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Dax (E-Book)

Dax (E-Book)

Fake marriage, best friend's little sister

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My name is Dax Monahan and hockey is my passion. And if you want to succeed in this sport you have to bust your ass 24/7. I’ve never had a hard time focusing on my career, but when my past comes knocking, no amount of training can prepare me for what lies on the other side of the door.

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Regan Miles was always like a sister to me. When a shared tragedy brings us face to face after several years, I’m shocked to see just how much she’s changed. Gone is the shy, awkward little girl that always used to chase me and her brother around. Instead, I’m faced with a gorgeous woman who makes it damn hard to concentrate on anything but her.

Turns out, she’s in trouble, and the only way out is to get married.

I surprise myself when I tell her to marry me. Order her, actually. And most shocking of all, she doesn’t even hesitate before saying yes.

So it’s settled. We’re getting hitched and she’s moving to Arizona with me. All platonic, of course.

 

The catch?

I never knew I’d fall so hard for my best friend’s little sister.

Read Chapter One

Chapter 1

Dax

I ring the doorbell to Lance’s midtown Manhattan apartment, waiting for his sister to answer.

Regan Miles is six years younger than me—which makes her twenty-two—and I’ve known her for her entire life. Her brother, Lance, was my best friend for as long as I can remember. We lived in the same neighborhood, and our parents put us in the same recreation hockey league. We grew up together in the sport, all the way through major juniors. When we were sixteen, we both got accepted to the Detroit Bears, one of only eight American teams playing in the Canadian Hockey League.

We were together, always, until we both got drafted into the NHL. Lance went to the Vipers where he played his entire career. I went to the Toronto Blazers, then moved to the Vipers where I spent three years before being traded to my current team, the Arizona Vengeance.

Our friendship never suffered. We talked, texted, and visited when we could. In the summers, we hung out together. Just this past summer, Lance and I spent almost a month together down in Rio, taking advantage of the gorgeous beaches and even more beautiful Brazilian women.

I consider the woman Regan has become over the years. Lance hadn’t changed at all, yet I hardly recognized his sister when I flew to New York after he died.

The rattling of the chain on the other side has me bracing. When she swings the door open with a soft smile, I almost have to squint against her beauty. Sometime during the last few years when she was off in California getting her degree, she grew up.

Transformed actually.

The bombshell standing in front of me looks nothing like the gawky teenager Lance had to raise after their parents were killed in an automobile collision when she was fourteen.

My last clear memory of Regan, she had braces, acne, and was a few pounds overweight. She was shy and sweet, adoring her brother for all his sacrifices to keep her with him as he navigated the professional hockey world.

The woman before me isn’t the Regan Miles I remember.

This woman is a twenty on a scale of one to ten. Caramel-colored hair, lighter on the ends and styled in waves that hang over her shoulders and down her back. She’s sprouted several inches and developed in all the right places. The baby fat in her face has been replaced by sculpted cheekbones and arched eyebrows, framing the most beautiful set of green eyes I’ve ever seen.

She’s a fucking stranger, yet there’s an underlying truth she’s always felt like a sister to me.

She’s my only connection to Lance.

It’s why I’m here now. Because Lance is gone—killed in a common mugging—and there’s something wrong with Regan. I’m here to find out what that something is so I invited her for drinks. We had a game against the New York Phantoms tonight—which we won—and the plane isn’t leaving until early morning. I wanted to check in to see how Regan was doing because the few times we’ve talked since the funeral, I can just tell she’s struggling with something. I’ve tried to cajole it out of her, but she’s been stubbornly tight-lipped, insisting everything is okay.

“I’m just about ready,” she says as she turns her back on me and walks into the living room. It’s a punch to the gut to see it’s barren except for a handful of packed boxes I’m assuming contains the contents of Lance’s life, which he left to his sister. She has been staying in New York these past few weeks to handle estate matters and such.

“You got all his furniture sold?” I ask as she stops at the kitchen counter and picks up a pair of earrings.

