Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
In Toni Aleo’s third novel in her hot Assassins series, the chiseled men of this Nashville hockey team can make anything happen when they go all out for the women they want—even turn a one-night stand into a happily ever after.
Audrey Parker is up against the boards. She’s stuck in a job she hates and pining for a total jerk. Meanwhile, her sister Fallon is moving out and getting married to hockey star Lucas Brooks. Where is Audrey’s Prince Charming? Nothing she does has ever seemed to be good enough for any of the men in her life. Audrey’s about to hit rock bottom . . . until she wakes up next to Tate Odder.
The thrill of moving up from the minors to the Nashville Assassins was a welcome distraction. But not even becoming the first rookie goalie to tally three shutouts in the Stanley Cup finals alleviates the pain. With the loss of his parents and sister weighing as heavily on his soul as ever, Tate Odder can’t keep pretending he’s okay. That’s when he meets smart, sexy Audrey. Her gentle warmth and quirky sense of humor make him feel whole for the first time in too long. But to stay that way forever, Tate must find a way to accept his past and learn to live for love.
Why do you need to read this book? Although I wasn’t totally taken with the heroine, Audrey from this book – I thought she was too wishy-washy – I LOVED Tate! He was an absolute prize! There are a lot of great aspects to this story, but Tate is the icing on the cake! Pick up a copy and let me know what you think!
Empty Net is available from Amazon
Empty Net – Chapter 1
It figured that Audrey Parker would get dumped the day of her sister’s bachelorette party.
It was just her luck.
As Audrey stood outside of Wanna B’s bar with her cell phone to her ear in yet another argument with her boyfriend; she couldn’t help but think that the day had started off so perfectly. She had spent the morning in bed with her boyfriend. Well…lover…yeah, that’s a good word for him, her lover. They had made love, and it was all perfect. Then she went for a day of pampering with her beautiful sister, Fallon, and all Fallon’s friends. Audrey loved the girl time with the women who she had known for years and even the ones who she had just met. It was a beautiful afternoon and Audrey knew that the night was going to be a hit.
That was until she got home and got into a huge fight with her lover.
Levi Moss was positively the most hardheaded, stubborn, gorgeous man Audrey had ever dated. He wasn’t much taller than her 5’5 frame but that didn’t matter. He stood as if he was 6 feet tall, with large arms and an even larger neck. Levi had his brown hair in a buzz cut. Audrey didn’t care for it, but hey, his face made up for it. His eyes were bright green with flecks of gold in them. His face had sharp angles, with full lips and Audrey couldn’t help but smile when he did. She loved his smile and since he only smiled at her every once in a while, it always took her breath away when he did.
But even with his gorgeousness, he was a pain in her ass. She loved him. She did. But man, he bitched like a chick. If it wasn’t her cooking, it was her extreme need to have everything clean. Just because he was a slob, didn’t mean that she had to be. Stuff left all over drove Audrey crazy, but she loved him so much that she looked past it. She wouldn’t complain but just clean up behind him. Pathetic, she knew, but she loved him. Audrey knew she shouldn’t love him since both Fallon and her soon-to-be husband, Lucas, had told her countless times not to… But she did. She couldn’t lose the only man who would want her.
Audrey begged her tears to stay at bay as Levi screamed at her through the phone.
“You are probably out whoring yourself all over Broadway! It’s disgusting, but don’t worry I won’t be here when you get home tomorrow!”
Audrey rolled her eyes, “For one, I am not whoring myself all over the place and second, weren’t you just out for Lucas’ bachelor party last night!?”
“We didn’t do anything! We played hockey and drank beers while Lucas talked on the phone with Fallon all night!”
“And that’s my fault? I didn’t do anything wrong here.”
“Yes you did. You didn’t cook dinner for me before you left and now you are out at some club, probably picking up guys,” he snapped.
Audrey pinched the bridge of her nose, “I am not picking up anyone and I am enjoying my sister’s last weekend as a single woman. Everyone does this and it doesn’t mean I’m gonna cheat.”
“I don’t care. We’re through. I’ve had enough of you.”
Audrey shook her head as she looked up at the sky. How was he dumping her when, for one, they weren’t really together as he had told her many times before. And for two, she did everything for him! The tears threaten to fall because even though he said the reason he was breaking up with her was because of her being out and not cooking dinner, she knew it wasn’t true. He was messing with someone else, someone who apparently was better than she.
