A Secret for a Secret
by Helena Hunting
Published by Montlake Romance
Book 3 in the All In Series
My name is Ryan Kingston, and I’m a rule follower.
I’ve never been in a fistfight. I always obey the speed limit. I don’t get drunk, and I definitely don’t pick up random women at bars.
Except the night I found out that my whole existence has been a lie.
I got drunk. And picked up a stranger.
Her name was Queenie, and she was everything I’m not: reckless, impulsive, and chaotic. We did shots and traded secrets. And ended up naked at my place.
She left me a thank-you note in the morning and her panties as a parting gift. But no way to contact her.
Six weeks later I’m sitting in the first official team meeting of the season, and there she is. I neglected to mention that I’m the goalie for Seattle’s NHL team.
And Queenie? Turns out she’s the general manager’s daughter.
A Secret for a Secret is the third book in Helena Hunting's All In series, and centers around rule-follower Ryan Kingston, a player for Seattle, and Queenie, his opposite. After Ryan learns his families big secret, he tries to get drunk at a bar. Unsuccessfully, until he meets Queenie, who was just fired from her job. Drinks are drank, secrets are traded, and after an intense night with one another, she leaves before Ryan wakes up, leaving a note, but no contact information. Six weeks later, despite Ryan being busy with hockey starting up again, he can't forget about his one and only one night stand, and wishing he had a way to contact her. And he does. Because that is when he finds out Queenie is his teams general managers daughter.
This was another big hit for me. For several reasons. And I can repeat the things I liked about the other two books in the series. It's the same here. A Secret for a Secret has great dimensional characters, with intense chemistry, and wonderful arcs. Just like the last two. But what I loved that was different with this book, was the gender swap of the "goody two shoes" main character, and the unique family situations Ryan and Queenie find themselves in. It doesn't happen often where I encounter a romance where the male is the rule follower. It's always a woman. So its refreshing to have a male character, that has a female bring him out of his shell a bit. The dynamic worked for me, and was refreshing. Then there is their personal family situations. Once again, we get a bit of a gender swap, with Queenie being raised by her father. Not because her mother died, which is what happens in most books, but because her mother didn't want to be a mother. The issues Queenie deals with because of this are settle, but nonetheless have an impact on her character. But the biggest, and most unique plot point, was "Mom-ster". Ryan finding out his big sister is in fact, his birth mother. I love that while its a big thing, its also not. He loves his parents/grandparents. He loves his sister/mom. He gets why his grandparents adopted him (his mom was 15 when she had him). It adds an interesting, unpredictable arc to his character that I thoroughly enjoyed. It also hints as to what the next book may be about, and I'm curious how that will work. But I also loved that they both had relationship hang up's as well. Queenie with her secret from the past, and Ryan with his ex and meddling "mom".
Honestly, this series keeps getting better and better. Sports romances, especially spin offs from the original series like this one, run a huge risk of the characters and their stories being copy and pasted from its previous stories. But Helena has managed to write three very unique stories, with some well loved tropes. I'm very impressed with this series so far! :)
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She motions to my lineup of drinks.
Queenie: “What’s going on here?”
Ryan: “I’m trying to get drunk too.”
Queenie: “You’d have a lot more success if you actually drank them.”
Ryan: “Yeah, I know. I’m not big on alcohol,”
I admit. She scans me slowly, her grin growing wider once again.
Queenie: “Can’t really say I’m surprised to hear that. You look like you got lost on your way to a Boy Scouts meeting.”
Ryan: “I used to be a Boy Scout.” Rook: “Shippy, King, have a seat!”
Rook Bowman, our team captain, gestures to the two open seats at his table.
Bishop: “Always with the Shippy bullshit,”
Bishop mutters. Bishop and Rook loathed each other with the fire of a thousand burning suns during the team’s first season. It got a lot worse when Rook found out Bishop was dating his younger sister. They had it out behind a garbage dumpster—I mediated—and now most of the time they get along.
Bishop: “Keep calling me Shippy, and I’ll tell you all about your sister’s favorite positions in the bedroom,”
Bishop mutters as he takes the seat across from Rook. Rook half chokes on his sausage link, and Chase, one of our teammates, who’s sitting on his other side, gives him a couple of slaps on the back. He waves his hand away and shoots a glare at Bishop.
Rook: “You wouldn’t.”
Bishop gives him a you-try-me look.
Bishop: “Only your sister is allowed to call me Shippy, so unless you’re going to start snuggling with me during movies and fondling my—”
I slap the table to prevent Bishop from finishing that statement. Also, Rook looks like he’s about to launch himself over the table. Ryan: “I’m never this irresponsible. Ever. Or do the one-night-stand thing. That’s not how I operate. I date.”
