Monday, November 3, 2014

Sneak Peek: In the Zone

As I've done with the previous books in the Portland Storm series, I'm going to give you a taste of what you can expect when you get to read IN THE ZONE, available on November 20. In case you haven't pre-ordered it yet, you can do so now at Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.

All right, so here we go. This one actually starts with a prologue, so that's what you'll get for now. Enjoy!

KEITH

As a player in the National Hockey League, hooking up with a random guest—regardless of how hot this random guest might be—at your team captain’s wedding was a bad idea, plain and simple. It was definitely not something I would ever do, but I had a pretty strong suspicion that a few of the boys had done exactly that when they’d left the reception.
I had been a member of the Portland Storm since a couple of years after I was drafted, and our captain Eric “Zee” Zellinger had been around that whole time. Zee and I weren’t best friends or anything—that was Brenden Campbell’s role for him, known as Soupy to the guys, and I don’t think I’d ever had anyone in Portland I’d call my best friend, anyway—but we were good friends. I was one of his assistant captains, and I couldn’t get behind the idea of running off with some girl who might have been one of his or Soupy’s best childhood friends when I was only in town for their joint wedding.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, Zee and his bride, Dana, and Dana’s brother—coincidentally Soupy—had invited tons of chicks to the ceremony in Providence, so there were ample opportunities. This was where the three of them had grown up. But the last thing I wanted to do while I was in their hometown was to take some girl who was a friend of theirs back to my hotel room for the night. Doing something along those lines would undoubtedly require strings, and I didn’t want any strings, even if I wouldn’t have minded having a little company.
I’d flown in a couple of days ago, in time to participate in the rehearsal and bachelor party and all that jazz, and I’d been feeling a strong itch, if you get me, all fucking day. There had been so many women—amazingly gorgeous women decked out in pretty summer dresses that amplified all their curves—surrounding me the whole damn day, and I was in bad shape. And my flight back to where I grew up in Nova Scotia wasn’t until Monday. I intended to spend the rest of my summer there, at the cabin I’d built on the bay in Annapolis Valley.
Don’t ask me what I had been thinking when I planned this trip or why I hadn’t scheduled the return trip for tomorrow, but it’d be two more full days before I could get back home. Even then, I didn’t know who I might find to help me scratch this particular itch. I mean, there were plenty of girls who would, but that didn’t mean I wanted to open that can of worms. So many of them were just looking for daddies for their babies, guys who had the money to get them out of Nova Scotia, and that wasn’t my idea of a good plan. Again, it all came down to strings.
That was why, once I had made sure Nicklas Ericsson, one of my teammates who I had been worried about all day long, got back to the hotel safely, I returned to my own room for the night and found myself looking through the Providence area “Casual Encounters” listings on Craigslist. I didn’t really expect to find anything that would pique my interest. Mainly I was looking for a diversion, a way to pass the time. But then I stumbled on an ad that made me stop and think. The subject line read: BBW, no strings, I just need a boost in confidence, w4m.
No strings? That, plus the part about needing a boost in confidence, definitely got my attention enough that I opened the listing to see if it was legitimate or some sort of scam—a prostitute looking for a job or God only knew what else. Surprisingly, what I found not only seemed genuine but it made me seriously think about replying.

I think I’m probably crazy for posting something here. I hope I don’t end up regretting this decision. You hear all sorts of horror stories about this kind of thing, but a girlfriend suggested I try it and I attempted to convince myself that maybe they’re just stories. I hope so because I don’t know what else to do. Here’s the deal: my longtime boyfriend spent years telling me I was getting too fat for him, that he didn’t find me attractive anymore, that I had to get back to a size two or he wouldn’t be able to get turned on any longer. I tried everything, but I have a thyroid problem. That was what caused me to gain the weight, plus a few other things, and even with medication I couldn’t get back down to the size he wanted me to be. He cheated with a woman who looks how I used to look, and he left me, and I’ve been trying to find a way to believe in myself ever since. I don’t want to date right now. I don’t even want a friends-with-benefits kind of thing. I just want to have an experience with a man who finds me attractive as I am, so maybe I can start to believe it again, too. No real names. I want to meet at a hotel or somewhere equally neutral.

She hadn’t attached a picture, which was probably the safe thing to do. Those stories she’d heard about? They weren’t just stories. Some bad shit definitely happened as a result of these ads, so you couldn’t be too careful.
Not only did this posting feel legitimate to me, it pissed me the fuck off. I mean, I’d seen firsthand the horrendous results that could come from picking on someone because of something they had no control over. What happened to my brother, Garrett, the way he’d ended up taking his own life, was something I had to live with every day of my existence. I never wanted to see anything like that happen again, even though there were horror stories just like it on the news every day. Not only that, but I love women. I love women of all shapes, colors, and sizes. They are the most fucking beautiful, amazing, wonderful creatures on this earth as far as I’m concerned, and any asshole who would do something like that, who would make a woman feel like she wasn’t good enough for him because of a fucking problem with her health? It made me want to do a lot of things that would land me in prison.
But it also made me want to answer her ad.
So I did, emailing her through the system.

