Book Title: Crushed Ice
Author: Ashlyn Kane & Morgan James
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase
Release Date: February 6, 2023
Genre: Contemporary MM Sports Romance
Tropes: Friends to lovers, teammates to lovers, rookie/veteran, age gap, workaholic/slacker
Themes: Coming of age, learning to accept and ask for help, self-acceptance, independence, pressure on professional athletes, injury, romantic comedy
Heat Rating: 5 flames
Length: 99 844 words/ 302 pages
This is a part of the Hockey Ever After series, but all the books in the series can be read as standalones.
It does not end on a cliffhanger.
Buy Links – Available in Kindle Unlimited
Defensemen can score too.
When Liam Belanger gets a professional tryout with the Miami Caimans, he’s hoping to land a roster spot that’ll keep him from bussing tables. If he can make the team and score a tryout in bed with Russ Lyons, the veteran defenseman who’s appointed himself Liam’s mentor, that would be the icing on the sweet hockey cake.
Living life by a strict set of rules has worked out well for Russ. He has a great career, great friends, and a great family, even if they do keep setting him up with hometown honey traps. But he can’t stop time, and now, despite all his planning, he’s looking at his last year with the Caimans before the uncertainty of free agency. Maybe that’s why he finds sunny, free-spirited Liam so attractive.
He’s still not going to sleep with his rookie.
Liam starts the season in the minors, but it’s not long before he gets a shot at the Big Show. His year is shaping up to be a dream come true—even before Russ picks up on Liam’s passes and proves defensemen can score too.
The last time they ran through the set play, Yeti dumped Liam on his ass. Baller and Jonesy hooted with laughter as Liam’s gloves and stick went yard-saling over the ice.
Typical way to welcome a new defenseman. Russ snowed to a stop next to his temporary partner. “How you doing down there?”
Liam muttered a handful of French-Canadian expletives. He reached up with a bare hand and Russ hauled him to a sitting position. “I feel like I got hit by a truck.”
“Yeti’ll do that to you. You good?”
Liam shook his head. “I’m good.” He got to his feet. “Jesus. How much does he weigh?”
“Significantly more when he’s moving that fast.” Russ clapped Liam’s shoulder as they skated off to let the next groups practice. They were done for now, so he had time to give Liam a little more feedback. “That’s something you’ll have to get used to.”
“What?” Liam pulled himself up on the half boards.
“Checking.” When Liam looked at him, Russ elaborated, “You flinch.”
Liam’s mouth dropped open. “I do not!”
“Twenty bucks says the video review shows otherwise.” Russ had seen it before with guys who came up through the college system, which focused on speed over hits, since they wanted their players to keep their brains unscrambled long enough to graduate. “It’s fine. You’re not the first. You’re going to have to work on it, though.”
“Not a lot of guys in college are Yeti-sized.” Liam’s mouth twisted into a wry smile, but he seemed genuinely upset, like the root of the problem bothered him.
Russ snorted. “Not a lot of guys in the NHL are either. Or outside of it.” Yeti was six foot nine and built like a linebacker. “Are you trying to bulk up for the season?”
“Was that a hint?” Liam grabbed his water bottle from the bench and waggled it. The joker was still there, but Russ was pretty sure he meant the question. “Think I should fill one of these with Ensure or something?”
God. “That’s one way to make sure no one ever steals your drink.”
“Seriously, though.” Liam put the bottle down. There was a smudge of blue at the corner of his mouth. “Do you think I’m too skinny?”
Russ must’ve given him a look that broadcast his thoughts, because Liam rolled his eyes and amended, still more than half serious, “For hockey. I’m not asking you to compliment my figure. I know I’m hot.”
“I think you’re a kid.” At that age Russ could’ve eaten his body weight in M&M’s and barely gained a pound. “Putting on weight at your age when you burn calories like we do isn’t easy. But you could work with the trainers on some exercises that’ll help you stay upright when someone his size hits you. Or when you hit them.”
Liam made a sad noise. “I always used to think those videos were funny. You know, tiny forward tries to check an absolute monster like Mikhail Kipriyanov, then ends up on his ass.”
“You’re going to be one of those videos,” Russ assured him. Maybe he shouldn’t inflate the kid’s hopes, but if he did his time in the AHL, he’d make it. It wouldn’t take long.
Liam straightened his shoulders like that was a great compliment. “I’m going to be one of those videos.” He shook his head and more of his usual humor returned. “I’m not even tiny. Just tiny compared to him.” He looked sideways at Russ and his voice dropped and took on a suggestive tone. “And you. You’re big. What do you eat?”
Russ glanced over and found Liam watching him with trouble written all over his face.
Surely he couldn’t be serious. He didn’t even know Russ was gay.
Which meant he was being a little shit. Russ shouldn’t encourage him, but he couldn’t let him get away with thinking he had the last word either. “Anything within range.”
This kid’s sass was going to cost him so much money if he officially joined the team. He hopped off the boards again and leaned close enough to put himself directly into Russ’s space. “Sounds like you have a pretty healthy appetite.”
Good grief. Russ had to laugh, because there was no way Liam was trying to pick him up with a game that bad. “Do these lines really work for you?”
Undaunted, Liam grinned and cocked his hip so his ass stuck out. “Don’t usually need ’em.”
Between Liam’s body, the slight dimple in his cheek, and the unruly curls, Russ could see why, but he wasn’t going to pump his tires. “Well, kid, welcome to the Big Show. Get used to putting in another level of effort.”
Then he skated off to the next drill before Liam could decide he should start putting in that effort now.
About the Authors
Ashlyn Kane likes to think she can do it all, but her follow-through often proves her undoing. Her house is as full of half-finished projects as her writing folder. With the help of her ADHD meds, she gets by.
An early reader and talker, Ashlyn has always had a flair for language and storytelling. As an eight-year-old, she attended her first writers’ workshop. As a teenager, she won an amateur poetry competition. As an adult, she received a starred review in Publishers Weekly for her novel Fake Dating the Prince. There were quite a few years in the middle there, but who’s counting?
Her hobbies include DIY home decor, container gardening (no pulling weeds), music, and spending time with her enormous chocolate lapdog. She is the fortunate wife of a wonderful man, the daughter of two sets of great parents, and the proud older sister/sister-in-law of the world’s biggest nerds.
Morgan James is a clueless (older) millennial who’s still trying to figure out what they’ll be when they grow up and enjoying the journey to get there. Now, with a couple of degrees, a few stints in Europe, and more than one false start to a career, they eagerly wait to see what’s next. James started writing fiction before they could spell and wrote their first (unpublished) novel in middle school. They haven’t stopped writing since. Geek, artist, archer, and fanatic, Morgan tends to pass their free hours with in imaginary worlds and people on pages and screens—it’s an addiction. As is their love of coffee and tea. They live in Canada with their massive collection of unread books, where they are the personal servant of too many four-legged creatures.