“[Sawyer] Bennett has scored a hat trick with the third installment in the Cold Fury Hockey series. It reads well as a stand-alone, and sports fans who love the players as much as the game will be very satisfied with the intense action both on and off the ice.”—Library Journal
Warning: The following contains spoilers from a cliffhanger in Garrett.
Rising star Zack Grantham has been stuck in a downward spiral of grief that has put his career on hold. Back on the road with the Carolina Cold Fury, still crippled by emotional baggage, and now a single dad, he’s in need of some serious help with his son. But while the nerdy new nanny wins his son’s heart, Zack isn’t sure he’s ready for a woman’s touch—even after getting a glimpse of the killer curves she’s hiding under those baggy clothes.
Kate Francis usually keeps men like Zack at a distance. Though his athlete’s body is honed to perfection, he refuses to move on with his life—and besides, he’s her boss. Still, the sparks between them are undeniable, tempting Kate to turn their professional relationship into a personal one. But before she makes a power play for Zack’s wounded heart, Kate will have to open him up again and show him that love is worth the fight.
The Carolina Cold Fury series from New York Times bestselling author Sawyer Bennett can be read together or separately:
The Love Hurts series features sexy standalone novels:
SEX IN THE STICKS
And the Sugar Bowl series is one treat you’ll want to read in order:
“One of the best voices in contemporary romance.”—New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne
Praise for Zack
“Emotional, intense, funny, and sexy, Zack has it all. I didn’t want this book to end.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover
“I have loved this series from the beginning and I continue to fall in love with it every book. I can’t wait for Ryker.”—The Book Whisperer
“Wham! And my heart broke! Kate is so loving, tender, open-minded and amazing that I fell for her almost as hard as I fell for Zack and his ornery ways!”—(un)Conventional Bookviews
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
About the Author
A reformed trial lawyer from North Carolina, Sawyer uses real-life experience to create relatable, sexy stories that appeal to a wide array of readers. From new adult to contemporary romance, she writes something for just about everyone.
Sawyer likes her Bloody Marys strong, her martinis dirty, and her heroes a combination of the two. When not bringing fictional romance to life, Sawyer is a chauffeur, stylist, chef, maid, and personal assistant to a very active daughter, as well as a full-time servant to her adorably naughty dogs. She believes in the good of others and that a bad day can be cured with a great workout, cake, or even better, both.
Sawyer also writes general and women’s fiction under the pen name S. Bennett and sweet romance under the name Juliette Poe.
Read an Excerpt
The doorbell rings just as I’m trying to simultaneously flip a pancake with one hand and pull bacon off the griddle with another. The pancake ends up sticking, then folding in half, and my forearm hits the edge of the griddle. I swear I can hear my skin sizzle from the contact.
“F$#@!” I jerk backward, dropping both the fork in one hand and the spatula in the other, thankful that Ben is in his room playing and didn’t hear me say that. It’s a constant battle sometimes to watch my language around the kid.
Slapping at the control knobs, I turn the heat completely off the large electric griddle I had been struggling with and rub gently the burn on my arm as I head toward the front door. As I round the corner from the kitchen into the living room, I slam my bare foot into Ben’s large dump-truck toy, causing a string of curses to come out of my mouth now as I hobble onward to the door.
My front door is honey-colored oak and has a large oval glass inset with a beveled flower design. Gina had picked it out and had it installed, claiming that it allowed more light into the front entranceway. I thought it was a little too girly, but I didn’t argue with her. The house was her domain.
The glass lets me see my visitor on the other side, but provides no details because of the beveled cuts and partial frosting, which distort the person. But I know who it is.
Ben’s new nanny.
She was Delaney’s top choice, and after I briefly scanned her application I had to sit and listen to my sister rave about her. Delaney felt she was perfect for the job in all respects. She was fantastic with children, having helped raise her three nephews for a period of time. She was also a student with a flexible schedule. Delaney actually droned on and on about this particular situation, but I tuned her out and started thinking about everything I’d need to do to get the house ready to put on the market. I was seriously considering selling it. Maybe move farther out into the country, where we could have some land and Ben could have a dog.
Finally, I just cut Delaney off and said, “She sounds perfect. Let’s go with her.”
And now, as I’m about to open the door to let a woman into my house who will have the most important of responsibilities in helping me care for my son, I’m suddenly realizing I don’t know anything about her other than her name and a vague recollection that she’s a student who helped raise her nephews.
