Playing for Keeps Page 1

Author: Kendall Ryan

Series: Hot Jocks #1

Genres: Romance


* * *

Unruly Hockey Players


I have a beautiful woman sitting in my lap.

I don’t know her name, or what she does for a living, or where she grew up.

I do know that she smells like tequila… and that tequila and I have never played particularly well together.

But none of that matters to her.

The only thing that matters is that I’m a pro hockey athlete, and so she’s ready to fuck me. Which holds exactly zero appeal for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love female attention, but lately every minute of it all feels stale, like I’ve been there, seen that, done it all before and have the t-shirt to prove it.

I’m not even sure she knows my name. But I’d bet good money on her knowing my jersey number by heart. I guess that’s why they call the women jersey chasers, or in hockey—puck bunnies.

“Justin Motherfuckin’ Brady!” Owen, my best friend and roommate, calls from our living room. “Get a drink and get your balls in here.”

I nod and flash him a thumbs-up.

“You’ll have to excuse me,” I say to the petite brunette currently running her hands down my chest.

She blinks at me with lust-filled blue eyes. After a moment’s hesitation, she hops up from my lap with a frown and I slide off of the barstool.

“If you want to score tonight, I’m a sure thing, cutie,” she says with a flirty wink.

I rub one hand over my jaw. This shit is really getting old. “I’m good. Thanks, though.”

I’m sure I sound like an asshole, but whatever. I can feel her eyes on me as I walk away.

The party was already in full swing by the time I made it home a little while ago. The marble countertops are littered with empty beer bottles, most of them imported or pricey craft brews. A few bottles of flavored vodka along with fruity mixers are on the island—Owen’s attempt at being welcoming to the scantily-clad ladies scattered around the apartment—most of whom are perched in players’ laps and draped over the sectional in the living room.

I probably sound like an old man at the ripe age of twenty-eight, but this is hardly fun anymore. Some nights I just want to go to bed…alone and in blissful peace and quiet. Yep, it’s official, I need to apply for my AARP discounts and hand over my man card…stat.

Grabbing a six-pack of beer from the counter, I head into the living room. The guys are in rare form tonight. Winning the league championship will do that, I guess.

“Is that really Justin Brady?” a redhead asks from behind me as I head through the kitchen. I’m sure I look different without twenty pounds of hockey gear on, but the cynical side of me thinks about how inter-changeable the players are for girls like her. Bragging rights that you’ve bagged a pro player is practically the name of the game. Not that being someone’s conquest has ever really bothered me before. But something about it annoys me as I weave my way through bodies.

Our star center, Asher, reaches out to bump his fist against mine as I walk past. “Awesome play tonight.”

“Thanks, dude.”

Someone hands me a shot as I pass and I down it without bothering to look what’s in the glass.

Most of the team isn’t just celebrating our win tonight. They’re celebrating the fact that the off-season has just begun and a summer break of zero responsibilities is right around the corner.

Me? Not so much.

I eat, drink, and breathe hockey and so the idea of six weeks without the rigorous schedule to distract me is my own personal brand of hell.

I didn’t have the easiest time growing up, and the breakdown of my family only made me play faster, fight harder, take more chances—and that’s why we’re winners celebrating tonight.

That said, when the two people who are supposed to love you unconditionally use you as nothing more than a pawn in their sick games, it warps your view on love. I wasn’t lovable—I knew that. I’d known that since I was six years old. And nothing had changed in the last twenty years. Women wanted me for my dick, and that was fine. That was really all I had to offer anyway.

I take up one half of the sofa, and work on polishing off my beer.

Teddy King, one of our best forwards and a total player, is making out with a girl in the corner.

“TK, get a fuckin’ room!” someone calls out.

It’s no surprise that Owen is on the couch with two blondes in his lap. He’s my best friend, but the dude is a notorious player. “I hope you ladies are good at sharing,” Owen says over the thumping music.

The blondes smile at each other, one of them turning to blink up at him. “And what will we be sharing?”

“My dick,” he says, matter-of-factly.

The girls begin to giggle like he’s just said the most interesting thing in the world.

I roll my eyes and open another beer from the six-pack at my feet.

Owen is six foot four and well over two hundred pounds of muscle with messy brown hair and the stubble of a beard he hasn’t bothered to shave since we made the playoffs. He’s one of the best goalies in the entire league, and he knows he’s the shit. He’s cocky, but he’s earned the right to be. He plays it up well, and is known to be a total ladies’ man. And the girls eat that shit up.

Normally I’d be doing the same exact thing, looking to blow off steam and celebrate our win, but tonight I can’t seem to get out of my head long enough to relax. I’m more than a hard dick. I’m more than what I can do with a hockey stick. But most of these people here don’t know that. Hell, I’m not even sure I know that anymore.

The only person here who looks to be as uneasy as me is Owen’s younger sister, Elise. She’s standing across the room, arms folded over her chest with her lips pressed into a firm line. The three of us grew up together a few hours from here in central Washington. I’ve known her since she was a bossy first-grader with a gap between her front teeth, and always wearing those shiny patent-leather shoes with frilly dresses.

Her looks, and her sense of fashion, have changed quite a bit. Her attitude, not so much. I can tell she’s pissed about how out of hand things have gotten. I’m sure she’ll be the first one here in the morning, nursing hangovers and helping us clean the apartment. There are at least fifty people here, and I know less than half of them.

A few seconds later, like she’s heard my inner thoughts, Elise wanders closer and sits down next to me on the sofa. She looks so damn small in an oversized jersey and a pair of leggings. It’s strange because most girls here are dressed in tiny black dresses that barely cover their asses and too much makeup, but Elise is nothing like that. Sometimes I forget she’s all grown up, that she graduated from college last year, and is an actual adult.

“Hey, E.” I raise my beer toward hers.

“Hey. Congrats on tonight.”

“Thanks,” I mutter after another long swig of beer. “You’re not drinking?” I ask.

“I’ve had a couple,” she says, her gaze still scanning the party, almost like she’s making a concentrated effort not to look at me.

I know the feeling.

Normally—I see something I want—and I go and get it. It’s how I’ve always been. It’s how I’m wired. The one exception to that rule? Elise Parrish.