He stops pacing for half a second, eyes flaring even wider, if that’s possible.
Ryan: “What’s wrong with me? I didn’t even buy you dinner.”
Queenie: “You bought me a lot of drinks.”
Ryan: “That’s even worse!” Rook: “Stop mauling my sister, Winslow!”
Bishop: “I’m not mauling her. I’m saying hi to my wife.”
Bishop smirks and winks at Stevie. Queenie: “Hey, Kody, I’m so glad you’re here today!”
Kody: “Aunt Evie bring me to watch Daddy practice ’cause Mommy is napping. She’s tired ’cause my baby brudder is dancing all night in her tummy!”
He pats his belly.
Kody: “I’m a big boy now, so I don’t need naps.”
Queenie: “Is that right?”
Kody: “Mommy says my brudder is gonna be an acto-bat. Imma play hockey like my daddy.”
He puffs out his little chest.
Kody: “Daddy says if I want to be a hockey player I has to eat all my vege-ables, but I only like corn.”
I tap my lip.
Queenie: “Hmm, that’s tough, but your dad is right: you do need to eat vegetables if you want to grow up and be a big, strong hockey player like him.”
I give his biceps a squeeze. He makes a face.
Kody: “I don’t like broccoli.”
He lowers his voice.
Kody: “When no one’s looking I feed it to Brutus.”
Queenie: “Brutus is your dog, right?”
He grins again and nods, eyes twinkling with mischief.
Kody: “It makes his toots smell like rotten eggs.”
He giggles. Violet: “I expect we’ll be seeing you at our Wednesday Night Movie Club soon.”
Queenie: “What’s Wednesday Night Movie Club?”
Violet: “It’s when all the hockey wives and girlfriends get together to watch movies. Like a book club but a lot less work and a lot more eye candy.”
Queenie: “But I’m not a hockey wife or girlfriend.”
Violet’s smirk grows wider.
Queenie: “Right, okay. We’ll see about that.”
I clap my hands together loudly, startling myself.
Queenie: “I have some paperwork to finish up, so I should really go!”
And just like Kingston, I bust my ass down the hall.
Violet: “Might as well cancel any Wednesday night plans you have starting now!” Ryan: “I try to eat every two to three hours.”
Queenie: “Or for an hour straight,”
Ryan: “What was that?”
Queenie: “Nothing.” Queenie: "Good luck on the ice.”
He leans down and kisses me on the cheek. When he steps back, his face is on fire.
Ryan: “You look lovely, by the way.”
He nods to my dad and then rushes to catch up with the last of the guys heading for the locker room.
Queenie: “Thanks for making that super awkward, Jake.”
He arches a brow.
Jake: “Now you know how I felt last night.”
Not much else I can say to that. He lifts the bottom of his jersey, using it to wipe away the sweat dripping down his face. On any other day this would be totally fine. But it exposes a strip of bare stomach and with it the residual rash, leading the eye down to where it disappears into his uniform. My dad glances at his stomach, his lips turning down in a frown. I want to tell Kingston to drop his shirt, but I can’t. Bishop, however, smacks him in the arm. King gives him a What the heck? look. There’s a lot of eye widening and silent conversation happening. My dad’s expression says everything words can’t. It’s obvious where that trail leads and what was going on in my room last night. He mutters something about going to prison for murder, turns around, and walks away. Queenie: “It’s okay if you want to lose control with me, King. I definitely want to lose control with you.” Ryan: “You may need to set some parameters for me, my queen, so I know how out of control I’m allowed to get here.”
I shiver in anticipation at his low warning tone and this new endearment.
Queenie: “No parameters.”
He pulls back, lips temptingly close.
I bite the edge of his jaw, enjoying the slight sting and tug at the base of my skull when his fingers tighten in my hair.
Queenie: “I’ve been waiting for months to get back into your bedroom.”
I arch up and nibble his bottom lip.
Queenie: “Lock the Boy Scout in the closet and let yourself off your leash, King.” Ryan: “I see you, Queenie. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not worthy.” He throws his head back and laughs.
Corey: “Do you even know how to throw a punch?”
Ryan: “You looking to find out?”
Bishop: “Jesus, King, back the fuck down, unless you want to sit this game out. This jock-rot fuckstick isn’t worth the bench time.”
Bishop grabs me by the back of the neck and tries to loosen my grip on Corey’s jersey with the other hand.
Ryan: “He’s disrespecting Queenie.”
