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Luc Richard is the hottest player in the NHL–and it has nothing to do with hockey. His racy relationship with his supermodel ex set the tabloids on fire but nearly put his career on ice. To avoid being traded, Luc agrees to take a break from the spotlight–and from women–and spend the off-season at home in Silver Bay, Maine. It’s the perfect plan… until he reconnects with Rose.
Rose Caplan is tired of being shy, sweet, and safe. She’s ready for passion, romance–and Luc. Having loved him longer than she can remember, she’s finally ready to prove she’s not the same innocent little girl he once knew. Off the ice Luc doesn’t do games, but this new Rose makes him feel like playing a little dirty. If he’s really got a shot at her heart then he’s not just playing to win. He’s playing for keeps.
Table of Contents
An Excerpt from The Final Move
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Six years earlier
She's drunk. She thinks it's just tipsy but it's full-on, will-probably-puke, massive-hangover-guaranteed drunk. I should be panicked, worried and—more than anything—unsupportive of her behavior but… she's just so damn cute.
I watch her as she concentrates really hard on the lines she's drawing in the sand. Her eyebrows are drawn together, her lips are slightly parted and the tip of her tongue is sticking out ever so slightly as she uses her index finger to create a masterpiece. Well, a bunch of random crooked lines and uneven divots in the sand she's declared is my portrait.
I've been avoiding Rose lately, but when she called and left a message slurring her words, going on about my best friend, Jordan, breaking her sister's heart and ruining everything, I knew I had to come. She's fifteen, three years younger than me, and although my life has been far from perfect, hers was much rougher. And she was there for me when I needed someone, so I'll always be there for her. I've been avoiding her because I think she's developing a crush. I'm a born flirt. I can't help it. It's like breathing air, so of course I've been flirting with Rose—but with Rose's ideals, it was playing with fire. Rose Caplan is sweet, smart and definitely beautiful, but she has all these fantastical ideas about love. She's a romantic and she dreams of an epic love story with a Prince Charming and a happily ever after. She deserves nothing less, but I'm not at all interested in that.
"Hrmpf." She makes this weird sound, like a sigh, a huff and a grunt all at once, and uses her palm to smooth away the sand drawing. "I can't do you justice."
I smirk and tilt my head so I'm in her sightline. She's sitting in the sand at my feet. Her back between my legs, against the log I'm sitting on. In front of us the bonfire, built by friends and high school classmates, is in the final stage before becoming nothing more than smoldering ash. The minimal light dances over her skin, making it sparkle. Her cheeks are flushed from what she says was only three beers and "maybe a wine cooler thingy."
"Justice?" I repeat and her near-black eyes catch mine.
"You're too pretty for a sand drawing," she says with a frown and a glare, like she's honestly mad at me. Rose has never called me pretty before and her confession makes me warm. If this was any other girl, I'd take advantage of the confession. I've never been one to turn down an opportunity for a bonfire make-out session. But… it's sweet, young and innocent Rose, and I just can't do that to her. Luckily, she continues in a tirade without waiting for my response.
"Jordan's too stupid. Callie's too angry. Jessie's too stubborn. You're too pretty and I'm too lame. Everything is too. I hate too. Too is ruining my life."
She looks completely despondent, and totally sincere, so I feel bad when I can't keep the giant grin from overtaking my face. Her wide eyes get wider and that pouty, pink mouth—the one that is quickly maturing into something any man would have sex dreams about—drops into a perfect O. She whispers, "Crap. I said that out loud."
She tries to move away from me, but I reach out and gently cup the side of her face in the palm of my left hand. Now she's stuck, twisted around between my legs, staring at me. "Rosie, your life is not ruined. Everything will be okay."
"You don't know that."
"I do know that because I will make it okay," I vow, my voice dropping an octave. "I will always have your back."
"Because you've always had mine."
She stares at me for another second as that sinks in. I know, even drunk, she knows why she's as close a confidant as my best friend Jordan, and one of the few people I let completely in. She suddenly shifts her eyes back to the sand and slides away, so I can no longer touch her pretty face.
"But I want you to have more than my back," she mumbles in such a low, slurred voice I almost miss it. "No one wants more than my back. Because I'm too lame."
She starts to try to stand up but tips right back over and lands with a thud on her ass in the sand. I slip off the log and drop to my knees, reaching out to take her hands and keep her from falling all the way back and into the fire. I pull her close, sneaking the opportunity to sniff that amazing smell that is Rose Caplan. Some kind of soft, powdery-smelling perfume that screams delicate but makes my dick hard at the exact same time. I'm sure it's some drugstore perfume, because Rosie doesn't have money for anything more than that, but on her, it's priceless.
