Authors: Cassandra Carr
Underneath It All
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
UNDERNEATH IT ALL COPYRIGHT 2013 by Cassandra Carr
Published by Twenty or Less Press. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or Twenty or Less Press.
Visit us at twentyorlesspress
Book Cover Design
Young Muscular Guy on the Beach
COPYRIGHT CURAphotography / shutterstock.com
Trademark and Copyright Acknowledgments
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
iPod and iPad: Apple Inc.
: The Pillsbury Company
by Jane O’Conner
NHL and Stanley Cup: National Hockey League
Rolex: Rolex Watch U.S.A., Inc.
: Bluetooth Sig, Inc.
Cadillac Escalade XLT
: General Motors Corporation
Seuss: Dr. Seuss Enterprises L.P.
: Microsoft Corporation
: Elmer’s Products
Air Canada Centre
: Air Canada Corporation
Madison Square Garden
: Madison Square Garden L.P.
: Mattel, Inc.
Societe des Produits Nestle S.A.
Your Mama a Llama?
by Deborah Guarino
Polo: PRL USA Holdings, Inc.
Bubble Wrap: Sealed Air Corporation
Shop-Vac: Shop-Vac Corporation
Smurfs: Sepp S.A.
GQ: Advance Magazine Publishers Inc.
ayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft
Toyota Jidosha Kabushiki Kaisha TA Toyota Motor Corp.
Tupperware: Dart Industries
Martha Stewart: Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc.
: Sunbeam Products, Inc.
: New Era Cap Co., Inc.
: eBay, Inc.
: 3M Company
: Stokely-Van Camp Inc.
: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
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PRAISE FOR CASSANDRA CARR
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Should’ve Known Better (Storm Series, Book 1)
“Carr writes an absorbing contemporary romance that grips you from the beginning and does not let you go. The romantic tension between Sarah and Sebastian is electrifying. With its lively storytelling and loveable characters, Should’ve Known Better is an entertaining story that readers will be glad they picked up.”
~The Jeep Diva
Should've Known Better has you cheering the team as well as their relationship. I can't wait to read more about each of these players and how they discover love.”
Night Owl Reviews
“I thoroughly enjoyed the whole concept of it and it kept me engaged from the contents page to the back cover. There is a twist in the tale that changes everything. I won’t spoil it, but I now consider Cassandra Carr to be a very brave author. There are authors that wouldn’t dream of doing to their hero what she does, in fear of how it will sit with readers, but I thought it was an important issue to address. It made me love Sebastian even more and I even got a little welled up... bravo.”
Scorching Book Reviews
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Talk to Me
Ms. Carr wove the sexual tension and interludes so seamlessly into the story that they were not just delicious but also necessary.… Readers will easily relate to the theme and be cheering the characters on as they discover love in a place neither thought they would.
~The Romance Reviews
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Collision (Buckin’ Bull Riders, Book 2)
I was hooked into this story from the beginning and didn't want to put it down.… This book engaged my emotions throughout as I wanted to laugh, cry, and even got mad at the characters.
~The Romance Studio
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The writing was fresh and fun and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Ms. Carr did not drag out the story, you knew and understood what all the characters were feeling and thinking without it being over-done. It was a story that was perfectly written and perfectly told.
~Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews
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See the Light
I became emotionally invested through the author’s eyes as I read page after page, cheering for the happy ending that I so desperately wanted.
~The Jeep Diva
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Service Ace (Close Contact
Fun short and sexy sports tale, with some sports lingo but mostly all the hot intensity. Cassandra Carr never seems to disappoint me!
~For the Love of Reading
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Ms. Carr did a phenomenal job of bringing these characters to life in a very short story and giving the reader a heat level that is scorching while never compromising the plot or message of the story.
~Sizzling Hot Book Review
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For all the readers who demanded Rob get his own happy-ever-after.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Rob D’Amico laughed as he read the memo from the Buffalo Storm’s PR staff. Nudging his friend and former roommate, Sebastian St. Amant, he said, “They want me to read to a kindergarten class. Can you believe that? I bet it’ll be nursery rhymes and stuff. That’ll take all of ten minutes.”
, a smile pulling at the corners of his mouth as he tugged at his skate laces. “Maybe that’s the hardest thing they think you can read.”
“Ass.” Rob punched him
on the arm. Another mundane day in his life—practice, trading barbs with Sebastian, maybe wheedling himself an invite for dinner with Seb and his girlfriend at their house. Rob loved Sarah’s cooking, and despite seeing his ugly mug every day at training, he kinda missed Sebastian. His house was too damn quiet without him. In a pathetic attempt to make the place more lively than the empty tomb it sometimes felt like, Rob left the radio, iPod, or TV on all the time, something he wouldn’t admit to even under penalty of having his teammates’ dirty jockstraps around his neck for a week. He had a reputation to uphold.
