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She’s good at achieving her goals…College senior Sabrina James has her whole future planned out: graduate from college, kick butt in law school, and land a high-paying job at a cutthroat firm. Her path to escaping her shameful past certainly doesn’t include a gorgeous hockey player who believes in love at first sight. One night of sizzling heat and surprising tenderness is all she’s willing to give John Tucker, but sometimes, one night is all it takes for your entire life to change.

But the game just got a whole lot more complicated. Tucker believes being a team player is as important as being the star. On the ice, he’s fine staying out of the spotlight, but when it comes to becoming a daddy at the age of twenty-two, he refuses to be a bench warmer. It doesn’t hurt that the soon-to-be mother of his child is beautiful, whip-smart, and keeps him on his toes. The problem is, Sabrina’s heart is locked up tight, and the fiery brunette is too stubborn to accept his help. If he wants a life with the woman of his dreams, he’ll have to convince her that some goals can only be made with an assist.

 

The Goal by Elle Kennedy is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.

 


 

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1

SUMMARY

She’s good at achieving her goals…

College senior Sabrina James has her whole future planned out: graduate from college, kick butt in law school, and land a high-paying job at a cutthroat firm. Her path to escaping her shameful past certainly doesn’t include a gorgeous hockey player who believes in love at first sight. One night of sizzling heat and surprising tenderness is all she’s willing to give John Tucker, but sometimes, one night is all it takes for your entire life to change.

But the game just got a whole lot more complicated

Tucker believes being a team player is as important as being the star. On the ice, he’s fine staying out of the spotlight, but when it comes to becoming a daddy at the age of twenty-two, he refuses to be a bench warmer. It doesn’t hurt that the soon-to-be mother of his child is beautiful, whip-smart, and keeps him on his toes. The problem is, Sabrina’s heart is locked up tight, and the fiery brunette is too stubborn to accept his help. If he wants a life with the woman of his dreams, he’ll have to convince her that some goals can only be made with an assist.

Author: Elle Kennedy

SABRINA

“Crap. Crap. Crap. Craaaaap. Where are my keys?”

The clock in the narrow hallway tells me I have fifty-two minutes to make a sixty-eight-minute drive if I want to get to the party on time.

I check my purse again, but the keys aren’t there. I run through the various locations. Dresser? No. Bathroom? Was just there. Kitchen? Maybe—

I’m about to pivot when I hear a jingle of metal behind me. “You looking for these?”

Contempt lodges in my throat as I turn around and step into a living room so small that the five pieces of dated furniture—two tables, one loveseat, one sofa, and one chair—are squashed together like sardines in a can.

The lump of flesh on the couch waves my keys in the air. At my sigh of irritation, he grins and shoves them under his sweatpants-covered ass.

“Come and get ’em.”

I drag a frustrated hand down my flat-ironed hair before stalking over to my stepfather. “Give me my keys,” I demand.

Ray leers in return. “Da-amn, you look hot tonight. You’ve turned into a real babe, Rina. You and me should get it on.”

I ignore the meaty hand that’s falling to his crotch. I’ve never known a man so desperate to touch his own junk. He makes Homer Simpson look like a gentleman.

“You and I don’t exist to each other. So don’t look at me, and don’t call me Rina.” Ray’s the only person who ever calls me that, and I fucking hate it. “Now give me my keys.”

“I told you—come and get ’em.”

With gritted teeth, I shove my hand under his lard-ass and root around for my keys. Ray grunts and squirms like the disgusting piece of shit he is until my hand connects with metal.

I drag the keys free and spin back to the doorway.

“What’s the big deal?” he mocks me. “It’s not like we’re related, so there’s no incest problem.”

I stop and use thirty seconds of my precious time to stare at him in disbelief.

“You’re my stepfather. You married my mother. And”—I swallow a rush of bile.

“And you’re sleeping with Nana now. So, no, it’s not about whether you and I are related. It’s because you’re the grossest person on the planet and you belong in prison.”

His hazel eyes darken. “Watch your mouth, missy, or one of these days you’ll come home and the doors will be locked.”

Whatever. “I pay for a third of the rent here,” I remind him. “Well, maybe you’ll be in charge of more.”

He turns back to the television, and I spend another valuable thirty seconds fantasizing about bashing his head in with my purse. Worth it.

In the kitchen, Nana is sitting at the table, smoking a cigarette and reading an issue of People. “Did you see this?” she exclaims. “Kim K is nude again.”

“Goodie for her.” I grab my jacket off the back of the chair and head for the kitchen door.

I’ve found that it’s safer to leave the house through the back.

