When Maxine Nicholls discovers her fiancé is cheating, she turns to fast food and nighttime soap operas, but her sister has a plan—unbridled rebound sex with a stranger.
As one of Toronto's hottest players, Antony Laurent tallies scores on and off the ice, but when the chiseled defense man hits a slump, rumors of a trade to the minor league send him to ambush a managers meeting at a posh club.
That night a chance encounter ends up as an unforgettable evening of passion. But Maxine and Antony are about to discover a game of casual hook ups can lead to something neither one of them thought they deserved—the right fit.
|Publisher:||The Wild Rose Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.68(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The Right Fit
By Daphne Dubois
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.Copyright © 2017 Daphne Dubois
All rights reserved.
No one was more surprised to be sitting on a park bench in the dead of winter, pretending to read a romance paperback, than Maxine. After a month's worth of emails, she finally agreed to go on a blind date. She told him she'd be wearing a long white coat with a red scarf. She had arrived a half hour early, nervous and unsure. To kill time, she'd gone into a small bookstore close to the front gate of the park. A leftover Valentine's Day rack of staff picks of romantic books was still on display. On a whim, Maxine picked out the one with a formally dressed couple in each other's arms, Waiting for Fate. A sign, she decided.
Earlier, when she was getting ready in her apartment, Maxine turned to the mirror on the back of her bedroom door knowing she'd need her spandex girdle for today's escapade. The green Dior dress with the vixen neckline had been too good of a find at Carmine's second hand shop to pass up, but she knew even with the size discrepancy of the vintage outfit, it was still a tight squeeze. Carmine had told her it was a dress made for seduction. She bought it on the spot, planning to lose enough weight for it to fit perfectly.
Maxine's shoulders drooped at her reflection. "I changed my mind," she'd said. "I'm not going."
"That's fear talking," Crosby's voice came from the inside of Maxine's closet. There was a grunt then a curse as shoeboxes tumbled from the upper shelf.
Maxine's heart moved to her throat as her younger sister stumbled backward out of the closet.
Crosby easily gained her footing, even in her stilettos and tight pencil skirt. She'd taken an early lunch from work and had arrived at Maxine's apartment to help her get ready. She held out a pair of black patent heels. "Wear these, they're adorable," she ordered, the shoes dangling from her fingers.
"I can't wear those in the snow."
"But they match the dress," she insisted, her tone defiant, indignant even.
Maxine zeroed in on the long white box still tucked away on the upper shelf. Still unopened. Still safe. Her pulse calmed.
Instead of taking the shoes, she began to play the usual 'pull and tug' game with the dress, trying to make it longer, wider — the right fit.
The right fit had eluded Maxine ever since puberty. Now, at twenty-seven she had to contend with wearing body squeezing, seamless shapewear under almost everything she owned, which as Crosby pointed out on a regular basis, were wardrobe leftovers from black and white movies.
"Stop stalling," Crosby said. "You've blown this date off too many times, Maxie." Then her voice softened. "You deserve this bit of adventure."
A wave of heated embarrassment rose up Maxine's neck. It was bad enough that her heart had been broken, but the fact everyone knew how was almost as painful as the physical ache in her chest every night — especially every time she looked at that damn box in the closet.
An image superimposed itself, buoyed from a memory she'd never be able to suppress. Maxine could see the box's contents strewn across the floor while she stood dumbfounded in the doorway, staring at the couple on her bed.
She blinked hard to erase the vision, but the voices were still in her head, burned into her memory like a scar.
"Yes, Johnny. Oh God, right there, baby."
A nudge brought Maxine out of her daydream. Crosby took Maxine by the shoulders. "It's been almost six months," she said.
Six months and five days.
Crosby continued, "You need to move on."
"Actually, I need my girdle."
"You also need a bit of fun, something exciting!" Crosby thrust the shoes at her sister. "Wonderful, meaningless, rebound sex with a nice, temporary guy whose main purpose is to give you back your confidence." She then motioned to the bed. "And you're not going to meet him if you keep loafing around eating Winkies and watching Dynasty reruns."
Maxine's laptop was permanently in place on the left side of her double bed — her new bedmate it would seem. "But I'm really good at loafing around," Maxine rebutted. "It's important to know your strengths. Besides," she said, tucking a generous wave of red hair behind her ear, "you can't shame the Carringtons. Those rich people had to deal with family drama every week while still looking good in shoulder pads. The Kardashians could learn a thing or two from that show, you know."
Crosby gave her a smile that was a mix of relief and amusement. "Don't worry, just go with the flow." She motioned to the bed again.
"I'm only meeting him to see what he's like and maybe grab a coffee together. You make it sound like we'll be hitting some sleazy motel."
"Oh please, Maxie. You cleaned your apartment. Plus, there's an antipasto tray from The Blue Olive and two bottles of wine in the fridge." She grinned. "You're bringing a man back here."
