Author: Kristen Hope Mazzola
Title: Cherry Picked
Release Date: March 14, 2017
One chance encounter – that’s all it took.
Nikki Jennings is dancing her way into the big time. She has gone from a shy, small town girl to a New York City Ballet star. She had everything to offer the world and she was taking it by storm.
Chase Harding is a cocky jock that has always gotten exactly what he’s wanted. Most recently, the rookie spot on his dream hockey team. He has everything he could ever want until he meets Nikki. She won’t give him the time of day. He won’t take no for an answer.
Will Chase be able to score the v-card of his latest prospect or is he going to shoot and miss for the first time in his life?
I saw her and my world stopped dead in an instant. Everything around me faded to black as I got lost in her from afar.
She was sitting alone in the corner of the coffee shop, biting her lower lip as she read from the yellowing pages of a book with a broken spine and a tattered cover. Her face was soft and full of anticipation as the pages flipped by, and I craved to know what part she was on as she read from my favorite book.
I was hooked.
I was mesmerized.
She was mine. Already.She just doesn’t know it yet.
And I didn’t even know her name.
A minor detail.
“Chase?” Hannah nudged my elbow from the opposite side of the table we occupied like we had every weekend for the last few weeks.
“Huh?” My eyes snapped to my sister as she stole me away from daydreaming about the gorgeous brunette I craved to know.
“Are you going to be able to go home for Thanksgiving?” she asked, frustration lacing her tone.
I shook my head. “Not with the schedule we have.” Our family was incredibly close and I knew it was going to break my mom’s and sister’s hearts that I wasn’t going to be able to make it home for the holidays this year, but that was part of the sacrifice I was going to have to make for my career.
My eyes continued to wander to the petite brunette. Her hair was long and it swept over her right shoulder. She was in black yoga pants and an oversized tank top cinched at her waste by a ridiculously adorable bright green fanny pack. I wondered if she had just gotten done at the gym or if she was just being comfortable on this lazy Sunday morning in the city.
My sister continued to steal my attention. “How has practice been?” Hannah was trying to keep the conversation moving and I was being a complete jerk, but I couldn’t pull away from the sheer beauty only paces away, which felt like a million miles.
I propped my head up with my hand so I could see my cute girl out of the corner of my eye while still kind of looking at Hannah. “We’ve only had a few practices but I am enjoying it and learning a lot.”
“That’s really exciting. I can’t believe my baby brother is a famous hockey star now.” She giggled a little as excitement perked the corners of her lips.
“I’m far from famous yet, sis. We’ll see what happens once the season actually starts.” I took the last sip of my black coffee, using the opportunity to catch my girl as she laughed to herself while she read. Her enjoyment was radiating sunshine as she devoured the novel.
“Whatever, you’re famous in my head. I brag about you all the time.” Hannah dramatically rolled her eyes at me before moving the conversation right along. “I had rounds with one of your teammates’ wives last night.”
I knew a lot about most of my teammates’ home lives, and none that I knew of had a wife that worked at Flushing. “Really? Who?” I asked, trying to sound more interested than I really was.
“This really sweet nurse named Karla. I obviously was bragging about you while we were in the breakroom grabbing coffee.”
I laughed. “That’s Brayden Cox’s girlfriend. They have a kid together, and they’re practically married.” I felt like a teenage girl gossiping about guys in Teen Bop, but if I could do it with anyone, it was Hannah.
Hannah shrugged. “So, yeah, his wifey. Wait, Cox? Isn’t that your all-time hero or something?”
My face got hot. “Yeah…yeah he really is. I used to wear his number in high school.”
“Well, isn’t that just the cutest thing ever.” Hannah’s pager started blaring and she shot up while checking the codes that were coming through. “Duty calls,” she huffed, throwing her purse over her shoulder.
I jumped up and pulled her in for a quick hug. “See you later, Hannah banana. Go save some lives.”
She squeezed my shoulder before turning to leave. “Bye Chase. Call me later so we can schedule another coffee date.”
My sister was great at making sure we spent time together when we could. I appreciated her wanting to hang out with me, but I was thankful in that moment to be able to focus on the adorable stranger—that was going to be rectified soon enough, soon she’d be so much more than a stranger.
Without overthinking it, I walked right over to the fading brown loveseat my girl was cuddled up on. “One of us in this very room is in fact the murderer,” I half-whispered, taking a seat in the armchair across from her. I damned the coffee table between us—just one more obstacle I was going to have to overcome to get to her.
Her round smoky eyes smoldered as they connected with mine. Without missing a beat, she retorted with, “Oh, yes. I’ve no doubt in my own mind that we have been invited here by a madman—probably a dangerous homicidal lunatic.”
The way she giggled as the words left her lips was intoxicating. It was like cupid’s arrow had struck my heart. “I’m Chase.” I reached out my hand and she took it, and the simple touch sent fire through my body.
“Nicolette, but everyone calls me Nikki. Nice to meet you, Chase.” Her smile ripped across her face and crashed into my heart. “You’re a Christie fan, I take it?”
I leaned back in the chair, trying to look relaxed even though I craved to scoop her up into my arms and never let her go ever again. “You are holding my favorite book.” I reached into the duffle bag I had packed, ready for practice later on that afternoon, and pulled out my very own copy, which was being held together with scotch tape.
Her eyes softened a bit. “Isn’t it nice when a book recommends a person?”
I am just an average twenty-something following my dreams. I have a full time “day job” and by night I am an author. I guess you could say that writing is like my super power (I always wanted one of those). I am the lover of wine, sushi, football and the ocean; that is when I am not wrapped up in the literary world.
Please feel free to contact me to chat about my writing, books you think I’d like or just to shoot the, well you know.
A portion of all my royalties are donated to The Marcie Mazzola Foundation.