MAKING HIS MOVE
Buffalo Bedlam series
Rod Fraser should be on top of the world—his hockey team just won the Cup. But as the backup goaltender, he didn’t see any ice time during the playoffs, and the victory felt hollow. Now a free agent, he’s hoping for a starting job with another team, but prospects aren’t looking good. He returns home to Holiday, NY to wait for news and to bring the Cup to his hometown. When he sees his best friend’s sister, who he’s had a thing for forever, and who is now single, nothing can hold him back from pursuing her heart.
Arielle Charton returned to Holiday eight months earlier, to rebuild her life and mend a broken heart. The shy artist can’t believe that Rod, her first crush, wants her too. But as drawn to him as she is, can she learn to trust again? Her heart wants to say yes, but her brain says no. Given his history of jumping from interest to interest, she’s afraid she’s the next new thing and he’ll drop her when the thrill has worn off. She can’t afford—literally or emotionally—to allow another man to distract her from her goals.
Rod has made his living making impossible saves but it’s going to take a huge play to convince Arielle that she’s won his heart.
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She turned to him when they reached her stop. “Thanks for walking me.”
“Anytime.” He reached for her and then paused, arms outstretched. They’d always exchanged hugs in the past, but he’d leave it up to her now. Just as he lowered his arms, hers came up and their forearms collided. And then her soft laugh danced on the breeze.
Eyes sparkling in the porch light, she smiled. “Oops.”
“Let’s try that again.” Rod bent and extended his arms, and Arielle stepped into them like she belonged there.
She smelled like the night and the coffee shop and a hint of something sweet. Her arms wrapped around his waist, soft and small and so good. He rested his cheek against her hair, and the curls teased his skin.
Keeping his arms around her, he pulled back enough to look into her eyes. The laughter had faded. They were serious and thoughtful as her gaze roamed his face. He returned the study, the graceful slope of her nose, her smooth cheeks, pink and shiny lips, then back to her eyes, hoping she’d found what she was looking for. Hoping it was the same thing he wanted.
She slid her fingers from his shoulders to his chest, and he feared she might push him away. “The past eight months have been really hard. And lonely. But I don’t know if I’m ready for another relationship.”
Disappointment dropped like a guillotine. He eased his arms from her frame but couldn’t step back. Not yet. He fought to keep his voice even. “That’s fair.”
“But I don’t know that I’m not ready either.” Her gaze darted from his eyes to his chest, and her voice lightened up. “You’ve really liked me since high school?”
The words didn’t make him sound too lame, not when delivered with that touch of wonder to her voice. He returned his hands to her hips, holding on to the hope that she wasn’t blowing him off. “Can you blame me?”
“But… I’m just…me.”
“There’s no just when it comes to you.” He took a chance and cupped her cheek. Her face looked so small compared to his large hand.
Her warm fingers caressed his cheek. His breath caught in his lungs, and he fought to maintain his control. He’d thought about this moment for years.
“Ari.” He framed her face with his hands.
She moved in closer and raised onto her toes. Her hand lowered to his chest. Did she feel his heartbeat galloping?
Rod bent further, slowly, pulse pounding, head swimming, senses overwhelmed by the tiny woman in his arms.
Her eyes fluttered closed and her lips parted on a soft inhale a second before his mouth touched hers.
Soft. Warm. Sweet. And better than he could have imagined. He angled his head, seeking a deeper taste. Arielle’s fingers flexed on his shirt, and her tongue answered his tease.
Too soon, she pulled back and lowered her heels to the porch.
The kiss dazed him far more than any alcohol ever had. “Wow. So yeah, we need to do that again.”
She smiled but then bit her lip. “I need to think.”
Rod combed his fingers through her hair, not ready to end the connection. Needing to think wasn’t a no. He released his hands and stepped back. “I’ll see you soon.”
He waited until she’d gone inside and then walked back to the bar. Being with Arielle felt as right and as natural as playing hockey, as breathing. It was what he’d wanted since his junior year of high school. He’d do anything to convince her to give him a chance.