Drive

Years of training are about to pay off for hockey player Nikola Vereshkova. A call to play in the big league means he can finally come through for those who need him. His relocation to Chicago comes with built-in friends – and one gorgeous enemy who was less than impressed with him after their first encounter.

Sadie Alexander knows all about the drastic measures men will take just to get laid. She’s not only experienced it first-hand, but lived to tell about it in her online column, Sadie Says. And even though she’s a die-hard independent woman on the outside, the recent marriage of her best friend has her secretly feeling more alone than ever.

Getting close to a foul-mouthed Russian hockey heartthrob was the last thing Sadie expected. And the timing couldn’t be worse since she’s sworn off of men for a writing assignment. The line between love and hate is eroding, and Niko and Sadie find themselves in deeper than they ever expected. Could something that started out wrong end up being just right?

 

 

Chapter One

Sadie

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. Whatevs. I didn’t particularly want to get married when I was still in my 20s, but a boyfriend who wasn’t a complete douchebag would’ve been nice.

I was walking into the upscale hotel where my best friend Dell’s wedding reception would be held tomorrow. It was times like this that my singlehood hit me particularly hard. No one to dance with, hand my purse off to for pictures or have post-reception sex with at this fancy hotel.

My only hope at this point was for some hot, single groomsmen.

Ha — who was I kidding? I’d be hanging out with Kyler, Dell’s young son, who was better company than a grown man any day.

“May I help you?” a plastic looking woman with a tight bun asked from the reception desk.

“Hi. I have a room with the Hudson wedding. Sadie Alexander.”

She pecked some keys and pulled up my reservation.

“Alright, Miss Alexander. We have you in a king suite. Will it just be you?”

“Just me.”

She slid a key card across the counter toward me.

“Can you have my bags brought to my room?” I asked, gesturing to my two suitcases and the garment bag I’d draped over them.

“Absolutely.”

I tucked a bill for the bell hop into the handle of a suitcase and headed for the hotel’s restaurant. I’d gotten up early this morning for a story I was writing for a travel magazine about downtown Farmer’s Markets. Despite spending half my day around food, I hadn’t eaten anything. Now it was three in the afternoon, and I knew my stomach wouldn’t make it until the rehearsal dinner tonight.

There was a bar. Good. It always seemed acceptable to eat alone at a bar, rather than staring at the barren wasteland of vacant space across a table. I slid onto a stool and eyed the menu.

“What can I get you?” a bald, ruddy-faced bartender asked as he approached.

“Water with lemon and a grilled chicken salad, please,” I said, closing the menu. “Italian dressing.”

“You got it,” he said, offering a friendly grin.

I loved Chicago. Not just because the city had it all, but because the people here were nice in just the way I liked. Friendly, but not annoyingly chatty. I’d moved here with Dell and Kyler three months ago and it had immediately felt like home.

I scrolled through emails on my phone, rolling my eyes at a message from Miranda, my newspaper’s editor. I wrote an online column, part of the evolution of an endangered, er – established, paper. Apparently I’d have to explain the word ‘manscaping’ to Miranda.

Movement at an adjacent bar stool made me look up from my phone screen. Cool air invaded my mouth as it hung open. The man whose dark eyes met mine was beyond hot. He was tall and impossibly wide, his massive biceps straining the sleeves of his dark t-shirt. Even his forearms were corded with muscle. His black hair, cut short, was just a shade darker than his eyes. The shy smile he offered made my heart somersault in my chest.

“Hello,” he said haltingly. I couldn’t identify his thick accent on just that word.

“Hi,” I said, tucking my hair behind my ear and forcing myself not to giggle. I wasn’t even a giggler, but having the attention of such a hot man was bringing out the urge.

“Can I get you anything, sir?” the bartender asked.

Sex On a Bar Stool considered. “Beer?” He butchered the word and my nipples tingled at the sound of his deep voice. “Um . . . dark beer?”

Okay, he was officially the hottest man I’d ever met in person. He turned back to me when the bartender left.

“I am . . . Niko,” he said, gesturing at his chest.

“I’m Sadie.” I grinned like an idiot. Suddenly I was thrilled I didn’t have a date in tow at this wedding. “Where are you from?”

“Russia. And . . . you?”

“I live here in Chicago, but I’m staying at the hotel this weekend.”

“And you are . . . all alone?”

“I am.”

A smile crept across his face. “You have . . .” He stroked the stubble on his chin and his brow furrowed with concentration. “How do you say . . . ?”

He pointed at one of his eyes.

“Eyes?” I offered.

His face lit with recognition. “Ah. Yes. Beautiful eyes,” he said.

My body warmed all over. I was used to cheesy pickup lines and men who gawked at my boobs while they spoke to me. But Niko’s eyes were locked on mine. I inched closer to him, pretending to be shifting in my seat.

“Thank you,” I said.

The bartender set a tall glass of dark beer in front of Niko and I snuck a glance at his large hand as he raised the drink to his lips. When my salad was set down in front of me, I pretended to focus on it.

But really I was thinking of the sexy stranger next to me, who was watching baseball highlights on the television mounted in a corner of the bar.

“How long are you here for?” I asked him.

“Very short,” he said. “Just some . . . business.”

Between the accent and the dark ink peeking out from beneath his tight shirt sleeve, I wanted to swoon then and there. Somehow I knew this guy was a rock star in bed, and I was dying for a private show. It’d been an embarrassingly long time since I’d had sex.

“What do you do?” he asked in broken syllables.

Hot Russian men, I dared myself to say. “I’m a writer.”

He smiled appreciatively.

I’d eaten about half my salad when the time on my cell phone told me I had to get moving so I could change into something decent for the rehearsal.

“I have to go,” I said, regretting it. I reached into my purse for my wallet and Niko put a hand out to stop me. He tossed two twenties on the bar.

“Can I . . .?” He looked at me, his brows knitted together with frustration.

“My number?” I offered a little too eagerly. “You want my number?”

“Yes.” He grinned. “I am . . . sorry. My English . . .”

“No, it’s good,” I said, waving a hand. I scrawled my name and number onto a sheet of paper in the notebook I carried in my bag, blowing on the wet ink. It would be tragic for smeared ink to ruin my chances of a rendezvous with Niko.

He slid down from his stool when I got up to leave, folding the paper and putting it in his pocket.

“Maybe . . . tonight?” he asked.

Definitely. But I didn’t want to seem desperate, so I just nodded and smiled.

 

 

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