Roman, p.1
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       Roman, p.1

         Part #7 of Cold Fury Hockey series by Sawyer Bennett
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  Roman is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  A Loveswept Ebook Original

  Copyright (c) 2017 by Sawyer Bennett Excerpt from Sex in the Sticks by Sawyer Bennett copyright (c) 2017 by Sawyer Bennett All rights reserved.

  Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

  LOVESWEPT is a registered trademark and the LOVESWEPT colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.

  This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book Sex in the Sticks by Sawyer Bennett. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.

  Ebook ISBN 9780425286586

  Cover photograph: Josh Norris





  Title Page


  Chapter 1: Roman

  Chapter 2: Lexi

  Chapter 3: Brian

  Chapter 4: Roman

  Chapter 5: Lexi

  Chapter 6: Brian

  Chapter 7: Roman

  Chapter 8: Lexi

  Chapter 9: Roman

  Chapter 10: Lexi

  Chapter 11: Roman

  Chapter 12: Lexi

  Chapter 13: Brian

  Chapter 14: Lexi

  Chapter 15: Roman

  Chapter 16: Lexi

  Chapter 17: Roman

  Chapter 18: Lexi

  Chapter 19: Brian

  Chapter 20: Lexi

  Chapter 21: Roman

  Chapter 22: Lexi

  Chapter 23: Brian

  Chapter 24: Roman

  Chapter 25: Lexi

  Chapter 26: Brian

  Chapter 27: Roman

  Chapter 28: Lexi

  Epilogue: Roman


  By Sawyer Bennett

  About the Author

  Excerpt from Sex in the Sticks

  Chapter 1


  Before I walk in, I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. I do this in an effort to relax, which is not something that comes easy to me. Roman Sykora goes balls to the wall, 100 percent of the time. I do this whether I'm on the ice or fucking a hot chick. I have two and dead stopped, and the latter only happens when I'm sleeping.

  It's how I've always lived my life and I'm not going to stop now.

  I pull open the glass door that leads into the Cold Fury executive office suite. It's posh and sumptuous, with its thick cream carpet and sleek European furniture. It tells the story of exactly how much money is generated by this organization.

  My eyes immediately land on a young woman sitting on a low-slung, gray leather couch set up against the far wall. She has one leg crossed over the other and her head is bent down as she's texting. Her dark hair hangs forward, forming a curtain obstructing my view of her face. What really catches my attention is that she's dressed super funky and looks completely out of place. Her long legs are covered in black tights with a red-and-white-plaid pattern that she wears oddly under cutoff denim shorts that are rolled at the hem. This isn't all that unusual to see in January, as the North Carolina winters can be mild and it's only in the low fifties today. I note that her outfit also includes black high-top Dr. Martens, a white T-shirt, and a black leather jacket with zippers all over it.

  So while the outfit isn't all that crazy for the weather outside, it totally screams antiestablishment in contrast to the executive offices.

  I like it.

  A lot.

  "Can I help you?" I hear a smooth female voice say from the reception desk.

  My gaze turns that way and I come under the cool appraisal of a stern-looking older woman with pale blond hair pulled back from her face in a tight bun. "Roman Sykora. Got an appointment with Gray Brannon."

  The woman actually sniffs at me and says, "You're fifteen minutes late, Mr. Sykora."

  "Yup," I tell her before turning toward a chair that sits adjacent to the gray couch. Nothing else really needs to be said about my tardiness. I'm chronically late and will probably be that way until the day I die.

  Just before I take a seat, I hear the receptionist from behind me say, "Ms. Robertson...Mr. Brannon is just finishing up his ten o'clock appointment and should be with you shortly. I apologize he's running late."

  The woman sitting on the couch lifts her face, looks right past me to the receptionist, and gives a small smile with a nod of her head. "That's quite all right. I don't mind waiting."

  And damn...what a face. Creamy, flawless skin with silvery-blue eyes that absolutely pop against the dark lashes surrounding them. She lifts her hand and tucks a lock of her hair behind her ear, and then I'm surprised when her gaze slides over to me. She nods her head slightly toward the reception desk, leans her body a little closer toward my chair, and whispers, "Seems like a double standard to me."

  "Double standard?" I ask, confused and more than a little fascinated by the husky, almost raspy tone of her voice.

  She grins at me, which draws attention to her lips. Full, pink, and pulled back to reveal sparkling white teeth with a tiny gap right in the middle. Totally sexy.

  "Well, yeah," she says as she lowers her voice in a more conspiratorial tone. "It's okay for management to be late to a meeting with me, but it's not okay for you to be a few minutes late with management?"

  She's got a damn good point.

  I, in turn, lean toward her as if we are sharing a great secret. I also drop my voice, not because I care if the receptionist hears me, because let's face it, I don't give a shit what anyone in this organization thinks about me, but because I'm merely enjoying my banter with this really pretty woman.

  "I think you may have isolated the issue," I tell her, my Czech accent coming on a little bit thicker only because I've slowed my words down. Over the many years of living in North America, it's faded quite a bit, but there's no mistaking I still have a slight Slavic accent. "You and I aren't management, therefore we don't enjoy the privilege of being able to be late. We're too far down on the totem pole."

