Enjoy sports romance? You’re gonna love this.
Breakaway by Avon Gale
A Scoring Chances Novel
Drafted to play for the Jacksonville Sea Storm, an NHL affiliate, twenty-year-old Lane Courtnall’s future looks bright, apart from the awkwardness he feels as a gay man playing on a minor league hockey team. He’s put his foot in his mouth a few times and alienated his teammates. Then, during a rivalry game, Lane throws off his gloves against Jared Shore, enforcer for the Savannah Renegades. It’s a strange way to begin a relationship.
Jared’s been playing minor league hockey for most of his career. He’s bisexual and doesn’t care if anyone knows. But he’s determined to avoid another love affair after the last one left him devastated. Out of nowhere a one-nighter with rookie Lane Courtnall gives him second thoughts. Lane reminds Jared why he loves the game and why love might be worth the risk. In turn, Jared hopes to show Lane how to be comfortable with himself on and off the ice. But they’re at different points in their careers, and both men will have to decide what they value most.
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He was messing with the coaster when he caught the guy a few seats down looking at him. Lane’s stomach did a little flop when he met a pair of familiar, pale-blue eyes. Jared Shore, of all people, was in that stupid bar and giving him an unfriendly look. “You even old enough to be in here?”
“I’m starving,” Lane told him, as if that were any kind of answer. “I just wanted some pizza or something.”
“They have delivery, you know, here in America.” Jared was also drinking a beer, out of a bottle, and the sight of his mouth on it was distracting. “Rest of your team around?”
“No.” Lane’s stomach rolled unpleasantly when he took a sip of his own beer. He didn’t think he looked as cool as Shore. “Is yours?”
“Nah. They’re all out at nicer places,” Shore said, still watching him. “Your lip hurt?” The way he asked was direct. His intense eyes focused on Lane, and oh, that made Lane dizzy, made his stomach curl with heat.
Oh, he should get out of there. Fast. “Umm. Kinda. Yeah.”
“Good.” Jared finished his beer and placed it on the bartop. For all his reputation might suggest, he was a quiet man who moved with more grace than aggression. And he had nice hands. Lane wondered why it was so warm in the bar. “I hope it was worth it.”
“Huh?” Lane could tell the guy was pissed at him, but he didn’t know why. Shore was the kind of guy who got in fights all the time, wasn’t he?
Shore laughed, and it wasn’t a very nice sound at all. “You think you’re the first pretty boy who’s tried to make his teammates like him by throwing down with me? You’re not.”
“Really?” Lane expelled a breath. “That’s good to know. Thanks.” The bartender dropped a plastic basket in front of him. It smelled like food and fried things, so Lane ate one and nearly burned the roof of his mouth to cinders. When he was over the embarrassment of that, he looked back up to find Jared had moved next to him. That wasn’t helping his equilibrium, but it did distract from the screaming pain in his mouth.
That was the second time in one day that Jared Shore had made Lane’s mouth ache. Technically other things were aching, but they were in the category of Things Lane Courtnall Didn’t Think About.
“Did you really mean that? I’d say you were being a smart ass, but you don’t really strike me as the type.”
Lane swallowed his small piece of burning processed meat, shrugged, and took a long drink of the cold beer. “I’m Canadian. We’re subtle. It’s easy to miss sometimes.” He went back to the chicken things, broke one in half, and wisely let the steam rise out of it for a few seconds before eating it. “I mean, it was a dumb thing to do, but it worked. So yeah, it was worth it.”
If Lane hadn’t been hungover, tired, hungry, and distracted by the continual searing pain in his mouth, he probably wouldn’t have said that.
“Guess I see why your teammates didn’t like you,” Shore snapped, standing up abruptly.
“Wait,” Lane said, confused, holding half a steaming chicken thing in one hand. “Why are you mad? That’s your thing, isn’t it? Getting in fights?”
“Yeah, pretty boy. That’s my thing.”
“So you shouldn’t be mad, but you are. I can tell. I know mad. Believe me.” Lane put the other bit of chicken into his mouth, swallowed hastily, and washed it down with the aid of the Bud Light. It was the worst meal he’d ever eaten by far. Good thing he could barely taste it.
“Why?” Lane asked, studying him intently. Shore looked like he was a good seven or eight years older than him, and he had the faded remnants of a black eye and a bruise on his jaw. It suited him—made him look a little like a boxer. “Is it because I hit you in the face?”
Shore laughed, a sharp, mean bark that reminded Lane of a husky again. His pale eyes darkened, like the sky before a storm. “You want to know why I’m mad, kid? I’ll tell you. Yeah. I fight, and that’s my thing. And you score goals, or at least, you would if your teammates weren’t having a bitch fight with you for whatever reason. And you actually made up for it by throwing down with a guy who could break your ass in half, but didn’t. Because guess who they’d blame for that? The kid drafted by the NHL, or the guy who’s turning thirty-two next year, who’s on his tenth team since he started playing?”
Lane very deliberately made himself not say anything about Jared knowing he was drafted, even though it was the first time anyone had mentioned it to him without Lane telling them about it first. “Umm. I guess… you?”
“Yeah, genius. Me. And so I can’t fight you like you deserve, because you’re the talent. So I look like I can’t do my fucking job, and you can’t fight or score a goal but suddenly you’re Mr. MVP. I do get tired of being the easy answer to someone’s personal problems with their team. You want to fight someone, why don’t you fight one of your teammates instead?”
There was a point there, but Lane was too confused by the beer, the not-really-dinner, and Shore being so close to him to figure out what it was. “You knocked me over, though.”
Shore blinked, like that was the last thing he expected Lane to say. “You got in my way.”
“I was on my way to the goal,” Lane reminded him. He pushed the basket of chicken across the bar. “Do you want one of these?”
Shore was still staring at Lane like he was the equivalent of the water tornado with a hockey stick from the Storm’s terrible jersey. “You have defensemen who are supposed to protect you. That’s what they’re for.”
“They didn’t. Seriously, they’re not bad if you just let them cool off for a second. The chicken things, I mean. But I guess that’s true about my team too.” Lane felt nervous, but he wasn’t worried about Shore hauling off and hitting him again. It was something else.
Lane wasn’t good at feelings. That’s why he played sports.
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About the Author:
Avon Gale wrote her first story at the age of seven, about a “Space Hat” hanging on a rack and waiting for that special person to come along and purchase it — even if it was a bit weirder than the other, more normal hats. Like all of Avon’s characters, the space hat did get its happily ever after — though she’s pretty sure it was with a unicorn. She likes to think her vocabulary has improved since then, but the theme of quirky people waiting for their perfect match is still one of her favorites.
Avon grew up in the southern United States, and now lives with her very patient husband in a liberal midwestern college town. By day, Avon is a hair stylist who loves her job, her clients, and the opportunity to spend her time being creative and making people happy and look fabulous.
When she’s not writing, she’s either doing some kind of craft project that makes a huge mess, reading, watching horror movies, listening to music or yelling at her favorite hockey team to get it together, already. Avon is always up for a road trip, adores Kentucky bourbon, thinks nothing is as stress relieving as a good rock concert and will never say no to candy.
At one point, Avon was the mayor of both Jazzercise and Lollicup on Foursquare. This tells you basically all you need to know about her as a person.
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