There are usually street punks congregating on the stoops of the narrow townhouses on our less than affluent street in this less than affluent part of Southie. Besides, our carport is behind the house.

“Heard Rachel Berkovich got knocked up,” Nana remarks. “She should’ve aborted it, but I guess it’s against their religion.”

I clench my teeth again and turn to face my grandmother.

As usual, she’s wearing a ratty robe and fuzzy pink slippers, but her dyed blonde hair is teased to perfection and her face is fully made-up even though she rarely goes out.

“She’s Jewish, Nana. I don’t think it’s against her religion, but even if it is, that’s her choice.”

“Probably wants those extra food stamps,” Nana concludes, blowing a long stream of smoke in my direction. Shit. I hope I don’t smell like an ashtray by the time I get to Hastings.

“I’m guessing that isn’t the reason Rachel’s keeping the baby.” One hand on the door, I shift restlessly, waiting for an opening to tell Nana goodbye.

“Your momma thought about aborting you.”

And there it is. “Okay, that’s enough,” I mutter. “I’m going to Hastings. I’ll be back tonight.”

Her head jerks up from the magazine and her eyes narrow as she takes in my black knit skirt, black short-sleeved sweater with a scoop neck, and three-inch heels.

I can see the words forming in her mind before they even leave her mouth.

“You’re looking uppity. Going off to that fancy college of yours? You got classes on Saturday night?”

“It’s a cocktail party,” I answer grudgingly.

“Oooh, cocktail, schocktail. Hope your lips don’t get chapped kissing all the ass down there.”

“Yeah, thanks, Nana.” I wrench open the back door, forcing myself to add, “Love you.”

“Love you too, baby girl.”

She does love me, but sometimes that love is so tainted, I don’t know if it’s hurting me or helping me.

I don’t make the drive to the small town of Hastings in fifty-two minutes or sixty-eight minutes. Instead, it takes me an entire hour and a half because the roads are so damn bad.

Another five minutes pass before I can find a parking space, and by the time I reach Professor Gibson’s house, I’m tenser than a piano wire—and feeling about as fragile.

“Hi, Mr. Gibson. I’m so sorry I’m late,” I tell the bespectacled man at the door.

Professor Gibson’s husband gives me a soft smile. “Don’t worry about it, Sabrina. The weather is terrible. Let me take your coat.”

He holds out a hand and waits patiently while I struggle out of my wool jacket.

Professor Gibson arrives as her husband is hanging my cheap coat among all the expensive ones in the closet. It looks as out of place as I do.

I shove aside the feelings of inadequacy and summon up a bright smile.

“Sabrina!” Professor Gibson calls out gaily. Her commanding presence jerks me to attention. “I’m so glad you arrived in one piece. Is it snowing yet?”

“No, just rain.”

She grimaces and takes my arm. “Even worse. I hope you don’t plan on driving back to the city tonight. The roads will be one sheet of ice.”

Since I have to work in the morning, I’ll be making that trek regardless of the road conditions, but I don’t want Prof to worry, so I smile reassuringly. “I’ll be fine. Is she still here?”

The professor squeezes my forearm. “She is, and she’s dying to meet you.”

Awesome. I take my first full breath since I got here and allow myself to be led across the room toward a short, gray-haired woman dressed in a boxy pastel suit coat over a pair of black pants.

The outfit is rather blah, but the diamonds sparkling in her ears are larger than my thumb. Also? She seems too genial for a professor of the law. I always envisioned them as dour, serious creatures.

Like me.

“Amelia, let me introduce you to Sabrina James. She’s the student I’ve been telling you about. At the top of her class, holds down two jobs, and managed a one seventy-seven on her LSATs.”

Professor Gibson turns to me. “Sabrina, Amelia Fromm, constitutional scholar extraordinaire.”

“So nice to meet you,” I say, holding out my hand and praying to God it feels dry and not damp. I practiced shaking my own hand for an hour leading up to this.

Amelia grips me lightly before stepping back. “Italian mother, Jewish grandfather, hence the odd combination of names. James is Scottish—is that where your family is from?”

Her bright eyes sweep over me, and I resist the urge to fidget with my cheap Target clothing.

“I couldn’t say, ma’am.” My family comes from the gutter. Scotland seems far too nice and regal to be our homeland.

She waves a hand. “It’s not important. I dabble in genealogy on the side. So, you’ve applied to Harvard? That’s what Kelly has told me.” Kelly? Do I know a Kelly?

“She means me, dear,” Professor Gibson says with a gentle laugh. I blush. “Yes, sorry. I think of you as Prof.”

“So formal, Kelly!” Professor Fromm accuses. “Sabrina, where else have you applied?”