Just great. Way to be an involved and responsible parent, Zack.
The only saving grace at this moment is that Delaney thoroughly interviewed this girl, checked out her references, and was absolutely enchanted with her. I trust Delaney, so this will be fine. She’ll be great, in fact.
I wish I believed myself.
I swing the door open and get my first look at the woman who will be moving into my house and caring for my son. I’m not sure what I expected, but this wasn’t it.
Based on Delaney’s assessment, I expected her to have a superhero’s cape on, or at the very least a shiny gold halo and massive angel wings sprouting out of her back.
Instead . . . she’s sort of unremarkable.
She stares up at me with round, crystal-blue eyes that are devoid of any makeup and surrounded by brown plastic-framed glasses. Her hair is dark, held back with a headband and twisted up behind her so I have no clue how long it is. She’s small, barely coming up to my shoulder, and swimming in an oversized, extremely faded red NC State sweatshirt and baggy jeans that look about two sizes too big for her. An old backpack slung over her shoulder and a pair of well-worn tennis shoes complete her outfit.
“Roberta?” I ask hesitantly, because suddenly I’m thinking this may be someone soliciting something . . . or maybe even a homeless person looking for a meal. The way those clothes completely swallow her makes me think she’s starving underneath all that material.
She gives me an outwardly bright smile and sticks a delicate hand out toward me. Her sweatshirt is so big, her sleeves are rolled up around her wrists. “Actually . . . I go by Kate. Roberta’s my first name, which I was named after my daddy, Robert, but seriously . . . who wouldn’t hate that name? So I go by my middle name, which is Kathryn, actually. So I shorted it down to Kate, because Kathryn sounds just so . . . I don’t know . . . like a Catholic saint or something, and I’m not Catholic. I was raised Southern Baptist, but I really don’t go to church anymore, so—”
She pauses . . . finally, and takes a deep breath. Her smile goes from politely earnest to a sheepish grin, and she gives an apologetic shrug. “Sorry . . . I’m nervous and I tend to prattle when I’m nervous.”
I just blink at her, completely shocked silent. I have no clue what to think about this strange woman . . . no, girl, I think, because she looks so young.
“How old are you?” I ask, my eyes glancing suspiciously at her hand still extended toward me.
“Twenty-three,” she says. “Didn’t Delaney tell you about me? You knew I was coming today, right?”
“Um . . . yeah, she did. I guess I didn’t hear her mention your age,” I mutter.
Kate takes a small step forward and pushes her hand farther toward me, giving me a pointed look. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Her voice is soft, with a moderate southern twang. I can’t remember if Delaney told me where she was from or not. . . . I can’t remember anything she said.
I reach out hesitantly and shake her hand. It’s tiny and her bones feel small, but she grips me surely. “Yeah . . . uh, nice to meet you too,” I say absently.
Our hands break apart and we just stare at each other.
Her eyes are intent on me, yet filled with a sort of curiosity. I wonder what in the heck she could be curious about. I’m sure Delaney filled her in on my situation and what I needed her for.
Damn, this girl—well, woman—is just . . . weird. She’s sort of geeky-looking yet doesn’t have any shyness or awkwardness that is normally associated with geekdom. She looks like she’d rather be sitting in some computer science lab with tape on the bridge of her glasses and a pocket protector, discussing quantum physics or something equally boring. What in the heck was Delaney thinking? I guess I was sort of expecting maybe a more matronly type of person who would wear an apron and bake sugar cookies every day.
“Are you okay?” she asks, and I blink at her, my mind absolutely blank as to what she could mean.
“Yeah, why?” I ask, confused.
“Well, you’re just sort of staring at me like I’ve got antlers sticking out of my head or something. I know I’m not much to look at, but I promise . . . I’m the right person for this job.”
And clearly she’s the type of person who will say whatever is on her mind, which makes me feel even more awkward. I’ve been so removed from people in general—and those that I do interact with treat me with kid gloves—that I’m not sure how to handle someone as direct as her.
“Um . . . why don’t you come in,” I tell her suddenly. “I need to make a quick call and then we can talk.”
“Sure,” she says with a bright smile, and it irritates me how chipper she is. I step back, allowing her to walk into the foyer, shutting the door behind her.
