The Scoring Secret

Coming January 2024

Hook up with the irritating hockey player living downstairs? Never.
Fall in love with his sexy online alter-ego, on the other hand… a girl might just accidentally do that.

The first time I meet Ty Connor, he comes off as a privileged jerk. The second time, he’s breaking into my best friend’s apartment…apparently, with her permission. And his arrival in my life coincides with the start of a brutal dry spell in my dating life. Do I blame him for that? Maybe a little.

So we’re not going to be friends. But it’s impossible to fully ignore a guy I share a stairwell with.

The only bright spot is an online sexting buddy who I can’t meet in person, because I can’t handle one more bad date. That is, until my feelings for my anonymous online pen pal collide headfirst with the sizzling attraction starting to burn with the jerk downstairs.

Now my best friend is marrying his teammate, and things are getting complicated.

It can’t be more than a secret, summer fling… one that ends before the hockey season starts again. Because I won’t risk falling for another beautiful, talented man who is so far outside my league, nobody would ever believe us as a real couple.

The Scoring Secret is a spicy, blush-inducing slow burn hockey romance with “You’ve Got Mail for the Tinder age” vibes.

You can pre-order The Scoring Secret at AmazonKobo, Barnes & Noble and Apple!

*

What follows is the unedited first draft of the first two chapters. This is subject to change as the book is written! Don’t hold me to any of this, but here’s a sneak peek at what I’m planning for Ty and…Kiley!

Chapter One: Kiley

Vancouver

“What do you mean, a pipe burst? We have rehearsals today.” I stare at the manager of of the community centre.

He stares back, not caring that I have a director and four actors about to appear and take out the lack of rehearsal space on me, the assistant stage manager.

The volunteer assistant stage manager, because I couldn’t find a paying job for this theatre season, but I didn’t want to go anywhere else, either, because my boyfriend has an occasional, recurring role on a TV show filming here in Vancouver. His auditions are getting better, too, and he feels like he’s on the cusp of a big break. I keep telling myself it’s worth working temp admin gigs for the spring.

If all goes to plan, they might be the last admin jobs I ever work.

I can see our future so clearly. New York, L.A. Theatre friends and interesting work.

But first, I need to take some flack for something that isn’t my fault, and then go home and take a long, hot bath.

I square my shoulders and turn around just in time to see the group of them approach. “Sorry, you guys. No rehearsal today.”

***

An hour later, I get off the bus. Our apartment is above a shop on Commercial Drive. It’s old and worn, but in the middle of a vibrant arts community, and convenient for Crys to get to auditions, sets, and theatres when he is cast in a show.

I turn the corner at the end of the block. A glow from upstairs catches my eye. Crap, Crys didn’t turn off the lights before he left for his audition. And he’ll give me attitude if I mention it, but he’s not the one paying the electricity bill, I am.

Thinking calm thoughts, I let myself in the side door and climb the stairs.

When I push the door open, though, my grumpiness fades. He didn’t leave the lights on when he left, because I can hear the shower running. And it sounds like he’s running lines.

I make a rueful face. His audition must have been cancelled, but at least he bounced back and is moving on to the next thing.

“Hey, baby,” I call out. “I’m home early.”

There isn’t really room for both of us to stand in the tub—Crys thinks it isn’t sexy when the plastic shower curtain touches him—but maybe if I give him a blow job he won’t complain about sharing the hot water.

I pull off my sweater and walk through the apartment to tell him I’m joining him, but I halt abruptly a few feet away from the bathroom.

“Fuck, you’re so hot,” he groans.

And then a woman giggles.

Giggles.

That’s not running lines.

My heart plummets as my brain spins, trying to make sense of a giggle coming out of my bathroom where my boyfriend is having a shower when I’m supposed to be at work, and he never likes it when I laugh during sex… 

Then there’s a moan. And then—

“Yeah, lift me up,” she pants. “Uhhh, Crys!”

No.

No.

He’s fucking someone he can lift up in our tiny shower that we both don’t fit in?

