Delayed Penalty (Crossing the Line #1) by Shey Stahl
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
A minor penalty that is not called until the offending team gains control of the puck. As long as the non-offending team maintains possession, the referee allows play to continue and signals a delayed penalty by raising his arm.
I’m Evan Mason, an NHL hockey player for the Chicago Blackhawks. I spend my nights roughing up two hundred pound defensemen and, at times, spend more time in the penalty box than I do on the ice.
That’s my job.
One night changed everything I thought I once knew about my life on, and off, the ice.
A brutally beaten girl left to die in an alley.
I don’t know why or how but something made me stay that night after taking her to the hospital. I didn’t know her, nor did I have an obligation to stay but something inside of me rooted me there telling me I should stay. Saving a life is worth something. At least I thought so. And I wouldn’t have been me if I just simply left her there.
Any man who put his heart and soul into a game of hockey couldn’t just walk away when someone needed them. She had no one else right now. The same guy who saw determination where there was desire, now saw hope where there was once despair.
I couldn’t leave. That wouldn’t be me. No, not a man that put all he had into something some called just a game. I couldn’t walk away from her holding onto life, weak and powerless to something she had no control over.
So I stayed. In a room full of family members praying for their loved ones to pull through, I prayed for a girl I didn’t know and had never met before, to have a beating heart. While others’ sorrows turned to grieving pain, I sat waiting on the words of the unknown.
No bond is stronger than the ones you’ll bleed for.
*Just an FYI…All my spoilers are quotes. I don’t typically quote a lot from books because I tend to feel like it gives too much away, but I fell into my History training of supporting my argument/thesis with supporting evidence from the book. So…with that said, all the spoilers are quotes. Some spoilers may be present. It was not my intention to spoil anything but they do support my feelings about this book. You’ve been warned.*
I know some people have had issues with this book, and that gave me some trepidation going into it. But my fears were quelled because I ended up really enjoying it. Ok, so….Yes, this book is wordy. On that I’ll agree but I got it.
I get why people had issues, but it’s like they were reading a different book…or I was. As soon as I read the first Hockey game my thought was “Wow. That’s it. That’s his life. It revolves around Hockey.” It clicked for me, it made sense. Evan ate, slept, breathed and lived Hockey
If you knew me before Ami, you’d understand what my life was. Hockey. I didn’t date, I had sex, yes, but there was no dating and no bringing a girl home to meet the parents. I wasn’t a player like Leo and Remy, but I just didn’t have time for that sort of thing. I was living for hockey.
That was life for him from a very young age. His parents went out of their way to give him his dream of playing professional hockey
I liked playing up there. It was only a two-hour drive for us, but I ended up having to be enrolled in school there because the traveling to the games alone involved too much, and driving the extra two hours home wasn’t an option. My family rented a house up there, and that was where we lived. They were willing to do anything to allow me to play, even it meant uprooting our family and their jobs.
He even says that he doesn’t follow a normal calendar; his calendar is the Hockey schedule
My schedule didn’t permit me to stay with Ami every day and unfortunately wouldn’t for a while. We were heading into a six game road trip, and fuck if I was irritable about that. Up until now, I loved road trips and having games every night. Now, they took me away from Ami and that sucked.
His world revolves around Hockey….Until he meets Ami. He meets her in such a way that he can’t get her out of his head. Ami breaks through the Hockey wall and becomes something that is important to him.
Once he was committed to Ami, his life changed. He was willing to move heaven and earth for her.
The day she was released, Monday, March 1st, marked nearly ten weeks spent in the hospital. She was happy to be released.
First thing she made me do was stop and get her a hamburger.
Then we drove the seven hours from Chicago to Pittsburgh because Ami didn’t want to fly.
As he became more committed to Ami, the book changed. His priorities changed. And it showed in his POV. His play by play details during the game gave way to other things.
It was hard to focus on the game when my attention was constantly drawn to the stands and those douchebags sitting behind the girls. Every play they were mouthing off and had something to say.
Leo and Remy both noticed; their heads kept turning to watch when we heard the commotion. One of the guys had shoved Callie, and I wasn’t standing for that.
I took the end of my stick and hit it against the boards, scowling at the guy. He looked up, stunned, holding his hands up, and then flipped me off. Well played. What he didn’t see was the security guard behind him.
