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Dax (Arizona Vengeance #4)
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The Arizona Vengeance is killing it on the ice. But one player can’t seem to keep his eye on the puck—all thanks to the woman he just married to save her life.
“Find your next hockey hero in Sawyer Bennett’s Arizona Vengeance series.”—New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis
My name is Dax Monahan and hockey is my passion. And if you want to succeed in this sport you have to bust your ass 24/7. I’ve never had a hard time focusing on my career, but when my past comes knocking, no amount of training can prepare me for what lies on the other side of the door.
Regan Miles was always like a sister to me. When a shared tragedy brings us face to face after several years, I’m shocked to see just how much she’s changed. Gone is the shy, awkward little girl that always used to chase me and her brother around. Instead, I’m faced with a gorgeous woman who makes it damn hard to concentrate on anything but her.
Turns out, she’s in trouble, and the only way out is to get married.
I surprise myself when I tell her to marry me. Order her, actually. And most shocking of all, she doesn’t even hesitate before saying yes.
So it’s settled. We’re getting hitched and she’s moving to Arizona with me. All platonic, of course.
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I ring the doorbell to Lance’s midtown Manhattan apartment, waiting for his sister to answer.
Regan Miles is six years younger than me—which makes her twenty-two—and I’ve known her for her entire life. Her brother, Lance, was my best friend for as long as I can remember. We lived in the same neighborhood, and our parents put us in the same recreation hockey league. We grew up together in the sport, all the way through major juniors. When we were sixteen, we both got accepted to the Detroit Bears, one of only eight American teams playing in the Canadian Hockey League.
We were together, always, until we both got drafted into the NHL. Lance went to the Vipers where he played his entire career. I went to the Toronto Blazers, then moved to the Vipers where I spent three years before being traded to my current team, the Arizona Vengeance.
Our friendship never suffered. We talked, texted, and visited when we could. In the summers, we hung out together. Just this past summer, Lance and I spent almost a month together down in Rio, taking advantage of the gorgeous beaches and even more beautiful Brazilian women.
I consider the woman Regan has become over the years. Lance hadn’t changed at all, yet I hardly recognized his sister when I flew to New York after he died.
The rattling of the chain on the other side has me bracing. When she swings the door open with a soft smile, I almost have to squint against her beauty. Sometime during the last few years when she was off in California getting her degree, she grew up.
The bombshell standing in front of me looks nothing like the gawky teenager Lance had to raise after their parents were killed in an automobile collision when she was fourteen.
My last clear memory of Regan, she had braces, acne, and was a few pounds overweight. She was shy and sweet, adoring her brother for all his sacrifices to keep her with him as he navigated the professional hockey world.
The woman before me isn’t the Regan Miles I remember.
This woman is a twenty on a scale of one to ten. Caramel-colored hair, lighter on the ends and styled in waves that hang over her shoulders and down her back. She’s sprouted several inches and developed in all the right places. The baby fat in her face has been replaced by sculpted cheekbones and arched eyebrows, framing the most beautiful set of green eyes I’ve ever seen.
She’s a fucking stranger to me, yet there’s an underlying truth she’s the closest thing to a sister I’ll ever have.
She’s my only connection to Lance.
It’s why I’m here now. Because Lance is gone—killed in a common mugging—and there’s something wrong with Regan. I’m here to find out what that something is so I invited her for drinks. We had a game against the New York Phantoms tonight—which we won—and the plane isn’t leaving until early morning. I wanted to check in to see how Regan was doing because the few times we’ve talked since the funeral, I can just tell she’s struggling with something. I’ve tried to cajole it out of her, but she’s been stubbornly tight-lipped, insisting everything is okay.
“I’m just about ready,” she says as she turns her back on me and walks into the living room. It’s a punch to the gut to see it’s barren except for a handful of packed boxes I’m assuming contains the contents of Lance’s life, which he left to his sister. She has been staying in New York these past few weeks to handle estate matters and such.
“You got all his furniture sold?” I ask as she stops at the kitchen counter and picks up a pair of earrings.
Tilting her head to put one in, she replies, “Most of it. The rest I donated to a homeless shelter, along with all of his clothing.”
I wince. “I know that was hard.”
She nods, blinking back what I’m betting are tears as she puts the other earring in. “Rationally, I know it would be stupid to keep that stuff. I mean… what am I going to do with my brother’s underwear or t-shirts?”
“But inside, you feel like those are ties to your brother you don’t want to give up,” I surmise.
With another gentle smile, she nods. “That about sums up how the past few weeks have been. Feeling like I’m losing him over and over again as I scrub his life away from here.”
We stare at each other, and I try to swallow past the lump in my throat. My grief over losing Lance is still raw and painful. I can’t imagine what it’s like for her.
Regan’s bottom lip quivers and she sucks in a deep breath, letting it out with a nervous laugh. “Let’s talk about something else. I don’t want to ruin my makeup.”