Welcome to my Book Boyfriend Stop! My choice is one of Helena Hunting’s amazing hockey stars, and while I adore them all, there was just something about Darren Westinghouse that captivated me…that made me want to understand every facet of his personality, not just the ones he allows his teammates, his friends, and girlfriend, Charlene. And when Darren finally lays himself bare, it becomes clear exactly who he is and just how amazing of a man Darren is.
Check out an outtake from Pucked Love below…it’s Darren and Charlene’s first discussion, but this time, it’s told through Darren’s POV instead of Charlene’s. Enjoy! AND, don’t forget to enter the giveaways – one on this post and the other on my Instagram Page!!!
Pucked Love Outtake – Alternate POV – Darren’s POV
I’m early. Twenty-four minutes early to be exact. I drive by Charlene’s house, my GPS telling me I’ve arrived and then indicating I should make a U-turn. I keep going, all the way down the street until I can make a left and circle the block. It’s a nice enough neighbourhood. The houses aren’t in disrepair, there are no creepy looking fuckers standing on their front porches smoking cigarettes in bathrobes.
I park down the street and check my reflection in the visor mirror. I look exactly as I did before I left my house, nervous, but still put together. I root around in the messenger bag sitting on the floor in the back seat, checking once more for the paperwork. I debate whether I should bring it to the door with me or leave it in the car.
I should wait until she invites me in, I decide. Then I can go back to my car to get it. I blow out a breath, more nervous than I’ve ever been for a date before. Charlene isn’t just a random woman. My best friend is already dating her best friend. It’s an added layer of complication.
But I’m willing to deal with that because Charlene is unlike any other woman I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with. And memories of what it felt like to kiss her—make out with her—for the better part of an hour, have consumed me since the night I met her. So I’ll take complicated if it means I get to kiss her again.
At ten to ten my patience wears thin and I shift my car into gear and roll the hundred feet down the street to her house. I pull into her driveway and cut the engine. “You got this Westinghouse. She said yes to seeing you again so you’re already ahead of the game,” I assure myself.
Fuck, I’m nervous. And giving myself a pep talk like an asshole.
At eight minutes to ten I get out of my car and approach her door. I wipe my damp palm on my pant leg and ring the bell. There’s a mat under my feet that says WELCOME! in cursive.
The door opens and my mouth goes instantly dry. I’m unprepared for the vision that is Charlene. Jesus Christ she’s stunning. She’s wearing a pair of jeans that hug her lean, luscious curves like a second skin. Her long sleeved shirt is a buttery yellow and has a gauzy quality to it. A breeze wafts through her foyer and ruffles her gorgeous auburn hair, which is loose around her shoulders. The last time I saw her I had my hands in all that soft, luxurious hair.
I’d love to have it wrapped around my fist. I’d love to hold it tight while I guide those plush, glossy lips along the length of my cock. Fuck. I need to get the head below the belt under control. This is a coffee date that will hopefully lead to lunch and future dates, not a let’s get naked and fuck date. Although, I wouldn’t be opposed to the latter at all if she happens to be interested.
Her huge hazel eyes meet mine and I try for a friendly, approachable smile. I don’t have a lot of experience with friendly or approachable, so the way her eyes flare doesn’t help me much with gauging how intense I’m coming across.
“Hi.” Her voice is a caress I feel everywhere.
“Hello, Charlene.” I hope that doesn’t sound nearly as lecherous to her as it does in my own ears.
“Hi.” She bites her bottom lip which momentarily fritzes out my brain.
“I’m a little early.” Way to state the fucking obvious. “I hope that’s okay.”
“Yes! Yeah, of course. Just let me get my purse.” She turns, but her purse, which is already hanging from her shoulder, bumps against her hip. “Oh, never mind. Looks like I’m all set.”
I wonder if she’s as nervous as I am. And now I have no reason to invite myself in so I can get the paperwork out of the way and get to the good stuff, which is our date.
I help Charlene into her jacket and free her hair from the collar, trying hard not to be super creepy when I sniff her hair. She smells so fucking good. I wish I’d thought to bring coffee to her place, then we could drink it here while she signed on the dotted line and we could make out again.
Maybe with less clothes this time. It’s been a long ass time since I’ve been naked with anyone, let alone someone who jacks me up the way she does just by touching her hair.
I manage to remember what the hell manners are and hold her door open before I take my place behind the wheel. I ask her about her morning and her weekend plans as I drive toward the waterfront, which is closer to my neighbourhood.