I prop her up against the log again and lean in close, taking another deep inhale of that perfect, dick-twitching scent. "Oh, Fleur, you're a drama queen when you drink."
Our eyes meet again. I force myself to move back to the log and sit behind her. If I look at that face a second longer I'm going to kiss her. Because she's pretty, and adorable, and I can. But I shouldn't, and with Rosie that matters. I have to remember that matters. Once safely behind her, I put my hands on her shoulders and lean down, with my lips just behind her ear.
"You are not too lame. And all the other 'too' problems with Jessie, Jordan and whoever else will work out." I pause and tell her what I have been thinking for months… only I do it in French. "Ta vie sera belle parce que tu Fleur, es belle. Et tu vas trouver quelqu'un qui t'aimera pour ça."
She twists her head and blinks up at me. "Not fair. I don't understand."
I smirk and give her a small wink. "One day I'll translate it for you."
She turns back to the fire in front of her, staring at the flickering flames, and murmurs, "I'm too scared to go for what I really want."
She tips her head back and looks up at me. This time, I don't know if I'm going to be able to stop myself from kissing her. I don't even think I want to stop. Maybe she'll be too drunk to remember. Maybe…
"Luc!" My best friend Jordan's deep voice fills the night air and causes Rose to snap her head away from me. "Have you seen Jessie?"
Rosie jumps to her feet and starts congratulating Jordan on being drafted into the NHL. Our moment disintegrates and I'm grateful. As much as I wanted her in that moment, it's for all the wrong reasons. I would break her heart, and I refuse to do that to Rose.
I sit at the bar and smile at Cole as he pours me another pale ale from the keg. He slides it in front of me and, as I hear a loud, flirty laugh from the back of the bar where the pool tables are, my eyes snap shut and I grimace.
"You okay?" Cole asks.
I nod. "I will be. Just need a few more of these."
I raise the glass to my lips and drink. I'm not really a fan of beer. I like wine and mixed drinks way better, but beer is cheap because Cole gives the staff a discount on whatever is on tap. And if I'm going to drink away my sorrows, I'm going to do it on a budget.
"Why are you in here on your night off?" Cole asks.
"Jordan and Jessie are coming home tonight and he asked me to give them some time alone." I take another sip of my beer. I was living with my oldest sister and her boyfriend—who happened to be Cole's brother—for the summer. "I have no idea why but, hey, it's his house."
"Probably wants to have sex," Cole surmises bluntly and when I make a face, he laughs. "Trust me, Rosie. With guys, alone time is always a sex thing."
"Thanks, Cole," I say and gulp the beer now. "Thanks for the education."
"Hey, Garrison!" Luc's jovial voice fills the air. "Another round!"
And then he's beside me. He's styled his hair, and by style I mean he's run a brush through it and probably added some kind of gel or something to keep it smooth. It's falling to his chin now, and if it were blond he'd look like a surfer, but it's chestnut and along with his olive skin, dark eyes and darker eyebrows he looks like a sultry Calvin Klein model, not a scrappy professional hockey defenseman. He's in a vintage T-shirt advertising some kind of soap from the fifties. It hugs his hulking shoulders and his large biceps in a way that makes my mouth water… so I drink more beer.
He's got a fistful of cash in his hand and, as he slides in between the barstools a few down from mine and rests his elbows against the bar, he finally sees me. His smoldering eyes spark and a broad, happy smile blooms on his sexy face.
"Rose Caplan!" He almost sings my name. "When did you get here?"
"Luc Richard!" I mimic his excitement, but not his smile, and say his last name with a French pronunciation, Ri-Shard. Because he is, after all, French. I give him a tight half-smile and I sip my beer again. "An hour ago."
"Really?" He looks shocked that he didn't notice me. I'm not. It's hard to see me when your eyes don't leave the double Ds pouring out of your date's top.
"Are you working?" he asks as Cole starts pouring the round Luc had called out for.
I raise my glass toward him. "Does it look like I'm working?"
"Well, if you're here for fun, why do you look so… not fun?" he wants to know.
"I'd rather be home. Alone," I tell him honestly. "But your best friend asked me to give him and Jessie some private time."
"Jordy and Jessie are back?!" He's genuinely excited to see his best friend again and I can't help but smile a little at that as I nod.
"They didn't tell us they'd be back so soon," he tells me and I know when he says "us" he's referring to the Garrison family—his surrogate family and the reason he comes back to Silver Bay during the hockey off-season, even though his own family doesn't live here anymore and hasn't since he was a preteen. "Why do they need alone time? They can get that in Seattle."
