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Rebel Yule (ebook classic cover)

Rebel Yule (ebook classic cover)

Rookie Rebels

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A holiday entry in the Rookie Rebels series, featuring a player who’s been here from the start . . .

Original classic cover version. Also available with an illustrated cover.


  • Enemies to lovers
  • Love at the holidays
  • Hero obsessed with Christmas
  • Hockey romance
  • Band of brothers
  • Food as a love language


A holiday entry in the Rookie Rebels series, featuring a player who’s been here from the start . . .

Chicago Rebels goalie Erik gets his shot at love . . . but first he'll have to figure out what he did to offend the woman he's crushed on forever.

Casey Higgins, assistant to the Chicago Rebels owner, has a smile for everyone who comes into the front office—everyone but goalie Erik Jorgenson. And he has no idea why. For the last year, she’s refused to give him a kind word, and finally, he’s had enough. At the Rebels holiday party he’ll uncover the root of their mysterious conflict and show this woman that goalkeepers do their best work . . . on their knees.

Can a little Yuletide cheer get Erik into Casey’s good graces, warm bed, and frozen heart? Or will he fumble the puck and lose his chance? Join the Chicago Rebels this holiday season and find out if Erik is as good at saving Christmas as he is at saving goals!

Chapter One Look Inside

Erik Jorgenson had fallen ass over skates for a woman twice in his life.

The first time … well, the less said about that the better. He had screwed up and it haunted him to this day.

The second time was different. At least when it happened before, he suspected the object of his affection felt some smattering of affection toward him. This time, he was certain that the woman sitting behind the desk outside the office of Chicago Rebels CEO Harper Chase hated his guts.

What he didn’t know was why.

Casey Higgins, assistant to Harper, didn’t seem like the kind of woman who would hold a grudge. If anything, she got along perfectly fine with everyone, doling out cheery greetings and wide smiles like candy. Sugar sweet, bad-for-your-diet candy, or in this case bad for Erik’s ego because none were for him. Her smile was the first thing he’d noticed when he came into the office for an appointment with Harper a year ago.

Erik had been struck.

Not because she had gorgeous legs that tapered to perfect ankles and sexy heels.

Not because she had lush waves of dark hair—really big fucking hair, if he was being honest—that he now regularly imagined gripping in his fingers.

Not even because she had eyes the color of a Swedish summer sky that lit up the room and made his pulse go boom-boom-boom like it was headed to the blue zone.

All those things were amazing, but it was the smile that clobbered him like a puck to the balls.

Back when he met her that first time, Devin in Accounting had been showing her the photocopier. She’d pressed a button, maybe the wrong button? Whatever happened, it was considered funny by the people who considered such things funny, and she smiled. A big, sunshine, all-are-welcome-here grin that made Erik think: that woman is worth knowing. 

She had turned then, the smile still on her lips, and locked eyes with Erik who was standing there like an idiot waiting to be noticed. Her grin stumbled slightly, crumbled around the edges. That was okay. People were sometimes nervous around the players, not that he was a superstar or anything. He had been on the team for the last seven years, as first goaltender for five, and rarely earned the mob-like attention showered on his teammates. But people were often apprehensive at meeting pro-athletes.

“Hi,” he had said. Very profound. “I’m Erik. Pleasure to meet you.” He had extended his hand and she had looked at it like it was a gun or a bomb.

There was an awkward pause that stretched to downright uncomfortable. Accounting Guy Devin had to jump in, that’s how weird it was.

“This is Casey Higgins. She’s Harper’s new PA,” he said. “Started yesterday but she’s already broken the photocopier.” He laughed, confirming ha-ha-not-really-broken-just-funny and Erik assumed it was amusing, or had been about sixty seconds ago.

Not anymore.

Casey’s smile had vanished, her sun ducking behind a raincloud. Not a natural fade away, this was abrupt. She met Erik’s gaze and hello, total eclipse, all the light and heat drained from the room because of him.

Erik hated that. Hated that anyone would lose their joy just by looking at him.

At first he’d assumed she’d seen something behind him. On the wall was a picture of the Chicago Rebels holding the Stanley Cup, the year they won. Five years, now. That couldn’t possibly be the reason for the veil of doom that had descended on the office. 