Tilting her head to put one in, she replies, “Most of it. The rest I donated to a homeless shelter, along with all of his clothing.”

I wince. “I know that was hard.”

She nods, blinking back what I’m betting are tears as she puts the other earring in. “Rationally, I know it would be stupid to keep that stuff. I mean… what am I going to do with my brother’s underwear or t-shirts?”

“But inside, you feel like those are ties to your brother you don’t want to give up,” I surmise.

With another gentle smile, she nods. “That about sums up how the past few weeks have been. Feeling like I’m losing him over and over again as I scrub his life away from here.”

We stare at each other, and I try to swallow past the lump in my throat. My grief over losing Lance is still raw and painful. I can’t imagine what it’s like for her.

Regan’s bottom lip quivers and she sucks in a deep breath, letting it out with a nervous laugh. “Let’s talk about something else. I don’t want to ruin my makeup.”

I don’t laugh.

Instead, I hurry across the empty living room and pull her into my arms. She comes without resistance, tucking her face into the base of my neck as I tighten my embrace with one hand on her lower back, the other on the nape of her neck.

It’s too much for her, and she gives a little hiccup of a sob before she lets loose. She wept during the funeral but at all other times, she always had the stiff upper lip as she talked to person after person who came to pay their respects. She never lost it, and I felt that was wrong.

Not that she was doing anything wrong, but I don’t think she was ever given the opportunity to just pour out her emotion. She had to deal with funeral arrangements, burying her brother, and then sorting out all the loose ends that are left to tie up when someone dies.

Regan bends her head so her face is now pressed into my chest. I can feel the heat of her tears soaking into the fabric of my shirt. Tightening my hold, I start to rock back and forth, not saying a word so I don’t interrupt the catharsis of her grief.

When she starts to quiet, I pull away slightly to see her. The black streaks of mascara under her eyes and extending down to the tops of her cheeks make her appear even more frail and vulnerable.

I give her a smile, hoping to get one back. Wanting her to acknowledge that was good and freeing to some extent—the security of a good old-fashioned emotional cry.

Instead, she worries at her bottom lip as she tries to wipe the blackness out from under her eyes. It’s only a flash, but I see she’s incredibly troubled about something. It’s gone just as quickly when she shoots me an overly bright smile, which appears forced and painful.

“What is it, Regan?” I ask as my fingers come under her chin to make her look at me. “Something’s wrong, and I want to know—”

“It’s nothing,” she says in a tone so automatic and programmed it’s obvious the truth is the exact opposite.

“Regan… it’s me. You’ve known me your entire life. You know what Lance meant to me. I swear to God whatever is wrong, I’ll help you fix it. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help.”

“Honestly,” she replies as she tries to make her smile bigger in an attempt to throw me off. “Everything’s fine. I’m just tired and ready to get home.”

Home for Regan is southern California where she stayed after graduating from college to be a nurse. Lance didn’t like her being clear across the country since it impeded his ability to visit with her during the small pockets of time he might have available during the regular season.

But Regan had apparently gone from shy to incredibly independent in the years since I’d seen her. By Lance’s account, she was loving her life there.

“You don’t have to be so strong all the time,” I say, hoping it will help to break through her stubborn refusal to share what has her worried.

Her lower lip quivers ever so slightly, but she keeps her smile in place. “I’m fine, Dax.”

“You’re not,” I retort, absolutely positive she’s lying.

Regan’s lips press into a flat line, her eyes hardening. She’s shut herself down and erected a wall, and I consider what new tack I should take to break through.

An insanely irrational thought bursts with vivid color in my mind. It’s of me grabbing her by the shoulders, hauling her into me, and kissing the hell out of her.

I shake my head, blink, and refocus. We engage in a staring war but given I’m more stubborn than Regan could ever hope to be, I shore my resolve.

