Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance
Release Date: October 18, 2016
Published by: Random House Flirt
The author of Delayed Penalty returns with the story of a free spirit who believes she’s found forever with a playboy on a singles cruise. Discover why Kelly Jamieson calls the Pilots Hockey series “fun and flirty, warm and sweet.”
Kristen Katsaros wants a life full of adventure and laughter. After a difficult childhood, her motto is to live each day like it’s her last—because it just might be. So when Kristen’s parents send her on a post-grad singles cruise in the Caribbean to meet a Greek husband, she promptly hooks up with the hottest guy she’s ever met. Pasha’s decidedly not Greek, but Kristen gives him a pass because he’s got fun written all over his rock-hard abs.
Pavel Gribov, the cocky playboy of the Detroit Pilots hockey team, can score any girl he wants. But when a teammate drags him on a singles cruise, he can’t resist the chance to help out a drop-dead gorgeous damsel in distress by pretending to be her boyfriend. Before long, the fake fling turns intimate, fueled by something much deeper than lust.
Kristen and Pasha both agree to walk away once the cruise is over, but reality hits like a slap shot when Kristen finds out Pasha lied about everything. Just when she’s ready to start living again, the two stubborn survivors must decide if they can bear to lose the best thing that ever happened to either of them.
Cruising in the Caribbean
Is there anything more perfect than breathing in the salty scent of the ocean while jogging around the top deck of a cruise ship in ninety-degree weather?
Well, sure, seventy-five degrees would have been a better temperature for running, but I wasn’t complaining.
Sweat glistened on my arms and a gentle wind blew the flyaway strands of hair away from my face as my feet pounded the track.
Mental fist bump to my parents. They’d succeeded in their quest to find me the perfect college graduation gift, even if I hadn’t realized it at first. When they presented me with a printout of an itinerary for a cruise a few months ago, my first reaction was complete and utter terror, because the mere thought of being on a large body of water with no land in sight gave me hives. But I didn’t want my amazing parents to think I didn’t appreciate their generous gift, so I kept it inside and went along with the planning.
And so there I was. Sea breeze in my hair, a cardio remix of Lil Wayne’s “How to Love” blasting through my earbuds, and a tropical destination. Nothing could ruin this moment.
Except the familiar face of the person running toward me. Which sent
my version of personal paradise plummeting to the ocean floor. Because in this case, “familiar” and “welcome” were not synonymous.
Maybe Spiros hadn’t recognized me. Maybe I could pretend I didn’t see him.
Not even paradise could deter Murphy’s Law.
So I did what any smart girl who wanted to avoid her friendly stalker would do: I spun around, and ran the opposite way, putting more distance between us.
Note: When the self-proclaimed “smart girl” is unfamiliar with the territory where she is running, glancing over her shoulder to see if Spiros was still there is not the best idea. Because within three strides, I smacked into another runner.
Not a light, whoops-sorry-I-bumped-you collision. A head-on, semi-to-semi crash, where both bodies lay crumpled in a pile of twisted, burning limbs.
Burning, not only because the scorching Caribbean sun pounded on us from above, but also because the other semi had the body of a Greek god.
As a good Greek girl on a singles cruise set up by my Greek Orthodox
church and paid for by my straight-off-the-boat Greek parents, I knew Greek gods. And the hunk of muscle I’d knocked into was Adonis in the flesh.
Instead of scrambling to my feet, I found my gaze frozen on his face. Particularly on the sexy scruff dusting his upper lip and jawline. His twelve o’clock shadow was a distinct contrast to the absence of hair on his chiseled chest. Even the sweat rolling off the tip of his nose didn’t detract from his perfection, nor did the red undertone in his sun-kissed skin, flushed from running in the heat.
“Dude!” I exclaimed, yanking the earbuds from my ears. Then I broke into a cough and couldn’t stop.
Adonis picked up his sunglasses, which must’ve fallen when we crashed, and replaced them over his eyes. He waited until I finished my coughing fit before speaking. “Maybe you need to pay attention, since you were running the wrong way on this track, yes?”