  The woman nods in agreement and winks. "Definitely at the bottom of the totem pole."

  I think about introducing myself to her, as I'm not sure she knows who I am. She's clearly sitting here in the lobby of the Cold Fury executive office suite, but that doesn't necessarily mean she knows hockey. For all I know, she could be here selling Girl Scout cookies, although if she is, they sure have changed the uniforms.

  But before I can even push my hand toward her, the receptionist behind me says, "Mr. Sykora, Miss Brannon is ready to see you now."

  With a sigh, I push myself up out of the chair, and the woman gives me another smile and says, "Good luck. I hope you're not in too much trouble."

  I offer a grin and a wink of my own. "Unfortunately, I have a feeling I'm in quite a bit of trouble."

  Her jaw drops open slightly and her eyes round in sympathy, but before she can even put a voice to her commiseration, I lean over her and whisper, "But it's nothing to worry about. I'm sort of a troublemaker."

  Her eyes sparkle with mischief as she nods in grave understanding. "I can kind of tell that about you. But hey, you carry it really well."

  "And don't you forget it," I say with a chuckle as I turn from her to face the receptionist. She laughs softly behind me, and with that raspy grit to her vocal cords...yeah, it's totally sexy. Maybe if I'm lucky enough, I'll run into her again on the way out of here. Totally wouldn't mind getting to know her better.

  But the minute I face the receptionist and she
points me down the hall toward the executive offices, I put the woman and all her sexy ways out of my mind. I stiffen my spine as I walk toward Gray Brannon's office because I know I'm getting ready to have my ass handed to me.

  "She's the office at the end of the hall," the receptionist says smoothly.

  I don't even acknowledge her because frankly her attitude is snotty and doesn't deserve an acknowledgment. I merely stride down the corridor until I reach Gray's office door, which is open. With a slight tap of my knuckles against the wood, I announce myself and stick my head in.

  Gray Brannon is the general manager for the Carolina Cold Fury hockey team. This is her second year in the position and she is proudly sporting a Stanley Cup championship cup. This is also my second year with the team, as I was added last year after Gray took over management. I owe a lot to her for her faith in me, and knowing that I could be a great contribution to this team.

  However, just because I'm grateful to her does not mean I'm going to take her shit or change my ways.

  Gray lifts her head from some documents she's reviewing on her desk, and for a brief moment, I'm captivated by the sheer beauty of this woman. I've never been a fan of redheads, but I have to say Gray Brannon wears the color well and her face is almost angelic. So yeah, our general manager is hot as hell, but she's also fucking brilliant at her job, and while I'm sure every man on this team has eyeballed her in a way a man will look at a gorgeous woman, she is more than respected for her abilities to do right by this organization.

  As I step into her office, Gray stands from the desk and holds her hand out across to me to shake. My eyes immediately draw down to the rounded bump of her belly before coming back up to lock with her own. Gray announced a few weeks ago at the team Christmas party that she and her husband, Ryker Evans, were expecting their first child together in May. Ryker was the starting goalie last year for the Cold Fury and was instrumental in our winning the Stanley Cup. He retired this past summer and is now one of the goalie coaches for the team.

  I take Gray's hand and give it a quick shake before releasing. She waves to a chair behind me and I take it, settling in casually. While I am most assuredly going to get an ass-chewing during this meeting, I don't ever want her to have the impression that it bothers me.

  I pretty much do what I want and I take my lumps when I deserve them.

  And in fairness, I probably deserve this ass-chewing.

  Gray sits down in her chair, rests her elbows on the top of her desk, and steeples her fingers in front of her. "No sense in beating around the bush. You have to pick your battles better, and frankly, a little less frequently."

  "Not sure I'm following," I say with utter honesty as I blink in surprise. I thought I was going to be given the command to stop my wild ways completely, not telling me to dial it back a notch.

  "Well, let's take a look at your history," she says blandly and with a touch of sarcasm. It causes me to give an involuntary smirk, which she chooses to ignore. "A year and a half ago, you celebrated joining the Cold Fury by going out and getting extremely drunk at an away game in Toronto and got into a shoving match with a fan from the other team."

  "He started it," I say with a smile.

  She ignores that too. "You got arrested for drunk and disorderly."

  "Those charges got dismissed," I point out.

  "Then," she says, barreling right past my excuses, "you pulled the infamous 'possum' stunt."

  I snort. That was a good one. I took a high stick to my shoulder, then took a dive to the ice. It hurt, but not enough to put me down. The other players didn't know that, though, and while a shoving match started right in front of me, my teammates clearly coming to my defense, I lay there on the ice playing dead. One of the trainers even came over to check on me. The scrums around me got broken up by the refs, and about the time all the players started to slowly skate away, I jumped up from the ice--scaring the shit out of our trainer Goose--and attacked the fucker who gave me the high stick in the first place. Got a few solid hits on him before the refs jumped on me.

  That earned me a game misconduct ejection.

  Gray Brannon does not laugh, but continues to extol my "virtues" as a member of this team.