Hot tears spring to my eyes and I back up, bumping into the wall.

My hands shake as I fumble for my phone, where I always keep it in the back pocket of my jeans. I can’t see the screen, I realize, as I stab at it angrily.

Stop fucking crying, Kiley, I command myself. 

It doesn’t work. 

Wet, betrayed tears streak down my face as I search for a room at the nicest hotel I can think of downtown, on the waterfront. 

Then I race to the bedroom and shove a few pieces of clothing in a bag. I’m tempted to drag a bag of his clothing out to the fire escape and toss it into the dumpster, but I don’t have that kind of time. 

He doesn’t have the sexual stamina I need for proper revenge here.

Instead, I stalk back to the kitchen and snatch the expensive bottle of red he’s been holding on to for a celebration when he gets a big part.

And that’s when my gaze falls on his audition call list.

Crys hates technology. Where I do everything in my phone, he’s a notepad kind of guy.

That list is the only record of all the auditions he wants to go to over the next two weeks. It goes in the bag, too.

Finally, I grab my laptop, every single charging cable in the entire apartment, and my favourite photo of me and my best friends: my twin brother Grant and our childhood bestie, Harper.

The next thing I have to do is ask them for help, and that’s going to take everything I have.

How. Fucking. Mortifying.

My heart races as I stare at the bathroom door. The shower turns off, and I have a moment of…should I confront them?

But I can’t do it. I can’t see who she is, how pretty and little and sexy she is, wrapped in my towel and nothing else.

Or God forbid they come out naked.

My stomach heaves, and I twist around, getting to the door without really seeing it.

Back in the small landing at the top of the stairs, I pause and think about what they might do next. Curl up in my bed for a bit of Netflix and chill?

I don’t fucking think so.

I yank my laptop out of the bag and quickly, fingers feeling numb, log in to the remote access for our WiFi router. I change the password to AntiCrys666.

Then for good measure, I delete him from the Netflix account I pay for, before heading for the street, tears streaming down my face again.

***

I have to hold my breath as the hotel runs my credit card for a hold when I check in. It clears, thank God, but that’s all my available credit right now, and my car is at the garage for the third time in six months.

Call Grant.

I really don’t want to. My twin never liked Crys, or understood my zigzag career from journalism school to being a theatre stage manager/temp worker.

Call Harper.

That feels easier, but she’ll just call Grant. Or worse, if I beg her not to, she’ll loan me the money I need herself, and she doesn’t really have it. Not the way Grant does. She’s a nurse, who had to pay a lot of her own way through school. He’s a doctor, and my parents paid for everything.

They probably still pay for things for him.

He just got a second job as part of the medical team for the NHL’s latest expansion team, coming to Hamilton this year, for goodness sake.

Calling my parents is a nonstarter. 

I don’t want their money, because there are strings attached. Strings like, getting a real job and not living on the other side of the country.

“Here is your room key,” the clerk says. “Enjoy your stay.”

It’s a good room. Nice view. Giant jetted tub. I start the water running, then plug in my laptop.

Revenge ideas have been spinning through my head since I left the apartment. Maybe it’s scary how quickly my brain has pivoted to hurting him, but this isn’t the first time he’s cheated on me.

It’s the first time I had to hear it, and it’s the first time I know for a fact sex happened.

But last summer, he had that crush on his co-star. He tried to gaslight me into thinking it was nothing, but I knew otherwise. Then in the fall…another co-star.

With a sinking feeling in my gut, I pull up a video clip of the show he’s on. There’s a series regular, who plays a secondary character. She’s my complete opposite. Blonde, petite, bubbly.

Giggles on command. That’s her fucking thing, on the show.

And in my shower.

I hit play, but I don’t need to confirm that I recognize the voice.

Damn him.

But also, damn me. What’s the saying? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me three times in a row, and it’s time to burn this bridge and leave town.

My phone vibrates.

Crys: When are you home? The WiFi is down and I can’t find my phone charger.

