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Today we’ve got an EXCLUSIVE excerpt from Playing for Keeps by Taryn Leigh Taylor to jump start your week along with a fabulous giveaway too!
One quick note, the pre-order price of Playing for Keeps is $3.49 so be sure to one-click your copy now readers!
Official Back Blurb:
The stakes are high when you’re playing for keeps…
Pro hockey player Eric Jacobs should be focused on rehabbing his knee and getting back on the ice where he belongs. Then his grandmother sells the family bakery without telling him, and the gloves come off. He’s not losing his childhood home without a fight—but the new owner is proving as stubborn as she is gorgeous, and it’s throwing him off his game.
Rebecca Callahan is searching for her passion, and she’s determined not to let her lack of baking experience stand in the way of making her new business a success. Especially not with the former owner’s handsome grandson just waiting for her to fail. If she’s going to make him eat his words, she needs to keep her mind on the bakery and stop imagining Eric’s sexy abs as dessert.
Now Rebecca and Eric are facing off in a battle of wills, but will giving into the heat between them be a recipe for disaster, or the icing on the cupcake?
“Can I try?”
He turned to face her fully, resting an elbow on the top of the stick. She didn’t want to notice the snug fit of his grey t-shirt over his incredible chest, but she couldn’t help herself.
“Why?” Suspicion made his voice flat.
“You said this is your passion.” She shrugged. “Maybe hockey is my passion, too.”
Rebecca didn’t suppose he meant his skeptical face to look cute, but it kind of was.
“Besides,” she went in for the kill, “you wouldn’t have any pucks if I hadn’t burned those cupcakes.”
“Well, personally I don’t understand how hitting things with a piece of wood could be your passion,” he chided, “but help yourself.”
She followed his head tip to find an old garbage can full of hockey sticks to her right, tucked beside the building. Grabbing one, she marched over to join him in the center of the tarmac.
“Whoa there, slugger.” Eric grabbed the stick from her and walked back to the garbage can. “As a rule,” he said over his shoulder, shoving the stick back in and picking a new one, “you don’t want the stick to be taller than you.”
He came back and held his selection in front of her. His knuckles brushed her arm as he measured, and she stiffened at the contact. It came just a bit above her armpit.
“That one’s close. Since your shoes are kind of like being on skates.”
She accepted the new stick. It felt awkward in her hands. “Okay, coach. What do I do?”
“Well, first of all, this isn’t golf. You’re going to want to spread your hands apart and choke up on the shaft.”
Her inner teen boy snort-laughed at the instructions. “Say what?”
He rolled his eyes at her childishness, but the corner of his mouth tugged up as he stick-handled a cupcake into place in front of her.
“Now you want the puck, or in our case, the cupcake, more in the center of the blade,” he instructed.
“That’s the curvy part?” she clarified, waggling her hips a little as she got set to take her shot. The sudden weight of his hand on her lower back made her freeze in place.
“Still not golf,” he reminded her, and his deep voice unleashed a shiver down her spine.
Had she been standing this close to him the whole time?
Eric removed his hand and took a step back, readjusting his grip on his hockey stick. “So now you just shift your weight, flick your wrists, and follow through by pointing the toe of your blade at whatever you’re aiming for.”
His demonstration ended with another snipe to the top left-hand corner. Hers…rolled harmlessly on the pavement, stopping two feet in front of her stick.
She expected a joke then, but instead his face was earnest and encouraging. “Not bad.” He stick-handled another cupcake in front of her. She forced herself to focus on the task at hand, instead of wondering how his hockey skills might transfer into…other areas. Rebecca had always been a sucker for a man who was good with his hands.
“This time, stand a little closer, put your weight on your back foot to start.”
She followed his instructions, and her cupcake rolled all the way to the wall this time.
“Yeah! Yes. That’s what I’m talking about!”
Rebecca returned his high-five. She was a little surprised at the pride tingling through her limbs. It was such a silly little accomplishment—flinging a cupcake at a wall with a stick. And yet, Eric’s patient tutelage and genuine joy in her triumph made it feel like a big deal. It was the same way she always felt when tackling something new, only…more somehow. It was kind of nice celebrating an accomplishment with someone else. Dangerous. But nice.
Kind of like his smile, she decided, as her eyes dropped to his mouth. He seemed really close again. Or was she the one moving forward? His shoulders were very broad, and she had to tip her head back to meet his eyes. Even in her three-and-a-half inch heels she wasn’t tall enough to kiss him. He’d have to lean forward a bit and—
A loud crash broke into the moment, and Rebecca whirled around to face the big dumpster in the far corner, heart jack-hammering at the weird scrambling sound emanating from behind it. Eric barely glanced over at the source of the noise, although he seemed to be breathing heavier than normal, too.
“Probably just Mario.”
“Our alley cat.”
“You have a cat?”
“Not really. I mean, we’ve never seen him. Just hear him out here foraging sometimes. He likes cake.”
She watched in fascination as he scooped up a cupcake with his stick, bounced it on the curve—the blade, she corrected herself—a few times, and then lobbed it gently in the direction of the dumpster. It fell neatly between the wall and the big bin. There was a scuffling sound—a big hungry cat who wasn’t overly picky about whether or not his dinner had baking powder in it, she surmised.
Rebecca flushed a little at the show of skill. It was kind of…hot, the way he wielded his stick. She cleared her throat and shoved her mind back to more innocuous things. “So why did your grandma name him Mario?”
“Uh. Actually I named him.” Eric’s blush spread up his neck and reddened his ears. “Mario LeMeow. You know, like Mario Lemieux…played center for Pittsburgh? Hockey legend?” he added, when Rebecca shrugged uncomprehendingly at the name. “But, you know, with meow. Because cat.”
Rebecca couldn’t fight the smile that dawned. “That’s pretty much the most adorable thing I’ve ever heard.”
Eric frowned, and the disgruntled look on his face knocked cat names down to second place on the adorable list. “Just shoot, wouldja?”
Playing for Keeps releases on digital retailers everywhere on April 24th.
THREE copies of PLAYING TO WIN
Taryn Leigh Taylor: Taryn Leigh Taylor likes dinosaurs, bridges, and space, both personal and of the final frontier variety. She shamelessly indulges in cliches, most notably her Starbucks addiction (grande-six-pump-whole-milk-no-water chai tea latte, aka: the usual), her shoe hoard (I can stop anytime I…ooh! These are pretty!), and her penchant for falling in lust with fictional men with great abs (yum!)
She also really loves books, which is what sent her down the crazy path of writing one in the first place.
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