Riggs by Sawyer Bennett
Known as the team loner, Riggs Nadeau gives his all on the ice, but nothing extra off it. A beautiful stranger is about to cause chaos in his very structured world.
As a professional hockey player, people think I live a charmed life. On the surface, I do. But they don’t know the horrors of my childhood, or the real reason that I have custody of my seventeen-year-old sister, Janelle. And that’s exactly the way I like it. They may think I’m a prick because I don’t like to share, but that’s fine. They don’t know me, and they don’t need to.
In an effort to help Janelle get settled in Phoenix and stay out of trouble at school, I set her up with a job at Clarke’s Corner, the local bookstore owned by the girlfriend of a teammate. It’s there that she makes friends with Veronica Woodley, the extremely annoying, arrogant, money-hungry divorcee who I don’t want anywhere near my sister. Janelle insists I’m completely wrong about Veronica, but I refuse to accept that. I have to keep reminding myself that that the gorgeous blond with legs for days is off limits.
Through a series of events, I start to see Veronica for what she really is—an amazing woman who has survived her own hell to come out even stronger. I have to admit, we’re more alike than not and the attraction between us burns hot.
Maybe I was all wrong about my ability to love and commit, but when the past comes back to haunt me, can I be the man that Veronica, and Janelle, deserve?
“Dude,” Baden says, rapping his knuckles on the table. My eyes focus on him, and he asks, “Where did you go?”
“What do you mean?” I blink away the thoughts of Veronica, hating my daydreams of her.
“You were somewhere other than here.” Baden gives me a pointed look. “Am I that boring?”
He’s not at all boring. In fact, Baden is one of the easiest people to talk to. I know part of it is because while he’s a member of the team, he’s not out there in the same battle with me on the ice. For some reason, not having that level of connection makes it easier for me to open up to him. Conversely, it’s still hard for me to open up to my actual linemates.
And now, an opportunity has presented itself. A chance for me to share one of my problems with another human being who will give me honest feedback, and while he might judge, his advice has proven sound before.
I decide to take the chance.
“There’s a woman,” I say.
Baden’s expression morphs to pure shock, and then he busts out laughing. “You’re kidding.”
Frowning, I demand, “Why is that so surprising?”
Baden’s laugh ends in a snicker before he shakes his head. “It’s just… you’re a loner. I never saw you as the type to want a relationship.”
“It’s not a relationship,” I clarify. “We’re just screwing around.”
“Yet,” Baden drawls with a sly smile. “I’m getting this is more than you’ve ever committed to anyone in your adult life, with the exception of your sister.”
“Pretty much.” That’s not a hard admission to make. It’s fact.
Baden leans forward again, indicating he has my full attention. “You’ve never had a girlfriend?”
“Well, yeah… in high school, you know. When I was younger and it was never going to amount to anything permanent.”
Baden smirks. “Are you truly against monogamy?”
“I’m against marriage and commitment.”
“Want to tell me why? Let me shrink you up.”
“Maybe one day,” I say, knowing there might come a time when I would tell Baden about my past, which goes deeper than having a terrible role model for a mom, an absent father and a shithead stepfather, which paints the picture of why I am the way I am.
He redirects the conversation slightly, accepting my reticence to disclose my history. “So, what’s the problem with this woman? Are you going to tell me who she is?”
I could pull a standard Riggs attitude and say it’s none of his fucking business. But I don’t mind sharing with him. “It’s Veronica. And the problem is that this is nothing but sex. There is no commitment. But I’m wondering if it should be something more. It’s the first time I’ve ever considered such a thing, but then I think, no… I don’t want the complications.”
“You’re assuming she’d make it complicated.” Baden looks at me intently. “Want my advice?”
My tone is dry. “I wouldn’t have started this conversation if I didn’t.”
“If you like her, you should make something with her.”
I stare at him. “That’s it? That’s your advice? Make something.”
“It’s solid advice,” Baden insists.