Bookworm Wednesday! A sneak peek to a work in progress, “Harvesters”

Hey all, welcome to Book worm Wednesday! Today I’m sharing a work in progress. I’m only a few chapters in so I’d love some feedback in the comments section. 

Harvesters is about a new and completely made-up hockey team. The setting is here in central Florida among all the fruit groves that need to be “harvested.” It is told in the points of view of two main characters. Blaine Noble is the captain of the Harvesters and Renee Dougan is the little sister of Blaine’s childhood best friend, Tommy. When Tommy has gone deep into a substance abuse problem, Renee seeks Blaine’s help to get her brother back on track. Blaine is willing to help but some bad people Tommy deals with, don’t like the situation very much. The more Blaine and Renee push to get Tommy help, the more dangerous it becomes for all of them and the harvesters organization. 

This book does contain adult themes and language. 

Here’s a sneak peek at the beginning of Harvesters

Blaine

“SCORE!” I could see the announcer yelling on his feet as the goal light lit and the horn sounded. Hats started to fly onto the ice as the end of game buzzer sounded immediately after. My team surrounded me in the famous hockey hug as we had just secured our place at the top of the division with our 5-4 win. 

I broke away from the pack, the packed arena chanting, “Victory lap!” But instead, I skated right to Kyle Parker, our goalie, wrapping him in an awkward hug over all his gear. The rest of the team followed suit, each tapping their helmet to his; after all, you can’t win a game solely on offense. It’s up to the big man in the pads to keep the puck out of the net. 

We did the diplomatic glove tap exchange line, and after the other team left the ice, I took my victory lap, which was Harvester tradition. By then, the crew had cleaned up most celebratory hats to commemorate my hat trick, giving us the winning goal right when it counted. 

I eyed the stands. The puck bunnies were in full force tonight. I observed my prospects, knowing not a single one would turn me down tonight, not that they ever turned me down. My eyes roamed over the sea of girls. Their short skirts and tight tops left little to the imagination. Then my gaze landed on one in particular. She was up and cheering with the rest of them, her long blond ponytail bouncing as she jumped, her eyes the bright blue color of the sea watching my lap. She wasn’t like the rest of the bunnies, though; she was in jeans and a jersey- My jersey. I scanned her up and down from her plump pink lips, her rack that my jersey did a too good job of hiding, the supple curve of her hips and her legs that went on for days. Those were the legs I wanted wrapping around me tonight. I winked at her, letting her know she was the one.  

We were a brand new team, and my career was taking off. Not that Florida needed another professional hockey team. Still, when tech genius billionaire Wyatt Jennings says he wants to bring ice to his humble community where he grew up, you build an arena. 

I met Wyatt during my freshman year of high school. We were assigned to be lab partners in science class. Wyatt was shocked that I actually wanted to work on the project, not make him do the whole thing, and I take all the credit. Apparently, that happened to him a lot. Wyatt was your stereotypical genius geek, but our last weekend finishing the project at my house, mom asked if he wanted to stay for dinner. We ate in front of the TV, it was an away game for our team, and as soon as the puck dropped, Wyatt was fascinated. 

I’d been skating since I could walk. I had talent with the stick, and seeing as we followed my father wherever the army sent him, joining every kid’s hockey league was the quickest way to make friends. I didn’t usually get to stay long enough to win a championship, but I got my teams to a position to get to the playoffs with being there most of the season. 

I brought Wyatt out on the ice once. We had the same size feet, so he got into a pair of my skates. What wasn’t so easy, it turned out, was him staying up on them. He turned out to be much happier in the stands, cheering me on. He would analyze the players on the other teams and compare them to pro players, he filled me in on their strengths and weaknesses, and at the end of that season, I won my first championship. I left my trophy with Wyatt as we soon moved again. 

Years later, he was building a team, and I was his first call. The Florida Harvesters became my new home. Of course, there wasn’t anything tough or scary about central Florida’s fruit harvesting, but the scythe-wielding grim reaper, harvester of souls, made an excellent mascot on our black and orange home uniforms. 

I had kept in touch with my friends over the years. It was easy to do through email, even if it was a monthly ‘hey, how’s it going?’ That got returned three weeks later. When Wyatt needed a team, I called on the best of the best from my childhood. It turns out we were still good, and having being army brats in common for most of us, we bonded like no other on and off the ice. 