I’m only in town for a couple of nights—I fly out tomorrow. I would love to meet you and help you to see how beautiful I’m sure you are and how you don’t need a son of a bitch like that guy in your life anymore. I’m already at a hotel. You can come to me if you want.

I added my hotel information and took a picture—of my face, not my dick, like a lot of asswipes on Craigslist do—and sent it to her.
Then I waited. I brushed my teeth and jumped in the shower, just in case she actually decided to show up. When I got out and checked my email again, there was a response from her.

I’ll be there at eight with condoms. I’ll call you Jacob, and you can call me Allison.

She didn’t attach a picture, but I hadn’t asked for one. It made me wonder if she was so ashamed of how she looked that she couldn’t even bear the thought of sending a photo of herself through email. Thinking about that possibility only made me want to beat her ex to a bloody pulp even more than I already did.
I glanced at the clock. It was already 7:45, so I wouldn’t have to wait long. I pulled on a clean pair of shorts and dug out a University of Minnesota T-shirt from my college days before I’d turned pro. Then I stretched out on the bed and turned on the TV so I would have something to do to pass the time.
At two minutes to eight, a soft knock sounded at my door. I flipped the TV off and checked the mirror out of habit. Everything looked good.
When I opened the door, I was floored by the beauty of the woman standing in front of me. She had long, strawberry-blond hair and midnight-blue eyes and the most perfect little pixie nose, and she had on glasses with chunky frames that could have looked awful but on her they looked smart and sexy. And she wasn’t anything close to fat, no matter what her asshole of an ex had told her. She had curves everywhere, though—hips that flared out, a waist that dipped in, a rack I was already salivating at the thought of burying my face in. I could see all of those curves even though she was wearing a loose, floor-length skirt and an ill-fitting, short-sleeved blouse—not something that was designed to accentuate her assets. She wasn’t skinny, but she definitely wasn’t fat.
She was beautiful. She was perfect.
“Hi,” she said shyly. “Jacob?”
“No, I’m Kei—” I cut myself off when I remembered she wanted this to be anonymous. For tonight, I wasn’t Keith Burns, top defenseman for the Storm. Tonight, I was Allison’s Jacob. “Yeah, Jacob. And you’re Allison?”
She gave me a little nod and glanced over her shoulder, like she was checking to see if anyone had noticed her. “Can I come in?”
I stepped back from the door so she could pass through, and I closed it after her, intentionally leaving the lock undone. I didn’t want her to feel like I was going to try to force her to stay.
“Want to sit down?” I asked. This whole situation was awkward. Did she want to talk first or just get down to business? I was leaning more toward at least talking for a little while. It might be anonymous sex, but that didn’t mean it had to be cold and distant sex.
Allison nodded and went over to the chair in the corner, pulling the tote bag she’d brought with her onto her lap. “I’ve never done this before,” she said.
“Me neither.” One-night stands? Yes. One-night stands with perfect strangers? Never. I smiled and pulled the roller chair out from the desk, turning it so I could face her. I couldn’t stop myself from staring, practically devouring her with my eyes. I was already hard, and she hadn’t even been here for two minutes yet.
“You’re a lot bigger than I expected you to be from your picture,” she said.
She was a lot hotter than I’d expected her to be, but that didn’t seem like the right thing to say at the moment. She was a little younger than I’d guessed she would be, though. Maybe even a few years younger than my twenty-eight. I’d thought she’d have lived a little more life based on the things she’d said in that ad. Still, she was definitely old enough that she ought to know how gorgeous she was, no matter what her fucking ex had said and done.
And now I was back to wanting to bash his face in.
I shrugged, as though that could force aside all the negative energy I was feeling toward some man I’d never met. “Yeah, well, I’m a— Wait…do you want fact or fiction?” I didn’t want to make her any more nervous about this than she already was. If she didn’t relax, this wouldn’t go well, and I wanted it to go well for her. I wanted it to be the best damn sex of her life, and I wanted her to walk out of here believing in herself, knowing she was as amazingly sexy as I thought she was. All of that meant I needed to give her what she wanted, though, whatever that may be.
“How about partial truth?” Allison suggested. “Don’t lie about anything, but don’t tell me everything, either. Hold some of it back.”
I could do that. “Okay. I’m big because I work out a lot.”
She nodded. “It’s hard to tell things like that from a single picture.”
“Did you pick me because of my picture?” I’d always known I was a good-looking guy. Women had always hit on me because I was the whole package, at least the way they saw it. I looked good, I took care of myself, I made a shit-ton of money, and I was relatively famous without being paparazzi-worthy. It was fun to be me. At least on the surface. Sometimes it could be lonely, too.
