Home > Down in Flames (Hot in Chicago Rookies #2)

Down in Flames (Hot in Chicago Rookies #2)
Author: Kate Meader












I can’t believe I’m doing this.

But it’s my best shot: on the road, big city, night before a game. And now that my roommate has left, so can I. As long as I’m back by curfew.

I head down to the lobby of the Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago, the taxi stand my goal. Walking briskly so I don’t run into anyone, but not too fast that I arouse suspicion …


Darn. My teammate, Benny Alvarez, is coming toward me, a takeout bag in his hand. A second line forward with the New Jersey Atlantics, he’s as chatty as they come. Good guy, though. They’re not all as nice as Benny.

“You headed out?”

“Yeah, for a walk.”

“Want company?”

“Kind of need to clear my head.” It’s not a complete untruth. I need to clear something, and my head is just the start of it.

“I hear ya!” Benny grins. “I picked up sammies for the boys, a little pre-meal snack before we hit the restaurant. You joining us?”

“Sure. See you later.”

“It’s a date, man. You’d better put out!”

Off he ambles, ever congenial, though I wonder about that “you’d better put out” comment. Is there something behind that?

I could try to join them for dinner. I don’t think my errand is going to take long. It certainly doesn’t when I’m on my own, so how much more complicated could it be with a second person?

Ha, ha, very funny. The addition of another person is what makes this the most complicated endeavor in the world.

I’m here to lose my virginity to a stranger.

Eighteen minutes later, I’m checked into a room in the Hoxton, a trendy hotel in the west Loop. I’m not likely to run into anyone I know here given I’m not famous enough to have to use an alias. Frankly, I wouldn’t know where to start because you have to give a real ID and credit card. The receptionist didn’t even blink at my name, no recognition of the winner of the Hobey Baker award or the guy who scored a hat trick in the Frozen Four final. Sure, it was two years ago, but still.

It’s good to be anonymous.

He did give me a look when I said I had no luggage. I’d considered bringing a change of clothes, but if anyone saw me leaving the team hotel with a bag … better to get the “you’re clearly here to screw someone” look from a stranger than questions about where I’m going with an overnight bag from my teammates.

Once in the room, I do a quick recce. Nice, big shower. Well-stocked mini-bar. Standalone full-length mirror with an ornate frame. My mother would love it.

Probably best not to think of my mom right now.

I test the mattress of the king-sized bed by sitting on it. I’m sure it will do.

It’s later than I thought, only ten minutes to lift-off. Do I have time for a shower? I sniff my armpits. Not terrible, but could be better. Then I’d have to wear this same shirt, but at least my body would be clean … before I take the shirt off again.

Unless we do it with clothes half on-half off. Pop that cherry quick and get on with my day. I wouldn’t even need to showcase my notorious stamina, though that likely only applies to my work in the gym or on the ice.

What if I’m so excited I go off like a premature firework? Oh gosh, I hope he’s not a porn-level athlete. Some of those guys last forever. I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to maintain those energy levels in the bedroom.

Or on this sofa.

Or maybe against that door.

Okay, breathe. You know how you get.

I inhale for four seconds.

Hold my breath for seven.

Exhale with a whoosh for eight.

The “whoosh” is always my favorite part of the 4-7-8 exercise, that audible signifier that I’m doing something to get my errant thoughts under control.

A few more reps, and I’m feeling 10% more calm, which will have to do.

Still hasn’t improved the sweating situation, though. I could take the quickest shower known to man …

The knock on the door makes me jump out of my skin, which I wish was an actual possibility right now. I want to be someone else, someone with chill, a guy who doesn’t need to take care of business with a stranger because he’s too chicken to come out and date like a normal person.

Another knock, and I realize I’ve been sitting here, trembling for close to sixty seconds, which is a long time to leave someone hanging outside a door. I have a notification on the Thirsty app.

I’m here.

It must be my “date,” and I’m still sweating like a virgin in a hotel room.

Correction: boutique hotel room.

Swallowing a lump the size of my thundering heart, I head to the door while wiping my hand on my jeans. I grip the door handle and pull it open with a confidence I do not possess.

He. Is. Gorgeous.

Torn between gratitude that he’s so attractive and anxiety that he’s way too hot to be cruising in my significantly less hot orbit, I stand there gawping. Like mine, the photo on the app was his torso only and it looked airbrushed.

This god before me is the real deal. Denim-blue eyes, dark hair on the long side, a beard I’m already imagining in secret places. A vintage Led Zeppelin shirt peeks from an open black leather jacket and clings lovingly to hard pecs.

Keeping it classy, I don’t stray to what’s happening south of the border. I get a sense of jeans and thick, muscular thighs.

Though the notion of keeping the ogling to a minimum is a touch absurd. I found this guy on a hookup site for gay men.

He speaks first, probably because my dry mouth has evicted all my sparkling conversation.

“Holt? I’m Jude. Good to meet you.”

Holt. While I couldn’t choose a fake name to check into the hotel, I was able to come up with a new me for the app. If I was to start killing it in the NHL, I’d rather this experience didn’t come back to haunt me. Tonight, I’m Holt. Which, now that I think of it, sounds like some Wild West gunslinger and is probably the stupidest alias I could have invented.

Howdy, partner, wanna slide your gun into my holster?

Ack, I am the worst.

Another quick swallow, though there’s nothing to lubricate my mouth. I don’t offer my hand because (a) it’s clammy, and (b) this isn’t a job interview.

“Same. I mean, it’s great to meet you, not that I’m Jude and you’re—uh, Holt.”

Already screwing up big time.

There’s a subtle lift at the corner of his mouth and suddenly, all I can imagine is that mobile mouth on mine, on my neck, on my chest, on my …

He’s said something, and I missed it. “Sorry, what?”

“Can I come in?”

“Yeah, right! Of course!” I step back and he walks past me, his aftershave a luxurious tickle in my nostrils. From behind, he’s just as impressive. Broad shouldered, strong back tapering to narrow hips, that perfect V-shape to his body. Which brings me to his ass.

He looks over his shoulder and spots me obviously checking him out. His eyebrow raise is amused.

“Nice place, love what you’ve done with it.”

So he’s not a dick. I laugh a second too late, and he rewards my effort with a pity grin.

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