A sexy new one-night stand, surprise pregnancy, hockey romance in Mari Carr’s Italian Stallions series is out this week, and I have an awesome excerpt for you.
“How’s your collarbone?”
Elio drew her attention to the cup he was holding with his injured arm by lifting it slightly. “Almost completely healed. Hoping to get out of this sling right before Christmas.”
“That’s great news. I can’t imagine it’s been comfortable wearing it all this time. We were here the night you got hurt, actually, watching the game,” Gianna said.
Liza had called him shortly after he’d been helped off the ice, after he’d gotten word from the team doc that his collarbone was broken. She’d told him about the hockey viewing party, and he’d hated knowing that most of his family had watched him take that hit.
“It’s a rough game,” Gianna added.
“It can be.”
“Guess I’ll go deliver this wine to Liza,” she said. They’d paused in the threshold between the kitchen and living room, both about to return to the party when Keeley stopped them.
“Freeze!” she yelled, capturing their attention.
“What’s wrong?” Gianna asked.
Rather than respond verbally, Keeley pointed to a spot above their heads.
Gianna and Elio looked up at the same time.
“Seriously, Kee?” Gianna said. “Mistletoe?”
“You know the tradition. Don’t bring bad luck into my house by snubbing your nose at it.”
“You don’t consider a haunted house bad luck already?” Gianna joked.
Keeley snorted. “We have friendly ghosts. And I’d like to keep it that way.”
Gianna gave Elio an apologetic look that he didn’t understand. “Sorry,” she muttered.
He tilted his head. “Why?” He could see his question had taken her aback.
“I…” she started. “Well, uh…I’m sure you don’t want to…um…”
“Kiss you?” he finished for her.
She blushed, the innocent look surprisingly endearing.
Elio’s teammates claimed he had a type, but they’d been wrong about what it was. They’d made their assumptions based on the women he always went out with, but his dates weren’t driven by genuine attraction so much as by…well, availability. He was no stranger to beautiful, bold, sexually experienced women, the rink bunnies who went out of their way to attract the attention of a well-paid professional athlete. Paula had definitely fit that mold.
He was used to being sought after and approached by the fairer sex. The women he slept with almost always made the first move, and he was fine with that. It meant he didn’t have to work that hard to get laid. A woman would flirt, bat come-hither eyes at him, and he’d take her to bed.
For one night. He never stuck around for sleepovers, never got phone numbers, never pursued anything more than the sexual release.
The only reason Paula stuck around as long as she had was because she’d played the game better. Until she didn’t.
Gianna, however, was not that type. And there were too many parts of him not only noticing that fact but appreciating it.
“I’m just saying,” Gianna stammered, none of the casual flirting he’d seen her laying on Miles apparent at the moment. “It’s just a silly tradition, so…”
She planned to walk away. He could see it.
And for some reason…it pissed him off. “Gianna?”
“It’s not silly.”
Before she could protest, he lowered his head, intent on following through on the mistletoe tradition, on wiping away some of the vulnerability he saw in her eyes.
She raised her face, clearly ready to offer him a quick, platonic kiss. In fact, that was exactly what she gave him, but just as she began to back away, Elio wrapped his free hand around her waist and pulled her closer.
“I think we can do better than that,” he murmured—before giving her a much less platonic kiss.
Her lips were soft and warm against his, and she startled briefly when his tongue made an appearance. He stroked it along the seam of her lips, inviting hers to come out to play.
Elio wasn’t the type to do anything half-assed. Not hockey and certainly not kissing. And while he could tell she wasn’t as experienced as his past lovers, she was certainly making up for it with enthusiasm.
She parted her lips, offering him entry, and he didn’t hesitate for a moment, his tongue darting out to meet hers. She tasted like the wine she’d just taken a sip of, sweet and tart at the same time.
He was sorry her hands were occupied, holding the two wineglasses. He wouldn’t mind having them on him, feeling her fingers stroke his chest, maybe wrap around his shoulders. It had been too long since he’d had a woman in his arms, and he wasn’t sure he’d ever had one whose kisses impacted him quite like Gianna’s. Though he couldn’t put his finger on why.
There was an openness to her that he found himself responding to. Which was strange. He’d always felt like the one Moretti who didn’t quite fit, the one the stork most likely dumped at the wrong house. His family was tight knit, always together and in each other’s business, and while he was feeling that pull to belong lately, it hadn’t been very powerful the first thirty years of his life. Unlike his brothers and cousins, he’d also never felt the need to exert that overprotective gene around the women in his life. Probably because he hadn’t been around enough to see all the shitheads Aldo claimed Liza seemed to attract.
Gianna felt like the kind of woman he’d want to shelter, to defend, to…
She sighed softly as he deepened the kiss, running his tongue along her lower lip. He wasn’t sure how much time passed before he recalled they were standing within plain view of everyone in the party. He pulled away, regretfully, forcing himself not to go back for seconds.
Gianna blinked several times as if to clear her vision. He took pleasure in realizing he hadn’t been the only one to lose his head.
Elio gave her a quick wink, hoping it would work at dispelling whatever the fuck it was that had just passed between them. He’d heard the term chemistry before, but he’d always chalked it up to female fantasy, a flight of fancy or whatever. But now…he wasn’t so sure it wasn’t a real thing.
Gianna’s cheeks were flushed an even brighter shade of red, though this time he knew it was driven by heat, not embarrassment.
They still stood close, her gaze locked with his, and he could read the confusion and desire there. He wasn’t sure how she was pulling off that combination, but that was definitely what he was seeing.
Elio had never taken the time to look at Gianna very closely, but now that he was, he had to admit she was very pretty with her shoulder-length blonde hair. She was medium height, which meant she was about a foot shorter than him. She was quite slim, almost too thin, which seemed to indicate her simple eating habits hadn’t changed. Her skin was fair, like porcelain, and her nose and cheeks were dotted with a light smattering of freckles that added to the wholesome air about her.
It occurred to him it was that wholesomeness that had probably kept him from noticing her before. That and the fact she’d had a serious boyfriend for as long as he’d known her.
“Whoa,” she breathed, not hiding the impact of that kiss.
After too many years spent with women who were accomplished in seduction, she was a breath of fresh air.
“I think we did the mistletoe proud,” he said.
“I’ll say,” Keeley chimed in, fanning herself, eyes wide. “Holy shit.”
Elio laughed, then turned his attention back to Gianna, and while she was the one who was supposed to practice flirting, he was the one doing it. “So…meet you back here in about an hour?”
Gianna rolled her eyes, responding to his words like they were a joke, when he wasn’t entirely sure they were. “You’re shameless. All you Moretti men got in line twice when they were handing out charm, didn’t you?”
“Three times,” he corrected, then decided it was probably a good idea to step away from…whatever this was. He hadn’t lied to his brother. Now was the time to focus on making decisions about his career, his future. There wasn’t room in his head for anything else.
“Merry Christmas, Freckles.”
She giggled softly, shaking her head in amusement at his nickname for her.
“Merry Christmas, Elio,” she replied. “Thanks for the kiss. I needed that,” she admitted, before walking away to deliver the wine to Liza, who—mercifully—had been too wrapped up in the quarters game to see him kissing her friend senseless.
Then he considered her comment…and realized something unexpected.
He’d needed that kiss too.
The only thing he couldn’t figure out was why.