All I want is to play hockey on the Ice Knights, instead, I’m in a viral video for all the wrong reasons and my mom–yes, my mom–has taken over my dating apps. Then, when I think it can’t get any worse, the fates deliver Zara Ambrose, a five-feet-nothing redhead with more freckles than inches and who’d rather be anywhere other than on a date with me.
Now a bet with her friends and my PR nightmare have us both stuck in this go-on-five-dates-with-the-same-person hell situation. But if we band together, we can get the whole thing over with and go on with our lives. It’s perfect! No feelings. No future. No fuc– *ahem* fun. No naked fun.
What could go wrong? Nothing–as long as I remember the rules. Don’t notice the way she looks in a dress. Don’t react when she does that little shivery sigh thing whenever we touch. Don’t think about the fact that she’s never had a toe-curling orgasm that wasn’t self-delivered and just how badly I want to change that.
Five dates–that’s it–and then we go our separate ways. At least, that was the plan.
Parental Guidance Excerpt #1!
“So, how was training camp?” Zara asked.
“Good,” Caleb said, setting his phone down on something and walking away, giving her a view of his bedroom with not a single dirty sock or crumpled T-shirt in sight. The sound of Law & Order was low in the background. “We’ve got two preseason road games and then one at home this week.”
Zara was about to tell him that seemed like a lot when he whipped off his shirt and her brain hiccupped. Caleb’s attention was focused on the TV hanging from the wall across from his absolutely humongous bed. Her attention? It was on the muscled expanse of his chest. It was even better than the photo—or twelve—that she’d seen online. And by seen, she meant stared at for an embarrassingly long time wondering what it would be like to run her fingertips over the hard ridges and valleys of his six-pack.
“I knew it!” Caleb raised his right arm and did a fist pump. “That woman has murderer written all over her.”
Holy shit, Zara. Stop eye fucking the off-limits man and try to remember what in the hell this episode had been about so he doesn’t know you’re definitely going to be breaking out your favorite vibrator tonight because you’ve obviously lost your damn mind from a lack of regular orgasms.
Desperate to recover, she pulled out a safe observation that any Law & Order viewer knew was true. “Well yeah, any time an actor who everyone knows is on the show, they are the murderer.”
“Not every time,” he said, tossing his shirt into a laundry basket next to the closet and then walking back toward the phone.
“Nine and a half out of ten.” The words came out more like a croak. She needed to end this call before she asked him to do push-ups or something.
“Okay, you got me,” he said, seemingly oblivious to her discomfort.
That was a blessing, because as he made his way across his bedroom, back to where he’d left his phone, the little barriers she’d erected to block out his hotness started to fall. Okay, they’d already been crumbling like an ice wall under the melting fire of a White Walker’s dragon. The miles of muscles, the clueless-about-what-he-was-doing-to-her attitude, the way his been-broken-more-than-once nose shouldn’t work to make him look even hotter but somehow did? All of it combined to remind her exactly how long it had been since she’d gotten herself off.
Caleb picked up the phone just as she let out a panic yawn because her body had to let the energy out somehow and why not with an embarrassingly gigantic yawn that probably gave him a good look at her tonsils?
“Am I boring you?” he asked with a chuckle.
“Some of us have been up since five working on an art piece.” Okay, that came out super prickly, but her panties were damp, her nipples were hard, and there was nothing she could do about it until she got off this damn call.
He picked up his phone, once again giving her a close-up of his hotness. “I wanna see what you’ve got.”
Welcome to the club, buddy.
Parental Guidance Excerpt #2!
“So why are you on Bramble?”
She took another small bite from her roll before answering. “My best friend is blackmailing me, and my dad wants a SAG card.”
That was definitely not the answer he’d been expecting. “And I thought my reasoning was twisted.”
“I’m sure it all makes sense in Gemma’s head,” Zara said. “She thinks I work too much and need to loosen up. She’ll let me be her plus-one to go meet a collector if I do the Bramble five dates thing. And my dad? Well, let’s just say he’s never met an unlikely plan he didn’t think he could pull off.”
All the possibilities this created sped around inside his head until one broke free like a perfect fast break late in the third period when the game was on the line. All he had to do was put the biscuit in the net.
“So neither of us really wants to be here,” he said. “We’re each other’s solution to getting back to our regular lives as soon as possible.”
It was fucking perfect. Petrov’s job with the team would be safe for another season—well, as safe as he could be, considering he didn’t have a no-trade deal in his contract.
Zara, though, didn’t seem to be seeing the genius of it, going by the suspicious look she gave him as she took another bite of her roll. Instead of giving him a straight-up no, though, she started eating. The words—okay, begging pleas—were bubbling up inside him but for once, he kept it in lockdown. He wasn’t about to rush this play, no matter how it had every nerve in his body jinglejangling.
Finally, she used her napkin to wipe the corners of her mouth, straightened her spine, and looked him dead in the eye. “We’d have to have ground rules.”
“Sure. Whatever you want.” Ice Knights season tickets? He’d make that happen. A photo op with her dad’s favorite player? Done. Whatever it took, he’d do it.
“This isn’t a real or fake relationship, it’s a temporary alliance,” she said without an ounce of humor in her tone. “I’m not pretending to be your girlfriend or the random chick you’re banging this week.”
“Agreed.” All of that sounded like it would cause more problems than it would solve anyway. “I’ve got a condition. Dressing up is not required. I’m not putting on a suit.”
The best thing about the off-season was not having to strangle himself with a tie multiple times a week just for a bus ride to the rink or a plane trip to another city. Coach Peppers was old-fashioned about doing things the original way.
“Fine.” Zara held up three fingers. “The third stipulation is that I’m not putting on a good attitude. If it’s been a crappy day, I don’t have to pretend to be a manic pixie dream girl.”
He snorted. “No one who’s met you would believe that. You’re a little salty.” That was putting it mildly based on her attitude when she showed up for their date.
“I have my reasons.” She added another finger, so she was holding up four. “Oh, and no making love. Sex?” She paused and looked him over quickly. “Maybe. Emotional, heartfelt, staring-each-other-in-the-eyes making love? Not gonna happen. No offense, but you’re not my type.”
What the hell? Not her type? He was a professional athlete making millions. He’d been led to believe he was everyone’s type.
“Not a problem, since I don’t think we could see eye to eye while having sex unless you magically grew a foot,” he said.
“You’re not into being creative?” Zara rolled her eyes. “I guess that’s expected for someone who has probably had women throwing themselves at him for years. You haven’t ever had to work for it.”
Caleb had no idea what to say to that. He’d been punched square in the face by the most feared goons in hockey and it hadn’t knocked him as senseless as this little five-foot-nothing of a snarky woman had done with a few choice words.
“I have one more rule,” she said, reaching for another roll. “Five dates and we’re done. Period. Do we have a deal?”