I had it all: an adoring husband, supportive friends, thriving career, a homey condo in the city.
I had it all except for love from my family. But life was good because I had him. Max was everything I dreamed a husband could be and somehow he loved me just as wildly as I loved him.
Until one cruel night he was stolen from me.
Then I had nothing but a vicious battle ahead of me. It’s a struggle so treacherous, I’m not sure if I’ll make it out with my heart in tact. But on the other side of that brutal war waits the most wondrous prize.
Will I allow myself to move forward?
Prologue – His
We cruise through Standard like we own the place because, fuck it, we practically do. Three first-line players and the goalie from the Chicago Scrapers, the city’s only professional hockey team, are kings in this town. When Lars swaggered to the host stand at a restaurant known for only allowing reservations three months out and requested a table, the verbose host seated us without delay. Now circling the wood table and waiting for our steaks to arrive, my teammates and I survey the dimly lit dining room.
“Bar 312 tonight, gentlemen,” Tomas drawls after swallowing a mouthful of the whiskey I got him drinking when we played together in Toronto a few years back.
None of us are attached, spending most nights out of the hockey rink together making our way through the city’s most popular haunts. We’re free to do what we want, when we want, so long as it doesn’t conflict with our job.
“Weren’t we there over the weekend? Could get stale,” I say.
I dangle a tumbler of amber liquid in my hand, watching Standard’s host make his rounds among the clientele. His name’s Paul? Patrick? Something like that. Considering I’ve been to Standard no less than eight times, you’d think I’d know the name of the gatekeeper who runs this place.
“Doesn’t matter when we went there last; the place is wall-to-wall beautiful women. Are you looking for something else? Boystown’s up north, dude,” Tucker goads from my left.
“What was that, rookie?” With a half smirk, I don’t offer Tucker any further attention. Drafted for the incoming season, Coach asked me to take the hotshot rightwing under my tutelage. Responsibilities like this are expected of the assistant captain.
I don’t hear whatever Tucker says in response because something else has captured my attention.
Dark auburn hair curling around slim shoulders like a heavy curtain, thick eyelashes framing deep blue eyes filled with….tears? Milky white hands press to cheeks with a dusky blush, mouth open in surprise.
Fuck me. She’s stunning.
Before I can come up with a game plan to get this woman into bed, a single tear catches the candlelight and glimmers on her cheek, jerking me back to reality. It’s then that I realize there’s a man on bended knee before her.
Only a few feet away on the hardwood floor, I’m able to make out his words. “Violet Harper, will you be my wife?” The dull roar of conversation, both at my table and winding throughout the restaurant, prevents me from hearing her response, but I’m able to read her lips well enough.
Me? she asks, surprise apparent across her gorgeous features.
The guy would be an idiot not to lock her down. She has that doe-eyed innocent look, but plump lips and a hint of cleavage that would knock any man right on his ass.
“There’s no one better than you, Violet,” the guy says. He hooks an arm around her tiny waist and yanks her onto his bended knee. Slim arms circle his neck as she stares down at him adoringly.
Do I want to be a one-woman man like that?
As quickly as the thought appears in my mind, I shove it away. Feeling like a voyeur, I attempt to turn my attention back to my teammates. But like being caught in the pull of a powerful magnet, my gaze powerlessly slides back to the couple.
“Put me out of my misery, babe. Say yes?” The guy actually looks nervous. Her answer is obvious, but she gushes out her assent. The guy launches to his feet with her still in his arms, locking her lips on his.
She never looked at the ring.
The majority of the women I hook up with want one thing: status. That means money or power—whatever I’ve got as one of the league’s best goalies. I’ll admit it, I’ve become a shred jaded, believing most women care more about my bank account and fame than the man I am. And now, here, to my surprise, a goddess looks more interested in the man than the sparkling stone in the velvet box tossed carelessly on the white tablecloth.
“Cam, are you listening?”
Shifting around in my seat, I focus on my friends. “Got to let the hens gossip,” I mutter. They’re passing around potatoes and mushrooms. Not even the scent of the broiled salmon (yeah, I’m in season and eating like my trainer wants to stay at the peak of my game) managed to distract me from the engagement going on a few feet from our table.
“Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention? Let’s all raise our glasses in a toast to one of Chicago’s finest. My boy, Max, a firefighter for you fine folks, just got engaged to his lovely girlfriend, Violet.” The host, whose name still escapes me, booms to every patron of Standard and cuts through our conversation. Now at least I have an excuse to stare at the woman. Violet. I savor her name, letting it roll around the deep recesses of my mind. I’d never go after a taken woman, but I can’t help but watch her with appreciation as she blushes, pressing her cheek into the neck of the firefighter boyfriend. Excuse me, fiancé.
Blowing away a hot breath, I force my head away from the scene. There’s a chant building steam, kiss, kiss, kiss, and I’m not willing to watch that. By now, the guys aren’t interested in razzing me further; they’re watching too, though not with the same rapt attention as me.
“Don’t you want to see the ring?” Firefighter says.
“Oh! That. I was lucky enough to have you,” her melodic voice responds.
Only then do I realize my hand is clenched in a fist on the tabletop, the tension bleaching my knuckles.
“Sucker,” Tucker mutters under his breath.
“Really? Seems pretty thrilled to me.” With a decisive slice from my cutlery, I swallow a bite of my fish.
Yeah, maybe I’ll settle down one day.
But not today.
Olivia Luck lives in the middle of the US with her husband and pooch. She loves writing, reading, pizza, dogs, good TV, cooking and spending time with her family. But not necessarily in that order. Olivia writes New Adult Romance.
Get in touch with Olivia, she adores emails: email@example.com