It's Ice Hockey Player vs Figure Skater in this sweet and sexy Christmas romance.
When enemies Nolan and Candy are trapped together by a blizzard and hypothermic, there's only one thing they can do... Candy for Christmas is available FREE for a limited time on Amazon Kindle.
Nolan Ducayne plays ice hockey for the Rangers and is the best defender in the league. Candice Levine is an Olympic gold medallist figure skater. They're fiercely attracted to each other. There's just one little problem. They're at war over the pond ice that lies on the boundary between their properties.
Christmas has always been lonely for Candice but this year she plans to embrace the season. She's even going to get a tree, which leads to all new problems with Nolan bloody Ducayne. The bane of her existence. He thinks he owns the ice. If only he wasn't sin on skates.
When Nolan comes home and finds the ice princess trying to cut down a tree on his property, he can't help but take advantage of the situation. It's a pity Candy hates him, because she stirs every one of his protective instincts. Not to mention the other thing she stirs.
Hockey player versus ice skater. The battle lines are drawn. But when the pond ice breaks and Candy falls into the freezing water, Nolan risks his life to save her. Hypothermic and trapped together by a blizzard, they're forced to confront their feelings and negotiate a Christmas ceasefire. The only question is... how long will it last?
Thwack. The steel axe-edge slammed into the soft wood of the Douglas Fir. It stuck there and Candice pulled on the handle, attempting to lever it free. The axe refused to budge. She tried to decide if this was better than her first swing which had ricocheted off the wood like a hockey puck off the boards, or the two dozen loud but piddling attempts in between.
She tamped down the pang of guilt she felt over cutting down the pretty little evergreen. Or rather the guilt she’d feel if she emerged from this encounter triumphant. Her house had a fireplace for crying out loud and she wasn’t opposed to sustainable forestry. There was just something about finding the perfect tree — the right shape and shade of blue-green — then cutting it down. It seemed melancholy. Or maybe that feeling was just par for the course this time of year.
Christmas was always lonely. Starting from her teenage years when she’d spent Decembers training, because it was easier to brush aside the pain of loss when she was on the ice. But earlier this year she retired from competitive figure skating. Endorsement had left her financially secure and she’d bought a little cabin in the Colorado mountains, near Aspen. Where the preceding years were lonely, sorry affairs, this year she was determined to embrace the season.
Starting with this tree.
She wrenched on the axe handle one more time and it came free. The momentum flung her back, flat on her ass in the snow. Frustrated, she raised her head and banged it back down into the soft white fluff. “Mother-fucking tree.”
The sound of a slow hand clap had her turning her head, searching for the source. Somehow knew what she’d find before she saw him.
Nolan bloody Ducayne. Best left defenseman in the NHL and the bane of her existence. Tall, long limbed, and strong, he could take any hit levelled at him and get back up. He was leaning against a nearby spruce, booted feet crossed at the ankles. “You tell him, Sweetheart.”
She closed her eyes in momentary supplication — when the hell did he get home? — then opened them and pinned him with blue darts. “You’re on my land, Ducayne.”
Of the dozens of acres that comprised each of their neighbouring properties, the previous owners had built their houses on the shared boundary, within shouting distance. And there had been some shouting going on. Of course, the reason for the placement was obvious. They’d built near the pond that sat half on her property, half on his.
“Guess again,” he replied. “Boundary’s about ten yards that way,” he gestured past her with his jaw. “That’s my tree you’re cutting down.”
Candice swung her head in that direction, then further, towards her cabin, before turning back to stare beyond him, at his. She closed her eyes again. “Mother-fucking tree.” All feelings of guilt evaporated.
Nolan chuckled and the husky sound floated across to her like snowflakes. He pushed away from the spruce and his boots crunched against the snow. They paused beside her. He gazed down, an enigmatic look on his face. Then he reached out a hand.
Candice raised her own instinctively. Nolan grasped it and tugged her upright, as easily as if gravity didn’t exist. A small sound that may have been gasp escaped her as she became aware that she was three inches away from over six feet of lean mean ice-hockey machine, her bare hand engulfed in the startling warmth of his. She’d removed her gloves to grip the axe handle properly. Who knew where Nolan’s were.
In the months they’d lived next to each other, she didn’t think they’d ever touched before. Sensation flowed through that point of contact and, okay, she knew they hadn’t. But being entirely aware of the fact she’d never touched him was more revealing that she could admit. Not while they stood so close.
