In New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Toni Aleo’s exhilarating Loveswept debut, the first in a series featuring the hockey hunks of the Nashville Assassins, a reformed bad boy helps a charming, willful woman face off against the demons of her past.
No matter how hard she tries, Elleanor Fisher never thinks she’s good enough, from her job to her weight to her love life. After enduring years of abuse at the hands of an ex-boyfriend, Elli has been drifting through life in a daze. Until, that is, she meets Shea Adler on a promotional shoot for the NHL’s Nashville Assassins. Before Elli knows what’s happening, the gorgeous Shea breaks the ice and shatters her world.
A brilliant athlete inside the rink, Shea Adler is tired of the life he’s living outside of it: the women, the money, the drinking. But everything changes when he meets Elli. After laying eyes on this feisty, witty, beautiful woman, he feels like he’s just taken the hardest hit of his life. No matter how skeptical she is, Shea knows they are meant to be together—if only he can convince Elli to put her insecurities aside before she misses out on a shot at 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
Toni Aleo is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Nasvhille Assassins series: Taking Shots, Trying to Score, Empty Net, Falling for the Backup, and Blue Lines. When not rooting for her beloved Nashville Predators, she’s probably going to her husband’s and son’s hockey games and her daughter’s dance competitions, taking pictures, scrapbooking, or reading the latest romance novel. Aleo lives in the Nashville area with her husband, two children, and a bulldog.
Read an Excerpt
Elli was dragging when she came into the studio the next morning. The tall mocha from Starbucks she had stopped to get was not doing the job. She was exhausted. She had stayed up until two in the morning editing pictures and got up at six to let Adler out and to get ready for work. She had shoots for two newborns, a senior, and then two families, all before three o’clock.
It was going to be a long day.
As Elli unlocked the big glass doors to the studio, she glanced down at the white script that covered the doors. It was something she did every morning.
Time Standing Still
Owner: Eleanor Fisher
She smiled to herself as she shut the door behind her, turning the lights on as she walked to the back, where her office was located. She set her coffee down before slipping off her heels and picking up her phone to listen to her messages. Usually Harper would do all this, but she wasn’t coming in today. Elli had given all the assistants the day off, since yesterday had been such a big job.
Elli had forty messages waiting for her. She sat down and listened to every one of them, writing phone numbers down and putting stars beside the clients she had worked with in the past. She took a drink as the answering machine continued:
“Message forty, September thirteenth, 2010, ten-thirty p.m.”
“Wow, they are calling late,” she muttered as she listened.
“Hello, my name is Grace Justice, and I am calling on behalf of Shea Adler.”
And with just the mention of his name, Elli knocked her coffee cup all over her desk.
“Shoot!” she yelled as she jumped up, wiping off the front of her skirt.
“If you would like to listen to the message again, press five.”
“Shoot!” Elli yelled again, pushing five on the number pad.
“Hello, my name is Grace Justice, and I am calling on behalf of Shea Adler. I am planning a team party that he is hosting this weekend, and we need a photographer. The one I had canceled on me, so I am in a spot. Melody referred me to you after Shea had mentioned meeting you yesterday. He asked me to tell you that whatever the price is to get you here for the party is the price he’ll pay. Please give me a call at—”
Elli wrote the number down quickly, and then listened to the message again, just to make sure she wasn’t imagining what was happening. Shea Adler had mentioned meeting her? He said he would pay anything for her to be at the party?
This had to be a prank.
Elli glanced at the clock and then dialed the number that Mrs. Justice had given.
The phone rang twice before a thick Boston accent came over the line.
“Planning Your Moment. Grace Justice speaking. How can I help you?”
“Yes, this is Eleanor Fisher, with Time Standing Still. I just got your message and was returning your call.”
“Yes! Hello! How are you?”
“Fine, thank you, and yourself?”
“Oh, girl, I’m dragging this morning. My daughter kept me up all night. You would think by fifteen months she would be sleeping through the night!”
“I hate to tell you this, but my youngest niece didn’t sleep through the night until she was three.”
