A steamy new best-friend’s-sister, hockey romance is out this week from author Mira Lyn Kelly, part of her Slayers Hockey series, and I have the whole first chapter for you.
The only thing worse than being dragged out of one of those wholly inappropriate dreams you fucking know you’re going to regret but can’t make your subconscious stop, is being dragged out by the starring member’s brother… at four in the morning… so you can check his sketchy ball.
For the record, it wasn’t a sex dream. Hell, no. Even my subconscious knows better than that. Piper Boerboom was fully clothed as she laughingly taunted my nocturnal self, blond ponytail bouncing with each sprinted step down the darkening arena corridor, always staying that much ahead of me, always asking what I’m gonna do when I catch her.
Yeah, the answer to that is nothing.
I never catch her, and I never ever want to.
“Bowie, dude. Just look at it.”
Right. The ball.
“No.” I roll over with a threatening grunt, pulling my pillow to cover my head. “We got in from Dallas two hours ago. It’s not a game day. I’m not late for practice or a plane. And I told you after the ingrown-hair-not-actual-herpes manscaping incident, I’m not checking your nuts again. Get out.”
He doesn’t leave. It’s Boomer, so I’m not really expecting him to. But there’s something about the shifting of his feet over the hardwood that has me rolling back and cracking an eyelid.
“I think something’s wrong.”
This is probably not the time to remind my best friend that plowing his way through the puck bunny population has consequences. That would be shitty. Even if I’ve warned him like a thousand times.
Rubbing my eyes, I flip the light on and—
“Whoa, what the fuck is that?”
“It looks bad, right?” he asks in a panicky whisper, hands cupping something more reminiscent of a rotten grapefruit than a ball and almost as dark in color as mine. Not good, considering he’s a blond-haired, blue-eyed white guy, and I’m Black.
“Nooo… okay, yes. It looks bad.” And once I drag my eyes up from the trainwreck that is his bloated nut, I see his face has gone kind of green and there’s sweat beading on his forehead.
Shit. I saw this guy take a stick to the trachea in Juniors, and he looked better than he does now.
Tossing the covers off, I grab my phone from the nightstand. “Scale of ten, where’s your pain?”
I’m already calling the team doctor when Boomer grazes his nut with one finger… and screams like he’s taking a breezy trip through a woodchipper… dick first.
“Let’s call that an eleven.”
I mean, we’re professional hockey players. Tough motherfuckers. We don’t scream unless it’s very, very bad.
Doc answers on the second ring.
“Hey, sorry to call so early, but Boomer’s here and there is something seriously wrong with his left nut.”
A beat of silence passes. “Again?”
Because, yeah, we’ve been down this path before. Only— “This is different.”
“We talking an outbreak of some kind? Lesions, seeping?”
I snap a picture and fire it over, then catch Boomer’s eyes. “Just breathe, buddy. He’s probably going to tell you to slap a bag of peas on it and take an ibuprofen.”
Doc coughs through the line. “Uh-huh. Got it. Okay, so here’s what we’re going to do. I’m sending an ambulance. Get him downstairs if you can.”
Boomer’s head snaps up, and based on the choked gasp, I’m thinking there may have been some reflexive clutching of the family jewels.
My hand is up, all calm and settle. “Boomer. Ben. Chill. It’s probably just a precaution.”
Doc’s voice comes loud and clear through the phone. “No. If he wants to keep the testicle, he needs surgery, fast.”
“My ball?” Yeah, tough motherfucker or not, that does it, and Boomer goes down. But not before he mumbles the dead last words I want to hear. “Call my sister.”
* * *
“So, you carried him.” I peek at my phone again as Bowie and I search out the coffee machine rumored to be three doors past the nurses’ station. “All the way down to the lobby. Like a princess.”
I don’t bother trying to stifle my snort of laughter. This picture, caught by some snap-happy jerk before the ambulance arrived, is pure gold. So far, it’s only made one of the smaller gossip sites, but I’m betting all the major sites will be running it before lunch.
Big, tough Grant Bowie, buckling under the dead weight and sprawling limbs of my two-hundred-thirteen-pound unconscious brother. It’s like Christmas came twice. Not that I’d ever wish an injury on Ben, but now that he’s out of surgery and “doing well” in recovery, I can absolutely laugh about it. I need to after the scare he gave me.
I study the sprawl some more. “I mean, why didn’t you just throw him over your shoulder? Fireman-carry him.” I point at the screen. “You’re barely keeping a hold on him.”
Beside me, Bowie looks like he’s counting to ten, dark eyes turned to the ceiling and that painfully sexy muscle in his square jaw jumping beneath a close-trimmed beard.
There was a time when all I was after was this guy’s smile. These days— “I mean, his right leg is just sort of dangling there, dragging on the ground.”
