We are excited to share with you an exclusive look at Brenda Rothert’s new cover for Fire On Ice # 4 – DRIVE, scheduled for release July 2014. Enjoy a sneak peek into the book below and enter for a chance to win an ARC giveaway! Good luck!
Years of training are about to pay off for hockey player Nikola Vereshkova. A call to play in the big league means he can finally come through for those who need him. His relocation to Chicago comes with built-in friends – and one gorgeous enemy who was less than impressed with him after their first encounter.
Sadie Alexander knows all about the drastic measures men will take just to get laid. She’s not only experienced it first-hand, but lived to tell about it in her online column, Sadie Says. And even though she’s a die-hard independent woman on the outside, the recent marriage of her best friend has her secretly feeling more alone than ever.
Getting close to a foul-mouthed Russian hockey heartthrob was the last thing Sadie expected. And the timing couldn’t be worse since she’s sworn off of men for a writing assignment. The line between love and hate is eroding, and Niko and Sadie find themselves in deeper than they ever expected. Could something that started out wrong end up being just right?
Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. Whatevs. I didn’t particularly want to get married when I was still in my 20s, but a boyfriend who wasn’t a complete douchebag would’ve been nice.
I was walking into the upscale hotel where my best friend Dell’s wedding reception would be held tomorrow. It was times like this that my singlehood hit me particularly hard. No one to dance with, hand my purse off to for pictures or have post-reception sex with at this fancy hotel.
My only hope at this point was for some hot, single groomsmen. Ha — who was I kidding? I’d be hanging out with Kyler, Dell’s young son, who was better company than a grown man any day.
“May I help you?” a plastic looking woman with a tight bun asked from the reception desk.
“Hi. I have a room with the Hudson wedding. Sadie Alexander.”
She pecked some keys and pulled up my reservation.
“Alright, Miss Alexander. We have you in a king suite. Will it just be you?”
She slid a key card across the counter toward me.
“Can you have my bags brought to my room?” I asked, gesturing to my two suitcases and the garment bag I’d draped over them.
I tucked a bill for the bell hop into the handle of a suitcase and headed for the hotel’s restaurant. I’d gotten up early this morning for a story I was writing for a travel magazine about downtown Farmer’s Markets. Despite spending half my day around food, I hadn’t eaten anything. Now it was three in the afternoon, and I knew my stomach wouldn’t make it until the rehearsal dinner tonight.
There was a bar. Good. It always seemed acceptable to eat alone at a bar, rather than staring at the barren wasteland of vacant space across a table. I slid onto a stool and eyed the menu.
“What can I get you?” a bald, ruddy-faced bartender asked as he approached.
“Water with lemon and a grilled chicken salad, please,” I said, closing the menu. “Italian dressing.”
“You got it,” he said, offering a friendly grin.
I loved Chicago. Not just because the city had it all, but because the people here were nice in just the way I liked. Friendly, but not annoyingly chatty. I’d moved here with Dell and Kyler three months ago and it had immediately felt like home.
I scrolled through emails on my phone, rolling my eyes at a message from Delta, my newspaper’s editor. I wrote an online column, part of the evolution of an endangered, er – established, paper. Apparently I’d have to explain the word ‘manscaping’ to Delta.
Movement at an adjacent bar stool made me look up from my phone screen. Cool air invaded my mouth as it hung open. The man whose dark eyes met mine was beyond hot. He was tall and impossibly wide, his massive biceps straining the sleeves of his dark t-shirt. Even his forearms were corded with muscle. His black hair, cut short, was just a shade darker than his eyes. The shy smile he offered made my heart somersault in my chest.
“Hello,” he said haltingly. I couldn’t identify his thick accent on just that word.
“Hi,” I said, tucking my hair behind my ear and forcing myself not to giggle. I was like a teenager meeting the lead singer of a boy band.
“Can I get you anything, sir?” the bartender asked.
Sex on a bar stool considered. “Beer?” He butchered the word and my nipples hardened at the sound of his deep voice. “Um . . . dark beer?”
Okay, he was officially the hottest man I’d ever met in person. He turned back to me when the bartender left.
“I am . . . Niko,” he said, gesturing at his chest.
“I’m Sadie.” I grinned like an idiot. Suddenly I was thrilled I didn’t have a date in tow at this wedding. “Where are you from?”
