Hello, my lovelies! So many of you have asked “when will we find out what happened with Lovie and Duff?” The answer is: any day now! Well, soon. LOL!
Calum Me Maybe is almost set to go, and we will pick up right where we left off so, don’t worry. You haven’t missed any of the action. And if you haven’t read The Calum, here’s your chance to get caught up on all the fun!
Duff and Lovie have been trying to navigate the tricky waters of their attraction. Not easy when there’s thousands of miles, and often two continents, between them. ‘Friends’ isn’t a bad thing unless you’ve had a taste of more. But is their connection strong enough to bridge the distance? We shall see. In the mean time, here’s chapter one to hold you over. 😉
There was nothing wrong with cuddling with a friend.
Lovie’s head rested on one bicep of her very warm, very muscular, very nice-smelling friend, Duff.
His fingers trailed sparks across a sliver of exposed skin where her tank top had ridden up. She was in danger of igniting but she couldn’t.
Bathed in morning light, her hotel room looked like something out of a magazine. Rare strands of Glasgow’s sunlight curled through the sheer curtains of the window and stretched down toward the bed where they lie entangled. Her and Duff.
Compadres, or whatever they were supposed to be after they’d spent the night trying to hash it out.
Nope, there’s nothing at all wrong with cuddling, but Lovie was fairly sure this wasn’t that. Certainly not the way her leg lay trapped against the hard evidence of his arousal. Certainly not the way his hip settled between her thighs. Certainly not the way his mouth kept brushing over hers, tasting and teasing. Drawing her in and retreating on a groan.
This was something else, entirely.
Lovie turned to lie on her back, breaking whatever spell he’d cast on her.
“Hey you,” came his soft protest and, Holy mother of haggis, that voice. Deep and raspy, it was as if Duff had traveled to the underworld and brought back all of its seductive parts. It was dark, dangerous, and sexy as, well, Hades.
Duff’s soft breath tickled the sensitive skin behind her ear when he curled around her. The heat of his body against her side was like a furnace.
Lovie inhaled his spicy, woodsy scent. And his morning-breath. Funny, she hadn’t noticed it when his tongue was in her mouth.
“We should probably brush our teeth,” she whispered into their cocoon.
“Subtle.” He chuckled, and she couldn’t hold back her giggle.
“I’m nothing if not tactful.”
Duff nipped at her earlobe. “You’re sweet and gorgeous, and, ahh!“ He yelped when she curled her feet around his. “Freezing! Christ, woman, you’ve got wee blocks of ice at the ends of your legs.”
He laughed as he moved down her body and encased her frozen toes in his huge, hot man-hands. It was decadent, but now she missed having him all around her. Blue, almost iridescent eyes blinked up from the foot of the bed, full of mischief, as he rubbed her feet.
“Don’t you dare,” she warned.
He grinned, the devil. “I won’t. I know how much you hate being tickled.”
Hate was too weak a word. Lovie despised tickling. Tickling was right up there with nails on a blackboard, soft-boiled eggs, and R. Kelly in terms of things that creeped her out.
Duff paused, eyeing her now-curled toes. “But it is ever-so-tempting.”
“And here I thought we were friends.” A swarm of honeybees convened in her stomach, but she batted them away.
Duff’s hands stilled as he looked up at her. A dark wave of his ebony hair fell across one eye. With the six o’clock shadow dusting his chiseled jaw, it made him look like a pirate.
She couldn’t help but laugh out loud.
“What?” He grinned, always ready to share a joke.
“Nothing, you just look like Captain Hook.” Duff winced. “More Colin O’Donoghue than Dustin Hoffman, don’t worry.”
“Pfft. At least make me a Scottish pirate.” Duff laughed and sat up, sweeping his hair back from his all-too-expressive eyes. There was humor in them, but also something else.
Something that tugged at her core, twisting her belly into intricate knots.
Lovie pulled herself up to rest on her elbows, wanting to keep him in her sight. Her mind went blank as her gaze raked over his glorious cotton-clad chest, down and down his rippling abdomen to where she knew a dark trail of silky hair lead to the treasure below his waistband.
