The Rule Breaker (Players on Ice #9) by Cathryn Fox



As we head up the stairs to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America organization, I tilt my head and grin as my gaze rakes over the Seattle Shooter’s newest publicist—probably hired just for me. Probably? Oh hell, who am I kidding. He was most definitely hired for me. I am, after all, known as the rule breaker.

“What?” Jeremy asks, like he can feel my eyes on him as we walk. As the late June sun shines down on us, he reaches for the door with barrel arms, and I lift my head to take in his questioning eyes. At six-foot, two hundred pounds, I consider myself a big guy, but Jeremy still towers over me and those muscles don’t come from a gym or a rink, like mine. He grew up on a farm and I’m guessing those arms come from picking up tractors or something. He doesn’t fit the image I envisioned for a publicist. Maybe that’s sexist on my part, or maybe I’m influenced by all the chick flicks I’ve watched.

I chuckle. “You know, in every makeover movie I’ve ever watched, the publicist is always a hot woman who ends up falling in love with the guy she’s ‘fixing.’” I stop to do air quotes around the word fixing. Is this trip to the Big Brothers organization about fixing me, changing my image? Damn right it is. That’s what too many fights will get you, especially when they’re off the ice, videoed by every patron at the bar and splashed all over social media.

“You watch a lot of romantic comedies, do you?” he asks with a smirk.

I shrug. “Three older sisters. I couldn’t escape it.” I’m not about to tell him I enjoyed those chick flicks just as much, and maybe even more, than my siblings. No, if I admitted that, I’d have to cash in my man card, and that just can’t happen. The world can’t know I’m quiet and introverted, and my antics on the ice and at the bars are for show only. The world expects rowdy from me, so I give them rowdy. It’s all about keeping the fans happy, right?

Although I’m not too sure anyone was happy with that leaked sex tape a puck bunny I slept with sold to Dirt, an online tabloid that breaks the biggest stories in celebrity and entertainment news. I guess she wasn’t happy that I didn’t want a long-term relationship, and really, she knew that from the start anyway. It’s not a secret that I don’t do commitment, the secret is why I don’t.

“Should I be worried about you falling for me?” he asks. I laugh at that and he adds, “Just so you know, I like you, but I don’t swing that way.”

His heavy hand lands on my shoulder, as I walk through the open door and laugh out loud. “Ditto.” Everyone knows I’m a man-whore. It’s all part of my image, and another reason I’m staring at a big desk, the beige walls behind the receptionist splattered with posters of smiling kids doing fun activities with their mentors. Honestly, how anyone thinks I’m capable or qualified to guide a youth is beyond me.

I was the youngest of four, with little responsibility at home. Not only do my fans call me the rule breaker, I live up to it. That’s not the kind of guy who toes the line and sets good examples. But if I want to keep my coach happy, and keep my endorsements, mentoring a youth and cleaning up my image is what I must do. But what will the fans think? Are they going to drop me because I’m not who they think I am, not living up to their rough and tough expectations? Talk about a rock and a hard place. Nevertheless, I have a seven-figure endorsement contract that I don’t want to lose, and I damn well hope I don’t lose my fans once I become the poster boy for good sportsmanship.

The middle-aged lady behind the counter smiles up at me, and I glance at her nametag. “Liam Dalton,” she says and stands, her hands going to her round cheeks. “It’s so nice to meet you. I’m a huge fan.”

“Thanks,” I say and tug on my ballcap. “If you’d like, you can grab your phone and we can get a selfie.”

Her eyes go wide. “Really? You wouldn’t mind?” She glances around. “I mean, we’re not supposed to harass our volunteers, especially the famous ones.”

“But I asked you, Rita,” I tell her with a smile. “And I’d be nothing without fans like you.” I wave my hand. “Get on over here.”

She snatches up her phone, comes out from around the desk, and holds it out, but can’t quite angle it right. I take it from her to get a better reach and put my arm around her shoulder. She’s practically vibrating with excitement as I snap the picture. “There you go.”