Coming in August 2022!
The Ex Captain (Off The Ice #1)
Veteran NHL player Kieran Marsh has had more relationships than trips to the sin bin, earning him the nickname The Ex Captain when he wore a C on his jersey in Montreal. And now that he’s bounced from team to team in the final years of his hockey career, the nickname has taken on a double meaning in the press.
I shouldn’t know any of this. Nobody knows how closely I follow hockey, because while I am a closet super fan, I also hate the sport that tore apart my family.
So when Kieran moved to my city as part of a new expansion team, and showed up at the children’s hospital where I work as a nurse for publicity rounds, I should have steered clear of him. And yet somehow, in between signing autographs for the kids on my ward, he managed to get my number and ask me out on a date.
I’m no puck bunny. I meant to turn him down. Somewhere in between dinner and our first kiss, I should have been clear with him that this can’t go anywhere. And while the idea of him getting me up against the boards is hotter than I’d like to admit, I’m going to be firm that the only relationship in our future is a friendship with clear boundaries. Because his career is in overtime and he’s trying to finish with a win, and I don’t want any part of that life. Not again.
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He moves with a tight, fluid grace, even though he’s bigger in person than I expected. There’s a lot of bulk under his team t-shirt, his shoulders big and round, his chest stretching the limits of the cotton.
I guess I only see him in uniform, layered up with gear.
And even in pictures on the internet, the solid heft of his thighs has never been quite this obvious. His jeans look expensive—like they’re maybe cut for a hockey player’s body—and they’re still fitted and tight in all the right places.
Plus his legs are longer than I—
“Eyes off his ass,” Maddie mutters under her breath.
I jerk my head up, but not before Kieran Marsh’s head swivels to the side.
“You witch,” I hiss back at her.
She snickers as the back of his neck darkens.
It’s nothing compared to what my face is doing.
He moves deeper into the play room, like we’re a distraction from the much more important task of bringing a bright moment to a child’s afternoon. Which is the truth. We were a distraction, and what he’s doing is important.
I grab Maddie by the hand and drag her into the room behind the nurse’s station.
“Sorry,” she gasps in between gulping laughs. “I didn’t think he’d hear that. But you were really gobbling him up with your eyes.”
“Maybe he didn’t.”
She closes her eyes and nods. “Right. We need to be more professional.”
“Yes, Ms. Floor Is Lava. We do.” But now I’m snickering, too. “Fuck off.”
“Seriously. Pull your shit together.” Tears are leaking out the corners of her eyes.
“Harper—” She’s cut off from first-and-last-naming me because the door swings open behind me. I can hear it, she can see it, and we both freeze.
“Can I help you?” she says with an absolutely straight face. I have no idea how.
“One of the little guys is asking for Maddie…” a deep voice says. It sounds like he’s amused, and even before I turn around, I know it’s Marsh.
She nods briskly. “Right.”
And then she leaves me alone with him.
I turn around, slowly.
He’s leaning against the door she’s just walked through. There’s another door behind me, so it’s not like he’s blocking me in, but he’s put himself between me and the circus.
And if anyone tried to enter the room the way he just did, his massive body would stop them.
We are alone.
Me and Kieran Marsh. Two-time Cup winner, former captain of the Montreal team, and one of the highest paid athletes in the league.
He’s a future Hall of Famer, an unrepentant player on and off the ice, and he’s just put himself in a room with me. Alone.
“Did you need anything…?”
As I square my shoulders, his gaze rakes over my scrubs. Down to my bright pink sneakers, and back up again, this time slower. By the time we’re looking at each other again, I’m squirming under the intense scrutiny—on the inside. I don’t let him see that he’s affecting me. I raise one eyebrow, to remind him that he hasn’t answered my question.
I deliberately do not think about what a slow, non-verbal up and down could mean instead of just answering the question.