“We’ll be good friends, Lovie.” He leveled her with that blue-green gaze that had the irksome ability to turn her insides to mush. “You still okay with that?”
They’d spent the entire night talking. Well, Lovie had talked. Duff had mostly apologized. And apologized. And had kept apologizing. I had gotten a little old, but she’d tried to keep the annoyance out of her voice when she reassured him that all was forgiven.
Because he’d lied to her.
Not telling her that his best friend had a fiance, knowing her best friend was getting cozy with the man, may have been a lie of omission but it was still a lie. Lovie understood the logic behind it. Sort of. Bros before hoes, or some such bullshit.
The truth was, Duff hadn’t known her or her bestie, Jo. They’d only met two weeks ago when she and Jo arrived in Inverness for Christmas vacation. So, she couldn’t entirely fault him for sticking to the bro code he had with his bestie, Hamish. As squicky as it was. Especially not after he explained that Hamish had lied to him too, had claimed his intentions toward Jo to be innocent.
Yep, the guy was a royal douche.
But Lovie believed Duff hadn’t meant for anyone to get hurt. Deep down, she knew he was a good guy, even if the company he kept was suspect.
“Yeah. I’m still okay with it.” Lovie’s words slurred as Duff began to massage her calves.
His hands were big, warm and slightly calloused. They felt good. Too good. She couldn’t hold back the tiny moan that left her throat.
“It’s nice?” A wicked glint entered his gaze, and his fingers dug deeper into her flesh.
Lovie let her head drop back. The bed shifted with Duff’s weight as he knelt between her legs, using his thighs to push hers apart.
“Good.” His hands moved up, kneading her muscles into submission. It was a pleasure bordering on the edge of discomfort, but so worth it.
“Friends give each other massages?” Lovie didn’t even try to fight the breathiness of her words. How could she be expected to keep her wits about her when he touched her like this?
“They do,” came his low response.
Lovie’s hips had rotated a few degrees before she caught them. She inhaled slow and deep, trying to rein in her body’s response to the man.
Duff released Lovie’s legs and grabbed her hands, pulling her into a sitting position. He motioned her to the edge of the bed, and she willingly obeyed.
Then she was once again surrounded by his heat. The scent of him, male and spice, filled the air around them. Firm hands landed on her skin and those nimble fingers pressed into her shoulders. Lovie dropped her chin to her chest in surrender.
Duff worked her muscles like a pro and Lovie briefly wondered if he’d ever trained as a masseur.
“You’re so tense, love.” Ah, God, and now that voice was right in her ear again, worming its way into her brain and migrating to parts south.
Lovie shivered at the term of endearment. Tense? That was one word for it. She was wound tighter than a spool of thread. It was too much. His voice, his touch, his everything. Too much.
“When your hands are on me, it’s hard to wrap my head around the whole friends thing.” Lovie’s admission surprised even herself.
Duff rested his palms on her shoulders. His thumbs glided up and down the nape of her neck and Lovie could feel the slight tremble in his hands.
“What are we doing, D?”
Duff stilled. “We’re…having fun. Aren’t we? Enjoying each other’s company?”
“Fun.” Lovie repeated the word, testing it out.
Duff sighed and moved to sit next to her outstretched leg. One hand caressed her shin, causing goosebumps to erupt again under her PJ bottoms.
“We have a rare connection here, I think,” he began slowly, ducking his head to peer at her under her no-doubt unruly hair. “It’s sort of an unusual bond, agreed? Unusual for me, at least. Can’t speak for you.”
Lovie nodded. “Agreed. It’s definitely different.”
Her heart pounded against her ribcage, and the breath halted in her lungs awaiting the ‘but’ she heard in his tone. He gestured with his free hand as if trying to pluck the words from the air.
“I’ve never clicked with anyone this fast.” He brushed a stray curl out of her eye. “I mean that, Lovie. I’m not just talking shite, you’re important to me.”
At least he didn’t say special. Lovie would have kicked him. She knew exactly what he meant about their instant connection. She’d felt it too, from their very first conversation. Had that really only been two weeks ago? Geez.
