The Game Changer

The Game Changer

by Lana Ferguson
The Game Changer

The Game Changer

by Lana Ferguson

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Overview

Notes From Your Bookseller

If you're like us, you can't get enough of love on the ice — this is a winning shot for anyone who loved Elle Kennedy's Off-Campus series.

An instant USA Today bestseller

A hockey player and a baker shoot their shot in this steamy new romance by Lana Ferguson, USA Today bestselling author of The Nanny.


When a very public breakup becomes a PR nightmare for Ian Chase's team, he hopes to focus on his game, but that suddenly seem less likely than a hat trick. With his career and the team’s image in jeopardy, Ian is surprised to find a solution through none other than Delilah Baker, his best friend and teammate's little sister…who isn’t so little anymore.

Delilah Baker is known as “the darling of baking” on her local cable show, and being in the public eye is her bread and butter. But with her numbers dwindling and her producers turning up the heat, Delilah offers up the half-baked idea to collaborate with her brother’s team to entice the hockey fans of Boston to tune in to her show. Delilah thinks it will be a piece of cake—until the team sends Ian Chase, her brother’s best friend and the object of a decade-long crush that she’s never quite gotten over. 

Delilah's and Ian’s teams think it’s a true win-win situation—gaining higher numbers for Delilah’s show and casting Ian in a more positive light. And viewers are eating them up like a cupcake, sparking the idea to play up their relationship for the goal of good press. With more than just their careers on thin ice, the line between what’s real and what’s for show begins to blur, but one thing’s for certain: This PR stunt will either be a total game changer—or leave them both totally pucked.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593816844
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/09/2024
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: eBook
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 711
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Lana Ferguson is a sex-positive nerd whose works never shy from spice or sass. A faded Fabio book cover found its way into her hands at fifteen, and she’s never been the same since. When she isn’t writing, you can find her randomly singing show tunes, arguing over which Batman is superior, and subjecting her friends to the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings. Lana lives mostly in her own head but can sometimes be found chasing her corgi through the coppice of the great American outdoors.

Read an Excerpt

One

Delilah

See?" I wink at the camera as I pull the tray from one of the double ovens on set, making sure they can get a good view of the flaky, browned goodness there. "I bet most of you at home were thinking this was impossible when we started, but look how easy that was." I set the tray on the cooling rack, pulling off my branded oven mitts and making a show of inhaling from the still-hot pastries. "Mm. Look at us. Who would have thought? Making pain au chocolat with stuff we already had lying around!"

I blow on the pastry gently before taking a small bite, making appreciative noises for the camera's benefit. Not that it isn't delicious, because it is, but honestly, my stomach is still a little sour thinking about the meeting I have waiting for me after I finish filming this episode.

"Okay," I say, licking the remnants of chocolate from my finger and setting the half-eaten sweet back on the tray. "If you can stop at just one of these, you're better than me. I will be shamelessly sneaking seconds the moment those cameras turn off. Don't forget my hot tip about making your dough the night before and letting it chill overnight, and be sure to tag me in your attempts on social media! I love seeing everyone and their creations."

I glance at the unfinished dessert on the tray, biting my lip before grinning at the camera. "Okay, I have to finish that, I can't just let it sit there!" I shove the rest of the pastry into my mouth, mmming loudly. "Wow. That really is so good." I put on my brightest smile after swallowing it down, zeroing in on camera one. "Next time, I'm going to show all of you how to make éclairs at home with mascarpone." I hold out my hands. "Trust me, you're going to want to see what that's about. But until then, just remember that baking"-I make sure to accentuate the next bit with a practiced twirl of my finger-"is whisk-y business."

"And cut."

I relax from the pose I'm holding, blowing out a breath.

"That was great, Dee," the floor manager, Greg, tells me.

I pull my apron over my head, frowning at the bits of flour that escaped the hem to cover my chest-a common occurrence, with my . . . ample landing zone. Everybody wants huge tits until there's flour involved. "What about that egg I dropped?"

"Nah, we can definitely cut that out in post."

"Perfect," I tell him, dropping the apron on the counter and moving away from the stage kitchen.

"Hey, Delilah, you want the rest of these?"

I glance back at the pain au chocolat still sitting on the cooling tray, our boom operator, Dante, standing beside them with a hungry look. Normally, I would be snatching up the leftovers and hoarding a few for myself before passing them around to the crew, but as it is, I just shake my head.

"They're all yours."

I hear a muted collection of yeses behind me, heading for the little table where we keep bottled water and snacks. I screw the cap off a bottle and guzzle down half in one go, trying to settle the sensation of bees buzzing in my stomach.

"Take a breath, girl," Ava laughs beside me. She's tall enough that I have to crane my neck up at her, but at five foot four, that's nothing new for me.

