Celebrating the release of my romantic thriller, Puckheads, set in the world of ice hockeye, and thanks again to Victoria Blisse for this marvelous promo opportunity.
How far would you go to win your lifelong dream?
When Zoë Whipple agrees to make a documentary about a hockey team’s season, she doesn’t sign on for scandal, crime and murder. But she discovers that players, rabid to win the championship, don’t let morality or the law stand in the way of their ambitions.
When a rookie dies from cardiac arrest, Zoë is saddened but not suspicious until another player, in the grip of ’roid rage, goes berserk on the ice and ends up in the hospital. Digging into the mess reveals illegal painkillers and steroid abuse among most of the team. Zoë, whose reputation for honest filmmaking is at stake, threatens to expose the scandals.
Is her new lover, team captain “Crash” Crasseau, responsible for the harassment and vandalism meant to scare her into silence? When Crasseau’s ex-wife is murdered, and Zoë’s daughter is threatened, Zoë must choose between her career ambitions and her child’s safety.
And here’s the snog:
As Zoe left the room, the first person she saw was Daniel Crasseau. Just her luck. She again wondered how she was going to manage Crasseau and his Cro-Magnon possessiveness. He didn’t seem to get the message that she wasn’t going to play his idiotic games. How many times had he hit his head on the boards? Enough to scramble the brains inside, she bet.
He leaned against the wall and regarded her with a broody stare. His eyes were the same chilly color as compressed glacial ice, which didn’t help her composure. His dark blond hair, still damp from a post-game shower, brushed the collar of a navy polo shirt. He’d belted his jeans with a strip of leather that seemed clumsily hand-tooled. Aside from his stature, he looked like any other man might. So why did Crasseau get to her?
“Zoë Whipple,” he said in his deep, rough voice.
Her nipples tightened, scratching against her lace top. She didn’t like it or him, but she finally admitted to herself what bothered her about Crash.
He was damn sexy and knew it. How was she going to deal with him?
She resented his effect on her. As a filmmaker, she regularly dealt with the rich and famous. She knew Robert Redford, for heaven’s sake. She’d flown in Harrison Ford’s plane, but her stomach had never done somersaults.
“Whipple. What a suggestive, seductive name.”
She raised a brow. “If this is your idea of sweet talk, hockey groupies are way too easy.”
Smiling, he drew closer. She caught a whiff of his cologne, a compelling, spicy scent. Then he asked, “Do you like whips, Zoë Whipple?”
Though jolted, she shot him a cool smile. “You’ll never know.”
“Oh, I think I will.”
She sucked in a breath, aware of the tiny hairs up and down her back bristling at Crasseau’s staggering arrogance. “I’m convinced you don’t get enough, Crasseau, and I’m not the answer to your, uh, little problem.” She pointedly glanced at his pants.
He reared back, putting distance between them. “I’m getting plenty, and I don’t have a little problem.”
Ha. She’d nailed him where he was weak, in his male ego. “Really?” She hoped she sounded derisive.
“Yeah, really.” He imitated her contemptuous tone.
“So why are you flirting with me? I’m old enough to be your mother.”
Those ice blue eyes again surveyed her. He smiled. “I very much doubt that. I think we are of an age, you and I, and have more in common than you may know.”
“I’m pushing forty, studboy.”
He shrugged. “Big deal. In five years, I will be also.” He sipped his whiskey and eyed her over the rim of his glass.
That meant he was, what, thirty-four? Thirty-five? Not old, but in this sport, a senior. She tried not to appear deflated, but so many hockey players were kids that she’d overlooked that Crash was a man, and a very sexy one at that.
His gaze dropped to her mouth, and then to her breasts. His scent tickled her nose while his sexual aura filled her senses. How did he do that? she wondered. Was it his reputation? Would the fact he was so obviously thinking about sex make him seductive, make her think about bed?
Zoë took another deep breath, resolving that she was not going to get involved with a man as clearly troubled as Daniel Crasseau. Any kind of intimacy with him would insult her husband’s memory. She was going to get rid of Crash, fast and forever.
She said, “What if you’re looking for something else?”
“You get laid plenty, or so you say.” She wondered what imp had taken over her tongue. When she talked with Crash, she often said the darnedest things. She’d certainly never used so many rude, crude terms.
But Crasseau was rude and crude, and, determined to scare him off, she figured she’d fight fire with fire. “So if you don’t want sex, what is it that you want?”
He shrugged. “What could that be?”
“What if you want to open your head and heart, and sharing your body just isn’t enough?” Zoë knew that men hated to talk about feelings. There was a thousand-percent chance that Crash would turn tail and scram.
He stared at her, looking as though she’d bitch-slapped him. “I don’t want that kind of commitment.”
“Then go hit on someone else. You don’t need me, and I don’t need you to mess up my life. You come over here and flirt—”
“I hardly said anything.” Raising his hands defensively, Crasseau backed off.
“You don’t have to say anything. You flirt with your eyes, your smile, your entire body. You come in here, pure testosterone, giving off pheromones like…like the sun gives off light and heat, and you’re saying now—” She stopped, hearing a door open behind her and footsteps advance. Lauren. Damn.
He ignored the interruption. “So you are interested.”
“I have children, Crasseau,” she hissed. “I’m supposed to be setting an example.”
Her daughter slid an arm around Zoë’s waist and said, “Hi, Mom. Why don’t you introduce me?”
He smiled and extended a hand. “Daniel Crasseau.”
Grinning, Lauren shook Crash’s hand. “Lauren Whipple.”
“May I date your mother?”
“You can try. Good luck.” With a wink, she slipped past them on her way downstairs, passing another partier.
“So you’re a tough one, eh?” His eyes gleamed. “That’s all right. I like a challenge.”
