I am pleased to welcome Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn on Queer Books Unbound to celebrate the release of Trade Deadline, the final installment in their Hat Trick series – featuring a hockey player and a marine biologist. Please give them a very warm welcome!
Don’t miss this friends-to-lovers hockey romance from Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn.
Daniel “Bellzie” Bellamy should be on top of the world—a Stanley Cup is the perfect topper to his fourteen-year NHL career. But despite the post-win high, something’s missing. When the chance to play for his hometown team, the Miami Thunder, comes along, he’s open to it. And when he runs into an old friend from his past soon after he makes the move, he wonders if it might be kismet.
Micah Kelly never thought he’d see his childhood crush—and first kiss—again. Danny Bellamy moved on to bigger and better things when they were teenagers, and the idea that Micah’s relationship with the professional hockey player could be anything more than one-sided Instagram thirst seems too good to be true.
Maybe too good to be true is the new reality, though. As the season goes on, Micah teaches Daniel to surf, and Daniel introduces Micah to his lovable pack of rescue dogs and the world of being a hockey boyfriend. Life is good. But when things on the ice don’t go as planned, they’ll have to decide if their rediscovered romance is built to last.
There were a few things that Micah noticed about his first game as a newly minted Miami Thunder fan.
One, while the arena was mostly full, the majority of the fans seemed to be from the other team—the Pittsburgh Condors—and two, the Miami Thunder were not very good at hockey. They were down five goals to nothing so fast, it didn’t take an expert in the sport to know that wasn’t how it was supposed to be.
Three, Daniel Bellamy was every bit as gorgeous in person as he was on his Instagram and a lot better at hockey than some of his teammates. Okay, maybe Micah didn’t have the hockey expertise to know the latter, but the former…he liked to think he was pretty well versed in speaking “attractive person” and yeah, Daniel was beautiful. On the ice he was fast and focused, and while Micah couldn’t say his old friend looked like he was having fun…he was at least giving the game his all.
But the best part? Daniel had recognized him. Even in the middle of a game that was admittedly not going well, Daniel knew who he was. Or else he was doing a good job pretending, but Micah was sure that wasn’t it. There was no way to miss the spark of recognition or the smile that lit up that handsome face, and also, Danny had always sucked at lying when they were kids.
Micah still couldn’t believe he’d waved at Daniel, given the moment was tense and Daniel looked less than thrilled while the referees…did something—Micah didn’t know hockey enough to really get what was happening there. But Daniel had looked right at him, and Micah had been impulsive enough to wave and had gotten that killer smile in return. Which was honestly what made him stand up and cheer with the rest of the crowd, when the referees finished their mysterious conference and announced the Thunder’s goal would count. For reasons.
Micah tossed the scarf over his neck, got to his feet, and clapped along with the other Thunder fans in his section. He’d thought there’d be more, but he was in fact surrounded by Condors fans.
“Glass seats here are so cheap,” the woman to his left had said, almost apologetically, when Micah had taken his seat wearing his Thunder gear. “I could never afford to sit this close at home.”
The seats were cheap, and Cody hadn’t been able to make it after all so Micah was here on his lonesome. Which was fine, since even a non-fan knew when your team was suffering a beating and it wasn’t like he was all that invested in the outcome. It’d be nice to win, but at least the Condors fans were enjoying themselves. Micah was pretty sure he didn’t have the makings of a true sports fanatic, but hey, he could outreach with the best of them. By the time the game had started, he’d talked the woman from Pittsburgh and her girlfriend into visiting the aquarium the next day, texting their names to the box office so they’d enjoy a discount on tickets. They’d liked his story about working with dolphins, and during breaks in the action—or inaction, for the beleaguered Thunder fans—he showed them the #selfiewithsilver hashtag and they’d both promptly followed it.
“Do you know him?” the girl, Jennifer, asked with wide eyes. She’d seen Daniel’s wave from the bench.
“Well, kinda,” Micah said with a laugh, as play resumed. “Danny and I were besties when we were kids. That’s why I’m here. I heard he was back in town and wanted to see him play, but I never dreamed he’d remember me.” Hoped, maybe. Definitely.
