She tried to shut the door, but he caught it. “You’re tired a lot lately.”
Her stomach knotted up, and she suddenly felt nauseous. “What do you mean?”“It’s just seems that you’re always putting off hanging out with me,” he explained in a whisper, but she could feel the tension in his voice.
She let out a sigh. Relieved. “I’m not avoiding you, Henrik.”
He smiled, a small dimple forming in his cheek. “Yes, you are.”
He stepped forward, his hand grazing under her elbow as he dropped his voice between them. “Yes, you are.”
Custom tailored suit.
Flawless, panty dropping five o’clock shadow.
Henrik ran his thumb down the hard line of his chin and smirked to himself.
The ladies in Newark were in for a treat tonight. Usually, he just crashed after games—part of the constant refueling process required of a professional hockey player. As the newly appointed captain, it was his job to set a positive example for the guys now. Every game counted in their eighty-two game season, and discipline was key.
At least that’s the sermon his coach continued to preach at him.
Responsibility. Team work. Blah. Blah. Ugh.
He slipped his wallet into his back pocket and paused at the mirror for final inspection. Admittedly impressed, he straightened the collar of his navy sports coat. He’d cropped his signature Swedish blonde locks short enough to tuck behind his ears. It was his beginning of the season ritual, and it made his blue eyes pop in contrast. That’s what the caramel haired beauty he’d entertained during his pregame interview had told him anyway.
After effectively admiring himself from every angle, he had no choice but to agree with her. Humility had never been his strong suit. In his opinion, he’d finally mastered perfection, except when he turned his cheek, his eyes narrowed, focusing on the tiny, puckering cut at the corner of his lip. His teeth snapped shut.
Derek Deroty would pay for his intentional attempt at taking him out of the game tonight. He might have to wait a couple months until their next scheduled slaughtering, but the bastard would eventually get what was coming to him.
A high stick to the nose, or maybe he’d finally just drop gloves with the prick.
For now, he’d just accept it as a battle wound. The girls would love it.
A light, but persistent knock broke the silence. He immediately rolled his eyes, turning away from the mirror. Austin forgot his keycard. Again. He’d forget the days of the week if Henrik wasn’t around to kick his ass in gear every morning.
He searched the counters, but found nothing as he made his way over to the door. It was probably in his gym bag. He bent down to laugh at his best friend through the peephole when—
It was a woman.
His head fell against the door as he held back the groan that wanted to follow the mumbling. Why were women so intent on taking all the fun out of the hunt? He at least wanted to have a few drinks first, swap some stories with his team mates who would be mingling amongst the crowd, and then, as the night drew to a close, he’d start his pursuit. Showing up at his door was equivalent to throwing prepackaged meat to a caged tiger.
He jerked the door open, prepared to shush away his visitor like a stray pigeon before making a beeline for the elevator, but then she turned.
Vibrant green eyes shined up at him, a familiarity he hadn’t expected to find.
“Leila?” He choked out the word, his hand grasping the door handle like a life preserver. He blinked twice, attempting to convince himself that the disheveled hot mess in front of him was real.
Leila tugged harshly at a strand of her auburn waves that sprayed across her bare shoulders and down her back. Her normally flawless, porcelain skin was flushed and he recognized the volatile glint in her eyes. She wasn’t just pissed. Leila Blakely was on the fuck off side of irate.
It was definitely real.
He straightened his shoulders, and then tested his voice before he spoke. “What the hell do you want, Blakely?”
What did she expect from him? Her scumbag boyfriend had taken a cheap shot at him no less than two hours ago. He still had a little built up aggression brewing inside of him, too. She wasn’t there to apologize on Derek’s behalf, he knew that. Sympathy wasn’t part of the Blakely genetic code. He knew that fact first hand, because his best friend, who knocks heads together for a living, just happened to be her older brother.
“Invite me inside,” she instructed, tucking the strand of hair behind her ear before running those long, delicate fingers down her throat.
The gesture almost distracted him, but just the sound of her voice set his nerves on edge. Only an idiot would be fooled by the glistening threat of tears in her eyes. He wasn’t about to be lured by the lamb to the wolf’s den. Leila projected an image of sophistication and innocence, but it was all a show. The hologram in front of him was a shell hiding the reality he knew all too well.
The real Leila wore converse and ratty hockey shirts. She cursed like a sailor set on shore for leave, and she was tougher than half the men he knew. Her façade melted away as her temper started to hit its peak. So after all these years Leila finally wanted to talk to him.
Too bad he didn’t give a fuck.
“I’m actually headed out for the night,” he told her, looking past her toward the elevator. He wanted a drink and a sexy woman writhing underneath him later. He deserved it. He’d worked non-stop the past eight weeks, performing two a days in preparation for the season. All he wanted was one last night out.
No hockey. No commercials. No interviews.
Just good ol’fashion dirty fun.
Leila rolled her eyes at him though, and pushed past him into the room.“Excuse you?” He was angered by her bold move, but most of all, annoyed that he couldn’t stop himself from watching the way the hem of her dress swayed against her thighs.
How could it be that short without revealing something?
“I require your assistance,” she said flatly, her chin set. “Shut the damn door.”It had been years since he’d seen this side of her. Well, not since she started dating that spawn of satan, Derek. She was always so prim and nauseatingly proper when she was around him. “Well, you’re barking up the wrong tree, cupcake. Why don’t you go ask your boyfriend for help?”
She bit the inside of her cheek. It was quick, and someone else may not have noticed it, but Henrik knew her too well. He’d spent too many hours dissecting the nuances of her every reaction, searching for the real emotion trapped within her chilled exterior, not to recognize the fire she desperately tried to barricade behind that smile. “He’s busy,” she stated, her tone acidic.
Suddenly intrigued, he flung the door shut.
Surely, Leila wasn’t upset with her perfect, little golden boy.