Pucked Page 34

“He doesn’t refute the claim.”

“He was probably coached.”

“As if that’s any better.”

Even my best friend is on Waters’ side. I blame it on his damn smile.

Today makes every other long day seem short by comparison. Meetings drag. Lunch takes forever. I’m distracted all afternoon working on one of the new accounts. I keep daydreaming about Alex’s unit, comparing it to household items.

At five, I freshen up in the staff bathroom. I swish with my emergency mouthwash and give my teeth a quick brush. It’s bad practice to go into a meeting with coffee breath, or garlic breath, or any kind of offensive breath. I’m applying the same logic to coffee dates. Although I’ll negate the fresh breath as soon as I order a coffee. Regardless, I have no intention of kissing Alex. I think.

I reach the lobby at quarter past five. Alex is sitting on the arm of a chair, staring at the elevator. He stands, smoothing his hands down the front of his pants. I follow the movement and, of course, my eyes go right where they’re not supposed to—his groin. I can’t see anything exciting going on there. He’s changed since this morning and now wears a pair of dark wash denim jeans and a button-down shirt. The material conforms to his hot body, showing off every deliciously cut inch of chest and biceps and shoulders. Why does he have to look so good? I’m so pucked.

“I thought we were meeting at the coffee shop.”

“I thought we could walk over together.”

“And you didn’t want me to stand you up?”

His smile is lopsided, one dimple popping out. “Something like that.”

“I could still run.”

“You could try. I’m pretty fast if I’m chasing after something I want.”

The butterflies flitting around in my stomach reach tornado level flutters. Images of him moving across the ice, power and speed propelling him forward, come to mind. Alex chasing after me with the same kind of singular, intense focus is a huge turn on.

He extends his hand. “It’s only a drink and some conversation, Violet. That’s all I’m asking.”

The way he says it reminds me of the night in his hotel room when he told me he just wanted to hang out and then I had sex with him. I slam down the gauntlet on those thoughts. I have to remind myself of the bad reputation he has yet to refute properly. I don’t want to be one of his hockey hookers.

It’s dark out. Fat snowflakes drift lazily from the sky as we cross the street to the little café. I used to come here when I was an undergrad. Right now is prime time for those kids between afternoon and evening courses. It’s still my favorite place to go for coffee and snacks.

A fire crackles in the wood-burning fireplace. The table in front of it is empty, with a reserved sign. It’s the comfiest spot in the café and romantic with the fire and the low lighting. I’m almost glad it’s unavailable.

“Why don’t you have a seat and I can order something for you?” Alex sweeps his hand toward the table by the fireplace.

“It’s reserved.”

He leans in and whispers, “I reserved it.”

Of course he did.

I follow him to the counter to check out my options. I already know what I want.

Alex wraps his fingers around my wrist when I go for my wallet. “I’ll get it.”

“I can buy my own drink.” I sound harsher than I mean to. He’s being so attentive and considerate. It makes me nervous, but I like it.

“I invited you; please let me get this.”

The way he’s looking at me breaks my damn heart. “Okay. Fine.”

A hint of a smile pulls at the corner of his mouth. His palm settles low on my back, and he strokes my spine. It’s distracting. “What would you like, Violet?”

“A green tea latte, non-fat, lactose free, with extra whipped cream, please.”

“Lactose free with whipped cream, eh?” Alex asks.

“It balances the dairy out.”

“Sure. Anything else?”

I assess the extensive selection of desserts. Including food could open the gates for dinner and make this an official date. I’m unprepared to deal with an entire meal.

“I’m okay.” I stare longingly at the caramel crunch cake.

“Are you sure? These cakes look too good to pass up. I’ll feel bad ordering one if you don’t have anything in front of you.”

Cake isn’t the same as real food, so I give in. Alex orders, and the girl behind the counter is saccharine, practically fucking him with her congeniality. Two can play at that game. Moving in closer, my boob presses against his arm. “Thank you,” I whisper in his ear.

His eyebrows rise in surprise, followed by his easy smile. “It’s entirely my pleasure. I’m glad you’re here.”

Alex insists I have a seat while we wait for our drinks and desserts. He even helps me out of my coat and hangs it on the rack near the fire. I sink into the plush chair and sigh, running my hands over the velvet covered armrests. I stare at his ass while he waits patiently at the counter for our order. I also pop a couple of lactose pills.

I’m not the only person in the café looking at him. His presence is as big as he is. The guys seem just as interested in him as the women. A lot of people appear to recognize him. Maybe a college hangout isn’t the best place to have coffee with a famous hockey player.

He brings the cakes to the table. His dessert is some kind of peanut butter chocolate concoction. Mine consists of pecan meringue nestled between layers of whipped cream, topped with caramel drizzle.

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