. He was tidy and handsome. Her dad liked him. He'd wanted kids, but not right away. Safe. Steady. Secure. He ticked all the boxes on her checklist, and the two of them had settled into a committed relationship and everything had been mostly fine. If she'd had a complaint, it was that their sex life had been a little sparse. And if she was being completely honest, the sex they did have had been a bit underwhelming. Her attempts to spice things up hadn't been particularly well received. "Why are you being so high-maintenance, Chelsea? You never used to be like this." It didn't take long before she stopped making the overtures altogether. After all, they had love, and respect, and those were the things that mattered most.
The day he'd broken up with her, he'd kissed her on the cheek and wished her well, citing a lack of desire as the reason, before informing her that he and his TA — high-maintenance personified, with her hair-extensions and her full face of contouring makeup and her intricate manicure — were going to move in together. He didn't want her to hear it from someone else. And after eight years together, they parted with the utmost civility and absolutely no passion.
Passion. She shivered again, but this time, it wasn't because of the biting Montana wind.
I'm doing this, she told herself when her muscles braced for flight.
She deserved a night of carefree fun. She was tired of being the responsible member of the family. Her mother had demanded a divorce for her fortieth birthday and headed off to Cabo with a man Chelsea had never met. Her father had celebrated his midlife crisis and life as a free man by buying a pro-hockey team. And her brother ... well, to hear him tell it, Andrew's entire life was a never-ending parade of hedonistic adventures. And he'd still gotten the promotion at the Wolfpack Charity Foundation over her.
It didn't matter that she'd thrown herself into revamping the non-profit foundation after her father had purchased the franchise. The NHL was known for its philanthropic endeavours, and Chelsea had worked her ass off to make sure the Wolfpack's charitable organization would be a shining star in the league, and in the community, as well.
She'd even insisted her dad hire Marion Woodward as director, a local non-profit guru with decades of experience, so Chelsea could shadow her, learn everything it would take to make the Wolfpack Charity Foundation an unbridled success. And when Marion had announced her retirement a few months ago, Chelsea had been sure her father would recognize what she'd done ... And she was doing it again.
Thinking about work.
Well, that stopped right now. Tonight, she was putting her own desires first, consequences be damned.
And she wanted the fantasy. The one that revved her up and, combined with her vibrator, got her off.
One night with a handsome stranger. No names. No commitments. No regrets.
And why the hell not? There was nothing like crushing professional defeat to remind you that your job was your whole life. Tonight was all about new experiences.
An elderly man with a cane and a fedora doffed his hat to her with a gentlemanly bow as she passed, and though he was a little outside her ideal age range, she appreciated his vote of confidence.
She let that small win propel her through the fancy brass and glass door that the doorman swept out of her way as she approached, and she notched her chin up as she made her way through the marble-tiled lobby toward the lounge.
* * *
Twenty minutes later, Chelsea's bravado had taken a big hit, and her fantasy was fast careening into the realm of nightmares. She was awash in a sea of small talk, and while the handful of men who approached her were unfailingly polite, the whole thing seemed very ... flat.
Where was the sexy spark? The heat of desire?
According to her plan, she should be sixteen minutes into an intense flirting session by now. Yet she still hadn't accomplished the first item on her to-do list: locate a sexy, interesting man.
She had, however, discovered that there were a surprising number of men her dad's age in marketing.
Of the eligible contenders so far, one guy used so much gel, he could give a Ken doll a run for his money. Another guy had assured her he had an open marriage and his wife definitely wouldn't mind them "talking". And the current contender reminded her so much of Dustin that she knew all that awaited her upstairs with him was half a blowjob and ten minutes of missionary, with a zero percent chance of breaking a sweat.
Chelsea sighed. This was not how this night was supposed to turn out.
A quick glance around confirmed that plenty of other people were getting their flirt on.
Was it her? Was she broken?
These were high-quality men in high-quality jobs. Surely a functioning libido could find someone worthy among them. Someone to inspire the nipple-tingling, thigh-shaking lust that she so desperately craved.
Honestly. How did people do this?
As if in answer, the familiar bar chant of, "Shot! Shot! Shot!" rang out from a particularly boisterous table on the far side of the hotel lounge.
Alcohol, she decided. Alcohol would help.
She set her sights on the bar and headed straight for it, hoping if she fought her way through the crowd, she could find a seat.CHAPTER 2
Like his day hadn't been bad enough.
Brett Sillinger hunched his big shoulders over the bar, pushing his second glass of whiskey back and forth between his palms. He sighed, watching the scant half- inch of liquid left in the tumbler slosh around.
He should be grateful. He should be toasting the Wolfpack for saving what was left of his career, not drowning his sorrows and feeling sorry for himself about ending up in this godforsaken place.
He was twenty-six years old. A professional hockey player. He should be on top of the goddamn world. Instead, the last six years of his life had been a slow death spiral into a crash and burn of epic proportions.