“Boston College, Suffolk, and Yale, but Harvard is my dream.”

Amelia raises an eyebrow at my list of tier two and three Boston schools. Professor Gibson jumps to my defense. “She wants to stay close to home. And obviously she belongs at someplace better than Yale.”

The two professors share a contemptuous sniff. Prof was a Harvard grad, and apparently once a Harvard grad, always an anti-Yale person.

“From all that Kelly has shared, it sounds like Harvard would be honored to have you.”

“It would be my honor to be a Harvard student, ma’am.”

“Acceptance letters are being mailed out soon.” Her eyes twinkle with mischief. “I’ll be sure to put in a good word.”

Amelia bestows another smile, and I nearly faint in happy relief. I wasn’t just blowing smoke up her ass. Harvard really is my dream.

“Thank you,” I manage to croak out.

Professor Gibson points me toward the food.

“Why don’t you get something to eat? Amelia, I want to talk to you about that position paper I heard was coming out of Brown. Did you have a chance to look at it?”

The two turn away, diving deep into a discussion about intersectionality of Black feminism and race theory, a topic that Professor Gibson is an expert in.

I wander over to the refreshment table, which is draped in white and loaded with cheese, crackers, and fruit.

Two of my closest friends—Hope Matthews and Carin Thompson—are already standing there. One dark and one light, they’re the two most beautiful, smartest angels in the world.

I rush over to them and nearly collapse in their arms. “So? How’d it go?” Hope asks impatiently.

“Good, I think. She said that it sounded like Harvard would be honored to have me and that the first wave of acceptance letters is going out soon.”

I grab a plate and start loading it up, wishing the pieces of cheese were bigger. I’m so hungry I could eat an entire block.

All day I’d been sick with anticipation because of this meeting, and now that it’s over, I want to fall face-first into the food table.

“Oh, you are so in,” declares Carin.

The three of us are advisees of Professor Gibson, who’s a big believer in helping young women along.

There are other networking organizations on campus, but her influence is solely geared toward the advancement of women, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Tonight’s cocktail party is designed for her students to meet with faculty members of the most competitive graduate programs in the nation.

Hope is angling for a place at Harvard Med while Carin is headed for MIT.

Yep, it’s a sea of estrogen inside Professor Gibson’s house. Other than her husband, only a couple of other men are present.

I’m really going to miss this place after I graduate. It’s been a home away from home.

“Fingers crossed,” I say in response to Carin. “If I don’t get into Harvard, then it’s BC or Suffolk.”

Which would be fine, but Harvard virtually guarantees me a shot at the job I want post-graduation—a position at one of the nation’s top law firms, or what everyone calls BigLaw.

“You’ll get in,” Hope says confidently. “And hopefully once you get that acceptance letter, you’ll stop killing yourself, because Lord, B, you look tense.”

I roll my head around my neck stiffly. Yeah, I am tense. “I know.

“My schedule is brutal these days. I went to bed at two this morning because the girl who was supposed to close at Boots & Chutes bugged out and left me to close, and then I was up at four to sort mail.

“I got home around noon, crashed, and almost overslept.”

“You’re still working both jobs?” Carin flips her red hair out of her face. “You said you were going to quit the waitressing gig.”

“I can’t yet. Professor Gibson said that they don’t want us working our first year of law school. The only way I can swing that is to have enough for food and rent saved up before September.”

Carin makes a sympathetic noise. “I hear you. My parents are taking out a loan so big, I might be able to afford a small country with it.”

“I wish you’d move in with us,” Hope says plaintively.

“Really? I had no idea,” I joke. “You’ve only said it twice a day since the semester started.”

She wrinkles her cute nose at me. “You’d love this place my dad rented for us. It’s got floor-to-ceiling windows and it’s right on the subway line. Public transportation.”

She wiggles her eyebrows enticingly.

“It’s too expensive, H.”

“You know I’d cover the difference—or my parents would,” she corrects herself.

The girl’s family has more money than an oil tycoon, but you’d never know it from talking to her. Hope’s as down to earth as they come.

“I know,” I say between gulping down bites of mini-sausages.

“But I’d feel guilty and then guilt would turn into resentment and then we wouldn’t be friends anymore and not being your friend would suck.”

She shakes her head at me. “If, at some point, your stubborn pride allows you to ask for help, I’m here.”

We’re here,” Carin interjects.

“See?” I wave my fork between the two of them.

“This is why I can’t live with you guys. You mean too much to me. Besides, this is working for me. I’ve got nearly ten months to save up before classes start next fall. I’ve got this.”