“You’re important to me too, Duff.”
His answering smile was one of relief and gratitude. “I’m so glad for that, ‘cause I don’t know what I would have done if I’d lost you. I kinda need you in my life. Nothing worse than findin’ a treasure and then losin’ it.”
Lovie smiled and nudged his shoulder. “Well, you’re stuck with me.”
“Aye, and you’re stuck with me, but I’m a realist. Yeah? This…thing we have, it can’t really go where we might want it to go.” Regret flashed behind his eyes, its answer a squeeze in Lovie’s chest.
“I know. I live in Philly, and you travel ninety-nine percent of the time.”
“I can’t even promise when we’d see one another,” Duff lamented.
“I know that too, Duff.” She did know it, and she hated it. Why hadn’t they invented teleporters already? This was the twenty-first century, dammit.
“Am I being an arsehole?” His hand had moved up her leg, his touches again softening into caresses.
No matter what words came from his gorgeous lips, his desire for her was evident in the tightness around his eyes. The slight flare of his nostrils. The tongue that toyed with the corner of his mouth.
Lovie schooled herself not to glance down at his zipper, afraid she’d act on what she’d undoubtedly find. She did stretch her leg out further, just a bit, eager for more contact.
He didn’t disappoint.
“No, you’re not an arsehole. You’re just being practical, and I’m nothing if not a pragmatist.” Lovie flopped back onto the bed, exhausted from her own emotional roller coaster. “Being an adult sucks.”
Duff stretched his long body across the mattress and rested his head on her hip. He threw one arm across her belly, his thumb skimming the bare skin of her arm. The pressure of that small touch was maddening. Her skin sang in that one little spot.
“I don’t disagree with that,” he said, chuckling. “Still, I think this could go a lot of places. We’re going to be close, I can feel it. We already are, I think.”
Lovie thought so too. No matter what happened, she had her parents, her Jo, and now her Duff. It was a small consolation at the moment, but a consolation nonetheless.
“So…friends?” Lovie wove her fingers into his thick, ebony hair. Why, oh, why did it have to be so thick, and wavy, and so damn yummy?
“More than friends, Lovie-love.” He tightened the arm around her waist but kept his touch innocuous. “Much, much more.”
Hmm. How much?
“Friends with benefits?” The joke fell flat as it left her mouth. She’d always loathed that term. She also despised the fact that she needed his hands on her and hoped he couldn’t hear the desperation in her voice.
“Such bullshit,” he gruffed, pulling her closer still. “Some arsehole with commitment issues invented that to get shagged, I’m sure of it.”
Lovie snorted. That was one theory. “So, we’re friends without benefits?”
Duff tilted his head, and the heat in his gaze stole her breath.
Lovie offered him a shaky smile, but he didn’t return it. The way he could look at her, as if he could see straight down into the well of her deepest desires, should have been impossible. And yet, there he was doing just that.
“What?” She averted her eyes, the need to mask his effect on her imperative. “I’m only kidding.”
Duff reached up and tilted her chin his way, forcing her to meet his eyes. Twin oceans that swam with possibilities.
“I don’t know what shape this will take, Lovie, but I cannae pretend that I don’t want you.”
She watched the movement of his throat as he swallowed hard, and nearly moaned when his tongue darted out to lick his bottom lip. Her nipples had sharpened into tiny daggers behind the thin cotton of her tank top, and she cursed herself for not putting on a bra the night before.
The corner of Duff’s mouth ticked up in recognition, his thumb moving across her cheek in slow, languid strokes. “Apparently, you can’t pretend either.”
“Never said I could.” She couldn’t mask the huskiness in her voice. Or that I wanted to. Lovie kept those words in the back of her throat.
Duff’s hand fell away from her face, and she immediately missed the contact. He nodded toward the bathroom.
“I’ll go first, yeah?” He leaned up to press a quick, hard kiss to her mouth.
Their gazes locked for long moments, each second that passed making it that much harder for her to take a steady breath. Duff’s expression was pure hunger, and she felt every beat of her pounding heart between her thighs. Heat prickled across her skin like marching fire ants.
