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Icebreaker: Women who read


This is my formal reminder that this chapter is unedited and I'm English. See an extra vowel that the Americans rudely banished from their dictionary? Pretend you don't see it.

To say thank you for your patience since this chapter was supposed to be available weeks ago, there will be another bonus chapter available on Sunday. I've been super busy and I have some really exciting things to talk about next month, and you will be the first to hear about it via my mailing list.

I really hope you like the chapter. There are a lot of you now so this is low-key terrifying.

Ps. Please remember not to share, this chapter is for my mailing list only. ♡


I have twenty-four hours in LA and so far zero hours have been spent with Anastasia reminding me how flexible she is.

The first hour was spent in traffic, listening to my driver talk about LA Rockets’ win last night. I’ve never been a big basketball fan, but Stas started watching every Rockets game when Ryan got drafted, so now, I watch when I can so she has someone to talk about it with.

Stassie had a meeting with one of her professors, so my first stop was Maple Ave. Which led to my second hour in LA being spent listening to Henry complain about Faulkner and his ‘incessant need to talk about hockey.’ When Henry’s response to ‘Will you be team captain?’ was a flat ‘No’ with zero explanation, I should have known this would be how things would go. Obviously, we all talked him into it, and he’s killing it, but I know Robbie is trying to limit the time Faulkner and Henry need to be around each other. Which is pretty wild for a captain and a coach, but still, looks like Robbie isn’t trying hard enough, apparently.

The next four hours were spent watching Stas practice. I offered to help, but Brady gave me a look so intimidating I had to take a walk just to shake it off. I know Brady is working Anastasia the hardest she’s ever been worked, but my stubborn and competitive girl is taking it all in her stride. There’s definitely been a few teary calls where she’s decided she only wants to be a housewife and a dog mom, but as soon as her muscles stop screaming at her, she’s back to normal.

I can’t lie; watching her skate alone is my favorite thing now. I know I claim everything she does is my favorite thing, but forget everything I’ve said in the past. Her determination makes her even more beautiful, and knowing she no longer has to share the glory with someone undeserving of her makes her success that bit sweeter.

She’s overwhelmed, and she’s tired, but she is more committed, and her confidence is soaring. Well, I say she’s tired, but she isn’t too tired to shop.

And that brings me to now. Hours six and seven have taken the longest by far, and no, I don’t want to hear about how an hour takes an hour regardless of what you’re doing.

It doesn’t.

The Next Chapter is the most popular bookstore in Maple Hills. Five floors filled with every type of book you could think of. Shelves upon shelves of uplifting stories featuring struggle and victory and redemption, detailing the lives of some of the most inspirational people in the world.

She doesn’t want to read those ones though.

She wants to read smut.

So I'm stuck in a surprisingly comfortable chair in the romance section, nursing a lukewarm and overpriced coffee, while watching my girlfriend add another book featuring some other man’s torso to the pile I’m in charge of looking after.

Picking up the one she last put down before she immediately scurried off again, I skim the blurb quickly. “What’s a fated mate?”

The guy sitting across from me–the one who gave me an understanding nod of solidarity when we arrived–catches my eye and gives me a look that tells me I don’t want to know. He’s still waiting for his own girlfriend to finish shopping. At one point Stassie started talking to her about a book with an English woman who needs to get her shit together or something, and the two of them ventured off together before returning with – you guessed it – more books.

I know what to expect with the torso books; it’s usually some super hot guy with a massive dick who’s mega-rich and says shit that makes everyone wet and horny. It’s the illustrated covers that I have to be careful of. On more than one occasion I’ve thoughtlessly flicked through the pages of a seemingly innocent book, only to be faced with the most descriptive and dirty shit I’ve ever seen. I’m not joking when I say I’ve blushed and maybe made a mental note.

Am I a little jealous of words on dead trees? Maybe.

Am I glad my girl gets her kicks from fictional men while I’m over twelve hundred miles away? Because several real ones who clearly don’t value their lives slid into Anastasia’s DMs the second I hopped on the plane to Vancouver? Also maybe.

I set the book back on the pile just in time for her to exit her book daydream, and for me to remind myself that I’m technically famous now, so I can’t just punch college kids for shooting their shot with my girlfriend.

