Across the Line (In The Zone)

BOOK: Across the Line (In The Zone)
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Across the Line
By Kate Willoughby
Book two of In the Zone

Calder Griffin needs to get back in shape. Sidelined last season by a knee injury, he’s determined to return to the San Diego Barracudas and play the best hockey of his career. This might even be the year he gets out of his talented older brother’s shadow.

For months, Becca Chen has poured her energy into Cups, the restaurant she owns, desperate to prove to her parents that she can succeed in the career of
her
choice, not theirs. But after she spends a five-hour plane ride flirting with charming, magic-on-the-ice Calder, she tells herself she needs a fling.

Becca and Calder can’t keep their hands off each other, but they know the relationship can’t last. They live on opposite coasts, and they’re both too devoted to their careers. All they have to do is prevent their feelings from crossing the line from lust to love...

See how Calder’s teammate Tim found love in
On the Surface
.

99,000 words

Dear Reader,

August here in North America is one of last-minute frenzy for many of us: fit in as many more days at the beach as possible while it’s still blazing hot, get one final vacation in before school starts, and read as many excellent books as you can before next month’s books arrive. Okay, maybe that last one could be said of every month (at least for me) but with beach time and vacation time does come more reading time, so I find I often get to read more in August than any other month.

This month, kick off your beach reading with a little contemporary crack romantic suspense from Lisa Marie Rice. I’ve been a fan of her writing for years, and I’ve read everything she’s written, so I was thrilled when she agreed to come write for me at Carina Press, and revive her popular Midnight series in
Midnight Vengeance
. Longtime fans of Lisa Marie Rice will see a return to her well-known, compulsively readable, alpha-tastic story and characters. Readers new to Lisa Marie Rice can dive in to
Midnight Vengeance
and discover just what I mean by contemporary crack, compulsively readable and So. Darn. Good!

Fans of contemporary crack-type reads will find themselves drawn to Heather Long’s
Some Like It Deadly
, a book everyone on the team found themselves talking about just how much they liked it. As attorney and best friend to a grand duke, Richard Prentiss has dealt with everything from the paparazzi to business moguls, but when he takes an interest in Kate Braddock, his new “personal assistant,” it’s up to her to keep it professional—unbeknownst to him, it’s her job to step in front of the bullet with his name on it.

New York Times
bestselling author Shannon Stacey is back with her final (for now) novel in the Kowalski series. Meet Max: a little bit odd, a little bit obsessive, a whole lot sweet and sexy. He’s ready to find his perfect match, someone he can share his days and nights with. Meet Tori: a little bit flirty, a little bit sassy, a whole lot happy being single. She’s ready for some temporary fun, to help Max get in dating fighting form. What she’s not ready for is to find herself longing to be the person Max spends his time with. After having a front row seat to her parents’ bitter divorce—and bitter after-divorce—she’s determined not to go down that road herself. And Max is determined to be the one to change her mind. Don’t miss
Falling for Max
—you’ll fall in love with him too.

If you’re in the mood for more contemporary romance, I urge you to pick up Stacy Gail’s
One Hot Second
. Stacy has mastered the art of creating a contemporary romance that’s both deeply emotional and offers laugh out loud moments. And for those contemporary readers who love the
Upstairs
,
Downstairs
feel of
Downton Abbey
, you’ll love Tamara Morgan’s contemporary romance
When I Fall
. After a leaked photo forces rich, privileged media trainwreck Becca Clare to lie low for a few weeks, she puts her trust into the hands of the last man in the world who’s qualified to safeguard it—Jake Montgomery, a profligate playboy whose one ambition in life is to have no ambitions at all.

Kate Willoughby follows up her dynamite debut contemporary romance release,
On the Surface
, with
Across the Line
. Left winger for the NHL San Diego Barracudas, Calder Griffin is hellbent on proving he can be a top six player like his hotshot older brother, but when he meets Becca, he discovers that, like hockey, love demands a lot of hard work and pain, but in the end, it’s worth the fight.

Fans of paranormal romance will be drawn to
Dangerous Calling
by A.J. Larrieu. Powerful telekinetic Cass Weatherfield has learned to control her dangerous abilities, but when she faces a terrifying new enemy, she’s forced to embrace the dark side of her powers, with devastating results.

