With just over a week to go before The Inside Edge hits a bookshelf near you, here’s a sneak peek.
What does a work-life balance look like to recently retired professional athletes?
Ex-hockey player Nate Overton is trying to find out, but dipping his toes in the gay dating scene post-divorce is a daunting prospect even without the news that his show is on thin ice. Before he can tackle either issue, he skates headfirst into another problem—his new cohost. Former figure skater Aubrey Chase is the embodiment of a spoiled rich playboy. He’s also flamboyant, sharp, and hot as sin.
Aubrey knows how important it is to get off on the right foot. He’s just not very good at it outside the rink. Having spent his life desperate for attention, he’ll do anything to get it—even the wrong kind.
For Nate and Aubrey, opposites don’t so much attract as collide at center ice. But while Nate’s everything Aubrey has scrupulously avoided—until now—Aubrey falls suddenly head over heels, and Nate’s only looking for a rebound fling. Can Aubrey convince Nate to risk his heart again, or will their unexpected connection be checked at the first sign of trouble?
“Oh come on.” Aubrey bumped his shoulder. “Guy like that? You can definitely tell. He probably shaved again tonight before coming out to dinner. His shoes are gleaming, even though there’s six inches of snow on the ground. He’s eating french fries delicately. With a fork. Completely avoiding the banana ketchup, I might add.”
“Maybe he’s allergic,” Nate said, half in defense, half amusement.
“Maybe he’s a priss who doesn’t like getting his hands sticky.”
“Sounds like he’s not your type.” Nate was pretty sure Aubrey would tell him what his type was, and Nate wasn’t quite comfortable with why he wanted to know.
“He’s in good shape—the type who treats his body like a temple.” Aubrey rolled his eyes. “I’m with Tony Bourdain. Your body isn’t a temple. It’s an amusement park; enjoy the ride. I mean, I like to look good, and I appreciate a guy who puts in the effort. But I also like a man who knows when to cut loose and have a good time. But maybe he’s your speed?”
What? Aubrey thought he’d be into loud and big and obnoxious in public, not to mention apparently bad in bed?
“How do you figure?” Nate snapped.
“Well, big and dumb is probably pretty plentiful in the NHL, and I guess there were a few that would let you tap it in, so to speak.”
Boy was Aubrey wrong on so many levels. Nate couldn’t resist a derisive chuckle. “You have no fucking idea what I like or what I’ve done.” Or what I haven’t done, Nate mentally added.
Aubrey raised his hands defensively. “All right, you’re right. Sorry.” His eyes had widened in surprise, and they were still wide, but now they held something else too, something shrewd. Calculating. “Big and dumb has historically been my type, not yours. Sorry for projecting.” He gave a slight grin, somehow inviting Nate to envision him with a mildly tarnished halo.
Nate took another sip of his cocktail and let himself be mollified. He was in a nice restaurant with a fabulous drink, and the weather was, at least for now, something he didn’t need to worry about. He was going to enjoy this unexpected downtime. And that meant he had to give Aubrey something. “I don’t know that I have a type.” In juniors he’d fooled around with guys who could be discreet. By his sophomore year of college, he felt confident enough about his future to come out, but between hockey and homework, he didn’t have a lot of time to meet anyone.
“What about your ex?”
“Marty’s a decent guy. We had a good partnership for a long time. I wish him the best.”
“Whew.” Aubrey finished his drink in one long swallow—Nate watched his throat—and then gestured to the bartender for another. “That is some Stanley Cup Final quality shade.”
Nate looked at him, wide-eyed.
“Come on, tell me your ex is a ‘nice guy’ when I ask who you like to fuck—” Aubrey paused, squinted at Nate as if trying to focus on something, then flicked his tongue to moisten his lips before continuing. “—or who you like to fuck you?” he finished, making it a question.
Nate reflexively tightened his fingers on his glass, then decided he might be better off drinking the stuff and letting the alcohol deal with the sudden tension in his shoulders. He knocked back the rest and made sure the bartender noticed him too. He’d planned to order something different, just to try, but expediency seemed more prudent. “He is a nice guy,” he said, expecting to come across as defensive. Instead it sounded defeated, so he figured he might as well add, “That was part of the problem.”
Aubrey had been taking a sip from his water glass, and at this, he sputtered and nearly sprayed the bar top. Fortunately he managed to grab a napkin in time to avoid that level of attention-calling mishap. “Oh wow. Uh. I don’t know what to say to that.”