“Thanks,” she muttered and tried to step back. Her brain did, anyway. Her body refused to co-operate. Candice’s head reached just above his shoulder. She detected the scent of pine and ice. He smelled like the forest.
“Give it to me.”
Her eyes flicked up meet hickory orbs and she drew in a deep breath. The scent was intoxicating and her response indicated the effect it was having: “Wha—?”
“Give me the axe.”
Languidly, she passed it to him. Nolan wrapped one large fist around the handle, just below hers. But he didn’t tug and she didn’t release, and they stood, holding the axe. Those hickory eyes narrowed as he watched her. Her fleece-lined parka was too warm and her breath stole out between them, mist on the cold air. He inhaled, then exhaled in concert. Their breaths mingled.
Nolan’s head tipped down ever so slightly and hers tilted correspondingly. Candice’s eyes flicked to his mouth, the curve more sensual than any man had a right to, and her own pink lips parted. She swayed towards him. Her parker grazed the front of his flannel shirt. Their fingers brushed on the axe handle and her other hand, still wrapped in his, felt every amplified electric sensation.
Nolan Ducayne was about to kiss her. And she wanted him to, despite everything that had passed between them. None of which she could recall at this precise moment. The only thought that penetrated was that if she kissed him, nothing would ever be the same.
Less than a breath separated them when a loud crack startled her. Before Candice could process the source of the noise, Nolan’s strong arm wrapped around her waist. He simultaneously stepped back and tugged her into the shelter of his body, shielding her as snow came tumbling down over the top of them.
A broken branch landed where she was just standing.
She couldn’t decide whether to be grateful or not. On the one hand, she was not kissing Nolan Ducayne. Was that good? Was that bad? She wasn’t sure. But on the other hand, she was now in his arms. And, oh god, that was definitely good.
“You okay?” he asked huskily.
“It’s just snow,” she replied in a matching tone.
“The branch didn’t get you?”
“No. You…” she thought about what word she wanted to use, “protected me.”
They were silent for a moment. She’d never admit it, but Candace secretly watched his games on cable. Trying to understand all the rules had been confusing at first. But the more familiar she became with the game, the more she realised that Nolan Ducayne was fiercely protective. Of his team, his goalie, his end zone, and his puck. He was arguably the best offensive defenceman in the league, and it was because of his bone deep protective instincts.
They were at the heart of the conflict between them. That thought allowed her to summoned the strength to step back from him. His arm around her waist tightened for a moment before he released her. Her hand fell from the axe and she made a show of brushing snow from her coat and hair.
Nolan didn’t say anything, just shook his hair free of snow as he walked towards the fir she’d begun to cut down what seemed an eternity ago. “Stand back.” He didn’t check to see if she complied. Just looked around for a moment, gauging the fall, then lifted the axe and drove it deep into the soft wood. Wood chips flew free and he wrenched the axe out with ease.
All she could think to say was, “But it’s your tree.” Why was he cutting it down? It would have recovered easily from her few piddling strikes.
Nolan ignored her. Just kept chopping. Chipping in, above and below, creating a notch. He made it look so damned easy that she was torn between being pissed off and impressed. Nolan looked like he felled trees every damn day of his life. Like the axe was an extension of his body. The same way his stick was when she watched him play.
He created a second notch on the opposite side before returning to the first. A few more swings and the wood cracked as the tree began to fall. The whole thing took him about a minute. Sure, it was just a little tree, but for some inexplicable reason she felt slightly helpless and aware of her femininity in a way that she thought should be unwelcome, but wasn’t.
When the tree hit the ground it sent a cloud of white fluff up into the air. Nolan swung the axe up behind his neck and gripped it, a hand on either side. “What now?” he asked.
Candice looked from the fir to Nolan and back again. She walked to the felled tree and wrapped her hands around the cut trunk and lifted. Then she began to tug it towards her house. It was much heavier than she’d expected.
She had assumed it would be easy to pull through the snow. That it would sort of just slide along. That didn’t happen. She pointedly avoided looking at Nolan until she heard him mutter, “Kill me now.”
Before she knew what was happening he’d taken the tree from her and began to pull it through the snow. She stared after him, unmoving. She had a hard time believing he’d cut down one of his trees for her and now he was hauling it to her house. She’d only just moved to follow when she heard him say something under his breath.
“I’m on your property now, Levine.”