She looks around with interest. “You have a beautiful home.”
I don’t respond because this house doesn’t hold a single ounce of beauty for me. Instead, I point to right where she’s standing and say, “Wait here. I’ll be right back.”
Turning away from her, I bound up the stairs to the right of the entryway. I stride past Ben’s bedroom and see he’s immersed in a game on his iPad. Good . . . I don’t want him coming downstairs yet, because I’m not sure what in the heck to do with that girl down there.
Stalking into my office, which is basically one of the spare bedrooms, I close the door and whip my phone out of my pocket. I pull Delaney’s number up and stab at it urgently.
She answers curtly. “I’m heading into a meeting. Make it quick.”
“What the heck, Delaney? I think you made a terrible mistake hiring this girl.”
She sighs into the phone, but her voice is firm. “She’s a woman.”
“Whatever. She’s weird.”
“She’s adorable,” she says with affection.
“Adorable isn’t a qualification to be a nanny,” I hiss at her, my eyes cutting to the door to make sure I did indeed close it behind me. And adorable? Where is she getting that from?
Delaney’s voice is filled with condescension when she says, “What’s her last name?”
“Huh?” I ask stupidly.
“What is Kate’s last name?” she asks, enunciating each word carefully.
“Heck if I know,” I growl at her, my mind going blank. I knew what it was two minutes ago, but it’s not coming to me now.
“And what’s her educational background?”
I’m silent, racking my brain for the information.
“And her work history?” she asks.
Again, silence from me.
“Oh, and how about her references . . . what did they have to say about her?”
“I don’t know, okay?” I curse with frustration.
“Exactly,” she says firmly. “You didn’t listen to a darn thing I said about her the other day. So now you are just going to have to trust that I made the right decision for you. She is absolutely perfect for this job, and besides that . . . Ben liked her far better than the other applicants. She was amazing with him.”
“She’s weird,” I say lamely . . . futilely, I know.
“Get over it,” she sneers at me. “You’re out of time and you need someone immediately, since you start practice next week. I’ve been on your butt for weeks to get involved with this decision and you ignored me at every turn. So tough sugar . . . she’s got the job and you’re going to give her a chance, you hear me?”
Damn . . . Sometimes I really can’t stand my older sister. I have the sudden urge to stick my tongue out at her over the phone, but deep down . . . I know she’s right. I’ve been checked out mentally since the accident and depended on her way too much to handle this. Now I’m stuck with it.
“Fine,” I grumble at her as I rub my fingers hard along my jaw. I had just decided to shave my beard off this morning and my face feels so . . . so . . . naked.
“Good,” she says, completely happy with herself. “Now, I’ve got to go. I love you.”
“Back at ya,” I mutter, and then hang up on her, knowing she’s wearing a self-satisfied grin on her face.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Zack (Cold Fury Hockey #3) by Sawyer Bennett A tragedy leaves NHL star, Zack Grantham, broken and a single dad. He begins to struggle with his feelings toward his nerdy nanny, Kate Francis. Once again, Sawyer Bennett created an extraordinary and heartwarming novel. Zack is a fantastic addition to the Cold Fury Hockey series. I love Zack. At the start of the novel, he is recovering from his injury from the car accident at the end of book two. He suffers from displaced guilt over the loss of his son’s mother, Gina. He is empty and wants to feel again. He is an admirable character that is inquisitive and hard-working. Kate is amazingly perceptive. She comes from a poor family and has worked for everything she has. She is frugal and smart. She is an astounding heroine who is easy to like. I enjoyed Zack’s reaction to Kate. When he first meets her, he doesn’t really like her or knows what to make of her. She has the perfect personality to handle him. She truly understands him. I appreciated the friendship that Zack developed with recently acquired goalie Ryker Evans. I look forward to hearing his story in book Four, Ryker. Zack has a realistic and thought-provoking plot. The writing is impeccable and well-thought-out. Zack is a moving novel that I am grateful to have read. This is a must-read for lovers of contemporary sports romances. Complimentary copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Zack is my favorite so far! Hit close to home for me.
Another great read. Zack and Kate's story was sweet and a bit rocky. I thought Kate was a wonderful character because she was a "dork". Zack's character was real and he felt a lot of guilt, some of which was not in his control. I loved his son Ben too. Can't wait to read Ryker.
I loved Zach and Kate's characters.
