A sizzling new hockey romance is out this week in Sawyer Bennett’s Arizona Vengeance series, and I have an excerpt for you.
The past eight years of my life melt away when Calliope’s lips touch mine.
My entire professional hockey career fades.
The women I’ve dated over time…faceless.
The money I’ve made, unimportant.
Fuck, I’d forgotten how good she tastes. Her tongue touches mine, and when an electric surge of longing pulses through me, I realize we are in dangerous territory. Calliope has no clue that I’ve carried an agonizing torch of desire for my first true love all these years. She can’t understand the depth of my feelings, and if I don’t draw away now, this could be disastrous.
She’ll never accept the truth.
I pull away, my eyes immediately taking her in.
I see eyes half-closed, a small smile playing on her mouth, and a tiny exhale of something that I can’t quite put my finger on.
Her eyelids flutter open, and her hazel-green eyes stare at me. Confusion sets in. “What’s wrong?”
Only about a million things.
“I don’t want to take advantage of you,” I reply.
Her chin jerks, and by the expression on her face, I can tell that thought never crossed her mind. Still, I hold her gaze.
Calliope, never one to back down, returns the look just as steadily. Finally, she says, “I know I shouldn’t even be attracted to you after…”
Her words crumble, drift away. And yet, she doesn’t drop her gaze from mine. She inhales a fortifying breath and then lets it out slowly. “I hated you for a very long time. And I’m ashamed of that because I was raised to never hate. But you hurt me so badly, and I went years without knowing what was so wrong with me that—”
“Nothing was wrong with you,” I exclaim, my hand shooting out to clasp the back of her neck. She finally tries to avert her gaze, attempting to turn her head. I hold tightly, squeezing her neck gently and finally, she gives me her regard again. “I thought I was doing what was best for you.”
Incredulity morphs her features, and her mouth opens in shock. “What was best for me? You crushed me.”
“Christ,” I mutter and frame her face with my hands. “I didn’t think you would follow your dreams if you were following mine.”
“That makes no sense,” she blurts.
“It did to me back then,” I reply bitterly. “You had big plans, Poppy. Nursing school. It was all you ever dreamed of. And yet you and I were so tied up in each other, I thought you’d lose sight of that. Moving away with me to Calgary so suddenly…you wouldn’t have had time to enroll in school, and I just thought that if you got off track with your college plans, you wouldn’t ever get back on. So I made the decision to leave you behind. I thought it was what was best for you, and that had to take precedence over what I wanted.”
I’m stunned when Calliope’s eyes flash with fury, and she knocks my hands away from her face. “You egocentric, sexist pig. How dare you decide what’s best for me? How dare you think that I didn’t have the fortitude to pursue my dreams while helping you follow yours at the same time?”
And, fuck…there it is. The source of my regret all these years. Because while I thought for quite a while that I was doing the right thing, deep down, I knew I never gave her the credit she deserved.
“I’m sorry,” I offer. No truer words have ever been spoken. “I’m so very sorry. I got it wrong. So very fucking wrong.”
“You’re goddamned right you did,” she seethes and scrambles from the back of the Pathfinder. She whirls to face me, hair flying, and eyes spitting sparks of wrathful fury. “You refused to even have a conversation with me about it. I begged you to tell me why you were making the decision, and all you said was that you changed your mind about wanting me to come with you. Do you know how devastating that was?”
“It was devastating to me, too, Poppy,” I tell her.
She points a finger my way, wags it as if she’s chastising a small child. “Oh, no, you don’t. Don’t you dare call me Poppy. You don’t get to do that anymore.”
I hold up my hands for a moment in silent surrender and hop to the ground beside her. She’s magnificent in her rage, never having been more beautiful as she expels all of her anger at me.
But I want to calm this down. We’re actually communicating, and I realize now that this is my chance to try and make things right with and for her. Make her realize that what I did, I did out of love.
I extend a hand to her. “Calliope…”
She takes a quick step back as if touching me would be a vile affront. Her second step back, and her sandaled foot comes right down on the edge of the pond bank. Dewy grass and mud take her hostage, and she starts to tumble backward.
I lurch for her, latching on to her wrist, but she tries to avoid my touch, leaning her entire body back. The momentum of gravity pulls at her hard, and I have to take a step toward her for more balance.
Except my shoe hits the same disastrous combo of weeds and slimy mud, and my balance dissipates. I fall toward her, and no matter how strong I am or how much I’d really, really love to save the girl, it’s all for naught.
We both go crashing down, right into the chilly April waters of Podden’s pond.