I found them all, except one. Tommy Dougan was my first best friend. We met on the ice when we were eight. He was always my best winger. Our dads served in the same unit, so we traveled together until we were twelve when his dad retired from military life and mine kept going. I missed Tommy. He was always ready for practice on the neighborhood pond or local skating rink. Always willing to push his annoying little sister Renee on her butt as soon as she got on the ice. That never stopped her from following us around, though. She was a mess of slim arms and legs, too long for her skinny frame, braided pigtails, and braces. She annoyed the hell out of Tommy, but their parents made him let her tag along anyway. He pushed her down, but it was always me that helped her up. I was an only child and always thought a sibling would be amazing, even if it were an annoying little sister. As long as I knew Tommy, Renee became my little sister too. Renee was more than that, but I would never tell Tommy how I felt about her. She had a kind heart, always trying to impress us and make us laugh. She also had these big blue eyes that I couldn’t help but admire. 

Tommy and I stayed in touch until we were sixteen. He had an accident on the ice and tore an ACL. It was always Tommy’s dream to go pro. Even when the injury healed, who knew if he would be good enough when his confidence was shaken. He became more and more depressed, and as time went on, despite my best efforts, Tommy disappeared. I thought about him as I was making calls to recruit players. I wanted him here, with me on the team, on the coaching staff-something, but I had no idea where he went. 

I had finished my shower and followed my team out of the locker room where the puck bunnies waited in the hall. It was the same every time. We walk through, announce what club we were hitting up that night then search out the one we winked at from the ice when we got there. They never had any idea what was going on in the game; just that the number on our scoreboard was bigger than the number on the other teams was enough to get them under us at the end of the night. 

I made my way down the hall, and there she was, entirely out of place being fully clothed. I looked right at her as the defensemen behind me were calling out the name of the club. 

“Nice hat trick, Noble!” She called out to me as I walked by. I stopped and studied her, there was something familiar about her, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.

“No one ever could catch you on a breakaway. It looks like you just got faster. Guess that’s how you’re leading the team in points,” she said. 

My eyebrows raised as I stopped and studied her. 

“Why are you staring at me like there’s a limp dick growing out of my forehead? Did you think I was one of these fuck toy bunnies?” She asked me. 

I stared at her in shock. The girl was no bunny. She could spout hockey stats, had the face of an angel, the body of a vixen, the mouth of a sailor, and the whole package was wrapped up in my jersey. I was in love. 

Renee

“Put me in with the bunnies,” I told the kid at the arena ticket window. 

The guy scanned me up and down. “You’re certainly hot enough, but you don’t look like a puck bunny,” he said. 

“I’m not, but tonight I need them,” I replied. 

The guy gave me a funny look but sold me the ticket. I found my seat in the packed arena, and sure enough, puck bunnies surrounded me. I smiled briefly at the guy calling me hot. Sure, puberty had done well by me, but I wasn’t here for the players. Well, scratch that; I was here for one player, but not in that sense. I was here for my brother. Tommy had gone off the deep end, and I was worried about him. What had started with wanting too many painkillers after a teenage hockey injury had grown into a full-blown adult drug addiction. Tommy needed help, he needed rehab, and he needed someone who would get him there. I couldn’t do it, our parents couldn’t do it, losing his girlfriend didn’t do it, so I opted for the next step- his childhood best friend. That is if Blaine Noble’s ego hadn’t grown big enough to forget who his friends were. 

I recognized a bunch of names on these jerseys from the army bases. I was guessing this team was all Blaine, and he did know who his friends were. Unfortunately, Tommy was currently not on the roster. I knew if Tommy were whole, he would be right next to Blaine, on his line, every shift, every game. 

Blaine skated a fantastic game, scoring three goals. I ripped my hat off my ponytail and threw it down toward the ice with everyone else’s, and joined in the celebration. The brand new Florida Harvesters had won the game and the top spot in their division. Blaine had gotten his second hat trick of the season, and it was only half over. He celebrated with his team on the ice and did his due diligence to send off the losing team before taking a slow victory lap for the remaining fans. My particular group of bunnies was the loudest and caught his attention. His eyes set on me. He cocked his head like he was trying to figure me out. Did he remember me? He hadn’t seen me since I was eleven. He scanned me up and down and sent me a wink. Maybe he remembered me after all?

Blaine had always been my favorite friend of Tommy’s. I idolized my big brother. He was barely a year older than me, and I was a tomboy. I followed him everywhere. Mostly because Mom made him let me come, he hated it and took every opportunity to knock me down, especially on the ice. The other girls had figure skates, but not me. I had hockey skates, and I was determined to use them. The rest of Tommy’s friends laughed when he pushed me down, but not Blaine. He always helped me up. “Come on, little Doogie,” He’d say as he pulled me back to my feet. “We’ll knock him down next.” We never did knock Tommy down, but it always made me feel better that Blaine helped me up instead of laugh at me. When I was eleven, I wrote in my diary that I would marry Blaine Noble one day. 