I snarl. My fingers shake, desperate to reply, but I need more time first. I force myself to put it down.

I strip off my clothes and slide into the tub instead.

When was the last time I could stretch out fully in a bath? I’m tall, two inches shy of six feet, and the only bath I’ve had in our stupid apartment in the last year has been with my knees bent up and out of the water.

Gross.

Never again.

I think of my brother’s apartment in Hamilton. It’s got character, too, but at least the bath tub is deep enough for tall people.

An intense, surprising wave of homesickness rolls over me, and I close my eyes. I left home at eighteen for college, and I haven’t looked back. Grant and Harper stayed close to home for school and training, and now they work in the hospital where we were all born.

Not me.

I sob as I let myself sink under the pulsing water, and when I drift back up to the air, I know what I need to do.

Harper answers on the first ring. “Hey, babe, what’s up?”

I don’t say anything. I can’t.

“Kiley?” Her voice softens. “What’s wrong?”

“I need a thousand dollars to get my car repaired tomorrow.” The words wobble out of me.

“Okay.” No questions asked. That’s my bestie. 

“I’m coming home.”

“What happened?”

Nope. That’s all the words I have tonight, apparently.

“Babe,” she whispers. “How about I fly out there and we drive home together?”

I nod silently, tears falling.

And that night, after she transfers money to my account, promising me that she borrowed it from Grant for reasons she refused to divulge, I finally tell her what happened. On opposite sides of the country, her in a break room in the hospital and me in a hotel room I can’t really afford, we do all the petty revenge ideas we can think of.

I change the name on the utilities to Crys Cantkeepitinhispants.

I leave voice messages for all the casting agents on his list, smoothly informing them that he only wants to do theatre work this summer.

And I post an online ad under his name and phone number, offering acting lessons for $20/hour.

Once I finish, and I’m ready for him to know that I know what a fucking snake he is, Harper texts him a heads up that I won’t be home tonight, or ever again.

I block his number before he can blow up my phone after she hits send.

Crys isn’t the first charming asshole I’ve ever fallen for, but he is the last. I’m going home for a while to lick my wounds and figure out how I can come out the other side of this a smarter, wiser Kiley Forge.

And then I’m going to find an incredible adventure to go on, because the ultimate revenge will be forgetting this man ever had any kind of hold on me.

*

Chapter Two: Ty

Miami Beach

ten months later

It sounds obnoxious, but I really do have the best fucking life. I don’t remember the last time I needed an alarm to wake me up for my early morning run, for example. The South Florida sun calls to me—a hockey kid from upstate New York—like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.

I roll out of bed whistling and pull on shorts and athletic socks, then stride to the kitchen. I drink a supplement mix while I warm up, already imagining the waffles I’m going to devour after my skate down the South Beach strip.

Visualization is one of the most important sports psychology tricks I’ve learned. Picture the steps it takes to achieve the success you want, and for me, that’s strapping on my rollerblades, finding someone hot to treat to a nice brunch, and then bringing them back here for a hard and fast tumble across my sheets.

Step one: grab the skates from their spot by my front door.

Step two: head downstairs, no music today. Keeping myself wide open to the possibility of a warm, tight body stumbling across my path, and being able to give them my full and undivided attention.

Step three: look fucking good as I step outside and gaze down Ocean Drive. My playground, where I am king.

It’s a warm one today, and the bright morning rays feel good on my bare chest. I take the first lap down the strip easy, warming up, then pick up my pace. Sweat pricks my skin in that lazy, good workout kind of way.

Ahead of me, a beautiful Black woman bounds into view, her long legs stretching in an eye-catching way that drags my gaze to her high, tight ass, just in time to realize she’s not alone, and the lighter brown-skinned man she’s running toward doesn’t appreciate this white boy ogling her.

I give him a shameless grin and glide past them. No harm, no foul.

And just ahead of them is a curvy redhead with a jiggly tummy that would look real good beneath me on a bed. Back arched, pale tits turning pink as she gets closer to a release…all the creamy white skin painted with my own release, after she has another.