I owned this huge house on the river back in Portland—some of the guys called it a mansion, and I supposed it wasn’t far from one—but it was just me and my dogs living there. It was a lot of space—almost 15,000 square feet—and girls I picked up in a bar and brought home for the night didn’t tend to stick around long enough to really share it with them. Sometimes I had parties there, but that was only a temporary means of filling up all the empty corners and quiet rooms. Everyone went home eventually, leaving me to my solitude until I couldn’t take it anymore, until I needed fun and noise and companionship again or else I would wallow in my loneliness until my guilt ate me alive, and then I would throw another party so I wouldn’t have to think about it anymore.
That wasn’t to say I disliked my life. I enjoyed being single. I enjoyed being able to party and have a good time and not have to worry about anyone but me. I definitely took advantage of all the advantages I’d been given. But sometimes the thought of having someone waiting for me at home when I got back from a road trip sounded nice. Sometimes I missed the noise of growing up in a house of three boys, with friends coming and going, and everyone yelling, and chaos reigning. I missed hearing my mom shout over our noise to tell us to keep it down, insisting that the neighbors would complain.
My neighbors in Portland sometimes complained, too. Only when I had those parties, though. Otherwise, it was only me and the dogs and a ton of silence and empty space.
And yet, here I was, sitting in a hotel room in Providence, getting ready to have sex with a woman I’d never met before and whose real name I didn’t even know. I supposed that was yet another way of filling up the empty spaces inside me, if you wanted to look at it that way.
Allison shrugged, and then she blushed, which only made me think about things I could do to make her blush some more. “I picked you because you were the only one who responded with a picture of your face and not of…other parts of you.”
“I don’t really want pictures of my anatomy floating around the Internet,” I joked.
“Yeah. Good. I don’t either.”
“So what do you do, Allison?”
“I teach,” she said cautiously.
I could definitely picture her in front of a classroom full of kids. That probably meant she had an entire closet filled with clothes like the ones she had on, though. Maybe a little more professional looking, but nothing that would emphasize her figure or draw attention to how beautiful she was.
“You’re not from around here?” she asked. “You said you were only here for a few nights.”
“I’m from Canada,” I replied. She had asked for truth, but not the whole truth. I lived in Portland now, at least most of the time. Still, I was definitely not from Providence. “Some friends got married here today. I was in the wedding party.” All of that was truth.
Gradually, she started to relax. Her shoulders weren’t so tense, and she even set her bag down on the floor beside her instead of holding it on her lap as though it held the last vestiges of her sanity.
“So you really won’t stay long, then? And you’re clean?” she asked. “I should have made sure of that before I agreed to come over here, but I was so nervous about what I was doing that I didn’t even think—”
“I’m clean,” I interrupted. “I’m not a saint. I’ve slept with a number of women, but I always use protection and I’ve been tested recently.”
“All right. Good.” She nodded as if she was trying to make it all okay in her head. “I’m clean, too. I had three partners before…well, before him. No one since. I’ve been tested, too.”
She was so nervous that a part of me wanted to tell her we didn’t have to do anything if she didn’t want to. But I worried that she might take that as a sign that I wasn’t interested. Given what she’d talked about in her ad, and the fact that her confidence seemed almost fragile right now, I didn’t want to do anything she might misconstrue. I needed her to feel wanted, especially since I really, truly did want her.
“How long has it been?” I asked. She’d said that they’d been together for a long time, but I had no idea how long it had been since he’d cheated on her and hurt her so badly.
“Almost a year.”
“And you haven’t dated anyone since? You haven’t had anyone tell you how beautiful you are in all that time?”
“I don’t—” She cut herself off and thought for a moment before continuing, taking her time as though she was weighing each word. “It’s hard to believe I could be beautiful these days because my body has changed so much, and he told me how fat I was for so long that it’s all I can see.”
“Well, it’s a fucking lie.”
Allison stared at me for a long minute, and then she shook her head. “I wish it were easier to believe that.”
“That’s why you’re here, though. So I can help you start to believe it again.”
“Yes.” She took a deep breath, and I watched her chest rise and fall with it. “Can I… Do you mind if I kiss you?”
“I’d mind if you didn’t.”
She nodded and bit down on her lower lip like she was trying to build up the courage to do it.
“Come here.” I stood up and closed some of the distance between us, trying to make it easier on her. She didn’t have to be the one to initiate everything. It had to have taken a ton of courage to post the ad in the first place. I held out my hand, waiting for her to take it.
