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Hooked On You (The Chicago Rebels Series) Mass Market Paperback – May 29, 2018
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About the Author
Originally from Ireland, Kate Meader cut her romance reader teeth on Maeve Binchy and Jilly Cooper novels, with some Harlequins thrown in for variety. Give her tales about brooding mill owners, oversexed equestrians, and men who can rock an apron, a fire hose, or a hockey stick, and she's there. Now based in Chicago, she writes sexy contemporary romance with alpha heroes and strong heroines (and heroes) who can match their men quip for quip. Visit her at KateMeader.com.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Hooked On You
She needed a drink.
And while Violet Vasquez wasn’t big on boozing before five, she figured that now might be as good a time as any to start. Neither was she big on signs, but the one that had caught her attention had to be the universe telling her something.
The bar, called the Empty Net, had two hockey sticks crossed like cutlasses over the door.
Yeah, someone was screwing with her, she thought as she exited the cab on the main drag in Riverbrook, thirty miles north of downtown Chicago—and she had an idea who. But she wasn’t one to back down from a challenge. Day drinking would commence in three, two, one . . .
Pulling the heavy oak door open, Violet walked out of the sun and into a bar fight.
On closer inspection, this was pretty tame as bar fights went. It had the makings of a doozy, though, because at the center of it was a hulk. A long-haired, bearded, fuck-with-me-if-you-don’t-want-to-live behemoth. Three guys with a death wish and/or shit for brains surrounded him, all but begging to be crushed.
One of them was right up in his face, his spittle-flecked lips working soundlessly, his fists clenched at his sides. Another had the hulk boxed in on the shorter end of the L-shaped bar with a pool cue in his hand. And number three? This joker was clearly the spokesman, and right now he was getting something off his chest.
“You’re a lowlife, St. James,” the leader spat out. “You haven’t had a good season in years. You got some nerve showing your face around here.”
St. James—which was sort of ironic, because this guy looked like he rode with the devil instead of the angels—didn’t defend himself. Just held himself taut, ready.
“Better not be any trouble,” a female voice called out. The bartender. Violet, familiar with the undercurrents of drunk drama from her nights tending bar at Rusty’s Biker Emporium in Reno, recognized the thread of concern in her voice. She was staffing the place alone in the middle of the afternoon. Maybe they had security at night, but right now this woman was helpless to break up a fight with anything but diplomacy.
“There’ll be no trouble,” the hulk said, and though he was responding to the bartender, the message was for the Three Stooges in front of him. There was also something odd about his voice: deep, resonant, and . . . Irish?
As the guy with the pool cue moved closer, the bartender caught Violet’s eye, her expression one of mild panic. Violet shook her head slightly. She trusted that the hulk had this under control, that he could defuse the situation.
“You don’t want to do that,” he said to Pool Cue.
“I’m calling the police,” the bartender said.
Nope. Not helping.
“No police” was the hulk’s response, but he said it like pole-is. Now Violet heard it more clearly—she’d watched enough Outlander episodes to recognize a Scottish accent.
No sooner had he affirmed that the law was not needed than the idiots surrounding him burst into action. Clenched Fists raised his right hand, only to have the Scot react with lightning speed and cover it with one king-sized paw. At the same time, he grabbed the cue from the other guy’s hand, smashed it against the bar, and held the splinter-topped weapon to Pool Cue’s throat. Crushing a fist with one hand, threatening a jugular with another, he stared directly at the guy who had been mouthing off.
And raised a very expressive eyebrow.
Violet’s entire body tingled and her heart thrashed about. Oh, the Scot was something else.
The lynch mob spokesman backed up, hands raised. “Got it. We’re just talking.”
“Go talk over there.” A chin jerk from the Scot indicated another part of the bar. Rather charitably, to Violet’s mind, he released the raised fist, then placed the shattered cue on the bar. The bar fight that had never quite started expired with a whimper as the men slunk away to lick their wounds.
Violet took a look at her surroundings. For early afternoon, the bar was surprisingly busy, with a few people playing darts and a couple of guys at a pool table. The TV screens blasted a hockey game, though it was mid-September and out of season—she knew that much. But the entertainment shouldn’t have been all that surprising, given the bar’s proximity to the arena of the local NHL franchise, the Chicago Rebels.
The team she now owned.
Violet stepped forward and picked up the other half of the cue. Carefully, she placed it with its soul mate on the bar.
