Excerpt from Man Down by Kate Meader

Outside the facility’s entrance, she spotted Lauren sitting on the curb with a mountain three times her size. As they stood, Sadie’s eyes came to rest very easily on this giant with huge shoulders, untidy, dark blond hair, and a full beard. She parked—sloppily—and jumped out of the SUV.

“Lauren, I’m so sorry! I didn’t take the rush hour traffic into account and—”

“Doesn’t matter,” her sister cut her off. She turned to the giant. “Thanks for waiting with me.”

The giant nodded, all his focus on Lauren, and helped load her gear, a big bag and a hockey stick, into the trunk. He even opened the back door, watched while Lauren clambered in, and cast a beady eye over the seatbelt situation, making sure her sister was suitably restrained. Okay. He muttered something too low for Sadie to hear, but whatever it was made her sister smile. A real honest-to-God smile! Closing the door, he turned to Sadie.

The full-on view was even better than the profile. He wore black sweat pants and a gray tee with the slogan “I like hockey and maybe like three people.” Cute. Thick forearms were currently getting a nice flex on as he fisted his hips. Blue eyes rimmed with a hazel-gold fire stared back at her. His mouth was set in a stern seal that matched the scarring along his cheek, only partially covered by that hot beard. A story there, no doubt.

“Thanks for—”

“Miss, we need to talk.”

Miss? That sounded rather sexy coming from those forbidding lips. “Okay.”

Of course today she looked like one of Cooper’s turds. If she’d realized she’d be meeting some hottie hockey camp guy, she’d probably not have gone with the baggy, spaghetti-sauce splattered tee that pronounced her CUPCAKE WHISPERER. Not that it was even that baggy, or inaccurate. In fact, it clung to her generous hips and did not cover nearly enough of her ass, which were lovingly hugged by yoga pants. (The most action she’d seen in months.) The different-colored flip-flops were the perfect finishing touch.

If she’d shown up to work like this, Allegra would’ve fired her on the spot.

To compensate for her just tumbled out of a bag of Doritos appearance, she smiled at the hockey camp guy. It was her best feature and usually got her out of trouble.

“You’re late.”

The harshness of his tone took her off guard. “Excuse me?”

“You’re twenty five minutes late.”

She couldn’t argue with that. “Are you one of the camp counselors?”

His eyebrow raise had a rather superior inflection, she thought. “Something like that.”

“Well, Mr. …” He left her hanging. Charming. “I actually have multiple demands on my time these days so I’m going to drop the ball on occasion. I’m here now, so thanks for your time.” Shaken by his attack, she turned to leave. He might be hot, but she didn’t need this level of aggravation.

“I’ll have to report this.”

She pivoted, annoyed as all hell he was still speaking to her. The waves of judgement rolling off him almost flattened her.

“Report it? What business is it of yours?”

“When one of these kids is in harm’s way, it becomes my business.”

She could feel her mouth gaping. “Harm’s way? I was twenty minutes late, you asshole. I know it’s not cool but I’m juggling a lot of balls here.”

“Boyfriend one of those balls? Or is he home ignoring the other kid?”

“The other …” Boyfriend? Harm’s way? She shot a look over her shoulder to Lauren, who was nose-deep in her phone, oblivious to whatever she’d put in motion. Or completely aware.

The lying minx.

When Sadie turned back, the giant was closer. He leaned in ever so slightly, which would have been pleasant if he wasn’t such a dick, and … sniffed. It wasn’t one of those inhaling the fragrant scent of my lover sniffs, either. More like “is that an open sewer I smell?”

“What are you doing?”

He stopped suddenly. Cast a sharp glance at Lauren, who was doing a stellar job of avoiding his gaze. Back to Sadie. Surprising emotional range was showcased as he parsed a number of thoughts flying around his hockey-lug brain.

She helped him get there. “Believe every word out of a twelve-year-old’s mouth, do you? I guess training for the camp counselors is slacking big time.”

He rubbed his beard, aw-shucks embarrassment transforming his expression from stern to sexy.

Then he spoke and ruined it. “Maybe I jumped to a conclusion or three there.”

Worst apology ever.

man down reg size