(Though it was very sad that the team hadn’t been in the running since.)

“Everything okay, Casey?”

She blinked, bringing herself back from someplace else, a location that wasn’t all that pleasant to visit. Now she was here in this place with Erik, and judging by her expression the view had not improved.

“Fine, thank you.” Very prim and proper. Super sexy but for the I hate your guts vibe threaded through it. “Mr. Jorgenson, you’re on Ms. Chase’s schedule but you’re five minutes early.”

Mr. Jorgenson? “I’m never late. It’s a bad habit.”

“Please take a seat. I’ll see if Ms. Chase is available.”

So he had, and Harper was, and when he came out of the office, Casey was nowhere to be seen.

Since that day, he had run into her several times and no matter how much he tried, the chill remained.

Any plans for the weekend, Casey? 

Just relaxing.

Did you catch the game last night, Casey?

I did. You all played very well.

Want to let me take you over that desk, Casey?

Maybe another time.

So that last one was in his imagination. Polite professionalism was her superpower with an undercurrent of wouldn’t-piss-on-you-if-you-were-on-fire. He might harbor a harmless, abstract fantasy or two about her hullaballoo hair, sexy heels, and—he quickly learned—excellent rack, but she had obviously made up her mind definitively about him.

Brainless jock, perhaps, or weird foreigner. For someone who worked at a professional sports organization, she really ought to be nicer to the assets.

He had tried testing the limits, seeing if he could push her to reveal how they had come to this impasse. He’d complimented her blouse, mentioned the unseasonably warm temperatures for February/October/December, lamented the banality of plane travel. Nothing cracked her shell.

Once he’d asked if she would help him pick out some clothes.

I’m PA to the CEO, Mr. Jorgenson, not your personal assistant.

Worth a shot, he’d thought. 

Then a couple of nights ago, something weird happened, or weirder than usual. Today, he planned to get to the bottom of her dislike of him.

He had arrived ten minutes early for his usual monthly check-in with Harper. He could tell this really bothered Casey.

Ms. Chase is with another appointment. Perhaps you should come back in a few minutes.

Oh, I don’t mind waiting.

That was what he was doing. Biding his time, sitting across from her, waiting for her to finish her phone conversation. Three weeks before Christmas, and the office was festively dressed with tinsel, sprigs of holly, and Balsam garlands, real ones that scented the office. On Casey’s desk sat a Dwight Schrute bobblehead figure with what looked like—was that a Belsnickel hat? It was a tiny fur cap with little bells and leaves sewn onto it. Erik loved The Office, and Dwight as Belsnickel was a favorite. 

Alongside the Dwight figure was a small poinsettia, its pot covered with a shiny red wrapper. Had she brought that in herself or had someone given it to her? A boyfriend, perhaps?

Jealousy dug sharp fangs into his chest, which made no sense. She wasn’t interested and no matter how much he tried to make nice, it came off as unwelcome. Yet he felt in his bones that he was missing some piece of a tricky puzzle. That in another lifetime, they could mean something to each other.

Which was ludicrous.

She placed the phone down and turned back to her computer, but not before she flicked a glance his direction, one that managed to convey death and disdain.

Here we go. “Did you have fun at the Empty Net the other night?”

She raised her gaze, wrinkled her nose. Ultra cute. “Were you speaking to me?”

“Don’t see anyone else here.”

Lip curl of disgust. He wasn’t usually a smart-ass but this woman made him want to rattle her cage.

“I had a good time.”

“Really? You left pretty quickly. Theo was worried he might have offended you.”

Another sharp look. Two nights ago, he and Rebels defenseman Theo Kershaw had walked into their local bar, the Empty Net, and spotted Mia Wallace, sister of their captain with a few of her pals. One of them was Tara who used to date Cal Foreman (before Mia slid into her place, kind of complicated), the other was Kennedy who was currently rooming with Reid Durand and looking after his dog (and man, that defined complicated). 

Casey was also there, but not for long.

The moment Erik and Theo showed their faces, she stood and announced her departure before hightailing her hot ass out of there like her yoga pants were on fire.

Yeah, he’d noticed. (The quick departure and the sweet ass.)