“At least come for a drink with us after this thing is over,” Carin begs. “I have to drive home.” I make a face. “I’m scheduled to go in and sort packages tomorrow.”

“On a Sunday?” Hope demands.

“Time and a half. I couldn’t turn it down. Actually, I should probably take off soon.” I lay my plate on the table and try to catch a glimpse of what’s going on beyond the huge bay window.

All I see is darkness and streaks of rain on the glass. “Sooner I’m on the road, the better.”

“Not in this weather you’re not.” Professor Gibson appears at my elbow with a glass of wine. “The weather advisory is for sheets of glass—temperature’s dropping and the rain is turning into ice.”

One look at my adviser’s face and I know I have to concede. So I do, but with great reluctance.

“All right,” I say, “but I do this under protest. And you—” I tip my fork in Carin’s direction, “you better have ice cream in the freezer in case I have to crash with you, otherwise I’m going to be really mad.”

All three of them laugh. Professor Gibson wanders off, leaving us to network as best as three college seniors can. After an hour of mingling, Hope, Carin and I grab our coats.

“Where are we going?” I ask the girls.

“D’Andre is at Malone’s and I said I’d meet him there,” Hope tells me. “It’s like a two-minute drive, so we should be fine.”

“Really? Malone’s? That’s a hockey bar,” I whine. “What’s D’Andre doing there?”

“Drinking and waiting for me. Besides, you need to get laid and athletes are your favorite type.”

Carin snorts. “Her only type.”

“Hey, I have a very good reason for preferring athletes,” I argue.

“I know. We’ve heard it.” She rolls her eyes.

“If you want a stats question answered, go to the math geeks. If you want a physical need met, go to an athlete. Bodies are the tools of an elite athlete. They take care of it, know how to push its limits, yada yada.”

Carin makes a yapping gesture with her left hand.

I flick up my middle finger.

“But sex with someone you like is so much better.” This comes from Hope, who’s been with D’Andre, her football player boyfriend, since freshman year.

“I like them,” I protest. “…for the hour or so I use them.”

We share a giggle over that, until Carin brings up a guy who brought down the average.

“Do you remember Ten-Second Greg, though?”

I shudder. “First, thank you very little for bringing that bad memory up, and second, I’m not saying there aren’t duds. Just that the odds are better with an athlete.”

“And the hockey players are duds?” Carin asks.

I shrug. “I wouldn’t know. I didn’t ax them from my list of potentials because of their performance in the sack, but because they’re hyper-privileged jerks who get special favors from the profs.”

“Sabrina, girl, you got to let that go,” Hope urges. “Nope. Hockey players don’t make the cut.”

“God, but look at what you’re missing out on.” Carin licks her lips with exaggerated lasciviousness.

“That one guy on the team with the beard? I want to know what that feels like. Beards are on my bucket list.”

“Go on then. My boycott against hockey players just means more for you.”

“I’m on board with this, but…” She smirks. “Need I remind you that you hooked up with the manslut Di Laurentis?”

Ugh. That’s a reminder I never need to hear.

“First, I was totally drunk,” I grumble. “Second, that was sophomore year. And third, he’s the reason I’ve sworn off hockey players.”

Even though Briar University has a championship-winning football team, it’s known as a hockey college. The guys who wear skates are treated like gods. Case in point—Dean Heyward-Di Laurentis.

He’s a poli sci major like me, so we’ve had several classes together, including Statistics in our sophomore year. That course was hard as fuck. Everyone struggled.

Everyone but Dean, who was screwing the TA.

And—shocker!—she gave him an A, which he absolutely did not deserve. I know this for a fact, because we were paired together for the final assignment, and I saw the garbage he turned in.

When I found out he aced it, I wanted to chop his dick off. It was so unfair. I worked my butt off in that course. Hell, I work my butt off for everything.

My every accomplishment is stained with my blood, sweat and tears. Meanwhile, some asshole gets the world handed to him on a platter? Fuck. That.

“She’s getting mad again,” Hope stage-whispers to Carin.

“She’s thinking about how Di Laurentis got an A in that one class,” Carin shout-whispers back. “She really does need to get laid. How long has it been?”

I start to flip her off again when it occurs to me that I can’t remember my last hookup.

“There was, um, Meyer? The lacrosse guy. That was in September. And after that was Beau…” I brighten up. “Ha! See? It’s only been a little over a month. Hardly a national emergency.”

“Girl, someone with your schedule isn’t allowed to go a month without sex,” Hope counters. “You’re a walking ball of stress, which means you need a good dicking at least…daily,” she decides.

“Every other day,” Carin argues. “Give her lady garden some time to rest.” Hope nods. “Fine. But no rest for the pussy tonight—”

I snort in laughter.

