Authors: Sophia Henry
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
A Flirt Ebook Original
Copyright Â© 2016 by Sophia Henry
Excerpt from Crazy About Love by Cassie Mae copyright Â© 2016 by Cassie Mae
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by F
, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
is a registered trademark and the F
colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.
This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book
Crazy About Love
by Cassie Mae. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.
Cover design: Diane Luger
Cover photograph: Sergejs Rahunoks/123RF
According to popular adult opinion, children make stupid choices. But sometimes those choices, which stem from the most primal (usually erratic and naive) logic, turn out to be the wisest.
Except in hockey.
“Meadows! Meadows! Get your ass back to the bench!” I yelled to the teenager who had just given up the puck for the third time this period. This period! “I've had enough of your hotdogging out there.”
Puck hog will sit until he understands that he has teammates to pass to.
I gave the kid my best coach's evil eye as he swung his leg over the boards. Then I tapped his head with the tiny spiral notebook I clutched during games. “Stop fucking around out there. You're pissing me off.”
“Don't talk to him like that,” a woman's voice squawked at me from behind the boards. “He's just a kid.”
“Parents are welcome to speak with me after the game.” I turned my head, enough to act like I cared, but not enough to glance back. The last thing I needed was to make eye contact with a crazy hockey mom.
“I'm his sister, asshole.”
First mistake: engaging the squawker.
Second: turning to face her.
I hadn't expected the chastising voice of one of my player's sisters to be attached to a woman with the face of an off-duty model. Her dark hair was pulled into a high ponytail, which gave me an unobstructed view of olive-toned skin, high cheekbones, and full, pink lips. I shifted my weight as my jeans got a little tighter in the front.
“Watch your language, ma'am.” I smirked. “There are kids here.”
“Ass,” she muttered loud enough to be heard over her heavy footsteps as she stalked up the aluminum benches to her seat.
Folding my arms across my chest, I focused my attention back on the ice. Time to regain my composure before I climbed over the glass to chase her. The middle of a game wasn't the time to think about hooking up with a player's sister. The best time to think about things like that was never.
Never get involved with a kid's family member. Remember that part of The Mighty Ducks trilogy where Gordon Bombay went from banging Charlie's mom in the first movie to hooking up with the Iceland chick (and the kid's tutor) in D2? They must've cut the part where Charlie kicks Bombay's old ass. Because that's what my kids would do if I screwed a new mom every season.
I'd been coaching this hockey team for only two weeks, and already I had parents and, add to that list, hot sisters yelling at me. At this rate, it was going to be a long season.
Three of my guys skated toward the bench for a line change, and Meadows stood up, ready to jump over the boards.
“Take a seat, Damien. You're done for today.”
Damien Meadows, who'd been one of the more easygoing kids since I took over the team, turned around. Defiance oozed from his scowl. “Are you kidding?”
“No. I'm not. You've given up the biscuit more times today than a line cook at McDonald's,” I said. Then I yelled to another kid, “Finnerty, get out there!”
Meadows sat down with an audible huff and smacked the knob of his stick against the ground. “Fucking prick,” he muttered as he slid his ass across the bench to make room for his teammates coming off the ice.
Where were the language police for that one?
I stole a quick glance behind me, the direction Meadows's sister had stomped up the stands. Not a battle for right now, or ever. Having to skate my way through being politically correct in a meeting with annoyed parents was bad enough without throwing a SILF (Sister I'd Like to Fuck) into the mix.
I glanced at Damien Meadows, who was still scowling, but no longer taking his anger out on his stick.
I rolled my shoulders back and tightened my arms in front of my chest. Total coach stance.
Head in the game, Taylor.
After my verbal altercation with Damien's coach, I trudged up the stands to the seat Mom had saved for me. Tonight's was the first game I'd been able to attend since a new coach took over my brother's hockey team. In all honesty, I don't know much about hockey, but I know people. And that pretty boy behind the bench had “cocky idiot” written all over him.
“Mama!” Holden, my three-year-old son, jumped into my arms from his spot standing on the bench next to my mom.
“Hello, my sweet boy!” I hugged his warm little body to me, sniffing his silky, brown curls as I squeezed. “I missed you today.”
“I miss you, Mama,” he responded.
“Bad day at work?” Mom asked as she scooted over to give me room.
“Nothing crazy. Why?” I set Holden down and sat next to Mom, close enough to press the outside of my thigh against hers. I hadn't had time to change after work, and the cold air of the arena had the bare skin not covered by my skirt popping with goosebumps.