Whether she senses it or not, I’ll probably never know, but to my incredible surprise, her face crumbles and she practically wails, “Oh, God… Dax. Everything is wrong. Lance ran up a ton of debt, and I have creditors pouring out of the woodwork demanding payment. Lance’s accounts are empty, and he didn’t have any life insurance. I have no clue—”

“What do you mean he didn’t have life insurance?” I cut in.

“I called,” she says as a tear escapes and slides down her cheek. She dashes it away. “It had been canceled.”

I mutter as I scan helplessly around for the answer to all her problems. It’s not within the packed boxes, which is all that’s left of Lance. When I look back to her, I say, “That’s not on you though, Regan. You’re not responsible for his debts.”

“I know,” she says without equivocation. “It’s just… of course I know that.”

I watch her with a critical eye, evaluating her last words. She knows Lance’s problems aren’t hers now. Yet… something is still weighing on her. I can actually feel it radiating off her.

“What else is wrong?” I ask, crossing my arms over my chest. It’s a move to show her I’m not budging until she lays it all out.

She opens her mouth, and I sense the denial. I shake my head. “Don’t think to lie to me. Spill it.”

For a moment, she stares with blank eyes before her shoulders sag. Regan blows out a frustrated breath, brushing her hair away from her face.

“One of the reasons he was in debt is because of me,” she admits in a low voice that’s not quite shameful. More like resigned.

“You?” I ask, my brows knitting in confusion.

She nods, smiling sadly. “I’ve been sick, and he’s been helping with my expenses.”

“Sick?” I ask, because how sick does someone have to be to drive a person into debt? Especially someone who makes bank the way Lance did. And for that matter… “Don’t you have health insurance?”

“I was still on Lance’s,” she replies. “At my age, I qualified as his dependent, especially since I was starting my master’s program. But now that he’s dead…”

I blink in surprise. I hadn’t known she was going back to school, and I also didn’t know she was sick.

How the fuck had I not known that?

“Lance never said anything,” I mutter.

Her smile turns understanding. “That was at my request. I didn’t want anyone to know.”

“Know what?” I ask, feeling an impending sense of doom. “What exactly is wrong with you?”

Her gaze drifts around the empty apartment before coming to me. “A few years ago, I wasn’t feeling well. Tired, shortness of breath. Nothing huge but going on long enough I went to the doctor. Lots of tests later, I was diagnosed with a condition known as paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria.”

“What?” I ask, not only feeling lost over that mouthful of words, but also feeling suddenly helpless on her behalf for some reason.

The corners of her lips tip upward. “PNH is a lot easier. But it’s a disease that destroys my red blood cells.”

“Is it serious?” For a brief moment, I want to kill Lance all over again for not sharing this with me.

Regan’s chin lifts, her eyes shimmering with bravery. “It can be. But there’s a medication that helps.”

“And let me guess,” I say dryly. “It’s incredibly expensive.”

“It costs the average PNH patient over four hundred thousand dollars per year,” she says simply.

“Holy fuck,” I exclaim. “Who can afford that?”

“Insurance covers some of it, but my out-of-pocket expenses are pretty substantial.”

And it’s clear why she’s so distressed. “And now Lance is dead, your insurance is gone, and you don’t have the funds to pay for it.”

Rather than affirm what I just said, she backpedals and gives another super bright, overly fake smile. “But that’s not your problem. I’m sure I’ll figure things out. That’s why I didn’t want anyone to know, so—”

“Are your bags packed?” I ask, cutting her words off.

Her brow furrows. “Excuse me?”

“You said you were flying back to California tomorrow, right?”

“Right,” she agrees slowly.

“Change of plans,” I advise her. “You’re coming back to Phoenix with me.”

“What?” she exclaims in shock. “Are you crazy?”

“Not at all. You’re coming back with me, and we’re getting married. You’ll have my insurance coverage, and I’ll pay the out-of-pocket expenses.”

“You’re nuts,” she sputters.

“And you’re going to be my wife.”

“I’m not,” she hisses.

“You are,” I say confidently. “Mark my words.”

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Product Release Date: July 9, 2019

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