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Hot TicketHot Ticket

Book Five of the New York Blades series
Berkley Trade
0425209784

USA Today bestselling authors present four all-new stories of sports hunks and ladies who love to play.

Deirdre Martin's Same Rink, Next Year has a sexy concierge hooking up with the same gorgeous hockey player every year. Uncomplicated? Not when love enters the picture.

Julia London's Lucky Charm listens in on an uninhibited radio host who goes head-to-head with a hot-shot shortstop-on-the-air and off.

Annette Blair's You Can't Steal First follows a Red Sox star player who's interested in a sexy sporting-goods magnate. But first he has to prove he's not just playing the field.

Geri Buckley's Can't Catch This spies on an adventurous female football fan who discovers that the hottest action is in the stands.



Excerpt

FRIDAY, 3:10pm

For most Chicagoans, January meant three things: biting cold, bitter winds, and howling snow. But for Tierney O'Connor, concierge at the Bar-chester, a four star hotel on Chicago's Miracle Mile, January meant just one thing: earth shaking, catapulting-out-of-your-body sex with David Hewson, goaltender of the Buffalo Herd.

The Herd came to town once a year, and they always stayed at the Barchester. For three years running, Tierney and David had enjoyed a one night, no strings attached tryst. The arrangements were always the same. David would slip her his key before the team headed to the United Center to play. When Tierney got off work at eleven, she would go to his room and wait for him. David would show up shortly afterwards, and that's when the fire-works would begin, lasting until the wee hours. The next day, David and the team would fly out for their next game, and Tierney would go home. The only person at the hotel who knew about this annual carnal rendezvous was Aggie Mullen, the hotel's head chef and Tierney's friend.

Standing behind the concierge's desk in her crisp black suit, her long brown hair pulled back in a tight, sleek ponytail with a face inviting and open, Tierney knew she was a model of friendly efficiency. That is, until the Herd began sauntering through the door, their boisterous voices turning heads. The minute Tierney's eyes found David's, she could feel her profes-sionalism beginning to wane as sheer animal lust took over. She wanted to push David down on the lobby's Persian carpet and have her way with him behind the potted palms. She could tell by the way he was looking at her that he was thinking the same thing. David's smile, heart stopping even when it was merely friendly, was slow and sexy. His smoky grey eyes, ever watchful from years behind the goalie's mask, grew hooded and mysterious. Desperate for a diversion, Tierney was glad when a fur clad, middle aged couple planted themselves in front of her, wanting to know if the Art Institute was within walking distance.

"It is," Tierney said brightly, handing them a small, complimentary map which she used to point out to them the best route to get there.

"You want to walk?" the husband groused to his wife. "It's snowing. Not to mention the fact it's ten degrees out there."

"A little exercise wouldn't kill you," the wife shot back.

Tierney glanced away. She couldn't count all the times couples bick-ered in front of her. But the wife was right: the man was so big he looked like a grizzly bear in his fur coat.

"We're taking a cab," the husband declared. His eyes flicked back to Tierney. "Can you call us a cab?"

Tierney smiled again. She loved her job, but sometimes, at the end of the day, her face ached. "There should be some cabs waiting right outside the hotel, sir. If there aren't, the doorman will hail one for you."

"Thank you." Without waiting for his wife, he began barreling towards the door.

The woman shot Tierney a long suffering look as she pulled her gloves on. "Thank you."

"My pleasure."

Tierney turned to watch them walk away, proud to have been of assis-tance. She loved being able to direct the hotel's guests towards the best her adopted city had to offer. Chicago had energy, culture, soul — which is why she'd fled Nebraska for the windy city the first chance she got. As a child she'd dreamed of living in a place where there were always new things to do and explore, a place where she'd be able to reinvent herself. That she'd been able to make her dreams come true was a constant source of pleasure as well as pride.

"They looked happy — not."

Tierney jolted at the sound of David's voice, amazed at his ability to sneak on her. "Hey, you," she said quietly. "How was your flight from Buf-falo?"

"Scary," he replied with a small look of concern. "A lot of turbulence. Some of the guys actually looked green around the gills."

"They're saying we might get a foot of snow overnight." It had been a year since Tierney had seen him, but it felt like just yesterday. She didn't want to think about how many times over the past twelve months her thoughts had strayed to him as she wondered what he was doing at that pre-cise moment. But they'd agreed at the outset to keep things simple: The less they knew about each other's personal lives, the better.