“I didn’t—” I couldn’t finish my thought. I was still trying to catch my breath as I considered the situation: Adonis knocked me down, and he had the audacity to blame me?
“Well, if you were going the right way, why didn’t you run around me?” I asked breathlessly.
“Excuse me?” Who says something like that?
He jumped to his feet. “I waited to see if you would back off first. You call this game chicken, yes?” He bent down and held out his hand.
At least he had some manners. I clasped his hand and allowed him to pull me up, impressed at the lack of effort it took him to lift me.
“Common courtesy dictates that people don’t usually play chicken while running.” I brushed a palm over my butt, even though the track seemed fairly debris-free.
He drew the back of his hand across his hairline, wiping away a film of moisture. “I think this same common courtesy dictates that people don’t look over their shoulder when they run.”
True. Technically, my poorly planned attempt to escape Spiros’s approach caused the collision.
“I’m sorry I ran into you,” I said.
“Are you also sorry because you were running the wrong way?”
“Who are you, the track police?” I asked, resting my hands on my hips and leaning away from him, my breath finally under control.
“This track has rules. Today we run this way.” He pointed in the direction I’d originally started running. Then I followed his finger as it traveled in another direction, stopping at a red sign with the heading track rules in thick white letters.
Who pays attention to what day it is or obnoxiously large signs about rules when they’re on a cruise?
“Well, I’m really sorry. I got flustered. I’m trying to avoid that guy running toward us.” I nodded slightly toward Spiros, who had caught up to us by now.
Yep. Spiros Loukas, my annoying admirer, who’d also been running the wrong way on the track, stood at my heels. Just like at home.
I can’t explain why my protective instincts kicked in for the gorgeous girl who’d just slammed into me, but when the out-of-shape oaf she’d been avoiding reached out to place his thick, dirty hand on her, I jumped into action.
Without a second thought, I stepped forward and slid my arm around her slim waist, placing myself between the girl and the man who’d chased her straight into me.
“Kristen, are you okay?” the guy asked, panting.
The slob must’ve jacked up his speed when he saw the collision. It seemed a little sad that such a short burst took so much out of him. He needed to get in shape if he wanted to impress anyone.
“I’m fine. I had this rock of a pillow to fall on.” She swatted my stomach with the back of her hand, causing my muscles to involuntarily contract under her touch.
“Wanna join me for a few laps?” the man asked her, completely disregarding me.
But I’m not the type of guy who lets himself be ignored. “Who are you?” I demanded.
“I should be asking you that question,” he countered.
“I’m her boyfriend,” I said.
Kristen, as the huffing man had called her, stiffened. I patted her waist, silently asking her to go along with the scheme I’d quickly concocted.
“Excuse me?” He ran a hand through his unkempt brown hair as his beady eyes shifted back and forth between me and Kristen.
“You gonna tell him or should I smash his face?” I asked.
“We’ve been, um,” she stammered, “seeing each other?”
Her voice rose slightly, which would have made me smile if I hadn’t had to scare off the stupid fuck who didn’t realize this poor girl was running away from him. At least she was quick enough to go along with the story I’d created to help her.
“What? Since when?” he asked. “Who is this guy?”
I squeezed the tiny girl into my sweat-soaked side and felt her bare skin against mine. A quick glance down told me her hot pink shirt had ridden up to reveal a tight, toned waist. It made me want to get sweaty with her. And not by running together.
“He is not your business. What are you even doing here?” she asked, effectively taking the spotlight off me.
The quickness with which she regained her composure intrigued me, as if she was a pro at going along crazy schemes with no preparation.
“I signed up for this cruise months ago,” the man said defensively. “After your parents—” He stopped and shook his head. “I hoped we could spend some time together.”
My body tensed, but I kept my arm around Kristen, my hand still resting on her hip. She allowed me to stay close.
“It’s a singles cruise. Go meet someone.” She paused. “Someone new.”
