Authors: Sonya Loveday,Candace Knoebel
A GAME OF HEARTS NOVEL
SONYA LOVEDAY &
This book is a work of fiction. Any reference to historical events, real people-living or dead, real locales is entirely coincidental and used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, any place, events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Runaway Heart Copyright © 2015 by:
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes. If you are reading this book and you have not purchased it or won it in an author/publisher contest, this book has been pirated. Please delete and support the author by purchasing the ebook from one of its many distributors.
Interior book design by Candace Knoebel.
Edited by Cynthia Shepp.
Cover design by Najla Qamber Designs.
Sonya Loveday and Candace Knoebel
TABLE OF CONTENTS
For anyone who’s ever felt like they weren’t good enough to be loved.
that you are worth it.
THIS CHICK IS ABOUT TO DIE.
The ruthless thought took forefront in my mind as I watched Eye of the Tigress—a fellow teammate and our current jammer—being clotheslined by the opposing jammer.
Yes… jammer, as in
badass rock star on any roller derby team.
chick who scored the points.
woman who finagled her way through a horde of adrenaline-driven women ready to deliver a pounding or two with form and precision not even Ronda Rousey herself could accomplish.
And our jammer was currently out of commission.
But let me take it back a step.
Back to how I even managed to find my way into such a brutal, deliciously painful sport.
There was me… sweet, little Hannah Adamson who, by daytime, was a college-attending, nose-in-the-books, complete upswinger on my way to a degree I had yet to decide upon. And, by night, I was a gritty, tongue-lashing, whiskey-drinking, roller derby badass who took my frustrations out in the rink and prayed the bruises and rink rash left from the bouts wouldn’t hurt as bad as they looked the next morning.
And how I fell into roller derby was totally by chance.
Like one of those moments when you saw a pair of shoes you really, really wanted, only to discover they wanted your unborn child with a side of your soul for them, and then, by an act of fate, you stumbled upon the exact same pair of shoes in a high-end consignment shop screaming your name marked at a price that could quite possibly make a grown woman weep tears of joy.
Yeah… it was that kind of chance.
It was me, in complete and pathetic desperation, looking for a job to support a college career path I had yet to choose. After applying to a bagillion different places and hearing nothing in return, I fell asleep studying at my desk one night and woke to find I had drooled so hard that the paper I had fallen asleep on was stuck to my cheek.
A paper that would unknowingly carve out my warrior princess, ass-kicking destiny.
Or so I thought.
After peeling the drool-soaked offender from my cheek, I tossed it back on the desk, annoyed with myself for falling asleep in the middle of my homework. It was catchy, the bright green flyer, drawing my eyes toward a pair of cartoon roller skates. The words
all but danced on the page in its neon greenness. The job itself was not so appealing, but it paid under the table at a local roller rink.
I dialed. They answered. The rest was obviously history.
The moment I was pulled from the grimy, sharpie-decorated bathrooms that always had an odd smell of citrus cleaner and stale water, and was told to help with the track set-up for the bout they were hosting later that night, I knew I was hooked.
It started with the music.
God, but the music spoke to my soul. Loud. Angry. Pure. And then, it was the glitter, the fishnets, and the camaraderie that came between empowered women who never needed to be told just how badass they were.
It was then I knew I. Had. To. Be. That. Girl.
Which brought me back to our current bout. The last one we’d have for the month. It was tied with the last remaining minutes tauntingly ticking by.
Tigress went down, her legs tangled up over her head, somersaulting her as she slid uncontrollably across the track. She came to a hasty halt, greeting the metal bars of the bank with a painful chest bump.
The sound of her piercing scream told me she would have more than just a bruise from that fall.
My eyes locked on the jammer who took Tigress down.
I’m gonna beaver cleaver this bitch.
Myra, our coach, ran up to the side of the bank as a zebra skated over to Tigress, blowing the official whistle for help.
“Take her out!” Myra yelled at anyone who’d listen, holding out the star helmet cover from Tigress’ helmet as I came up behind Cherry Bomb, our team captain.
After Tigress was off the track, Cherry took the helmet cover and pulled us into a small huddle. “The game is tied. This is it, ladies. Are we going to let this team beat us on our turf?” Her pencil-stained, glittery eyes made their way around the small circle.
“Hell no!” Magick Pony, our free-loving, gypsy-souled blocker shouted as she whipped her long, golden ponytail around.
“Good,” Cherry said, slipping the cover over her helmet.
Words climbed up my throat before I could stop them. “I want to take her out. Let me get the points.”
Every one of my teammates looked over at me.
“You sure?” Cherry asked, never one to keep a member of the team from trying something she believed they could do.
I nodded. “And I think we shouldn’t let them see it coming. Star-pass me. I haven’t let the beast out tonight. It’s itching for release.”
Smirks grew on everyone’s faces.
“Then do what you notoriously do, Hanibelle,” Cherry said seriously. “Let’s take it home.”
We all reset on the rink and waited for the official blows of the whistle that told us to start. When the first whistle blew, the blockers and I formed a wall to impede Betty’s teammates from moving in behind so I could get the advantage they wouldn’t see coming.
After the second whistle blew, and the jammers worked their way through us, Cherry tapped me on the shoulder.
“Whip me,” I said, raptly watching the back of Betty’s shirt. Without question, Cherry star-passed, turning me from the pivot to the jammer. She grabbed my forearm and propelled me forward, giving me just the push I needed.
I gave everything I had, pushing my feet as fast as they could go until I was within reach of Betty, who was about to lap our team and steal the win.
Boy, was she in for it.