Even though he grew up in a loving family, with parents that would do anything for him, he didn’t really know love. Not from someone other than his family. He wasn’t quite sure what to do with it when it happened.
After practice, I had plans to take Ami to dinner before we started the next series and I left for San Jose. This time she was coming with me. Just like I’d asked her to move in with me, I asked her to come on the road with me.
I’d never been in love, but I started to look at my symptoms.
The mention of her name made my stomach tighten? Check.
Heart beating like a fucking girl? Check.
Any skin revealed and I’m hard? Check.
Watching her sleep like a goddamn stalker? Check.
Wanting to know everything about her and what makes her smile? Wanting to be the reason for the smile? Yep. Big fucking checks all around.
Fuck. I was in love.
My dad once told me that you knew you were in love with a girl when you would do anything for her. You’d be willing to change your life for her and would do anything she asked you to.
He also said you’d know they loved you if they never asked you to change your life or anything else.
With Ami it was so much more than that and had been since the beginning, before either one of us knew what was happening. I would do anything for her. She knew that.
Sometimes I wondered when this had happened. When did I become so focused on this girl that nothing else mattered? Was it when I found her? When she opened her eyes? When I kissed her?
I had no answers, no justifiable ones at least. I was in love.
I knew the time would come when I would fall in love, but I never thought it would happen like this, with a young girl in such a brutal scenario.
When I thought about what happened to her, it felt wrong to love her.
The shitty part for me was that not only had I never been in love, but I also never knew what I was missing with Ami. I’d never had a girl that made me feel like she did.
The night before we left for San Jose was when I told Ami my feelings.
Before I got back into bed, I removed my T-shirt. Ami watched, her eyes low on my hips. She inhaled a sharp breath. I could see it in her stare, feel it in her touch. She was waiting on empty words to be defined.
I said what I was feeling in that moment.
“I love you,” I whispered, situating myself between her knees. I didn’t say anything more for a long moment, letting the words sink in. I wondered if Josh had told her he loved her. I wondered what her reaction was. Was it the reaction she was having now, staring at me, giving me a look that told me she felt what I had just said to her?
It was the first time I had said it to a girl that wasn’t family and it was natural, like everything else with her. Sure, I felt like there was a wild animal clawing at my heart, and every other piece of my chest, but I said it and she didn’t run from me.
But he got through it and didn’t run.
In the end, Evan came to realize that there was more to life than Hockey. And he embraced that.
If someone asked me how she changed me, I would tell them my perspective. All that she went through everyday didn’t mean anything. There were worse things in life to be bent over. So what if you were stuck in traffic or you locked yourself out of the car? So what if you missed the penalty shot in a playoff game? Didn’t happen to me, by the way, I rocked that motherfucker, but what I was getting at was there were worse things to have happen to you. Ami was what changed that perspective, if I ever had thought that way. Maybe I didn’t. But she kept me from ever swinging that way in the first place.
What I realized, what I lived for now, was the bond.
No bond is greater than the ones you’ll bleed for.
I would bleed for this girl, and I would lay everything on the line and cross any line to protect her. Saving a life was worth something to me.
This girl came into my life for a reason.
I was meant to save her, and I was meant to fall in love with her, and this girl was the reason my life had gone the directions it had.
Hockey owned me. Good or bad, it knew everything about the sweat and blood I poured into it and gave me gratification in return. It gave me the adrenaline I needed, the joy, the love, and the thrill of victory.
Then I fell in love with Ami Sutton.
That was when I found out there was something else that I enjoyed just as much. Being with a girl, loving a girl, taking care of a girl, and giving myself to a girl. She showed me a side of myself that had been there all along. It was just pushed aside by my love for hockey.
Up until that night that I’d found her, I believed that nothing would come close to the way I felt about hockey. Now I know better.
One of the things I loved most about this book is the fact that Evan and Ami stayed together. They didn’t have any misunderstandings that tore them apart for dramatic/angst purposes. And that was refreshing. They faced the hard times together, as a couple.
I loved the twist of who the bad guy was. I’ll admit, looking back, the clues were there. And there was one moment when something was mentioned and I had a niggling thought, but I let it go and went on with the story. (No, I didn’t cheat and go to the back of the book. :P)
All in all, this was a really enjoyable book. Yes, the hockey scenes could get wordy, but if you realize that they serve a purpose, and you can get through it, you’ll end up with a really good story.