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Axel (Carolina Reapers #1)
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The NHL’s been at my door since I was 18.
I’ve never been able to say no to her.
One comment from her smart mouth about never dating again, and I propose.
No, really, I actually propose:
Our wedding day started a countdown I’m powerless to stop,
How can we move forward when we started this whole thing backwards?
Welcome to the Carolina Reapers, Samantha Whiskey’s newest hockey series where the chill of the ice meets sultry southern nights.
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“Are you settling in?” I asked my brother as I pulled into the airport. At least it was the smaller, regional airport, so I didn’t have to deal with Stockholm traffic.
“Stop worrying,” Tage practically growled into the phone, which sent the sound vibrating through my Rover’s speakers.
The shiny black four-door piece of exquisite machinery was the first “just-because” money I’d spent on myself. Ever.
“I’m your brother. It’s my job to worry,” I reminded him. That’s all I did when it came to Tage. Worry. How the hell could I not when he’d been my responsibility since I was sixteen?
“Normal brothers get each other drunk.”
Normal brothers didn’t lose both their parents in car accidents.
“Tell me you’re not drinking. You know your coach is going—”
“Relax, Axel. I’m not drinking. Just giving you hell. I was, however, sleeping off a hellish morning practice.”
“I still wish you’d enrolled full time at Luleå.” I pulled up to the gate and lowered my window. “Axel Nyström,” I told the guard.
“Like you did, right?” Tage scoffed.
“I didn’t have the option, remember? You were eight years old. What was I going to do, move into student housing with you?” I glanced at the dashboard clock. Ten past ten. Lukas was due to land in five minutes.
“You’re on the list,” the guard noted. “Hangar two.” He directed me through the gate.
“Thank you,” I told him and then followed his directions, turning right to get to the hangar Lukas’ jet usually parked at when he flew in from the States.
“Relax,” Tage sighed. “Coach said I could manage a couple of classes. Besides, I’m only looking at a year or two here. Then maybe I can transfer to an American school. From there it’s four years and a college education before I get drafted into the NHL.”
My heart swelled. “Now that would be something I would whole-heartedly support. I’m so damn proud of you, Tage.”
“Oh, come on, don’t get all watery,” Tage teased. “Where are you, anyway?”
“At the airport to pick up Lukas.” Usually I would have told my peacock of a best friend to drive himself from the airport, but he’d never directly asked me to pick him up before.
“He’s in? Really? I thought he was deep in preparation for the season? I heard that new team is going to be insane. Or at least they will be once they lock down a center—wait…”
“Don’t go there.” I shook my head even though I knew he couldn’t see me.
“Oh, come on! You know that’s why he’s coming in. The NHL is calling!” Tage whooped.
I parked my Rover next to the hangar as Lukas’ jet touched down. “A member of an NHL team is always calling. Don’t look so far into it. Now, get some rest. You’ve got the Nyström name on your jersey, so you’d better do it proud.”
“Proud enough to pound on you when the season starts.”
I grinned as Lukas’ jet taxied toward us. “You went to the wrong team if you think you’re going to take me down.”
“Yeah, yeah. All jabs aside, have fun with Lukas. Relax a little, would you? You’re finally an empty-nester!”
“Goodbye, Tage.” I hung up on my little brother and climbed out of the Rover as my cell rang again, this time Lukas’ face appearing on the screen. “Why the hell are you calling me from a hundred meters away? I’m literally staring at your damned jet.”
“Right,” my best friend said slowly. “So about that…”
I leaned back against the warm hood of my car. “About what?”
“Have fun and say yes!” He hung up on me as the plane parked.
I looked down at my phone, blinking a few times in complete confusion. A breeze ripped across me, and I shoved my phone into the back pocket of my pants, then secured my hair with a tie from the pocket of my jacket.
My sunglasses cut most of the glare from the morning sun as the door opened to Lukas’ jet, then the staff lowered his staircase. Not only was the guy a high-paid NHL star, but he was also a pretty-boy model who now had his own clothing line and the jet to go with it. Good thing I loved the asshole like a brother, or I would have ceaselessly mocked him for the tailored dress clothes. Oh, who was I kidding, I still mocked him.
But I had a sneaking suspicion that he wasn’t on that fucking jet.
It took every muscle in my face to keep my jaw from dropping when she stepped into the doorway.
No fucking way. I was hallucinating. Had to be.
I compared the vision walking toward me with my memory.
Mile-long legs built to wrap around me? Check.
A waist so small I could almost span it with my hand? Check.
Curves meant to be tested and stroked by my hands? Check that, too.
But thinner than I remembered, which gave me a moment of concern as her kitten heels reached the bottom of the staircase. Paler, too.