“If you leave, you aren’t coming back Levi, so make sure she is worth it,” Audrey said as strong as she could.
Levi’s laughter made Audrey want to puke, “She is worth it. She is way better than you’ll ever be, you fat whore. Don’t ever call me again.”
The line went dead.
Audrey’s hand fell to her side, her phone held loosely in it. She could have done without his exiting line, but she brought it on herself. She should never have brought up the other girl. She had known about her for months. So why was she letting it bother her now? Levi was a wanderer, she knew that when she started things with him. She also knew that in a couple weeks, he would call her apologizing and she would be right back with him.
It was the vicious cycle of her love for him.
Audrey knew it was wrong, and she knew that if Fallon found out, she would probably kill her, but it didn’t stop Audrey from taking the abuse. Levi might be an ass, and say the most awful things, but there were good times between them. Like when he would hold her in his arms, and run his lips down her temple. Or the way he loved watching her girly movies with her. Or when he would trace hearts along her palm, or when she would come home and he would rub her feet.
Audrey loved him. It was sad, but true.
As she shook her head sadly, she couldn’t understand why she couldn’t meet prince charming. The one who would sweep her off her feet. The one who would love only her for the rest of their lives. The one who would think she was enough, only her, because that’s all she could give him. Audrey shook her head again and wiped away the stray tears that escaped as thoughts of never being able to find a man who would love only her, ran through her head. She couldn’t think like that right now though. It was not going to help anything to start thinking about things she couldn’t change. She would be a ball of tears in no time if she did.
So Audrey did what she did best.
She stood straighter in her Christian Louboutin black studded pumps and slid her hands down the tight black sparkly pencil skirt that she had paired with a low cut gray blouse. She couldn’t go inside looking as if Levi had just crushed her heart, not tonight. Tonight was Fallon’s night, and Audrey had no difficulty hiding her distress.
She was the queen of hiding emotions.
Audrey even looked good tonight, hot really, and if Levi Moss didn’t want her, well damn it, someone freaking did. She made her way back inside, going back to where Lucas had rented them a VIP area. Audrey couldn’t help but be a little dreamy at the thought of her future brother-in-law. He was the perfect man and everything Fallon needed. Audrey could only hope that she could find a man even half of what Lucas was. He treated Fallon like the queen she was. He was the best father imaginable, and even loved Audrey with everything inside him.
He was a prince charming.
Audrey had rooted for Fallon and Lucas since the day Fallon had told her about him. She would never forget the day she met Lucas Brooks outside of her family’s wine company. He looked like a love sick fool, and she couldn’t help wanting to help him. Man, how so much had changed. A small smile came across Audrey’s face as she thought that within a week, Fallon and Lucas would be married in front of over a thousand people. They had been through so much, and thank sweet baby Jesus, Fallon finally got her head out of her ass and saw what was in front of her.
The perfect man.
When Audrey spotted Fallon laughing while being surrounded by all the women who love her, her heart skipped a beat. Fallon was dazzling in her one shoulder lace black dress with ruffled black heels. When she came down the long staircase of her and Lucas’ home, Lucas’ chest had puffed out and he looked like he was going to object to the outfit. But he didn’t, he only said she looked gorgeous.
With her hair in a swoopy bun and her make-up applied to perfection, Audrey couldn’t help but envy her older sister. It wasn’t just her beauty that Audrey envied. In seven days, Fallon wouldn’t be Fallon Parker anymore. She would be Fallon Brooks, and even though Audrey had already said goodbye when they moved out a couple months back, Audrey still hadn’t accepted the fact that she wasn’t Fallon’s number two anymore. Lucas was.
Fallon couldn’t have picked a better man to replace Audrey, but it still hurt. She missed her sister, and she missed her nephew, Aiden, but they were moving on and no matter what, and Audrey had to be happy for them. She wanted Fallon to have her happily ever after, she did, but the selfish part of Audrey hoped she never would. She had always hoped that it would always be the three of them, but now it was just her…all alone. Audrey didn’t even have a dog or cat to love; she was completely alone, especially now that Levi had left.
Well isn’t that just a happy thought.