And for those looking for a little more erotic with their paranormal, Nico Rosso’s
Ménage with the Muse
should be right up your alley. Two very different demon rockers, Wolfgang the wild drummer and Ethan the solitary guitarist, find their fated Muse at a music festival, and it’s the same woman, Mia, a musician who’s been hurt so many times she’s slow to trust anyone, let alone two satyrs who have drawn her into their world.

If you love your science fiction with an edge of mystery,
The Freezer
by Timothy S. Johnston is a chilling whodunit at a claustrophobic and secluded station; a classic murder mystery scenario transformed into electrifying techno-thriller... It’s a case where the only thing that can prevent the investigator from dying a cold and cruel death is the love of the most remarkable woman he’s ever met.

Also in the science fiction category, irrepressible heroine Cherry St. Croix is back and returning to fog-choked London to settle her debts once and for all—and to rescue the Menagerie’s wicked ringmaster, whether he wants it or not, in Karina Cooper’s steampunk
Engraved.

As always, don’t forget to visit the awesome collection of romance, mystery, science fiction and fantasy in our backlist including titles from Ava March, Shannon Stacey, and Vivian Arend.

Coming in September, 2014: Mystery week! I can’t wait for you to get your hands on our “lifestyle Elvis” mystery! Also, the riveting conclusion to Lynda Aicher’s Wicked Play series, romances from Christi Barth, Alison Packard and more!

We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your thoughts, comments and questions to [email protected] You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter stream and Facebook fan page.

Happy reading!

~Angela James
Executive Editor, Carina Press

Dedication

For Josh, who knows who he is and is unapologetic.

Acknowledgments

I owe a debt of gratitude to many people for helping me write this book. First and foremost, Dee J. Adams and Kimberly Cannon are indispensable to me. The In the Zone series would not exist without them. Bob and Lori Souza were my go-to couple for information about insurance. Again, my good friend Tammy Gavilan had answers for all my medical questions, and John Lord and Aaron Dong continue to act as my own personal hockeypedia.

In the culinary arena, Greg Akahoshi, an extraordinary Kings fan and chef, was a source of knowledge and all-around good cheer, and Mitch McMullen of Newhall Coffee graciously answered my questions about supplying beans to restaurants.

The Twitter universe provided a wonderful resource as well. Penny Burke (a Sharks fan) helped me choose Calder’s middle name and downgrade my San Jose Sharks animosity to something more like grudging respect. The self-proclaimed “notorious, hilarious, inferious” (look it up) Bobby Scribe went out of his way to guide me toward the perfect, masculine, gritty synonym for vomit in a scene that unfortunately got left on the cutting room floor. Jen Scrivens inspired me to put Becca in the net, and Jon Rosen continues to increase my hockey knowledge with every article he posts as the LA Kings Insider. Thanks to him I now know that the terms “morning skate” and “practice” are not synonymous.

I want to belatedly thank my coworker and friend Ashleigh Lance for helping me figure out the end of
On the Surface
when I was stumped about how Tim and Erin could possibly compromise on the baby issue. She is young but wise.

Lastly, I am deeply in debt to Jim Fox for his time, patience and expertise in the technical/tactical areas of hockey. The man could write a book.

Any inaccuracies, hockey or otherwise, are solely on my shoulders, because, hey, if I can’t find the answer, I make it up.

Contents

Hockey Roster

Quote

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-One

Chapter Forty-Two

Chapter Forty-Three

Chapter Forty-Four

Chapter Forty-Five

Chapter Forty-Six

Chapter Forty-Seven

Chapter Forty-Eight

Chapter Forty-Nine

Chapter Fifty

Chapter Fifty-One

Chapter Fifty-Two

Chapter Fifty-Three

Chapter Fifty-Four

Chapter Fifty-Five

Chapter Fifty-Six

Chapter Fifty-Seven

Epilogue

About the Author

Copyright

San Diego Barracudas (partial team roster)

#15 — Calder Griffin, “Griff,” left wing

#25 — Tim Hollander, “Holly,” right wing

#11 — Alex Sullivan, “Sully,” left wing

#10 — Hart “GQ” Griffin, center

#35 — Jason Locke, “Locksy,” center and team captain

#41 — Booth MacDonald, “Macky,” starting goaltender

#47 — Ryan “Fishy” Fischer, rookie left wing

#27 — Mike “Pasta” Primavera, defenseman

#17 — Dustin DeVries, defenseman

#75 — Kurt “Wolfy” Wolfheim (retired)

Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.

—Ann Landers

Chapter One

“My mommy won’t let me eat ice cream in the morning. She says it’s not breakfast food.”