I would take her right to my house, but I need to figure out a way to broach the whole paperwork business, and I’m thrown by the fact that she didn’t invite me in. Maybe she doesn’t really want to be here. Maybe she’s only out with me as a courtesy to her friend.
Shit. I never considered that. We’d spent that night at the bar talking. Well, she’d done most of the talking. I couldn’t tell you half of what she’d said, not because I don’t find her enthralling, which I do, but because I needed to come up with a way to see her again and knowing that I needed to get her to sign an NDA to do that was a little preoccupying.
I pull into a Starbucks drive-thru for lack of other options. I can tell Charlene is confused, but she rolls with it. I drive to the park near the water, mentally working out how I’m going to make this happen so I can bring her back to my house for lunch.
I’ve never brought a woman back to my house for lunch on the first date. Most of the time it’s dinner at a private restaurant, a nice hotel room and a night of decadence that may or may not be repeated. It rarely turns into more because I’m such a private person. I know it’s a problem. I know I’m the problem but my family is a fucking nightmare and public relationships mean dealing with things I don’t want to, so it’s the only way I can manage.
I park close to the water, but leave the engine running. Charlene is definitely trying to figure out what the hell is going on. And for some reason all the things I’ve done in the past with the women I date seem . . . ridiculous. But I don’t know how to do this any other way. So we drink our coffees and people watch and talk about things that don’t matter, but do.
Charlene loves sweets but generally tries to avoid them because her cravings get out of control, and the sugar makes her edgy. She loves terrible reality TV. She smells like home and is gorgeous in jeans. She would look amazing naked in my bed.
She tells me stories about Violet that I’ve heard from Alex’s point of view. It’s interesting how differently he perceives things considering the way Charlene spins it, Violet is eternally embarrassed by the things she does and Alex is nothing short of obsessed with her.
Maybe a little like I’m obsessed with Charlene. And how amazing she smells. And how much I want to spend more time with her like this, talking about nothing, drinking coffee, just being.
Eventually the desire to touch her overrides my ability to speak. I hate the fact that there’s a console impeding my ability to get closer to her, even though I acknowledge that it’s presence will prevent me from doing something stupid.
I skim her cheek, marvelling at how soft and smooth and warm her skin is, and sweep her hair over her shoulder, all that satin softness brushing across the back of my hand.
Charlene’s eyes, so wide and expressive, lift to meet mine as she leans into the touch. I mirror the movement, that magnetic pull between us taking over. I tip her chin up until her lips are an inch from mine. “I would like to kiss you.”
“I have coffee breath.”
It’s everything I can do not to laugh, or fall in love with her. “As do I.”
She blinks up at me, so sweet and perfect and nothing I deserve but everything I want. “Okay then.”
For a moment I fall back in time, to the moment my lips first touched hers. I want that again. I want it to be just like that. Sweet and soft and electric. I sincerely hope it wasn’t the beer making it feel like something it’s not.
The second her lips touch mine it feels like I’m being electrocuted with lust. I sweep her mouth with my tongue, tasting coffee and vanilla and that same sweetness from our first kiss. And I can’t stop. I just want to sink into this and stay here forever. I want to kiss her until the world ends and my past disappears and it’s only us, and now, and here.
When I’m at risk of suggesting we move to the backseat I break the kiss. “Would you like to have lunch with me?”
Charlene’s gaze is heavy with the same lust that’s turning me into a walking, talking hormone. “Definitely.”
“Great.” I smile, excited by the prospect of bringing her back to my house where we’ll have lunch, and then, if she’s interested, we can continue this make out session in a more comfortable location.
I reach into the backseat and retrieve my messenger bag with the paperwork. I’m nervous all over again as I produce the folder with Charlene’s name printed neatly on the front of it.
“What’s that?” All the lust and need in Charlene’s gaze turns to wary uncertainty.
“A non-disclosure agreement,” I try to sound nonchalant about it so she doesn’t think it’s a bigger deal than it is.
Charlene’s frown grows deeper, as does the line between her eyebrows. “I’m sorry, why would a non-disclosure agreement be necessary?”
Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. I hope I didn’t read this wrong. She has to have heard the rumours. Everyone has. “Because I’d like to have lunch with you.”
I don’t miss the way her fingers creep along the armrest and settle near the handle. “You need a non-disclosure agreement for lunch?”
I run my sweaty palms down my thighs, hoping I’m not fucking myself right now. “I’d like to take you to my house.”
“Is lunch code for something?”