When Audrey eyes drifted over to where Elli Adler and Harper Titov sat, her jealously grew. Elli and Harper were the epitome of happy women. Both married to amazingly, gorgeous, sweet hockey players…sigh…and both having perfect little children…another sigh. It wasn’t fair, they were like a club. An ‘I’m married to a sexy hockey player, have amazing children and life couldn’t be better and oh! I look good while doing it all!’ club.
It was sickening really.
Elli was glowing in her black sheath dress and platform red Jimmy Choo heels while Harper was smoky hot in her short silver tube top dress with matching heels. With Fallon sitting beside them, looking just as happy as they were, Audrey knew that she would be joining the ‘I’m married to a sexy hockey player; have amazing children and life couldn’t be better and oh! I look good while doing it all!’ club, while Audrey would be alone, with no one.
It was so depressing. Where’s that damn tiny violin when you need one?
When Audrey glanced over at Piper and Reese Allen, Harper’s twin sisters, things started to look up. They looked as miserable as Audrey felt, and that alone made Audrey feel a tad bit better. She had known about the twin sisters, but never met them until recently. Reese was a gorgeous brunette with hair all the way down to her bottom. She had moss green eyes and pouty lips, with the sickest style imaginable. She looked so much more like her older sister, Harper, than she did her twin. Reese had just moved back from New York to open a dance studio in Nashville and from what Audrey heard, she was spectacular.
It was nice to meet Reese but Audrey didn’t click with her the way she had with Piper. Piper was a hoot, hands down. When Audrey went to Tiffany’s to buy Fallon’s bridal gift, Piper was her sales girl, and Audrey knew from that moment on that Piper was going to be her friend. Unlike Harper and Reese’s dark features, Piper’s were light. Her hair was a light brown, and her eyes were a sparkly blue. She had the same pouty lips and a cute little button nose all in a small little package. She was shorter than Audrey, and that was saying something. But all in all, Piper was sweet, and Audrey just adored her.
Piper glanced up and smiled as Audrey made her way to the spot that was beside Fallon. When she sat down, Fallon looked over, grinning as she held a shot out to Audrey. “You’re behind! Drink!”
Audrey obliged, not only because Fallon asked her too, but because she needed to forget the conversation between her and Levi that was on replay in her brain and that her sister was getting married. As the four girls threw back shots, Elli sat on the side, watching. Audrey felt bad as she smiled over at Elli, it had to be hard watching a bunch of women drink, especially when she couldn’t. But Elli being the sweet person she was, she grinned widely at them.
“Please get your tubes tied after this one!” Audrey said as the alcohol burned down her throat. What the hell had Fallon given her?
Elli nodded, “Already planned. I’m done. No matter what Shea says.”
Harper hiccupped before giggling, “Whatever, he’ll knock her up a week before the procedure! He’s on a mission!”
The women giggled as Fallon shook her head, “So is Lucas,” she noted before taking another shot. She shook her head and then smiled, “I’m pretty sure if he had his way, I’d be pregnant now and, thank God, that didn’t happen! I wouldn’t be able to fit in my dress!”
The girls all nodded while Audrey shook her head, “It wouldn’t matter anyway, since you won’t pick a damn dress!” she exclaimed while everyone laughed, “Thank God, she’s narrowed it down to two, but still! The wedding is a week away!”
Elli giggled, “Fallon, goodness.”
Fallon shrugged her shoulders, “I don’t know what I want. I’m about to walk down that damn aisle in a raincoat! Lucas would love that!”
That had all the women laughing drunkenly, as Audrey watched Fallon’s face warm. A smile tugged at Audrey’s lips and even with all the jealousy eating away at her, Audrey loved that her sister was so in love. It was good to see Fallon so happy. Audrey had spent years watching her sadly living day to day just to get by. Now she lived for a man who loved her more than he needed his next breath, and for a son who thought she hung the moon and the stars.
She was so lucky.
Audrey shrugged her shoulders as she stood up. She smiled as she looked down at Fallon, “Well if it’s a damn raincoat, please let it be white, while my dress is sparkly as all hell!” The women all giggled as she raised her glass in the air, “To the indecisive bride-to-be!”
“To the bride!” Everyone chanted along before they all tapped their shots together with Elli’s glass of water. As the girls all took their shots, people cheered around them and Audrey couldn’t help the grin that formed on her face. She slammed her glass down before letting out a loud YEEHAW that was returned by the many patrons of the bar. Audrey grinned as she fell into a seat beside her beautiful sister. Fallon wrapped her arms around her neck, grinning happily at her.