“You hear that, B? You’ve been fed, you had an afternoon nap, and now you need some sexy times,” Carin declares.

“But Malone’s?” I repeat warily. “We just established that the place is crawling with hockey players.”

“Not exclusively. I bet Beau is there. Want me to ask D’Andre?” Hope holds up her phone, but I shake my head.

“Beau’s too much of a time commitment. Like he wanted to talk during sex. I want to do the deed and leave.”

“Oooh, talking! Scary.”

“Shut it.”

“Make me.” Hope tosses her head, her long braids smacking against my coat, and then exits Professor Gibson’s house.

Carin shrugs and follows her, and after a second of hesitation, I do too.

Our coats are drenched by the time we reach Hope’s car, but we have our hoods on, so our hair survives the downpour.

I’m really not in the mood to chat up any guys tonight, but I can’t deny that my friends are right. I’ve been plagued with tension for weeks, and these past few days I’ve definitely been feeling the…itch.

The kind of itch that can only be scratched with a hard, ripped body and a hopefully above average-sized cock.

Except I’m extremely selective about who I hook up with, and just as I’d feared, Malone’s is thick with hockey players when the girls and I stride inside five minutes later.

But hey, if that’s the hand I’ve been dealt, then I guess there’s no harm in playing it and seeing what happens.

Still, I have zero expectations as I follow my friends to the bar counter.

 

Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

2

TUCKER

“Stay away from that one, kid. She’s toxic.”

Dean is dispensing his (usually misguided) wisdom to our freshman left wing, Hunter Davenport, as I walk into Malone’s out of the pouring rain.

The roads are shit, and I don’t particularly want to be here tonight, but Dean insisted that we needed to party.

He’d been restlessly pacing our townhouse all day, grumpy as hell and obviously upset, but when I questioned him about it, he shrugged and said he was feeling antsy.

Which is bull. I might be considered quiet compared to my loud-mouthed teammates, but I ain’t slow. And I sure as hell don’t need to be a detective to put the clues together.

Allie Hayes, the best friend of our other roommate’s girlfriend, crashed at our place last night.

Dean is a manwhore. Chicks love Dean.

Allie is a chick.

Ergo, Dean slept with Allie.

Plus, there were all the clothes scattered around the living room because Dean is physically incapable of having sex in his bedroom.

He hasn’t fessed up to it yet, but I’m sure he will eventually. I’m also sure that whatever went down between them last night, Allie’s not looking for a repeat performance.

Though why that should bother Dean, the one-night stand king, I’ve yet to figure out.

“She doesn’t look toxic to me,” Hunter drawls as I shake the water out of my hair.

“Hey Fido,” Dean grumbles my way, “go dry off somewhere else.”

I roll my eyes and follow Hunter’s gaze, which is Krazy Glued to a slender brunette facing away from us at the long counter.

I see a short skirt, killer legs, and thick dark hair streaming down her back. Not to mention the roundest, tightest, sexiest ass I’ve ever had the pleasure of admiring.

“Nice,” I remark before grinning at Dean. “I take it you already called dibs?”

His face turns white with horror. “Not a chance. That’s Sabrina, bro. She already busts my balls in class on a daily basis. I don’t need her busting them outside of school.”

“Wait, that’s Sabrina?” I say slowly. This is the girl who Dean swears is his nemesis? “I’ve seen her around campus, but I didn’t realize she’s the one you’re always bitching about.”

“One and the same,” he mutters.

“Damn shame. She sure is nice to look at.” More than nice, actually. In the dictionary next to fine is a picture of Sabrina’s ass. It might also be next to the words gorgeous, goddamn, and smoke show.

“What’s the deal with you two?” Hunter pipes up. “She your ex?” Dean recoils. “Fuck no.”

The freshman purses his lips. “So I won’t be breaking the bro code if I make a move?”

“You want to make a move? Go nuts. But I’m warning you, that bitch will eat you alive.”

I avert my face to hide a grin. Sounds like someone may have turned Dean down.

There’s definitely some kind of history between them, but even after Hunter presses him about it, Dean doesn’t give up any other intel. Across the room, Sabrina turns.

She probably feels three sets of eyes on that ass—two of which are damn hungry.

Her gaze catches mine and holds it. There’s challenge in her eyes and the competitor in me rises to meet it.

You enough for me? she appears to be asking.

You have no idea, darlin’.

A spark of heat lights her gaze—that is until it falls on Dean. Immediately, her lush lips thin and she jerks up her middle finger in our direction.

Hunter groans and mutters something about Dean ruining his chances. But Hunter’s a baby and that girl has enough fire in her to ignite the world.