It’s not hard to imagine how we could spend the next few hours, if she’s single and willing.

And if she’s not, then there are plenty of fish in the sea. Or in the sea-adjacent park, as it were.

Best. Fucking. Life.

I’m about to pull alongside her and introduce myself when my phone vibrates.

Slowing down, I answer it, not bothering to look at the screen. Nobody calls me at seven in the morning unless it’s important. “Yello.”

It’s the general manager of the NHL team I play for. The team I’ve helped lead to two Cup finals, although not last year, and it’s not looking good for us this year, either. “Ty, I’m sorry to call so early. Do you have a minute?”

I hear myself reply as if from a distance. My rollerblades feel like lead on my feet, and the redhead bounds ahead, suddenly out of reach.

Waffles aren’t going to happen, either.

The conversation is brief. I’m being traded to the newest team in the league, the Hamilton Highlanders. Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, on the shores of Lake Ontario. Not that far from where I grew up outside Buffalo, New York.

I tip my head up to the sun, as if I’m a photovoltaic battery and I might be able to store just a little bit more of this best fucking life before I need to put on a fucking parka.

Their mascot is a bagpipe playing wild boar, for God’s sake.

My next call is is to my agent. “Hamilton?” I ask incredulously. “We didn’t put them on my no trade list? You know I don’t do snow, Nina.”

She makes a soothing sound in my ear, as if she were my grandmother, and not an ambitious baby shark who graduated from law school like ten minutes ago. “Hamilton is great. You’re going to love the owner, Jack Benton. He’s going to arrange for a private plane to take you to meet the team later today. They’re playing in Montreal tomorrow.”

“Sounds fucking cold.”

“He likes players who are from the area,” she says, continuing as if I hadn’t made it clear that while I might be from the area, I do not like the area. “You’re going to fit in great. They’re still working on some of the details, so the trade won’t hit the wire for another hour or so. Go home, pack up. Do you want to go to the arena there and pick up any of your custom gear?”

Of course I do. That barn is my home. I want to go there, pick up my gear, and put it on, because I have a game tonight. Here.

But I don’t anymore.

Fuck. Well, yeah, I still want my shit. And I need to say a quick goodbye to some of the staff. “How much time do I have?”

“The plane will wait for you. You’re the only passenger.”

I make it back to my apartment. Toss my rollerblades into a closet because I’m sure as shit not going to need those in Hamilton, Ontario, in fucking February. Pack a bag. Do an aimless circuit, trying to figure out what needs to be done. Someone needs to make a so you’ve been traded checklist of tasks for stunned hockey players. I empty out the fridge, shoving everything perishable into my freezer. Text my cleaning lady to let her know the apartment needs to be closed up for the next couple months. I might not be back until May, I tell her. I don’t want to say June. That might be hoping for too much. That would mean we’ve made it into the final rounds of the playoffs, and I don’t think Hamilton is good enough yet.

That has to be my last critical thought about the team, I tell myself. My new team has all the raw talent it needs to go all the way. 

I’ve seen guys make the shift, coming to Miami from other places. Now it’s my turn.

By the time I land in Montreal, I’ll be one of them.

I leave the keys to my car on the counter, in case I decide to have it transported north, but more likely, I’ll buy something up there. Something appropriate for the Snow Belt. And now I’m having flashbacks to early morning practice at rinks with unheated dressing rooms.

Whatever I get up there—some kind of truck with monster wheels, maybe—has to have heated seats. And a remote start.

I need to distract myself from the thought of blizzards. Once I’m settled in the backseat of the car that will take me to the rink—and then on to the airfield where Benton’s plane will meet me—I do the next thing that comes naturally to me. I open the Lusty and Tinder apps on my phone and change my location from South Beach, Miami, Florida, to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Lusty first. It’s not technically a hook up app. The tag line is XXX, and it started as an anonymous travel and food reviewing blog for Millennials. But the message boards can be pretty horny, and they’ve recently added a profile browsing feature that feels a lot like a dating app. Smart decision, because the user base is mostly single and we already have a lot in common. I’m incognito on Lusty because nobody needs to know what restaurants in Miami Ty Connor goes to—but a guy who writes reviews as BeastMode doesn’t get a second glance. 

