This novel is set in a brand new universe for me—figure skating and hockey—and is considered a stand-alone. There might be another stab at this paring in the future, or secondary characters will beg for their own story, but right now, this is it.
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“Your boy’s looking good tonight,” someone whispered in his ear. He turned and was surprised to see right winger, Zack Matthew. He’d been supportive these past few days but had never come right out and vocalized his feelings on the big reveal. Nik was grateful that he’d chosen this night
“Yeah, he’s sharp.”
“Maybe you guys can come over for dinner sometime soon. Drew and I could use some new friends.”
“My partner,” Zack said, glancing around to make sure no one was eavesdropping. “He’s a doctor and still in the closet, unfortunately, so we don’t get out much.”
“I know, but maybe you and Emory might inspire him to make the leap.”
“Hey, I’m brand new at this.”
“You’re doing a great job from what I can see.”
“Thanks,” Nik said. “Trying not to freak out isn’t easy.”
“They’re going to test you tonight, so close your ears.”
“I know,” Nik said grimly. “Did you have to deal with this shit when you came out?”
“Sure, it’s part of the hazing process. Once they realize you can’t be goaded into a reaction, they’ll stop.”
“I’ll have to count to a hundred to keep cool.”
“Whatever it takes, buddy.”
They fist-bumped just as the national anthem was about to be sung. Nik’s eyes remained on Emory throughout, and his lover must have felt a vibe. He looked over his shoulder and smiled when he saw Nik, then winked playfully before turning back to the flag that was slowly rising on the pole.
Nik said a silent prayer, hoping it would work to protect Emory that night. From what, he had no idea, but a terrible foreboding had been lingering all day, and now that it was game time, he prayed it was just a bad case of jitters and nothing else.
As the honored guest, Emory dropped the puck and skated off the ice to watch from behind the boards. He wasn’t due to perform his exhibition skate until the first intermission, which wasn’t for another twenty minutes, give or take stops for penalties.
The trash talk started almost immediately. Nik grimaced when his opposing enforcer said Emory had really nice lips. “They must feel great wrapped around your cannon.”
“Better mine than yours,” Nik said sourly before body checking him.
The guy laughed and Nik rolled his eyes. Here we go.
The crap went on the entire time, and by the end of the first period, Nik was shaking from the effort of keeping his temper in check. Zack skated up to him and asked how he was doing.
“Don’t let them get to you, buddy.”
Nik shook his head. “People are such assholes.”
“It’s part of the game, Nik. You know that.”
“I know.” Nik turned away and focused on the intermission show starring his lover.
Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” blared through the speakers, and Emory exploded onto the ice. There was a loud cheer and then the crowd settled down to watch as he wowed them with a series of step variations, Y spins, and combination jumps. The music was upbeat and a definite hockey favorite. Soon the crowd was clapping in time with the beating drums, and Emory soaked up the love, stepped up his game, and rewarded his audience with two perfectly executed quads. They were hollering by the time the song ended.
The second period was a repeat of the first, only this time the banter focused on Emory’s ass. The defender wanted to know if he was as tight inside as out, and Nik slashed the jerk across the neck before he realized what he was doing, upending the goon on the ice. It was one penalty Nik was happy to incur, though, and he watched with grim satisfaction as the guy skated off looking a little shell-shocked. The Wolves took advantage of the other team’s enforcer being off the ice and scored on the power play, putting them ahead by one.
Olympic figure skater Emory Lowe falls in lust the moment he lays eyes on his new neighbor, hockey player Nikolai (Nik) Vetrov. On the surface, Nik is a typical badass enforcer, intimidating and dangerous, on and off the ice. The only son of Ukrainian immigrants, Nik has been groomed from childhood to fulfill his father’s dreams of seeing him in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Igor guides his son toward that goal with a controlling—and abusive—hand, steering him clear of anyone who might ruin his chances.
Although Emory is the US National Figure Skating champion, he’s in-your-face gay, and his audacious persona rubs Nik and his family the wrong way. Raised by supportive and loving parents, Emory is Nik’s polar opposite in every way but one—his desire to succeed. Underneath the fluff and glitter beats the heart of a fierce competitor, and this side of Emory’s personality begins to close the distance between the two athletes.
While the attraction was one-sided in the beginning, Nik finds himself responding to Emory’s flirting. Before the incongruous pair have a chance at any sort of relationship, they must survive the pressures of career, separation, and most importantly, Igor’s ruthless homophobia.
Mickie B. Ashling is the alter-ego of a multifaceted woman raised by a single mother who preferred reading over other forms of entertainment. She found a kindred spirit in her oldest child and encouraged her with a steady supply of dog-eared paperbacks. Romance was the preferred genre, and historical romances topped her favorites list.
By the time Mickie discovered her own talent for writing, real life had intruded, and the business of earning a living and raising four sons took priority. With the advent of e-publishing and the inevitable emptying nest, dreams were resurrected, and the storyteller was reborn.
She stumbled into the world of men who love men in 2002 and continues to draw inspiration from their ongoing struggle to find equality and happiness in this oftentimes skewed and intolerant world. Her award-winning novels have been called "gut wrenching, daring, and thought provoking." She admits to being an angst queen and making her men work damn hard for their happy endings.
Mickie loves to travel and has lived in the Philippines, Spain, and the Middle East but currently resides in a suburb outside Chicago.
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