"I have no idea, but Jordan essentially begged for it," I explain, a little perturbed. If this was going to happen a lot this summer, I may as well move into a motel. Don't get me wrong, I was glad Jordan was back in Jessie's life. They'd been best friends in high school and I always thought they should be more. Then they became more and it got complicated and my sister took off for school in Arizona. Jordan, heartbroken but too stubborn to admit it, headed off to Quebec to play in the NHL and proceeded to screw his way through the next six years. It wasn't until our grandmother died and Jessie finally came back to Silver Bay, Maine, that the two of them reconnected. It was messy and complicated but eventually the two of them admitted they still loved each other and Jordan bought my grandmother's old farmhouse that we'd grown up in.
"I bet he wants to christen the house," Luc announces as Cole slides the last of four beers his way and Luc hands him money.
"What the hell does that mean?" I ask, confused. All I can think about is how you slam a bottle of champagne against a boat to christen it.
Luc gives me a long stare while wearing a suggestive smirk. I blink naively. "It means they're having sex in every room of the house," Luc informs me flatly when it's clear his cute little look didn't help me catch on.
"Cole said they were probably having sex too. But in every room?" I wrinkle my nose. "You can't be serious."
"Oh, totally." Luc nods and Cole is also nodding behind the bar. They look like two bobbleheads. "That's what couples do when they buy things together. They screw all over it. It's a good thing they didn't buy a puppy."
I can't help but laugh at the puppy comment. Luc grins brightly when he realizes he's changing my mood and then he moves to the open space directly beside me.
"That's my Rosie," he says approvingly of my giggles. He reaches out and wraps an arm around my shoulders, hugging me to his side.
The contact makes my insides quiver. I tip my head onto his shoulder, lean into the hug and inhale the scent of him—something clean but earthy, like a pine forest after a strong rain. It's a scent that has melted my insides for the last several years.
"Come hang out with me," he whispers in my ear before releasing me from his arms. "We've both been back in Silver Bay for weeks but I've hardly spent any time with you."
I quickly shake my head, not because I don't want to hang out with him, but because I don't want to hang out with him and the group he's currently with. "Nah. I'm good here. Alone."
"Come on, Rosie," he begs and makes the puppy-dog face he knows always makes me cave. "I never get to see you anymore because you're always working."
"You do see me," I argue stubbornly. "Because you're always here when I'm working."
"I mean I don't get to hang out with you," he returns. I just shrug so he resorts to his secret weapon. The one that gets me, and every girl he's ever used it on, to readily bend to his will. He speaks in the language his French Canadian mother taught him. "Je veux passer du temps avec toi, Fleur."
As if the French wasn't enough, he throws in the nickname he gave me as a teenager. Fleur, the French word for flower, because my name is Rose. Realizing that protesting is futile, I glance over to the pool table he's been occupying since before I got here. He came in with Adam Miller, an old friend of his from high school, and they headed straight for the pool tables. Before Cole had finished pouring my first beer, Luc and Adam had been surrounded by girls. Now Luc was playing a game against a busty redhead while Adam held court with her two blond friends at a nearby table. This was a common scene since he came home last month. Luc was hot, rich and, for the first time in years, completely unattached. His relationship with Nessa Carlsson, a semi-famous model he'd met his second year in Vegas, had finally ended.
I'd been so excited when he'd mentioned it during one of our Skype chats a few weeks before we both moved back to Silver Bay for the summer. I wanted this to be the summer that things finally happened between us. So far it hadn't gone that way.
"I don't want to interrupt your game or anything," I mutter and stare at my now empty pint glass.
"We're not even really playing," Luc explains. "I was just trying to teach Bri, but she's hopeless."
"Shocking," I whisper under my breath as Cole hands me another beer.
"Rose. Come on." Luc pokes me in the side and I squirm. "What are you going to do? Go home and wait on the porch until Jordan has taken your sister in every room of the house?"
My brain unwillingly conjures up a very unpleasant image of my sister and the giant blond love of her life naked in the kitchen. And then an equally scandalous vision of them in the living room replaces it.
"They wouldn't do that," I argue but, deep down, I'm guessing they just might.
I sigh, grab my fresh pint and hop off the stool I'm sitting on. "Fine. You win."
"I always do," Luc replies with a proud grin.
I follow him back toward the group. I even help him carry his stupid beers. I'm greeted warmly by everyone, although the redhead, Bri, looks a little disappointed.
"Little Rosie Caplan! How are you?" Adam wants to know, smiling as he hugs me. "I haven't seen you in forever!"
"I'm good. How are you?"