“You just walked in the building and you're already up in arms.” Mom threw her arm around my shoulders and squeezed me. “I've been here the entire game. You don't hear me making a fuss.”
“You don't care that he's swearing at D?” I said, defending myself.
“You tell Damien to get his ass off the couch all the time.” Mom reached across me to pull the sleeves of her fleece jacket over her fingers. “How is this any different?”
“I'm his sister.” I shrugged. As Damien's older sister, swearing at him was my birthright.
“He's a good coach. Don't stick your nose where it doesn't belong.” Mom coughed, the throaty rumble and deep hack of a thirty-year smoker. Then she stood up and grabbed Holden's hand. “Come on, sweetheart.”
My entire body shivered, protesting the loss of heat when she left my side.
“Mama. I pease go with Gramma?” Holden pleaded with huge, brown eyes.
“Sure, sweet boy.” I reached out and ruffled his hair.
Holden tugged at my mother's arm. “I get popcorn, Gramma?”
“No one gets anything asking like that,” I called out as Mom led him down the steps slowly.
“Pease,” he added. “Pease, Gramma?”
Holden had my mom wrapped around his finger, but I never stopped trying to instill manners in him. Technically, he had me wrapped around his finger, too. That happens when your family is your entire life. And my son, my mom, and my brother were my entire life.
Once Holden and Mom turned the corner toward the snack bar, I shifted my eyes back to the new hockey coach. I couldn't stop myself. I hadn't expected him to be so young.
Much more so than Damien's previous coach, Mr. Nozenberger, who was also the chemistry teacher at Bridgeland High School, where D was a senior.
The crowd cheered as a slap shot sailed toward the goalie on Damien's team. The kid reached out and snagged the puck, which stopped the play. The break gave me another chance to appraise the coach.
My eyes scanned the tall, lean length of the coach's body as he scrutinized the players on the ice. He had great hair. His thick waves reminded me of a dirty-blond Patrick Dempsey. Effortlessly sexy, like he slid a hand through and his locks came out perfect.
He tapped two kids' shoulders and another guy's helmet. The one whose helmet he'd tapped stood up, as if they were playing a hockey version of Duck, Duck, Goose.
“Hey, Indie.” An unwelcome but familiar voice interrupted my observations.
Part of me thought about diving under the bench and hiding, but since I'd already been spotted, I pried my eyes away from D's hot hockey coach to acknowledge the voice.
The only time I enjoyed seeing my ex-boyfriend was when he picked up Holden on time for his scheduled visits. The visits he actually showed up for.
Ugh. Why is he here, at a high school hockey game? And why had he waited until Holden and Mom left to speak to me? Had he even said “Hi” to Holden? Whatever. Not a battle for right now.
“Sorry for not picking Holden up on time last week. It's been rough being back. Trying to get into a groove, you know?” Tim said.
“It's fine, Tim.” I looked up at the rafters as I lied. Total and complete lie.
I needed Tim to pick up Holden at the exact time he promised, because I had to be at work. If neither Mom nor Damien were home, I couldn't leave. And I'd be late.
Tim lifted his arms above his head and stretched his fingertips to the ceiling. The hem of his tattered Western State University sweatshirt rode up, giving me a flash of pale stomach flesh. Which made me want to barf. “I'm just not used to such a strict schedule, ya know.”
Bite your tongue. Bite your tongue.
How could a former college football playerâwhose entire life consisted of practices, games, workouts, team meetingsânot be used to a strict schedule?
Then again, his hardcore partying was rumored to be the reason he got kicked off Western State's football team. I didn't know the whole story, but I wouldn't have been surprised.
“Can you set an alarm on your phone? Or should I text you a half hour before?” I stared straight into his eyes as anger rippled through my body. “I just need to know you'll be there. I can't be late to work anymore.”
Leave it to me to take on a responsibility that should be his and add it to my invisible, never-ending to-do list. He couldn't even remember Holden's birthday. Why would he remember to pick him up on time?
“Yeah.” Tim nodded. “I think if you text me, that would work.”
Tim never even explained whyâor howâhe could be late to pick up Holden. He had no job. According to Mom, not only had he been kicked off the football team, but he'd also been fired from Maynards, the local home-improvement store, after he'd been in town for only a week.