"A foot of snow, huh?" David's eyes caressed hers. "Good cuddling weather if you ask me." Tierney, afraid that every unholy thought she was having could be read on her face, looked at her watch.

Room 334," David said under his breath. "I'll bring the key down when I leave for the game."

"Gotcha."

He reached out, discreetly squeezing her hand. "You look gorgeous, by the way."

Tierney raised her eyes back to his, unable to hide her pleasure. "You say that every year."

"That's because it's true every year." David glanced over his shoulder at his waiting teammates, standing in a clump in front of the bank of eleva-tors. "I should get going. I need to rest up before the game."

"Think you'll win?"

David flashed a confident smile. "We always do."

"Hey, watch it," Tierney warned, pointing a finger at him. "That's my team you're dissing."

"Spoken like a true Chicago girl."

Tierney swallowed, nervous of telling him the truth. She liked that he thought she was from the city.

"Yo. Hewson!" a voice called out from in front of the elevators. "C'mon!"

"Hold up!" David called back. He winked at Tierney. "See you later. Can't wait."

Tierney blushed. "Me, neither."

 

FRIDAY, 7:40pm

Never fond of pre game warm ups, David especially hated them when the Herd were the visiting team. Not only was he was acutely aware of bad vibes being beamed his way by the home team's fans, but he couldn't perform his powerful home ice rituals. Back in Buffalo, he knew the only thing coming between him and certain failure was the order in which he laced up his skates (left then right) and the number of times he circled the net (four times clockwise, four times counterclockwise) before standing in goal. His team-mates never ribbed him about his eccentricities. All hockey players were su-perstitious, goalies most of all. You'd have be a bit crazy to stand there night after night and let people shoot pucks at your head.

Fighting to focus, David performed his less powerful away game rituals — four splits followed by swinging his stick back and forth on the ice eleven times, the number of letters in his name-before standing in net for a drill, demonstrating to his teammates they had nothing to worry about. Kick save? No problemo. Blocker save? Puh-lease. High to the glove side? In his sleep, baby. As the drill dragged on, cockiness gave way to boredom and he found himself daydreaming about Tierney, and all the things he planned to do to her when he got back to the hotel. Usually he was able to keep thoughts of her at bay until after the game. But tonight, he couldn't. Desire built from a whisper to a scream as he pictured himself slowly peeling off Tierney's blazer to get at the pristine white blouse below, the tiny pearl buttons like—

"Hey, Hewson! Wake up!"

David blinked at the sound of his coach's voice, mortified to see that he'd been so deep inside his own head he'd let one in through the five hole. His teammates peered at him questioningly; it wasn't like him to let a puck through his pads. Skating out of net, David approached Coach Kernan, whose scowl could reduce grown men to babbling idiots.

"What the hell just happened there?" Kernan demanded.

"Sorry," David apologized. "I lost focus for a moment."

"You lost focus? What kind of shit is that?"

David pushed his mask up onto his head so the coach could see his face. "It won't happen again."

Kernan poked him in the chest-a wasted gesture, since David couldn't feel a thing through his padding. "You're goddamn right it won't happen again. Because if it does…"

Kernan let the threat hang there. David nodded curtly, pulling his goalie mask down over his face. "I hear you."

"Do you?"

"Yeah."

"Then get your ass back in goal and keep your eye on the little birdy, okay? This is one team we can't afford to lose to."

Throwing another scowl over his shoulder for good measure, Kernan shuffled back to the bench, and David returned to goal, annoyed at himself for thinking about Tierney and screwing up his concentration. Usually, he thought about her when he was alone. A few times he even caught himself talking to her in his mind, and was tempted to look up her home number and call her. But he held back, knowing it was a violation of the ground rules they'd so carefully laid down from the beginning.

He needed a ritual for banishing Tierney from his thoughts. Closing his eyes, he imagined the Herd decimating the Chicago team as he shifted side to side three times — one for each year of their arrangement. When he opened his eyes, he was ready to play.

