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A brand new standalone hate-to-love, brother’s best friend hockey romance.
My new roommates are two pro hockey players.
First, my manwhore older brother, and second, his seriously hot best friend (who I seriously hate).
This was a last resort.
No one should be sleeping on a futon that smells like Cheetos and ball sweat.
But here I am, trying to get my life together.
Tristan Stiles is the bane of my existence.
He never wears a shirt.
We can’t seem to stop fighting.
He’s an arrogant playboy with a filthy reputation.
Sure, I had a crush on him when I was fourteen, but that was a long time ago.
I know better than to trust him.
I just need to survive long enough to find a new job and get a new place.
And not accidentally let Tristan rail me into next week.
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It smells like Cheetos, beer, possibly ball sweat, and a hint of men’s deodorant in here. My stomach gurgles ominously as I lie on the futon in the loft of my older brother’s condo. If I can’t sleep, I might as well call my best friend and fill her in.
“I have fifteen minutes between clients. What the heck is going on?” Essie asks when she answers.
It’s noisy from the big event she’s working. Her makeup brushes click and clink as they’re cleaned and slotted away while she waits for the next person to fill her chair.
“I imploded my life,” I tell her, succinct and accurate.
“This sounds bad. What happened?”
“I rage-quit my job and moved out of my apartment.”
It sounds even worse when I say it aloud. I’m so disappointed in myself. Asking my brother if I could stay at his place feels like the ultimate failure—he’s a professional hockey player, and I’m now unemployed and un-homed. I’m lucky I even caught him between ice time and going out.
“Did your roommates invite you to join their sex party again?” she asks.
“Why the hell can’t they take no for an answer? That’s harassment!”
I smile. I appreciate her indignation on my behalf. “Look, I respect anyone doing whatever gets their rocks off, but listen when I say no thank you. And then my boss dropped four boxes of receipts on my desk at the end of the day and said they needed to be sorted by nine tomorrow, so I lost my shit and quit.”
And when I got home, Eugenia was tied to a pillar in the living room. Naked. That was the last straw and the reason I’ve ended up here. On this futon.
“Seriously?” I can practically see Essie shaking her head. “That’s the fourth time that’s happened! You lasted two and a half months longer than I would have.”
“I really wanted it to work out, you know? It was my first real job at a firm. I had benefits and a steady paycheck, and now I have nothing.” How could I be so stupid and reactive?
“You are highly employable, Rix. You graduated at the top of your class. Come to Vancouver. Where are you staying now? Please don’t say a Motel Heaven.”
“Almost as bad, I’m at my brother’s.” I love Flip. He’s a great brother, and he’s helped me out financially in the past, but this clearly indicates that I’ve failed at taking care of myself. I hate that I’ve messed up my life so completely after being so careful.
“Oh my God. Rix.”
“It gets worse.” Because not only did I lose my job and my apartment, so I get to sleep on a futon in his loft with no doors or privacy, but I also did the unthinkable.
“Worse how?” Essie asks.
“I went to the Pink Taco. And I always overdo it.” Especially when I’m mid-tragedy. I love those freaking tacos.
“Tell me you didn’t have the refried beans.”
“I had the refried beans. And several margaritas.” So stupid. And expensive.
“Rix, you know better.”
“I know. My stomach sounds like a beast lives in there. A bean-fueled beast. I also might have left Rob an emotional, half-drunk voicemail.”
When Rob moved across the country, from Toronto to the east coast, to pursue his master’s, I wanted to try long distance. He was pragmatic and did not. We were together for more than a year, so I’m still sore about it. I’d thought we were heading toward moving in together, toward stability and next steps, so being over sucked, even if it was the right thing to do.
“Dude, you broke up months ago. Noooo.” Essie groans.
“What kind of message?”
“Not one I want to repeat. Maybe he won’t listen to it.” He’ll listen to it.
“Babe, seriously, come to Vancouver. There are accounting jobs here.”
“It’s enticing.” But also impractical, irresponsible, and expensive. I’ve capped out on all three tonight alone.
The sound of someone trying to get into the condo downstairs has me rushing to get off the phone. “I think my bro’s home. I’ll message later.”
“’Kay. Love you more than chocolate ice cream.”
“Same.” I end the call and press my phone to my chest. Emotions clog my throat.
I don’t want to explain this to my brother. I’m horrified by the whole thing.
The front door opens, and I take a deep breath, preparing for the inevitable embarrassing conversation. The kitchen lights flicker on.
“Ah, fuck. Shit. Too bright!” A deep voice echoes off the high ceilings.
