Very excited to share with you the first chapter of Breakout, the brand new novel from Aven Ellis which is out in a few weeks. I have been lucky enough to read this book and you are in for a real treat. Niko is probably my favourite male lead of Aven’s and I know you are going to love him.
So here is the first chapter, dig in and enjoy
The One Online Dating Service Profile Question: Which season is your favorite? Spring, summer, winter, or fall?
My write-in answer: Hockey Season.
This feels like home.
I can’t explain why, but there’s something magical about being at an ice rink. The cold, bracing air. The crisp scent of a fresh sheet of ice. The sound of skates cutting against the surface.
I draw the air in deep and slowly exhale.
I’m truly in my happy place now.
I move down the steps, already knowing where I’m going to sit. I adjust the strap on my tote bag to keep it up on my shoulder and zero in on my favorite seats in the Dallas Demons practice facility.
I take a seat, close to last row at the top, and set my gingerbread latte down next to me. I open my tote and retrieve my iPhone, a pen, and my notebook, placing them in my lap.
And as soon as the Demons take to the ice to practice this Saturday morning, I’ll start shooting.
I tug down on the long sleeves of my black-and-white-striped T-shirt, the one I’ve layered under a white cropped chunky sweater this morning on this chilly November day. I have loved hockey since I was a little girl, when my dad took me to my first Demons game. My goal is to work in sports TV someday. And in my dream, I’m working as an editor on hockey productions.
But two years after graduating from TCU, I’m still stuck taking freelance jobs doing graphics and design work for corporate accounts. I’m lucky to get the experience, I know that. But the work is mind-numbing. I’m not excited about what I do, and I ache to edit again.
I smile to myself as I think about it. I love editing. I enjoy the challenge of laying down video, set to the right music, with the perfect graphics to provide a punch to a viewer within seconds. I love working on opens—the opening sequence to get the viewer set for the show—and who would think that it can take days to get that forty-five-second piece done just right?
My phone vibrates in my lap. I glance down and see it’s my roommate and best friend, Kenley.
“Hello?” I say into my cell while reaching for my coffee and taking a sip.
“Hi, Lexi,” Kenley says in a rush. “I know you are at practice shooting, so I’ll be quick.”
I smile. My best friend knows I come to every Demons Saturday practice when they are in town, because it’s a great chance to record some videos for me to practice my edits on and save to my YouTube channel. I might be doing bank websites now, but I’m determined to fight my way into the doors of the Dallas office of Total Access Total Sports.
“No worries, what’s up?” I say, picking up on the excited tone in her voice.
“I just landed a huge event for Confection Consultations,” Kenley explains, referring to her chocolate and dessert consulting business. “I’ve been asked by the Demons for Dallas Foundation to coordinate all the dessert tables for Casino Night with the Dallas Demons!”
“Kenley, that’s huge,” I cry, excited for her. “Does Nate know yet?” I ask, referring to her boyfriend, Nate Johansson, who happens to be one of the superstars of the Dallas Demons.
I smile at the irony. I’ve been a fan my entire life. Kenley barely watched hockey for more than five minutes prior to meeting Nate. But not only does she end up meeting a Dallas Demon but falling madly in love with one.
In the meantime, I’m in the stands shooting them.
But there’s no doubt Nate and Kenley were meant to be, and I’m so happy for them.
I bite my lip. And maybe, just maybe, I can find my own Nate someday.
“No, he doesn’t,” Kenley says, interrupting my thoughts. “I texted him to call me when he’s done with practice. I’m so excited about this. I want to make Nate proud, you know?”
I grin. “He’s already proud of you. Now you get to show everyone in the Demons organization how crazy talented you are.”
“You’re coming to this event with me,” Kenley says. “And then you can drool all over Harrison Flynn all you want.”
I feel my cheeks burn hot. Harrison Flynn is the captain of the Dallas Demons, and he’s smoking hot. Kenley knows he’s my celebrity crush, and what makes this whole thing even weirder is that Kenley is now friends with Harrison’s wife, Kylie. And I actually got to meet Harrison and Kylie in a social setting last week, at a party at Nate’s house, and all I could think of was how surreal the whole scene was.