This missive from above had livened up things.
“It’s part of an inner-city schools reading program being started using professional athletes.” Rob grinned. “Apparently, for some fool reason, kids look up to us.”
Sebastian tugged on his other skate and began the cumbersome job of doing up the laces. Rob smirked. His best friend was so anal about his skates. It wasn’t even fun to tease him about it anymore.
Are you sure it’s not some tricky way to try to teach
how to read?”
Rob laughed. Both men were well aware hockey players, and professional athletes in general, weren’t
considered the brightest crayons in the box. “Then they should’ve sent you. It’s obvious I’m smart and sophisticated.”
Sebastian shoved him and
Rob returned the favor from his place on the bench.
Wonder if there’ll be any hotties on staff. I’ve always had a thing for that naughty-librarian look.” He waggled his eyebrows and Sebastian shook his head. Rob set the letter near his keys and phone on the shelf in his locker then reached for his gloves and stick.
Sebastian tucked his mouth guard into his glove
. “You watch too much bad porn.”
“I’ll have you know the porn I watch is of the highest quality
, not like that crap you got at the Christmas party last year. Besides, not everyone has a live-in girlfriend they can count on for regular sex.”
And to make my house less empty.
chuckled. “Unlucky bastards.”
” He didn’t want Sebastian to feel sorry for him, so he didn’t outright agree with his friend’s comment. “Let’s get out on the ice before Coach kicks our asses.”
Training camp was in full swing, and Rob couldn’t wait
for the season to start. A shoulder injury had hampered him late last season and into the playoffs, and it felt like he’d missed about a thousand games. No one in their right mind would say training camp was a fun time, but the time was certainly necessary, especially for a guy like him coming off an injury. Sure, he’d spent part of the summer training with the totally insane and yet amazing ex-hockey player, Gary Roberts, but there was no substitute for being back with his teammates, battling through drills and scrimmages.
As soon as he stepped onto the ice
, a puck careened his way. Rob looked up and spotted the culprit. “Watch out, Rick. You’re gonna kill someone, and we need all the talent we can get.”
“I wasn’t trying to kill ‘someone
.’ I was trying to kill you.” Rick, the team’s hulking tough guy, towered over Rob by a good six inches and outweighed him by over forty pounds. He grinned, his ridiculous, bright yellow mouth guard covering his upper teeth completing the odd picture.
Rob was secretly glad
Rick was a teammate and not an opponent, though he’d never admit that to the guy. He flipped him the bird as best he could with his gloves on. “And why would you want to do that? I’m awesome.”
-blocked me at Nektar last night.”
“How the hell did I do that?” Rob didn’t remember talking to any women while
he, Rick, and a couple of teammates waited at the bar for their table to be readied.
“The bartender. She was hot, man. I was hoping to get some lovin’.” Rick
demonstrated, using exaggerated thrusting motions, and Rob groaned.
When had he spoken to the bartender besides to order a drink? He would’ve remembered flirting.
“If I talked to her, it must’ve been because I didn’t realize you were hitting on her, dude. Maybe you need to step up your game.” He banged Rick on the shins with the blade of his stick, and the other man glowered back. A lesser man would’ve been cowed, but not Rob.
“Or use Rob as a wingman,” Jordan, the team’s backup goaltender
, suggested as he waddled past covered in goaltending pads and looking an awful lot like a demented Pillsbury Doughboy. “Works for me every time. We went to the Italian Festival and the chicks swarmed us like we were free cannoli.”
Rick snorted. “Not if he’s gonna cock
“Seriously, man, I had no idea you wanted to get something going with her. I
f I was talking to her, I was only making polite conversation.”
bigger man skated away, grumbling about a need to get laid. Rob took a couple of turns around the ice, thinking Rick wasn’t the only one who could use some action.
et your head in the game, D’Amico. You can’t afford to let up, even in training camp.
was open to the public, much like game-day skates, and already a few hundred die-hard fans littered the stands. Even though it was still very early in the season, no one wanted to look stupid in front of fans and teammates or give the coaching staff a reason to take away playing time, so both the drills and the scrimmage afterward, where the team was divided into two smaller teams, were spirited affairs.
Rob wasn’t the
quickest skater, but, to make up for that lack, rather a hard-nosed, in-your-face kind of player. Not to the extent of being dirty, but he never, ever gave up on a play, and opponents hated that. As a younger player blew by him in a drill, Rob swore and tore after him.
One of his other attributes
—at least in his opinion—was his adeptness at trash talk. He figured he could use some practice in that area, too, since he’d been off the ice for so long. Rob prided himself on being a multi-faceted player, after all, so when he lined up against Sebastian during the scrimmage, he said, “Gonna take you down a few pegs, boy.”
, who hated being reminded he was still considered a youngster even at twenty-four, scowled. “You won’t be able to. I’ll be miles past you, old man.”
m twenty-seven, jerk-off.