I shake my head, taking another swig before screwing the cap back on. Ava Carmichael is our junior producer-but more than that, she's become my best friend over the three years that I've been doing the Whisk-y Business show. I know that she's well aware of the meeting that's happening far sooner than I'm prepared for, so I think she knows exactly why my face scrunches with frustration.

"Kind of wanted to throw myself in the oven, not gonna lie," I tell her.

"Stop." She places one hand between my shoulder blades, rubbing there. "It's not going to be as bad as you're building it up to be in your head."

"Ava," I sigh, running my hands through the thick mass of my chestnut waves. "We both saw the numbers for last month. It's probably going to be worse than I'm building it up in my head."

She tugs on her blond braid absently, something I know means she's more worried than she lets on, her pert nose scrunching in thought. "I mean, it's not like they can cut the show, right? You still have the rest of this year on your contract."

"Yeah, this contract," I point out. "They could absolutely decide they're not going to extend it."

She frowns as if she hadn't allowed herself to entertain that possibility. "But everyone loves you! I mean, Whisk-y Business basically paid for the new studio. It sure as shit wasn't Courtney's Apples to Apples." She snorts. "How anyone didn't have the foresight to see that the girl was going to run out of things to make out of apples after six months is beyond me."

"I mean, at least she's moved on to pears now," I offer.

"Yeah, which is really good for branding on a show built around apples," she mutters. She waves the thought off. "Whatever. All I'm saying is, your show is the headliner of the entire network."

"Right, but . . ." I bite my lip. "The numbers just keep seeming to trickle down. It's like people are losing interest. I keep dragging out harder and harder recipes, but it doesn't seem to be making any difference. The social media manager has noticed a downtick in interactions there also."

"Yeah, but . . ." Ava frowns. "You really think they would cut the show?"

I shake my head. "I have no idea. That's why I feel like I want to throw up."

"Fuck them, honestly," she huffs. "You could make doughnuts in your basement and get a ton of views on YouTube without them."

"Your faith in me is inspiring," I remark dryly. "Also, as the junior producer of the show, I feel like you should probably not be writing off the higher-ups."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. I'm fine with working in your basement if I have to."

"You know I live in an apartment, right?"

"Shh. I'm being supportive."

My phone starts to vibrate in my back pocket, and I reach a hand behind me to fish it out. Ava gives me a go on motion as she gestures vaguely behind her, which I guess is a signal that she has things to do in that general direction. I watch her lithe form saunter off as I put the phone to my ear, hearing my brother Jack's voice shouting on the other end.

"Oh, come on!" His voice is at least ten decibels louder than is appropriate for a call, and I tug the phone away quickly to prevent hearing damage. "Oh, fuck off with that shit. Offside!"

"Jack," I try, met with more shouting. I clear my throat. "Jack."

"Oh, hey. What took you so long to answer?"

"It didn't take-" I purse my lips, deciding against reasoning with him. "Did you need something?"

"Wow. Your big brother calls you on the darkest day of your life to offer encouragement and unyielding support, and he's met with cold indifference. Our parents would be ashamed."

"I cannot deal with the dead-parent jokes today, Jack," I huff. Jack and I have very different methods of coping about being orphans. "Also, I don't think calling it the 'darkest day of my life' while trying to be supportive is helpful for morale."

"Maybe."

I hear the distinct sound of crunching.

"Are you watching replays of your games again?"

"Whabotit?" He manages through what I suspect is a handful of Cool Ranch Doritos. I hear him swallow. "Have you talked to them yet?"

"Not yet," I mutter. "I'm heading up to their office now."

"Remind them that you're an orphan."

"Not all of us use the orphan card for everything."

"You totally should," he says seriously. "It's really handy. Chicks dig it too. I'm basically Batman with a hockey stick." He snickers. "Hockey stick in my p-"

"Please don't finish that sentence," I groan. Sometimes I wonder how it is that he's five years older than me. Emotionally, there's a good chance he's still sixteen, not thirty-three. "Did you take your meds today?"

"What my Adderall and I do in the privacy of my own home is no one else's business," he answers primly.

"Take your fucking meds," I sigh. "I don't want to find you in your closet 'cleaning' it again."

"Hey, it got clean."

"Only because you had everything you took out of it lined up in your bedroom while you 'reminisced.'"

"I took my damn meds," he grumbles. "Worry about your own shit. What's your plan?"

"I'm just going to remind them of all the good this show has done for the network," I tell him, for his benefit or mine, I'm not sure. "Just because the last few months have been slow doesn't mean that the ratings won't pick back up. We can brainstorm some ideas to boost the viewer numbers."

"Too bad I have this busted arm," he laments. "I could come by and swing my hockey stick around." He is quiet for a beat before saying, "My actual one, mind you."

