A brand new small town romance, featuring a billionaire hockey player who just so happens to be the heroine’s brother’s best friend, is out this week from Evey Lyon, and I have the first chapter for you. This is the first book in the all-new Lake Spark Off-Season series which is a spin-off from the Lake Spark series.
Loosening the collar of my crisp white shirt is priority number one as soon as I get out of this arena.
But the tie around my neck is a reminder of many things.
For one, professional hockey players wear suits to show respect for the game, and during my time as the captain of the Chicago Spinners, I was most certainly no exception. But those days are over, and now I need to focus on a new way to occupy my time, and it just so happens that today required a tie.
The paperwork still needs to be finalized, but, nonetheless, a proud smirk wants to escape me as I walk through the Chicago arena’s empty halls. Hockey will always be in my blood, which is why when the ink dries, I’ll be the new owner of the Spinners.
I’m sure there will be opinions, there always are. Like when most people assumed that Declan Dash’s parents bought a position for their son on a professional hockey team, but I proved them wrong with every winning goal until I held the title of Captain. And now I have the ultimate F-you to all the naysayers.
The perfect timing was presented to me when the former owner sadly, unexpectedly passed at the end of last season, which led to a quick sale. With my retirement status looming and contract ending, I put in a highball offer on impulse, thanks to the cashflow of my hockey career, family money, and an app investment from years ago.
Now I’m striding through a hallway as the man on top.
“Declan,” I hear a familiar voice call out my name.
Turning back, I’m greeted by the legend himself, Ford Spears, in jeans and a T-shirt. I was lucky to have him be my mentor during my early years on the Spinners before he retired. I consider him a friend; we have dinner together every few weeks or so.
“Hey!” I greet him with a side hug, as two men who have high-caliber sportsmanship and friendship would.
“One step closer?” He raises a brow at me.
I try to control my grin. “Maybe,” I say, playing it cool. Rumors run rampant, but I’m under agreement not to discuss my latest career move until everything is officially announced. Truth be told, the former owner was neither great nor bad at his role, but fate seemed to step in to give the team a change. That’s what I’m going to bring to the table.
“Either way, don’t forget that you promised to help with the summer camp this year.” He gives me a pointed look.
I beam, holding my hands up in surrender. “I would never forget. It’s for a good cause.” When Ford retired a few years ago, he moved to Lake Spark to run a sports complex. His training facility includes teaching skill development for players and summer camps for kids that every one of our teammates, present and past, volunteers at for a few days. I just skipped the last few years due to other commitments, so I owe him a week for sure.
“What brings you to the city?” I wonder.
“Just met with the marketing department about arranging a charity event later in the year out in Lake Spark. Plus, I need to pick up some supplies for the wifey. She’s decided that baby number three gets a space-themed nursery to try and see if we will actually have a son who doesn’t enjoy hockey.” Ford smiles proudly as he swipes his hand—his wedding ring visibly shining—across his stubbled jaw.
“There you are!” A woman’s voice breaks our conversation, and we both look to our side.
Well, my day just got better.
Ford’s younger sister, Violet, saunters over, and her striking looks have my eyes instantly committed to staring at her more than I should.
Her sparkly blue eyes greet me with a glimmer of curiosity, which is highlighted by the dark hair framing her face. Her expression appears neutral to me, and it’s throwing me for a loop wondering what she thinks of my presence.
“Violet saved my ass by joining me in Chicago to handle the shopping and promised to meet me here,” Ford explains. Lake Spark is a small town about two hours from here if traffic isn’t a pain, and the last I heard, Violet moved there to be close to her brother.
She quickly interjects and nudges her brother’s arm. “Because you owe me lunch before I bid you farewell and meet my friend for our concert tonight.” Violet clears her throat and turns her attention to me again. “Hey, Dec, long time no see.”
Nobody calls me that. Nor do I seem to care in this moment. She can call me whatever she wants, and I’ll answer either way.
“I think that’s the point. Your brother has a strict rule that no hockey player should go within a five-mile radius of you, not even just to say hi,” I joke, but we all know that it’s true.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find Violet attractive, but Ford always made it clear that hockey players shouldn’t go near her, which made sense since she was in college when he played, and not every man on our team had noble intentions.
But I’ve been respectable to her through the years when I’ve seen her around, always a gentleman, except for the occasional flirty remark to test the waters for the very unrespectable fantasies in my head.
“Excuse me for watching out for my little sister, as any big brother would. Only guys who bring their A-game and honorable intentions will do,” Ford states, while Violet just rolls her eyes.
I glance at my watch, knowing that as much as I would like to figure out if Violet is wearing black lingerie underneath her pink dress, I have things to do and places to be.
“I guess Ford is aiming for the big-brother-of-the-year award. Anyhow, I need to run, but we’ll catch up soon.” I offer my hand to Ford for one of our team shakes.
“For sure,” he promises.
My eyes land on Violet again, whose lashes flutter as she offers me a half-smile, and I still can’t pinpoint why her eyes on me feel heavy, yet playful. It’s a thought I should probably ignore.
Even when I walk away and notice that she’s watching me leave.
* * *
Finally, this damn tie can go. The rest of my suit stays.
“Are you ready for tonight?” My childhood friend Brent gives me a devilish grin as he greets me in his front hall, mirroring my dress code, with his hair slicked back. A subtle sound of electric house music plays in the background.
This is one of those parties that involve a bowl with names to pick.
The invite list is carefully vetted, and everyone here knows they will be leaving with someone.
It’s not that I do this on a weekly or even monthly basis, but this isn’t my first.
Sometimes, you just need to indulge in a wild night.
“This is exactly what I need today,” I admit.
I undo the top button of my shirt, relieved I ditched the tie during the elevator ride.
Brent pats my shoulder, indicating to follow. “Come on, we need to get you something strong to drink before a night of debauchery.”
I walk through the penthouse, taking in the familiar surroundings. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer exquisite views of Chicago at night, with little specks of light scattered in the foggy night air outside, as we are so high up in the building.
Making our way down the hall into the kitchen, I trail behind Brent to the island counter where he instantly begins to pour a fresh glass of Scotch, while my eyes scan the room. Everyone is dressed to affect, because impressions count.
Brent has a strict protocol for choosing guests, and he can be brutal with his criticism too. Nobody here would call themselves committed in a relationship with someone, and they purely enjoy the thrill of this setup.
He hands me my drink with a smirk, and his eyes narrow in on me.
“Thanks,” I say. Taking a sip, the burn hits my tongue just right, but my eyes do a double take back to Brent who seems to have intel he’s holding onto. “Something you want to share?”
“In a few minutes we will get this show going.” Brent gives me an assuring nod, but his look is indescribable. “Did you see who just walked into the kitchen?”
I didn’t take much notice of faces when I came in, since a drink felt like the priority.
I turn around and notice a pair of legs that I missed in my assessment of the scene. A pair of legs that has me invested to explore further, which is why my sight draws a line up from her black stiletto heels, along her defined smooth legs, to her pink dress. It’s different than before, better. This magnificent journey of exploration ends when my eyes land on her lush lips stained with dark pink lipstick.
But her cute mouth isn’t the only thing familiar. It’s her blue eyes that hit a button somewhere inside of me, just as they did earlier today. Those curious eyes that wander the room, taking in her surroundings.
She’s standing there, patiently waiting, like a doe lost in the forest.
And I’m the big bad wolf.
She is the last person I would ever expect to see here.