"Don't be ridiculous, that's how I always celebrate Tuesday." Then Maxine lowered her voice, feeling a twinge of shame nestle under her ribs. "You didn't tell Rose, did you?" she asked. Her other sister, Crosby's identical twin, was the epitome of caution and logic, plus working as a reporter for the crime section of the Globe and Mail made Rose naturally suspicious of any potential danger.
Crosby snorted then said, "I only told her you were going to coffee with a new friend. No fun intended."
Maxine turned to the mirror for one last inspection; she'd spent an hour on her makeup making sure she had the right look to match her vintage dress. Makeup never let her down. No matter how ill-fitting her clothes, her lipstick always looked good. She then glanced at her fresh manicure, the white pearl color went nicely with her winter coat, plus it was called Fate. How much more of a sign did she need?
But now, waiting on the park bench, she felt an awful foreboding of mortification, and wished she'd called it off. Her long white coat made her look like a plump snowman. The high heels made her thick calves monstrous by comparison. And instead of a scarf, she should have worn a hat, something to keep her long hair from swirling around her face every time the breeze picked up.
The man she'd agreed to meet was a friend of a friend of a co-worker who knew someone in Crosby's office. He was a high school history teacher, divorced for over a year — no kids. He admitted all of this upfront to Maxine in his first email. He'd been liberal with the adjectives and never used capitals. She replied and since then they'd been emailing each other every day.
He'd sent her a picture of himself; shaggy blond hair, sunglasses in place, sunburnt cheeks and smiling at the camera. She could tell his arm was around someone's shoulder — someone who had been cropped out of the picture. He told her she looked like an actress he couldn't remember the name of, someone from long ago. Maxine's head shot had been taken at a flattering angle, accentuating her eyes while hiding her double chin.
The wind picked up, Maxine adjusted the scarf. She uncrossed then crossed her legs at the ankle, cursing the heels and thin nylons. Footsteps crunched over the icy gravel path. Suddenly nervous, she raised the romance book in front of her face, peeking over the pages like some kind of cartoon spy, but the walker kept going.
The minutes dragged on. A dull ache of misery began to creep into her thoughts. Her blind date was fifteen minutes late.
There was a flash of neon as a jogger with bright sneakers went by, a toque pulled down low with wraparound sunglasses shielded his face. There was two days' worth of dark stubble. She turned and watched until he disappeared around the far corner. He was huge actually, like a muscled lumberjack, not the typical svelte body type of someone who was crazy enough to run all year round.
Maxine never understood the compulsion, especially marathon runners. Why would anyone want to do anything steady with no stopping for hours at a time? She couldn't even do the things she liked for that long, well, unless sleeping counted — and maybe watching movies on her laptop.
She stared at the space she last saw the jogger and frowned, realizing he'd passed by when she'd first sat down. Must be doing laps. She wondered how long it would take him to reach her again. The pages of the book flipped under her thumb.
Footsteps neared. She turned frontward again and watched as a slim man in a black leather jacket and jeans approached her. Maxine lowered the book, slipping the receipt into a random spot before closing the cover. "Hello," she said, hating how her voice quivered.
His light brown crew cut showed off the tops of his ears, red from the wind. He smiled, a dimple appeared on the right cheek. "Some day, huh?" He stopped a few feet in front of the bench. Then he squinted up at the late gray February sky, making sure the sun was still there. When he looked back at Maxine his smile was still in place, but it looked stuck, unnatural. "Say," he said, inclining his head, "do you have the time? I don't have a watch on, and I left my phone on my desk back at the office."
Her date didn't work at an office. He was a teacher — and he'd taken today off especially to meet her. Maxine's hands shook as she attempted to open her purse, the paperback tumbled from her lap and fell to the ground. Wordlessly, he stood there and watched.
"It's twenty after twelve," she said, turning the phone to show him as if she needed to prove herself.
He barely glanced at the screen, but took her all in, itemizing her scarf, long white coat, and black high heels Crosby insisted she wear. The man's smile reduced to a thin line. After a pause he nodded, then continued down the path. Maxine listened to his fading footsteps, but unlike the jogger, she didn't turn around to watch him disappear.
She wasn't sure how long she stayed on the bench, too stunned to move. A number of people passed by before she acknowledged the horrible truth. That man had been her date, she was sure of it. He'd shown up for their rendezvous, took one look, and refused her. Then he lied about working at an office, pretending to be someone else.
Asshole, her sister Rose would say.
Cowardly, Crosby would offer.
Embarrassment lurched her into action. Maxine made her way two blocks east to the subway station, ignoring the dull sound her heels, now stiff with cold and salt caked, made on the concrete.
The stale, heated air of the underground swirled around her. She got on the next train and plopped gratefully into two empty seats. She could fit into one molded seat, but just barely. And right now, the last thing she needed was to be reminded of how much space she took up.
She felt the sway of the subway car as she simmered inside her white coat. The vindictive humiliation at being stood up by him was too personal. A few weeks ago, he'd emailed her about his upcoming root canal. He hated the dentist, he'd written, he'd have to be sedated. She'd responded at once, worried for him.