“I’ve missed you,” Fallon whispered in her ear. She was drunk and Audrey had to giggle. She was close to drunk too, those last couple shots were doozies.
“I’ve missed you, too,” Audrey whispered back.
Audrey smiled as she shook her head, “Don’t be. It’s gonna be fantastic.”
“But what if I pick the wrong dress and Lucas doesn’t marry me?”
Audrey giggled, her sister was entirely too insecure for her own good and the crazy thing was that she was only like this with Lucas. Any other guy she had been with never made her unsure of herself. Only Lucas did. It was so cute but annoying as all hell.
“Never gonna happen. Lucas loves you something serious. Like you said, you could walk down in a raincoat and he would be happy.”
Fallon nodded before she leaned her head against Audrey’s, looking deep into her eyes.
“You’re the best sister ever.”
The tears came fast, filling Audrey’s eyes as she looked into her sister’s caramel ones. Fallon was the most beautiful woman Audrey had ever seen. She deserved the world and Audrey knew that Lucas would give it to her. Audrey had to stop though, if she didn’t she would start crying and now wasn’t the time to cry! Audrey leaned over, kissing Fallon on the cheek before breaking their embrace to scream, “Let’s dance!”
As Audrey made her way to the bar from the dance floor, all she could think was that the night was amazing. Audrey was so drunk that she hadn’t thought of Levi once. She was too busy having a blast with her sister and their friends. With the music pulsing around her, she leaned against the bar, and ordered another round of drinks. As she waited, her eyes slowly closed as the pain, unexplainably started to rip through her. Even though she hadn’t thought of Levi while being with her friends, he was heavy on her mind as she stood alone. Audrey’s heart ached and she dreaded going home. She knew he wouldn’t be there tomorrow when she got there, and that alone made her want to die inside. No matter how much alcohol she drank, or how much fun she had, it would all be over tomorrow and then she would be all alone.
“Someone as beautiful as you shouldn’t be sad.”
Audrey looked over, and then up, her eyes locking with a pair of ocean blue eyes that were looking down at her. She blinked twice as she took in the hotness that stood beside her.
He was magnificent.
A strong square jaw bone, covered in blonde stubble from not having shaved. His top lip was thin, while his bottom jutted out a little just waiting, begging to be bit. His hair was in a messy, tousled, cut and it reminded her of the sparkling vampire she often fantasized about.,. While Flightless Bird by Iron and Wine instantly played in her mind, her eyes drifted down his thick neck that attached to a pair of even thicker shoulders. He wasn’t skinny but he wasn’t built. He was in between and sexy. His nose had a very pronounce bump but it didn’t matter because when Audrey’s eyes met his again, she couldn’t breathe. Sex surged out of his pores and Audrey couldn’t believe how quick she became turned on just by looking into his eyes. His eyes were bright and sweet but hot all in one. She could get lost in them. She blinked a few more times before croaking out, “Excuse me?”
The side of his mouth tugged up bringing her eyes to his mouth. She watched as his beautiful lips moved, “I was wondering why someone so beautiful, looked so sad.”
Her eyes left his mouth to gaze into his eyes and she smiled, “I’m not sad,” she lied.
“Yes, I can tell,” he said and Audrey’s smile remained.
He had an accent.
Accents were sexy.
“I’m fine. My sister is getting married, that’s probably why I look sad.”
He shook his head, “Isn’t a wedding a good thing?”
Audrey smiled, “Of course it is, but I’m losing my sister.”
The guy nodded, “Yes, but you are gaining a brother.”
Audrey’s smile grew as she gazed up into his bright blue eyes. He was tall, really tall, and Audrey liked it. She liked that he was so much bigger than she. She had always been with little guys since she was so short but at that moment she was liking the giant that stood in front of her. “I think you’re right.”
He chuckled, a deep throaty sound that made Audrey’s girly parts scream. Oh, he was sexy. “I am always right.”
Audrey giggled at his cockiness. It was totally something Lucas would say, and thinking of him made her smile. She nodded her head before looking back up into the giant’s eyes, “Is that right?”
“Yes, I’ve been watching you all night and I am sure I was right to come and talk to you because honestly, you are the most gorgeous woman I have ever seen.”