“Code?” I have no idea what she’s talking about.
“Yeah, like, is lunch a code word for some kinky sex games or something?”
So far Charlene has struck me as . . . sweetly innocent. The way she kisses tells me a lot about her as a partner. She’s gentle, soft, she lets me lead until she gets excited and then she gets a little aggressive. I wonder about that side of her, and what else I’ll discover if she agrees to have lunch with me.
“No. Although I’m certainly not opposed to kinky sex games if that’s what you’d prefer in lieu of lunch.” I’ll take whatever she’s willing to give.
Charlene doesn’t respond. Instead she picks up the folder and flips it open. The agreement is several pages long. Charlene glances at me and raises her eyebrows.
“Take your time. I can wait.” I smile again, but it feels a lot like a grimace since I know the contents of the agreement. With most women it wouldn’t be unexpected, but maybe I should have prepared Charlene a little better.
I try not to fidget while she scans the contents. It’s incredibly thorough, with a whole bunch of clauses. There’s even one pertaining to a credit card and a budget for clothing and lingerie because I make a lot of money and lingerie can be expensive. Especially my particular tastes.
After several long minutes Charlene closes the file folder and passes it to me. “I’d like you to take me home.”
I smile, relieved that it’s going to be so much easier than I anticipated, and produce a pen.
Charlene’s expression goes stony as she holds up a hand. “No, you’re not understanding. I’d like you to take me to my house, not yours. I’m not signing a NDA agreement for a lunch date—especially this type of NDA.”
My buoyant mood deflates and I blink rapidly, my fingers tapping against the manila file folder as I try to figure out a way to persuade her that I think we work well together, and that I want more of her. “But I thought we were enjoying each other’s company.”
“We were. But there’s no fucking way I’m signing this, so if you want to have lunch with me, you’ll have to do it without an NDA.”
In all the years that I’ve produced this document no woman has ever said no. Over time have they decided they couldn’t deal with my need for secrecy and my inability to give them more of myself than what they expected? Of course, but not one woman has ever contested signing this agreement. “It’s meant to protect us both,” I tell her.
“It’s not a condom, Darren. It’s an NDA. The next thing I know I’ll have some kind of tracking chip and I’ll be tied to your bed.”
I try to picture that, Charlene tethered, but I can’t. She’s too much of a firefly, flitting around, shining her light for the few who are lucky enough to capture her for as brief a time as she’ll allow. “Would you like to be tied to my bed?”
“Not if I have to sign an NDA.”
I love how irritated she looks right now. “And if you don’t have to sign an NDA?”
She shrugs, intending to come across as nonchalant but the flush in her cheeks and the way she crosses her legs tells me more than her wordless response.
I decide to be honest as I’m able. “I’m a very private person, Charlene.”
“So am I. Doesn’t mean I make all the people in my life sign an NDA because of it. If you want to have lunch with me, you can do it without asking me to sign away my rights.”
Her chin is tipped up, defiance warring with lust. She wants me like I want her, but she wants her freedom just as much. It’s something I can relate to in ways she can’t understand and likely never will, because there’s no way she’ll stick around long enough to know the real me. But for today I’m willing to concede and pretend that this will be more than a few weeks that will become sad, fond memories.
“Okay, no NDA,” I agree. “But I have rules for dating, Charlene.”
“So do I, and we can discuss them over lunch.”
How was I to know that one lunch date was all it would take for me to fall hopelessly in love with her, or that it would take me more than two years to fully understand that she’d managed to become as necessary as the air I breathe.
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As an NHL player, relationships haven’t been my thing. Shrouded in secrecy and speculation, they never last very long. But then that’s what happens when you require an NDA before the first date.
Until Charlene. She’s like a firefly. She’s elusive, and if you catch her she’ll burn bright, but keeping her trapped dulls her fire and dims her beauty.
I caught her. And as much as I might want to keep her, I’ll never put the lid on her jar. Not at the risk of losing her. So I’ve let her set the rules in our relationship.
But as long hidden secrets expose us both, I discover exactly how fragile Charlene is, and how much I need her.
We’re all broken. We’re all messed up. Some more than others. Me more than most.
All throughout Helena Hunting’s Pucked Series, she has provided small insights and brief details about who Charlene and Darren are as individuals and as a couple, and because of the limited information given, readers don’t really know these two characters very well. I mean…it’s clear that Charlene and Violet as well as Darren and Alex share incredible friendships and that they’ve both found a small group of friends who have become their family, but other than those facts and the random conversations that reveal a few more interesting tidbits, much about Charlene and Darren’s pasts and presents remain unknown, so heading into Pucked Love, I was beyond ready for Hunting to give me the dirt on both Charlene and Darren and gain so much needed information to fully picture exactly who these two characters are.
