The ice rink was empty, except for me. Just how I needed it. I glided across the frozen surface, practicing my routine with the precision that had been drilled into me since childhood. My skates sliced intricate patterns, body moving with the grace and athleticism of the years of intense training.

When I was on the ice, nothing else mattered except the music, the movements, and finding that perfect balance of art and sport. Out here, I didn’t have to think about classes or calories or anything except losing myself in the glide and spins and jumps.

As I launched into a triple axel, the shredded remains of my practice skirt must have caught on one of the goalposts at the end of the rink. One moment I was soaring through the air, the next I slammed down hard on the unforgiving ice, breath knocked out of my lungs.

I looked down to see my skirt hopelessly tangled in the netting of the goalpost. You’ve got to be kidding me…

“Are you okay?” a deep, masculine voice called out.

I looked up to see Cooper strutting across the rink, removing his skates as he came. Of course it would be him to witness this ridiculously embarrassing moment. Cooper, the ruggedly handsome captain of the university’s hockey team. The same Cooper I’d been shamelessly flirting and exchanging heated looks with all semester while never letting things go beyond suggestive banter.

Though if I was being honest with myself, a big part of me desperately wanted things to go further. Much, much further…

“I’m fine, just a little stuck,” I replied lightly, desperately willing away the flush of embarrassment heating my cheeks.

Cooper shot me one of his panty-melting grins as he stepped onto the ice, all coiled power and easy confidence. “Happens to the best of us. Need a hand?”

Part of me wanted to insist I could get myself free. I was an accomplished skater, after all, and perfectly capable. But as Cooper glided over, eyes twinkling with something that looked an awful lot like desire beneath the friendly concern, all my bravado drained away.

“Well, since you’re offering…” I painted on an air of nonchalance, mentally high-fiving myself when my tone came out much more confident than I felt.

Cooper’s grin widened fractionally as he crouched down beside me. Up close, I caught the crisp, slightly piney scent of his body wash and the outdoors—typical hockey player blending ruggedness and athleticism. My gaze was drawn to the faded scars crisscrossing his thick forearms, obvious signs of the brutal sport he played.

“This isn’t exactly how I pictured getting you tangled up,” he murmured in that sinfully smooth baritone, rich with unspoken suggestion.

My insides liquefied at both the gravelly timbre and the heated look he pinned me with. I struggled not to squirm under that searing gaze, keenly aware of every place our bodies brushed, separated only by thin layers of skating attire. Part of me thrilled at the implication behind his words, while another part cursed my runaway imagination for conjuring all sorts of scenarios involving just how deliciously “tangled up” we could get…

“Less talking, more untangling, stud,” I quipped, putting every ounce of false bravado I could muster behind the words.

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