Body Check

By: Elle Kennedy


1

“I REALLY NEED to get laid, ” Hayde n Houston said with a sigh. She reached for the glass on

the smooth mahogany tabletop and took a sip of red wine. The slightly bitter liquid eased her

thirst but did nothing to soothe her frustration.

The pictures staring at her from the walls of the Ice House Bar didn’t help, e ither. Action shots of hockey players mid slap shot, framed rookie cards, team photos of the Chicago Warriors—it

seemed as if the sport haunted her everywhere she went. Sure, she was a team owner’s daughter,

but occasionally it would be nice to focus on something other than hockey. Like sex, perhaps.

Across from her, Darcy White grinned. “We haven’t seen each other in two years and that’s all

you’ve got to say? Come on, Professor, no a necdot es abo ut life in Berke ley? No insight ful

lectures about Impressionist art?”

“I save the insightful lectures for my students. And as for anecdotes, none of them involve sex so

let’s not waste time with those.”

She ran her hand through her hair and discovered that all the bounce she’d tried to inject into it

before heading to the Ice House Bar had deflated. Volume-enhancing mousse? Yeah, right.

Apparently nothing could make her stick-straight brown hair look anything other than stick-

straight.

“Oka y, I’ll bite,” Darcy said. “Why do you have sex on the brain? ”

“Because I’m not getting any.”

Darcy sipped her strawberry daiquiri, a drink she’d confessed she hated but drank anyway,

claiming men found it sexy. “Aren’t you seeing someone back in California? Dan? Drake?”

“Doug,” Hayden corrected.

“How long have you been together?”

“Two months.”

“And you still haven’t done the mattress mambo? ”

“Nope.”

“You’re kidding, right? He’s not down with getting it on?” Darcy paused, looking thoughtful.

“Or should I say, he’s not up with it?”

“O h, he’s up. He just wants, and I quote, ‘to get to know each other fully before we cross the

intimacy bridge.’”

Her friend hooted. “The intimacy bridge? Girl, he sounds like a total loser. Dump him. Now.

Before he brings up the intimacy bridge again.”

“We’re actually on a break right now,” Hayden admitted. “Before I left I told him I needed some

space.”

“Space? Uh-uh. I think what you need is a new boyfriend.”

God, that was the last thing she wanted. Toss her line in the dating pool and start fishing again?

No, thank you. After three failed relationships in five years, Hayden had decided to quit falling

for bad boys and focus on the good ones. And Doug Lloyd was definitely a good one. He taught

a Renaissance course at Berkeley, he was intelligent and witty, and he valued love and

commitment as much as she did. Having grown up with a single father, Hayden longed for a

partner she could build a home and grow old with.

Her mom had d ied in a car accident when Hayde n was a baby, a nd her dad had give n up o n

finding love again, opting instead to spend more than twenty years focusing on his hockey-

coaching career. He’d finally remarried three years ago, but she suspected loneliness, rather than

love, had driven him to do so. Why else would he have proposed to a woman after four months

of da ting? A woman who was twenty- nine years his junior. A woman he was in the process of

divorcing, no less.

Well, she had no intention of following her dad’s example. She wasn’t going to spend decades

alone and then jump into marriage with someone totally unsuitable.

Doug held the same mind-set. He was a traditionalist through and through, a believer that

marriage should be valued and not rushed into. Besides, he had a rock-hard body that made her

mout h water. He’d even let her touch it…o nce. They’d be en kissing o n the couch in t he living

roo m of her San Francisco town house and she’d s lid her hands underneath his button-down

shirt. Running her fingers over his rippled chest, she’d murmured, “Let’s move this into the

bedroom.”

That’s when he’d dropped the no- intimacy bomb on her. He’d assured her he was unbe lievably

attracted to her, but that, like marriage, he didn’t believe sex should be rushed. He wanted the

first time to be special.

And no amount of chest rubbing could persuade him to let go of his chivalrous intentions.

