There are dicks everywhere. Big ones, small ones… crooked ones. I want to run, but instead, I commit to my mission and cover the right side of my face. My long, blonde hair helps to hide my vision as I power walk through the men’s locker room. Avoiding eye contact is easy. But dodging hockey players with smoking hot bodies and abs I would most definitely lick, not so much.
Entering the locker room after practice is a bad idea. Why did my dad ask me to meet him here? Of all the places, it has to be in his office.
My dad has three rules.
No talking to his players.
No hanging out with his players.
No dating his players.
Ever since a life-altering incident back in high school, I have followed his rules. They work for us both. And for the last four years, I haven’t broken any of them. I’ve steered clear of his players, and I’m determined to avoid them… until today.
A few of the guys whistle as I move past them. I’m still covering the side of my face, so I can’t see anyone. One of the guys informs me I’m in the men’s locker room—as if I need a reminder. And one jerk has the nerve to reach out and touch my leg. Gross.
Keeping my eyes to the floor and my hair blocking my peripheral vision, I haul ass to the back of the room. I’ve been back here dozens of times but not when anyone’s around.
I feel like I’m doing the world’s longest walk of shame. Dozens of eyes are on me. The players whisper about me under their breath. But once I’d stepped into the room, I wasn’t turning back. People had already seen me in a place I was never meant to be. So, here I am.
Go me and my walk of shame.
I glance up for a second to look for the hallway door, the one that leads to my dad’s office, and run head-first into a bare chest. Pushing out my palm, my fingers graze a wet, muscular stomach. A few inches lower and I would have ripped the towel from his waist.
Blocked by a wall of muscle, I peek up at Peter “Preston” Parker, all six feet four inches of him. Damn, he’s even bigger close up. Hotter, too.
Everyone calls him by his middle name, Preston. I’ve never heard anyone use his first name on campus. But I know it. He’s the youngest son of the famous hockey player, Alex Parker. His mom is a former college basketball player—like myself—and a powerhouse sports agent, who everyone calls Coach.
If any player were ever off-limits to me, it’s Preston.
The corner of his mouth turns up into a wicked smirk that produces an unusual reaction from me.
“Excuse me.” I shove Preston, desperate to move him to the side, but he’s a big guy. “You’re in my way.”
He doesn’t budge an inch. Preston covers my hand that’s still on his stomach with his. “And you are in mine.”
A rush of heat shoots through my fingertips and runs down my arm. Touching Preston shouldn’t feel this good. He’s my dad’s favorite player and the best defenseman in Division I Men’s Ice Hockey. But most of all, he’s out of my league. Like way out of it. On another planet.
I’m a scholarship kid. He’s a rich athlete with the potential to go pro. We have nothing in common, apart from our athleticism.
Preston holds my hand for a split second before I shake free of his grip, stepping back from him.
“I think you have the wrong locker room.” He pushes his long fingers through his short dark hair that rests on his forehead. Like the rest of him, it’s wet, and now I’m getting wet thinking about how much I’d like to touch him again.
Damn it, Bex. Ignore him.
He smiles, and my silly heart claws its way out of my chest. Water slides down the side of his face, and I have an immediate desire to lick it from his tanned skin.
“No, I don’t,” I counter. “This is the right locker room. Just shitty timing.”
He tilts his head to the side and studies my face long enough to make me feel self-conscious. “I know you. Right? You’re Coach Bryant’s girl. You look different. Were you always so… tall?”
I’m five feet ten inches, which comes in handy when you play basketball. It also makes me close in height to most guys. Preston still has six inches on me.
I force a closed mouth smile. “Yes, I’ve been this tall since freshman year. And it’s Bex. Not Coach Bryant’s girl. I mean, I’m his daughter.” Now I’m rambling. “You get what I’m saying.”
He scratches the stubble along his angular jaw, still smirking at me. “Bex? What an unusual name for an unusual girl.”
“You’re one to talk, Peter Parker. You’re named after Spider-Man. If your spidey sense had kicked in, we wouldn’t be here right now, forced to talk to each other?”
He laughs. “You’re a real smart ass, Bex Bryant.”
“So I’ve been told.”
“For the record, no one’s forcing me to do anything, especially when it comes to you.”
His crooked smile and disgustingly good looks go straight to my core. One look from Preston hardens my nipples, begging for him to touch them. Stupid body. My physical reaction to Preston needs to fuck off. Like right now.
“Bex is short for Bexley,” I add for clarification. Not like he cares about my name. He’s too busy staring down my basketball jersey at the girls.
“Preston,” he says. “Not Peter. No one calls me by my first name. But I’m sure you already knew that.”
I roll my eyes at the arrogant jerk.
But I’m sure you already knew that, I repeat in my head in a sardonic tone. Fucker. Who does he think he is?
My dad will have a stroke if he sees me talking to one of his players, let alone his precious Preston. After winning the Frozen Four last year, my dad swears Preston will take them all the way again, especially after he won MVP, and from what I’ve heard, Mr. MVP has no problem doing the same with the girls on campus.
I can’t be one of them.
I will never be one of them.
So, why do I want to be one of them?
“Nice meeting you, Bex,” he says, and then struts—yes, fucking struts—down the aisle to his locker.
I look over my shoulder at him, still in shock. My lips part when he removes the towel from his waist and hangs it over the top of his open locker door, acting as if I’m one of the guys. With his back slightly turned to me, I can’t see all of him. Although, I do have an excellent view of his perfect ass.
Holy mother of… someone help me.
My mouth is still open in horror. Shock. Curiosity. Take your pick. I blink a few times to make sure I’m not imagining him. Maybe all the steam from the showers is getting to my head. Preston and his insanely gorgeous body could be a mirage. It has to be. Because a guy like Preston would never look at me the way he is right now. Nope. Never.
