She closed her heart long ago. He just wants to open her mind. For fans of Toni Aleo and Sawyer Bennett, the debut of Sophia Henry’s red-hot Detroit Pilots series introduces a hockey team full of complicated men who fight for love.
Auden Berezin is used to losing people: her father, her mother, her first love. Now, just when she believes those childhood wounds are finally healing, she loses something else: the soccer scholarship that was her ticket to college. Scrambling to earn tuition money, she’s relieved to find a gig translating for a Russian minor-league hockey player—until she realizes that he’s the same dangerously sexy jerk who propositioned her at the bar the night before.
Equal parts muscle and scar tissue, Aleksandr Varenkov knows about trauma. Maybe that’s what draws him to Auden. He also lost his family too young, and he channeled the pain into his passions: first hockey, then vodka and women. But all that seems to just melt away the instant he kisses Auden and feels a jolt of desire as sudden and surprising as a hard check on the ice.
After everything she’s been through, Auden can’t bring herself to trust any man, let alone a hot-headed puck jockey with a bad reputation. Aleksandr just hopes she’ll give him a chance—long enough to prove he’s finally met the one who makes him want to change.
When you’re twenty years old, there’s nothing music and a drink can’t cure.
At least that was my best friend’s response when I told her I’d been cut from Central State’s women’s soccer team that morning.
The overzealous stylings of two drunk chicks bellowing “It’s Raining Men” wafted through the air, and I’d just received my vodka club from the bartender, so why did it still feel like someone scratched my heart out with a serrated shovel?
Maybe “It’s Raining Men” wasn't the right song?
Or maybe my friend’s remedy lacked one vital piece. Like, five minutes locked in a bathroom stall with the crazy-haired hottie approaching me. His head was buzzed short on the sides, leaving a thick patch of dark locks, gelled into a neat pompadour in front. Sort of like 1920s gangster, except less slicked, more height.
Every muscle in Crazy Hair’s body rippled under his clothing as he walked. He had to be over six feet tall, with a broad chest and massive arms stretching the seams of his long-sleeved black Henley. His skin was smooth and pale, a contrast to the thick dark eyebrows resting above his jump-in-and-drown-in-me blue eyes. From the scar on his left cheek to the smug smirk of his lips, he was exactly my type: dangerous, confident, and totally lickable.
I flipped my long blond hair behind my shoulder and glanced to my left, pretending Crazy Hair’s advance had no effect on me. In reality, I’d checked to make sure that he wouldn’t pass me up on the way to some beautiful bombshell I hadn’t noticed standing in the vicinity.
Like when you see someone wave, so you wave back. Then you realize they weren’t waving at you but the person behind you. So you try to play off your lame wave like you were batting away mosquitoes, which aren’t there because it’s December in Canada. Just trying to avoid an awkward situation like that.
Crazy Hair continued to close in, before stopping just inches away.
I’d opened my mouth to ream him out for stepping too far into my personal space, but the sweet scent of clove cigarettes flooded warmth through me like a sip of hot chocolate on a January morning in the Upper Peninsula.
“You work at post office?” he asked in a thick Slavic accent.
“Um, no.” I took a swig of my drink. Though I was unsure where he was going with that line, he was hot enough for me to stick around.
The left corner of his mouth curved into that sexy little smirk. “Because I see you check out my package.”
Carbonation stung my nose as I snorted and choked trying to hold in my laugh. Without time to turn my head, I sprayed vodka club and saliva across the front of Crazy Hair’s shirt.
“Weak!” I heard from somewhere behind me.
I turned to see who had yelled, still coughing as I noticed a group of guys and girls at the high-top table behind me. Shaggy blond hair bounced against one guy’s forehead as he snickered. The dude next to him held his fist in front of his mouth in a horrible attempt to hide his laughter. A brunette in a tight red sweater didn’t look amused. At all.
Crazy Hair threw the guys not one but both of his middle fingers.
“That girl’s a fucking smoke show. Why’d he use a shitty line like that?” the blond one said.