Now, I just needed to talk to him. I needed him to know what was going on with his friend and try to get him to come to help me knock some sense into my brother. The bunnies were filing out of the stands, and I knew they would lead me right to the players, so I stuck with them. This was my best chance of getting Blaine to notice me. 

It worked. The players were walking through the hall. All showered and dressed for a night out to celebrate the victory. They announced the club they would be partaking in alcohol consumption at, giving the puck bunnies the benefit of showing up there to go home with one of them. I waited as most of the team passed, several eyeing me before one of the girls in a lot less clothing clutched onto their arms. 

Then I spotted him. The guy was attractive even as a kid, but man, did he grow up hot. Whips of his dirty blond hair fell over his forehead, still damp from his shower. The fitted black t-shirt over blue jeans left little to the imagination about the abs that hours in the gym sculpted underneath it, and his emerald green eyes apparently could melt a woman’s underwear right off. I had heard from the gossip news that Blaine Noble had become quite the playboy in his rookie season of pro hockey. He was headed in my direction and had already passed over about six puck bunnies. 

His eyes met mine as he approached. I started to believe the hype about the underwear melting as I felt my insides heat up from his gaze. Stop it, Renee, he’s practically your other brother, and Tommy needs you. Put your hormones in check, I said to myself. 

“Nice hat trick, Noble!” I called out to him. 

He stopped in front of me, studying me. I continued to spout stats at him, telling him I wasn’t a regular puck bunny. I knew the game. I was expecting a line from this smooth talker who had winked at me not even an hour before, but he continued to study me. 

“Why are you staring at me like there’s a limp dick growing out of my forehead? Did you think I was one of these fuck toy bunnies?” I asked him. 

“Hey!” said a short blond in booty shorts and a crop top, giving me a dirty look. 

“No offense,” I smiled sheepishly at her. 

She smiled sweetly at Blaine and, when she figured she wasn’t getting anywhere, started making eyes toward the goalie. 

Blaine and I turned our attention back to each other. “Don’t tell me you’re too good to recognize an old friend’s little sister,” I said. 

“I’m pretty sure I’d remember a little sister who looked like you, and I’m pretty sure her brother would have kicked my ass for what’s going through my head right now.” 

There he was, the playboy. 

“Blaine, it’s Renee,” I said. “Renee Dougan.”

“Little Doogie? No fucking way!” Blain said, his face lighting up. He studied me closer and saw the scar on my forehead over my left eye where I had walked into Tommy’s skates slung over his shoulder when I was following them, and he stopped abruptly in front of me. “It is you!” He said and dropped his bag of gear. Blaine wrapped me in a bear hug, picking me up and swinging me around. I squealed as I hugged him back. 

He set me down and put his hands on my shoulders, looking me over. “Wow, you grew up!” 

“Yeah, that tends to happen over the years,” I countered. 

“You always were a smart ass,” He said with a smirk. 

I know he meant it friendly, not sexual, but a hot guy’s smirk always had the power to melt me. Blaine’s currently was no exception. “Always better to be a smart ass,” I started.

“Than a dumb ass,” We said in unison, laughing as we repeated what his father always used to tell us.  

“How is your dad?” I asked him. I knew his mom had passed away a few years ago. They were overseas at the time, so that we couldn’t attend services, but Dad had made sure to send a card from all of us. 

“He’s good!” Blaine said, “Still out in Montana. He’s come down for a couple of games.” 

Just then, the last of the guys burst through the locker room doors, doing a lot of celebrating. A forward from Blaine’s line known as ‘Turner’ stopped to throw an arm around him. “Captain, you going to introduce me to your friend?” He asked, winking at me. I gave him a polite smile. 

“Hell no, you womanizing pig, get outta here,” Blaine said, laughing the guy off. 

“You coming to celebrate?” Turner asked. 

“Eh, We’ll see,” Blaine said. 

“Awww shit, I get it, see ya, captain!” The guy said, looking between Blaine and me with a seemingly knowing smile before strolling down the hall and cheering some more. 

“Renee, can I take you to dinner? The locker room hallway isn’t the best place to catch up,” Blaine said. 

“Yeah, I’d like that,” I replied. I was grateful for his invite. What I needed from him was going to be a lot easier to ask in a quiet restaurant. 

An hour later, I was in a little black dress, parked in the lot of an Italian restaurant about to ask professional hockey’s rising star for help with my addict brother. Still, if I had to be honest with myself, Tommy wasn’t the only reason I was nervous about having dinner with Blaine. 

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