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Drake (E-Book)

Drake (E-Book)

The single dad goalie scores the billionaire team owner in this forbidden hockey romance

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Drake McGinn turned his back on hockey after the league betrayed him. Will the Titans be his chance to clear his name and take back the career he once loved?

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After I made the decision to divorce, my ex-wife set out on a smear campaign against me, telling anyone who would listen that I was betting on hockey and throwing games. It wasn’t surprising that my ex told the lies, but the fact that the media, league, and fans chose to believe her baseless claims was unforgivable. I walked away from it all and never looked back.

Having settled into life as a single dad to three boys, I’m content. I have more money than I could ever need, and plenty of time to do whatever I want, whenever I want, and whoever I want. So when Brienne Norcross, the team owner for the Pittsburgh Titans, shows up at my house with a job offer, I have no problem turning her down. But the no-nonsense billionaire, with sinfully seductive red lips and killer heels that would look hot as hell thrown over my shoulders, won’t take “no” for an answer.

Now I need to find balance between hockey, my boys, and the explosive chemistry Brienne and I can no longer deny. A cast-off hockey player and the league’s only female team owner? I can think of a million reasons why it could never work but can’t bring myself to care about a single one of them. Game on.

Read Chapter One

Brienne

In all my years of advocation in boardrooms, or getting pleasured in bed, I’ve never implored anyone for anything. I might have said please when it was warranted for politeness or because it turned on my lover, but I’ve never needed something so bad and so far out of reach that I had to beg for it.

I know how to distinguish between wants and needs, and I ignore wants because I’m strong.

If it’s a need, I know how to bargain my way to success because I’m smart.

But right now, I’m desperate, and negotiations aren’t working.

Setting aside the acquisition proposal because I can’t concentrate, I glance up for an appreciative look at the verdant grasses and summer trees punctuated by the corn and soybean crops of southeastern Minnesota.
It took us roughly an hour to get here from the Minneapolis airport, but I barely noticed, as I had work to do.

“About five more minutes,” the driver says as we get closer to the small town of Red Wing.

“Thank you,” I reply, letting my gaze wander over the scenery.

The Town Car my assistant scheduled isn’t a luxury but a necessity. It’s true, I don’t have a driver’s license, but I use a driver purely because there’s never enough time in the day to do all I have to do, and thus I work whenever I can. There’s not a time when I don’t have something major pressing on me. Outside of the four to five hours of sleep I get a night, I’m pretty much nose to the grindstone. I never had enough hours in the day to meet all my obligations before the Titans’ plane crashed, and now the added responsibility of team ownership has stretched me thinner than ever. Thank God for our general manager, Callum Derringer, who’s patiently guided me through the pains of learning how to be a good owner for this hockey team.

I really should use these remaining five minutes to get through the rest of the contract to purchase a small-town bank chain based out of Altoona. As the CEO of Norcross Holdings, the board will look to me for guidance on this matter. Is this a good deal or should we leave it alone? It’s only one of dozens of major decisions I have to facilitate for my family’s empire.

Although family isn’t quite the right word.

It’s been my empire since my father died two years ago and my brother died in the crash a little over five months ago. I’m the designated Norcross heir left to lead our dynasty. It’s a multibillion-dollar legacy stemming from investments dating back to the early 1800s in coal, steel, oil, and real estate. Modern times led my family to establish Norcross Bank, which is now a national institution, and of course, we own the Pittsburgh Titans.
There are aunts and uncles and cousins galore, but none are qualified to sit in the CEO chair. My father groomed me to run Norcross Holdings, as my brother Adam really only cared about cultivating the Titans’ hockey team. Family members sit on the board and hold positions throughout the multitude of companies that fall under the main umbrella, but I’m the one who manages it all.

A pang of longing hits for Adam, followed by the cold hollowing-out in my chest that I’ve truthfully recognized as loneliness. While I am never alone—surrounded by business peers, acquaintances, some I’d call casual friends—I’m lonelier than anyone could imagine.