As he waited for his flight to be called, Calder Griffin turned to see a little boy, maybe six years old, standing in front of him. His mother was a couple of seats over in the passenger waiting area, trying to feed her other, much younger child some green slime out of a jar.

Calder shrugged. “When you’re a grown-up, you can eat whatever you want for breakfast.”

The boy digested this piece of information as if Calder were Moses coming down the mountain with new and improved commandments.

Although Wheaties were touted as the breakfast of champions, Calder was eating a decadent ice cream bar. According to
his
mom, he was an emotional eater who turned to food when he was upset. Problem was, he’d been upset for, oh, the better part of the hockey season.

“What did
you
have for breakfast?” Calder took another bite. Man, this was heaven. Rich coffee ice cream covered with milk chocolate, toffee bits and almonds. The man who’d invented ice cream was a genius, and the man who’d invented ice cream on a stick was a super genius.

“Cereal with banana. But it wasn’t the good kind.”

“What’s the good kind?”

“Cinnamon Toast Crunch.”

Calder nodded. “That
is
a good one. So are Frosted Flakes. Frosted Flakes are good on ice cream, as a matter of fact. Now that, my friend, is a great breakfast.”

“Sammy! Come here. What did I tell you about staying close to me?”

Sammy turned without another word and returned to his mom while Calder sucked the last bit of ice cream off the wooden stick and chuckled.

“We are now seating first-class passengers for Flight 1211 departing for Ithaca, New York.”

Awesome. He flicked the stick into a nearby trash can and grabbed his carry-on.

After getting settled, he pulled out the in-flight magazine. He enjoyed looking at all the gadgets for sale there. Once in a while, he even bought something.

“Champagne? Orange juice?” the flight attendant asked him. Her name tag identified her as Gillian.

“I’ll have both. Make it a mimosa. Thanks,” he said.

A young woman in a T-shirt and shorts stopped in the aisle beside him. “I’m the window seat,” she said.

Calder looked up.
Hallelujah.
She was the epitome of Asian beauty—high cheekbones, a full mouth and almond-shaped siren eyes that beckoned a man to approach, but at his own risk. Lucky for him, he would be sitting next to her for the next five hours.

Smiling, he stood while she sidled past him and got settled. Toned arms, nice legs—real nice—even better tits, not too big, not too small. She wore her stick-straight black hair in a ponytail and she smelled good. Nice and fresh. Citrusy.

Unfortunately, before he could turn on the charm, the flight attendant returned with his drink.

“Miss, can I get you some orange juice or champagne?”

“Already? We haven’t even taken off yet.” His seatmate looked surprised. “How much does it cost?”

“There’s no charge in first class,” Gillian said.

“Oh. That’s really nice. I’ll have juice, please.”

Deciding to play it cool, Calder perused the magazine while his beautiful seatmate familiarized herself with her surroundings. She seemed delighted by the footrest. A first-class virgin, obviously.

After they took off, he was studying reviews on a pair of high tech headphones when he felt her eyes on him. He was used to that. People knew they’d seen him somewhere before, but couldn’t place him.
Are you on TV?
Did we go to high school together?
Weren’t you in that movie with Brad Pitt?

Before he could strike up a conversation, Gillian came by with the juice and to tell them about their breakfast choices—freshly baked muffins, Virginia ham and cheddar frittatas, crepes, or fresh fruit and Greek yogurt.

“What kind of muffins?” Calder asked.

“Blueberry, buttermilk apple spice, and bran.”

He wrestled with his sweet tooth once again and lost. “I’d like one of everything, please. Two frittatas, if you’ve got enough.”

Gillian nodded toward his NHL Players’ Association T-shirt. “Do you play for the NHL?” she asked.

“I’m a left wing for the Barracudas.” He hadn’t played in seven months, but she didn’t have to know that.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his personal Miss Universe turn her head sharply.

“So one of everything and two frittatas,” Gillian said. “And for you?”

“Is the food free too?”

“Yes.”

“Fruit and yogurt and one frittata, please.”

Gillian left, walking down the aisle with a little extra sway of her hips that Calder thought was for his benefit.

“Excuse me. You’re Calder Griffin, aren’t you?” She had some beauty marks, one above her right eyebrow and another on her right cheek, like God had added those at the last minute to balance the otherwise flawless perfection of her porcelain skin.

Smiling, he turned toward her. “That’s me.” It was always a good sign when a woman he was interested in recognized him.

