The Aubrey Rules is the first book in Aven Ellis’ new hockey romance series, Chicago on Ice. Believe me when I say you are in for a treat. So as a special treat you can read Chapter one here now. Enjoy!
The Aubrey Rules To Live By, Rule #1: Never, ever, be late for anything.
I sprint toward the elevator in complete panic mode. This is not happening. I must be having one of those nightmares, and any second I’ll wake up.
Because if I’m not dreaming, I’m awake. Obviously. Which also means I overslept this morning. I couldn’t sleep last night due to anxiety, and I accidentally turned the alarm off on my phone instead of hitting snooze this morning. Which began a domino effect: I overslept. I didn’t have time to get my red curly locks under control with a flat iron, and I’m not going to arrive on time for a job interview with one of the chicest social media firms in Chicago.
I frantically jab the elevator button. This is my first professional interview since I graduated from the University of Washington last month. I have to get this job. I need this job.
I want this job.
I press the button again. “Come on, come on!” I begin pacing. I feel as if I want to throw up. I’m never late. I’m the girl who is ten minutes early to everything. Even for meeting a friend at Starbucks. So the fact that I’m late to the most important interview ever makes me absolutely sick to my stomach.
The doors open and I run in, but my boot heel catches in the crack. I fly forward, and my purse swings over my shoulder in a loop. I land flat on my face, and the entire contents rain down on the floor. Then I hear a clink. Like something falling down the crack between the hallway floor and the elevator.
“Miss, are you okay?” a male voice asks me. “Are you hurt?”
I immediately push myself up to my hands and knees. My curly hair is blocking my vision, and I shove it out of the way so I can see. There is a stranger kneeling in front of me.
A very handsome stranger.
One with dark-brown hair and the loveliest chocolate-brown eyes I’ve ever seen.
Who has just seen me trip, fall flat on my face, and—oh my God—is his shoe on top of one of my tampons?
I quickly begin grabbing my things and throwing them back into my Tory Burch tote. “I’m fine,” I say, keeping my eyes down, praying he somehow moves and I can swipe the tampon before he notices it. “Thank you.”
“Are you sure? You hit the floor really hard,” he says.
“Um, I’m good.”
“Here, let me help you,” he says, reaching for my lipstick case.
“No!” I cry, mortified, sticking out my hand. “Don’t!”
His large brown eyes widen in surprise. “No? You’re saying no to me helping you?”
“Yes,” I say, willing him to move his foot.
Okay, so mental telepathy only works on TV because it sure as hell isn’t working now.
I go back to scooping up the millions of receipts I had squirreled away in my purse, along with my huge collection of drugstore mascaras, lipsticks, and Tic Tacs.
“Why?” he asks, a bewildered expression on his face.
I glance up at him as I toss my wallet back into my bag. Oh, wow, he’s super cute. I’d have to say he’s in his mid-twenties, and I can’t get over how expressive his handsome face is.
I grab my iPhone and cast my eyes back down. “It’s my mess. You shouldn’t have to help me clean it up.”
“A planner?” he asks, holding up my gold polka dot Kate Spade planner toward me. “Aren’t these out of style? Don’t you use your phone for stuff like that?”
I pause. He’s Canadian. I know he’s Canadian from the way he said “out,” with a sort of lilt at the end of the word.
“That’s not a planner,” I say, taking it from him. “It’s my rule book.”
“Yes.” I drop it into my tote as I continue to pick up stuff off the floor. “Life is chaos. I like jotting down rules for my career and love life and use them as a guide to keep me organized. Some are serious, some are funny. But they’re all designed to keep me from wasting time. So I don’t make mistakes that will hurt me and it’s fun to do an—”
“You write rules for your love life?” he interrupts.
I stop speaking. I realize he’s staring at me like I’m a puzzle he’s trying to figure out.
Then a slow smile spreads across his face. “You have an odd idea of a good time.”
Oooooooooh my. He has a gorgeous smile.
Suddenly I realize I don’t have my keys. “Keys,” I say, frantically searching around. “Where are my keys?”
He looks down. “Uh,” he says, picking my tampon up. “Um . . . here.”
GAAAAAAAAH! All of a sudden my face is burning hot.
I have a feeling it matches my hair.
Which is flame red.
I gulp. “Um, thanks,” I say, wishing I could fall down the crack in between the hallway and the elevator.
