It’s Austin’s job as the enforcer for the New York Rangers hockey team to strike fear in the hearts of grown men. But if Manhattan’s notorious gossip magazine, The Whisperer, catches wind of his dating fail—or worse, took a picture of him in his compromised state—his reputation and career could be ruined.
Magnolia Cross is still running from rumors that robbed her of the interview of a lifetime…
Intern reporter for the Madison Square Garden news affiliate isn’t Magnolia’s idea of a dream job. She doesn’t even like hockey. But it’s experience on-air, and that’s what counts. After a prank-gone-wrong leaves her stripped of her Valedictorian title, she loses her initial chance at making it big. But now she’s stronger and smarter, and won’t let trust issues screw her out of her chance for success—again.
One bad interview and two million YouTube hits later, Magnolia is a media sensation—for all the wrong reasons…
Stupid Austin Blakely with his cocky smile and hockey lingo gibberish. After he embarrasses her on national television in the name of harmless flirting, Magnolia vows never to interview him again. Except avoiding Austin is easier said than done.
It isn’t long before Magnolia discovers the real source of Austin’s fears. It’s all about the seductress in the purple wig—unless it’s about the pictures she stole that could change all their lives forever…
Blurry little puzzle pieces from the night sluggishly patched themselves together.
A trendy Art Deco bar with ridiculous yellow cubicle seats and neon lights. Techno blasted too loud. He wanted to leave, but his teammate and new wingman Callen had an off night during their game against the Blackhawks and needed to let off steam.
Shots of Patron sliding down a tan stomach. The Katy Perry lookalike sported a short purple bob. Her hair wasn’t natural. It was a wig, which he found weird, but she’d been nice and flirty.
He liked flirty. Flirty held promise.
The candy pop princess hailed a cab for them after last call. That should have been the first sign. He liked aggressive women. However, eagerness was a red flag. Too eager and easy tonight meant too clingy and stalk you tomorrow. The burden of being a professional athlete. It hadn’t registered with him. She lacked all the other warning signs. Well, except maybe that wig.
She’d been calm, though, and friendly. Not in the ‘oh my gosh, he’s a professional hockey player’ kind of way either. She stood at the edge of the bar enjoying her martini, her eyes everywhere but on him. He made the first move. When he slid in the cab, he thought his night would end like any other after a big win.
He was wrong. Very wrong.
Purple wig girl slipped the leather ties around his wrists with the ease of an expert. He normally didn’t allow that sort of thing. He didn’t understand why he agreed so easily. Then blackness. That hadn’t been part of the deal.
The room in front of him steadied. The familiar hum of the heater beneath the window rose above the screaming headache behind his eyes. A giant number forty-three poster hung on the bathroom door, a Nerf basketball goal above it. It was his room.
It didn’t stop the panic in his gut or the cold sweat that formed across his brow. “Hey—” He paused. Yeah. He didn’t know her name. “Hey, purple hair girl! Are you here?”
Nothing but the grumble of the heater answered him.
“Callen Copley is a dead man.” Austin twisted on the mattress, fighting back the urge to decorate his sheets with refurbished tequila. The slight movement transformed his bed into a Hugh Hefner Tilt-A-Whirl.
How the hell was he still drunk? A formidable buzz was ridiculously difficult to accomplish for a man his size. Barefoot, he was six-four. Not to mention two hundred and ten pounds of solid rock, thanks to his training regime. It would take a hell of a lot of alcohol to get him tie-me-up drunk.
Even then he would have told the girl no. He always had his career to consider. ‘Don’t let strange women hog-tie you to a headboard’ wasn’t in the NHL player handbook, but it should be. The media was cruel on their best day. They’d have a field day if they found out.
Fifty shades of Blakely. The headline would practically write itself.
He couldn’t afford to have his opposition laughing at him every night.
Despite his prowess as a goal scorer, Austin was better known for his uncanny ability to strike fear into the hearts of even the most courageous. He was an enforcer for the New York Rangers, and if he wasn’t on your team, you might even call him a goon. It was his job to make sure no one touched the team’s greatest commodity, his best friend Henrik.