Adam and I were close and losing him sliced deep. He was the rock-solid, steady shoulder I could always rest a weary head on. He was kind, loving, generous to a fault, and the kind of man who was going to make some woman incredibly happy one day. He wanted nothing more than to find the future Mrs. Adam Norcross and have lots of kids.

It makes me sad he never found that before he died.
While Adam was a hard worker and put his heart and soul into the Titans, he was always able to disconnect at day’s end. It’s why I know he would have made an amazing father and devoted husband, because kids and a wife would have been his priority.

Not me.

It’s virtually impossible for me to settle, and I have way too many responsibilities to take on anything else. I’m away from home by five a.m. every morning to hit the gym, and I’m in the office by seven. From there, it’s nonstop work, which often blows right through lunch and ends up in a business dinner of some sort. When I get home, it’s more work while I lie in bed with my laptop propped on a pillow, and if I’m lucky, I can squeak in fifteen minutes of pleasure reading. Usually, I fall asleep with my glasses perched on my nose and my digital reader sliding to the floor.

I repeat this seven days a week, and I haven’t had a vacation in years. While I’ll indulge in the occasional massage to alleviate knots in my shoulders and neck from stress and long workdays, the only other respite I have is Clay Bessel. He’s a brilliant neurosurgeon who is as busy and driven as I am. We are friends with benefits. Sometimes that means he’ll be my date to a charity gala, and sometimes it means he’ll fuck my brains out if our schedules align.

I’d like to say we’re good together, but we’re not really together. Just two people who serve a particular purpose and happen to like each other’s company when we can fit it in.

My phone dings, nabbing my attention from a large dairy farm we pass. It’s Callum. Just got off the phone with Coen Highsmith. He’s coming back. He’d like to talk to you, though.

I exhale harshly, relief slumping my shoulders. Coen is an original member of the Titans and wasn’t on the plane when it went down—he was sidelined with the flu and therefore didn’t travel with the team.

One of the Lucky Three.

While I was successful in putting together a team to get right back on the ice, Coen wasn’t part of that success. He was mired in darkness—my guess is survivor’s guilt—and repetitively sabotaged his career with horrible mistakes.

It cost him the season after he was suspended for attacking a ref, and when I last saw him in April, he’d told me he was quitting hockey. It’s been heavy on my mind how we could get him turned around. Whatever did it, I’m eternally grateful.

I shoot Callum a quick reply. Best news I’ve heard in a while. Fingers crossed I’ll have more by day’s end. I’ll call him later.

Callum gives me a thumbs-up emoji, and I drop my phone on the leather seat.

The car slows and the driver hangs a left into the entrance of a neighborhood called Shadow Creek Estates.

Estate might be a bit of a stretch for the homes in here—they can’t be more than two to three thousand square feet and don’t appear to be more than a few years old, if the young trees dotting the yards and bordering the sidewalks are any indication. It’s a beautiful community, though. The landscaping is neatly manicured with pretty flower beds and ornate light posts on every corner.

I wonder if coming here was a mistake. This could end up being a colossal waste of my time, but I’m not one who easily gives up.

This is an absolute last-ditch effort.

The driver hangs another left and proceeds down a street with a dead-end sign. He follows it until the roadway stops and a cornfield starts. On the right is a lovely craftsman home in dark gray with white trim and rough-cut wooden beams along the veranda porch. Both doors on the double-car garage are closed, but a large motorcycle sits in the driveway.

“No need to get out,” I tell the driver. “If you can just wait here for me.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he replies as I open the door.

Stepping out, I smooth down the jacket of the pantsuit I’d chosen to travel in today. It’s ice-blue with a mandarin collar and slim pants of the same shade that come just above my ankle. My cream-colored Stuart Weitzmans are four inches, and some would consider them hazardous to work in all day. But I can run in these things, plus I like that the heel gives my five-seven height a boost. It provides a benefit when working in a male-dominated environment to be seen as strong, and sometimes that’s merely the illusion of being tall.

The motorcycle is a Harley, or so says the logo on the gas tank. I’m wondering if he has a visitor and if I’m intruding.

Not that it would stop me. I’m on a mission that’s incredibly important to the future of the Titans’ hockey team.

