Authors: Novalee Swan
Tags: #holiday, #christmas, #snow, #christmas romance, #ice skating, #ice hockey, #snowed in
Nolan Ducayne plays ice hockey for the Rangers and
is the best defender in the league. Candice Levine is an Olympic
gold medallist figure skater. They’re fiercely attracted to each
other. There’s just one little problem. They’re at war over the
pond ice that lies on the boundary between their properties.
Christmas has always
been lonely for Candice, but this year she plans to embrace the
season. She’s even going to get a tree, which leads to a set of
whole new problems with Nolan
Ducayne. The bane of
her existence. He thinks he owns the ice. If only he wasn’t sin on
When Nolan comes home
and finds the ice princess trying to cut down a tree on his
property, he can’t help but take advantage of the situation. It’s a
pity Candy hates him, because she stirs every one of Nolan’s
protective instincts. Not to mention the other things she
Hockey player versus
ice skater. The battle lines are drawn. But when the pond ice
breaks and Candy almost drowns in the freezing water, Nolan risks
his life to save her. Hypothermic and trapped together by a
blizzard, they’re forced to confront their feelings and negotiate a
Christmas ceasefire. The only question is… how long will it
contains explicit sex and graphic language.
Edition December 2015
Bare in the
This is a work
of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product
of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any
resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations or persons,
living or dead, is coincidental. There is adult content in this
work not suitable for audiences under 18 years of age.
Thank you for
supporting the author by buying an authorized edition of this book
and for complying with copyright laws. All rights reserved. No part
of this book may be reproduced in any form without written
permission, except in the case of brief quotations for use in
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steel axe-edge slammed into the soft wood of the Douglas Fir. It
stuck there and Candice pulled on the handle, attempting to lever
it free. The axe refused to budge. She tried to decide if this was
better than her first swing which had ricocheted off the wood like
a hockey puck off the boards, or the two dozen loud but piddling
attempts in between.
She tamped down the
pang of guilt she felt over cutting down the pretty little
evergreen. Or rather the guilt she’d feel if she emerged from this
encounter triumphant. Her house had a fireplace for crying out loud
and she wasn’t opposed to sustainable forestry. There was just
something about finding the perfect tree — the right shape and
shade of blue-green — then cutting it down. It seemed melancholy.
Or maybe that feeling was just par for the course this time of
Christmas was always
lonely. Starting from her teenage years when she’d spent Decembers
training, because it was easier to brush aside the pain of loss
when she was on the ice. But earlier this year she retired from
competitive figure skating. Endorsement had left her financially
secure and she’d bought a little cabin in the Colorado mountains,
near Aspen. Where the preceding years were lonely, sorry affairs,
this year she was determined to embrace the season.
Starting with this
She wrenched on the
axe handle one more time and it came free. The momentum flung her
back, flat on her ass in the snow. Frustrated, she raised her head
and banged it back down into the soft white fluff. “Mother-fucking
The sound of a slow
hand clap had her turning her head, searching for the source.
Somehow knew what she’d find before she saw him.
Ducayne. Best left defenseman in the NHL and the bane of her
existence. Tall, long limbed, and strong, he could take any hit
levelled at him and get back up. He was leaning against a nearby
spruce, booted feet crossed at the ankles. “You tell him,
She closed her eyes in
momentary supplication —
when the hell did he get home?
then opened them and pinned him with blue darts. “You’re on my
Of the dozens of acres
that comprised each of their neighbouring properties, the previous
owners had built their houses on the shared boundary, within
And there had been some shouting going
Of course, the reason for the placement was obvious. They’d
built near the pond that sat half on her property, half on his.
“Guess again,” he
replied. “Boundary’s about ten yards that way,” he gestured past
her with his jaw. “That’s my tree you’re cutting down.”
Candice swung her head
in that direction, then further, towards her cabin, before turning
back to stare beyond him, at his. She closed her eyes again.
“Mother-fucking tree.” All feelings of guilt evaporated.
Nolan chuckled and the
husky sound floated across to her like snowflakes. He pushed away
from the spruce and his boots crunched against the snow. They
paused beside her. He gazed down, an enigmatic look on his face.
Then he reached out a hand.
Candice raised her own
instinctively. Nolan grasped it and tugged her upright, as easily
as if gravity didn’t exist. A small sound that may have been gasp
escaped her as she became aware that she was three inches away from
over six feet of lean mean ice-hockey machine, her bare hand
engulfed in the startling warmth of his. She’d removed her gloves
to grip the axe handle properly. Who knew where Nolan’s were.
