Pro hockey player T.J. Shanstrom is no stranger to controversy. Labeled a goon by his many critics, he’s the guy every team hates to play against but every team wants on their side—the goal scorer with an edge as deadly as a newly sharpened skate blade. T.J. plays the only way he can, laying everything on the line, game in, game out. But when it’s time to step away from the rink, T.J. leaves his fire on the ice. Relationships? He tried that once. Friends with benefits is as close as he’s planning to get to a woman again.
Until he meets Natalie Foster.
Smart and independent, no-nonsense Natalie’s rebuilding her life her way after her high-powered career and her engagement go off the rails. Besides trying out new lines of work, she’s also dipping her toe in the dating pool with pro hockey player Kevin May. The relationship is new, it’s fun, but it’s barely off the ground when Kevin’s career comes to a bone-crushing halt thanks to a T.J. Shanstrom cheapshot.
Caught between the realm of possibility and obligation, Natalie puts her life on hold to prove her loyalty to Kevin—with unforeseen consequences.
When Natalie and T.J.’s paths accidentally cross, sparks fly. Natalie has no idea who this handsome hunk is, but when T.J. discovers who she is, he’s determined to become her knight in shining armor while safeguarding his identity—and his heart.
Little does T.J. know that when he begins his karma payback, his closely guarded heart becomes part of the payment plan. And when he falls hard for Natalie, he’s left with two irreconcilable choices: Continue deceiving her or confess his true identity. Either path guarantees he’ll lose the only woman he wants.
Targeted Age Group:: Adult audiences only
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 4 – R Rated
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Being a long-time hockey fan, I’ve watched many different players in many different positions. The players with fancy moves and an eye-popping goal-scoring touch are often featured on the highlight reels, and they are mesmerizing to watch. But if you look at a team’s overall success, other role players have an enormous impact that often goes unnoticed and unrecognized.
Some of my favorite players over the years have been the third and fourth line guys—the gritty grinders with incredible courage who charge into the boards to dig out a puck, regardless of who they’re going up against. Without these guys, a team falls apart. They’re the glue. They support the goal scorers and sometimes score a few goals of their own.
I thought it would be interesting to take a guy like that—the one without the flash—and build a story around him. The inspiration came from a real on-ice incident in a game I watched many years ago. The guy who got crushed got all the sympathy while the guy who did the crushing got all the fans’ ire, getting booed whenever and wherever he took the ice. Now I’m not saying he didn’t deserve it, but I can’t imagine he intended to cause so much damage to a fellow hockey player—he ended the guy’s career—and I got to wondering what it felt like from his perspective.
No doubt he felt remorse, and all that negative attention had to have a tremendous compounding effect, yet he kept his mouth shut throughout his long suspension and stoically played on until his career ended shortly thereafter.
His story always intrigued me, so I put my imagination to work and came up with what I thought it might be like to be him.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My characters aren’t drawn from any one particular person. Like my other stories, they are an amalgam of people I’ve known personally, people I’ve observed in and out of the spotlight, people I’ve heard stories about, and my own imagination. I will say they do “speak” to me as their stories unfold, and oftentimes, they develop traits I hadn’t planned on at the beginning. For me, this part of the writing process is one of the most fun!
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