This was so sweet and heartfelt and a bit heartbreaking at times but so full of love and swoon worthy moments. I loved it, awesome read! I loved the relationship between Zack and Kate, it pulled at my heart strings. Zack is struggling with so many things and has so much guilt but I love that he's trying to move forward and do what's best for his son. I loved Kate, the tenacity and perseverance she had was awesome. She was wonderful and quirky but totally adorkable, so full of love and charm. She totally made me smile. Zack and Kate's relationship is so sweet and tender and also lustful and hot. I loved watching the subtle build and little moments they shared as their feelings grew. And Zack, I could not wait for him to get it together and figure out what he wanted but I understand why he was holding back. They have ups and downs, a lot of push and pull and a few mixed signals that kept me on the edge of my seat rooting for them. It's such a great story of them coming together, opening up, sharing feelings, and really moving forward. The writing was fantastic. I always tend to lose myself when I pick up one of Sawyer Bennett’s books. There was great development, I liked the characters history and build. Loved all the details. Throw in an adorable kid and I was a happy camper. This is such an endearing story about healing, love, forgiveness, and acceptance. Moving forward and moving on. Excellent read. I adored watching Zack and Kate fall hard. I couldn't put it down. I was hooked! Loved this!
Ok, so I really liked the first book in the series. The second one was kind of a downer. I was hoping for a recovery in the third one, but Kate needs more of a backbone and Zack is just a jerk (albeit in the name of grief, but it makes him far from likeable rather than smpathetic). Maybe the fourth installment will be better?
And I mean that in a good way. There are steamy scenes, but not just about that. Loved the connection which is built on friendship and love for an adorable kid. The mixed reviews make me doubt if I should go back and read Garret. Started with this one first by accident.
Love this series
There are some moments when Zach is borderline verbally abusive and it's uncomfortable to watch the heroine give in to him without a second thought. Overall, the series is ok, this book has the least about hockey, which also disappointed me.
If you haven’t read any of the Cold Fury stories then this is a fantastic place to start – events that lead to Zack’s story do start in Garrett, but it isn’t like you can’t figure out what happened and the important parts are explained. Although I’m definitely not going to tell you to ignore Alex and Garrett, because they are fantastic and definitely worth your time. I do not have a clue how Kate manages to be so amazingly well put together – she’s smart, calm, understanding, and funny. And I love her to bits! She’s great not only with 4 year old boys but also with their daddies :) Ben has typical little boy energy and adorableness, and Kate is just as cute dealing with him as his nanny. Zack on the other hand has some serious issues stemming from Gina’s death. He’s dealing with a lot of guilt and it leads to some major hot & cold moments with Kate, especially once he starts to find himself interested in her and her exuberant, goofy personality. There are so many issues here, all of them laying at Zack’s door, but Bennett handles them absolutely beautifully, with care and a delicate touch because they are so very complicated. I feel for Zack so much, I’m there with him for every step forward and for every two steps he takes back. I root for Kate’s compassion and silly humor to help bring him to a better place and hurt with them when things go bad. Of course you know it is all going to end up alright, but that doesn’t make those bumps any easier to take. Unlike with Garrett I didn’t have any trouble getting into this one. And just like the other two I was quickly lost in Bennett’s characters and their troubles and now I can’t wait to get to Ryker’s story. (Complimentary copy provided in exchange for an honest review)
If you have read Garrett, then you know the heartbreak that Zack goes through and that starts out this book. It is a tear jerker reading this book where he becomes a single dad and the guilt he faces with Gina's death. But then Kate enters the picture and you see the changes in him. He starts working through his guilt and thanks to Kate is able to see the flaws in his thinking. Kate is such a dorky, funny character and I just love her. This whole story while starting out sad, ends beautifully and leaves you wanting more of all the characters!
Definitely like Zach the best. Author has a hokey writing style but it was toned down a bit in this book. Not a great series but passable.
Looking forward to Ryker's story
Okay read. He was a jerk through most of the story with glimpses of sweet and nice, then nice at the end. Bring on Ryker's story.
Totally predictable. All sex. Lacking the witty dialogue of previous books in series.
Loved the charactors and their interaction. Zack had some major issues but a winderful soul underneath it all.
Emotional, funny, and sexy.
Loved the book and love the series.
Upon finishing, my initial reaction: I knew this one would be emotionally gripping.