He knows damn well what he’s doing when he slips into his boxer briefs and winks at me. Preston sure can fill out a pair of underwear—like holy shit he sure can.
And I’m still staring.
Like some pervert.
It’s like watching a train wreck, a really spectacular one. That’s the reason why I’m too stunned to move. Which makes this even more embarrassing. Because I’m not supposed to be in here.
Every guy is now staring at me. Some of them are dressed, some are shirtless and in boxers like Preston. Most of them don’t seem to give a shit that a girl is standing in the middle of the locker room, wearing tight shorts and a basketball jersey.
I bite my bottom lip without even realizing and draw blood. Preston mimics me, taunting me with his muscular body and rugged good looks. He’s the spitting image of his father when he was younger. The sexy smirks, the killer abs, all of it. I know this because my father was obsessed with Alex Parker while he was in the NHL. Now he’s the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers—my dad’s favorite professional hockey team. My dad’s just as crazy over his son. And now, for obvious reasons, so am I.
After an intense stare down, I shake my head at Preston, finally having enough sense to walk away. What’s wrong with me? I’ve never acted so ridiculous around a boy before. Well, Preston isn’t a boy. He’s all man, with his chiseled jaw, thick chest, strong arms, muscular legs, and sexy smirks.
I can’t get any of it out of my head. I may never forget how good Preston looks almost naked. And now I find myself wondering about the rest of him. This is so bad. Like the worst thing ever. Because I cannot break my dad’s rules.
At the end of the long hallway, I find my father’s office. Coach Bryant, Head Coach, is written on a gold plaque on his door. It’s ajar, and when I push it open, my dad is in front of a flat screen television hung on the wall with a remote in his hand.
My dad loves two things—hockey and me. When he can combine them, he’s at his happiest. I love seeing him in his element. Ever since my mom left us ten years ago, he hasn’t been the same. He’s poured his life into hockey.
That’s why I followed him to Strickland University instead of my first choice, Villanova. Also, the tuition here is free. One of the many perks of my dad coaching the Strickland Senators.
I inch my way into the room. “Hey, Dad.”
“Oh, hey, honey.” He hits pause on the game tape and drops the remote on the table. “I wasn’t expecting you so soon. Your practice usually lasts until at least four-thirty.”
“Coach Vaughn let us leave early.”
“You should have stayed behind to get more time in on the court.”
My dad doesn’t know the meaning of a break. All he does is work. When he’s not coaching hockey, he studies it. He’s obsessed to the point of madness. By extension, he thinks I should be as crazy about basketball. But it’s not like I plan to make a career of it.
“Three hours was enough for me. Coach Vaughn had us running suicides for over an hour. My calves are screaming at me.”
He laughs. “Uh, okay. Just make sure you don’t fall behind. You need to keep your position on the team.”
Dad sets the remote on the table and turns to face me. “Did you come in through the side entrance?”
I nod. “Uh-huh. Yep, sure did.”
Mental note: Find the side entrance.
For the love of all that is holy, I do not want to run into more dicks or Preston. Or Preston and his dick. Why am I even thinking of him?
“How was your day?”
I almost laugh but manage to keep a straight face. “Good. Nothing special. The usual practice and classes.”
I didn’t see a bunch of naked men on my way in here. I didn’t talk to his favorite player and break rule number one. Nope, not at all. That would make for interesting conversation, one I never want to have with my dad.
“Are you coming to the game on Friday?” He plops down on the couch in front of the TV and pats the cushion next to him.
I drop the gym bag on my shoulder to the floor and sink into the plush fabric. “Yeah, I guess.”
He cocks an eyebrow at me. “You guess? It’s the first game of the season. You have to come. Bring some of your teammates along.”
“I’m sure Taylor will tag along with me, even though she hates the cold.”
“She’s a real California girl.”
My best friend, Taylor Bradshaw, has been my teammate and roommate since freshman year.
“What team are you playing?”
“Boston,” he says, and my blood runs cold.
I sit awkwardly still when I think about who plays for Boston College. Kellan Lehane. The asshole who ruined my life.
Dad notes the fear in my eyes. “I’m sorry, honey. I wasn’t thinking. It’s been so long since everything happened.” He places his hand over mine on the couch and holds it there. “You don’t have to come. It’s all right. Come to another game.”
I broke my dad’s rules with Kellan, and that ended horribly for me. Because of him, I no longer have the desire to date another athlete ever again. One bad apple was enough to spoil the rest. So, why do I keep thinking about Parker?
“No, I can do this. The game is a big deal for you.”
He shakes his head. “Nah, I’ve been coaching for long enough. It’s another year, different season, same game. Nothing ever changes.”
“But this is your first season as the head coach of a college team.”
Until last season, my dad was an assistant coach at Strickland University.
He crosses his arms over his chest and casts a sideways glance in my direction. “Are you trying to make me nervous?”
“No, of course not.”
He brushes it off as if his new role is not a big deal, when it’s major. “I was thinking we could grab a pizza from Gio’s, before I have to get back to work.”
“But practice is over.”
“Coaching never ends, honey. I have a few hours of tapes to run through before I head home.”
I frown, saddened that his life has been reduced to sitting in dank offices watching old hockey games. “You work too much.”
“You worry too much.”
He smiles. “What do you say? Wanna eat with your old man before you head back to your dorm?”
“Sounds good. But only if we can get pepperoni.”
He holds out his hand for me to slap, because that’s what you do when you’re the only daughter of a hockey coach. It’s like I’m one of the guys.