So Over You(3)

By: Kate Meader

Wondering why the holdup, Violet turned and grabbed her arm. “Hey, she’s with me, tipo.”

After a few seconds, Alexei stood back, his soulless, shark’s eyes boring into Isobel. All he was missing was the two-fingered prong gesture I’m watching you. Fine, they understood each other.

Moving forward into the crowded room—huh, not so exclusive after all—Isobel felt her skin prickle with foreboding. As if it knew something she didn’t.

She turned, and whoosh! Sure, she didn’t need all that breath in her lungs anyway. Vadim Petrov sat on a chocolate velvet couch wearing a sharp suit, an icy stare, and a half-naked blonde.

The man had made a bargain with the devil, and the devil had yet to call in his marker. Undeniably beautiful, he sported mountain-high cheekbones that pronounced his descent from an aristocratic lineage, eyes as blue as Lake Michigan in spring, and full lips that miraculously softened the sharp angles of his face. Coal-black hair fell over his brow, its silkiness appearing as untouchably otherworld as its owner. And don’t even get her started on his sculpted, tatted body—currently covered up, thank Gretzky—which he proudly flaunted on billboards as often as his numerous sponsorship deals demanded.

A few days ago, the Rebels had traded him in from Quebec. The plan was to use him on the left wing, but he wasn’t quite game fit, owing to a recurring knee injury. This gave him plenty of time to indulge his other interests: clubbing and manwhoring.

For the briefest moment she wished she didn’t look like a lank-haired, parka-sporting, clodhopper-wearing schlub the first time in years she’d been less than ten feet away from him. But then she shot titanium into her spine, cocked her hip à la fuck it, and sidled up to Violet.

Cade “Alamo” Burnett, one of the Rebels’ defensemen, had just kissed Violet on the cheek and looked like he wanted to lean into Isobel, but seemed to change his mind at the last moment. No problemo. Isobel was all about boundaries.

“Hey, take off your coat, Iz,” Vi said.

Isobel felt too warm, too cold, and mighty uncomfortable. “Not staying long.”

“Izzz . . .”

“Oh, okay. Keep your bustier on.” As she unzipped her parka, she was surprised to feel a tug. “Uh, that’s mine.”

“I know, I’m trying to—”

“Back off, lady.”

After a few seconds struggling, she discovered that the woman behind her was actually a coat check person and not a parka thief.

Isobel really should not be allowed out in public.

She hoped Vadim wasn’t watching— Oh, who cares what he thinks?

Apparently her eighteen-year-old self did, because that’s what she’d reverted to. That loser’s traitorous gaze couldn’t help itself, and when it landed on the Russian again, Isobel was surprised to find him watching her with mild amusement. This was different. When he was nineteen, humor had been about as foreign to him as a PB&J sandwich.

Some guy who had “PR clown” written all over him was taking a photo of the blonde as she inched her hand inside Vadim’s lapel, apparently needing the warmth only those muscles could provide. Two seconds later, the blonde was subbed out for a redhead, who appeared to have similar body heat problems. Santa, aka Vadim, whispered in her ear, probably inquiring if she’d been naughty or, you know, extra naughty.

The tabloids called him the Czar of Pleasure, a man as well known for his exploits in the bedroom as for those on the ice. Oh, Isobel’s tell-all about Vadim’s erotic talents would make for some really surprising reading.

Eyes bright with admiration, Cade looked around the VIP room plastered with signs for Vesna, which Isobel now recalled was a high-end Russian vodka. “Man, I want a vodka deal.”

“You’d be lucky if you got a deal fronting Budweiser Clydesdale piss, Alamo,” came a slow drawl behind them.

Remy DuPre, the Rebels’ center straight from the heart of the bayou, appeared bearing the most froufrou drink Isobel had ever seen. Blue with a big chunk of pineapple in the center.

“Is that for Harper?” Isobel asked, knowing it wasn’t, because her sister wouldn’t be caught dead in a club with the players even if her boyfriend’s presence gave her a good excuse. Banging one of them is bad enough, Harper was fond of saying. I need to at least give the illusion of labor-management boundaries.

Remy’s blue eyes crinkled. “I’m just here to make sure these boys get home by curfew.”

Isobel hid her smile. She liked how Remy had stepped up to the position of elder statesman since his arrival four months ago. She also liked how Remy was a calming influence on her older sister. He could have bailed on the Rebels when he had a shot at trading out, but didn’t because he loved Harper.

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