The last few messages between them had been inching toward more intimate matters. He'd confessed he hadn't been with anyone since his divorce. Maxine hinted at what she wanted in the bedroom, being subtle yet flirtatious. He was direct, factual. She was receptive, hopeful.
She had stared at his picture trying to fill in the details hidden by the sunglasses and longish hair, wondering what his lips would feel like. The ache to be touched had driven her toward this mysterious man.
At first, she felt brave; acknowledging that no one who knew her, certainly no one she worked with at the spa, would have guessed she was pushing the boundaries of her own personal comfort level. Humility, she thought at the time, was a small price to pay for a long kiss that would take them to her bedroom and under the covers.
Maxine was only two stops from her apartment. Her frozen calves were thawing out with pins and needles. She was anxious to get out of the ridiculously tight outfit and slip into her bathrobe. An afternoon of binging on movies was promising to be a nice consolation. What better way to watch Dynasty than with a bottle of wine and appetizers? She wouldn't even have to share. Her heart calmed. Perhaps this was meant to be. Fate — the nail polish never lies.
Her phone buzzed in her purse.
There was a text from Rose.
— The city is full of creeps. If you don't text me back, I'll assume you're in the trunk of his car —
Subtly was never an option for Rose.
Maxine sent a quick reply before Rose called 911.
— He cancelled last minute. Stomach flu —
There was a pause of about a minute, then a text came in from Crosby, who had obviously heard from Rose.
— Did you reschedule? —
A dull throb started in Maxine's temples. She tried to take a deep breath but the green dress felt like a vice around her chest. She texted back.
— I think fate is telling me he's not my rebound — Then she added a smiley face with its tongue sticking out — Crosby loved emoticons. Might as well lie all the way, she thought. Maxine recently discovered pretending to be happy was almost as good as the real thing.
The subway train came to a stop. A crowd spilled in taking almost all the seats. Maxine noticed an elderly couple shuffle on, she had a flowered kerchief over her hair white hair, and he was wearing a fedora. They wavered, stooped over, staying beside the center pole.
Maxine stood. "My stop is the next one," she said, motioning to the pair of seats she just vacated.
They nodded and smiled. The man helped his wife sit before he tucked in beside her. She reached for his gloved hand. He covered it with his.
Maxine smiled at the couple. Then she looked away as a tug of loneliness pulled down on her heart. She pictured the white box on the top shelf of her closet. She'd be mortified if anyone found out, but she couldn't throw it away. Besides, the nail polish never lied. It was her fate to be stood up today.
Waiting for Fate.
Then she realized she left the new paperback at the park, on the ground — soiled and forgotten.CHAPTER 2
The first thing Antony noticed was her hair. He thought it was a trick of the sunlight, but as he jogged closer, he could make out the long crimson waves over her white coat. The simple brilliance of the two colors stood out from the dull grayness all around.
He was sick of gray. It surrounded him every day, from the ice at the arena to the walls of his apartment. Even the sky was gray today, despite the sun.
She was a redhead. Except her hair wasn't red, it was a deep orange. Why was English so complicated?
After that first glimpse, Antony kept his gaze down, watching the path for patches of ice. A sprained ankle was the last thing he needed. He pictured himself limping back to the car to call for help. He'd purposely left his phone in the glove compartment, it was the only way he'd get any peace — and peace was a rare commodity.
Earlier, he'd left the apartment by slamming the door mid-argument. It was the same issue, ending with the same inquisition.
Tu vas où? Where are you going?
Antony continued his run. He picked up speed, the thudding of his heart a welcome distraction. He should run out doors more often, the gym was getting too routine, the trainers were relentless. And with the sunglasses and toque, no one would recognize him. He wasn't the most popular player on the team, but practicing anonymity was a lifestyle choice for him. Antony wasn't made for the spotlight, he always felt like he was stealing someone else's fame — which he secretly acknowledged, he was.
The sharpness of the icy air constricted his lungs, but it was a good pain. Antony ran faster as he took another turn. The treadmill could never give him this illusion of freedom. The path straightened out and her bench came into view again.
She was still there.
He slackened his speed enough to notice details as he passed. That hair. Mon Dieu, was it real? She had full red lips and a stare that made him snap face forward, thinking she'd caught him staring. Belle rousse. Beautiful redhead.
When she glanced his way at the last second, time slowed down. It was like that on the ice sometimes. When the periphery faded and he zeroed in on the target and saw every detail perfectly — the angle the puck would take to slip by the goalie's shoulder, the path to block center ice — it all came down to that one moment when it all focused for him and he got it right.
Excerpted from The Right Fit by Daphne Dubois. Copyright © 2017 Daphne Dubois. Excerpted by permission of The Wild Rose Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
When Maxine Nicholls discovers her fiancé is cheating, she turns to fast food and nighttime soap operas, but her sister has a plan—unbridled rebound sex with a stranger.