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The Stillness Of You

By:Julie Bale

The Stillness Of You
Julie Bale

       Chapter One


Ben Lancaster walked into my life with no warning, just after three   o'clock on a sunny afternoon. He's lucky it happened in Old City,   Philadelphia and not somewhere in Texas, because in Texas people have   been shot for a lot less.

In Texas you don't just walk into someone's house unannounced expecting a   smile or a handshake. I know this because one of the guys at Oak Run, a   hospital I'd stayed at, told me his uncle was in a federal  penitentiary  for doing just that. Some homeless man wandered into his  house and the  uncle blew him away with a shotgun.

But on that particular afternoon I was standing in the corner of my   brother's loft, there where the lighting was perfect, staring at a blank   canvas in front of me. To say I was having issues was an   understatement, and the fact that I had been staring at the damn thing   for nearly twenty minutes could have accounted for my late reflexes,   because I didn't hear him walk in. I didn't hear anything until he   spoke.

"Hey, sorry to bother you but is Matt here? I was supposed to hook up with him."

His voice was low, hitting a timber that no guy had a right to hit.   Especially when he's standing in the middle of my brother's loft and I'm   looking back at him wearing nothing but my white boy briefs and a   threadbare white tank top with no bra. The fact that he could probably   see my nipples through the tank top didn't bother me so much. It was   more the idea that he had been staring at my ass before I turned around   and let's face it, half of my butt was hanging out.

Sue me, but hey, I wasn't expecting company.

I think most normal girls would have screamed, but since I'd spent six   months in the aforementioned Oak Run, I was used to strangers and   besides, when you've stared into the belly of a monster not much scares   you. But still, his surprised dark eyes settled on me and even more   surprising, a curling heat pressed low in my belly.

He wasn't like any of the inmates at Oak Run. Hell the fuck no. He was leagues above them.

I grabbed my robe from the floor where I'd flung it nearly half an hour   earlier and shrugged into it, trying my best to act like it was no big   deal to be caught in my gitch by some hot, random guy.

"Who the hell are you?" The words shot out of my mouth as I stared across the open space. "Haven't you heard you of a doorbell?"

Oh. Right. The doorbell wasn't working.

"I'm sorry, the doorbell wasn't … "

"I know," I interrupted rudely.

His voice trailed off and silence fell between us as a smile gently   lifted his mouth. "Matt told me to swing by and I just figured he would   be here alone." He shrugged and winked. "Though I did knock."

"You knocked." Unbelievable. What the hell. Had I doubled up on my meds   this morning? Taken klonopin instead of lithium? My eyebrow shot up.   "And how did you make it past the doorman?"

His smile widened and dimples appeared. Adorable dimples. Hot effing dimples. "Autograph?"

Who the hell was he? I sure as hell didn't need a name to answer that question.

He was at least six foot four, with wide shoulders and an impressive   chest that his black T-shirt did nothing to hide. Foo Fighters spread   across his pectorals in white, and a wide, weathered leather belt didn't   do much to hold up the pair of worn and equally weathered jeans that   covered his long legs. It was hot as sin out there but he wore boots,   Docs by the look of it.

He had thick dark hair the color of fresh espresso that was long, just   touching the tops of his shoulders. It waved across his forehead and   over slid over his ears. It was kind of messy, but it was the kind of   messy look that a lot of guys spent a good amount of time trying to   achieve. I somehow doubted this one wasted money on products or time in   front of the mirror. He was too self-assured. It fell off him in   invisible waves.

His eyes were as dark as his brows, his chin and cheekbones strong and   shadowed with stubble. His mouth had a sensual curve to it, one that   should have looked out of place on such a masculine guy, but somehow it   didn't.

I was guessing he was a few years older than my twenty, so I pegged him at maybe twenty-four?

So, who was he? He could have been a model or an actor. He was that good looking.

But he wasn't. He was a guy who was seriously hot-and a hockey player   for sure-probably one of my brother Matt's newest acquisitions. And   though there was something about him that was familiar, at the moment I   couldn't place it.

"Let me guess," I said carefully, studying him some more. The guy was   muscular, but it was more of a lean and fast kind of strong. He wasn't   built like an enforcer. He was built for speed and scoring. "You're a   forward. I'm calling center."                       


"You're good," he answered, that hint of a smile still lingering. Along with the dimples.

He was a seriously hot hockey player staring at the dip in my loosely   belted robe, because his eyes definitely weren't fixed on mine anymore.

I cleared my throat.

"Sorry, I … " He ran his hands through his hair and dragged his gaze up to   my face, his ever growing smile showing off even white teeth. "This is   Matt's place, right?" He didn't look sorry at all.

I nodded. "He's at work."

"Shit," he murmured. "I'm sure he told me he was on vacation this week and to swing by as soon as I got into town."

"Technically he is on vacation, but he was called into the office because someone fucked up."

His words, not mine.

Mr. Seriously Hot didn't bat an eye at my F bomb. "Do you mind if I wait?"

Irritated, I frowned. I needed to sketch. He didn't understand that of   course, but already the nerves inside me, the ones that hopped and   jumped whenever they felt like it, were pulling something fierce. He was   going to make things worse if he stayed.

"Who are you exactly?" I asked again, crossing my arms over my chest,   suddenly feeling more than a little vulnerable. I was in my underwear   and a robe, and even though any one of my bikini's showed a hell of a   lot more that what I was currently wearing, it was still my underwear.

Matt would be pissed if he walked in right now. It was almost like déjà   vu, except I didn't want to go back to where I'd been before. To the   girl who was way too free and easy with her charms. The one who'd made a   habit out of screwing several of his hockey players, more musicians   than I could count, golfers, college guys-I wasn't really fussy, and   that had been my biggest problem of all.

No, I didn't want to think about that. Not today. Not with Mr. Seriously Hot staring at me in my bathrobe.

"Sorry," he said quickly and moved toward me though he stopped when I took a step back. "I'm Ben Lancaster."

Ben Lancaster? Holy hell. The newest superstar to come out of Canada. I   vaguely remember Matt saying something about a trade and that the  Flyers  had acquired him. I would have to have been living under a rock  not to  have heard the chatter about this guy, and let's face it, I was  as into  hockey as my brother. I loved everything about the game and I  knew his  story. He'd been the youngest draft pick ever and though he  could have  been the youngest player to wear an NHL jersey, he'd shocked  pretty much  everyone by deciding to go to college first and get his  education,  before diving into the NHL.

He had some serious skills and a lot of people, including my brother who   was an assistant coach for the Flyers, felt he was the real deal  –  the   future of their franchise.

"And you're here because … "

"I've just signed with the Flyers and Matt offered to put me up until I   can figure things out." He shrugged. "Find a place of my own."

"Oh," I managed to say. I wondered why Matt hadn't told me Ben Lancaster   would be staying with us, but then again he'd been pretty stressed   lately. My situation was part of it, his nearly non-existent girlfriend   was another part, and well, being the youngest coach on staff was   stressful too.

"You're staying here," I repeated like an idiot.

Mr. Seriously Hot nodded but remained silent, though his dark eyes did a   sweep again, falling away from my face and heading south.

"Okay, then."

My voice brought him back to me and for one perfect moment when our eyes   met, I felt his energy. It slid across the room and enveloped me  whole.  It set off all kinds of things inside me and for the first time  in a  long time, something stirred. Something hot. Something wicked and   sensual.