Wild Tendy (IceCats #2) by Toni Aleo
Nico Merryweather loves women—all women. Sure, they’re sexy and fun. But “Player” is an easy reputation to hide behind, a way to keep the good times rolling and reality at bay. He’s loud, he’s cocky, he says exactly what he’s thinking, and people just laugh it off because they think they know him. But Nico makes sure no one is close enough to know the truth. With a new season starting, he is ready to play the game he can control. They’ll all be watching Nico, the goalie, but they’ll never know the man behind the mask who is just trying to breathe. He hasn’t ever wanted anyone close enough to him to see the truth, until Aviva rams herself into his ass. Literally.
Aviva Pearce’s life is a collection of bad days all wrapped up without a bow. If it can go wrong, it will. All she wants is to run her business, take care of her sister, and keep her head above water. But with a father who is out to ruin her like he has himself and debt trying to drown her, it’s hard to stay afloat. Aviva isn’t the type to waste time dwelling on her misfortunes or to give up, though. She’s got too much fight in her. And she definitely doesn’t have time to waste on the wildly sexy, rich, showboating goaltender everyone wants. She’s got goals.
What she doesn’t know is that Nico has goals of his own.
And she’s number one on his list.
Excerpt Wild Tendy (IceCats #2) by Toni Aleo
Hey. It’s Callie. I need your help with this stupid equations crap. Can you come by? Please. Pretty please with a cherry on top?
Oh shit. Thankfully, I come to a stop at a stoplight to text her back quickly that I’m on my way.
Me: Is Aviva there?
Callie: Of course she is.
Me: Does she know I’m coming?
Me: Will I be walking into the lion’s den?
Callie: I can’t confirm or deny that.
Callie: One thing is for sure… She’s been jerk since you left. So, if you can fix that so my sister smiles again like she did Sunday morning, that would be great.
I don’t answer her. Instead, I drive off, heading toward the shop. I’d love to make Aviva smile again. I get giddy at the thought of making her laugh, but I don’t know how to do that and not feel for her. She isn’t the kind of woman I can be just friends with.
It’s all or nothing.
When I arrive at the shop, Callie is sitting outside with her head in her book. I pull my truck in, and when I shut it off, she looks up. Relief fills her features as I get out, shutting the door and locking it. I peek into the shop just in time to see Aviva look away. And just like every single time I see her, she’s beautiful. She has her hair up in a high bun, her bangs getting in her eyes. She moves around like she’s working, but there isn’t a soul in there.
“I hate this crap.”
Callie’s words pull my attention, and I chuckle. As I sit down beside her, reaching for her book, I ask, “Didn’t I tell you, you gotta try to like it?”
“I don’t like numbers. I have a calculator and Google. I don’t need this.”
I roll my eyes. “What if you don’t have your phone?”
She gives me a terrified look. “Why wouldn’t I have my phone?”
I shake my head. I pray for this generation. But truthfully, my phone is attached to me. That’s how I know Aviva hasn’t called or texted me. I don’t answer Callie as I look over what she is doing. “Oh, derivative concepts? Easy peasy!”
I glance over at her to find her staring back at me like I’ve lost it. “Easy peasy? What is wrong with you? This crap is so hard!”
“It’s fun,” I say excitedly. “Pay attention.”
For the next forty minutes, I make solid progress with her homework and her study guide. It doesn’t take long for her to catch on. I love this kind of math. While angles are my jam, I love watching numbers work. It stimulates me. When she gets through the backside of her homework, I hold up my hand.
She smacks my hand, and the look of confidence on her face fills my happiness cup. I love helping her. I love helping anyone with math. “You should volunteer and help kids with this. It would really be great for kids like me who have no clue what is going on.”
I laugh. “I actually do volunteer at the children’s hospital.”
“Aw, that’s so sweet! You should do, like, Big Brothers or something. This guy I dated for a while was in that program, and he sucks at math. He could really use your help.”
I nod. “Send me his info. I’ll contact him.”
She grins over at me. “How did you get so good at this?”
“I’m not sure. It’s just easy for me. I always was in advanced math classes when I was growing up. If I hadn’t loved hockey so much, I would have done something in the math field,” I say with a shrug. “But hockey is life.”
She leans on her hands, her eyes on me. “So, you were a nerd in school?”
I scoff. “Not at all. Math was the only thing I was good at. It has something to do with the numbers and how my brain works.”
She’s engrossed in what I am saying. “I have a friend in school. He’s autistic. I think Asperger’s, but he’s like that. Everything else overwhelms him, but he gets lost in science and math. He loves it, but man does he hate gym and English.”
My heart jumps up into my throat.
“He’ll freak out, but it’s understandable because he gets so overwhelmed. Super cool dude. He sits beside me in class and helps me a lot. He’s so funny too, big IceCats fan.”
I feel sweat drip down my brow as I breathe heavily.
She must have noticed the change in my body language, because she draws her brows in. “Nico? What’s wrong?”
I stare into her eyes for a long time. Everything inside me is going crazy, firing up like mad, and I don’t know what to do. Do I get up and leave? Do I ignore her statement and move on?
“I’m autistic too.”
Well, I guess that’s another option.
I tell a sixteen-year-old something I’ve never told anyone.