With a shrug, Nate picked up a bar napkin of his own and absently tore off a corner. “I mean, the part where he fell in love with someone else while we were still married and then left me for him, that was definitely the main issue. So. I can’t blame it all on the… on the sex.”
Look at him, a grown man at a bar having a mature conversation about his sex life. Like a real hockey player! He felt like he’d slipped into another dimension.
At this, Aubrey nodded slowly, mercifully keeping his gaze fixed on his water glass. Nate appreciated the privacy as he tried to school his body’s reactions. Sex wasn’t anything to be embarrassed about. And it wasn’t even the state of his sex life with Marty that made him blush. For some reason Aubrey had assumed Nate regularly took men home, had sex with them, then lost their numbers and went on with his life. That kind of casual relationship with sex had never interested Nate—or he’d told himself it hadn’t. Now… well, now that things with Marty were over, he wished he at least had the experience to go out and hook up and scratch an itch he hadn’t scratched properly in years. But he didn’t know where to start. And that… okay, that embarrassed him.
Finally Aubrey cleared his throat just as the bartender came around with their drinks and, wonder of wonders, the dates Nate had ordered. They thanked him, and then Aubrey said, “Well, you know what the best revenge is, right?”
Nate nodded, unaccountably disappointed. “Yeah, yeah. Living well. Blah, blah.”
“Living well?” Aubrey scoffed. “Hell no. Going out and having lots of filthy, no-strings-attached sex with the hottest guys you can find—that’s revenge.”
“That’s a bit out of my wheelhouse.” Nate watched Aubrey’s jaw drop. He could practically hear the record-scratch sound as Aubrey went completely still, a forked date halfway to his mouth.
Aubrey’s eyebrows were the first to move, rising in two evenly matched, perfectly formed arches. “Well that’s a fucking shame for the men of Chicago.” He glanced around, then whispered conspiratorially, “And Winnipeg. Can’t imagine there’s not a few guys here who’d take home a big slab of All-American beef.” He paused for a sip of his cocktail. “Some of them might even know what to do with you.”
A plate of fries with a pot of sauce was placed in front of them. Aubrey immediately plucked one, then dunked it daintily, raised it up, and gave it a tentative lick.
“Oh. Oh. That’s good.” Aubrey proceeded to slip the fry into his mouth like a straw and suck the sauce off of it. “You have got to try this.” He swallowed and grinned at Nate. “And act fast because I could eat the whole thing.”
Nate would have liked to pick up a fry, except the only parts of his body that could communicate with his brain at the moment were located below the belt, and he didn’t think he could manage it with his dick. What was happening to him? He’d never had trouble keeping a lid on his physical reactions—at least not since before he met Marty. Finally he realized he was staring stupidly and managed, “So you’re a fan of the banana ketchup, huh.”
“In all its forms, apparently,” Aubrey said salaciously. He picked up another fry. “Seriously. These are amazing.”
The glue binding Nate in place eventually gave, and he reached for a fry of his own. The hot oil on the surface stung his fingers, but it did smell incredible. The ketchup was an ugly sort of yellow-brown, but Nate dunked anyway, surprised to find it did taste similar to traditional ketchup, but sweeter and a little spicy. “Mmm,” he agreed, licking at a spot of sauce that had dripped down his thumb. “Okay, I admit these are better than the dates.”
Aubrey was staring at his thumb. The heat of it burned Nate’s skin, made his neck tingle. His dick jerked in his pants when Aubrey licked his lips. Nate bit the inside of his cheek hard to distract himself.
“Told you,” Aubrey said. “Sometimes you’ve gotta get your hands dirty.”
“Getting your hands dirty? Is that how you do it?” Nate blurted.
There was a brief pause as Aubrey flicked his gaze from Nate’s thumb to his lips to his eyes. He seemed to decide something, because he finally said, “Do you want me to tell you or would you like me to show you?”
Nate swallowed hard. He’d been wondering if maybe they might get there, but Aubrey had just cut to the chase, cool and confident. That did something for Nate. He pulled his wallet out and shoved enough bills on the bar to cover a nice tip.
“I know you’re a show-off,” Nate quipped. “But can you put your money where your mouth is?”
This time when Aubrey smiled, it was that slow, teasing, burning one that made Nate’s pants feel tight. “Wouldn’t you rather know if I’ll put my mouth where the money is?” For just a second, he put his hand over Nate’s, and the contact sent an unfamiliar thrill up Nate’s spine. “C’mon, let’s get out of here.”