“That’s so cute!” Jennifer beamed. “Courtney and I met in high school, lost touch, and met again at a fan-fiction convention.”
“Do you have to tell everyone that story?” Courtney, a tall girl with hair as red as Micah’s, had skin that was just as fair.
“Yup,” Jennifer said with a grin. “Anyway, that’s so great! He’s an amazing player. I couldn’t believe when they said he’d been traded from the Venom. I mean, they just won the Cup! It makes more sense if he’s from here, I guess.”
The Condors scored again, and Jennifer looked a little guilty when she jumped up to cheer. “Um. Sorry?”
Micah had to laugh. “It’s all right. Like I said, I’m not really a hockey fan.”
“Good,” said a guy a couple of seats down. He sounded weary. “That’s about the only way you can make it through Thunder games.”
“Amen to that,” the kid next to him said. “Dad, let’s leave at intermission and beat the traffic.”
They weren’t the only ones who had that idea. When the team skated into the locker room for the first of the two intermission periods, a lot of people left and Micah didn’t think it was to get a drink. He honestly thought about doing the same—traffic from downtown did suck, and he wasn’t looking forward to the postgame adventure home. But Daniel had noticed him, and it seemed rude to leave. Besides, the Condors fans seemed nice and they were happy about the outcome so far, so there was that. And Jennifer even bought him a beer to cheer him up.
As he was scrolling through his Instagram feed after posting an artsy pic of the ice under the lights, newly smooth thanks to the Zamboni, a shadow fell over him.
Oh no. Was he going to get in trouble for colluding with the enemy? Micah glanced up to give the usher a bright smile. Maybe he wasn’t supposed to accept beers from visiting fans. Maybe he could bribe his way out of trouble with some discounts at the aquarium gift shop. “Yes?”
“I have a message for you. Mr. Bellamy says to stick around and meet him after the game.”
Micah laughed, delighted even as nerves fluttered in his stomach at the thought. It was one thing to wave at Daniel from behind the glass, he wasn’t sure he was prepared to actually talk to his friend after all these years. But no way was he going to say no. “Sure!”
“Great. Here.” The usher handed over a pass hanging from a plastic lanyard. “You’ll need this to get to the area where the players will be. After the game ends, you’ll want to go down to the second level and follow the press. You’ll see where to go, and as long as you have that, you’ll be fine.”
Micah nodded, slipped the lanyard on his neck and arranged the scarf again—a hand-knitted chevron scarf from his friend Maria, who’d moved to Toronto after college. Her Cuban family had lived in Miami for generations, and she’d been unprepared for the snow and cold of a Canadian winter. Her knitting habit meant Micah now had two scarves, a few mittens, and an adorable hat that he never wore. He played with the edges of it, fighting back his sudden onset of nerves. This was silly. He and Daniel might not have seen each other in years, but Daniel recognized him and wanted to see him.
Avon Gale lives in a liberal Midwestern college town, where she spends her days getting heavily invested in everything from craft projects to video games. She likes road trips by car, rock concerts, thunderstorms, IPAs, Kentucky bourbon and tattoos. As a queer author, Avon is committed to providing happy endings for all and loves to tell stories that focus on found families, strong and open communication, and friendship. She loves writing about quirky people who might not be perfect, but always find a place where they belong.
Piper Vaughn is a Latinx author and longtime romance reader. Since writing their first love story at age eleven, they’ve known writing in some form was exactly what they wanted to do. A reader to the core, Piper loves nothing more than getting lost in a great book.
Piper grew up in a diverse neighborhood in Chicago and loves putting faces and characters of every ethnicity in their stories, making their fictional worlds as colorful as the real one. Above all, Piper believes there’s no one way to have an HEA, and every person deserves to see themselves reflected on the page.
Genre: Contemporary Genre: Romance Orientation: Bisexual Orientation: Gay Pairing: M/M Publisher: Carina Press Tag: Celebrity / Famous Person Tag: Friends to Lovers Tag: Guest Post Tag: Part of a series Tag: Sports Avon Gale Hat Trick series Piper Vaughn Trade Deadline