Dante Moretti has just landed his dream job: GM of the Chicago Rebels. And screw the haters who think there should be an asterisk next to his name because he’s the first out managing executive in pro hockey. He’s earned the right to be here and nothing will topple him off that perch—especially not an incredibly inconvenient attraction to his star defenseman, Cade “Alamo” Burnett. Cade has always been careful to keep his own desires on the down low, but his hot Italian boss proves to be a temptation he can’t resist. Sure, they both have so much to lose, but no one will ever know...
As Dante and Cade’s taboo affair heats up off the ice and their relationship gets more and more intense, they’ll have to decide: is love worth risking their careers? Or is this romance destined to be forever benched?
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Undone By You ONE
Someone must have drugged his drink.
Dante Moretti shot a sharp glance at the Macallan in his hand, wondering if the amber liquid was truly blurring before his eyes or if he was just really fucking tired. A roofie seemed like the most logical conclusion, because the ass he had just been appreciating could not possibly belong to the last guy he’d expect to see here.
“Here” being a members-only gay club in the wealthy Gold Coast neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side.
If Dante knew anything, it was that Cade “Alamo” Burnett, bulwark defender, All American, and pro hockey’s class clown, played for one team and one team only: Chicago’s second-most-successful hockey franchise, the Rebels. As the Rebels’ general manager, not to mention the first openly gay managing executive in the NHL, Dante made it his job to be apprised of these things.
Rebels defenseman or not, the object of Dante’s attention carried himself with devil-may-care swagger, his stride sure, his head held high. If it truly was Burnett, then he clearly had no problem with the eyes of every guy in the place checking him out. Including Dante’s.
It wouldn’t have been the first time Dante had slipped up where Burnett was concerned. Surrounded every day by athletes in tip-top condition, he was fairly immune to the perfect abs, sculpted pecs, and bite-worthy asses. Separating his desires from his work wasn’t just advisable, it was necessary. Ogling the players under his authority was a line he would never cross.
But Burnett? There was something about the amiable Texan that gave Dante gooseflesh every time he visited the locker room for a pregame pep talk or a postgame check-in. God knew why, because the man was a polpetto, a total meatball—a hazel-eyed, syrup-talking, built-like-a-tank meatball. Not Dante’s type at all, though his teammates adored the guy for his ability to cheer a room and make a crapfest game feel like less than the end of the world. He had people skills. And shit, could he play.
“Earth to Hot Stuff.”
Only slightly irritated, Dante turned back to the guy he had been considering fucking. Blond and urbane, he had an ethereal paleness, which Dante usually found contrasted nicely with his own dark Italian skin. Sex was as often about aesthetics as it was about pleasure.
“Sorry. Thought I saw someone I knew.”
“Since you just moved to Chicago four weeks ago, that doesn’t seem likely, now, does it?”
No, it didn’t. This club only allowed entry by recommendation. Hanging out at rowdy gay bars held little interest for Dante. Something quieter and darker suited him, and a discreet, unnamed club in a Gold Coast brownstone fit the bill.
Cade Burnett’s doppelganger had disappeared into the club’s depths, but Dante’s discomfort lingered. Taking another sip of his now suspect drink, he half listened to the guy beside him as he droned on about his job.
“. . . dealing with idiots who think diversification means add penny stocks . . .”
It couldn’t be Burnett. It made no sense.
“. . . portfolio . . . blah-blah . . . global equity funds . . . blah-blah . . .”
Blond ’n’ Boring looked up in surprise—up because Dante had stood suddenly, the itch in his body spreading to his feet. He needed to assure himself that one of his players wasn’t about to blow up his career by being caught in a “compromising” position. Gay chief executives were one thing. The testosterone-soaked NHL wasn’t quite ready for one of the first line to taste the rainbow.
“If you’ll excuse me, back in a second,” he said to . . . okay, he’d already forgotten his name.
The club was a maze of cozy rooms, secluded alcoves, and tight spots for all manner of hookups. Most couples—and sometimes threes and fours—indulged their more private desires in the rooms on the next level. On this floor, it was subtle caresses, brief touches, soft kisses—all foreplay to test participants’ boundaries and levels of interest.
Dante’s pulse picked up as he moved further in. Not at the sight of men in sexual playtime, but at the thought of what he might find: Cade Burnett with whoever had thought it was a good idea to bring a famous pro athlete here. Cade Burnett with someone’s tongue down his throat. Cade Burnett with his hand down someone’s—stop.
Do not speculate. Just investigate.
He rounded a corner into a red room with velvet drapes, soft carpet, and lavish furnishings.
Dante’s heart seized. It was him.
Burnett stood in a corner, one cowboy-booted foot raised to the wall, a lowball glass in his hand, an interloper trespassing in Dante’s world. Three men surrounded him in a horseshoe of worship. Even others in the room watched, because Cade Burnett was so damn watchable. A little shy of six feet four, he towered over every man here. His hair was brown with coppery streaks, his jaw strong and square, his mouth permanently amused. Hazel eyes—not that anyone could see them in the dim lighting, but Dante knew their exact shade—flashed gold rings of fire around their irises.
His gift on the ice was brute strength and the best hockey IQ of any defender Dante had ever seen. Hockey smart was one thing. That Burnett was here in the open proved he wasn’t all that smart off the ice. The man had to have some fault.