"I'm good. How are Jessie and Callie? Is Jessie still in Arizona?"
I shake my head. "No, she lives in Seattle now."
"She's shacked up with Jordan," Luc offers helpfully.
"Jordan Garrison?" Bri's blue eyes get wide and I know she's one of them—a puck bunny. There are a lot in Silver Bay, Maine. We produce a lot of hockey players so we produce a lot of girls who want to ride them all the way to the bank. "Lucky girl!"
"When did they start dating?" Adam asks because, just like everyone who grew up with us, he probably knows that Jessie and Jordan had a few long years of not even speaking.
"Physically, this year. Mentally, I think they've been together since high school whether they wanted to be or not," Luc answers and I nod. He's right. Jordan and Jessie were together even when they were apart.
I casually eye this Bri girl and her blond friends, who all look so envious they might as well be turning green. I will never understand girls like them. I grew up poor and essentially orphaned. I wanted my adult life to be drastically different. But I still valued true love over financial security or social status. Callie made fun of my idealistic views on love and Jessie was amused by them, but I honestly believed in Prince Charming and a fairy-tale ending.
"So, Rosie, wanna let me hand you your ass?" Luc winks and points to the pool table.
I roll my eyes. "I'm willing to let you try."
He hands me a cue and motions for me to break. I lean over the table and do just that. I sink two balls off the break—a stripe and a solid, which means I can pick which color I want.
"What'll it be?" Adam asks, watching us as Bri walks over and sits down next to him at the table.
"Stripes," Luc answers for me. "Rosie is always stripes. Because there are no polka dots."
"What?" one of the blondes asks, her ponytail swishing from side to side as she looks at Luc and then me and then back at Luc for an explanation.
"We started playing pool when we were thirteen," Luc explains to everyone, leaning on his pool cue, his bicep bulging sexily. "Our friend Kate's parents had a table in their basement. Rose thought that there should be polka-dot balls instead of solids, because it would be cuter."
I roll my eyes but at the same time I'm touched he remembers that. Bri laughs a little too loudly at that, a perky grin on her face. "That would be cute!"
As we play our game, though, the casual conversation between Luc and me turns inadvertently private. Bri, Adam and the others are unable to keep up and move on to their own discussions. We talk about Callie's new gig as the wardrobe assistant on a pilot for a teen drama, how big Devin and Ashleigh's son Conner is getting, and Cole and Leah's upcoming wedding. We're laughing and joking and it feels good. Eventually, it comes down to the last ball. I sink the eight ball, but the white falls in with it.
"Damn!" I moan.
"I win!" Luc says confidently.
"By default," I remind him, trying to take the cocky smile off his face.
"Still counts." He grabs the back of my neck, gently, and kinda just holds on. It's old-school classic Luc and it makes my skin tingle.
"Rematch?" he asks. "You can try and get your pride back."
I laugh and am about to take him up on it when Bri calls his name.
"Luc, it's almost midnight," she says with a slight whine to her voice. "I gotta work tomorrow and I was wondering if you could do me a favor and drive me home. Adam is taking Jamie and Tasha."
He glances at his watch and then at me. "You want a lift home?"
I shake my head. The idea of being in a car with him and this girl is not at all appealing. His expressive brown eyes narrow a little as he questions, "How did you get here?"
"Esmeralda. I don't need a ride." In a low voice only Luc can hear, I add, "You can take your fan club president home."
"Meow," he whispers with a chuckle and I smile despite myself. I was being catty. He hugs me. "Watch the drinks. No drunk cycling."
I laugh and kick his butt lightly as he walks away. Adam and the others wave good-bye and I walk back to the bar to join Cole. His cherubic face is smiling.
"You and Luc are adorable together," he tells me. "You're like twins or something."
"Great." I roll my eyes. The comment actually hurts. I've never wanted to be seen as his sister. Not by him or anybody else. "Another beer, bartender. And make it snappy."
Twenty minutes later, when Rose stumbles out of Last Call—and she truly is stumbling—I'm sitting on the hood of Claudette, my beloved 1957 Chevrolet Cameo pickup, with my arms crossed and an I-told-you-so smile on my lips. She sees me right away and stops stumbling. Her almost coal-colored eyes focus on me as her long, near-black, pin-straight hair blows around in the wind.
"I knew you'd get shit-faced."
"What the hell are you doing here?" she asks, a little bit of anger slipping into her words. "Where is Bri?"
"I drove her home."
Rosie doesn't say anything. She simply walks past me toward her bike, which is chained to the drainpipe on the side of the building. "The bar is technically closed but if you go in, Cole might give you one more anyway."