Before he could voice the thought, t
he puck was dropped by one of the assistant coaches and he and Seb gave each other a good shove in the battle to get to it first. Sebastian, unsurprisingly, won the foot race. He and the team captain, Ben, raced off toward Jordan, and Rob swore under his breath as he hauled ass back to help on defense.
Maybe I should do more of those foot speed exercises. This is ridiculous.
In the end, Sebastian scored anyway, and after a quick high five with Ben, he turned to Rob and stuck out his tongue. Rob laughed. His friend could be a goof. He wasn’t in Rob’s league, since not many were, but he tried. Seeing Sebastian, who was a giant at six-four compared to Rob’s five-nine, act like a five-year-old would never cease to be funny.
I freaking love this game.
When the day arrived to start the reading program, Rob was practically vibrating on the way to the school, having downed a large coffee—his third cup of the day—though technically the giant cup was at least two cups’ worth. The point had been to make sure he was awake and alert for the kids, and yeah, drinking that much was going overboard, but he was a little nervous for some reason.
Like the letter instructed,
after parking, he went to the school’s office, and they directed him down the hall. As he searched for the room, he peeked into the various classrooms, where kids were doing everything from singing off-key to some song he vaguely remembered from childhood to being totally silent as they presumably took a test, based on the scratching of pencils across paper. After finding the correct classroom, Rob knocked on the open door, tapping his foot in a staccato beat.
turned, and he would’ve seen fewer stars if he’d been run over by the league’s biggest defenseman.
What the hell?
This woman was
not his type, from the paint-stained, ill-fitting khakis to the messy braid holding her dark blonde hair from her face. But her eyes, now those he’d like to spend time studying. They were an unusual shade, or more accurately, an unusual several different shades. How did someone get eyes that couldn’t decide what color they wanted to be?
he woman raised a thick eyebrow. “Can I help you?”
“Oh. Oh, yeah.”
Way to sound like an idiot right off the bat, dude
. “I’m Rob D’Amico.” He held up the Storm jersey he’d planned to slip into right before he sat down to read. Much as he loved the jersey with its cool tornado logo and coloring, the thing was hot as hell, and the school either didn’t believe in air-conditioning or the no-doubt-old system wasn’t up to the task. Even his thin T-shirt was starting to stick in places.
“The hockey player.” Her tone couldn’t have been flatter if she’d been an underinflated tire
on a semi.
Awesome. She hates me already.
The woman sighed then turned to the class, a bunch of tiny kids who were already shifting in their miniscule plastic seats. One of Rob’s legs by itself would annihilate a chair. Some of the kids smiled or waved, and he smiled back.
At least someone is excited to see me.
Keep coloring, kids.” Pivoting toward Rob, she continued, “May I have a word with you outside in the hall before you begin?” Her stony expression didn’t bode well.
What’s her deal? I’ve already pissed her off?
“I’ll be right back
, guys. Mr. D’Amico and I are going to talk about grown-up stuff for just a minute.”
At her words
, a litany of X-rated images flooded his mind, and he shook his head to clear it as he stepped back into the corridor.
closed the door then stuck out her hand. “I’m Alaina Rossa.”
He shook her delicate hand
, being careful not to either crush it or give her a dead-fish grip—his mom had clued him in that girls hated it years before. “Rob D’Amico.”
eyebrows drew down. This girl thought he was old enough that she should call him by the name his dad went by? “Rob.”
Her cheeks colored a
s she cleared her throat. “Fine. Rob. I’d appreciate it if you called me Ms. Rossa in front of the class, though. It will keep things consistent. Now, I’m sure they explained the early intervention reading program to you.”
no. I was told they’d started one and asked to take part.”
“You didn’t get any details on the program?
” Her tone was incredulous. “You didn’t ask any questions?”
Why would he have asked questions? Rob was designated for this project, and that was good enough for him.
He shrugged. “I figure if they want me to do more than read some books to the little guys, they’ll let me know.”
crinkled her nose like she’d smelled something bad. “How very…straightforward of you.”
Rob had a pretty good idea that was an insult, but remained quiet.
She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Anyway, I do appreciate you taking time from your
,” another insult, “but I wanted to make sure we understood each other.”
He rubbed the back of his neck, afraid to ask
what she meant, but knowing the question was necessary. “About what?”
“You read to them, you say hi and bye, but nothing else.”
“Uh, okay. Do you mind if I ask why?”
I don’t want my class disrupted. I’m all for this reading program, but having professional athletes lead the way seems a little shortsighted. These kids look up to you as role models. I’d hate for them to pick up on something you say or do and bring it home to their parents. We have enough trouble around here.”
Rob’s mouth fell open. “What the hell do you think I’m gonna say to them?”
Drawing herself up to her entire, what, five-four height, she replied, “Well, not swearing in their hearing would be a start.”