Smoke show? I bit down hard on my lip to fight back a smile. The last time I’d heard that phrase was in high school from my hockey-playing best friend, who’d informed me that “smoke show” was player lingo for “hot girl.”
Unsure of how to recover any semblance of cool after spitting my drink across Crazy Hair’s muscular chest, I spun around and shuffled back to the table my friends occupied in front of the karaoke stage.
It felt weird to drink in public, though we’d been to Canada on multiple occasions. As lifelong residents of Detroit, Michigan, we thought of Windsor—the Canadian city connected to Detroit by a bridge and a tunnel—as the next town over, rather than a foreign country. Nineteen was the legal drinking age in Windsor, so it made sense for underage Americans like us to cross the border for some legit cocktails.
My butt had barely brushed my seat when I heard my name, and my name alone, called over the speakers. I lifted my eyes to the outdated popcorn ceiling, as if the voice resonated from the heavens beyond, rather than the karaoke host.
“Why is he calling my name?” I asked Kristen.
“I picked you a song,” she responded, taking a swig of her beer.
“You picked a song, you mean?” Emphasis on the because I’d never sung alone in my life—not counting the shower and car, of course.
“Nope. Just you.” Kristen placed both hands on my back and pushed me toward the stage. “You need to sing it out. Keeping shit bottled up never works.”
I had no problem singing it out if I was singing with other people, but not when it was just me. Hadn’t I been embarrassed enough today?
My short-lived “smoke show” happiness vanished, and the embarrassment of making a fool of myself in front of Crazy Hair returned. I tried to reverse, but Kristen’s trampoline-like hands propelled me back toward the stage.
Climbing onto the stage, I snatched the microphone out of the host’s hand. I almost felt bad about taking my anger out on him until I saw the lyrics to “Proud Mary”light up in white against the teleprompter’s blue screen. Fuck.
I exhaled and lifted my eyes to Kristen.
“Girl power!” She saluted me with her glass.
Was “Proud Mary” a girl-power song? I thought it was about a boat.
“Do you have ‘Good Feeling’?” I asked the karaoke host. He was around my age, with big brown eyes matching his neat, trimmed beard and his shoulder-length hair.
“Flo Rida?” he asked, as disapproving wrinkles formed on his smooth forehead.
“Oh, no,” I said. “The Violent Femmes.”
A smile spread across his lips, and he nodded. “Give me a second.”
When I saw this book pop up on my Netgalley account, I was so excited to get my hands on this baby! I LOVE sports romance and hockey really gets my motor running, so I was giddy to see this new series!
Let me just say that it did not disappoint. Everything that I love about this genre, Delayed Penalty delivered for me.
Auden (which I LOVE that name) grew up with her grandparents in Detroit, after the death of her mother when she was six. Having no other family, being raised by a Russian Language Professor grandfather and Irish Catholic grandmother, she lead a somewhat sheltered life.
Aleksandr is a Russian hockey player on the Detroit Pilots farm team. From the first time Aleksandr and Auden meet (which is at a karaoke bar in Canada), these two have a chemistry that can't be denied. This chemistry keeps the storyline fresh, fun and full of sexy appeal. I love it when a man knows what he wants and Aleksandr is just that man. He sees in Auden what others have denied. The two connect on so many levels, but Auden can't see why someone as handsome and popular as Aleksandr would want someone has dull and plain as herself.
Delayed Penalty was full of flirty fun, steamy sexy moments and twists and turns. I was pulled in from the very start and loved every minute. I didn't want it to end!
If you a fan of sport romance, definitely add Delayed Penalty to your TBR. You won't be disappointed!
Sophia Henry, a proud Detroit native, fell in love with reading, writing, and hockey all before she became a teenager. She did not, however, fall in love with snow. So after graduating with an English degree from Central Michigan University, she moved to North Carolina, where she spends her time writing books featuring hockey-playing heroes, chasing her two high-energy sons, watching her beloved Detroit Red Wings, and rocking out at concerts with her husband.