Burnett laughed huskily at something one of his suitors said—a sound with a drunken tinge to it—and this was enough to change the dynamic of the group. The others shifted incrementally closer, jockeying for a position their conversation couldn’t achieve alone. One of them, a guy in a Hugo Boss suit, laid a hand on Burnett’s bicep and squeezed.
Something primal, possessive, and downright greedy reared in Dante’s chest.
His overreaction shocked him, so much so that his instinct was to consider walking away. This was none of his business. He wasn’t the team’s baby-sitter.
Too late. If Dante had turned his back a half second later he would have missed Burnett capturing his gaze—and capturing was not hyperbole. Those eyes shone at him like a predatory cat’s, all challenge, no fear.
Continuing his original mission seemed best, but Burnett now watched him as he approached. Looking away was not an option.
“Dante,” Burnett murmured, and, Cristo, the way the Texan tasted his name made Dante instantly hard. His body flooded with awareness, along with a distinct desire to punch every man who stood between him and his defenseman.
“Could I have a word?”
Cade’s mouth tipped up at the corner and he downed his drink in one go. He handed off the empty glass to one of the guys standing before him, pushed another aside gently, all with a curious ambivalence.
“Lead the way.”
Dante pivoted, having no clue what to do next. His cock had several ideas, all of them involving Cade beneath his body in one of the more private rooms upstairs. His brain, on the other hand, was still in charge, so he moved to a small sofa in the next room. He gestured toward the seat and waited for Cade to sit.
As if they were on a date.
“Do you want to tell me—”
Cade held up a hand, so assured. “I could do with another drink.” He waved over one of the servers and ordered a Glenlivet. “Dante?”
Dante shook his head. Someone had to remain sober here.
With the server out of earshot, Cade gave Dante his complete attention. Complete wasn’t quite right, though—more like consuming. Dante felt as if he’d been stripped bare, screwed senseless, and shown the door all at the same time.
“Come here often?” Cade asked.
“Not really. You?”
“A few times.”
Dante’s heart skittered with this new knowledge. No “accident” that he was here, then.
“We have procedures for this eventuality.”
Cade narrowed his eyes. “Which eventuality is that?”
“An NHL player who’d like to come out. It hasn’t happened yet, but every team is waiting for the first.”
The slightest smile teased Cade’s lips. “Kind of jumping the gun, aren’t you?”
“You’re here.” Dante added a wave of his hand in case Burnett had somehow forgotten where here was.
“I’m here,” Cade said simply, but there was nothing simple about the intent Dante heard in the words. Crackling energy licked between them, and Dante had the distinct impression that Cade was making some sort of statement, just not the one Dante had first assumed. He’d analyze that later.
Cade threw an arm over the back of the sofa. “So what kind of procedures are we talkin’ about?”
“You said you have procedures for NHL players who are ready to come out.”
Dante shook off his unease, glad to be back to more concrete specifics. “A PR plan. Press statement. Ways to handle the inevitable questions.”
“Like how the New York Times prepares obituaries for famous people so they’re ready to roll when they kick the bucket?”
Dante considered this, strangely charmed by the morbid comparison. “Well, there isn’t a separate one ready to go for each player. We’d tailor our prepared statement with a few personal details.”
Cade licked his lips, and Dante couldn’t take his eyes off the slick, moist stripe that remained behind. With a tilt of his head, the younger man rubbed the dangerously appealing copper-tinted stubble on his chin.
“?‘He first knew he liked boys when, in the fifth grade, he told his momma he’d like to marry Johnny Sanderson.’ That kind of thing?”
This was said with shocking equanimity, displaying a subtle humor Dante would never have attributed to a one-note clown like Cade Burnett. The guy was always so obvious.
“Cade, having your photo taken in a private club that caters to men hooking up with other men is probably not the best way to announce to the world that you’re gay.” Dante looked around, assessing the interest of other patrons. Conclusion: plenty. He might even place it at threat-level orange, not because a famous hockey player was in the house, but because Cade Burnett was simply beautiful.
And gay, Dante’s cock happily chimed in. He’s fucking gay.
“If anyone catches wind of this we can just say you were curious and asked me to bring you. It should be easy enough to spin that we’re friends. Besides, no one would believe the truth.”
Cade broke into laughter that drew a hundred eyes to drink them in. The sound was wonderful, the attention less so.
“Moretti, you are somethin’ else, y’know that? You think I’m going to use you as my gay-buddy shield? Hell, I’m not too worried about anyone photographing us here.”
“You really think you’re safe?”
“I’m with you. That’s as safe as can be.”
Not even a little. “Why are you taking this risk?”
The server returned with the drink and handed it off with a wink at Cade. Smiling his thanks, Cade took a long sip.
“Sometimes I just crave company. Being a closeted gay guy can be exhausting.”
“Being an uncloseted one can be just as tiring.”
“I bet. But it must be nice not to have to hide. Even if you have assholes whispering behind your back.”
So few people did Dante the service of whispering behind his back. “Pros and cons to each position. But no, I wouldn’t go back.” He leaned forward because he needed to see Cade’s eyes when he asked this. “Are you saying you’re ready to go public?”
“No, but . . . I’m ready.” He licked his lips again and Dante felt it like a streak of pleasure over his balls. His heart thrashed fiercely, so hard he was sure Cade had to see the pulse beating at the base of his throat.
Somehow he managed to ask, “Ready for what?”
Cade curled his hand around Dante’s tie and hovered close enough that Dante could feel hot puffs of air against his lips.
“I think you know, boss.”