Speaking of his good for nothing brother-in-law, he reached for his phone.
Pain. Pins and needles piercing his skin, scraping the bone. “Shit.”
He quickly shoved his heel into the mattress and pushed himself back up the bed to take the pressure off. The inner band of the leather straps must be laced with porcupine needles. That, or his seductress was a voodoo witch. At this point he wouldn’t doubt it.
Carefully and with enough caution to make him feel like a complete pussy, Austin moved nothing but his eyes to look down his body in search of his pockets. Stark white briefs stared back at him.
Damn. He could have sworn he had pants. His phone was in the front right pocket.
He closed his eyes and concentrated. Pants in the cab. Pants in the elevator. Pants in the hallway?
Stupid, black, fuzzy, nauseous thoughts. He had no clue. It didn’t matter, though. He didn’t have any pants right now.
“Hey!” His voice started to sound desperate. The silence only grew louder and more maddening. “Why the hell tie me up and leave? Huh?”
A ticking bomb, Austin lay perfectly still and seethed. They hadn’t had sex. He still wore his boxers. In fact, now that he fought to focus his thoughts, the girl hadn’t shown any kind of affection toward him at all. No kiss. No hand holding. She hadn’t touched him until she brought out the restraints.
A stage five clinger didn’t sound so bad at the moment.
Something was wrong with the entire situation. His gaze darted around the room, evaluating every detail. A replica of his college dorm room, but bigger. The walls were bare as ever. His dresser still sat lopsided from that game of Mario Cart gone wrong his sophomore year, and a basket of gym clothes remained unwashed in the corner.
Everything looked normal.
Well, except for the obvious fact that he was half naked and tied to his bed. If she robbed him, he’d never live it down. He needed his cell phone from the pocket of his jeans.
He eyed the leather straps over his shoulder, contemplating whether the risk of jerking his hands free with his entire strength would be worth the reward of freedom.
He gave it a slight tug. It wasn’t fucking worth it.
“Help me, damn it.” His voice echoed off the walls of his apartment and back to him.
Why hadn’t he let Callen move in with him?
That’s right because Callen had idiotic ideas like ‘try a new scene’ and ‘broaden your Friday night horizons.’ He needed a new wingman, pronto. Shit like this didn’t happen when he roamed the bar scene with Henrik.
Austin’s fingers clenched, his knuckles turning white. He was going to broaden Callen’s nose when he found him.
“Hey, Austin. Do you know your door is wide open?”
Austin’s head popped up. Morning grumpies with a side of Swedish accent. He knew that voice. He’d recognize it anywhere. Henrik.
Henrik, the best fucking friend in the entire universe, Rylander.
Austin glanced at the clock on the night stand, relieved. It was seven o’clock, which meant it was time for their ritual morning workout. Good ol’ responsible and reliable Henrik.
Austin spotted the familiar blond, mussed hair of his friend as he crossed the threshold to his bedroom. Henrik, holding two cups of what could only be green mush in his hands, paused mid-step.
It wasn’t the typical scenario Henrik was accustomed to walking in on when they lived together. His head wasn’t covered up with blankets and he wasn’t demanding pancakes as tribute. Henrik’s mouth dropped open, but then the shock slowly turned into a grin.
“Holy weird kinky shit.” Henrik looked around, his pupils the size of a mothership. “What the hell, Blakie?”
Austin rolled his eyes and looked away. He didn’t want Henrik to see the embarrassment on his face. Or the shame and betrayal. “Long story. Can you just untie me, please?”
Henrik’s grin widened. “Of course.” He set the cups down on the dresser, then pulled out his cell phone. Then Henrik aimed it at him.
“Don’t you dare—”
“Say cheese.” The camera flashed.
“This isn’t funny, Henrik.”
Henrik laughed from around his phone as he reviewed his picture. “Oh, I beg to disagree.”
The camera flashed again.
“Fuck you. That wasn’t necessary.”
Henrik shrugged. “This is worth sharing. You know it.”