Home > Dirty Deal (Slayers Hockey #5)

Dirty Deal (Slayers Hockey #5)
Author: Mira Lyn Kelly

 


Chapter 1

 

 

Nora

 

 

“Five minutes,” I hiss, my finger jabbing into the space between his apartment and the fifth-floor hallway where I’m in full-on meltdown mode. “Just five to be with my thoughts and feel my freaking feelings and mourn.”

Axel Erikson props a massive arm against the frame of the door. Casually. With one of those lazy smirks slanting his lips, he grips the towel hanging lower than the legal limit around his waist.

Yep, he’s in a towel. Dripping water all over his hardwood.

“This isn’t funny,” I seethe, trying not to focus on the way his bicep bulges when he leans into it.

God, I hate him.

“Right. But just so we’re clear… This is about a dead houseplant?”

My jaw clenches, molars grinding loud enough to spur one of his still wet brows to arch, tugging the corner of his mouth along for the ride.

And seriously, with the gratuitous abs and the heavily balled shoulders. The deep grooves cut between hi-def muscles giving those free-range droplets a waterpark experience. A normal person would have thrown on sweats before answering the door. A robe, maybe.

Something tells me, with Axel, I should be grateful he bothered wrapping the towel around his waist at all.

“It’s not. About. The plant.” Fine. It’s a little about the plant. Stella represents something important to me. A goal. And as ridiculous as I’m realizing I look standing here clutching her brittle remains, I had a point to make. Hence, Exhibit A.

“It’s about you, Axel, and your total lack of respect for anyone other than yourself. It’s about me not being able to take—”

“Five minutes,” he supplies with a wink, “to mourn your dead plant. What’d you overwater it?”

Oh, no, he did not.

Deep breaths. “Five minutes out of a week that has been a total dumpster fire without being interrupted by yet another one of your packages being delivered to Diane’s place instead of here.”

His eyes light up. “Ooh, a package. The way you were pounding on my door like you were going to take it down— Hell, I thought maybe you were here to tell me I was showering too loud.” And then, “Where’s the package from?”

I blink, my eye starting to twitch. “I don’t know. Somewhere good. Come and get it. Along with the other five that are taking up space in Diane’s entry.”

“That many? You’re a true friend.”

“We aren’t friends, Axel.”

He bites his bottom lip and leans even further into the doorframe as his stupid baby blue eyes meet mine. “We’re better than friends. We’re neighbors. Of the next-door variety.” His voice goes low. “There’s a certain intimacy to that. A kind of bond that goes beyond friendship.”

What a piece of work. “Yeah, there’s nothing better than hearing you bang your girl du jour through my bedroom wall. Thanks for the memories.”

Just thinking about the staccato squeals from last weekend has me wanting to spray down the space between us with a full can of Lysol.

Axel straightens, his expression suddenly less casual. He opens his mouth, but I give him a hard shake of my head.

“Look, I don’t have time for this.”

Not with the movers coming tomorrow. Not while the clock is ticking down on me finding a new job with next to no experience and a new place to live with even less savings. Which would be way easier if I’d had more than a week’s notice, but Diane’s landlord was only willing to break the lease if we could be cleared out by the eighth.

Diane swears she’s going to find me a job with a friend, that I’ll be okay, but so far, nothing. And if I have to go home after how long it took me to get out of there…

I won’t. I’ll find something. Somewhere. I have to.

But first, I have to get those damn packages out. So, I suck a breath and hold up a hand. “Put some pants on and come get your crap.”

 

Axel

 

 

“Bossy, bossy.” I’m not ready to give up the rise I’m getting out of her even though I know I should knock my shit off and hit the sack. With back-to-back games the last two days and not enough sleep before early skate this morning, I’m wiped.

But this is more than Nora’s said to me at one time since… Well, since she stopped talking to me except to tell me to turn the volume down— easier said than done when you’ve got five hockey players over watching a game. Or to wake me at the crack of dawn when I didn’t even get off a plane until two a.m. to let me know that my mailbox is overflowing, or tell me I parked in the wrong spot, or that I can’t hold the elevator with my gear when I need to run back to my apartment for three damn seconds because I left my keys in the door.

I’m a child. I know. But only with Nora. And only because those hot, red splotches on her cheekbones are so much better than that nothing look I get from her when I’m behaving. That bland, disinterested glance sucks. Especially after the way she used to look at me.

Yeah, it was only a week, nearly five months ago when she moved into Diane’s. But from the first time our paths crossed, that wide smile and quick laugh had me looking closer, lingering to chat with her when I’d normally keep moving. I found myself drawn into conversations with her I’d still be thinking about when I hit the ice or the weight room, or when I was supposed to be paying attention to a trainer, reporter, or my brother. And the way she looked at me? I’d be thinking about those shy glances and warm blushes when I crawled into bed at night. Wondering why I hadn’t made a move already.

But then it was too late. Everything changed in a blink, and Nora wasn’t interested in me at all. Not even as friends, and I’m friends with everybody.

I should have let it go and forgotten about her, given her a nod when we passed in the hall, and stopped looking for something in her eyes that said the connection was still there. But I didn’t. Instead, I started trying to get something else.

A reaction.

Damn, Nora gives good reaction. Hot and sharp. Whip quick with a sting you’re not likely to forget.

“I’ve got more important things to do than watch you standing around in a towel.”

“Nice as the scenery may be, though, right?” I ask, wondering if I can get a laugh out of her. A smile. Get her into bed. Nah, zero chance of that. But maybe another scowl, at the very least.

She looks me over from top to bottom and back up again. Jesus, the feel of her eyes on me is—

“Whatever.”

And that flat, bored tone? Color me impressed. Because I know for a fact, this body— in a suit, in running gear, in beat-up jeans and a T-shirt —trips her up. Five months ago, it made her blush and stammer. Three, I’d still catch her eyes where they weren’t supposed to be.

Now, in a towel? Yeah, she’s a little liar.

But I like it. Even if she can’t stand me.

Which reminds me… Who the hell was banging a bunny against her wall? The guys crash at my place sometimes. Not always alone.

Ehh, might as well let her think it’s me.

“So why the rough week? I thought Diane was in France. Something happen while she was gone?”

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