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Instacrush (ebook)

Instacrush (ebook)

Rookie Rebels

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Her hot hockey player neighbor is the most annoying man on the planet ... and she does not have a crush on him (okay, it's tiny, minuscule, not even worth talking about). But one sexy Santa visit, a plate of chicken parm, and a pair of dino-briefs later - don't ask - and they're celebrating the holidays horizontally. And that mistake leads to another: the pregnant kind.

Also available with the original classic cover, a Kate Meader Store exclusive.


  • Surprise pregnancy
  • Grumpy-sunshine
  • Cinnamon roll hero
  • Hockey romance
  • Band of brothers
  • One night stand


Theo Kershaw is the luckiest guy alive.

Roaring back from a life-threatening injury, he has the world at his skates as defenseman for his new team, the Chicago Rebels. Everyone adores his big personality, his on-ice talent, and his killer smile. Everyone but his prickly neighbor—or so he thinks. One chilly Christmas Eve, Theo will learn that maybe the girl next door isn’t such a hater after all …

Elle Butler is the most embarrassing person on the planet.

How else can the ex-military-now-bartender explain her crush on the hot jock who lives across the hall? True, he has gorgeous green eyes and perfect cheekbones, but the filter between his brain and too-sexy mouth is permanently malfunctioning. Yet she can’t stop checking out his Instagram antics or sneaking looks at him when he’s in her bar. Absolutely mortifying. Running from a past filled with damning secrets, Elle’s determined that this guilty pleasure remains buried in her deepest fantasies.

Because she couldn’t possibly indulge with the Theo Kershaw. Or make a mistake that draws attention to her under-the-radar life. And she especially couldn’t be a mom to a pro-athlete’s baby … could she?

Chapter One Look Inside

@TheTheoKershaw Are you ready for the holidays? Check out my recs for the hockey lover in your life #TheoDoesChristmas #WrapItUp  #HoHoHockey 

Elle Butler had a morning routine. Coffee, strong, a dab of creamer, half a Splenda. A slice of cinnamon toast (no raisins because ugh). Sleeping in until 8 a.m., a luxury after her stint in the military, but necessary given she usually closed out the Empty Net bar, her current place of employment.

Little things, no harm to anyone, and hardly likely to throw the universe’s balance out of whack. Elle was big on balance. For four years in the Army she’d added entries to the credit side of the ledger. She’d supported her team. Saved the lives of her guys in the field. Served her country with honor. 

All so she could atone for a previous lifetime of entries on the debit side.

It was a never-ending task, though. Balance had yet to be restored and on occasion, she slipped, such as this morning. 

Fine, most mornings. 

Anyone who spied her gazing at her phone, complete with a (usually) shirtless man reporting on his morning routine through the magic of Instagram Live video, would be rightly confused. Because Elle Butler was not a hockey fan. She barely knew how the game was played despite working in a sports bar within spitting distance of the Rebels Center, home of the local franchise. Even crashing at the apartment of a player for the team—Levi Hunt, Army buddy, former Special Forces, and now the Chicago Rebels latest rookie—hadn’t provided any special insight other than that they ate, slept, and banged a lot. Like sharks.

She did not like the sport and she most certainly did not like Theo Kershaw, defenseman for the Rebels. But she liked looking at him. He and his “Imma-doing-laundry-shirtless” videos were her guilty pleasure.

And she would die before she admitted it aloud.

This morning was no different. Coffee in hand, toast mid-chew, Elle tapped the icon for Instagram (user name: PuckLover21, the height of sneaky irony) just as Kershaw began to broadcast. He didn’t always archive the videos to his regular feed so it was best to catch him live before he headed off to practice.

“Morning, hockey fans! It’s another fabulous day in Chicagoland!”

Grrr. He was already irritating her. Why must everything out of his mouth be punctuated with exclamation points? The guy was so extra which was probably why people adored him. As for Elle? She was here for the pretty.

Black, wavy hair that had clearly undergone some sort of finger-rake attack topped his ridiculously handsome head. His full, sensual lips were perfect for mouthing ludicrous opinions that had invariably bypassed his brain filter. Those cheekbones must have been carved by malevolent angels determined to make every man suffer by comparison, then stumble through the rest of their miserable lives when they realize perfection is unattainable. 

But the kicker was the eyes. She’d read somewhere that less than 2% of the world’s population had green eyes. Theo’s were emerald chips raised to unstinting magnetism by flecks of gold, which was probably even more rare. (Because, Theo.) 

Barely ten seconds into the video, and Theo seemed to realize that, as awesome as his cheekbones and hair and eyes were, the effect was magnified ten-fold when he repositioned the camera to take in his broad shoulders and defined pecs. A flurry of emojis flooded the screen. He laughed, knowing exactly how that maneuver would be received.

Elle wasn’t laughing. Her mouth had turned as dry as butterless toast. To think she’d met him in person, had served him drinks in her bar, was less than thirty feet away from him right now—and she didn’t mean the metaphorical distance between his on-screen presence and her hormonal one. 