“Did you say something, bub?”

Why do you want to read about werewolves? “I asked can you reach the top shelf okay?”

Nice save, Hawkins.

Her smile widens as she saunters towards me, dropping into my lap and wrapping her arms around my neck. Okay, this I can get on board with. I tug her closer, so it’s no longer her body and my body, it’s just us. She sighs, her bottom lip poking out in a display of fake pity. “I’m sorry, are you bored?”

Pressing my lips to her bare shoulder, I shake my head, mumbling, “I could never be bored watching you do something that makes you happy.”

“I picked a lot of books.”

“You did.”

“I’m probably going to read them all on my e-reader anyway.”

“I know you are.”

“I still want the paperbacks.”

“I know you do.”

“I think I’m going to pick some more.”

“I think you should too.”

“Do you want me to pick you something to read? Hockey autobiography, maybe?”

“Nah.” I pick a mint green book from the pile with cute drawings on the cover. “I’m gonna find out what a ‘Why choose?’ romance is.”

She smothers a snort with the palm of her hand. “Happy reading.”


I don’t know what hour I’m on, but the grim feeling I’ve grown accustomed to is starting to rear its ugly head. The feeling I get when I realize that time keeps moving, even when I don’t want it to, and eventually (but soon) I will have to say goodbye again.

I love Vancouver, and I love my team, but I love Anastasia more. Being away from her is hard, far harder than I expected. Especially when it can feel like I’m constantly watching the clock when we’re together. She tells me I don’t have to do something special when I see her. There’s no pressure for us to do anything at all, and the uninteresting mundane tasks are her favorite because we do them together, but I want things to be memorable.

Not worked out how to do that yet but it’s on the to-do list she insisted I start on my phone.

The fucking terrible singing that’s been echoing from the bathroom finally stops as the sound of running water fades. I found myself humming along to her offbeat tune a minute ago, which is how I know I need to stop letting her pick what we listened to. There’s no need for me to know all the words for pretty much every Taylor Swift song, but somehow I do.

The bathroom door opens, revealing Stassie drowning in my Vipers jersey. Her eyes immediately narrow suspiciously when she spots me resting against the pillows of her bed. “Why do you look like you’re having a crisis? Or up to no good?”

“I’m having a crisis about how bad your singing is.”

“We can’t be good at everything, Nathaniel…”


“... so don’t be hard on yourself for not being able to identify musical talent when you hear it.”

“Stop sassing me and get your butt over here. You’ve been in the shower for so long.”

She hasn’t. The whole reason she was showering alone in the first place is that she wants to conserve water, and apparently, I’m counterproductive to that goal, so she was actually quite quick. I’m just needy.

“So bossy.” The bed dips as she climbs on, her knee narrowly missing her e-reader placed beside me. Picking it up, her lips tug into a smirk. “Doing some light reading, bub?”

Tugging her between my legs, I rest my chin on the top of her head as she settles with her back against my chest. Her finger presses against the side of the device and it comes to life, revealing the last read page.




I might have been the one to buy this book, but that doesn’t stop the heat immediately rushing to my cheeks the moment my eyes scan the screen.

He shuffles behind me, his chin dropping to my shoulder, his slow breaths tickle against my throat. “Read it.”

“You can’t be serio—”

“Read it, Anastasia.”

I clear my throat, dropping my voice into something more worthy of what I’m about to vocalize. “My heart is hammering in my chest, the humid weather nothing compared to the suffocating air between us. Luca’s ha—

I stumble over my words, immediately losing my train of thought when Nate sucks lightly on the skin beneath my ear. “Keep going...”

Reading. I can read. I know how words work.

Luca’s hand traces the angles of my face, his touch gentle, a contrast to the dark, intense stare I’m faced with when his eyes meet mine. You’re so fucking beautiful, he says. Are you wet for me? I bet yo—” My breath hitches as Nate’s hand gently moves along my inner thigh. His touch is gentle, too, but when my words slow his hand stops.

“Is that all you want to read?” he teases, an arrogance to his tone that makes me want to shout but also kiss the life out of him.

Squirming against him, the evidence of how much he’s enjoying this little literary experience is growing hard against the base of my spine.

That’s enough motivation for me to concentrate.

