Read Offside Online

Authors: Juliana Stone

Tags: #contemporary romance, #sports romance, #small town romance, #adult contemporary romance

Offside

BOOK: Offside
12.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 

 

 

OFFSIDE

By

Juliana Stone

 

 

 

Smashwords Edition

Copyright © 2012 Juliana Stone

All rights reserved.

 

ISBN-13: 978-0-9881385-2-0

 

Cover art and design by Patricia
Schmitt/Pickyme

Copy editing by Rachel D’Amario

 

This book is a work of fiction. References to
real people, events, establishments, organizations, or locations
are intended only to provide a sense of authenticity, and are used
fictitiously. All other characters, and all incidents and dialogue,
are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed
as real.

 

No part of this book may be reproduced,
scanned or distributed in any printed or electronic form without
permission. Please do not participate in encouraging piracy of
copyrighted materials in violation with the author’s rights.
Purchase only authorized editions.

 

 

 

Authors Note:
I couldn’t have written
this book without a few key things happening. First off, a big
thanks to the two ladies from my hometown who decided, that yes,
they would play with the boys whether they liked it or not. The
idea was planted and I kind of ran with it! I need to thank an old
school friend, Gil Paelinck, who played professional hockey in
Europe and answered questions and provided information to me. Much
appreciated. Lastly, I want to give a shout out to my wonderful
Aunt Wendy. She gave birth to 3 girls and their namesakes are now
going to live forever in my books! Lastly, much thanks to the
hockey players who provide us fans with so much excitement,
especially my favorite team, The Philadelphia Flyers!

Chapter One

 

 

Frank Talbot was minding his own business,
tending the store that had been in his family for three generations
when he realized, that in fact, the world as he knew it was about
to end.

The moment had started innocently enough,
with the tinkling of the bell above the door. He’d pushed back his
small round glasses, set his morning newspaper aside, and smoothed
the salt-and-pepper hair that curled crazily around his ears. A
quick glance at the clock beside his till told him it was five
minutes past nine.

A man steeped in tradition, Frank narrowed
his eyes upon his first customer of the day and smiled. It was the
first Saturday in October, hockey season was getting underway and
it was going to be a good day for Talbot Sports. He could feel it.
The wife would be happy. His till would ring. And every man knew
that a happy wife was a good thing.

Of course, that was before Billie-Jo Barker
waltzed into his store and stirred up one heck of a hornets’
nest.

 

Billie walked into Talbot Sports with no
agenda other than looking after the blown inside edge on her
favorite pair of skates. What she hadn’t expected was to turn New
Waterford on its head. But, being one third of the Barker triplets
counted for something, and Lord knows one of them was always in the
thick of it. With her sister Betty-Jo off in the Islands doing God
knows what with God knows who, and her other sister Bobbi-Jo
knee-deep in respectability these days, she supposed it was fitting
that the mantle of troublemaker should fall to her shoulders.

Billie nodded to Mr. Talbot and placed the
skates in front of him. The old man was a legend in town and had
pretty much outfitted every single kid who’d ever played hockey,
soccer, or baseball. A hockey player himself back in the day, he’d
nearly made it to the pros until a bad car accident had taken not
only his dream, but his right leg.

“Billie! I heard you were back from Europe.”
His blue eyes crinkled in the corners and his mouth settled into a
gentle curve. The man never aged and had looked to be in his late
fifties for as long as Billie could remember.

She saw the kindness there, the warmth…and
something else that softened his features even more—a certain
kinship for another soul whose dream was shattered way too
soon.

“I got back a few days ago.” Billie tucked a
strand of inky black hair behind her ear and shoved her hands into
the back pockets of her jeans. She didn’t like to talk about
Europe, Sweden in particular, or the concussion that had ended
everything.

The old man stared at her as if expecting
something more.

“I, ah…I’ve been lying low.”

“Oh,” Mr. Talbot looked startled. “Of
course.” He grabbed the skates and cleared his throat. “How’s your
Dad doing?”

“He seems fine.” Which was a total lie.

Mr. Talbot glanced at her sharply, over the
rims of his glasses. “Uh huh…and your grandfather? I’ve not seen
Herschel in a few weeks.”

Billie smiled. “He’s good. Busy with his
beehives and well,” she shrugged. [i]
Babysitting
[i].

“I see.” His gaze lingered and Billie thought
that maybe Frank Talbot saw all too well.

She glanced around. “Wow, the place hasn’t
changed at all.” Rows of hockey gear hung down the center of the
store, while the wall on her left was filled with sticks in various
lengths and colors. Skates and helmets were to her right, while the
offseason stuff—baseball, lacrosse, and soccer—were tucked away in
the back.

Mr. Talbot chuckled. “Yes, I’m not much for
change, or at least that’s what Mrs. Talbot claims.” He ran his
finger down the blades. “These need sharpening.”

Billie nodded. “The left one in particular. I
blew the inside edge the last time I was,” her voice caught and she
cleared her throat. “The last time I was on the ice.”

“All right then.” Talbot grabbed the pair and
headed toward the back of the store where he kept his sharpening
machine. “I won’t be more than a few minutes.”

Billie watched him go and sighed, her gaze
shifting to the wall behind the till. Her chest tightened and her
heart sped up so quickly she felt her cheeks flush hot. Framed
pictures and articles covered the entire area, many of them
starring none other than herself. She was—or rather had been—New
Waterford’s golden girl, though she supposed that crown was
something she’d never wear again.

