Pucked Love Page 1

Author: Helena Hunting

Series: Pucked #6

Genres: Romance


I breathe into my palm to check for freshness. I brushed my teeth less than ten minutes ago, but I pop two Altoids anyway. Fresh breath is crucial. I crunch down and spread the fiery-cold bits over my tongue. The burst of mint makes my eyes water, so I have to dab at the corners with my sleeve and breathe through my nose to avoid making it worse.

Darren Westinghouse is picking me up for a coffee date. The Darren Westinghouse, Chicago’s NHL right wing and the most mysterious man in the league. There are loads of rumors about him. His dating history is unclear and based mostly on speculation and conjecture. I’m excited to get to know the man behind the intense, stoic mask.

My palms are sweaty, and my panties are inappropriately damp as I wander around my kitchen. My reaction to anxiety is weird. And rather inconvenient. I’ve already changed my panties once in the past half hour.

“It’s just coffee,” I scold my crotch.

It doesn’t seem to matter, though. She’s preparing for all possible scenarios.

I introduced myself to Darren when I went with my best friend, Violet, to an away game. He was gentlemanly and sweet, offering to walk me back to my room. I went in for a goodnight kiss that turned into an epic make-out session. We kissed like teenagers until my lips were raw. It took a week before they finally stopped peeling.

Today I’m wearing shiny gloss that tastes like cotton candy—my hope is that Darren likes the flavor and will want to kiss it off more than once. I smooth my sweaty palms down my jean-covered thighs. I’m going for casual—except under my jeans I’m wearing a nice pair of lacy panties, just in case his hand happens to find its way into them. My bra matches, of course.

I check the time. It’s nine forty-nine in the morning. He’s picking me up at ten, but those eleven minutes feel like they’re taking an eternity to pass. I mentally scroll through the approved topics of conversation: obviously hockey, weather, my job, and my college experience are all approved.

I’ve learned that it’s best to give people the barest of facts and then shift the topic away from the really personal stuff. People usually love to talk about themselves, so it’s not all that hard to do. At nine fifty three I do another breath check and startle as my doorbell chimes.

“He’s here!” I whisper-shriek to no one. Or maybe I’m addressing my anxious vagina. I take two deep breaths and count to three before I open the door.

I’m still not adequately prepared for the vision taking up my front porch.

Darren’s in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt—so different than the suit he was wearing the last time I saw him. His short hair is styled neatly, and his hard, icy blue eyes move over me in a casual sweep that I feel everywhere. Darren is intense. He’s lightness and darkness fused together. And he’s unearthly beautiful. It’s a lot to process.

A half-grin tips his mouth and quickly becomes a disarming full smile that transforms his face from severe to stunning for as long as it lasts.

“Hi.” It’s almost a moan it’s so breathy.

“Hello, Charlene.”

I have tingles below the waist from those two words.

“Hi.” I’m repeating myself. Not smooth.

“I’m a little early,” he says. “I hope that’s okay.”

I snap out of my Darren-induced daze. “Yes! Yeah, of course. Just let me get my purse.” I turn, prepared to grab it from the kitchen, when I realize it’s already hanging from my right arm. “Oh, never mind. Looks like I’m all set.” I hope he doesn’t think I’m a complete idiot.

I shrug into my coat with Darren’s help—so courteous—grab my keys from the hook, and step out onto the porch. It’s a crisp morning, but the sun is shining, so it takes the edge off the chill in the air.

Darren is ultra-polite, opening the passenger door and helping me in before he rounds the hood and takes the driver’s seat. We make small talk as we drive toward the water.

I’m a little surprised when Darren pulls into a Starbucks and heads for the drive-thru. This isn’t quite what I had in mind when he proposed a coffee date. I figured we’d go to some quaint, cozy little café and stare into each other’s eyes.

“I thought we could go to the park.”

“Oh, sure. That would be great,” I say. Parks can be romantic. Especially since it’s kind of chilly today. Maybe he’ll have to put his arm around me to keep me warm. I can totally get on board with that.

Once we have our coffees, Darren drives to the water. He parks the SUV, but leaves the engine running. I assume we’re going to get out and stroll the boardwalk, but instead we stay where we are and chat while we people-watch. Also not what I was expecting, but he smells great, so I guess I’ll take it.

He’s a quiet guy, so I end up doing the majority of the talking. Instead of rambling about myself, I regale him with Violet stories, which make him chuckle—a sound I like a lot.

After an hour or so, during which my stomach starts to grumble since I was too nervous to eat this morning, he shifts to face me. He skims my cheek as he sweeps my hair over my shoulder.

I lean into that touch, willing him to lean in, too. And he does. His thumb rests against that soft spot under my chin.

“I would like to kiss you,” he says.

“I have coffee breath.”

“As do I.”

I consider offering him a mint, but decide I don’t care. I tip my chin up. “Okay then.”

His smile is soft and warm, in stark contrast to his hard features and icy eyes, and his lips feel like silk against mine. I have no idea how long we kiss, but it’s enough that my neck starts to get a kink. He finally pulls back, those icy eyes heavy with the same lust that’s ruining my underwear.

“Would you like to have lunch with me?”

In my head I turn lunch into extended foreplay, but either way, spending more time with him is on my yes list. “Definitely.”

“Great.” That smile of his makes another appearance, shorting out all the connections to my brain and redirecting the energy to my lady bits.

He reaches into the backseat and retrieves a messenger bag. He then produces a file folder with my name printed neatly on the front of it. Well, that’s kind of . . . odd. Although that seems to be the way this date is going: nice, but odd.

“What’s that?” I ask, the lust and excitement I was feeling a few seconds ago transforming into anxiety.

“A non-disclosure agreement,” he says breezily, as if he’s telling me the name of a flower.

I’ve signed plenty of non-disclosure agreements during my time at Stroker and Cobb Financial Management. It’s necessary when working with famous hockey players and managing their finances. But unless I’ve read this whole thing incorrectly, Darren isn’t going to ask me to manage his finances. At least I hope he’s not.

“I’m sorry, why would a non-disclosure agreement be necessary?”


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