I can’t imagine her wanting to take an eighteen-year-old to bed, especially if he sees defeat in the first obstacle. Kid’s gotta get stronger if he wants to play with the big boys.

I dig in my pocket for some cash. “I’m gonna grab a beer. You guys need a refill?”

They both shake their heads. Having discharged my friend duty, I make my way to the bar and Sabrina, arriving in time for the bartender to deliver her drink.

I lay down a twenty. “I’ve got that, and I’ll take a Miller when you’ve got a minute.”

The bartender grabs the bill and hustles off to the cash register before Sabrina can object. She gives me a contemplative look and then lifts the beer bottle to her lips.

“I’m not sleeping with you because you bought me a drink,” she says over the rim.

“I hope not,” I reply with a shrug. “I have higher standards than that.”

I give her a polite nod and mosey back to the table where a few of my teammates are congregated. Behind me, I can feel her eyes boring into my back.

Since she can’t see me, I allow a smile of satisfaction to spread across my face.

This is a girl who’s used to being chased, which means I need to work a little surprise into my pursuit.

At the table, Hunter’s eyeing another pack of girls, and Dean’s head is buried in his phone, probably texting Allie. I wonder if the other guys know they did the dirty. Probably not.

Garrett and Logan are in Boston with their girlfriends until tomorrow, so chances are they’re still in the dark. But Garrett was adamant that Dean keep his hands off Allie this weekend.

He didn’t want any drama to interfere with his currently perfect life with Allie’s best friend, Hannah.

Given that there haven’t been any explosions or frantic phone calls, I’d bet that Dean and Allie are keeping last night’s hookup on the DL.

Just as Hunter opens his mouth to deliver some bad line to one of the girls who’s made her way over to the table, the lights flicker ominously.

Dean frowns. “Is it the Apocalypse out there or something?”

“It’s coming down pretty hard,” I tell him.

After that, Dean decides to take off. I stay put, despite the fact that I didn’t even want to hit the bar tonight.

I don’t know why, but that brief exchange with Sabrina got me more than a little worked up.

It’s not like there’s a shortage of girls in my life. I might not brag about my conquests like Dean or Logan or my other teammates, but I get plenty of play.

I even indulge in one-night stands if I’m feeling it.

And right now, I’m feeling it.

I want Sabrina under me. Over me. Anywhere she wants to put herself will do.

And I want it so bad I have to rub my hand over my beard so I don’t give in to the urge to slide it lower and rub something else.

I’m still not sure how I feel about the beard. I grew it around the time of the championship game this past spring, but it got mountain-man out of control on me, so I shaved it over the summer.

Then it grew back because I’m lazy as hell, and trimming it close is a helluva lot easier than shaving it all off.

“Have a seat, man,” Hunter encourages. His eyes actively telegraph that there are three of them and two of us, but these girls, as pretty as they are, don’t interest me at all.

“All yours, kid.”

I drain my bottle and return to the bar where Sabrina’s still standing. A couple of other predators have edged closer. I give them all a hard stare and slide into a newly vacated space beside her.

I lean an elbow behind me against the bar top, giving her the illusion of room.

She reminds me a little of those untamed ponies, all wide eyes, long legs, and the unspoken promise of the best ride of your life.

But you play your hand too soon and she’s going to run off and there’ll be no catching her.

“So you’re a friend of Di Laurentis?”

The words are casually tossed out, but considering she and Dean don’t like each other much, there’s probably only one right way to respond and that’s by denying everything.

Still, I won’t do that to a friend, not even to get laid.

And whatever issue Sabrina has with Dean doesn’t influence me, just like Dean’s opinion of Sabrina isn’t going to shape what I’m looking for with her.

Besides, I’m a big believer in the saying that you begin how you intend to go on.

“He’s my roommate.”

She makes no effort to hide her distaste and starts brushing me off. “Thanks for the drink, but I think I see my friends waving at me.” She nods toward a group of girls.

I survey the crowd, none of whom are even looking in our direction, and turn back to her with a sad shake of my head.

“You gotta do better than that. If you want me to go, tell me to go. You look like a girl who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to say it.”

“Is that what Dean told you? I bet he called me a bitch, didn’t he?” This time I opt to keep my mouth shut. Instead, I take a drink. “He’s right,” she continues. “I am and I’m not sorry for it.”

Her chin juts out adorably. I’d pinch it, but I think I’d lose a few fingers and I’m going to need them later tonight. I have plans to have them all over her body.

She takes another sip of the beer I bought her, and I watch the delicate muscles in her throat work. Fuck, she’s beautiful.