“Or I’ll smash your face,” I promised. My fingers slipped down and skimmed her backside before curling into a fist behind her. Kristen reached around and swatted
at my hand until I returned it to her waist. She’d obviously gotten the wrong idea about my accidental ass contact.
Dough Boy didn’t speak, but his eyebrows slid closer together as his head swiveled from Kristen to me. I tried to keep my expression neutral, which was hard because this guy had to be an idiot not to realize that she didn’t want him to bother her. It had taken me less than two minutes to figure it out.
When neither Kristen nor I caved, his sloped shoulders dropped. Then he sighed and spun around, heading straight for the elevator instead of resuming his run.
Once he was out of sight, I reluctantly released my hold on Kristen’s waist. “Why are you trying to avoid him? Other than the obvious.”
A soft sweet laugh escaped from her deep pink lips, a trait shared by many of the beautiful Greek American girls surrounding me on the ship.
“What does that mean?” she asked.
“Kinda like a stranger who randomly puts his arm around my waist and claims to be my boyfriend?” she countered.
Her sarcastic comment didn’t put me off, because there was no conviction in her delivery. None of the animosity she’d been projecting toward Dough Boy came across toward me, just a feistiness I appreciated. I enjoy people who challenge me.
“I saved you,” I reminded her.
“You did, actually.” She adjusted the front of her shirt, peeling the fabric away from her sweaty skin. “Why would you do that?”
“I am a gentleman,” I said. Saying the words reminded me to lift my gaze from her tight stomach back to her beautiful face. “I guess American girls are not used to this,” I added before abruptly leaving her to continue my run.
I didn’t pursue women. They came to me because it was their foolish life goal to “land” a hockey player. No challenge. No connection. No love. Just a girl who wanted the status of being with me. Needless to say, we’d have fun, but there was no future. There was never even a second time.
Usually my protective instincts emerged only when it came to my family—including my sister, Katia, and her best friend, Svetlana, who was like a second sister. But something about Kristen made me jump between her and Dough Boy. She didn’t know who I was or what I did for a living. And she’d never stood outside the team’s locker room or waited for me to show up at my favorite bar, so I had anonymity on my side.
If Katia had been here, she would’ve teased me for the caveman-like growls that had rumbled in my throat as I stood toe to toe with Kristen’s stalker.
The Caribbean sun must have been melting my brain, because this Kristen girl was not my sister, just a stranger in obvious distress. And I couldn’t blame Dough Boy for trying to get with her, because she was by far the most gorgeous girl I’d seen on this boat.
When Blake Panikos, my good friend and teammate on the Charlotte Aviators hockey team, had first invited me on a cruise set up by a conglomerate of Greek
Orthodox churches in the metro Detroit area, I immediately declined. Despite being raised by Russian Orthodox parents, I’m not a religious person. The thought of being stuck on a boat with a group of religious fanatics made me want to chop off my dick with a hacksaw.
But Blake, who had been recently divorced, kept needling me to go. After various attempts to sway me into taking the trip with him, he finally sold me when he showed me some of the girls who would be on the cruise. He pulled up his Instagram account and scrolled through pictures of the girls he’d met at the church he frequented when we played together in Detroit on Charlotte’s minor-league affiliate team. Flipping through photo after photo of the most gorgeous Greek girls Detroit had to offer sealed the deal. A week in the Caribbean surrounded by sexy singles looking to hook up was worth the effort it took to relearn the sign of the cross.
~~~~Also available in the Pilots Hockey Series ~~~~
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Release Date: February 16, 2016
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Sophia Henry, a proud Detroit native, fell in love with reading, writing, and hockey all before she became a teenager. She did not, however, fall in love with snow. So after graduating with a BS in English from Central Michigan University, she moved to the warmth of North Carolina for the remainder of her winters.
She spends her days writing books featuring hot, hockey-playing heroes. When she’s not writing, she’s chasing her two high-energy sons, watching her beloved Detroit Red Wings and rocking out at concerts with her husband.