And BOY does Hunting give readers a complete character sketch of both of them, and despite the fact that I could have never imagined how messed up Charlene and Darren’s back stories would be or how their childhoods could singlehandedly be what’s preventing them from going ‘all-in’ with each other, Pucked Love delivers one amazing story that proves just how perfect Charlene and Darren are for one another and how their separate broken pieces fit so well when they are molded together.
My first piece of advice for readers heading into Charlene and Darren’s story is to not go into the story with any preconceived notions about them because regardless of what readers think they know about the hero and heroine, they’re not even close because what Hunting has provided readers with when it comes to Alex and Violet’s best friends only skims the surface of who these two characters are; the truth about them can only be provided through reading their story, told through their own perspective, and now that I’m finished with Pucked Love, I can unequivocally say that Charlene and Darren are right next to Violet and Alex as my favorite Pucked series characters.
Even though Charlene and Darren have been together for two years and have been friends with the other couples of the series for that time, both of them as well as all of their friends are more than aware of the fact that their relationship is not like the others, and while the opening scene of Pucked Love doesn’t bode well for Charlene’s friends’ counterparts’ views on Charlene and Darren’s connection, what they witnessed doesn’t shed the kind of the light on Charlene and Darren that the guys think it does, but it is the catalyst for the changes that begin to take place with these two extremely private and independent characters.
Darren Westinghouse is an intense and stoic man – one who prefers to live out of the spotlight and in a carefully constructed environment where he is in complete control. No one, not even Alex and especially Charlene, knows all of Darren’s sides because he only shows them what he wants them to see and anything that’s too personal, too messed up, or too extreme gets locked away in a place that he would much rather never dwell on again. But with the expansion draft, the playoffs, and a few unexpected encounters, Darren is going to need to bare all of his secrets and hope that once the truth is told that Charlene will still stand by him because even though he never truly acknowledged it, he loves Charlene with everything that he is and he refuses to give her up.
Once everything is laid out in the open, readers will understand just how amazing of a man Darren is and they’ll have a newfound respect for the man who lived through a messed up childhood that distorted his perception of everything associated with relationships and still managed to be a kick butt friend and hockey player and a more than giving and loving boyfriend even if his ways of showing it are rather unconventional.
I’ve always been intrigued by the close relationship that Charlene and Violet share. They seem like polar opposites but they’re each other’s constant and that will never change. Charlene’s childhood was just as jacked up as Darren’s but on opposite ends, and once Charlene’s truths are told/revealed, it’s more than clear as to why Charlene thrives on stability and independence and prefers to move forward with constancy, which means she doesn’t handle change well nor does she want to talk about her feelings or be vulnerable around anyone. The perception people have when it comes to Charlene is important to her; she doesn’t want to be seen as weird or different, even though that’s exactly who she is, and while there’s nothing wrong with Charlene, she cannot handle anyone knowing about her past because she’s afraid it will leave her with no-one and nothing.
I have to admit that Charlene’s hesitancies and refusal to change the dynamics of her relationship with Darren frustrated me way more than the backwards steps that Darren took, but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand why Charlene was so afraid; it’s just that Darren was more than trying and I just really wanted them both to see themselves as worthy of the other.
Hunting’s Pucked series is not just about the love between a couple; it’s also about the bond that is formed amongst friends, and in Pucked Love, it’s clear that the friendships that Darren has with his teammates and his small group of friends as well as the connection Charlene has with the women who she considers her tribe are crucial to their lives and responsible for helping both Darren and Charlene to see what they could have with each other if they’d only allow everyone in.
I absolutely LOVED EVERYTHING about Pucked Love! The thoughtful and sexy storyline, the strong friendships, the laugh out loud situations, the heartfelt moments, and the unique insights into who Charlene and Darren were and are.
The Pucked series is one of my favorite sports romance series of all time, and it’s due to Hunting’s storytelling, the way she crafts her characters, and her ability to create storylines that are full of steam, sass, and scandalous moments;)
5+ Poison Apples
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of PUCKED, Helena Hunting lives on the outskirts of Toronto with her incredibly tolerant family and two moderately intolerant cats. She’s writes contemporary romance ranging from new adult angst to romantic sports comedy.
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