"Oh, because that would solve everything."

"Um, yeah? This is Boston, my dude. The Druids just won the Stanley Cup. Pretty sure you could make beer-battered cheese fries and people would watch if I was there."

"Your humility is inspiring," I deadpan.

"It's just one of my many positive attributes."

"Of course."

"Oh, hey, I was also calling to tell you the good news."

I pause by the elevator that takes me up to the higher floor, pressing the button. "What good news?"

"Ian is back."

I hover outside the doors of the elevator for several seconds after they open, only remembering myself when they start to shut again, and I realize I'm standing there without having gotten inside. I shake off the mountain of memories that just crashed down on me, clamoring onto the elevator and quickly hitting the correct floor.

"Oh? Is that right?"

More crunching. Fucking Doritos. "Ya. Heesh stayn wiff me."

"Don't talk with your mouth full, you goblin," I grunt. "Why is he back? Is he coming back to the team?"

"That's the plan," he says when his mouth is free of chips. "We're getting up there, you know? Retirement isn't too far off. He wants to finish out his career here at home. Thank God. He's been up there in the frozen wasteland for way too long."

"Calgary is hardly a frozen wasteland."

"Eh. I assume everything above the border is snowed in."

"That's wildly inaccurate. You literally play there sometimes."

"Yeah, and it's always cold as fuck."

"Back up. Ian is staying with you? So he's there? Right now?"

"Nah, he's flying in tonight. We have to be at the training center tomorrow." He scoffs. "Well, he has to be there. I'll be on the sidelines playing cheerleader with this stupid sling."

"Yeah, well, that's what you get for trying to do an axel while drunk."

"Sanchez dared me!"

"And yet it's Baker in the sling."

"Yeah, yeah," he mumbles. "Anyway, I figured we should all hang out soon. He's probably gonna feel weird being back, after the divorce and all, and I just thought that we-"

Jack's voice fades in the background, the reminder of Ian's marriage and then divorce all those years ago still making my chest twinge even after all this time. I've always reasoned that it's perfectly normal to feel something when your first crush and star of all your teenage fantasies marries and moves on-but I've never quite pinned down how to feel about everything that came after his marriage fell apart. Especially since he packed up and left right after to stow away in Canada for the following six years, something that even now I can't really figure out. I mean, sure, I know what the headlines said. I know that he supposedly left to keep the team out of the media circus that he found himself in, but I still don't know how his parents could just allow one of their top players, and more importantly, their son-to uproot his entire life instead of showing him support. I mean, they own the damned team, and his father had always been so proud to have his son playing for his team; it's all he ever talked about when he popped up in the news.

So how could he let him go?

"Dee? Hello? Delilah! You listening?"

"Hm? Oh yeah. Sure. Hanging out. We can do that. I'll have to see how things go today. I might be busy if they hear me out about brainstorming for new ideas on how to bump up the numbers."

"Well, pencil us in. I'm sure Ian has missed you. It's been forever since we've all been together."

I'm sure Ian has missed you.

It's incredibly stupid what that one sentence can do to my heart. As if I'm sixteen again and not twenty-eight with over a decade between me and my pathetic pining. I hate the way a part of me perks up, as if I haven't purposefully avoided all things Ian since he left, for the sole reason of knowing he probably wouldn't miss me all that much, since I was never more than Jack's little sister in his eyes.

"We'll see," I manage, since I can't bring myself to commit any more than that. I have enough going on without throwing Ian Chase into the mix. I don't think I could tackle that even if my plate were entirely empty.

"Fine. Tell me how it goes, yeah? Don't be afraid to flash that orphan card. It really does-"

"K, thanks. Call you later."

"Kisses, Dee."

I hang up and shove my phone back into my pocket as the executive producer's office comes into view, lingering outside of it for a moment as I steel myself for whatever happens on the other side. I wipe my hands that are only slightly sweaty against my jeans, sliding them over the curve of my hips in an anxious gesture. It doesn't help that I have to go in alone, since my agent, Theo, got held up in another meeting. I always feel better when he's here.

You're Delilah Baker, I tell myself, attempting a pep talk. You studied under Olivier Guillaume in Paris before you were twenty-five. You've got this.

I knock gently, pushing the door open when I hear my EP bidding me entry. Gia is on the phone at her desk, and she holds up one perfectly manicured finger, signaling me to give her a second. I study her face to try to gauge her mood; her rich brown skin is smooth between her eyes, devoid of the singular wrinkle that sometimes pops up there when she's particularly stressed, and her bright red lips are still perfectly vibrant, which means she hasn't spent the afternoon going through Red Bulls as she is wont to do when things are going bad. I let these little things give me a glimmer of hope that this won't be as disastrous as I've been assuming it will be.

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