Excerpt: A Perfect Distraction

“What can I get you, Bad Boy?”

A skinny blonde in a figure-hugging, yellow microdress and spiked heels offered a champagne flute and a shot glass, but the message in her baby blue eyes said “Choose me.”

Jake held up the beer bottle he’d been nursing for the past hour and forced a smile of regret he didn’t feel. “I’m good, thanks.”

Her full lips pursed in a disappointed pout that six months ago he would have been tempted to kiss away. Now he couldn’t dredge up any interest. He was relieved when she and several of her friends flounced off.

The high-pitched chatter of the women who remained reverberated in his head, making his temples throb. The sickly mix of their perfumes made him yearn for fresh air. He had to get out of here. If it wasn’t for the paparazzi camped outside the building, Jake would have gone for a walk. He would take the heat and humidity of the city in August if it meant he got some respite.

This party had been a mistake. He should have been in his element. Instead, he felt dissatisfied. Empty, with a lingering sense his life was incomplete.

He wouldn’t even be hosting this shindig if Tru hadn’t insisted. His childhood friend had said that the best way to celebrate the transfer from Chicago was to invite Jake’s new teammates to one of his famous star-studded bashes. Though he hadn’t felt like partying since the accident, Jake had given in. Which was why his apartment was filled with the cream of Manhattan’s glitterati mingling with stars from the other pro sports teams in New York.

Jake wished he was somewhere, anywhere, else.

He bit back a sigh. His move home was supposed to be a fresh start. God only knew why he’d been lucky enough to survive that crash, but Jake had promised Adam, at his friend’s graveside, that he’d make the most of the second chance he’d been given. He’d change his life. Show the world, and himself, that he was more than his reputation. More than his nickname.

He knew nothing would bring Adam back. Nor erase the guilt that lay heavy and hard, like a frozen puck, in his heart. But he’d sworn to honor his friend by fulfilling the dream they’d both had since peewee hockey. The dream that had died for Adam on that back road in Chicago. Jake would win the Stanley Cup and raise it above his head in his friend’s memory.

It wouldn’t be easy. Hell, it would be the hardest thing he’d ever done. He’d come close before—even made it to the Final, before losing in six games to the Penguins. But this time, he had to go all the way. Coming second was not an option.

A husky voice interrupted his thoughts. “Come and dance with me, Bad Boy.” The invitation came from a brunette dressed in scarlet, with lips painted to match. “They’re playing our song in the living room.”

He shook his head, softening his rejection with a smile. “You go ahead. I’ll catch you up shortly.”

She shrugged and waggled her fingers in farewell, before leaving with a few friends.

If only the rest would follow her.

Jake swigged his beer, grimacing at the flat, warm brew. Once this party was over, his fresh start could begin. He would have one goal, one focus. No more high-octane living; nothing that could be a distraction. No women, either. Dating was off the cards until next June. He’d find somewhere else to live, too. This Trump Place apartment was pure Bad Boy. The old him and not who he needed to be now.

That reminded him—he was meeting someone from Making Your Move this evening. He was glad he’d deliberately scheduled the follow-up during the party; he had an excuse to duck out of the fun.

A movement by the door caught his attention. He glanced over, wondering idly whether the newcomer was a celebrity, a socialite or a puck bunny, and mentally braced himself to switch on the charm.

His attention caught and held.

The woman standing there clearly wasn’t a party guest. She wore little makeup and her dark brown hair was scraped back. A few curls had escaped to softly frame her face. Her neatly tailored, brown outfit draped nicely over her curves, but there wasn’t an inch of skin visible from mid-calf to neck. Even her toes were covered.

Instead of turning him off, she had him wondering if those shapely calves meant her legs were gorgeous all the way up? Did she paint her toenails fire-engine red or shell-pink? How much smooth, creamy skin would be revealed if he undid one of those large, jacket buttons?

Unexpected heat flashed through Jake.

This was crazy. He was surrounded by the most beautiful women in New York, yet his body chose to spring to attention at Miss Prim and Proper?

Pull yourself together, Badoletti. He shook his head to clear it.

“Is something wrong, Bad Boy?” A model in a hot pink crop-top, which emphasized both her tan and her jutting shoulder and pelvic bones, touched his arm.

Fighting the urge to brush off her hand, he shook his head again. “Excuse me. There’s someone I need to see.”


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