The Scot didn’t acknowledge that, as if he hadn’t even noticed her, which was generally impossible because on a noticeability scale of one to ten, Violet usually landed at nine. But not today, because for this visit to Chicagoland, she’d gone conservative and changed her hair from magenta streaks to its original dark and dull brown. Damn her conforming hair color!
Mr. Surly took a seat and caught the eye of the bartender, who walked over, looking like she was this close to having a coronary.
The Scot turned slightly, and Violet realized that the bartender was speaking to her.
“Oh, fine. Chivas rocks, please.” She climbed onto a bar stool beside the Scot, who was frowning in a most attractive manner.
“Plenty of seats elsewhere,” he muttered.
Oh, you old romantic you!
The barfly gods were shining on her, because at that moment, Violet’s Chivas appeared. Extra tip for you, barkeep.
“Yeah, but my drink is right here.”
Evidently unable to fault that logic, he spoke to the bartender. “My usual, Tina.”
“Are you sure—?”
He cut off her question with a glare. “It’s your funeral,” she finished.
“Nicely handled,” Violet said when Tina was out of earshot. “What’s their problem, anyway?”
“I got that.” She imagined this guy would be a whole lot of problems, at least 75 percent of them sexy. “Why specifically did they want to rearrange your pretty face?”
He turned, eyes narrowing on her. “You don’t recognize this pretty face?”
She looked more closely—not a chore in the slightest. She supposed he did look a little familiar, kind of like if Jason Momoa and Gerard Butler had gotten down and dirty and sweated out a big-shouldered beast-child.
While her body’s tingles moved south, she reassessed the situation. Sports bar with hockey on TV, proximity to the Rebels arena, expectation of being recognized.
He must be one of the players.
She played dumb. “You owe them money?”
“Owe them something. Or they think I do.”
Tina placed a shot of Johnnie Walker before the Scot and, with a hmph, moved off. Interesting.
Violet took a sip of her Chivas. The Scot had yet to lift his whisky. They sat in semicomfortable silence for a few moments while Violet thought this through.
The past eighteen months had been the road trip to hell, but Violet had made the return journey and now she tended to look at things from a different angle. “The Year of the V,” she’d been calling her adjusted outlook. She was determined to try new things, step up and be counted, find out who Violet Vasquez was, for want of a less vomit-inducing phrase. Fear had a way of closing a person off, making the world a small and lonely place.
Fear could go fuck itself.
The next time she had sex would be the first time since the surgery, since she’d woken up bound like The Mummy, with new breasts to replace the diseased ones. A quickie in a bar restroom with a hot stranger would be the perfect way to jump back on the horse. Clothes would stay on, scars would stay hidden . . . the Scot would be strong enough to lift her against a wall and slide right in.
Then she’d be on a plane back to Reno, her pleasurable memories the best souvenir.
Before she could turn on her rusty wiles, the stranger spoke. “You disagreed with Tina. About calling the cops.”
She liked it better when he called them the pole-is. But the notion that he had been aware of her silent objection even while he had other things going on was a pleasant surprise.
“I’ve worked in bars, most of them not as nice as this one. The threat of cops, in my experience, usually escalates an already bad situation.”
He studied her now, as if she had suddenly said something worth listening to. Those tingles started again, her body reflooding with sexual awareness. She was unable to look away, and it seemed he was in the same boat. Something charged, hot, and melty zinged between them. Her nerves were no longer tingling. Now they were shrieking.
“Whatever you’re thinking,” he murmured, “it’s a bad idea.”
Blood heated her cheeks. Was she so obvious? She picked up her drink and took a gulp. When she looked up again, he appeared closer. More dangerous.
“Season’s about to begin so you thought you’d come in here and bag yourself a player?”
Now wait a second, who the fuck did this guy think he was? So maybe the idea of gracing him with the pleasure of giving her an orgasm had crossed her mind for a foolish moment, but what kind of asshole said that? As if she were some sex-crazed hockey groupie.
“Yep, that’s exactly what I thought.” And then she winked.
He laughed, and the sound gave her heart a hug. Still got it, Vasquez. The bartender shot them a glance, then peered curiously at Violet, Laugh Maker.
The Scot turned serious again, his blue-eyed gaze flicking to the untouched shot of whisky. “Go on home, lass, before you get hurt.”
“By you?” She snorted. “I don’t think you could hurt anyone.” She’d seen how he handled those idiots. He could have done some real damage, but he chose to restrain himself. It would be fascinating to see him lose control.