“Russia. And . . . you?”
“I live here in Chicago, but I’m staying at the hotel this weekend.”
“And you are . . . all alone?”
A smile crept across his face. “You have . . .” He stroked the stubble on his chin and his brow furrowed with concentration. “How do you say . . . ?”
He pointed at one of his eyes.
“Eyes?” I offered.
His face lit with recognition. “Ah. Yes. Beautiful eyes,” he said.
My body warmed all over. I was used to cheesy pickup lines and men who gawked at my boobs while they spoke to me. But Niko’s eyes were locked on mine. I inched closer to him, pretending to be shifting in my seat.
“Thank you,” I said.
The bartender set a tall glass of dark beer in front of Niko and I snuck a glance at his large hand as he raised the drink to his lips. When my salad was set down in front of me, I pretended to focus on it.
But really I was thinking of the sexy stranger next to me, who was watching baseball highlights on the television mounted in a corner of the bar.
“How long are you here for?” I asked him.
“Very short,” he said. “Just some . . . business.”
Between the accent and the dark ink peeking out from beneath his tight shirt sleeve, I wanted to swoon then and there. Somehow I knew this guy was a rock star in bed, and I was dying for a private show. It’d been an embarrassingly long time since I’d had sex.
“What do you do?” he asked in broken syllables.
Hot Russian men, I dared myself to say. “I’m a writer.”
He smiled appreciatively.
I’d eaten about half my salad when the time on my cell phone told me I had to get moving so I could change into something decent for the rehearsal.
“I have to go,” I said, regretting it. I reached into my purse for my wallet and Niko put a hand out to stop me. He tossed two twenties on the bar.
“Can I . . .?” He looked at me, his brows knitted together with frustration.
“My number?” I offered a little too eagerly. “You want my number?”
“Yes.” He grinned. “I am . . . sorry. My English . . .”
“No, it’s good,” I said, waving a hand. I scrawled my name and number onto a sheet of paper in the notebook I carried in my bag, blowing on the wet ink. It would be tragic for smeared ink to ruin my chances of a rendezvous with Niko.
He slid down from his stool when I got up to leave, folding the paper and putting it in his pocket.
“Maybe . . . tonight?” he asked.
Definitely. But I didn’t want to seem desperate, so I just nodded and smiled.
I glanced down at my polo and khakis, hoping I was dressed up enough for the rehearsal. The sleeves of the polo were pulled tight by my shoulders and biceps. I’d never been able to find shirts that fit at my size.
At 6’5” and 230 pounds, I was among the biggest hockey players in my league. I smiled when I saw Luke Hudson, who was damn close to my size.
“Hey, brother,” he said, reaching around to clap me on the back.
“Hey, man. Congratulations. I’m happy for you. I feel sorry as shit for Dell, though. She’s gonna be stuck with your ass now.”
“I missed you, motherfucker,” Luke said with a grin. We’d seen each other when he and Dell came back to Rockford to get the last of her stuff in June, but that had been two months ago.
I turned and saw the former trainer for my minor league team smiling ear to ear at me.
“Dell, you look great,” I said, pulling her in for a hug. “Congratulations.”
“Thanks for being a groomsman. Luke’s got a man-crush on you.”
“What the fuck?” Jason Ryker demanded from a few feet away. “Am I not crushworthy, Luke?”
“Fuck both of you,” Luke said. “I’ve only got one crush, and it’s on my wife to be.”
“Aww,” I crooned, punching him in the arm. “You’re so fucking sweet, man. I can see the lash marks on your back from here.”
Luke flipped me off and looked like he was about to respond when a tall woman in a dark suit gathered everyone together.
“Are we ready?” she asked.
“Just waiting on my maid of honor,” Dell said.
A blonde woman approached and offered me her hand. “Hi, I’m Kate Ryker. We’re walking down the aisle together.”
“Don’t you think we should get to know each other a little first?” I quipped.
Ryke elbowed my ribs. “That’s my wife, asshole. She means before and after the ceremony.”
“Relax, man. I was joking, not hitting on her. I already met my company for tonight.”
“You work fast,” Ryke muttered.
I shrugged. “Right time, right place.”
“Hey, when are you gonna get your shit together and come join our team?” he asked.
My mind churned with hope and frustration at his words. I fantasized daily about getting called up to the big league. “I’m at the top of the list, but you never know. I busted my ass last year.”