“I had to get home,” she said quietly. “I’d been out for a while and my … cat needed to be fed.”

As stories went, that was kind of weak. “So I can tell Theo it wasn’t personal.”

“I’ve no problem with Theo.”

“Just me, then.”

She skewered him with those clear blue eyes, now frozen in contempt. “I don’t have a problem with anyone.”

“Yet you’re happy to gift smiles to everyone but me.”

“I don’t owe you any of my joy.”

He flinched at her words, delivered with such arrowed precision.

“You’re right, you don’t. I apologize.”

Surprise graced her pretty features before the mask of professionalism resumed. “No apology necessary.”

He stood and approached the desk. Where he was sitting was too distant for the intimate conversation this situation needed.

He touched the cap on the Dwight bobblehead. “Did you make this?”

A blush suffused her cheeks. “Yes, it’s just a joke. Well, for my own amusement.”

She didn’t look amused. She looked uncomfortable. “You must really like the show.” He’d been a fan himself ever since the night he … best not to dwell on that. On the heartache of his own making.

Casey moved the Dwight bobblehead a half-inch to the right and went back to her computer screen.

“Casey, you started working here about a year ago, I believe.”

“Hmm, hmm.” Tip-tap on her keyboard, no eye contact, wave lines of derision.

“And I’ve come in here for several appointments and each time, you’ve been sort of … cool toward me. Unusually so.”

She peered up at him through the veil of her dark lashes. Some odd range of emotion cycled through, sadness to anger to the smooth expression firmly back in place. It took all of one point five seconds.

“I’m sorry if you think I’ve been unprofessional.”

“No, you’ve been very professional. But I get the impression—more than an impression—that I’ve done something to offend you. I wish I knew what it was.”

Her lips twitched. She clearly had something to say, an explanation that would blow this tension between them wide open. Five seconds passed. Ten. Fifteen. 

“You’ve done nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

A shiver corkscrewed down his spine, like the premonition he sometimes got before a game when the pipes were as wide as a football field and he was as small as a gnat trying to fight off the puck.

Why did he feel like absolutely nothing meant exactly that? He was supposed to have done something, and his not doing it had screwed things up.


The door to Harper’s office opened and the boss’s ten o’clock walked out.

“Ms. Chase is ready to see you now,” Casey said.

She turned back to her computer, dismissing him with more than words.

* * *

Casey Higgins was living the dream.

A job she loved, working for a great boss and an organization that treated its employees as well as the pro-athletes they served.

A cute apartment with a reasonable rent and a landlord who fixed things when she needed (and didn’t leer at her like the last one did).

A grumpy kitty-cat she adored, and while he didn’t adore her back, she knew—just knew—he felt about as much affection as his species would allow.

She was an independent woman, who had thrown off the shackles of servitude to—scratch that.

She was doing just fine on her own, thankyouverymuch. And if sometimes she clutched her cat a little too closely or drank that third glass of wine while binge-watching Bridgerton for the fifth time or got a touch misty-eyed when her boss’s husband sent her flowers just because—well, that was normal, wasn’t it? Merely a smidge of melancholy because everyone longed for someone to lean on.

Then she would snap right out of it and affirm the mantra she’d been using to boost herself for the last year. 

You don’t need a special someone to feel special. You don’t need anyone at all.

Except sometimes the positive talk lowered in volume around the holidays.

Sometimes it diminished to barely a whisper at a holiday party, or just prior to one. When you had to get ready, look yourself in the mirror, and assure your lazy-ass brain that once you arrived at said party, you’d have a rollicking good time.

“Casey, why are you still here?” Harper Chase, the Chicago Rebels CEO and amazing boss lady, click-clacked out of her office and stopped at Casey’s desk. “Everyone’s leaving early to get their glad rags on for the party.”

Casey checked the time on her computer screen. Only 4:10pm. “I brought my dress and was going to change here. I just have a few things to finish up.”

Harper frowned, activating a divot between her eyebrows. More of a dimple, really. Anyone else seeing that expression might be concerned that the petite blonde with the ball-busting attitude was about to go off on them. But Casey had worked in the Rebels’ front office for just over a year and she knew Harper’s moods and tics. This was concerned Mama Bear.

