The Sweet Talker (Boston Hawks Hockey #1) - Gina Azzi



“You’re coming out tonight,” my cousin Claire demands, glancing at me in the reflection of her bedroom mirror. A mascara wand hovers in her hand and her tongue peeks out between her lips as she applies a second coat.

I flop back against her bed, staring at the glow stars that decorate her ceiling. We placed them there one summer, over a decade ago, and she’s never taken them down. “I can’t. I have work to catch up on.”

“Too bad. You’re too young and too hot to never get laid.”

I snort, dropping my hand over my face. “I get laid.” My voice is defensive, and as soon as Claire starts laughing, I join in.

I turn my head to meet her eyes in the reflection of the mirror. We’re both sporting goofy grins. She jabs her mascara wand at me in the reflection. “Yeah? When was the last time you did it?”

I groan, yanking my gaze back to the ceiling. At least the glow stars aren’t judgey. I don’t answer Claire’s question aloud but mentally, I tally up the months. There have been seven of them. Seven months since I had sex. It wasn’t even good sex. More comfortable, one last hurrah before I relocate to Boston, see-ya-when-I-see-ya sex with Chris, the guy who conveniently lived down the street and was usually around for a casual hook-up. My closest childhood friend, Aiden, choked on his beer when I told him about my fling with Chris. He still hasn’t stopped teasing me about it.

I wrinkle my nose. Meh, thinking of Chris as my last sexual partner is depressing on several levels.

Six months ago, when I landed in Boston for a new job, as an assistant professor at Brighton University, I swore to myself I’d turn over a new leaf. Now that I am on the tenure-track, I reasoned, I can stop being a self-isolated workaholic. My plan was to embrace the city, meet new people, and not keep myself locked in the library, researching, writing, and publishing. My plan failed.

The bed dips beside me. Claire’s deep blue eyes peer into mine, determined, with just a hint of compassion. “I know you’re working your ass off because you’re intimidated.”

“I’m the youngest assistant professor Brighton’s ever hired.”

“But you’re qualified and competent. You’re prepared for this job, Indy.”

I shrug, not voicing how unprepared I feel. I’ve worked hard to secure this position but now that I have it, I feel a pressure to work even harder to prove that I can keep it. To show the administration that I was the right choice, that even though I’m only twenty-seven, I’m committed to academia.

Claire rolls her eyes. “You may be a prim and proper professor now but—”

“I’m not that prim and proper.”

Her lips quiver with laughter. “Indiana, you are my favorite girl cousin.”

“I’m your only girl cousin.”

Claire ignores me. “I can’t let you wallow away into nothing. Besides, I need a wing woman. Ever since Savannah abandoned me by gallivanting off to New York—”

“Mike got traded.” I point out that my cousin Savannah, Claire’s older sister, didn’t move by choice. Her husband was traded by the Boston Hawks to the New York Sharks halfway through last hockey season.

Claire dismisses my logic and ticks on her fingers. “And Rielle is too busy working to have a life—”

“She’s up for a promotion,” I cut in, sticking up for Claire’s best friend who has been working around the clock lately. Impressively, even more than me.

Claire glares at me. “My point is, everyone is ditching me and you have the shittiest excuse. The academic year started like, five seconds ago—”

“Three weeks.”

“You’re coming out tonight and we’re celebrating,” she concludes, hopping from the bed and striding to her closet. Claire pulls out a short, tight, black dress I would never wear and waves it around. “Put this on.”

I laugh, pulling myself into a seated position, and play along. “What exactly are we celebrating?”

“Your new life. I love you, Indiana, but real talk, workaholic, stressed-out, type-A you is not a good look. You have a real job, which is more than I can say, and you’re in a new city. You need to put yourself out there and mingle a little. Maybe you’ll even meet someone.” She eyes me hopefully, making the dress dance on the hanger.

I offer my cousin a half smile and weigh her words. She got me with the “real job” bit, which I’m sure she did on purpose, knowing my compassionate side would kick in. Since her college graduation in