“How old are you?”
“You’re still a kid. Plenty of time,” he said dismissively.
I sighed. “Yeah, but I’ve been working for it for 14 years. I’m so fucking ready.”
“Just work hard and keep your nose clean. It’ll happen.”
“I hope so. I love playing the game, but I wouldn’t mind playing it for decent money, you know?”
It was more than that. I had people depending on me for the money, but I wasn’t about to say that.
The room had quieted, and I turned to find the sexy brunette from the bar glaring at me.
“Oh, shit,” I muttered.
“Yeah. Apparently you’re a fast learner? With the English and all?”
I looked away. “Uh . . . yeah.”
“Wait. You guys know each other?” Luke asked, looking back and forth between us. I wished like hell we weren’t about to do this in front of the two dozen people looking at us right now.
“We do,” Sadie said in a crisp tone. “We met in the bar earlier. Only Niko’s English was . . . how do you say . . . not so good then?”
“Aw, shit,” Luke said with a grin. “You still running that shit, Niko?”
“Luke.” Dell glared at him and then at the minister who was within earshot.
“Sorry, baby.” He looked at Sadie. “It’s what he does. Don’t be offended by it.”
“Don’t be offended?” Her voice rose as she spoke. “He tried to scam me into bed, and you think it’s funny?”
Damn, this girl was gorgeous. Even more so now than earlier. Her huge dark eyes were fixed on me and her lean, perfect body was rigid with anger. I needed to make this right so I could still have a chance with her. “Listen, Sadie, can we start over?”
“Not happening.” Her tone was icy.
“I didn’t mean—¬”
“I know what you meant, Niko. Or is that even your name? Are you even Russian?”
I ran a hand through my hair and sighed. This was turning into a scene fast. “Yeah, my name’s Nikola Vereshkova and I’m Russian. The only thing I stretched was my English speaking skills.”
“Well, I can’t say I blame you,” Sadie said, her eyes still shooting into me like a couple of daggers. “People either get balls or brains.”
Dell turned to me, her green eyes flashing with anger. “That was a dick move, Niko. You should apologize.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, meeting Sadie’s eyes. “Okay?”
“Sorry?” Her face twisted with disgust. “You’re just sorry you got caught. If we hadn’t seen each other here you’d have been pounding me into your headboard tonight.”
I couldn’t help but grin at her. “And you’d be loving it, sweetheart.”
“Loving it?” she scoffed. “Please.”
“I didn’t even have to ask for your number,” I reminded her. “You practically begged me to take it.”
Her eyed widened and she stepped closer to me. “Begged? Are you out of your mind? Or are you just that full of yourself?”
Luke stepped between us. “Alright, guys. Do I have to send you to separate corners, or can we all be adults?”
Sadie raised her hands in mock surrender. “I’m fine. As long as I don’t have to walk down the aisle with him, I’m fine.”
“We definitely won’t be walking down the aisle together, Ballbuster,” I said. “But you still want me to call you later, right?”
“Asshole,” she muttered just loud enough for me to hear.
The lady in the suit clapped her hands, commanding attention. “Let’s get started, shall we? I know which two people to keep as far apart as possible.”
A ripple of nervous laughter sounded and I snuck a glance at Sadie. She was still glaring, and she discreetly gave me the finger in front of her stomach, where no one else could see. I shook my head, trying not to laugh. It was too damn bad I’d blown my chances with her, ‘cause I could tell she’d be a wildcat in bed. She was all fire.
But she hadn’t been earlier. At the bar, she’d been sweet and even a little seductive, moving closer to me when she thought I wasn’t paying attention. I’d been looking forward to seeing her again later.
It sure as fuck wasn’t happening now. I glanced at the other bridesmaids, besides Kate, to see if there was any potential. No, not one of them was remotely as alluring as the woman who was giving me the evil eye right now. Even pissed off, she was beautiful.
The clueless foreigner bit had served me well with women many times. But I found myself wondering what would’ve happened if I’d been straight with Sadie. I shrugged it off, reminding myself that it was too late. I’d never know.
Brenda Rothert started her writing career as a print journalist. She now writes Romances, some Contemporary and others with a twist of dystopian society and adventure. Rothert lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three boys.
Series Reading Order
Book 1 – Bound
Book 2 – Captive
Book 3 – Edge