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Welcome to the blog of Catherine Gayle, USA Today bestselling author of Contemporary and Regency Romance.

Sneak Peek: Power Play

June 19, 2017

                          Prologue

                                        Riley 

What the fresh hell was Amanda doing up at this hour? I pulled into our driveway and parked, staring up at the bright lights shining out from behind the curtains of our bedroom. It was well past one in the morning.

I’d assumed she already had a pretty good idea I’d be on my way. If she’d been watching the game tonight, like she claimed she did when my team, the Portland Storm, was on the road, she would have seen the play when I’d gone awkwardly into the boards, twisting my ankle.

It’d happened in the second period, and I hadn’t returned to the ice after that. Surely the broadcast team had given the television audience an update on my status at some point later in the game. I knew that the media people had gotten the word out to everyone once my status had been determined. Maybe they hadn’t announced anything more than saying I wouldn’t be returning to the game, but that should have had her worried about me, at the very least.

But… I looked down at my cell phone again, checking to see if there were any messages from her.

Nothing there. Huh.

Eddie Masters, our head trainer, had told me I’d probably just sprained it, but he wanted to send me home to have Doc check it out more thoroughly, run some scans and whatnot. Mainly because it was purple and swollen to roughly the size of a small watermelon. No matter what I’d done to my ankle, I wasn’t going to be playing in the remaining game on this road trip, so there was no need for me to stick around with the rest of the team. That was why they’d put me on a plane and sent me on my way.

The good news was this meant I might get an early start on preparing for our trip to Cabo. Amanda and I had it all planned.

We were flying out there in a few days—over the National Hockey League’s All-Star break—for a private beach wedding, followed by a honeymoon spent lounging in the Mexican sun.

I couldn’t wait. The cold rain we’d been experiencing lately had started to wear on me.

So here I was, sitting in my driveway, my ankle killing me even though they’d taped it up and all. The bastard had swelled up like nobody’s business on the flight home, making me wish I could just amputate it or something. I didn’t really want to amputate it, of course, but the pain was making me crazy. Clearly, since I was thinking about amputation.

All I wanted to do was crawl into bed with Amanda and have her help me forget all about how much everything hurt for a while. If she was still awake, like it appeared, I wouldn’t even feel too guilty about keeping her up for another hour or two.

I shut off the engine of my Escalade and headed for the door, wincing with every step I took with my right leg.

Amanda had left the porch light on for me. So maybe she really was waiting up for me, then. Despite the pain, there was a bounce in my step as I opened the front door to a chorus of excited barking from Max and Lola, my two mastiffs. Both of them attempted to jump up on me and lick my face at the same time.

Now, as a professional hockey player, I was a big guy, but the two of them combined were more than enough to overpower me—especially with a bad ankle. I stumbled backward against the front door, laughing and scratching them behind the ears while they slobbered and drooled all over me.

“Down,” I said, but there wasn’t much conviction behind it. Probably because I was too busy laughing.

There was something endearing about their exuberance. One thing about animals—you always knew where you stood with them. These two made me feel like a fucking god. They might be bigger and stronger than me, but they had the personalities of small children.

I scratched them both behind the ears and gave them a good shove so I could breathe. “How come you’re not upstairs with Amanda, hmm?” I asked, not that I expected an answer. Maybe they’d been smothering her in bed (snuggling, in their minds, to be sure), so she’d kicked them out. She was always complaining about how hot they made her, and not hot in the good way. Actually, that could explain why she was still up.

I left my bags in the front hall and headed up the stairs, both dogs following close behind me. The light in my bedroom filtered through the crack under the door. I didn’t bother knocking, because she’d surely heard the dogs barking.

The instant I opened the door, I froze.

So did my fiancée.

And my brother.

Naked and sweaty, Amanda rested her hands on Colby’s chest, and they both stared at me, eyes wild with panic.

But I didn’t feel panic.

I didn’t feel anything at all.

Numb. I was abso-fucking-lutely numb.

Max barked and bounded over to the bed to join them, which prompted Amanda to scurry off, dragging a sheet along with her. Colby grabbed a pillow and shoved it over his junk, as if he was worried that Max would bite his dick off.

It’d serve him right, the backstabbing bastard. And that pillow was going in the fire. Hell, every bit of that bed was going in the fire. I’d burn it all in the backyard.

“Get out,” I said, my voice somehow surprisingly strong.

Colby jumped out of the bed, reaching for his clothes that were strewn on the floor. “Riley—”

“Out,” I repeated. I didn’t want to hear a fucking thing he had to say. He was my goddamned brother, for fuck’s sake, not that family had ever meant anything to either my brother or my parents before, so it shouldn’t surprise me.

And Amanda was my fiancée. Or she had been. I sure as hell wasn’t going to marry her now.

“And you, too,” I said to her, because she was making her way across the room toward me, her eyes wild, tripping over the sheet in her haste.

“But I just—I missed you!” she said through tears and hiccups. At least she was smart enough to stop halfway across the room, because I honestly wasn’t sure what I would have done if she’d tried to touch me at that moment. It probably wouldn’t have been a good thing. I might have regretted it someday, if it landed me in prison.