My stomach gurgles as I tense. Stupid refried beans. It’s not my brother, Phillip—Flip. That started when I was a kid and couldn’t pronounce his name. Now it’s an ongoing joke because he’s a next-level fuckboy, as in “Flip me over and do me from behind.”
Unfortunately, it seems that my brother’s teammate and roommate, Tristan, is home. He sounds different, though. Which makes sense since he was eighteen when I last saw him in three dimensions, and he’s in his mid-twenties now. His voice is deeper, grittier.
It’s hitting home exactly what I’ve signed up for by asking to stay here. My brother I can deal with. His best friend is a whole different story—and the condo actually belongs to Tristan. When Flip was traded to the Terror, Toronto’s pro team, he was so excited about getting to play with his childhood best friend that he moved in with him, too.
“Lights off!” Tristan slurs.
The condo goes dark. There’s some shuffling and then an oof and a grunt. “Motherhumping shitbag. Baffrum leg on!” More stumbling around in the dark. More swearing. Something hits the floor with a loud bang. “Bathroom light on.” He enunciates each word slowly, with less slurring.
I stay in my coffin-style pose on the futon upstairs. He can’t see me from here. I’d prefer to defer my first interaction with Tristan in nearly a decade since he’s clearly shitfaced, and I’ve had a shit day.
I lie as still as possible and work on breathing quietly.
The fridge opens. “Fuck. I need t’order gro’ries.” The door falls closed. More rustling. More swearing. “Stupid shots. Ah, shit.”
I give in to curiosity and roll onto my stomach, peeking over the arm of the couch. Tristan’s standing at the island, half a jug of orange juice spilled across the counter, the puddle making its way to the edge. He yanks his shirt over his head and drops it on the spreading liquid, but instead of containing the mess, it drips onto his feet. He stumbles backward into the fridge.
I’m unable to appreciate his shirtless-ness before he grumbles more profanities and disappears. Not that I want to appreciate all those rippling muscles earned by countless hours on the ice. Because I don’t. Mostly.
The sound of water running filters up to the loft, along with Tristan’s colorful commentary about stupid orange juice, followed by something about glitter and too much perfume.
The water turns off, then turns on again a moment later. I roll off the couch to the floor, grimacing as my palms land in dirt, or crumbs, or who the hell knows what. This loft needs a serious bleaching. I stay low and crawl on my hands and knees to the railing. From here, I have an excellent view of most of the condo, including the bathroom. The door is wide open. The faucet isn’t running. Tristan is peeing. He lists to the right and grabs the edge of the vanity to keep from falling over and completely misses the toilet.
I hope there’s more than one bathroom in this place. Maybe my brother has his own. Crossing my fingers on that since he’s not known for his exceptional cleaning skills. Tristan swears and pulls an excessively long ream of toilet paper free to mop up the mess he made.
My phone buzzes from the couch. I scamper back into hiding and check it. Shit. Rob is texting. A second later, the phone buzzes with a call. I send it to voicemail and quickly set my phone to airplane mode.
When the sound of water hitting water ends, I expect Tristan to stumble-weave to his bedroom. But that doesn’t happen. Instead, a low groan filters up to the loft. The vaulted ceilings amplify the sound. I frown and close my eyes as I try to place the noises coming from the first floor.
“Ah fuck, yeah. So hard.”
My lids flip open. He can’t be… Can he?
I leave the protective cover of a gaming chair and peek through the bars of the railing again.
Oh, he totally is.
My breath catches and my heart stutters and then gallops.
Tristan is masturbating.
His head is bowed, eyes screwed tightly shut, brow furrowed, lip curled. I can’t see what’s happening below the waist, but his biceps flex and his arm moves at a furious pace. His broad back expands and contracts with each panted breath. He shifts, and suddenly I can see the goods.
And holy shit, is he packing a seriously huge cock.
Even in his massive fist, it’s impressive.
I should look away.
I should not be listening.
But I can’t pry my eyes away from the sight of Tristan jerking off with unparalleled zeal. Every muscle is tight and corded. A sheen of sweat covers his shoulders as his hand moves faster. God, he’s rough with himself. He groans, and his head rolls back on the next aggressive tug. He grunts out a low, “Fuck yeah,” and shifts so he’s standing in front of one of the sinks. There are two. His hips jerk, his strokes lose their rhythm, and he blows his load all over the vanity.
I clench below the waist. My skin is dewy, and my heart is slamming around in my chest. It’s not solely because of the refried beans anymore.
I just watched my brother’s best friend masturbate. And based on the way my body is humming with pent-up sexual energy, I liked it. A lot. Maybe that’s the vibe I was throwing out with my roommates. It might explain a few things—like why they wanted me to dress up as a pirate and join them in their sex-capades.