  "You've been suspended for eleven games over the past two years," she says distastefully. "Three for illegal boarding, two for cross-checking, and six for abuse of an official," she recites.

  "Well, the abuse of an official was for ten games, but it did get reduced to six, so that's good, right?" I ask without a hint of apology. "Besides, you and I both know that guy is a douche."

  "You're late to practice most of the time," she throws at me.

  "I need my beauty sleep," I say as I bat my eyelashes at her. "And it's not personal. I'm late to everything."

  I can tell she wants to roll her eyes at me, but she never breaks that direct, hard stare. "You've heckled and threatened fans, gotten into a public drunken spectacle on several occasions--the last just four days ago--with your girlfriend that made the social media rounds--"

  "I fucking hate Snapchat," I say glumly but very truthfully. "And that was an ex-girlfriend. We'd been broken up awhile and had just run into each other at a bar, and she's the one that--"

  "--and then today," she cuts in on me, grabbing the newspaper off her desk and sliding it across to me. "You make the front page of the sports section."

  My eyes drop down and I have to practically bite my tongue not to grin at the photograph taking up the entire top of the page. It's of me, sound asleep in bed. I'm lying on my back, covers pulled up to my hips, but it's clear I'm naked underneath. And next to me is a woman, also clearly naked but with the sheet pulled up over her breasts, taking a selfie photograph with me.

  Unbeknownst to me because I was dead asleep.

  Didn't find out about it until she sent me a text with the photo day before yesterday along with a short but clear demand for money, and if I didn't pay, she would go to the media with it.

  My text back to her was simple: Fuck off.

  Of course, that text exchange ended up in the paper too, along with a quote from yours truly. After all, the reporter called me for my side of the story and I told him I'd never be bribed by anyone, not to mention a two-bit model who would jump in bed with someone just for the attention.

  I actually think I handled the situation well.

  Inclining my head toward the paper, I try for my most seriously affronted expression. "You can't honestly be mad at me for that. I had no clue she took that picture."

  "She was previously engaged to one of your teammates," Gray grits out.

  I hold my hands up in mock surrender. "I did not know that. Well, not until after the clothes came off, but still...she wasn't engaged at the time."

  "Jesus Christ, Sykora," Gray mutters as she runs her fingers through her hair in a sign of frustration. "You have a goddamned answer for everything. But surely you can're taking things a bit too far. For fuck's sake, you even had a rule instituted by the league named after you," she adds. "They named a goddamn rule after you."

  I lift my chin in pride. Because that was epic. There was nothing in the rules preventing screening the goalies. It happened all the time. I just chose to do it more blatantly, actually getting right up in his face when the puck was in his end, and waving my gloved hands in front of him. It was a guaranteed goal getter, as my teammates had no problems slipping pucks past while the goalie was otherwise occupied with my hands in his face.

  The league enacted a swift rule prohibiting it, and it's known as the Sykora rule.

  "You got to admit, before the rule got enacted, I was pretty brilliant, right?" I say confidently, knowing that I'm starting to get on her nerves by the way a muscle at the corner of her mouth starts twitching.

  "I'm not amused," Gray says stiffly.

  "Not even a little?" I ask with innocent eyes.

  "Cut the shit, Sykora," Gray growls at me as she leans across the desk, eyes blazing. "You know why I brought you to this tea
m, and I like that you've got a reputation. You're an amazing defenseman and I like the grit you bring to the game. But you're taking things too far, and regardless of what you think, this organization still has a reputation to uphold."

  "I am who I am," I say with challenge.

  "That may be," she retorts. "But if you want to be on this team, you need to heed what I'm saying."

  "And what exactly are you saying?" I ask, leaning forward in my chair.

  She sighs and sinks back into her own. She gives a tired rub to her eyes before looking at me. "I'm saying to cut out the stunts. Be tough on the ice, but quit being such an obvious jackass. Clean up your act. Lay off the booze. Stop making a spectacle of yourself. Play by the rules. Show up on fucking time. It's not rocket science."

  "And if I don't?" I ask, even though I know the answer to this. I'm just being a dick.

  "Then you ride pine," she says softly, referring to being benched, but it doesn't lessen the punch. Especially when she says, "Or worse...I'll release you."

  "This team needs me," I growl.

  "Yes, we do," she says with a nod. "But we need more than just stellar play. This is a championship team, and your antics could backfire and drag all of us down."

  "They're not antics," I tell her firmly. "This was who I was before I came to the Cold Fury and you knew it when you offered me a contract."

  "And I'm telling you it's not meshing with our vision," she counters.

  I lean back in my chair, cross my hands over my stomach, and give her a lazy look. While I very much do not want to lose my job and will probably take what she says to heart, I don't ever let on that I'll do such a thing. It's about maintaining some level of control in this situation, and call that an ego thing, fine...but I'm not one to back down.

  "What exactly would you have me change?" I ask casually.

  "For starters," she says with a hard stare, "show up for practice on time. Show up to your training sessions. Maybe even take an interest in the team off the ice. Quit doing stupid things. Grow up a little."

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