Dean could’ve said that she sucks the life out of babies and I’d still be over here. She’s got that kind of draw.

And it’s not just me. Half the male population in the bar is throwing glares of envy in my direction. I cant my body slightly to hide her from view.

“Okay,” I say lightly.

“Okay?” She gets the cutest look of confusion on her face. “Yup. Is that supposed to scare me off?”

Her perfectly shaped eyebrows crash together. “I don’t know what else he said, but I’m not easy. I’m not against a hookup, but I’m picky about who I let into my bed.”

“He didn’t say anything about that. Only that you liked to bust his balls. But we both know that Dean’s ego can withstand a blow now and again. The question is whether you’re hung up on him.

“Kind of seems like you are, because he’s the only thing you can talk about.” I shrug. “If that’s the case, I’ll skate right now.”

While Dean said he didn’t have feelings for Sabrina, I want to make sure there aren’t any lingering emotions on her end.

Her tone when she mentioned him was mad, though, not bitter, which I take as a good sign. Anger could stem from any number of things. Bitterness is usually hurt feelings.

When—not if—we get into bed together, it should be because she wants to be with me, not as a way to get back at Dean.

Her gaze flicks over my shoulder to where my teammate is still sitting, then back to me. She and I drink in silence for a bit.

Her chocolate-brown eyes are tough to read, but I get the sense she’s weighing my words carefully. It might be that she expects me to talk, fill the silence, but I’m waiting her out.

Plus, it gives me time to inspect her close up. And from this distance, she’s even more beautiful than I realized.

She doesn’t just have a world-class ass and endless legs. Her rack is the kind that can turn a man religious.

As in, thank you, Jesus, for creating this glorious creature and please, Lord, make her not a lesbian.

Not blatantly staring at the pretty swells rising above her top is one of the harder things I’ve had to do.

Finally, she sets her bottle on the bar. “Just because you’re pretty doesn’t mean I’m interested.”

I grin. “A guy’s gotta start somewhere.”

A reluctant smile tugs at the corners of her mouth. She wipes her hand against her skirt and sticks it out.

“I’m Sabrina James. I’ve heard all the jokes about being a witch, and no, I am not hung up on Dean Di Laurentis.”

I take her hand in mine and use the contact to pull her an inch closer to me.

It’s baby steps with this one.

“John Tucker. Glad to hear it, but you should know that Dean is like a brother to me.

“We’ve had each other’s backs on the ice for four years, lived together for three of them, and I plan to stand up at his wedding and hope he does the same at mine. That said, he’s my friend, not my daddy.”

“Wait, you’re getting married?” she says in confusion.

It’s kind of amusing that out of everything I said, that’s the bit she’s harping on. I smooth a hand down the outside of her arm and loosely circle her wrist with my fingers.

“In the future, darlin’. In the future.”

“Oh.” She picks up her beer and then puts it down when she sees it’s empty. “Wait. You want to get married?”

“Eventually.” I chuckle at her astonishment. “Not today, but yeah, one day I want to be married and have a kid or three. You?”

The bartender comes by, and I nudge another twenty in his direction. But Sabrina shakes her head. “I’m driving. One beer is my limit.”

I order us waters instead, and he’s back in a flash with two tall glasses.

The lights flicker again, sending a jolt of urgency to my gut. I’m going to have to close this deal soon or lose out entirely.

“Thanks,” she says as she sips the water. “And, no. I don’t see myself having kids or a husband in the near future. Besides, I thought you hockey players liked to play the field.”

“At some point, even the great ones retire.” I smirk over the top of my glass.

She laughs. “All right. I’ll give you that. So what’s your major, John?”

“Tucker. Everyone calls me Tucker or Tuck. And it’s business admin.”

“So you can manage all your hockey money?”

I still haven’t let go of her wrist, and with each exchange, I’m eliminating all the distance between us.

“Nope.” I nod toward my knee. “I’m too slow for the pros. I got banged up in high school. I’m good enough for a scholarship here, but I know my limits.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” There’s true regret in her voice.

Dean’s a fool. This girl is as sweet as they come. I can’t wait to get my mouth on her.

And my hands. And my teeth.

And my hard-as-steel cock. “Don’t be. I’m not.”

I slide my arm along the bar until Sabrina’s essentially standing in the circle of my arms.

Her feet are tucked between mine, and if I shift my hips slightly forward, I’ll be able to make the contact my body is dying for.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in all the years I’ve played hockey, it’s that patience is rewarded. You don’t take an immediate shot when your stick gets the puck.

You wait for the right opening.

“I never really wanted it,” I add. “And I think it’s one of those things you have to really want to pursue.”