The water turns on, and I slink back to the futon, stretching out on the grimy cushion, feeling guilty and ashamed. Today is all about setting new personal lows, apparently. I lie there, struggling to calm my breathing while Tristan bumbles around below. It feels like a million years before a door opens and closes. My plan is to lie here until morning and pretend I was asleep the whole time. Unfortunately, the three margaritas I consumed and my anxiety over having to pretend for eternity that I didn’t just watch a professional hockey player whack off without his knowledge means I have to pee. Badly.
I distract myself by reading the message from Rob.
You sound drunk. Maybe you should call Essie. Text to let me know you’re safe, tho.
That was the opposite of helpful. I don’t bother listening to his voicemail. I don’t need to be kicked again now that I’m this far down.
I send him a thumbs-up so he doesn’t worry, or call again. I can’t take his brand of pity right now.
My bladder is screaming. I won’t make it until morning without peeing my pants, and I’d prefer not to hit that special low. Down is the only way. I’m sure Tristan passed out instantly, considering how wasted he is.
Decision made, my need to pee becomes a physical ache. It consumes all my thoughts. I rush to the stupid fucking ladder and realize it’s retracted on its own. To avoid making noise, I climb down to the last step, then hang from the rung and drop the rest of the way to the floor. It’s only a few feet, but because today sucks a giant bag of assholes, I roll my ankle and land with a thud and an oof. I clap a hand over my mouth. And pee a little in my pants.
I hop to my feet and sprint past Tristan’s bedroom, launching myself into the bathroom. I close the door harder than I mean to and turn the lock. I’ve barely flipped the toilet seat down before I unleash Niagara Falls. The relief is almost on par with an orgasm. Almost. I drop my head into my hands while my bladder empties.
Eleven years later, I’m finally done. I wipe and debate whether I should flush but decide against it because it could cause unnecessary noise.
The sink on the left is spotless, only a toothbrush holder and a pump soap sit on the counter. The other sink clearly belongs to my brother. The edge is rimmed in stubble, and toothpaste lumps and food particles sit at the bottom. And probably some residual jizz. The cap is off his toothpaste tube, and two razors lie on his side of the counter. Toothpaste and water spots dot the mirror on his side. I wonder if it annoys Tristan the way it annoys me.
I put myself here, though, so I don’t have a right to complain.
Based on the lack of noise beyond the bathroom, I’m in the clear. I take a deep breath and channel stealth vibes so I can get back to the loft undetected. But when I unlock the door and throw it open, I realize I’m very wrong.
Tristan blocks the doorway—arms crossed, muscles bulging. He’s wearing boxer briefs, and that’s it.
I’ve seen Tristan in pictures over the years. He’s a professional hockey player, and a good one at that. His stats are amazing, and he’s one of the top players in the league. He’s also stupidly hot. Like, my underwear wants to shimmy down my legs and throw itself at his feet.
His dark blond hair curls around his ears and at the nape of his neck. It swoops across his forehead, and the cowlick in front makes one unruly piece stick out in the wrong direction. His forest green eyes are framed with thick, enviable lashes and a day’s worth of stubble decorates his chiseled jaw. And don’t get me started on his chin dimple. Ugh.
He’s way bigger than I remember, which makes sense since I stopped growing my freshman year of high school, and he did not. He must be six four or better, and his shoulders are ridiculous. And his abs. God, his abs. He’s cut and rippling and hotter than any man has a right to be. I also think he might be sparkling, and he smells like he jumped into a bottle of cheap women’s perfume.
“How the hell did you get in here? Did Flip give you a fucking key?” he demands, listing to the right.
“Um…Clarice, the super, let me in… I thought Flip checked with you.”
He narrows his eyes. “You look familiar.” He blinks and lists to the left this time. He’s off-balance, so he uncrosses his arms and braces a hand on the wall, making all the muscles in his arm flex and pop. “You brought your friend last time, right? Suzy the screamer?” His face lights up at the memory.
I throw up in my mouth a little. “Tristan, it’s me, Beatrix. Flip’s sister.”
He frowns, and his brows pull together. “Beat?”
I fight a cringe at the horrible nickname he gave me when we were kids. As in: “Beat it. No one wants you around.”
His slightly unfocused gaze rakes over me, assessing. “Shit. You were a gangly, pimple-faced nerd the last time I saw you.”
Ego: minus ten.
Turns out, I still really fucking hate Tristan. I cross my arms. “Still the same giant dick, huh?” I glance down for a fraction of a second, but it’s enough.
He smirks. “Still interested in finding out, huh?”