"I'm not here for a beer, Rose. I'm here to drive you home," I reply.
She keeps unlocking her bike. It's not just that I think it's ridiculous that she rides her bike in the middle of the night on dark rural roads. It's that her bike is a ridiculous excuse for a bike. It's this old 1970s Schwinn painted a weird teal with an actual banana seat and long, rolling handlebars that have rainbow tassels hanging from them. It had belonged to her mother when her mom was a teen. She dug it out of the barn when she was still in high school and she's been riding it ever since. And as if it wasn't ugly enough, she named it Esmeralda.
It was cute during daylight hours when she'd ride it to the lake or to town. I would get calls every now and then because the chain fell off or she'd get a flat and I'd have to bail her out, which was fine. But at night, drunk, on dark roads, it was stupid, not cute.
"I've got a ride."
I knew she'd say that. She glances over her shoulder at me and I wiggle my eyebrows suggestively and say, "Let's take your ride and stick it in my ride."
A smile crawls over her pretty little face even though I know she doesn't want to give in to it. I hop off the hood of the truck and walk over to her. She's just finished tossing the lock into the stupid wicker basket attached to her handlebars when I pick the bike up and start carrying it away.
I ignore her and lift it into the back of the truck. When I turn around she's standing right behind me, arms crossed.
"Rose, you're too drunk to even stand and glare without wobbling." I try not to smile. "I'm not letting you try and ride all the way home. It's like a twenty-minute bike ride and it's already after one in the morning."
"I'm not a child," she mutters, staring at the ground between us. "You always treat me like a kid."
She's right, I kind of do. There's more than one reason for that. One being that I still see her as that small, fragile orphaned girl who needed protecting, and the other reason is because she's no longer that and thinking about her as the sexy, smart, full-grown woman she's become is dangerous.
"You're doing me a favor," I explain softly and wrap an arm around her shoulder as I gently guide her to Claudette's passenger door. "I used you as an excuse to ditch Bri when she invited me into her apartment."
Rose makes a face at that, which I ignore and continue. "I was only hanging out with those girls because Adam has a thing for Tasha and she and her friends are huge hockey fans. He used me to impress them."
Once she's in Claudette's cab, I shut the door and lean in the open window so my face is close to hers. Her big dark eyes are intoxicating. She's having one of those Rose moments where she looks like she's seeing something about you that you haven't even discovered yet. Seriously, this girl has been ruffling my sense of security with looks like this since I was a teenager.
I clear my throat, push myself off the window and make my way around the truck. Once I'm in the driver's seat, Claudette's engine roars to life and I ease her out of the parking lot. Rose still has those eyes stuck on me. "Are you back with Nessa?"
"What? No. That's definitely done," I confirm and think about my ex-girlfriend for the first time in over a month. Nessa and I had been a thing for almost two years and I hardly missed her. I doubt she missed me either. That's why I call it a "thing"—we were definitely something, but in love wasn't it. And that was just how we had both wanted it.
"I just… I mean you're not with other girls and if you're single…" Her sentence is left hanging in the cab between us.
"I should be out there playing the field? Like Jordan did when he was single?"
"Hopefully not exactly like that." Rose wrinkles her cute little nose at that and it makes me smile. "Jordy was… an overachiever."
"You are adorable when you're being tactful," I tell her, and even in the dim light of the passing streetlamps I can see her blush.
"But seriously, if you're not with Nessa, then what gives?"
I don't respond right away. Claudette careens quietly down the dark, empty streets. Silver Bay is peaceful and serene, as always, and it fills me with a sense of calm I never have anywhere else. Being with Rose does that, too. I glance at her quickly and then shrug instead of answer. I don't know how to explain my new philosophy on relationships and I kind of don't want to because explaining it would also mean admitting failure.
She smiles a little bit but I don't know why. I'd ask her but I'm not sure I want to know so we drive in silence a little while longer, until we're out of town and on the rural road that leads to the farmhouse she grew up in. The one my best friend now owns.
"How is the Europe plan coming along?" I ask because the silence is starting to feel heavy.
"Good. We leave September first. We're going to start with a couple days in Paris and then I'll go with Kate to Cap Ferret for a couple days. Her job starts September twelfth so I'll probably leave then," she explains, staring out the passenger window at the dark town beyond.
"So you're coming back here after that?" I ask. Rose graduated from the University of Vermont this year and she has said she wants to go to grad school but she's taking this year off first. Her best friend from high school, Kate, was starting a teaching job in France and Rose was going to go with her for a few weeks.
- On Sale
- Sep 8, 2015
- Page Count
- 300 pages
- Forever Yours