And then she gives it to me. The opening. “So what do you want these days?”

“You,” I answer baldly.

Two things happen. The lights go out completely, and she nearly drops her glass. The jukebox dies out, and suddenly the bar seems way too quiet.

Around us are a few shrieks of laughter, a few shouts of dismay.

“Keep your pants on, children,” one of the bartenders yells. “We’re going to see what’s going on. Generator should kick in any second.”

As if on cue, a humming noise fills the air and then a dim glow of light illuminates the crowded room.

“You still thirsty?” I ask, stroking the inside of her wrist with long, gentle strokes. Up toward the inner elbow and back down to the wrist. Repeat. Again and again and again.

Her gaze drops to our joined hands and widen as if she just now realizes we’ve been touching for the last ten minutes or so.

I lean in close and brush my nose against the outer edge of her earlobe, filling my lungs with her spicy scent.

I could stand here all day. There’s something great about drawing out the anticipation until it’s nearly painful. It makes the release all the more explosive.

I have a feeling that sex with Sabrina James will blow my mind.

I can’t fucking wait.

After taking a deep breath, one that pushes her perfect tits into my chest, she eases back—not too far, but enough to create a sliver of distance.

“I’m not into relationships,” she says bluntly. “If we do this—”

“Do what?” I can’t help but tease.

This. Don’t play dumb, Tucker. You’re better than that.”

A laugh pops out. “Fair enough. All right…” I wave a hand. “Go on…”

“If we do this,” she repeats, “it’s sex only. No awkward morning after. No phone numbers.”

I give her one last caress before releasing her, letting her read into my silence what she needs to.

I highly doubt that one time is going to be enough for either of us, but if that’s what she needs to believe tonight, I’m okay with that.

“Let’s go then.”

Her lips curve. “Now?”

“Now.” I moisten my bottom lip with my tongue. “Unless you want to sit here a while longer and keep dancing around the fact that we want to rip each other’s clothes off.”

She lets out a throaty laugh that goes straight to my balls. “Very good point, Tucker.”

Lord. I love the way my name rolls off those full, pouty lips. Maybe I’ll ask her to say it when I’m making her come.

The need surging through me is so strong I have to squeeze my ass cheeks together and breathe through my nose to try to curb it. I take Sabrina’s elbow and muscle my way to the door.

A few people call out my name or pat me on the back to tell me good game. I ignore them all.

Outside, it’s still pouring. I pull Sabrina close and raise my black-and-silver hockey jacket over her head. Fortunately, my truck is nearby. “Over here.”

“Nice parking spot,” she comments.

“Can’t complain.” It’s a perk of being a starter on a championship-winning college hockey team.

I help her into the truck, then slide into the driver’s seat and start the engine. “Where to?”

She shivers a little, though I’m not sure if it’s from the cold or for another reason. “I live in Boston.”

“My place then.” Because there’s no fucking way I can wait the hour it’ll take to drive to the city. My dick will explode.

She puts her hand on my wrist before I can shift into reverse. “You live with Dean. That’s not going to be uncomfortable for you?”

“No, why would it?”

“I don’t know.” Her index finger slides forward to rub my knuckles.

I grit my teeth as my erection nearly breaks through the zipper.

The only reason I didn’t kiss her the second we were outside the bar is because if I’d started, I probably would’ve taken her against the side of the building.

But now she’s touching me, and my self-control is more elusive than a puff of steam.

“Let’s do it here,” she says decisively. I frown. “In the truck?”

“Why not? Do you need candles and rose petals? It’s just sex,” she insists.

“Darlin’, you keep saying that and I’m going to start wondering if it’s really me you want to convince.” My breath catches when her thumb strokes a tiny circle in the center of my palm.

Fuck it. I need her too bad. “But fine. You want to do me in this truck, then the truck it is.”

Without another word, I reach beneath me and push the seat back as far as it can go. Then I shrug out of my jacket and toss it into the backseat.

“You got any guidelines for your just-sex hookups?” I drawl. “Like no kissing on the lips?”

“Hell, no. Do I look like Julia Roberts?” I scrunch up my eyebrows.

Pretty Woman?” she prompts. “Hooker with the heart of gold? No kissing the johns?”

I grin. “So what you’re saying is that you’ll kiss this John?” I tap my chest so she knows I’m referring to my name and not implying that she’s a hooker.

She snickers. “If you don’t kiss me, I’ll be pissed. I need kissing. Otherwise I’d just stay at home with my vibe.”

A smile creeps across my face. With my back against the window and my boot up on the console, I create a cradle for her hot body and beckon her toward me. “Then come and get what you need.”

 

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