But she wasn’t smiling. In fact, a small line formed right between her dark, dramatic eyebrows.

Undeterred, he rested his left elbow on the armrest. “Are you a hockey fan?”

“Not really.”

That was odd. Women who recognized him were usually hockey fans. Or at least pretended to be. “What’s your name?” he asked.

“Becca.” She cocked her head at him with something like a challenge in her eyes. Her tone sounded almost combative.

Fine. He loved a challenge.
Five hours to melt Becca’s icy exterior
, he thought as he drank down the last of his mimosa.
Plenty of time.

“Nice to meet you, Becca. What do you do?” Calder shifted, trying to stretch out his right leg and not succeeding. At six foot two, he usually fit in the first-class section, but since the injury, his knee got stiff sometimes.

She lifted her chin a fraction. “I run a place called Cups on the Commons.”

The Commons was a small pedestrian mall of quirky shops and restaurants in the downtown Ithaca area. Playgrounds, street performers and sculptures made it a great place for families. Students from nearby Cornell University and Ithaca College almost swarmed it on the weekends.

“Is it a bar? Are you the manager?”

“No. I own it,” she said with a little proud lift of the chin. “It’s a café. I serve soups and lettuce cups.”

Gillian brought their food.

“Lettuce doesn’t sound like a very stable container for soup.” He looked over the frittata. It was pitifully small but it smelled good.

“Not soup
in
lettuce cups. Soup
and
lettuce cups—lettuce leaves with different savory fillings inside them. That’s why I named it Cups on the Common.”

He cast a sideways glance at her. “But soup comes in bowls...”

She sighed and looked up at the ceiling of the plane. “Why doesn’t anyone ever remember that soup comes in cups too?”

“I don’t know, but I eat a lot.” He popped the whole frittata in his mouth at once as if to prove it.

“I noticed. You know, just because the flight attendants are trained to perform the Heimlich maneuver doesn’t mean you need to test them on it.”

Nodding to acknowledge the dig, he smiled as he chewed. “Funny. But my point is, if I get soup, I never get just a cup. Oh hey, I remember what lettuce cups are. I think I had those at P.F. Chang’s.”

“Yeah, most of the time, restaurants only have one kind, but I have a big variety and mine aren’t drowned in salt.” She said this with the barest hint of a smile now. The ice was definitely melting. “People who are watching their carbs love them.”

“I’ll definitely check it out. What’s your biggest seller?”

One of her dense but somehow feminine eyebrows arched upward. “Soup or lettuce cup?”

“Both.”

“Soup? It’s probably a tie between the Chicken Noodle and the Tomato Lobster Bisque. The best-selling lettuce cup is the Classic Chicken, no question, but when it’s available, the Duck, Duck, Goose is a close second.”

“What’s in that one? Sounds exotic.”

“People like it. It’s different,” she said, her smile a tiny bit more visible. “There’s seasoned ground duck and goose, scrambled duck egg, julienne carrots, zucchini, and bean sprouts for crunch. A drizzle of hoisin sauce.”

“I’m getting hungry just listening. Do you have a card?”

“Sure.” She pulled one out of her purse, but when she handed it over, her face closed up again like a sea anemone someone had poked.

He put the card away without really looking at it. He needed to coax that smile back. “Did you grow up in Ithaca?”

Whoa. The expression on her face got ten degrees frostier. What the hell kind of reaction was that to a perfectly innocent question? Not only was she a challenge, she was a mystery.

“You really don’t remember me.”

That took him aback. He studied her face a little more closely. Now that she’d mentioned it, she did look vaguely familiar.

“Have we met before? At some fan event maybe?”

She shook her head. “We went to school together. Elementary school.”

He got the feeling that she’d found the experience less than thrilling.

“I look a lot different now,” she said, with that eyebrow arched again.

“Yeah, don’t we all?” He gave an awkward laugh. With a sinking feeling in his stomach, he pulled out that business card she’d given him, thinking if he saw her last name it might jog his memory.

Rebecca Chen
,
owner and head chef.
The wheels in his brain were turning way too slowly.

“Tell you what,” she said. “I’ll give you a little hint. You used to have this cute little pet name for me.”

Oh shit.
The tone of her voice told him she hadn’t thought the name was cute at all. He thought hard.
Come on.
Who is she?
Who is she?

“Braceface Becca.”

Oh fuck. Now he remembered.

BOOK: Across the Line (In The Zone)
3.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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