I start up the sidewalk, my heels clicking on the sun-warmed concrete. I make it no more than three steps before the front door opens and Drake McGinn walks out.

Physically imposing at a whopping six six, no man has a right to look so dangerous and sinfully sexy at the same time. I’m usually into clean-cut, freshly-shaven men. Clay has perfectly styled hair, ageless skin due to his religious use of vanity products, and the lean body of a runner. His hands are perfectly manicured and dexterous since he operates on brains and spinal cords for a living.

Drake McGinn looks like he just stepped off the stage of a dive bar after playing heavy metal all night. He’s covered in tattoos, and his beard, while neatly trimmed, is thick and not just a few days away from a razor. His blond hair is carelessly pulled back into a ponytail a few inches in length. Left unbound, my guess is it would fall just to his shoulders. Strands have loosened from the binding, framing a face that’s near perfect with a strong jawline, sensuous lips, and blue eyes that look like glacial ice as the sun hits them.

And those shoulders. They’re a broad, solid mass to his large frame, but in the net, he’s as light as a feather on his skates and as limber as a prima ballerina. His size makes it incredibly difficult to sneak a puck past him, and his agility and speed mean that any tiny hole he might leave uncovered can be shut off with ease.

He’s an exceptional athlete, or so I’ve discovered as I learn more and more about this sport.

It’s confounding to me that while I prefer my men in expensive suits, or just naked, I have to admit his well-worn jeans, fitted gray T-shirt, and heavy biker boots complete a package that would have most women falling at his feet.

I’m not most women, however.

His gaze lands on me, and his mouth parts in surprise before flattening in disdain. He barely spares me a glance before heading straight to his motorcycle, although he mutters as he passes by, “What are you doing here?”

“I’d like to talk,” I reply as I follow him.

“If it’s about the repetitive offers you keep throwing my way, the answer is still no.”

Yes, Callum has been working with Drake’s agent to get him back to the table, but he’s proved to be a very frustrating man. He simply doesn’t want to play for us, and that makes negotiations incredibly difficult.

“I’d still like to be heard,” I say as I watch him open a saddlebag on the side of the bike. He does nothing more than riffle through it before buckling it closed again.

“Don’t have time,” he says, lifting the helmet from where it hangs by its strap on the handlebar. “Have to be somewhere.”

“Where?” I ask, moving closer to him. “Maybe I could meet you after. Take you to dinner?”

Drake swings a long leg over the bike and sits. His jeans pull tight across his thighs, and I force myself to look upward. He dons his helmet and adjusts the chin strap. “I’m going down the road to have a beer.”

I bite my tongue because that’s not somewhere important. Not when the owner of a hockey team has flown in to meet with you.

Reaching out, I put my hand on his arm, and damn… those muscles under warm, tattooed skin are way too appealing. “Give me five minutes.”

“Not interested.”

Straightening the bike, he flips the kickstand back, and I notice once again how his hot-as-hell straddle over the beast of a machine tightens his jeans across his pelvis. I can’t help but look.

When my eyes slide up, he’s staring at me intently, and I’m powerless to look away.

His eyes narrow slightly, but there’s an underlying current of something hellish within those cold depths. “You’re checking me out.”

My hand falls away from his arm, and I step back. “I’m not.”

“You are.” He leans forward, props an elbow on the handlebar, and checks out my body with agonizing slowness. “You’re not very subtle about it either. You know, if you want to try to work out a deal with me, maybe we could go inside and negotiate further.”

The offer is crude, and God help me, causes my skin to flush. But I’m here on business. “Sorry, but I’ll pass. I have a boy toy at home if I need to scratch an itch.”

Drake’s head falls back and he laughs. His teeth are perfect, gleaming white. “A boy toy to scratch an itch? Jesus, lady, that’s pathetic.”

“What?” I exclaim, because it’s not that he insulted Clay, but he’s insulted my way of being.

An empowered woman who has sex when and how she wants it.

Also… he just called me lady, which is beyond disrespectful.

“I’m not a boy, and I’m not a toy,” he says with a smirk. “I’m the big leagues, and I don’t scratch itches. I create them, then soothe them, then create them all over again. I’m the type of man who would make you beg.”