“Of course that’s your interpretation, you dirtbag.” I roll my eyes even as my cheeks burst with heat. I may or may not have had a crush on Tristan when I was a freshman. And I may or may not have seen him completely naked once. Mostly, sort of, not even a little not on purpose. “Let me rephrase, still the same giant asshole.”
His smirk grows smirkier. “Sure, that’s what you meant.”
This conversation is stupidly juvenile, and I’m suddenly exhausted beyond belief.
“Look, today has been a giant bag of shit,” I tell him. “I get that it’s been a lot of years since you’ve had the chance to torment me, but do you think you can put a pin in it until tomorrow? I’m wiped, and dealing with your assholery isn’t high on my priority list.”
When I try to slip past him, he blocks my way. “How long have you been here?”
Oh, shit. I bite my lips together and blink up at him. He narrows his eyes and steps forward, forcing me to step back unless I want my chest to brush his. Which, let’s be honest, I kind of do. It’s so stupidly cliché, the whole having a teen crush on my brother’s best friend. But dude was hot, and sometimes, when Flip wasn’t there to witness it, Tristan could be…kind. Soft. Those moments were rare, but they ignited that stupid crush flame and kept it burning throughout freshman year.
Then Tristan was drafted to a farm team out of the province, and his hockey career exploded a few years later.
“I asked you a question, Beat.” He leans in closer, until his warm exhale caresses my cheek and his lips are at my ear. “I expect an answer.”
A shiver runs down my spine. I inhale the scent of cheap perfume. I wonder, briefly, why he didn’t bring home whoever was clearly hanging all over him tonight. Then I remember that as hot as he is, he’s still seventy-five percent asshole. “Not long,” I croak.
He pulls back, and his shrewd gaze locks on mine. “You’re lying.”
My swallow is audible. He’s not wrong.
“Why didn’t you announce yourself when I came home?” His voice is deceptively soft. But I’m not fooled. I remember how he used to cajole when I was a kid, and then he’d trick me into something stupid. Sometimes it was harmless, like telling me he had a chocolate bar, but really he was holding an agitated toad. When I got close enough, he would toss it in my face like an asshole and run away laughing.
Other times, though, he did things out of spite, or anger, or sheer dickish-ness. Like the time I was all dressed up for my best friend Essie’s tenth birthday party and my dad was dropping Flip off at Tristan’s to swim. We were early, so he went in to help Tristan’s dad with some handyman project. I can’t remember exactly how it all went down, but Tristan threw me in the pool fully clothed. My mom had done my hair and even made my dress. I’d been so excited, and he totally ruined it.
I feel like that’s the version of Tristan I’m looking at. That version wasn’t my favorite back then, and I like it even less now.
“First, I was asleep until I heard you come in.” Or I would have liked to have been… “Second, you’re wasted, and you can barely keep yourself from falling over. I wasn’t super interested in dealing with my brother’s drunk-ass best friend at stupid o’clock in the morning after the shitty day I’ve had. Third, what the hell was I supposed to say?” My voice rises with irritation and indignation. “So sorry for interrupting you, Palmela, and Fingerella? Maybe shut the bathroom door next time!”
“I thought I was alone!” he snaps. “You could’ve made yourself known at any point.”
“’Cause that wouldn’t have been awkward at all.”
He leans in again and drops his voice. “Maybe you kept quiet because you liked it. Did you just listen, Beat, or did you watch, too?”
Nothing like being accurately called out by a drunk jerk. Not that I’ll admit it. “Check your ego, Tristan, and back the fuck off.” I shove his chest, and he stumbles back a step, maybe not expecting it. The lights in the kitchen come on.
It’s tough not to admire all six-four-plus inches of cut, hot-as-fuck hockey player. It’s unfair that someone as dickish as him can look as good as he does in only a pair of white boxer briefs. And I can see his dick-print. My vagina approves, but the rest of me is disgusted. Mostly. Especially when I realize there are lipstick prints on his chest and… “Are you covered in glitter?” I glance down at my hand, which sparkles in the ambient light. He’s totally glittering. I shouldn’t be surprised. My brother is the most notorious fuckboy in the league, and Tristan is his wingman. “You reek like cheap perfume and regrets.”
For a second, his expression flashes with an emotion I don’t quite understand, but a cocky smirk soon takes its place. “You sound jealous.”
“Not hardly.” I roll my eyes. “Get over yourself, King Douche of Assholeville.”
His smile grows dark, and he takes a step backward. “Liar, liar, panties on fire. I hope you enjoyed the show.” He turns and disappears into his bedroom, the door closing behind him.
I thought screwing up my life was punishment enough, but it seems dealing with Tristan is going to be my new penance.