I can’t imagine I’ll find a lot of must-eats in Hamilton, but you never know. 

Once that profile is updated, I go to Tinder. The familiar scroll, scroll, swipe is soothing, I guess. Nice to get a heads up about who I might get a chance to meet in a few days.

Lots of nice smiles. Big tits, small tits. Scroll, scroll.

And then I stop on a banging body. Tall curves poured into blue jeans and a black tank top, the type of body that screams I used to be on the volleyball team and now my preferred cardio routine is riding hockey players’ faces. No face. I usually swipe past anonymous profiles, because they’re looking for more than a single night of fun, but there’s something about her.

Her name is Kiley. And her bio puts my theory on anonymous profiles immediately into question.

Here for a good time, not a long time, because I’m working on my boundaries. Likes: Road trips. Dislikes: Clingy liars.

I check out her other pictures. Thick thighs at the gym. A glimpse at a pale belly in a selfie taken from above, on a bed, as she unbuttons a baseball jersey. An angle that promises, this could be your view after a softball game, jiggle jiggle. 

And the last one makes me laugh. It’s just of her legs—with a close up on those calves that look like they could lock around a man and hold him in tight—but she’s tangled up in a dog leash. The pup in question is off screen, but I don’t care. All I can see is the way the leash presses into her soft flesh.

Didn’t see myself being jealous of a strip of nylon cord today, but whatever. It’s a weird day, bring on the unexpected cock twitches.

I swipe right. And I save her profile to come back to later.

Then I keep scrolling but no one else grabs my attention. Just as I arrive at the rink, I get a text message from Nina. The trade is finalized and will be announced in moments, which means I need to text the team. My old team, now.

Ty: Heads up, fellows. I’ve been traded. I love you all, and I still expect wedding invites this summer.

Ty: But once I grab my shit from the arena, it’s on until the end of the season. Nothing personal.

And then I leave the group chat before anyone can reply.

At the arena, the security guard is surprised to see me. I break the news. Inside the team space, though, word has already started to spread among the trainers and the coaches, so I’m spared needing to say the words again.

I grab a bundle of my sticks, my skates, and a box of extra blades from the equipment guys, and the custom base layers I love with the special pads built in over my collarbones. The new team will have them made for me in their colours, too, but in the meantime, I’ll wear what I have.

I leave the rink carrying a Miami equipment bag for the very last time.

It’s a short drive to the private airfield, and I spend it staring out the window.

I don’t check my phone again until my gear has been stowed safely and I’m sprawled in one of the four oversized leather seats on the plane.

No match from the hot girl on Tinder. And that’s still the case when we land in Montreal, where isn’t a jiggly belly in sight, because it’s February and Montreal is 1500 miles due north of the south Florida sun I already miss more than I should.

This is professional hockey.

Trades happen.

Ty Connor, say goodbye to the sun, say hello to a series of hotel rooms as you learn the systems and structures of a whole new organization.

Because the team that drafted you, where you once won the Cup and got close two other times, no longer has need of your very specific, spectacular talents.

Time for a rebuild in Miami, and rebuilds don’t happen around thirty-year-olds who eat up too much cap space.

But Hamilton?

It’s not that I’m unfamiliar. I’m fucking familiar. Hamilton is only an hour and a half from where I grew up outside Buffalo. It’s what you drive past—gritty steel plants and all—on your way to the hockey centre of the world, Toronto.

I mean, it could be worse. I could have been traded to Toronto.

But.

But.

Fucking hell, I miss my apartment with a clear view of the Atlantic Ocean already.

And when I’m peering out the car window at the restaurant where I’m about to meet most of my new teammates for the first time off the ice, all I can think is, I wish I’d packed a warmer coat.

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