“You work too hard. I try to be a good boss and shoo you out of here early on Fridays, but does it do any good?”

“It’s just a couple of things. I was working on the stats report for the trade discussion meeting on the day we return.” Casey enjoyed compiling reports and Harper loved reading them: they were both analysts to the bone. Harper sometimes even asked her opinion. “And Holly in PR called about setting up a meeting with Dex O’Malley.”

Harper sighed. “I hate being such a killjoy before the holidays but that boy needs to be taken in hand.”

Dex was a newly-acquired forward who, since arriving from Nashville a month ago, had jumped into Chicago nightlife with the enthusiasm of a child in a Chuck E. Cheese ball pit. 

An E. coli-infected one. 

Often photographed in the company of multiple models (usually at the same time) he hadn’t done anything outrageous or damaging to the org yet. But Harper wanted to nip it in the bud before his life—and the team—became fodder for the gossip rags.

“Like I don’t have enough on my plate with Durand losing his shit the other night.” Reid Durand had knocked out his brother Bastian, a player on the Hawks during the crosstown classic game a few days ago. Durand Jr. was okay but it resulted in an ejection and a one-game suspension for Reid, just when he had started to play to his full potential at center.

“I think he might have some things on his mind.”

“Yeah, I heard. The dog nanny drama.” Harper shook her head. “Maybe Remy could chat with him tonight. He’s good at the heart-to-heart business. Takes his elder statesman role very seriously.”

“Dex, too?”

“Hale can talk to him. It’s his job after all.” Hale Fitzpatrick, the new general manager, would be officially starting January 1. “I love these boys but sometimes the mothering aspect can be a bit much.”

“Yet you do it so well.” Casey grinned. “Speaking of, you should scoot because I’m sure you have stuff to manage for the party.”

“That’s why having a kept man is so useful. Remy’s on site and if anyone knows how to throw a party, it’s him. But I do need to make sure the girls haven’t dirtied their dresses. Knowing my pushover husband, he gave in and let them get gussied up hours ago.” She smiled, seemed to hesitate, then ventured, “Bringing a date tonight?”

“To the party? Oh, God, no!” The notion shouldn’t be ridiculous. Casey was twenty-nine years old, reasonably well-adjusted, and not completely hideous. There was no good reason why she shouldn’t be dating except for the obvious.

Her prick of an ex had left her hollowed out.

“If you ever want me to help set you up …” Harper let that hang before adding the kicker, “I’m pretty good at matchmaking.”

“Funny because Dante insists you’re terrible at it.” Dante Moretti was the former general manager, now married to Cade Burnett, a Rebels D-man. “Said that he’d barely been here a month and you were trying to set him up with people who would never work.”

“While he was seeing one of my players under the radar. Sometimes we only know what the heart wants when faced with what it most certainly does not. That ingrate still refuses to admit how much I helped!” She checked her watch, set in a gorgeous bracelet given to her by Remy. “Okay, I’d better head out. People will be arriving at six but stop by early so we can have a cocktail before it gets crazy.”

That was so sweet of her to include Casey. “Will do.” 

Harper swished out, leaving the scent of jasmine in her wake and Casey alone in the empty suite. With only two days to Christmas, everyone else had left early, taking advantage of the boss’s generosity to run errands and buy gifts and prepare for the party.

Casey’s parents would be on a Caribbean cruise over the holiday, something they did every year since they retired to Florida. (Because they didn’t get enough sun all year round.) They had invited Casey but she usually felt like a third wheel around them, so she’d declined. She would take a couple of days in January and visit them then.

Which meant she would be alone again this Christmas. Naturally.

Agh! Don’t be such a Debbie Downer.

Dream job, great apartment, grumpy cat. 

An hour and sixteen minutes later, her tasks completed, she headed to the restroom to get ready. She wouldn’t usually spend so extravagantly but this dress had called to her from the rack at Macy’s. A dusty rose, it hugged her hips and accentuated every curve. The neckline dipped a little more than she was used to, but hey, she had cleavage she never showed at work. Or ever. Time to give the girls some air.

