Hello my lovelies!
Zim and Suji are back, and there’s even more of them to love. The Warm Up is available now as a standalone novella, and there’s a bonus chapter!
If you missed Hot On Ice, now’s your chance to catch this sexy, snarky love story.
That’s what folks around the league call Constantine Zimin, hockey’s best defenseman. He’s unflappable. Stoic, even. No cracks in all that ice, not until he meets Suji Meriwether.
The pediatric nurse has no time for bad-boy jocks who want to use her patients as props. But as soon as they meet, temperatures rise and their defenses fall.
How about an excerpt?
“Mama, papa, we’re going to find our table and leave you to it. Enjoy
His mother grabbed his forearm and pulled.
Zim bent over, and she cupped his cheek, turning his head.
“You really like her,” she whispered.
“I just met her, mama,” Zim whispered back.
She released him and caught his eye, her expression full of mischief.
“So, go get to know her better.” She winked.
Fortunately, Suji had been occupied by another guest.
Zim joined her. When she was done, he offered his arm, which she took.
He’d chosen a table at the other end of the ship, away from the bulk of the partygoers. This way, he could put in the requisite time with them, and retreat when he needed to.
“This is pretty far from the action, isn’t it?” Suji noted.
“Want me all to yourself do you?” She was still teasing, but Zim saw something else in her eyes. Uncertainty.
He was right there with her. He couldn’t deny the attraction, but he wasn’t sure what they were doing at this point. He had no game plan. Instead of answering, he offered to pour her some wine.
“Red or white?”
“In this dress, I’m safe with red.”
Zim raised an eyebrow.
“I’m a clutz when it comes to any sort of fancy dress. I can tap a vein with my eyes closed, hook up a drip in seconds, but put me in a dress? I’m Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed.” Suji grinned.
Zim hadn’t seen the film, but he got the gist of it. “Red it is. And the dress is beautiful, by the way.”
Was that a blush on her cheeks? “Thanks. I borrowed it from my sister. She’s into clothes and all that.”
Zim filled her glass and then his own. “And you’re not?”
“I don’t have much occasion for street clothes. But I own about a hundred different sets of scrubs, in every conceivable color and pattern.”
Zim chuckled. “I liked the unicorns.”
“Yeah?” She smiled and took a sip of her wine. “I’m partial to those myself. And the kids love them.”
“Hey,” Zim started. “How is Tiffany?”
Suji’s expression sobered. “She’s actually okay. She had chemo this morning,
and she sometimes reacts badly. That’s why she wasn’t at the party today.”
“But she’s been responding really well to treatment. We have every confidence she’ll beat this thing.”
“That is fantastic news.”
Suji’s smile was a mixture of pride and relief. “It is.”
They sat in silence for a few awkward moments. Zim racked his brain for a topic of conversation that didn’t revolve around her work.
“Tell me about your sport,” Suji said, rescuing him. “I confess, I know nothing about it. When did you start playing?”
If there was one thing Zim could talk about, ad nauseum, it was hockey. “My father strapped my sister and I both into skates as soon as we could walk. We lived near the Ice Palace in St. Petersburg.”
“Oh,” Suji said. “I didn’t know you were born in Russia. How old were you when you moved to the United States?”
“Ten.” Thankfully, she didn’t ask why, so Zim continued. “Anyway, my father played hockey before he met my mother, so he’s always been in love with the sport. He passed that on to me.”
“And what do you love about it?” Suji watched him with glittering, amber eyes.
Zim kept getting caught in that mysterious gaze.
“The speed, the skills you need to develop, the discipline,” Zim answered without thinking. “I love the camaraderie with my teammates. Unlike some other sports, it’s never a one-man show. One player hardly ever carries a whole team.”
“You have to work as a unit.”
“Yeah, that’s it exactly.”
“Not so different from my and my team,” Suji remarked. “Not one of us could do the job alone. We work together to make sure each child has the care they need.”
Zim nodded. “Yeah, you’re right. My teammates and I work together toward our target, scoring goals, winning games.”
“And ultimately that shiny trophy on the other side of the room.”
Zim grinned. “That too.”
“So, your father got you started, and then you moved here to Philadelphia.”
“Yeah, where I joined a ten-and-under league.”
Suji’s eyes went wide. “They have a league for kids that young?”
“Younger. It’s better to start very young. Though, at that age, it’s more about getting the kids comfortable with being on the ice. Skating and stopping. Control. Falling.”
“Falling?” Suji laughed.
“You fall a lot.” Zim couldn’t stop himself from smiling. “A whole hell of a lot until you’re about sixteen when the skates and the stick feel more like extensions of your body.”
“And now, here you are.”
“Here I am.”
“Well, if I didn’t say it before, congratulations on winning.” Suji raised her glass and Zim followed suit.
“Thanks. And thank you for…accompanying me tonight.”
“So far, so good,” Suji said, her mouth curving in a grin.
“Very much so.” Zim loved the blush that spread across her cheeks.
“There you are,” Marty jogged up to the table. “We need you to make your speech, take some group shots, that sort of thing. Hi, Nurse Meriwether.”
“Suji is fine,” she offered. “And don’t let me keep you, Zim. I know you have obligations.”
He stood, hating the fact that they’d finally gotten to talk and he was being pulled away.
“I’ll be as quick as I can,” he assured her.
She waved him off. “Go make money for my kids.”
Zim smiled. “That’s the plan.”