Maybe I should be happy he's taking an active role in Holden's life now that he's back. He hadn't given two shits about his son for the three years he'd been at Western State. No calls. No checks. Nothing. Yet, according to the state of Michigan, he gets visitation rights.
“Sounds good.” I swayed to the left, then the right, in an unsuccessful attempt to peer around Tim's bulky body and focus on the game.
Take the hint, man.
But he hadn't budged from his place in the aisle, because he doesn't take hints. He's an impulsive, selfish loudmouth. Built thick and sturdy, and always at the gym perfecting his thick-and-sturdiness, there's a picture of him in the dictionary under the entry for “meathead.” He understands things in games and stats, rather than everyday logic. On more than one occasion, I'd had to explain using football metaphors just to get my point across.
“Is there something else?” Annoyance spilled from my question.
“Just thanks.” Tim shoved his hands in his pockets and started down the steps before turning around to face me again. “You've really got your shit together, Indie.” His lips crept upward in a small smile and he spun back around, pounding the steps with heavy feet.
For one moment, time froze. I sat statue still as he scurried down the bleachers.
I scanned the crowd to my left and right, to see if anyone else witnessed Tim's semi-compliment. Didn't look like it.
Was this one of those “if a tree falls in the forest” type of situations? If no one was around to hear Tim compliment my parenting, did it really happen?
Most people probably wouldn't consider it a compliment at all. But since Tim hadn't said anything nice about me in years, I'd take it.
I flinched away from a slight twang in my heart at the remembrance of the popular, handsome football player I crushed on in high school. He'd never been all that sweet. Ever. But he had his moments. Like when he asked me to prom. If you could call having a freshman deliver me a football with the words “Will you go to prom with me?” scribbled across it in black Sharpie sweet.
I didâat the time. I was an idiot back then.
A few minutes later, Holden came bounding up the stairs as fast as a short-legged toddler could.
“Hey, big boy. What did you get?” I held my arms out for a hug. Holden obliged, snuggling into my bright-red peacoat.
“I got candies, Mama.” He pulled away, thrusting a crinkled, brown package toward my face.
“Wow. M&M's. That's a nice grandma you have there. Did you say thank you?”
“He did,” Mom confirmed. “Was that Tim you were talking to?”
“Yeah, he apologized for being late to pick up Holden last weekend.”
As I relayed the story, I realized I wanted to believe him. I wanted to give him a chance, instead of holding on to the bitterness in my heart. Though it would always be there, eating away at me, like a vulture picking at a deer carcass.
“Yeah, I bet he was sorry. His sorry ass was just telling Dick Cravitz about how he was partying in Ann Arbor last week. That boy is a piece of shâ”
“Work,” I interjected, looking pointedly from Mom to Holden. “He's a piece of work.”
“Yeah, that's the word I was looking for.” Mom rolled her eyes. She brushed off the bleacher and sat next to me.
I sighed. Dick Cravitz's story just shot down any hint of hope that Tim had changed. It also solidified my resentment.
It sucked to be so young and so bitter.
But I had to maintain a cheerful facade, because I never want to be the kind of mother who spoke badly about her son's father right in front of him. Holden would realize what his dad was really like in his own time. Maybe by then Tim will have matured enough to take responsibility for his actions. For Holden's sake, I could only hope so.
“Kim Woodhouse told me the new coach is single,” Mom said, nudging me with her shoulder.
Between working at the casino, going to church, and attending Damien's school and sporting events, Mom had a direct line to all the local gossip. But back when I'd been a pregnant high school junior, I was the subject of local rumors for months, so I had a strict policy of keeping my mouth shut about everyone else's businessâand also my own.
You never know who's listening. Far too many people start their sentences with “Don't tell anyone I told you this, butâ¦” I didn't have to be involved; Mom reported everything she heard.
“So?” I asked. Mom has tried to set me up with guys before. We don't have the same taste in men.
“He's really cute. Nice butt, too,” Mom continued.
Without thinking, my eyes veered directly to the coach's rear end. Then I caught myself and patted Mom's knee. “Then ask him out,” I said, teasing her. “We all know you're a sucker for a cute butt.”
Mom was a sucker for any body part on an eligible man. She and my dad have been divorced since I was twelve. Since then, Mom has had an active dating life. More active than mine.
Which makes me sound like a huge loser.
But the last thing I needed was another man in my life. Being around Tim made me realize how much I didn't want the added stress of a relationship. Having a baby daddy was already more than I could handle.