The privilege of showcasing abundant cleavage had cost two weeks’ salary but she had wanted to treat herself. With her dark, usually unmanageable curly hair up off her neck, she looked unusually glamorous, almost good enough to be on the arm of an associate at Willebrand, Nagle, and Jones LLP.

But not quite. Andrew had worried that their relationship—an up and coming law associate and the woman who worked as paralegal to one of the senior partners—wouldn’t have quite enough cachet to push him to the top. Casey had supported him, emotionally and financially through law school, talked him up to Mr. Willebrand when Andrew came in to interview, and remained resolutely two steps behind so it was clear who was boss in the relationship at the office. 

What a dummy she had been.

She had one reason to be grateful. Andrew had encouraged her to seek alternative employment because he thought both of them working at the same law firm “might not look so good.” So she had left a job she enjoyed and taken the position of Harper’s assistant, only to find out a few weeks later that Andrew had been preparing to cut her out of his life in all areas. He’d wanted to ensure no “awkwardness” at work before he brought down the hammer of splitsville just over a year ago.

Eight years together, off and on, and now she was alone—and trying to convince herself she wasn’t lonely.

She had done a good job of blocking out the negative. So she might have checked Andrew’s social media every now and then. They were still friends on BookFace (shout out to Jim Halpert in The Office!), all part of her efforts to maintain a mature attitude to their uncoupling. Sure, we’re all adults here, she’d said over a year ago when he told her their relationship had run its course. Like this was a natural and logical end. Like she hadn’t poured everything she had into it only to be told she no longer fit with his plans for Chicago legal community domination.

Last night had been the law firm holiday party, and one of her old colleagues had shot her a text saying she missed seeing her there. All day, she had sat on her hands, avoiding the temptation to check out pictures from the gathering. It would be the usual glad-handing, photos of dear old Mr. Willebrand looking a little squirrel-eyed after one too many White Russians, and Andrew with first year associate Melanie. Fresh out of law school, fresh on the ladder. Just fresh.

Casey didn’t need the reminder of how she had been so easily discarded and replaced.

She smoothed her lip gloss, and if her finger shook while she did it, she ignored it. Tonight she would have a nice time at the holiday party and enjoy the eve of a few days off.

A final check in the mirror and she was ready to go. She stepped out of the bathroom and ran right into the one person she did not want to see.

Erik Jorgenson.

Worse, Erik Jorgenson in a hot-damn suit.

All the guys looked great on travel days, but there was something about the way the Rebels goalie looked in Hugo Boss that got her engine running.



Right now, he stood tall and oak-solid in front of the elevator bank, defending it like it was the Rebels’ goal, scrolling through his phone. He had yet to see her. Maybe if she backed up a step, she could hide in the restroom until—


Damn! Why did her pulse give that traitorous little whoop of recognition when he said her name? At this point her mind and body should be on the same page. Lord knew she had discussed her problems enough with only her hormones and her cat to hear her.

“Oh, hi.” She took a step forward, trying gamely not to let any of her senses absorb the vision that was Erik. The blond hair, freshly washed and kissing his broad suited shoulders. The trim beard that shaped his jaw like a layer of angel dust. Those sumptuously blue eyes now staring at her with terrifying intent.

Her senses were having a hard time ignoring the obvious: Erik Jorgenson was a stone-cold hottie. But her brain had yet to raise the white flag. “What are you doing here?”

“I came to take you to the party.”

“What? I didn’t ask you to do that.” Had some part of her subconscious reached out and wished him here?

“Harper told me you needed a ride. I was over at the gym, so I figured I’d stop in and see if you were still here.”

Dante was right. The woman sucked at matchmaking.

I get the impression I’ve done something to offend you. I wish I knew what it was.

Huh, I bet you do. Try taking another puck to the head, Mr. Goalkeeper, and see if that jogs your memory.

Erik Jorgenson would be the last man on earth she would choose to voluntarily spend a moment with. 

That wasn’t always the case. There was a time she would’ve been thrilled to have this man pick her up from work for a date. Open a door for her, pull out a chair, smile over candlelight.

But he had finished with her before they had a chance to even start.

And the worst of it was that she was left with the crushed dreams … while he didn’t remember a single thing.

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