“Oh my God!” I cry, standing straight up in a panic. “My keys! My keys fell down there!” I point frantically.
“Are you sure?” he asks, standing up and peering down the gap.
“Shit! I’m screwed! I’m late for a job interview and I look like crap and you picked up my tampon, which is mortifying, and now I have to deal with the keys and who knows if I’ll get there on time and I’m so pissed off and why isn’t this elevator moving?”
And before I can stop myself, I kick the side of the elevator wall in frustration, leaving a huge scuff on my boot. Perfect.
“And now I’ve ruined my boot and this is the worst day ever!” I yell.
I glance at him. Now that I’ve had my outburst, I notice that the cute Canadian is big. 6’3 or so. His chest is massive and is hugged by the navy-blue sweater and white T-shirt he’s wearing underneath his gray overcoat. My eyes skim downward, and holy hell his thighs are huge in those jeans and—
“I stopped the elevator with the emergency button to make sure you were okay,” he says simply, snapping me from my thoughts. His voice is soothing, as if he’s trying to calm me. He walks over to it and hits another button, and the doors close and we start going down. Then he turns to me. “We can have someone call the elevator service company to get the keys.”
I throw my hands to my head. “I don’t have time for this! I have a very important job interview. Do you know what my job is right now? I stage condos for sale. I live in other people’s homes with strange furniture and I’m practically a freaking nomad because I move all the time. If I don’t get this job, I’m still a nomad with no belongings other than my rule book!”
I glance over at him. Now his brow is creased. Oh, this keeps getting worse and worse. Now I’ve blown up, kicked a wall, and told him my only form of employment is moving from condo to condo out of a suitcase.
And I’m sure the cute Canadian is desperate for this elevator to hit the lobby so he can run out the doors as fast as he can to get away from the lunatic hothead otherwise known as Aubrey.
“You could start with letting the front office know your keys fell down the elevator shaft,” he suggests. “Then I could take you to your interview. By the time you’re done, they might have your keys.”
“Whoa,” I say, putting my hand out and taking a step back. “I don’t know you. Why would I get in a car with you? You could be some kind of pervert serial killer kind of guy.”
“You think I’m a serial killer?” he asks, an amused tone in his voice.
“That’s not what I said. I said you could be.”
Suddenly he bursts out laughing. “Trust me, I’m not.”
“Why should I? I don’t know you. Just because you’re cute and say ‘trust me’ doesn’t mean I should,” I say.
Then I realize I told him he was cute.
Shit, shit, shit.
The elevator doors open, and I flee, praying the cute Canadian goes on his way. I don’t even look backward. I hurry to the front desk of the luxury high-rise.
“I have a serious problem,” I blurt out. “I dropped my keys down the elevator shaft and I-”
“You what?” the girl asks, wrinkling her brow.
“I dropped my keys down the shaft,” I repeat. “I need someone to get them. Right now. My name is Aubrey Paige and I live in 14F. And I need to have someone get them and I’ll pick them up later but I have to go and this is critical because I need them back so I can—”
“I’m sorry, you’re talking too fast,” the girl interrupts. “Aubrey Paige what?”
“Aubrey Paige! Paige is my last name. And I need to go—”
“Hold on, Ms. Paige. I need to call maintenance to see what we need to do. Now you say they fell down the elevator shaft?” she asks as she picks up the phone and punches a button.
Hold? I don’t have time to hold! I’m about to say more when suddenly the Canadian steps forward.
“Excuse me,” he says.
Another desk person glances up. “Oh, hey, Beckett,” the man says, his eyes shining. “Great game last night in LA. That’s your third hat trick of the season, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, but it wouldn’t have happened without some great passes from my teammates.”
I freeze. Teammates?
“Um, could you verify who I am for this lady, please?” he asks, nodding in my direction.
The guy grins. “This is Beckett Riley, none other than captain of the Chicago Buffaloes.”
“What?” I say, confused.
“The professional hockey team,” the man continues. “This is our captain. And one of the best players in the National Hockey League.”
I know my mouth is hanging open. This cute Canadian is a professional hockey player?
“I told you I wasn’t a serial killer,” he says, cocking an eyebrow at me.
For once, I don’t ramble. I keep my stupid mouth shut.
“So, since I’m not a criminal, I can drive you to your interview, and with James here as
my witness, I promise to bring you back alive. If you’ll let me drive you, that is. But it’s your call. So what is it going to be, Aubrey?”