From the time her father had first put a pair
of skates on her feet, she’d excelled. She’d never wanted to figure
skate like a lot of the other girls, or play ringette either.
Hockey had been her thing right from the beginning. It was common
consensus among most, that if she’d been born with a set of balls,
she’d be playing pro in the National Hockey League. As it was she’d
signed a contract to play on a professional men’s team in Sweden,
one of four women allowed to play in the league. The hockey wasn’t
as aggressive as North America, but the skill level was
impressive.

[i]
Hockey Phenom
[i].

That’s what they had called her.

What an ironic twist that in fact her hockey
career had ended because a six foot tall Swede with the same lack
of balls between her legs, had taken Billie out in the corners—a
bad hit from behind—and the subsequent concussion had pretty much
ended Billie’s hockey career.

She’d represented her country in the Olympics
twice, played competitive hockey in College before leaving for
Europe and yet here she was. Back home in New Waterford.

A has-been at twenty-four.

Billie moved away from the till and walked
over to the sticks. She stood there and stared at the colourful
display until they blurred into a mishmash of color. Until the bell
tinkling above the door grabbed her attention and she immediately
tensed. She was sick of running into people and seeing their looks
of pity. Just the day before Joanne Fenmore had clucked over her
like a damn mother hen when she’d ran into the Mini-Mart to pay for
gas.

[i]“
Oh dear, you look pale. Sure you don’t
want to sit for a bit
?”


No. I’m good Mrs. Fenmore
.”


But you don’t look well, dear. I don’t
mind. I’ve a Lazy Boy in back and Wheel of Fortune just
started
.”


Honestly, I’m good. I was up until four
this morning watching The Walking Dead marathon. I look like crap
because I’m tired…not because I’m brain damaged
.”[i]

Billie winced at the memory and reached for
one of the sticks nearest her, the red one with black flames down
the side.

“Barker? I heard you were back in town.”

She froze and made a face. She knew that
voice. Knew that nasally rasp that made her skin crawl. She sighed
and swore under her breath. [i]
Really
?[i] She had to deal
with Seth Longwood this early on a Saturday morning? Why did it
[i]
not
[i]surprise her Longwood was still in New
Waterford…and still living with his parents no doubt.

[i]
Not that I’m any better off
[i].

“Hey Seth.” She didn’t turn around but
glanced toward the back of the store hoping like hell Longwood
would just leave her alone. He’d been a thorn in her side through
most of her teenage years. A year older than her, he was a local
who’d had a lot of talent on the ice—just not nearly as much as
Billie had—and he’d resented the hell out of it.

He was a grade A asshole then, and she
doubted he’d changed.

The buzzing of the blade against stone told
her that Mr. Talbot wasn’t done with her Bauers.

Billie’s hand fell back to her side and she
sighed. Shit. She may as well get this over with.

She turned around and froze when she spied
not only Seth, but a second man.

Seth looked just as she remembered. His
pimples were long gone, though they’d left some deep pockmarks on
his cheeks. But the wide nose, broken more than once, big brown
eyes, bushy eyebrows and thin sandy hair that hung across them were
the same. At a few inches under six feet he was shorter than the
man beside him, but built like a brick wall. He was a modern day
Neanderthal.

It was the other man who stood a few feet
away that had her standing like a damn mannequin, with nothing to
say and a scared as shit expression on her face.

Logan Forest.

[i]
Tall, dark, handsome as sin, Logan
Forest
.[i]

Like fine wine, he’d only improved with
age.

Yes, Mr. Tall, dark, and handsome as sin
Logan Forest—the man who’d starred in every teenage fantasy she’d
ever had—stood a few feet from her, his blue eyes focused and
intense. Damn, but they were as beautiful as she remembered.
Billie’s blush deepened as memory returned fast and hard.

Logan Forest, the man who’d—

“Billie-Jo Barker.” Seth grinned.

God how she hated the way Seth rolled the
syllables in her name like she was some backwoods hee haw from the
hills.

“In the flesh,” he continued. “Never thought
I’d see you back in New Waterford.”

His tone snapped her out of her funk and
Billie dragged her gaze from Logan as she turned to Seth. “Sorry to
disappoint you.”

“It’s all right.” Seth’s made a big show out
of checking her out, his smile widening as she glared at him. “I’m
not disappointed at all. In fact I’d say the scenery around here
just improved one hundred percent. Without all that hockey gear you
look more like your sister, Bobbi, or hell,” his grin widened like
he was paying her the biggest compliment ever. “Maybe even
Betty.”

[i]
What a dumbass
.[i]

“Funny how being a triplet will do that.” She
couldn’t hide her sarcasm.

His eyes narrowed. “Funny how
[i]
not
[i] being a jock cuts down on the butch factor.”

Billie’s hands fisted at her side and she
opened her mouth to retort, but Mr. Talbot appeared from the back,
her skates in hand.

“All done, Billie. Good as new.”

She nodded, moved past Seth and skirted
around the long way, not wanting to get too close to Logan Forest.
Even after all this time the man made her nervous as hell. Christ,
her belly flipped and rolled as if she was damn teenager all over
again.

BOOK: Offside
12.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Polly by Freya North
E by Wrath, Kate
Shut Up and Kiss Me by Madeline Sheehan, Claire C Riley
No Light by Costello, Michael
Turning Night by Viola Grace
Pleasure and a Calling by Hogan, Phil
New Year in Manhattan by Louise Bay
The Billionaire's Baby by Dahlia Rose
The Fantasy by Ella Frank