Book Title: Firebird
Author: Jennifer Loring
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: October 20, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions
Stephanie Hartwell is a journalist chasing the story of her career...
When superstar hockey player and notorious bad boy Aleksandr Volynsky is traded to the Seattle Earthquakes in a blockbuster deal, Stephanie demands the opportunity to prove herself by scoring an exclusive interview with a man with no love for the media...the same man she once though, as a naive teenager, she'd someday marry.
An Olympian and Stanley Cup Champion, Aleksandr has achieved every goal he's ever set...
Now expected to carry a failing team on his shoulders, Aleksandr's troubles deepen when he encounters Stephanie after a season-opening loss. His lifestyle of drinking and random hookups has been a futile attempt to forget the beautiful tomboy who stole his heart nine years ago. And worse, fame and fortune have made it impossible for him to trust anyone--especially Stephanie, who is engaged to another man.
Romance rekindles, but tragedy reveals Aleksandr's dark side...
Being with Aleksandr in the first place jeopardizes Stephanie's journalistic integrity and threatens her career, and when he spirals out of control, it reawakens fears from her own history, making her unable to commit to a future with him.
When Aleksandr discovers the truth behind his self-destructive behavior, will his newfound self-awareness be enough to convince Stephanie to give him one last chance...
“Heard things didn’t go so well.”
“Hence the booze.” She clinked her glass with Rhonda’s.
By the third drink, aware of her tongue’s increasing clumsiness and the slur on the last word of each sentence, she’d told Rhonda the entire wretched story. Rhonda offered a sympathetic nod or tsk in all the right places, until a hush descended on the bar as an extraordinary baritone crooned “Into My Arms” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
“What in the world is that?”
“We should find out.” Stephanie slid off the barstool. She and Rhonda edged their way through the crowd and into the back, standing room only. “Oh. My. God.”
“Isn’t that Volynsky?”
Half the crowd was recording video that guaranteed thousands of YouTube views. Wolf whistles and shouts of “Sasha!” attended the caramel voice—rich, smooth, with a hint of darkness—flowing from his lips. Born to perform, as an athlete or otherwise. Soaking in his audience’s adulation. In his superiority. Despite the pop-music confines, he could not help but assert his obvious classical training.
Despite the women vying for his attention at the front of the stage, his gaze homed in on her with a laser’s exactitude, rooting her to the floor. And from then on, he did not look anywhere else until the song ended, knowing she could not have left if she’d wanted to.
Mic drop. He raised his arms, flashed victory signs, and hopped off the stage to raucous applause. He’d have to ruin the moment, the pompous ass.
“I need to get out of here.”
“You okay to go by yourself? Let me call you a cab.”
“I’ll be fine. I can call Joe if I need to.”
“All right. Be safe.”
“I will.” They hugged. “See you on Monday.” She weaved her way through the throng, trying to keep her head down but needing visual confirmation she and Aleksandr were not about to cross paths.
And smacked into a solid, T-shirt-clad chest.
“Fancy meeting you here.” Intoxication had thickened his accent.
“I’m on my way out. Nice job getting arrested, by the way. Goodbye.”
“Wait. Don’t go yet.” He grasped her arm and led her to a corner in the back room. The obsequious clearing of a path for him nauseated her. If there was one thing she couldn’t abide, it was a spoiled brat. “I apologize.”
“How noble of you.” Stephanie tried to wriggle away. She was close enough to feel the hard contours of his muscles, the heat radiating off him.
“Do you have any idea what it’s like, seeing you again after all these years?”
She had been trying to drink it away all week. “Aleksandr, my job is on the line because of you. I need a story or I’m done. And you know what? I don’t even care anymore. My fiancé wants to move back east anyway.”
The pained expression again, more naked now that the barriers had fallen. “I tried to forget about you after we lost touch. I wanted to. But I just…couldn’t.”
“I know,” Stephanie murmured, wishing she didn’t.
“Then why did you stop emailing me?”
“People drift apart,” she lied. “You were playing pro at eighteen. You have everything. What did you need me for?”
“No one else knows me as anyone but this. Everyone I meet wants bragging rights or my money. Except you.”
“People suck, Aleksandr, but you can’t go through life not trusting anyone. Do you want to be alone forever?”
“Of course not. And maybe that’s why I ended up here. To find you again.”
Her breath stuck in her throat. “Aleksandr, I can’t. Please.”
“Are you happy?”
“What kind of a question is that? Of course I’m happy.”
The corner of his mouth twitched. “You’re lying.”
“I don’t have to prove anything to you.” Stephanie spun away from him, but he closed his fingers around her wrist like an iron cuff and tugged. She stumbled into him. He tilted her chin, his soporific eyes begging her to share the moment with him, to understand. To remember, as if she’d ever forgotten.
“I saw you when you came in. I sang for you.”
“Aleksandr, please. You’re just drunk.”
His hot, vodka-laced breath caressed her mouth. The room blurred, spun a little. She staggered back, but he caught her again and pulled her close. How foolish to think time alone could have extinguished what had been her responsibility to snuff out. Embers that, left to smolder as they had, could set the whole forest aflame.
“Do not,” she ordered. He wouldn’t listen, of course. His youthful insouciance was part of his allure, and she loathed herself for falling for the bad-boy act. The version of him she’d loved had been sweet, kind, the boy she’d envisioned marrying someday.
Aleksandr, one hand still touching her face, lowered his head. “Or what?” He brushed his lips over hers, the kiss flirting between them with each breath, each heartbeat. His lips commanded hers to open, inviting in his tongue. Her arms too disobeyed her, and she cradled his head as he slipped his arms around her waist, her fingers coiled in his hair. So many years had passed and yet their two broken halves, the edges still sharp, fused in an instant. She had stitched herself back together after they’d said goodbye; she had functioned as a living thing ever since, if only externally, but still she grieved.
And now, the spark of life.
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