And therein lay the problem. Doug was simply too nice. At first she’d thought his views on

making love were really very sweet. But two months, coupled with eight months of celibacy

prior to meeting Doug, added up to extreme sexual frustration on her part.

She loved that Doug was a gentleman but, darn it, sometimes a girl just needed a man.

“Seriously, this Damian guy seems like a wimp,” Darcy said, jerking her from her thoughts.

“Doug.”

“Whatever.” Darcy waved a dismissive hand and tossed her long red hair over her shoulde r.

“Screw int imacy. If Dustin won’t have sex with you, find someone who will.”

“Believe me, I’m tempted.”

More than tempted, actually. The next couple months were bound to be pure hell. She’d come

home after final exams to support her father through his messy divorce, to be the good daughter,

but that didn’t mean she had to like the situation.

Her stepmother was determined to squeeze Hayden’s dad for every dime he had. And, boy, did

he have a lot of dimes. Though he’d spent most of his life coaching, Presley had always dreamed

of owning a team, a goa l he’d fina lly reached seven years ago. Thanks to the subs tantial

insurance settlement he’d received after her mom’s accident, and his wise investment in a

pharmaceutical company that had made him millions, he’d been able to purchase the Chicago

Warriors franchise. Over the years he’d continued investing and building his fortune, but his

main priority was the team. It was all he ever thought about, and that’s what made coming home

so difficult.

Her childhood had been chaotic, to say the least. Traveling with her dad across the country for

away games, living in Florida for two years when he’d coached the Aces to a championship

victory, five years in Texas, three in Oregon. It had been tough, but Hayden’s close relationship

with her dad had made the constant upheaval bearable. Her father had always shown an interest

in her life. He’d listened while she babb led abo ut her favorite artists, and taken her to countless museums over the years.

Now that she was an adult and he was busy with the team, he no longer seemed to care about

making time to connect with her outside of the hocke y arena. S he knew other team owners didn’t

get as involved as her father did, but his background as a coach seemed to influence his new

position; he had his hand in every aspect of the Warriors, from drafting players to marketing, and

he thrived on it, no matter how time-consuming the work was.

That’s why three years ago she’d decided to accept the full- time position Berkeley had offered

her, even though it meant relocating to the West Coast. She’d figured the old absence- makes-the-

heart-grow- fonder cliché might kick in and make her father realize there was more to life than

hocke y. It hadn’t.

So she’d come back to see him through the divorce in hopes that they could reconnect.

“Have you become a nymphomaniac since you left town?” Darcy was asking. “You never

mentioned it in your e- mails.”

Hayde n for ced herself to foc us on her best friend and not dwell on her issues with her dad. “I

haven’t become a nymphomaniac. I’m just stressed-out and I need to unwind. Do you blame

me?”

“Not really. The evil stepmother is throwing poison apples all over the place, huh?”

“You saw the morning paper, too?”

“O h, yeah. Pretty crapp y.”

Hayden raked her fingers through her hair. “Crappy? It’s a disaster.”

“Any truth to it?” Darcy asked carefully.

“O f course not! Dad would never do the things she’s accusing him of.” She tried to control the

frustration in her tone. “Let’s not talk abo ut this. Tonight I just want to forget abo ut my dad and Sheila and the whole messy business.”

“All right. Wanna talk about sex again?”

Hayden grinned. “No. I’d rather have sex instead.”

“Then do it. There are tons of men in this place. Pick one and go home with him.”

“You mean a one-night stand?” she asked warily.

“Hell, yeah.”

“I don’t know. It seems kind of sleazy, hopping into bed with someone and never seeing them

again. ”

“How is that sleazy? I do it all the time.”

Hayden burst out laughing. “O f course you do. You’re commitment-phobic.”

Darcy went through men like socks, and some of the details she shared in her e- mails made

Hayde n gape. She certainly couldn’t remember ever experiencing seven orgasms in one night, or

indulging in a ménage à trois with two firefighters she’d met—figure this one out—at an illegal

bonfire in Chicago’s Lincoln Park.

Darcy raised her eyebrows, blue eyes flashing with challenge. “Well, let me ask you this—what

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