He inhaled a weary breath. “That’s where you’re wrong. I have a tendency to destroy everything I touch.” He raised his gaze to her, and what she saw there shocked her. A pain she recognized.
“I’m tougher than I look,” she said, not quite willing to let this go, though common sense told her she should probably run back to Nevada as fast as her combat boots could carry her.
He stood. Loomed was more accurate, all six feet two inches of him, yet there was something both aggressive and tentative in his stance. Color flagged his cheekbones. Fire rimmed his eyes. Her own greedy gaze was drawn to his thick forearms, then continued on a trail down to his two clenched fists.
Was he angry? No. Or at least, not with her . . . oh, God.
He was using every ounce of his self-control trying not to touch her.
She had never wanted someone to lose a battle with his demons so much.
“You driving?” he managed in a harsh whisper.
“I came in a cab.”
“Good. Make sure you go home in one.” With his strong accent, it came out sounding like guut. He threw down a twenty and left without a backward glance, his shot of whisky still untouched on the bar.
The bartender—Tina—came over, her expression one of disapproval mixed with pity that Violet had been rejected. Not that Violet really saw it that way. What had happened between her and the Scot was far more thought provoking.
“Want that?” Tina asked, nodding at the shot glass.
“Nah. I don’t drink swill.”
Tina laughed appreciatively, picked up the glass, and poured the shot into the sink.
“So, who’s been warming this bar stool beside me for the past ten minutes?”
“You really don’t know him?”
Violet shook her head. “I’m new in town.”
“That was Bren St. James, current captain of the Chicago Rebels, the local hockey team. Though whether he’ll be captain for much longer is open to speculation.”
No need to ask for details, because Tina was in full flight now.
“He showed up to one of the last games of the regular season drunk, and the way he’d been playing all year, it was clearly not the first time. Most people think he should’ve been cut long before that, and some people”—she jerked her chin in the direction of the troublemakers from earlier, who were now back to playing pool like nothing had happened—“think he needs to be taught a lesson. Folks are pretty crazy about hockey around here, and when your team is suffering through its longest-ever championship drought, it makes the fans loco. The players, too.”
Sports people. Fucking nutjobs, the lot of them. Before Violet could inquire further, the bar’s phone rang and Tina went to answer it while Violet was left to ponder Bren St. James, the grumpy Scot shrouded in mystery. A man with demons that needed soothing and sating. O captain! My captain!
The Year of the V had just become a lot more interesting.
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I have been eagerly awaiting Violet and Bren's story, and Kate Meader definitely saved the best for last in the series!
Violet only recently met the stepsisters she knew existed but that she wasn't allowed to meet until after her father's death, and she is very different from both Harper and Isobel. After a scare with the big "C", Violet is focusing on living her life to the fullest because tomorrow is never guaranteed. She never dreamed of owning one third of a hockey franchise and she knew little about the sport when she arrived in Chicago, but the team and her sisters are growing on her despite her best efforts not to set down roots. She first met the burly Scot known as the Highlander on the day she learned the details of her father's will and she couldn't deny the attraction after a long dry spell, but she had no idea that Bren was also the captain of the team she now partly owns. He shot her down in any case, and she has never forgotten it.
Bren was not in a good place the day he and Violet met, but every time he sees her his defenses kick into high gear. She loves to tease and poke at him, and he gets riled up in all the good ways by that. He is still in the first twelve months of sobriety after a stint in rehab and losing custody of his daughters to his ex-wife, and he cannot allow his little head to rule him in this situation. If he has any hope of staying on the straight and narrow and getting his girls back, he cannot afford to be associated with a party-hard good time girl like Violet.
Of course he has no idea exactly what she has been through or how much they might have in common, and the sparks that are flying could go either way between attraction and distaste on any given day. They both get under the skin of the other though and it doesn't take long for the heat to kick into high gear. Bren's ex is one serious piece of work, and suddenly both his girls are living with him again while Kendra takes some time for herself. He knows that translates into trouble on the horizon as she schemes and plots her latest maneuver to try to manipulate him. Unfortunately the girls are just a pawn to her, and that truth has heartbreaking effects on them. Bren is determined to be the best father he can be in effort to make up for the years of bad decisions and poor parenting skills while he was drinking, and he cannot afford to allow Violet to break his concentration... until he realizes she is the perfect solution to his problems. He needs someone to help with the girls, and both Franky and Cat take a liking to Violet in spite of her fear of kids.
