Off the Ice
(Hat Trick #1)
by Avon Gale & Piper Vaughn
Date Released: October 30, 2017
About Off the Ice
Tristan Holt is nothing if not pragmatic. Despite a flourishing career as a defenseman for the Atlanta Venom, Tristan knows he can’t play hockey forever. One day he’ll retire—if an injury doesn’t force him to hang up his skates first. His backup plan? Finishing his business degree. But he doesn’t count on a very inappropriate attraction to his standoffish sociology professor, Sebastian Cruz.
Sebastian is on the bottom rung of the Sociology Department at Georgia State. He has his sights set on tenure, and he can’t afford to be distracted, especially not by a sexy student with a body straight out of Sebastian’s dreams. No matter how much Tristan tempts him, that’s one line Sebastian won’t cross. At least not until summer classes end. After that, everything is fair game.
But Sebastian lives loud and proud, and Tristan is terrified of being the first out player in the NHL. Neither of them can afford to risk their hearts when they can’t imagine a happily ever after. The problem is, unlike hockey, when it comes to love, there are no rules.
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An Excerpt from Off the Ice
Sebastian stood in front of his class, eyes sweeping over the students who had bothered to show up. It was a couple of weeks into the summer term, and as expected, the class size had shrunk considerably since the first day.
What wasn’t expected, however, was the presence of Chuck Bass, who hadn’t missed a single class. Not only that, but he hadn’t worn a ball cap since the first day—although he was still showing up in those sweatpants, which Sebastian was doing his level best to ignore.
Today he was wearing a Pink Floyd shirt. Sebastian wondered if blondie was even old enough to know who they were, and resisted the urge to go full-out classic-rock hipster and ask him. He had a class to teach.
“Today we’re going to talk about perception,” Sebastian said, leaning back against his desk. “The way we perceive others has to do with a variety of factors, and the assumptions we make because of them. Humans have a tendency to place people into a hierarchy, and we design that hierarchy in several ways.”
He wondered if he was losing them, but Gray Sweatpants was typing away at his computer—a newer model MacBook, Sebastian noticed—so either he was taking notes or blatantly ignoring Sebastian in favor of updating his Facebook. Sebastian noticed the painfully trendy young man with the notebook, the one who always sat next to Gray Sweatpants and probably took notes in calligraphy given that fancy pen, was absent today.
“One way in which we organize individuals into a hierarchy is based on the things we’ve been talking about in this class so far this semester—perceptions of wealth, class, that sort of thing. But we also make designations in this power hierarchy based on other factors, and I wanted to take a bit of time to talk about those. Race and gender, for example . . . and sexuality.”
Sebastian waited a moment to see if mentioning that got anyone’s attention, but besides Gray Sweatpants glancing briefly upward, the rest of the class were staring at their computer screens. One young woman was on her phone and one guy was slouched in his seat against the wall, half-asleep.
And these were the students who’d bothered to show up.
“You put me in a position of power in this classroom because I’m the professor,” Sebastian continued. “But there are other, more subtle factors that you might not even be aware of—the position of where I’m standing in the room, for example. It’s very similar to what happens in your mind when you go and watch a rock concert.” Sebastian waved a hand. “Or whatever music you kids are into, nowadays.”
That got a slight smile from Gray Sweatpants. Interesting.
“Musicians are literally raised to a position above you on a stage, so your mind fills in the hierarchy clues and places these people above you. You do it with me because I’m standing while you’re sitting, I’m speaking while you’re quiet, and I’m awake while you’re sleeping.” He stared hard at the dozing kid in the back, who didn’t realize Sebastian was addressing him at all. Several of the others did, though, and it wasn’t only Gray Sweatpants who smiled this time.
“Now, what about me changes your perception of my place in the power hierarchy?” Sebastian’s mouth quirked. “Before you awkwardly avoid my eyes and figure out how to answer this, I’ll do it for you. I’m Puerto Rican. Does that make any of you question if I’m really in charge of this classroom?”
There were a few gazes exchanged among the engaged students in the room, and a few mumbles and awkward smiles.
“And how about if I tell you that I’m gay?”
That got their attention, most noticeably Gray Sweatpants, who looked up sharply from his computer. Sebastian met his big, wide blue eyes and stared at him, waiting to see if Mr. Trust Fund had anything to say about that.
“Now, I’m telling you this for a few reasons. One, my primary interest and area of study—which you’d know if you bothered doing any research about your professor—is LGBT issues in Latinx urban communities, and how traditional ideas of gender and class are challenged by openly queer individuals.
“Two, I want to spend some time discussing perceptions and how we, as individuals, challenge those perceptions in our day-to-day life . . . as well as the images we present to others. I want you, in your next assignment, to talk about a role you play in a community that you have a particularly strong tie to—familial, cultural, I don’t particularly care which—and where you think you fit in the so-called ‘power hierarchy.’ Then, tell me something about you that might challenge that perception and why.”
He paused. “This is a very personal assignment, so I hope you will take the time to really think about what I’ve said and deconstruct your own place in one of the social spaces you inhabit.”
Gray Sweatpants was still watching him, and Sebastian found himself meeting the kid’s big blue eyes for the second or third time. Maybe it was because none of the other students were bothering to interact with him in any way, or maybe it was just the kid was hot and those wide eyes and that full mouth were giving Sebastian ideas he shouldn’t have in class.
Or maybe there was something else. Maybe Gray Sweatpants was looking so intently at him because he—
Stop it, what are you doing? You’re in class. Save your pervy fantasies for later.
Sebastian glanced at his watch and realized it was time to end class. “That’s all for today. I’ll expect your papers turned in to me via the class site by the end of the week.”
He watched as they all stood up and assembled their things, heading toward the exit singly or in small groups. He thought he heard one of the girls murmur, “. . . really gay?” on her way out of the door, and he had to stop himself from snorting.
Gray Sweatpants was the last one out the door, and the girl probably would have had her answer if she’d noticed how Sebastian unabashedly eyed the guy’s ass in those pants on his way out. But she was already gone, and the only other person left was the kid asleep in the back . . . and he was snoring, so Sebastian doubted he noticed anything much at all.
Avon Gale grew up in the southern United States, and now lives with her very patient husband in a liberal Midwestern college town. When she’s not writing, she’s either doing some kind of craft project that makes a huge mess, reading, watching horror movies, listening to music or yelling at her favorite hockey team to get it together, already. Avon is always up for a road trip, adores Kentucky bourbon, thinks nothing is as stress relieving as a good rock concert, and will never say no to candy.
At one point, Avon was the mayor of both Jazzercise and Lollicup on Foursquare. This tells you basically all you need to know about her as a person.
Piper Vaughn wrote her first love story at eleven and never looked back. Since then, she’s known that writing in some form was exactly what she wanted to do. A reader at the core, Piper loves nothing more than getting lost in a great book—fantasy, young adult, romance, sci-fi, she loves them all (and has an over-two-thousand-book library to prove it!). She’s an avid tea drinker, a hockey fanatic, a vintage typewriter collector, and loves to travel so much she has “wanderlust” tattooed on her ankle and dozens of countries on her bucket list. Recently, she discovered the world of nail art and realized she’s pretty handy with a paintbrush—as long as it’s a miniature one.
As a bisexual and Latinx person, Piper takes great pride in her heritage. She grew up in an ethnically diverse neighborhood and strives to put faces and characters of every ethnicity in her stories, so her fictional worlds are as colorful as the real one. She currently resides in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband, son, and a cat that has Piper wrapped around her little paw. Above all, she believes that everyone needs a little true love in their life … even if it’s only in a book.
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