Max and Lola let out menacing, grumbling sounds. I concurred with those sentiments. Max barked so loud it made Amanda jump. Served her right, even though he’d never do anything to hurt her—not even if she deserved it. And right now? She absolutely deserved it, the cheating bitch.

“Yeah, well, I missed you, too,” I bit off. “But I didn’t jump into bed with your sister.”

“I don’t have a sister.”

“Not the fucking point.”

Neither of them seemed to be in any rush to get the hell out of my house, so I marched over to the side of the bed and grabbed the clothes they’d strewn on the floor, tossing them in their general direction.

“Out. Both of you. Now.”

Amanda started crying. “But, Ril—”

“Out!” I roared. Max and Lola whimpered and came over to my side, looking up at me with sad, scared eyes. I reached down to scratch them behind the ears, my heart hammering in my chest.

Amanda only cried harder, but I couldn’t bring myself to feel any sympathy for her. My best friend, Nate “Ghost” Golston, had been telling me all along that he never could understand what I saw in her.

Well, at the moment, I couldn’t remember. All I saw was rage. Especially when I looked over at Colby.

My own fucking brother.

He’d always been jealous that I’d made it into the NHL and he hadn’t. But this? I never would have expected it of him. Hell, I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself.

Neither of them moved, so I decided to move for them. I headed for the closet and started ripping Amanda’s clothes from the hangers, tossing them onto the floor in the bedroom.

“Riley, please just let me ex—”

Max barked and let out a menacing growl, and Amanda stopped in her tracks. That dog would be getting all sorts of treats later.

“But where am I supposed to go?” Amanda cried.

“Not my problem. Maybe you should ask Colby what his plan is.”

My brother let out a sound that was half snort, half laugh.

I poked my head out of the closet and raised a brow. “Something funny? Because I don’t think any of this is funny.”

“What the hell do you think I’m going to do?” he shot back.

“Not my problem. But the first thing you’d better do—the both of you—is get the fuck out of here before I call the police.”

Still in tears, Amanda grabbed some of the clothes I’d tossed out of the closet and dragged them on over her head. “Come on. We can go to a hotel tonight and go back to your place tomorrow.”

“You want to come to Toronto with me?” my brother spluttered. He looked shocked, and not in a good way.

“Well, where else am I supposed to go?” Amanda demanded, trying to get into her shoes even though she still hadn’t put on a top. I’d never seen her so flustered.

Served her right.

“Don’t ask me,” Colby said. “Sounds like your problem, not mine.”

I’d never seen Amanda look so thoroughly bewildered. Usually, she had it all figured out. She was the epitome of calm, cool, and collected. Not anymore.

“What do you mean?” she demanded.

“I mean you need to figure it out on your own,” he shot back.

“It’s the middle of the night!”

“It is,” I agreed. “And I need sleep. So you both need to get the fuck out of here before I call the police and have you escorted out.”

“But we’re getting married,” Amanda argued. “We’re going to Cabo!”

Yeah, no. That wasn’t ever going to happen.

“You have two minutes to get the hell out of my house.”

Maybe I’d been an idiot before. Maybe Ghost had been right all along. But at least I’d woken up and seen the truth for myself before it was too late.

“Hurry up,” I said. “Because you can bet your ass I’ll call the cops and have you escorted out of here if you don’t go on your own.”

Lola barked and grumbled, as if to further emphasize my point, which made both Amanda and Colby jump.

“Good girl,” I mumbled. I looked over at Amanda’s stricken eyes, then at Colby’s sheepish expression. How much of a fucking idiot had I been? “How long has this been going on?” I asked them, even though I wasn’t sure I’d like the answer to that question.

My brother gave me a pitying look. “Do you really want to know?”

No. No, I didn’t.

I glared at them both. “Just get the fuck out. Both of you.”

Still crying and looking at me with pleading eyes, Amanda grabbed as many things as she could clutch to her chest and headed for the door. My brother didn’t move, though, still holding the sheets over his junk.

“Out,” I said again, and both Max and Lola let out warning rumbles, reacting to my tone.

“You’re just jealous,” Colby said. “You’ve always been jealous.”

“Actually, I think you’ve got that backwards.”

“Yeah, whatever.” He bent over and grabbed his clothes off the floor.

Max barked, and my brother jumped. But finally, Colby followed my cheating former fiancée out into the hall and down the stairs. My dogs followed him, growling at his heels. Silently, I egged them on. The fucking bastard deserved it.

As soon as they were gone, I locked the door behind them and went back upstairs to strip the bed. Tomorrow, I’d change the locks and burn the sheets in my backyard fire pit.

I didn’t even want to look at that bed, though. Glaring at it for a moment, as if the bed could have tipped me off somehow, I slammed the door closed and dragged my bad ankle and my bad mood down the hall to my guest room.

When I flopped onto the bed, Max and Lola jumped up to join me, practically smothering me with their combined weight.

Good. I fucking wanted to be smothered right now.

How had my entire life gone to shit in a single fucking night?

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