The girls are the most adorable kind of schemers! They genuinely like Violet (although Cat is a moody pre-teen for awhile after she arrives), and they want to see their dad happy so shenanigans will ensue. Bren is absolutely heartmelting in his moments with them, and Vi is a swooning puddle in no time at all. She doesn't want to fall in love, but Bren is exactly the type that she can go down hard for... if only she didn't have her mind set on traveling the world with her share of the value of the team.
Hooked on You is about building relationships on many different levels, and it finally dawns on Violet that she doesn't need to travel the world when she has everything she could want right there in Chicago. The question is: does her new extended family really want her? And where does she fit into Bren's future if she does at all?
I loved this book! From the snarky banter between Vi and Bren, the moments with the kids, and various interactions with the team and her sisters that break down the walls around her heart to the combustible moments that set the pages on fire, I definitely enjoyed this story the most out of all the stories in the series. For those who have read the other books, we get plenty of the other couples to keep us up to date on their lives as well as a cameo or two from the author's Hot in Chicago series! I am going to miss this group of characters, but Hooked on You will definitely be on my re-read list in the future.
I can't deny I enjoy this trope a lot, single dad and nanny, plus a Scottish hockey player and Latina free sprit heroine. I've been more curious about Violet, among the three sisters she's always been the one to be distant from the team franchise. One foot in one foot out so to speak even though her relationship with Isobel and Harper improved she's still guarded. I honestly get why she's had this tough armor she had the short stick and many can connect to that. I can't help but read faster to see what happens next.
I found Bren and Violet's relationship to be the best part of this story. It's not simple, lot of things factor in.They definitely pushed each other's buttons and in that way exposed their own under bellies so to speak. They both have emotional scars, so trust and honesty is a big deal. They started on rocky ground and well it took this moment with the kids to help them and seeing more beneath each armor.
So Violet was tentative with the kids at first and unsure but in a way she relates to them too a lot. Part of being single parented and growing up like that. Bren had a hard time letting her care for them but he showed a lot of growth in doing so.
I loved every minute of it, the dynamic between all four of them together was just aw.
I honestly like Bren a lot, he owned up to his faults and weaknesses. He did his all to be a dad and pull himself from that of addiction. He knows his priorities now he knows what he has to do and is actively seeking out ways to keep going strong. The character growth from them both was fantastic, props to the author for that. Violet when she blooms into herself is wonderful. The build up of Violet and Bren's chemistry is like a slow lit flame since the start of the series which it made it more explosive. Kate Meader is really good at that from her other books. Hot stuff all the pokes, quips and jabs, some sexy banter and tension. I do love slow burn so this works and the romance and sweet side is well worth it.
One of the things I like best about this series is the hockey and how it's written the behind the scenes, not always do you have a well done sports romance with a good team dynamic. Now that the Cup finals is gearing up it's fun to read this version. Plus add a good plot line and a story I've been excited to read. I'm glad the sisters found a common ground and the support team spirit. I really enjoyed this series, I'm sad it's the last I hoped it could go on.
In the preceding books the author mercilessly teased readers with just enough of saucy Violet and grumpy Bren to have us yearning for more by the time it was finally their turn. The wait to discover their back stories was almost excruciating. In Hooked On You, their relationship slowly develops; giving a detailed peek into their lives, and Meader didn’t shy away from the hard subjects of cancer and alcoholism. Creating a positive, flawed, but likeable character that’s battling that type of lifelong addiction isn’t an easy task, but Meader did a superb job. I fell hard for the broody Scot. I already adored Violet for her humor and feistiness, but loved her even more after seeing the other sides she tried to keep hidden from others and deny even to herself.
Hooked On You was a wonderful ending to an awesome series. It was hilarious, sweet, and emotional, with a whole lot of Kate Meader sexiness sprinkled in. Being the greedy reader I am, I wish the HEA and epilogue had been longer and more detailed. I would have preferred being eased into the future instead of having such a quick wrap up. I sincerely hope the author will surprise us with a “check in” book or novella sometime in the (near) future.
The Chicago Rebels series has definitely earned a place on the keeper shelf alongside the author’s other books to be enjoyed again and again.
Most recent customer reviews
I had not read any of the previous books in this series but it was easy to understand the back story ad other characters...Read more
Bren begins as a surly, gruff, moody, keep to himself person, who is also the Captain of the Chicago...Read more