“So, what’s your story?” I asked.
“My story?” He lowered his head and gazed at me over his sunglasses.
My heart flittered fast, waiting for him to tell me to move or ask why I had chosen to sit next to him, given all the open seats surrounding the pool. But he didn’t.
Had I really chosen this spot because these were the only three empty chairs next to each other? I could have dragged another lounger next to two others.
“You’re not Greek. I can tell that by your accent.” Under the ruse of trying to figure him out, I twisted my torso and leaned toward his chair. Subconsciously I relished the opportunity to study his features more closely. “So you can’t be one of the Detroit-area Greek singles I’m supposed to be hanging out with.”
“I am. I came here with a friend.”
“Who’s your friend?” I asked, tucking my hair behind my ears.
I didn’t recognize that name. And after spending the majority of my life around people in the Greek Orthodox community, I pretty much knew anyone close to my age, whether we went to the same church or not.
“How do you know Blake?” I settled back into the lounge chair, flicking back a corner of the towel that had fallen onto my shoulder.
Adonis’s lip curled into a smirk. “Panikos worked with me when I lived in Detroit.”
“Where do you live now?”
“Really?” I sat up. “My best friend just moved to Charlotte.”
“Charlotte. That is where I live.”
“What a small world. She lives downtown, in the Avenue condos.” I paused to correct myself. “Well, I guess you guys call it uptown instead of downtown.”
“Why did she move to Charlotte? Did she get a job there?” Adonis leaned sideways and picked up a plastic cup from the ground next to his chair. He took a sip of his drink.
“No. She moved in with her fiancé. He’s a hockey player.”
Adonis didn’t respond, but he choked on his drink and diverted his eyes toward the pool.
“His name’s Aleksandr Varenkov,” I added. “Do you know him?”
“No,” he answered quickly, and adjusted his aviator sunglasses, which had slid down his nose. “I never heard of him. Maybe if I saw him, I’d know his face.”
“If the Internet worked here, I’d show you a picture on my phone.”
“The ship has Internet,” Adonis corrected me.
“Yeah, but I can’t afford the hundred dollars a minute they charge to access it.” A hundred dollars a minute was only a slight exaggeration—the ship charged enough that I didn’t feel the need to waste my money. I’d wait until we docked somewhere with a restaurant or a bar that offered free Wi-Fi. “So what do you do?”
His gaze veered from my lips to my eyes before he answered. “I am a Pilot.”
“Really? So you’re always traveling, eh? Do you love it?” I reached over and grabbed my water bottle off the tiny table next to my lounge chair.
“I like to fly. To travel. It is, um, a good job for me.” Adonis took another swig from his drink, something clear with a cluster of crushed ice floating in it. “Where do you work?”
I leaned back in the chair and bent my knees slightly—perfect position to soak up the sizzling sunshine. “I’m the assistant to one of the owners of Motor City Bar Management. It’s a company that owns a group of bars around Detroit. I coordinate all the volunteers and employees for events that our bars host or sponsor.” I finished my water and set the empty bottle on the table.
“What kind of events?”
“Concerts. Bar crawls. Promotional events before games,” I said, rattling off a few of the things I’d helped plan recently.
“Wonder if I’ve seen you around,” he said. “I go to a lot of concerts.”
“Probably not,” I said. “I just started two months ago. Before that I was at Central State.”
Adonis’s eyes darted toward something behind me. “You like the party life?”
“Sure. It’s fun right now while I’m young.” I wiggled my toes, watching the pink glitter polish sparkle in the sunlight. “My goal is to learn the ropes of event planning, then turn it into something more professional in a few years when I don’t want to be immersed in the bar scene anymore.”
Suddenly he sat up and swung his legs over the side of the chair, planting them on the ground facing me. Then he leaned close, his face inches from mine.
Was he going to kiss me?
My heart hammered, excited and eager to accept a kiss from this stranger. I licked my lips and closed my eyes. But instead of feeling his mouth on mine, I felt his breath against my face.
“The guy you are trying to avoid is behind you,” he said.
My eyes flickered open. “Huh?”
“The guy you ran from.” Adonis nodded. “He is behind you now.” He leaned back, resuming his original lazy, reclined position. Then he tilted his cup and drained his drink.
How did this guy already have my heart pounding and my mind begging for his lips on mine? I figured the salty ocean air must be permeating my brain and breaking down my common sense.
I absolutely loved Pasha and Kristen’s story–it was totally worth being sleepy all day at work today for! They both go into their relationship knowing it has an expiration date–needing it to have an expiration date–and even playing it as a fake relationship at first. Though they mostly keep up the facade while they’re on the cruise, it’s not really a “fake relationship” story at all, that is, it doesn’t have any of the trademark elements that you usually see in that troupe. Rather, it’s all about the we’ve-only-got-a-short-time-so-let’s-enjoy-the-heck-out-of-it-while-we’re-here vibe going on.
Which makes sense, because that’s pretty much Kristen’s motto. She has cystic fibrosis, and has known since high school that she probably won’t make it past her mid-thirties. Finding that out drove her high school boyfriend away (right before prom, the a$$) so ever since she’s focused on short term relationships and resigned herself to not having anything more, since it wouldn’t be fair to her partner.
Pasha had a pretty wretched childhood–his father was verbally and physically abusive–with his mother and sister (and hockey) as its only bright spots. But his mother was taken away from him too early (car accident) and his fear of turning into his father has also made him decide that temporary is the way to go. Anyone he loves is likely to leave, and those that might stay probably deserve better than him.
But both Kristen and Pasha act differently with each other than they ever have with anyone else. Pasha’s lie–omission of the truth, whatever you want to call it–lets them start with a clean, blank slate with each other and it’s plain to see that they both bring out the best in each other. When the vacation’s over, though? It all goes south pretty fast. Do they have the strength and courage to pull things back together?
(Spoiler alert: it’s a hockey romance. Of course they do! And in pretty dramatic–and thoroughly romantic–fashion.)
There isn’t a whole lot of hockey in this one, but I honestly didn’t mind. I thoroughly loved just reading about these two together…and kept turning the pages until they were back together, knowing it would bring a smile to my face again when they were.
I only wish I hadn’t read so many books between Auden and Aleksandr’s story ( Delayed Penalty ) so Pasha’s a$$holic behavior would have been fresher in my mind. Though maybe it’s better that it wasn’t, because I wasn’t distracted for 90% of the book thinking about his jerkiness. Though he does do a fine job of reminding us of what a jerk he is–through his thoughts for most of it, by his actions later on–so if you haven’t read the rest of the series you should be fine. It’s just that I have read them all, and I really wish I remembered the details better right now. Darn those 250+ books I’ve read in the meantime!
Ms. Henry has definitely set the bar pretty high on this one (no pressure ;)) and I can’t wait to see what’s up next for the guys of Pilots Hockey!
Rating: 4 1/2 stars / A-
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
Sophia Henry, a proud Detroit native, fell in love with
reading, writing, and hockey all before she became a teenager. She did not, however, fall in love with snow. So after graduating with a BS in English from Central Michigan University, she moved to the warmth of North Carolina for the remainder of her winters.She spends her days writing books featuring hot, hockey-playing
heroes. When she’s not writing, she’s chasing her two high-energy sons, watching her beloved Detroit Red Wings and rocking out at concerts with her husband.