In the months they’d
lived next to each other, she didn’t think they’d ever touched
before. Sensation flowed through that point of contact and, okay,
she knew they hadn’t. But being entirely aware of the fact she’d
never touched him was more revealing that she could admit. Not
while they stood so close.
“Thanks,” she muttered
and tried to step back. Her brain did, anyway. Her body refused to
co-operate. Candice’s head reached just above his shoulder. She
detected the scent of pine and ice. He smelled like the forest.
“Give it to me.”
Her eyes flicked up
meet hickory orbs and she drew in a deep breath. The scent was
intoxicating and her response indicated the effect it was having:
“Give me the axe.”
Languidly, she passed
it to him. Nolan wrapped one large fist around the handle, just
below hers. But he didn’t tug and she didn’t release, and they
stood, holding the axe. Those hickory eyes narrowed as he watched
her. Her fleece-lined parka was too warm and her breath stole out
between them, mist on the cold air. He inhaled, then exhaled in
concert. Their breaths mingled.
Nolan’s head tipped
down ever so slightly and hers tilted correspondingly. Candice’s
eyes flicked to his mouth, the curve more sensual than any man had
a right to, and her own pink lips parted. She swayed towards him.
Her parker grazed the front of his flannel shirt. Their fingers
brushed on the axe handle and her other hand, still wrapped in his,
felt every amplified electric sensation.
Nolan Ducayne was
about to kiss her. And she wanted him to, despite everything that
had passed between them. None of which she could recall at this
precise moment. The only thought that penetrated was that if she
kissed him, nothing would ever be the same.
Less than a breath
separated them when a loud crack startled her. Before Candice could
process the source of the noise, Nolan’s strong arm wrapped around
her waist. He simultaneously stepped back and tugged her into the
shelter of his body, shielding her as snow came tumbling down over
the top of them.
A broken branch landed
where she was just standing.
She couldn’t decide
whether to be grateful or not. On the one hand, she was not kissing
Nolan Ducayne. Was that good? Was that bad? She wasn’t sure. But on
the other hand, she was now in his arms. And,
was definitely good.
“You okay?” he asked
“It’s just snow,” she
replied in a matching tone.
“The branch didn’t get
“No. You…” she thought
about what word she wanted to use, “protected me.”
They were silent for a
moment. She’d never admit it, but Candace secretly watched his
games on cable. Trying to understand all the rules had been
confusing at first. But the more familiar she became with the game,
the more she realised that Nolan Ducayne was fiercely protective.
Of his team, his goalie, his end zone, and his puck. He was
arguably the best offensive defenceman in the league, and it was
because of his bone deep protective instincts.
They were at the heart
of the conflict between them. That thought allowed her to summoned
the strength to step back from him. His arm around her waist
tightened for a moment before he released her. Her hand fell from
the axe and she made a show of brushing snow from her coat and
Nolan didn’t say
anything, just shook his hair free of snow as he walked towards the
fir she’d begun to cut down what seemed an eternity ago. “Stand
back.” He didn’t check to see if she complied. Just looked around
for a moment, gauging the fall, then lifted the axe and drove it
deep into the soft wood. Wood chips flew free and he wrenched the
axe out with ease.
All she could think to
say was, “But it’s your tree.” Why was he cutting it down? It would
have recovered easily from her few piddling strikes.
Nolan ignored her.
Just kept chopping. Chipping in, above and below, creating a notch.
He made it look so damned easy that she was torn between being
pissed off and impressed. Nolan looked like he felled trees every
damn day of his life. Like the axe was an extension of his body.
The same way his stick was when she watched him play.
He created a second
notch on the opposite side before returning to the first. A few
more swings and the wood cracked as the tree began to fall. The
whole thing took him about a minute. Sure, it was just a little
tree, but for some inexplicable reason she felt slightly helpless
and aware of her femininity in a way that she thought should be
unwelcome, but wasn’t.
When the tree hit the
ground it sent a cloud of white fluff up into the air. Nolan swung
the axe up behind his neck and gripped it, a hand on either side.
“What now?” he asked.
Candice looked from
the fir to Nolan and back again. She walked to the felled tree and
wrapped her hands around the cut trunk and lifted. Then she began
to tug it towards her house. It was much heavier than she’d
She had assumed it
would be easy to pull through the snow. That it would sort of just
slide along. That didn’t happen. She pointedly avoided looking at
Nolan until she heard him mutter, “Kill me now.”
Before she knew what
was happening he’d taken the tree from her and began to pull it
through the snow. She stared after him, unmoving. She had a hard
time believing he’d cut down one of his trees for her and now he
was hauling it to her house. She’d only just moved to follow when
she heard him say something under his breath.