Pretty sure I’m hearing his molars turning to dust up there.
After a slow, cranky breath, he grunts, “You didn’t see his injury.”
And thank God for that. A girl shouldn’t know what her brother’s balls look like. Ever.
Bowie clears his throat. “I was afraid to put pressure on it.”
I wait. Wondering if this time, he’ll engage. If for once, he’ll give me who he used to be back when he lived at our house during Juniors. The friend who’d tease me into fits of giggles and help me with my homework. The sixteen-year-old so busy with high school and hockey he didn’t have time to date but always managed to ask me, a kid, about my day… and then really listened when I answered.
But I haven’t seen that guy since he went pro. And I’ve been pushing this guy’s buttons ever since.
“You look like you were about to drop him.” I show him the picture again. “Did you drop him? Because it really, really looks like you’re going to.”
His teeth lock, and he glares at me. “I did not drop him.”
“Mmm,” I say in that ambiguous way I know drives him nuts. “Sure. You set him down. Gently. Or mostly gently, right? Because the way you look in this pic, I’m kind of questioning a controlled descent.”
That jaw muscle bunches again. “Any word from April and Ben Senior?”
“Not yet.” My parents live a few suburbs north but are in Australia visiting my aunt this week.
He rubs a hand over his face and nods. “They’ll check messages in the morning. Or I guess for us tonight.”
“Probably,” I agree, but my attention is back on the post as I skim through the increasing comments. “I’m seeing speculation about a drug overdose.”
“Assholes,” he mutters.
“Yep. They’ll be posting apologies once the team makes a statement. Kind of surprised PR isn’t on this already.” I keep scrolling. “Ooh, and here’s a rumor about your epic bromance being a not-so-straight-up romance. Some suggestions that you need to hit the weight room. That Boomer should try a salad for lunch. And—” Scowling, I flip the phone so the screen is against my jean-clad thigh.
His eyes narrow. “What?”
“Nothing.” It’s bullshit.
I think his dirty look is the end of it, but no. His hand snaps out so fast I can’t react before my phone is already in his grasp.
I don’t know why I care about Bowie seeing the comment anyway. Let him look.
“Apparently, I can’t hang on to my teammate-slash-lover any better than I hung on to the puck in last night’s game.”
Gah. Except that he did rescue my brother, then drove halfway across the city to my apartment so he could bring me to the hospital where he’s stayed hours longer than he needed to.
Frowning down at the screen, he rubs the back of his neck and swallows hard. It’s the only tell Bowie has. The equivalent of saying ouch.
And while I give him crap like it’s my job— no matter how much friction there is between us —I really don’t like it when anyone else does.
I should change the subject. Say something nice. Ugh. Extend an olive branch and try to resist the urge to poke him in the eye with it.
“Hey, so I just want to say thank you.”
“For the ride?” he asks, waving a hand toward the open doorway of a room occupied with a few molded plastic chairs, a table with a chipped wood veneer, and a beast of a coffee vending machine that looks like it pre-dates my birth. “You already thanked me.”
I pull a couple crumpled singles from my pocket, but Bowie pushes them away with a grunt and extracts a few smooth bills from his wallet.
My wallet. Or at least the one I sent him that first Christmas after he went pro, before I realized things had already changed between us. The one with a faded “Grant Bowie” stamped into the worn leather.
Why does he still have that thing?
“Not like I was gonna leave you on the corner waiting for a Lyft in the dark in the middle of February,” he mutters, hitting the button for a coffee with creamer. “Your brother would murder me.”
He starts to hand me the cup but then scowls at it and sets it on the table. “Let it cool a minute.”
“Sure.” I watch as he selects a black coffee for himself. “Actually, I mean about the apartment.”
Those deep brown eyes lock with mine, the skin between furrowing. “The apartment.”
My stomach tenses. It wasn’t exactly a question, but I know this guy. And that sounded like confusion.
There’s no way Ben wouldn’t have asked him, is there? He said it was cool.
“Moving. Next week?” I feel light-headed. “Ben said you guys—”
“Right, riiight. He did.” He takes a swallow of his coffee, then deeming it cool enough, hands me my own. “Yeah, don’t mention it.”
I heave a breath and let out a nervous laugh.
Of course Ben cleared it with him.
It’s just early. Bowie’s got more important things on his mind. Like my brother.
“Excuse me, Piper Boerboom?” The nurse who updated us after the surgery is in the doorway, the look on his face not nearly so reassuring as the one he was wearing the first time we talked to him.
“Everything okay?” Bowie asks, his hand coming to rest at my back. A move so out of character, it sends my tension soaring.
I take an anxious step forward. “Did something happen?”
“Your brother is going to be fine, but there have been some complications.”