I blink at him, stunned he’s talking to me so brashly, but I’m savvy enough to know he’s doing it on purpose to get a rise out of me.

His mouth curls into a wry grin. “Kind of like the way you’re here now to beg me to be your goalie.”

I’m absolutely speechless, and his smile peels back into a delighted sneer that he’s rendered me so.

Drake starts the engine and it bellows, filling the air with such a guttural burst of noise, I scramble backward.

Without another glance at me, he backs the bike out of the driveway. It emits a deafening roar as he pulls away.

I’m only befuddled for a moment when my business acumen kicks in. He’s not the first difficult man I’ve dealt with when trying to make a deal, and he won’t be the last.

He doesn’t intimidate me in the slightest, and now that I know what I’m dealing with, I will change tactics.

Like I said, I can run in these heels, and I do so now, flinging myself into the back seat of the Town Car. “Follow that motorcycle.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the driver says, and we take off.

Drake doesn’t speed but seems to like a leisurely pace through the countryside. As such, it’s not long before we catch up to him, and I see him in the distance, pulling off the road.

When we pull up, I take in the low-slung, cinder block building with peeling white paint. A dilapidated, crooked sign reads Duke’s Bar, and it’s exactly the kind of place I’d expect Drake to hang out. He’s already inside, helmet propped on his seat, another dozen bikes lined up in the parking lot.

“Do you want me to stop?” My driver is dubious, and I am too.

“Yes, please.”

It’s with head held high that I step inside the bar, and it takes a few seconds for my eyes to adjust to the dimness. There are no windows, and the walls are covered with dark paneling. The only illumination is from neon beer signs and lights over three pool tables.

There’s no place on this earth I could be more out of my element. Duke’s is a dump with a sticky floor and the stale, musty smell of sweat and beer.

Every head turns my way, and a glance around the bar tells me I might not be all that safe here. Grizzled-looking men with leather vests eye me like I’m a piece of candy.
A foreign, exotic candy, but sweet all the same.

Scantily dressed women with heavy makeup look like they want to kill me as I present a temptation they can’t offer with my fine clothes and confident bearing.

No matter… I’m Brienne Norcross, and I’ve stared down scarier foes in the boardroom.

I spy Drake at the end of the bar just as a young woman with a tight tank and flirty smile slides a beer in front of him. She’s pretty, braless, as evidenced by her nipples poking against the thin fabric, and I’m betting the type who doesn’t have one boy toy, but multiple.

Not that I think there’s anything wrong with that—more power to her—but I need Drake’s attention right now.
I march up to the bar and take the stool next to his. He doesn’t need to crane his neck to see me as he’s watching me through the mirrored wall behind the bar.

The bartender looks toward me, eyebrow cocked in suspicion, as if I had inadvertently wandered in off the street. “Can I help you with something?”

“Yes,” I say with an engaging smile. “I’ll pay for his beer, and I’ll have a glass of wine. What do you have?”

The woman snorts, and Drake chuckles.
“What’s the joke?”

“We don’t have wine,” she replies. “We have beer on tap and beer in a bottle. We’re not fancy here.”

My face flushes and I nod toward the taps. “Whatever he’s having.”

I let it remain silent between us until the woman returns with my beer and I give her a fifty. “Keep the change.”

She ogles the green in her hand before breathing, “Thank you.”

When she moves away, I angle toward Drake. “Is this how you spend your days? Drinking?”

“I’m having one beer.” His tone is unbothered. “That’s all I’ll drink when I’m driving, particularly on the bike.”

“Where are your kids?”

“They spend Saturdays with their grammie.”

“Your mom?” I ask, surprised he’s offering conversation.

“She’s the only one they got,” he replies irritably.

I pick up the mug and sip. The beer is awful, but I swallow. “You have other family in the area?”

Drake turns to me. “Just tell me why you’re here and the terms of your offer, so I can tell you no and you can leave me in peace.”

I hear it in his tone and see it in the iciness of his expression slicing through me. His patience is gone.

“I owe you an apology. A really big apology.”

It’s true.