Dropping into a squat as I neared her, I jerked upright, keeping my hand between her legs. A smirk worked its way across my lips when I turn-stopped to avoid colliding with her as the bitch went down.
“Oooh! Hanibelle Lecter gave Betty Socked-Her the infamous Beaver Cleaver! We’ll see how well she sits tomorrow!” The commentator’s voice resounded around the run-down rink as the bleacher creatures mimicked the upper hand-chopping motion all around me, cheering and shouting my name.
As Rosie Cheeks, our nightly commentator, rehashed a play-by-play of how I took Betty out and scored the remaining four points, ending the bout with a victory, my team surrounded me. We laughed and cheered while we watched Betty pry herself off the floor with a glare that could rival a mirror left in the sun.
“And we have our winner! The Hamptons’ Ship Wreckers, ladies and gentleboys!” Rosie Cheeks shouted into the rhinestone-studded microphone.
We threw our heads back, shouting Tigress’ name in victory as we made our way around the track, slapping hands and joining in on the cheer.
This is it,
I thought as I followed my teammates out of the rink to our locker room.
I was made for this shit.
“Damn, Hannah, that’s a serious case of rink-rash. Nice save though. Tigress is gonna love that you beavered that bitch for her,” Cherry Bomb, whose real name was Liza, said, pointing to the side of my left thigh.
The scarlet-hued, scale-like welts left behind from falling on my fishnet stockings burned, but not enough for me to cry over. If anything, it made me look like some kind of mermaid.
Maggie would smile at that.
Sarabeth—another member of the team—turned the radio up, blasting notes that tapped into my soul as we shared a victory dance in our sports bras and mini shorts, laughing and joking about all the events of the match.
By the time we were all showered and ready to go, Cherry called a team huddle, nodding at Myra, giving her the floor.
“Sheila’s collarbone broke from the slam against the bank, so she’ll be out of commission for a while,” Myra said. She looked to Cherry, passing the baton on.
“That means we need to push harder during our next scrimmage,” Cherry added. “I’ve watched the matches of the team we’ll be up against during our prelims, and they’re no joke. They came in second during last year’s championship. As a new team, this will be our defining bout, ladies.”
“We can handle it,” I said, feeling it in my bones. We were a strong team that believed in one another. Believed in ourselves.
Cherry nodded with a smile. “Good deal. Let’s keep wiping the floors with them and show ‘em how boss the Hamptons’ Ship Wreckers are!”
We all cheered and hollered in agreement, the excitement filling our smiles as our small huddle disbanded.
“You coming to my party?” Charlotte asked as she let her long, blonde ponytail down, which was the reason she called herself the Magick Pony. She slid a pair of skin-tight, leather pants over her long, wiry legs, and then pulled a sheer, black tank top over her polka-dotted sports bra.
“When am I not at your parties?” I changed into my high-waisted denim shorts and white crop top. After tossing my hair up into a messy bun, I closed my locker and grabbed my duffel bag off the floor.
We skated out of the rink, signing posters and t-shirts from some of the bleacher creatures who stayed behind to meet and greet. The parking lot was full of Friday night energy that sizzled in my veins. The sky was cloudless. The wind, slight and soothing.
“So,” Charlotte said, skating up next to me as I signed a cute guy’s t-shirt. “Johnny will be there tonight.” She batted her long, dark lashes at me as she signed a little girl’s mini-poster with her image on it.
My stomach contracted. I heard it in her voice. That whole you-totally-know-he-likes-you tone that made me want to gag every time.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good make-out session with a hot and tempting man… but nothing more.
No phone calls.
Men are just so… so… needy and predictable.
I feigned innocence and shrugged.
“Hannah?” She dipped one of her eyebrows in question.
Even though Charlotte was a little flighty sometimes, there was no getting around her when it came to reading people. She was like a freaking clairvoyant or something. Either that or my poker face was a little rusty.
I groaned. “Yeah, well, I don’t know what he thinks is going to happen… but I believe he’s about to be sorely disappointed.” I finished signing the last piece of paper thrust into my hands.
Charlotte turned to me, readjusting the bag strap on her shoulder. “You’re not seriously going to leave him high and dry, are you? You’ve hung out with him like what… five or six times now?”
Eight. Plus one dinner,
I thought with a defeated sigh.
It was definitely time to move on before he expected something I wasn’t going to give.
I was slipping, breaking my own rules of keeping things hot, sexy, and short. Loneliness had a way of making us fumble around like idiots, forfeiting common sense for a warm embrace.
I blamed Maggie and all her cute, lovey-dovey happiness. It was intoxicating, witnessing how love could change someone for the better. Hearing about how wonderful it was every time we talked on the phone. Not everyone was born with a great love story written in the stars.
Especially not me.
“So, what? You’re just going to blow him off like the last two guys who actually wanted to start something serious with you?”
Just thinking about guys and their emotions made me feel like I was being crammed inside a small box without a single air hole.
No, thank you.
“I already explained to him that I don’t do the wifey thing. Anyway, who’s that over by your car?” I asked, trying to change the subject. The last thing I wanted to do was spend my evening trying to explain why I don’t date.
No one deserved to hear that sob story.
“Sam,” Charlotte said, swooning.
“Yes. Isn’t he dreamy?”
I took a better look and had to bite back a giggle. “Sure… He’s every girl with a Tim Burton obsession’s dream. Right down to the black, choppy hair covering his face,” I said, keeping my voice purposefully flat. “Replace his fingers with some scissors, and you’ve got yourself a personal barber for that mane of yours.”