“Oh, good God, please don’t tell me that!”
“Sorry!” Elli said with a laugh.
“I just don’t understand. My son, a perfect angel! My daughter, a demon!”
That had both women giggling.
“So, anyway, sorry to get off subject and bother you with my problems.”
“Don’t you pay it any mind. I love talking about kids.”
“Okay, good. I’m hoping you can help me this weekend, Ms. Fisher.”
“Call me Elli. When is the party?”
“Saturday, at one o’clock. I would need you until everyone leaves.”
“Okay, just a second.”
Elli pulled up her schedule. She had a wedding that day, but Harper could do it with Alice as her assistant. They would be fine, but then that left the studio business. Will could handle it, probably. Maybe she could call Alice’s brother, Jack, to back up Will. It could work.
“Okay, I might be able to. When do you need an answer?”
“When can you give me one?”
“Sounds good to me. I’ll be waiting for your call, Elli.”
“Okay, talk to you soon.” Elli hung up the phone and just sat there staring into space. Was this really happening? She was booked that day. She couldn’t do the party . . . right? She picked up the phone and dialed Harper’s number. It went to voicemail, but that didn’t stop Elli from continuing to call her. Harper finally picked up after the ninth time.
“I mean, Jesus, El. If I don’t answer, obviously I don’t want to talk to you!”
“Shea Adler’s party planner called me to do his team party this Saturday.”
“Okay, well, we have the Baker/Poke wedding this weekend, so Alice and I will cover it, while Will runs the studio, and we’ll have Jack come in to back him up.”
“That’s what I was thinking.”
“Of course it was! But you told the party planner you would call her back because you’re too chicken to do it. So call the girl back and tell her yes, and then don’t call me back until it’s a decent hour.”
The line went dead.
Elli didn’t pick it back up, though; she just stared at the phone, telling herself to pick it up and call Mrs. Justice back.
But she couldn’t.
The day went on, the party for Shea Adler heavy on Elli’s mind. Why couldn’t she just call Mrs. Justice back and tell her yes? She had the coverage. What was the problem?
Seeing Shea again.
Her crush had gotten stronger after she spent most of the night staring at his pictures, and she didn’t know if she could face him again, let alone work for him. After her senior shoot, Elli was sitting at her desk when her phone rang.
Elli picked up, with her regular greeting, only to hear the same Boston accent from earlier.
“All right, now, Ms. Fisher, you have not called me back. Does that mean no?”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. I’ve had clients all day and lost track of time,” Elli lied.
“I’m just teasing you; will you be able to do the party?”
Just say yes; say it! Elli thought as she bit down hard on her lip.
“Yes, ma’am, I can. I’ll be there at twelve-thirty. I just need the address and your email to send you the invoice.”
“Wonderful! You’re a lifesaver, Elli!”
Grace gave her the email and the address to a well-known subdivision before thanking her again and then hanging up. After staring at the wall for what seemed like forever, she dialed Harper’s number.
“I said yes,” Elli said when Harper answered.
“Good. I knew you would.”
“How did you know? I didn’t even know I would!”
“Because you want to see Shea Adler again. You won’t admit it, but I saw the way you looked at him yesterday.
You’re smitten,” Harper said.
“I am not!”
“Yes, you are.”
“I’m hanging up.”
“Go ahead. But listen. Make sure you wear the white tube-top dress with the blue flowers, and your bright blue Manolo heels to the party. You’re smoking in that dress.”
“I will not! I’m wearing jeans and a studio tee.”
“Whatever you say, Elli.”
The line went dead again, and Elli threw the phone down. She sat behind her desk and looked up to study the Assassins’ team picture from last year. She needed to print one out for this year’s team, since there were new players, and some of the guys looked a little different. She looked at her favorite spot, row four, eight guys in from the left, to where Shea Adler stood in his jersey with a C on his chest and a big grin on his face.
She took a deep breath and shook her head as she said, “Darn it. I’m gonna wear the freaking dress.”