Because Theo Kershaw, defenseman for the Chicago Rebels, teammate to her roommate, known as Superglutes because of his most excellent posterior, was also her neighbor. As in across-the-hall-hey-how-are-ya neighbor.

He was over there now, making this damn video and she was watching the show like a creeper.

Clearly satisfied with the effect his muscles had on his fan base, he brought his camera back in close. “So, we’re two days out to Christmas, friends, and I don’t have a game until two days after which means I have time to … wrap presents!” He flipped the lens to take in his living room, cluttered with wrapping paper, scotch tape, and assorted boxes. Something twanged in Elle’s chest. There would be no presents under her tree this year. Estrangement from one’s family tended to put a damper on the gift exchanges. But she’d made her decision, choosing her conscience over her blood. Now wasn’t the time for regrets.

Back facing the camera, Theo smiled. Elle swore she heard the thud of thousands of dropped phones the world over. “Anyone want to guess what I’m buying for my gran?”

The predictions came in hard and fast, ranging from a cashmere sweater to scented lotions to inappropriate items that no guy should be buying for an elderly female relative.

Theo’s dark eyebrows (probably professionally shaped) lowered as he read some of the messages, then raised as he likely came across the more risqué ones. 

“Hold up there, I don’t know what kind of relationship you have with your grandmother, but we’re not that kind of family!” He chuckled, the sound deep and going straight to her core. She had to give it to him: he knew exactly how to connect with a million plus people and their genitals.

“Well, I can’t tell you what it is because she’s probably watching right now. Hi, Aurora!” He waved. “She’s always been my biggest fan and I can’t wait to see her in a couple of days. But keep those guesses coming and I’ll pick a winner for a signed Rebels jersey. So, let me see, JennyLuvsARebel is asking …” His perfect brows knit together while he read Jenny’s question. 

How do you get your skin to glow like that? Great question! Well, I’ve been using Neutrogena Hydro Boost to cleanse every night and morning. It’s really lightweight and creamy and doesn’t leave my skin feeling tight. And it’s incredibly affordable. Thanks for asking, Jenny. I’m going to send you a Neutrogena care package, so get ready for skin that lights up the room! Okay, I’d better get back to it as I have a few more gifts to wrap up. What’s that? I should wrap myself up?” 

He held the phone camera back to take in his entire torso. 

Elle’s tongue turned to rubber. #StopDontStop.

“You want me to cover this up? Maybe we should take a vote on it.”

A cascade of comments insisting that Theo remain shirtless flurried like gravity-challenged snowflakes across the screen. 


Don’t do it, T.

That bitch is crazeeee!

“Didn’t think so,” Theo said with a cheeky wink, and then it was over and out, and Elle’s world was a little less bright. 

Such nonsense! How ridiculous that she would allow a himbo hunk to be the highlight of her day, all the more so because she’d met him in person and knew he wasn’t worthy of this strange infatuation. He was just another brainless jock who thought he was all that.

Two months ago, she’d shown up on Levi Hunt’s doorstep, acting like an unannounced visit to an old Army unit-mate was perfectly normal. As if her request to stay in his spare room for a couple of days that had stretched to eight weeks was completely by the book. Hunt had known that she was running from something, but he hadn’t pressed. Instead he’d welcomed her with open arms, their connection strong enough for him to treat Elle’s situation as need-to-know.

That night, she’d walked in on a Rebels bonding exercise: video games, beers, and pizza with Hunt presiding in that quiet, stoic way of his. Already flustered because she was trying so hard to act like a normal, she’d not been prepared to meet him.

“I’m Theo, one of Levi’s teammates.” 

Those green-gold eyes had bathed her with an intensity she would later learn he usually reserved for the ice. Words refused to climb her throat. All she could do was nod in response, feeling like the biggest dummy for being tongue-tied by beauty.

Hunt had made introductions and said something about Theo being a D-man. She didn’t know what that was, but it sounded faintly absurd and on the right side of dirty. She angled for the upper hand with a playful retort that came out much sharper than intended. 

“D-man? What the hell is that?”

“Stands for defense,” Theo had said. “And other things.” His perfect lips stretched wide into a grin, revealing straight, white teeth and a mouthful of privilege. 

She’d met guys like him in her various walks through life—cocky grunts who thought the only female in the unit would automatically put out. Arrogant Wall Street types who assumed their waitress would gladly serve more than fifty-dollar prime rib to earn that 20% tip. Pro athletes were just another genus of the same species. 

D stands for defense … and other things? Sure.

She settled on dismissal. “Way to sell it, Dick-Man.”

He didn’t take offense, which she soon learned was his standard response when poked. It had set the tone between them. 

Ever since, she’d gone out of her way to ignore him (in person). Might even have overcompensated by being rude. Self-preservation was key. Better to enjoy Theo Kershaw from afar, in the privacy of her—or Hunt’s—kitchen. He would never know that she got a kick out of the doofus’s muscles, sparkling green eyes, or knock-em-dead smile. 

He would never know what she truly thought of him at all.

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