Bishop: “He disrespects his own mother every goddamn day just by existing. Still not worth damaging your hands over.” Bishop makes an adjustment in his underwear. They always have a ridiculous pattern on them. Tonight it’s a pineapple and olive dancing together. It’s hard not to look at them. Ryan: “You can push me away as much as you want, but it’s not going to stop me from wanting you. I love you because of all these perceived flaws you have, not in spite of them. I know you’ve been let down a lot, and I don’t plan to be one of those people in your life. Give us a chance to get through this together, Queenie. Let me catch you when you fall. Let me be your safe place to land.”
She covers my hand with hers and nuzzles her cheek into my palm.
Queenie: “I’m a mess right now. My life is a mess.”
Ryan: “You made a mistake, Queenie; it doesn’t make your entire life a mess. Is the situation messy? Most definitely, but you’re not at fault for that.”
I brush away more of her tears.
Queenie: “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, but I didn’t think I’d ever have to tell anyone. It’s embarrassing.”
Ryan: “I understand why you didn’t. At first I was hurt—”
Queenie: “Because I kept it from you.”
Ryan: “Because I thought you didn’t trust me enough to tell me. Everyone has secrets they keep from others, even from themselves. I know this is hard for you and that you’re very used to being let down by the people who are supposed to lift you up, but I want you to know that I’m not going anywhere, Queenie. I want all your dark secrets to be mine to keep. I want all your pieces, all the things that make you who you are. I don’t care if you think you’re bent or broken; let me love all of you.” Violet: “Social media is a cesspool of angry bunnies and jealous bitches. We’ve all been raked over the coals at some point, right, Stevie?”
Violet says from the back seat. Stevie glances in the rearview mirror.
Stevie: “Yuppers. My ex took a video of me and Bishop kissing—”
Violet: “Mouth fucking. Kissing sounds sweet, and you two were fucking each other’s mouths with your tongues and pretty much dry humping each other. In public.”
Stevie: “Would you like to tell the story?”
Violet: “Sure. My version is always more exciting anyway.” He spins around and holds out his arms.
Bishop: “What? No questions for me? Me and my wife aren’t exciting enough for you?”
Stevie: “We gotta get Queenie out of here. They’re sending one of the stylists to our house. We showed up early, and Bishop thought he was being funny posting about ball waxing. The media showed up because you two have your bromance going on.”
One of the reporters asks him if Stevie’s pregnant. Bishop jabs a finger in the reporter’s direction.
Bishop: “Yes. With sextuplets, because my army of sperm is the motherfucking bomb. We’re gonna start our own damn hockey team in one fell swoop.”
He raises his arms in the air like he’s preaching a sermon.
Stevie: “Oh, for fuck’s sake. My brother is going to shit a brick when this goes viral.” Rook: “What the hell are you two talking about?”
Rook reaches around Bishop and steals his deodorant out of his locker.
Bishop: “Hey! What the hell, man?”
Rook: “I ran out. I’m borrowing. You’re family.”
Bishop: “Uh, no, in-law is not the same as a blood relative. And even if you were my blood, I would not lend you my fucking deodorant.”
Bishop tries to snatch it back, but Rook’s on his feet and Bishop’s skates are only half-laced. He pops the cap off, and it hits Bishop in the chest. He grins as he lifts one arm high in the air and rubs the stick all over his armpit. Bishop makes a gagging sound, then smiles right back.
Bishop: “Reverse cowgirl.”
Rook frowns. I elbow Bishop in the side before he can repeat himself, aware that this conversation isn’t going anywhere good.
Ryan: “I have a brand-new one in my bag. Rook, you can keep that one.”
Rook’s eyebrows pop as he finally digests what Bishop’s said.
Rook: “You son of a bitch!”
He hurls the deodorant at Bishop, who ducks out of the way. It ricochets off the wall behind him and lands on the floor.
Bishop: “I’m fucking kidding, man, but you asked for it. Borrowing deodorant is like borrowing underwear or a toothbrush. The only person who gets to do that is the one whose tongue is routinely in my mouth, and that person happens to be your sister.”
Bishop is still grinning, aware he’s skating near the edge.
Rook: “Even that was more information than I needed.”
Bishop: “Well, maybe you’ll think twice before you go around borrowing deodorant.” Hanna: “It’s so nice to meet you. I’m going to apologize in advance for whatever happens this evening.”
She pulls me in for a hug and says quietly in my ear,
Hanna: “Just remember that you love Kingston, and it’s not his fault we’re his family.” He kisses me on the temple and whispers,
Ryan: “Please don’t break up with me because my family is insane.” Queenie: “Yes. It’s a yes. I’ll bring my chaos into your calm.”
I place a soft kiss on her lips.
Ryan: “There’s no place I’d rather be than the eye of your storm.”