Pucked Off (The Pucked Series)

By: Helena Hunting
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS




Without my family, I wouldn’t have the time or support to do this; thank you for always being here to support me on this crazy road.

Pepper, salt is boring without you.

Kimberly, thanks for being my rope.

Nina, you’re an amazing human. I’m ever grateful for your support.

Jenn—thank you for being such an amazing part of my team. You’re awesome.

Shannon, you bring it every time. Thank you for making this series amazing on the outside.

Teeny, you’re amazing, especially when you’re haunting my messages.

Marla, you rock. Thank you for being so amazing.

Sarah, I honestly have no idea how I managed before I had you.

Hustlers, I’m so excited for this one. Thank you for being my team. For making this such an exciting journey, and for always having my back.

Beavers, you’re my safe place and the best cheerleaders. Thank you for loving these characters.

Ashley—you’re a special person. I would make Lance real for you if I could.

To my Backdoor Babes; Tara, Meghan, Deb and Katherine, I’m so glad I have somewhere to talk about inappropriate things.

Pams, Filets, my Nap girls; 101’ers, my Holiday’s and Indies, Tijan, Susi, Deb, Erika, Katherine, Shalu, Kellie, Ruth, Melissa, Sarah, Kelly, Melanie, Jessica—thank you for being my friends, my colleagues, my supporters, my teachers, my cheerleaders and my soft places to land.

It’s an honor to be part of the indie community. Thank you for embracing me, and for being so amazingly supportive, even when I take you on a different journey.

To all the amazing bloggers and readers who keep traveling this road with me; thank you for believing in happily ever afters.





CHAPTER 1


TRAP

LANCE

I grip the steering wheel and take a few deep breaths, willing myself to put my Hummer in reverse. It’s what I should do. But I don’t. Instead, I shift into park and cut the engine. I don’t move, though. My internal battle is fucking endless. This is the very last place I should be. But I’m here anyway. Because even though I know better, I can’t help myself.

The whole breaking-the-cycle thing is hard to do. And this is part of my cycle. I come back to the people who hurt me, and I let them do it over and over again, always hoping maybe one day the end result is going to be different. Or that the process is going to cure my guilt and alleviate my need to atone.

It never does. But I’m still here.

I check my phone and scroll through the messages that began to accumulate late last night. Tash, my ex—or whatever the fuck she is to me—is in town. I ignored her until an hour ago. There are twenty texts. One every hour. I scroll past the first nine to the ones that brought me here, to this place I shouldn’t be:





Around and around it goes. So I’m sitting here staring at the last two messages—the one containing her room number, and the one from an hour ago telling me she’s getting impatient and won’t wait much longer for a response.

I might’ve been able to ignore the last one if my teammates and closest friends, Randy Ballistic and Miller Butterson, weren’t nailed down by their balls. But they are. They’re both in committed relationships, so a call at nine at night for an impromptu trip to the bar isn’t an option. Besides, Miller’s girlfriend is expecting a baby soon, so he’s not interested in being anywhere she’s not.

It’s understandable, but it means I don’t have any wingmen to stop me from doing this. Truthfully, I could probably call Randy. But I don’t really want to.

I open the door and step out into the unseasonably warm night. I let the numbness set in as I cross the parking lot and enter the hotel, heading for the elevators. I try not to think about how things went down the last time I saw Tash. I try not to feel much of anything.

When the elevator doors open at the twenty-third floor, I almost don’t get off. Almost. But I’m weak for Tash. I don’t know how to say no to her, even though she’s bad for me. I step out into the hall. My palms are sweaty, and my stomach starts to roll the way it used to after a game when I was young. The way it used to when I didn’t perform the way I should’ve and my mum expressed her disappointment.

But I deserved it. I took the best thing in her life away.

My feet feel like they’re made of lead as I walk down the hall to Tash’s room. When I get there, I shove my hands in my pockets and wait for the memories to fade. I need a drink. I need the past to stop haunting me. I need to stop doing this with Tash.

My fist doesn’t feel like it’s attached to my body as I lift it to knock on the door. The click of the lock turning twists the knot of my anxiety tighter. Then the door opens, and there she is.

Tash is wearing a T-shirt. My T-shirt. I don’t think there’s anything on underneath it. Her hair is loose around her shoulders. I know what it feels like between my fingers and on my chest. Her lips curve in a smile that looks more devious than welcoming.

“Hi.”

“Hey.” I jam my hands back in my pockets so I don’t touch her like I want to.

“I’m so glad you decided to come.” She reaches out and skims my forearm. I tense when her fingers wrap around my wrist, tugging my hand free of my pocket.

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