During our first meeting in Pittsburgh when we invited him to talk, I said something heinously offensive, and it’s not something I’m proud of. He was there for us to gauge mutual interest, and I asked him about his kids, as I knew he was a single dad, specifically how he planned to take care of them since he would be traveling so much. It was about as sexist a remark as one could make, highly inappropriate to ask in a work setting, and I was a complete dumbass.

While Drake had already come in itching for a fight because of the way he’d been treated by the league in the past, it enraged him, and he’d basically told me to go fuck myself.

“It was an awful question,” I continue. “Completely inappropriate, and had you asked me the same question, I would’ve slapped you. I can only ask that you give me a little grace, as I was quite discombobulated following the crash and didn’t know what I was doing half the time. It was wrong, and I promise you, that’s not who I am.”

Drake doesn’t say anything but faces forward and studies his beer.

“I think you came into that meeting angry because of the way the league abandoned you. Betrayed you, really. And I think because I’m the owner, and I did something admittedly stupid, it was very easy to walk away from it all. So again, I apologize. I wanted to be a better representation of what this league could be for you. You were judged unfairly, and harshly—”

“What could you possibly know about it?” he snaps, turning my way.

“I know the gist of what happened.”

And what happened was a travesty. His wife—well, ex-wife now—accused him of gambling on his own team, and he was eventually blackballed from the league. This all happened while he was recuperating from knee surgery, and by the time he recovered and was ready to return, the Buffalo Wolves didn’t want him anymore. Nothing had ever been proven, but everyone chose to believe the worst. Even after an investigation exonerated him, no one wanted to be tainted by the scandal.

Our goalie coach, Baden Oulett, vouches for Drake. He’s a personal friend and apparently these stories were fabricated by Drake’s ex-wife as he was battling for sole custody of their kids. Sole custody was a necessity because his wife was addicted to drugs.

Ultimately, the courts decided that Drake was not only a fit parent but the best parent and awarded him sole custody. The kids’ mother was granted very limited visitation rights. That pretty much confirmed her allegations were false, but no one in the league has shown interest in him since.

I’m interested, though.

We made him a good offer, but he’s rightfully jaded. No one gave him the benefit of the doubt when the accusations landed, and the media was ruthless in their pursuit to shape it into a sordid story of drug abuse and gambling.

No one was interested in a single dad being set up by a vindictive woman.

By the time it died down, Drake had left the league in bitter disappointment due to the way he was treated, and he never looked back.

Until the Titans came calling, and I said some stupid things that caused him to flip us the proverbial middle finger and retreat back to his life in the Minnesota burbs where he’s raising his three boys.

“Please reconsider our offer.” I push my beer aside, leaning an elbow on the bar to face him. He gives me the courtesy of his attention. “I know you’re angry at what’s happened to you, but what better way to get back at them? To show everyone you’re still at the top of your game, and better yet, you have a team that believes in you one million percent. Join the Titans and make everyone who ever doubted you choke on it.”

“You don’t believe the allegations against me?” His expression is dubious.

“I’ve never, ever been one to believe rumors. I believe in things I can see and what I have proof of. Besides that, Baden vouched for you, and I trust him implicitly.”

He regards me before turning back to his beer. He picks it up, takes a long pull.

“We need you, Drake. Our team could be great, but we need a solid goalie.”

His laugh is mirthless. “You’re scraping the bottom of the barrel for a solid goalie. There are a lot more secure choices out there.”

“That’s disappointing,” I say quietly, and he glares at me. “You’re a cocky son of a bitch. I’d expect a man like you to know your value as a player, and you know damn well anyone who gets you isn’t scraping the bottom of the barrel.”

“The offers haven’t exactly been rolling in,” he grumbles.

“One offer has,” I retort. “And it’s a damn good one. We’re offering you money commensurate with a top-tier netminder. So leave the pity party behind. You’re being handed a chance that few get. It’s on the table for another forty-eight hours. Then it’s gone forever.”

I don’t say another word.

Elegantly turning on the stool, I hop my four-inch heels down to the gummy floor and walk out of the bar without a backward glance.

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Product Release Date: January 3, 2023

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