The good had been really good. Two Stanley Cups with the Portland Storm. A reunion with his estranged half sister, Lainey. Best man duties at her wedding to his teammate and hockey mentor, Cooper Mead. It was a happily-ever-after he liked to take credit for, since technically he'd been the one who'd introduced them.
But even all that had been no match for the bad, which included a messy Vegas elopement and an even messier divorce. Brett had ended up a massive monthly alimony payment poorer, and about a million I-told-you-not-to-marry-hers richer.
He hadn't dealt with any of it well, making the tabloids for a third time after an embarrassing night in the drunk tank when Janelle had locked him out of the house and chucked his stuff out the window. She loved drama. Movie-level drama. Hence the wine she'd thrown in his face at some snooty restaurant she'd dragged him to. (Tabloid story number one.) And the time she'd slashed the tires on his Lamborghini. (Tabloid story number two.)
But they'd had some good times, too. And he'd loved her. He thought he had, anyway, and like a dumbass, he'd been willing to ignore the warning signs in his quest to find even a fraction of what Coop and Lainey had. Now, in retrospect, he could see it for what it was: the fucked-up love of two immature narcissists who should never have gotten hitched — the volatile kind that burned hot and bright and then flamed out.
He hadn't been himself on the ice and he'd racked up more than a couple of fines from the team for his, ahem, less than professional behavior.
Brett sipped his whiskey.
In fact, the Portland Storm had been so desperate to get rid of his ass, they'd put him on waivers. He'd spent the last week hoping someone would pick him up so he didn't get shipped back to the goddamn minors.
The call he'd been waiting for had come early that morning, and it had been with intense relief that he'd grabbed his bag and hopped on a plane to Billings, so he could be read the riot act by none other than Craig London, the team owner, as well as Jennifer Okafor, the director of PR, George Freeson, the head coach, and his new captain, Matti Pulkkinen. And just for good measure, Wolfpack head counsel, Thad Osprey, had thrown in a couple of dire warnings of his own. It was one hell of a welcome wagon.
"We're taking a chance on you, Sillinger."
"With everything that's happened during the last few years, you're a bad bet."
"Stay out of the papers. Get your head back in the game. Keep your nose clean."
"We don't want any problems. We just want you to play hockey."
Brett didn't want to ruin the carefully prepped manifesto, so he let them drone on for two and a half hours without letting them know his agent had already taken care of the lecture with a succinct, "You must have a damn horseshoe up your ass, Sillinger. Don't fuck this up."
And that was how his Friday night had come to this — sitting in a hotel bar full of mostly dudes in suits, listening to some song with a damn fiddle in it.
Cursed. Just like his mom always said he was.
Welcome to Montana. Yippee-ki-yay, mother fuc —
"What do you think, handsome?"
Brett glanced up at the bartender's expectant look. Debbie. She'd introduced herself ten seconds after he'd walked in, even before he'd been fully seated. That had been well over an hour ago now.
"You want more?" she asked, just suggestively enough that there was no mistaking her offer. Not that he would have mistaken her offer.
The place was packed, too packed for a hotel lounge, but she was taking awfully good care of him. And yeah, he tipped like a boss, but the heat in her gaze said money wasn't the only way he could thank her. He'd considered it for about twenty seconds, but he found he wasn't really in the mood for the figurative offer. And he should probably say no to the literal one, too. He was already on his second drink. Another one would put him about halfway to a bit of a buzz.
And considering today's lecture, a bit of a buzz was not what he should be aiming for.
What he should do was be a good little team player, go up to his room, watch sports highlights until he fell asleep, and show up rested and ready for his first official day as part of the Wolfpack.
Instead, Brett downed the dregs in his glass and banged it on the counter for a refill. "Busy night."
A bunch of people wearing suits jostled around him to catch Debbie's eye and order drinks, but she was focused on him. Brett automatically propped his elbows wide on the bar, taking up more space, protecting his zone. Probably the defenseman in him.
He was vindicated when the guy on his left turned as if he was going to say something about it, then sized Brett up, thought better of it, and left to find somewhere else to sit.
"Marketing conference at the hotel this weekend," Debbie told him. "They've all been cooped up in seminars for two days straight. People are ready to let loose."
Brett nodded at the information. It figured. He'd picked the hotel lounge because it was Friday night, and they were usually a lot quieter than a regular pub or bar. So much for wallowing in peace. He handed Debbie a twenty and waved off the change.
Still, he hesitated after he picked up the tumbler. With a deft flick of his wrist, Brett set the amber liquid swirling in his glass and contemplated the sudden prick of his conscience.
What the hell was he doing?
He should go. Set the drink on the bar and head upstairs.
But before he could take his own good advice, somebody bumped into him, and Jack Daniel's sloshed over the rim of his glass.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Taking a Shot"
Copyright © 2018 Taryn Leigh Taylor.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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