My life really is like that stupid Kevin Bacon separation game, I muse wryly. But all roads lead back to the Dallas Demons instead of Kevin Bacon.
“Shut up,” I say, grinning.
Kenley laughs. “Okay, I’ve got to go. I need to start planning this menu. And you are coming, Lexi Nicole Stewart. So don’t even try to fight me on it.”
“Ha, I know you’re serious when you use my full name.”
We hang up, and I swipe open the video recorder on my phone. The players take to the ice, and I spot Nate and Harrison right away. Nate sees me and waves, and I wave back.
Harrison waves at me, too.
I give an embarrassed smile back, thinking of all the pictures of him I have stashed on my iPhone.
Thank God he doesn’t have the ability to read minds, I think wryly.
But it’s still so insane to think I know him on a social level. And Nate. Dallas Demons. I hang out with them now, not simply shoot them, and I can’t wrap my head around it yet.
Just like I can’t wrap my head around the fact that Kenley’s sister, Amanda, is married to Ryan, a producer at Total Access Total sports.
The place I dream of working someday.
And while Ryan has kept his eyes open for me at Total Access Total Sports, nothing has come up that I would be a fit for.
So all roads around me lead to the Dallas Demons, except for the one I’m driving on apparently.
I reach inside my tote and fumble around for my hairband. I retrieve it, then take a quick glance around the rink as I wind my long auburn hair into a messy knot at the nape of my neck. I recognize a lot of the people: the ones who always come to take pictures with their professional gear, the hardcore fans, girls chasing players, and of course, me, the nerd doing video edits.
I’m about to start shooting when my phone beeps with a message. I check and roll my eyes. It’s another prompt question from The One Online Dating Service. And for the 107th time since I signed up, I question my sanity. I’ve met nothing but freaks and liars through their service, and the questions they prompt are supposed to help match me with The One. I put in my cancellation notice last week, but for some wacky reason I keep getting these questions. So now I answer them in my head purely for my own entertainment.
Like what guy, outside of the ones here, would love my answer of Hockey Season as the best season of all? In Texas? Yeah, right. This is football country. So not many. And while I love the idea of the right guy coming along, as I want what Kenley has with Nate and Amanda has with Ryan, the odds of The One suddenly falling into my lap are about . . . zero.
I delete the stupid question and go back to shooting.
I start focusing on different players, video the coaches instructing the drills, and record some fun shots of Nate and Harrison goofing around in a hockey stick battle like two little boys. I make a note to show Kenley that when I see her at home later today. She’ll love it.
Then I capture some beautiful slap shots by Matt Rhinelander. The young forward is crazy talented, but from what I’ve gleaned from social media, he’s a bit wild. But hell, he’s twenty-one and has barely turned that. I’m only twenty-four, but I’ve always been older than my years. And I never had to grow up with all social media focused on me, either.
I think of a great song to match with his wicked slap shot and reach for my notebook to jot it down. I rest my phone on my lap and flip the page over. This song would be per—
“Puck!” a baritone voice from behind me yells.
Right as I jerk my head up, a guy is over the top of me, shoving me down into the metal bleacher. I lose my balance and fall backward, with the guy landing on top of me. I bang my head, my phone goes sailing, and so does my coffee as I feel it splatter against my hand.
I hear the puck ricochet off the bleacher behind me, creating a loud bang as the frozen puck bounces off the metal.
And that puck would have hit me in the head if this guy hadn’t pushed me down.
“I’m so sorry,” the guy murmurs as he pushes himself up. “I didn’t want you to get hit, and I reacted. Are you okay? Did I hurt you?”
Oh my God.
I can’t think.
My head is smarting but that’s irrelevant.
Because right in front of me is the hottest guy I’ve ever seen.
And his incredible blue eyes—ones the color of the deep Mediterranean Sea—are waiting for me to answer.
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