I bet you are.” His pressure increases as his hand moves again, setting my skin alight. I steady my breathing, enunciating every word like I’m getting a freaking grade in public speaking. Like I’m the student and Nate is the teacher.

Wait, I think I have a book with that trope.

We love each other, there’s no doubt about that. We’re obsessed with each other, sure, that’s fair to say too. Love and obsession aside, I’m really running the risk of panting like a dog, and I’m not sure either of us are ready for that.

Being driven to loss of lung function over some light fondling really speaks volumes about how this long-distance relationship is treating me, and how touch deprived I am.

My eyes fight to loll backward as Nate’s fingers travel beneath the hem of his jersey, but I fight to keep them on the screen, knowing that if I stop talking, he’ll stop too. “His hand travels down my body, at a slow and tortuous pace until he reaches the waistband of my skirt. He smirks and his tongue darts out to wet his bottom lip. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me picture his tongue in other—Nate, please, stop teasing—uh, I said it didn’t make me picture his tongue in other places. Did you wear this tiny lit—Nathan, please.”

The sadistic little shit chuckles into the curve of my neck while his fingers play with the hem of my panties, finally slipping beneath the flimsy material when an undignified huff slips from lips.

“Fuck, you’re already so wet.”

Five words and I’m launching the e-reader to the otherside of the bed.

“Such a clever girl.”

Four words and I’m launching me at him.

It isn’t graceful how I pull his hand from between my legs and spin, and frantically climb into his lap, but it is effective. He chuckles, running his thumb across my bottom lip. “Such an impatient girl.”

“You’d be impatient if you had a boyfriend who enjoys torturing you,” I tease, nipping at the pad of his thumb with my teeth. His hand lowers, gripping the front of my throat lightly, and guiding me closer until our noses are touching. “See? Torture.”

Nate’s lips brush mine gently and I can’t help but hold my breath. “I love you.”

Three words and I’m melting.

“Now ride me.”

Three more and… well.

Our mouths smash together as we each grip and pull and tug until we’re both naked, hot, and desperate. With one hand on my hip and one hand on his dick, Nate guides me down onto him carefully, and far too slowly for my liking.

Fuck, you feel so fucking good,” he pants. I keep going until I’m fully seated again, suppressing my smugness when his eyes roll to the back of his head, and his mouth gapes open. I don’t have much room to be smug since I wanted to cry with happiness the second I hovered over him and began to feel him stretch me.

Our breathing is matched, albeit chaotic, the anticipation finally peaking after far too long apart, and when I lift my hips up and slam them down again, his grip tightens on my hips.

Over and over.

Until my nails sink into the taut muscles on his chest and I’m chasing the building in my core. Nate’s hand leaves its spot on my hips, where it was practically indented after guiding me dutifully, and slips between my legs where we’re joined, rubbing in the exact right way.

“You gonna come for me?” he coos. “My good girl.”

I’ve spent the past twenty-two years molding myself into a strong, determined women but as soon as he says that to me, it’s like every shred of independence and feminism dies instantly. I want to tell him I’m doing it for me, that I’m in control, that he’s going to come for me, but that’s not what happens.

What actually happens is I sob his name, nodding frantically as I come.

I get a semblance of control back when he comes, too, hissing my name and a string of expletives as he twitches inside of me, holding me so close that we’re essentially one person, making it easy to collapse in an exhausted mess on his chest.

The quiet is soothing, our matched breathing being our only source of noise in my room. Nathan’s fingers tickle up and down my back and just when I think I’m going to drift off he speaks. “The NHL doesn’t pay me enough money to leave you.”

I snort. “Tell them to add a zero.”

“It wouldn’t be enough. What if I just quit? And hang out here waiting for you to get home everyday?”

It sounds appealing; I can’t pretend I haven’t made the same offer to him about dropping out and moving to Vancouver. Long distance fucking sucks, but we both know deep down—deep, deep down where it’s sometimes hard to find—that this is the best for our future.

“I’ll win a few medals, you win a couple of Stanley Cups, then we can give it all up for coaching jobs. We can teach cocky and ambitious twenty-year-olds who think they know better than us, we will eat lunch together every day, and play house every night.”

Nudging my chin up to look at him, he smiles in a way that makes me ache. “Do you promise?”

“I promise.”

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