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Author: Elise Faber





He was fucking up.

As usual.

He’d had a particularly bad practice, after a particularly bad game, after a particularly bad series of games, and he knew that his hopes of staying with the San Francisco Gold were quickly becoming slim-to-none.

The name Williamson used to strike fear in the league.

His grandfather, his father, his two older brothers all had been forces to be reckoned with.

He . . . was scraping by.

Four teams in four seasons.

Shitty stats.

And somehow, he’d gotten picked up off waivers by the Gold, reigning league champions, who were in the midst of a rebuilding season after losing some of their big stars to retirement.

He was expected to fill a hole.

But how in the fuck was he, the smallest and least scary of the Williamsons, supposed to fill a hole when he’d barely earned a roster spot?


He put his head down, tugged the collar of his jacket up.

He should just call it already, put the league behind him and find a new career. Math had been his strong suit—maybe he should go back and be an accountant. He could run his brothers’ multimillion-dollar fortunes, help them eke out a few more dollars and—

“Watch out!”

The warning came a second too late.

He’d already stepped off the curb, already put himself in range of the car that was blowing through the red light, tearing through the intersection, not giving a shit that there were pedestrians walking—

Well, of all the ways to go, at least this would be quick.

But just as the car came within an inch of him, Liam found himself jerked back onto the curb, his one-hundred-and-eighty-pound frame becoming unwieldy and clumsy.

Kind of like on the ice over the last few years.

That was his last thought before he found himself sprawled, ass first, on the San Franciscan sidewalk.


“What. The. Fuck?” a female voice snapped.

The same female voice that had warned him.

“Do you have a fucking death wish?” she yelled, causing his eyes to snap open, making him look up at an angel . . . a foot tapping, arms crossed, seriously pissed, and seemingly way too small to have been able to haul his ass back onto the curb female.

Liam thought he just might have that death wish.

Especially if it meant he got to be rescued by a woman who looked like an angel. He opened his mouth to reply.

But apparently didn’t work fast enough.

Because the woman, the beautiful, curvy female, made a disgusted noise and strode away from him.

He watched her go, watched that gorgeous ass stride down the sidewalk, and stop outside a storefront. By the time he pushed to his feet, she’d pulled out her keys and unlocked the door, disappearing inside.

Liam glanced at the sign overhead.

Golden Gate Martial Arts.

He thought of the swaying hips as she’d stomped away. He thought of the fiery words she’d snapped at him. He thought of the pretty brown eyes and lush lips incongruously paired with enough strength to pull him out of the way of the oncoming car.

And suddenly, he thought that, hockey or not, he might just want to stay in San Francisco after all.







She leaned back against the closed door, hand pressed to her chest as her heart threatened to beat its way out of her body.

Her pulse pounded, her free hand shook, her legs were weak.

“What the fuck?” she muttered, sinking down onto the floor, dropping her forehead to her bent knees.

The cars. The horn. The man . . . standing in the middle of the crosswalk.

Not moving.

Not fucking moving.

She could still feel the heat of the car’s engine as it barreled toward him, toward her, when she’d run forward to pull him back. Adrenaline had made her fast and strong, had allowed her to get them both onto the sidewalk. That, paired with the car swerving enough to avoid them at the last minute, had meant she hadn’t ended up a San Franciscan pancake.

And now, she had to teach karate to a group of four-year-olds.

Mia sat there for a few minutes, thankful she’d been running ahead of schedule but cognizant that her window to get her shit together was closing. In fifteen minutes, her kiddos would start showing up for their thirty-minute class of jumping, kicking, yelling, and rolling.

All controlled, of course. One of the reasons she loved this sport so much was that every movement, every yell, every kick and punch and roll were to demonstrate some aspect of control.

Although, she thought, pushing herself to her feet and taking some slow deep breaths, that control was relative when it came to four-year-olds.

“Better,” she murmured, the adrenaline surge gone, the shaking diminishing.

Now, she could focus enough to review her lesson plan, to set up for class. She moved to her ever-present clipboard, the one with all of her class information, and the one she would be totally lost without. Finding today’s sheet, she saw she would have some helpers, but they were ten and twelve, and students in her program for older kids. Brayden and Will were focused and respectful, but they were still ten and twelve.


Most of her job was juggling.

Lips curving upward into a smile, a large grin that would ruin her tough-as-nails persona if anyone saw, she thought of how much she enjoyed juggling. Nothing made her happier than when she was managing several things at once, when she had more than a handful of balls in the air.

Handful of balls.


But inner dirty mind aside, multitasking was her superpower.

Running a class of wiggly kids while also answering the occasional phone call, fielding questions from parents, keeping an eye on her assistants . . . and that was all just during one class. Then rinse and repeat for all of the other classes—which, on any given evening, could number five.

But she loved it.

She loved kids. She loved teaching. She loved the connection the studio gave her to her dad.

What she didn’t enjoy was the knock on the door precisely ten minutes before class started, just as she was pulling out the pads she’d need for the lesson. Sighing, juggling the pads—more juggling, ha—as she made her way over to the door, she flicked open the lock and nudged the door outward, her teacher voice already prepped and ready since her students knew better than to knock, knew they were supposed to wait outside until she invited them into the studio.


Her admonishment cut off because standing outside the door was . . . him.

The stranger she’d pulled from the crosswalk, the one who’d sprawled with her on the concrete of the sidewalk, who’d twisted slightly to take the brunt of the fall, even as she’d braced herself for the impact that was coming.

He was big . . . and pretty.

Deep gray eyes, so dark they almost looked black. Rich tan skin that hinted at Mediterranean roots and made her mouth water for pasta, her stomach yearn for pizza, though she rarely indulged in junk food. Long lashes, a plump bottom lip, a crisp jawline. His nose had a bump along its bridge, indicating it had been broken before, but that along with other signs of imperfection scattered across his face only somehow added to the pretty—scars forming an X bisecting his right brow, another near the corner of his mouth, one more marring a spot halfway along his jaw.

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