Zoë folded her arms across her torso, deciding she’d deal with Lauren later. “I’m not a challenge, I’m a person.”
“Right,” she sneered. “The kind of female you want is right over there.” She nodded toward the staircase, where a blonde woman now leaned against the rail, displaying her body. She wore a damp halter top, inflated breasts, thick makeup and an avid expression.
Crasseau’s gaze passed over her with total indifference. “I’m done with hockey hos and puckbunnies.” He waved a hand dismissively, and the blonde woman went back downstairs, calling Thor’s name. Crash continued. “They’re boring. Why shouldn’t I be interested in you?”
“You’re not. I don’t do one-nighters.”
“If we’re good together, there could be more.”
“Be still my heart.” She placed a hand on her chest.
As though magnetized, Crasseau’s glance followed her hand to her breasts. She again crossed her arms over herself and narrowed her eyes at him. He grinned back.
He looked infuriatingly sexy.
He looked as though he could deliver on every seductive promise.
He looked like a six-foot-four-inch problem.
How was she going to get rid of him? She said, “Crasseau, listen to me. I’m a widow. My husband died two years ago. I’m not getting involved with you or anyone.”
His eyes went blank as glass, concealing his thoughts. “I am sorry for your loss.” His voice was precise, polite, as if he were reading lines he’d memorized from Miss Manners.
Hmm, she thought. There’s something going on here.
He took her hand and kissed the back of it. She hated to admit that the gesture, though corny, felt good. What was wrong with her?
“I could make you forget the past.” His voice had gone dark and husky.
“Forget my husband? I don’t want to forget him.”
“I could make you forget the pain.” He brushed his knuckles over her collarbone, leaving a trail of sensual longing in his wake.
Not a cold shiver. A shiver of need, of passion.
As quickly as her desire had arisen, she squelched the feeling. The humiliation of becoming another notch on Crasseau’s hockey stick was one factor. And there was Zoë herself. Paul had been the love of her life. Why should she settle for anything less than the joy she’d known?
Crasseau was nothing but trouble. She didn’t need or want him. Did she?
While she’d ruminated, he’d eased closer. Though he’d cornered her at the end of the hallway, she didn’t feel trapped. Her heart banged against her ribs. But she wasn’t scared. She was excited.
He ran seductive fingertips up and down her bare arm. The tiny hairs lifted, tickling her, raising a tremor of response he must have seen.
One more bedroom smile and that’s where she’d be headed. To his bedroom.
He bent his head close to hers. “I could do it too. I could make you forget.”
He was too close and too right, damn him. “I’m…I’m cold. I want to get my jacket.”
“Funny, you look pretty damn hot to me.”
Her mouth dropped open. Hot? She was hot? Since when?
“Nice blush.” He winked at her. “You look good in red. Come with me. I’ll warm you up.”
That one had been old when Zoë was sixteen. “Warm me up? Are you kidding?”
“Ah, you’re smiling. That’s a good sign.” He covered her mouth with his.
He tasted her as though she were fine wine, sipping at her mouth rather than ravaging it. Every gentle touch of his surprisingly tender lips quivered through her body.
No one had kissed her mouth since Paul died. The shock of it made her limp, and the pleasure, a pleasure she’d forgotten, made her reel and sway, pliant in his arms.
Then there were his hands. Big, rough hockey player’s hands that had scored hundreds of goals, fought through a thousand scrums. Hands that now stroked Zoë with the delicacy of a kitten’s paws, sliding up and down her back, then palming her bottom. He pressed her hips against his with those big, firm hands.
He wasn’t lying about his desire. In instinctive response, her need whispered through every cell, as though something quiescent had awakened.
His distinctive scent filled her nostrils. What was it?
“What was what?” he asked.
Damn. She must have spoken aloud, murmuring against his mouth. No way to hide…
“Your cologne,” she said.
“I’m not wearing any.”
Double damn. That meant she found his natural scent attractive. “That’s not good.”
“Of course it is,” he said, understanding perfectly. He nibbled on her earlobe before trailing gentle kisses along the side of her throat toward her breasts.
Despite how good he felt, how good he smelled, she wasn’t ready for this, or him. A good, sharp shove forced him all the way to the opposite wall of the hallway.
“Do not,” she snarled, “do not, under any circumstances, push me into a corner like that. I am not here to wax your stick every time you think it needs polishing.”
“Maybe not, but you want me.”
“So what?” She jammed past him, planning to leave.
But a delightful, tingling warmth had spread throughout her limbs. She recognized the unfamiliar feeling. Pleasure.
A man, not her husband, had flattered her, kissed her, desired her, and she’d found it pleasurable.
She wasn’t sure she wanted that.
Zoë glanced back at Crash, who followed her. His eyes held an intensity, a desperate hunger she didn’t understand.
She couldn’t trust someone she didn’t understand.
Author bio: Suz deMello:
Best-selling, award-winning author Sue Swift, a.k.a Suz deMello, has written over fifteen novels, plus several short stories
and non-fiction articles. She writes in numerous genres including romance, mystery, paranormal, historical, contemporary comedy and erotica. She’s a freelance editor who’s worked for Total-E-Bound, Ai Press, Liquid Silver Books and Etopia Press. She also takes on private clients.
Her books have been favorably reviewed in PW, Kirkus and Booklist, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several
A former trial attorney, she resides in northern California. Her passion is world travel, and she’s left the US over a dozen times, including stints working overseas for many months. Right now, she’s working on her next manuscript and planning her next trip.
Her blog is at http://www.fearlessfastpacedfiction.com. Find her reading picks @ReadThis4fun on Twitter, and befriend her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/SueSwift ). Her sites are at http://www.sue-swift.com and http://www.suzdemello.com.