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They say never mix business with pleasure.

As a single father, and the captain of the Seattle Sasquatches, I’m adamant to keep every corner of my life separate and running perfectly.

That is, until Indie Decker walked into my life.

She’s the team owner’s little sister, my new nanny, and so completely out of my league.

Our first encounter? Pure fire, clashing wills with a passion that ensnared us both. Our second? A tentative truce, maybe even a budding friendship. But at some point, we slid recklessly into a ‘friends with benefits’ arrangement, thinking we could stay casual.

Wishful thinking, I know.

With each passing day, our no-strings-attached fling starts weaving threads between us that I’m not ready to cut. Indie’s fierce independence clashes with my need to protect, to heal, and to love her despite her warrines to open up.

But will my steadfast will and soft hands be enough to get through her defenses? Or am I doomed to sit in the penalty box of Indie’s heart?


EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Ice, Love, & Other Penalties

Claudia Burgoa

AVAILABLE NOW

Book Series: 

Claudia Burgoa has a brand new single dad, hockey romance out this week, part of her larger Decker Family series, and I have an awesome little sneak peek for you.

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Excerpt

“Hockey guy again, huh?” Harper guesses, jolting me from the vivid memory.

My eyes open wide, alarmed that she might see through me. “What?” I ask pretending not to understand what she’s trying to say.

She gives me a knowing look, arching her brow. “Clearly your stressful work situation involves Mr. Hot Single Dad. Did something happen with you two?”

I nervously brush the tips of my braid, debating where to even begin. Should I tell her? I never talk about the guys I fuck with my sisters. Not that there are many, also, they’re just flings and not worth my time. This though . . . Tyberius didn’t fuck me, he . . . Why did I let him kiss me?

As I debate how to respond, my traitorous fingers drift lightly to my still-tingling lips, their sensitivity heightened from the bruising kiss Ty imprinted there. I can almost feel the ghost of his mouth against mine—firm yet gentle, hungry and seeking.

Harper tracks the unconscious movement, her eyes widening. “Oh my God . . . did you two kiss?”

“It’s complicated,” I mutter weakly, fingers falling away from my lips as if scalded. But it’s too late—my sister is like a dog with a bone now.

“Well, you have to tell me what exactly happened, because you seem a little unhinged,” Harper presses. “Was that kiss good at least? Do you like him? Should I tell our brothers so they can go and kick his fine ass?”

I drag my gaze up to meet Harper’s eager one, nostrils flaring with a sharp inhale. Her questions are not helping me one bit. Instead, there’s an entire plethora of emotions stirring inside me like a hurricane in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean ready to destroy everything in its path.

Sure, I’m concerned what could happen if the blurred line is erased and we do more than just accidentally devour each other’s mouths. There’s Myra and Jude to think about, but there’s also a lot more.

The way he made me feel when we kissed.

So alive.

As if he knew just exactly how I wanted to be kissed and what I needed from him.

He kissed me, and in that moment, I was reborn. It was as if he’d read the secret map of my desires, charting a course through the unexplored territories of my soul with a precision that left me breathless. I felt seen, known in a way that words could never fully capture.

It was a kiss that spoke of possibilities, of a connection that defied logic and reason.

There’s a part of me, reckless and yearning, that wonders what it would mean to forget reason. To explore the depths of this attraction. Of course, I know and that’s why I’m terrified of the consequences.

But, oh, how I crave to feel that alive again, to be kissed with such understanding, so much need and desire.

And as I grapple with these emotions, these fears and desires, I realize that some lines, once crossed, can never be redrawn.

The damage—well, it can’t ever be repaired.

“It was just a stupid moment of weakness,” I mutter. “He’s hot and it’s been a while since I’ve hooked up.”

Harper’s eyes narrow, seeing right through my flimsy excuse. Then her expression softens sadly. “Who hurt you, Indie?”

“Huh?” I’m startled by her unexpected question. “I’m telling you I kissed a guy and you . . . What the fuck are you talking about?”

Harper shrugs a shoulder. “I know the signs. Those are pretty obvious trauma responses. Now that I’m healing after—” she pauses, swallowing hard before continuing, “You’re pretty evasive about your love life. You make sure that whenever you hook up, you do it with someone you’ll never see again. There are several reasons why you keep avoiding intimacy.”

I try not to gawk at her little rant. How dare she call me out on something that’s none of her business? “There’s only the one. I’m not interested in relationships,” I lash out.

She gives me a sad smile. “I’d believe that from anyone else. But this is you we’re talking about.”

“You’re just trying to look for something that’s not there,” I say, maybe too defensively.

She presses her lips together, taking a deep breath. “But I see it now. When you came back from New York, we all thought all those panic attacks were somehow separation anxiety. We had babied you a lot—more than we did Coda at the time. He’s the baby of the family, sure, but you’re our little Indie.”

“What does that mean?” I ask.

“You were in the NICU for . . . I can’t recall how long. Our parents or grandparents would take us to visit you,” she explains to me. “You were so tiny and fragile that it became a thing to protect you. Then, when you were in New York, and then . . . When you came back. None of us wanted to think that something bad could have happened to you. It’s easier to believe that you didn’t feel safe there because you were away from us,” she continues. “But now that I’m going through the same debilitating anxiety, battling night terrors and . . . I’m pretty sure there’s something you’re hiding from everyone, maybe even yourself.”

I clench my fists, pulse kicking as unwanted memories push against their boxes trying to come out. Stay locked where you belong, I order my mind. I don’t need any of that to unleash and destroy me again.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” I rasp.

She doesn’t flinch from my glare. “Actually, I do. I for one feel like an idiot for not doing more when you came back. But it’s okay—when you’re ready to unload this weight you carry alone, I’m right here. No pressure.”

I just stare at her in ringing silence. Because my sister sees too clearly behind my façade, and it terrifies me. The thought of unpacking those memories, those choices I can never take back . . . After all, it was my fault. I shouldn’t have been throwing myself at him. But I thought . . . I thought I loved him—and he cared for me.

“You’re imagining things.” I wave a hand around the house. “It’s probably the cabin fever.”

Harper scoffs. “It seems like everyone thinks the same. Jude the other day said that maybe I should start getting out because I’m just seeing things. Like him and Bart . . . they have to stop playing around and admit they love each other. Having threesomes with women to pretend they’re just having fun is so . . . two decades ago,” she states bluntly. “But he says I’m just imagining shit because I don’t have a life.”

“Oh, but that’s not your imagination,” I say, knowing that things between Bart and Jude are seriously stupid but they seem to avoid the obvious.

“For sure. Just like now that I’m piecing things together. You’re having a pretty bad reaction to Mr. Hockey Guy.” She taps her chin. “So, I have a theory, and maybe I’m wrong but . . . I remember you having a huge crush on Frederick. Once you were in college, you mentioned he texted you often. Then you came back, and we never heard about him again.”

Panic flutters within me at the direction of her speculation. Does she suspect something about what really happened with Frederick?

I force an indifferent shrug, struggling to keep my voice level. “Yeah, well, girl crushes fade. I grew up and got over it.”

But Harper’s gaze remains searching, assessing. “Did something happen between you two, Indie? Something bad? Because it seems like he could be the reason, you closed yourself off from relationships.”

Schooling my face into careful neutrality, I meet her scrutiny unflinchingly.

“You have an overactive imagination. My romantic history isn’t that exciting.”

And thankfully, Mom enters the house right as Harper is about to continue badgering me. I feel safe for now, but she’s asking one too many questions and I really don’t like it.

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Decker Family - Recommended Reading Order

(standalone duets with interconnected characters)

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