 

FRIDAY, 11:06 pm

Her shift over, Tierney decided to stop by the kitchen to see Aggie be-fore heading upstairs to David's room. Unlike most chefs, who tended to be temperamental or dramatic, Aggie was unusually centered and calm — unless, of course, there was some major screw up in the kitchen, in which case she'd threaten to quit. She never did; like Tierney, she loved her job, pressure and all.

"I thought you might stop by," said Aggie as Tierney pulled up a stool to sit at one of the long, stainless steel tables at center of the kitchen. Though room service was available to guests twenty four hours a day, orders were few the later the night wore on. Aggie, whose primary responsibilities were din-ner at the hotel's plush restaurant and handling all the hotel's catered af-fairs, had already handed over the culinary reins to the night staff.

She pushed a piece of chocolate ganache towards Tierney. "I saved this for you."

"Chocolate and sex in the same night, " Tierney joked, her stomach growling as she dug in. "I'm going to get spoiled."

"Speaking of your boy toy and his teammates, they all ordered steak earlier," Aggie revealed. "I bet if I threw a piece of raw meat in the middle of the room, they'd fight for it like wolves."

"Not a scene I'd like witness." She gazed sympathetically at Aggie as her friend yawned loudly, rubbing her eyes. "Tired?"

"Exhausted. Besides the Herd, we've got some pain in the ass, British rock star and his entourage staying here. About two hours ago, they called down to order — get this — deep fried Mars Bars. When I had Room Service tell him Mars Bars were hard to find but we could do Snickers bars, he freaked out and threatened to jump out the window."

Tierney lowered her fork. "What did you do?"

"What do you think I did? I told Room Service to tell him 'Have a nice fall.' They didn't, of course. But I wish they had."

"You're bad," Tierney chided.

"Hey. You know me: I aim to please. But I've got not patience for that kind of prima donna bullshit, you know?" Removing her chef's hat, Aggie smoothed back her short blonde hair. "As if that wasn't bad enough, we've got fifteen guys in from Bangalore for some trade show down at McCormick Place. All vegetarians. And I've got the Mykofsky wedding on Sunday." Ag-gie's shoulder's sagged. "Just shoot me now, okay?"

"Oh, c'mon. You love it."

Aggie smiled sheepishly. "I do." She stifled another yawn. "I'm going to crash at the hotel tonight so I can start getting organized for the wedding bright and early tomorrow." Like Tierney, Aggie was unattached and had no one to go home to. "The Herd lost, you know. I heard it on the radio."

Tierney went wide eyed. "They did?" She couldn't believe it. They'd routed Chicago the past three years.

Aggie relieved Tierney of her fork, stealing a bite of ganache. "Ever think of getting a real boyfriend? You know, the kind you can spend quality time with the other 364 days of the year?"

"I've tried," Tierney insisted defensively. "I haven't met anyone I really like."

Which was true. Thanks to her job, Tierney had met and dated lots of men. Many were good looking and most were rich: high powered businessmen used to having women fall at their feet when they'd casually slip their income into the conversation. But Tierney was unimpressed. She preferred substance over income, and humor over materialism. Maybe it was her rural origins; all she knew was that she'd yet to meet a man who cared more about having a real relationship than showing off his Rolex.

Aggie changed the subject. "You staying all night with hockey boy?"

"I usually do."

"Don't let Nugent catch you when you creep out of his room in the early morning hours."

"He won't."

"He might. The guy lives in the hotel, you know."

Nugent was Willy Nugent, the hotel's new manager, brought in from New York when the last manager left for a more lucrative gig in Los Angeles. Aggie hated him. A neurotic micromanager, Nugent had a tendency to stick his nose "where it didn't belong", which to Aggie meant her kitchen. But Tierney got along with him just fine.

"If I bump into him, I'll just say I stayed overnight because of the snow."

Aggie sighed. "You ain't kidding. They're saying—"

"—that we could get up to a foot of snow overnight," Tierney finished for her. One of the things she'd learned was that, like farmers, all Chicagoans were weather forecasters. In Nebraska, everyone worried about summer corn. In Chicago, it was winter snow.

Aggie shook her head. "It's enough to make me pack up and move to Key West." She patted Tierney's shoulder affectionately as she moved past her to take leave of the kitchen. "Have fun," she purred.

"I'll try," Tierney promised, finishing the last bite of cake. She smiled to herself. When it came to David Hewson, fun was a given.

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