After a moment, she got to her feet and took my hand, and I gently eased her closer to me. She stopped when we were inches apart, bracing her hands on my biceps. I rested mine on her waist. She was soft and warm, and the gentle slope of her hips made me almost desperate to get my hands on her ass. But that had to wait. If I rushed her, she’d probably leave.
“This is nice,” she murmured. Even this small amount of contact already had her breathing a little heavier, and I knew her pulse had to be hammering through her veins—just like mine was.
I nodded. Nice wasn’t quite right, but I didn’t want to think too much about trivial things like that. The heat between us seemed to intensify her perfume, but maybe it was only that we were so close together now. It was sweet and powdery, and it made me want to bury my nose against her neck so it could fill me.
Allison laughed, a nervous sort of laughter, and she licked her lips. Luscious lips. Full and pink, and they looked amazingly soft. “Should we just go for it?”
Instead of answering her, I went for it.
She sucked in a breath right before my mouth met hers. Her lips were even softer than they looked, and I sucked the lower one between both of mine. It took a few moments, but she relaxed into me and hummed against my lips, moving hers apart far enough that I could slip my tongue in her mouth.
I teased her for a minute, my tongue brushing lightly alongside hers and flicking every now and then, until she started to mimic my actions. She angled her head, taking the kiss deeper, and she slid her hands up my arms to settle on my shoulders.
Or I thought she would settle them there. Instead, she started to glide them everywhere, her palms and fingers seeking out the ridges of every muscle. The flats of her palms came down my chest, exploring my pecs before traveling lower, to my abs. I felt my muscles ripple beneath her touch, and she sucked in another breath in response.
I kissed her cheeks, her neck, settling my lips on her collarbone even though the soft fabric of her blouse was still in the way. “Allison?” I hadn’t moved my hands from her waist, even though it was killing me to keep them still. I wanted to cup her ass and draw her to me. I wanted to delve under her shirt and mold her breasts to my hands. I wanted—God, how I wanted—to slide that skirt down her hips and explore her slick core with my tongue.
“Yes?” Her voice hitched on the word, and she slipped her hands around to my sides so they tickled my ribs. Then she tugged me closer to her, until her nose hit the dip of my clavicle and my cock pressed into her belly.
“Do you want me to touch you?” I needed to hear her say it. I couldn’t assume and take what I wanted. It wasn’t enough for me that she had come to my hotel room with sex being the intention. Because with little I knew about her, I needed her to give me explicit consent.
She nodded, and I hoped she wouldn’t stop there. She didn’t. “I want to feel your hands on me,” she said.
An inch at a time, I dropped my hands back and down until I had a cheek in each palm. Her ass was as soft and sweet and curvy as the rest of her. I squeezed her, drawing her closer still, and she let out an almost inaudible moan.
I’d never been this turned on before while still fully clothed. My cock was hard enough to jackhammer through a fucking concrete wall. Allison stretched up on her tiptoes, putting her arms around my neck and holding on tight. That pushed her breasts right up against my chest, twin cushioned pillows with rock-hard little nubs poking into me. I let out a groan at the sensation.
“I want to take your clothes off,” I said. Allison was nodding and reaching down to tug the hem of her shirt up almost before I got the words out. I put one hand on hers to stop her. “No. I want to do it slowly, using my hands. My teeth. Every time I uncover an inch of your skin, I want to kiss you there, to see you and taste you and soak you in. And then when I’ve got you naked, when I’ve kissed and licked and sucked every hot, trembling, silky-soft inch of your amazingly beautiful body, I want to lick your pussy until you’re writhing and moaning and coming all over me with the best fucking orgasm of your life.”
With every word out of my mouth, the pounding of her heart grew more frantic, her breathing more agitated, and her eyes—those gorgeous midnight-blue eyes—got bigger and darker and more intense.
“Oh,” she said, breathy and soft.
“And while you’re still coming, while your pussy is still clenching and quivering, and it’s all hot and slick and wet, that’s when I want to lift your legs up, rest your feet on my shoulders, and fuck you like you’ve never been fucked before until you come again.”
“Yes,” she said finally, a strangled sound coming from her throat. “Yes, Jacob.”
Jacob? Oh right. That was me. “You’re sure?” I needed for her to want every bit of that as much as I did.
“Positive.”
“You brought condoms?” I didn’t want to get ahead of myself. I wanted them ready and waiting when I was—when I had her ready for me.
Allison nodded. She backed away and bent to her bag, pulling out a brand-new box that was still sealed. She set it on the nightstand closest to her.
Before she could turn around, I picked her up and tossed her into the middle of the bed. I kissed her again, covering her with my body while she moaned with pleasure.
        Then I followed through with each and every one of the promises I’d just made her.

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