Inhaling deeply, Duff groaned and cursed under his breath. He sat up, putting distance between them that Lovie loathed. She wasn’t sure how she’d handle thousands of miles and continents between them if they were really together.
Yeah, friends was best.
Still, Lovie watched, rapt, as he slid off the bed and stretched to his full height, and then some.
“Right.” He pulled off his t-shirt and dropped it to the floor, rubbing one hand over his abs and across the flat plane of his stomach as he yawned. Was he fucking kidding? His jeans hung low on his hips and clung nicely to his retreating ass as he walked to the bathroom. “I’ll be quick.”
Gods, he was sexy, and Lovie wanted him so much, her mouth watered. Duff wanted her too. Badly, by the looks of it. She’d caught a glimpse of his erection before he’d turned to go. She’d seen the naked desire in his eyes. Could they walk away from this kind of chemistry without one last taste?
Before she could talk herself out of it, Lovie followed Duff into the bathroom. Surprised eyes met hers in the mirror, but he smiled around his toothbrush when she joined him, brushing her teeth silently at his side. After she had rinsed, she caught his gaze in the mirror. He’d been watching her. No, Duff’s eyes had been consuming her. Drinking her in. Lovie’s body thrummed, just from the longing in his expression. God, she felt that hunger down to her toes.
Lovie crossed to the standing shower and opened the glass door. Reaching inside, she started the water, adjusting the temperature to her liking. She hooked her thumbs into the waistband of her pajama bottoms, pushed them over her hips, and let them drop to her feet before stepping out of them. Her tank top was next. With her back to Duff, she crossed her arms and lifted the soft material over her head. It dropped soundlessly to the marble floor.
The word was a low, rolling thunder of a warning, but Lovie ignored it. She could practically feel his eyes burning into her. She caught the elastic of her undies in her fingers and pushed them down, making sure to bend over and give Duff a nice view of her bare ass. It was unfair, Lovie knew it. She just didn’t care. She wanted him, he wanted her, and this was probably the last time she’d ever see him like this.
Lovie opened the shower door and stepped inside. When she moved under the spray, she heard the clatter of something falling to the floor.
Lovie smiled but didn’t turn to look. “Everything okay?”
“No, Lovie. Everything is not okay. What the bloody hell?”
Gloriously warm water splashed across her body, dotting every curve, and Lovie turned to face him. She ran her hands along the same paths the water took and watched as his jaw bunched. His gaze was pure fire.
“Jesus,” he groaned. “I thought we’d decided.”
“Come here.” She crooked one finger, beckoning him.
Duff looked angry but also seriously turned on. So hot. And despite his apparent reluctance, he stalked forward, a hand at his waist. He flipped open the button of his jeans and slid the zipper down.
“What do you think you’re doing?” His voice had dropped into a growl, and the sound of it sent shivers up Lovie’s spine.
Duff had given her a taste of something, and she wasn’t ready to let go. Not yet. If this were going to be the last time she’d have him like this, Lovie wanted to squeeze every ounce of it out of these waning moments that she could.
Lovie widened the door and opened her arms. “Let’s put the friends thing on pause.” She offered him a hand and pulled him inside when he took it. “I need to say a proper goodbye to those benefits.”
The New Orleans Cajun Rage professional hockey team just won The Cup. No one thought they’d do it: they were a team of shoulda beens, never coulda beens and a star or two. They’d only been in the Crescent City for three years before this year’s Cinderella run that had them skating off the ice with the championship.
Over the following summer, each player gets to keep the Cup for a day. Nobody knows why, but whoever has the Cup falls in love.
USA Today Bestsellers Robin Covington, Desiree Holt, Kimberly Kincaid, Nana Malone and Virginia Nelson, Publisher’s Weekly Bestseller Angi Morgan, along with Xio Axelrod, Christi Barth, Andie J. Christopher, Avery Flynn, Kim Golden, Lena Hart, Robin Kaye, Katie Kenyhercz, Heather Long, Kate Meader, Susan Scott Shelley, and Misty D. Waters bring you 18 romances with smoking hot heroes—both on and off the ice.