Xander Richards, a winger for the Wisconsin Wendigos, has a reputation for never sleeping with the same person twice. Anyone can touch his body, but no one reaches his heart. The one person he’s ever fallen in love with, his best friend and former linemate, is happily married, traded away to Seattle at the end of last season. So Xander has his fun and then sends his partners on their way with a smile.

Jordan Darling, trainer and massage therapist, is doing his best to get over his ill-fated crush on Xander. It’s hard to do when he has to get his hands all over Xander professionally, and even harder when Xander asks him out. But despite their electrifying chemistry, Jordan knows that in the end, Xander can’t give him what he wants: a relationship.

Neither of them expected to actually become friends, but when shared interests have them spending more and more time together, the chemistry between them is inescapable. Falling into bed is inevitable. And for once, Xander keeps coming back for more.

But Jordan knows they’ve got an expiration date. Xander isn’t ever going to be able to give him what he needs.

Xander knows he has to let go, let Jordan go find someone he deserves. Someone who can give him what Xander can’t.

Even if it breaks his heart.

Soft Hands is a standalone romance with a HEA and no cliffhanger! Also includes a sneak peek at Three-Man Advantage, Book 2 in the Tripping series!


"Hey, you got room for me, Darling?" 

"On the other table," Jordan says shortly, pretending he hadn't nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of his name in that familiar, low voice. He's aware, all too aware, of Xander moving around in his peripheral vision, but he forces himself to keep his fingers steady, to do his fucking job. "Be with you in a minute."

Xander chuckles, the vinyl table cover creaking as he shifts his position. "Take your time, Darling."

Do your fucking job, Jordan repeats to himself, Narrowing his focus down to Hartsburg's leg, he forces himself to make sure every knot and trigger point is smoothed away. 


Finally, though, he can't stall any more. "I think that's as good as it gets, Harty," he finally has to say. "Better get back to it."

"Thanks, Jordy," Hartsburg says brightly, flexing the muscle a couple of times before sliding down from the table. "See ya, Richie."

With that reminder, Jordan can't pretend any longer that he doesn't know what's waiting for him. But when he turns, it's so much worse than he was expecting. Xander is sitting there, casually swinging his legs like he's a five-year-old boy instead of a six-foot-one CHL player who's taken his fucking shirt off.

"I forgot you were allergic to clothes," Jordan says, doing his best not to roll his eyes again. 

Xander shrugs, muscles rippling distractingly under his tattoos, stark black and gray against the pale gold of his skin. "Figured I'd save a step, unless you want to massage my shoulder through my t-shirt."

"How's your recovery been?" Jordan asks after a moment, since that seems like a safer topic than further comment on Xander's half-nakedness.

Another shrug. "Pretty good. Stuck to the PT schedule, got almost the full range of motion back. But it's a little tender. Figured I'd pop in here, avail myself of your magic hands before it gets any worse."

For the second time that day, Jordan finds himself thankful his skin is dark enough not to show the heat he feels in his cheeks. "Chest or back?"

Xander shifts his shoulders experimentally. "Huh. Both, but more back than chest." 

"Well, lets get the chest first, then you can lay down," Jordan says briskly, willfully suppressing the and stop looking at me that tries to slip out after it. 

And then there's nothing for it but to step in closer, to reach out. Xander's skin is warm under his hands, the muscle flexing, rising and falling with each breath. His pectorals are tight, and Jordan's fingers work on instinct, moving along the line of Xander's collarbone toward his deltoids, toward the faded scar that almost, from a distance, looks like part of his tattoos. 

It's the best-worst kind of torture. The part of Jordan's brain that is a trained professional is basically looking in disgust at the rest of him, which apparently never matured past a fifteen-year-old with a crush on the star quarterback. It's pretty disgusting, to be honest, how much he's having to tamp down an internal freakout over the fact that he's actually touching Xander. 

"Yeah, you're a little tight," Jordan says inanely, digging his thumbs into the knots and trying to keep his composure when Xander honest-to-god fucking moans at the touch.

"Fuck, how does that hurt so good?" Xander moans again, his head falling back and eyes sliding shut.

Jordan sneaks a look and immediately regrets all of his recent life choices. His stupid, traitorous imagination whispers that this is what Xander would look like during sex, completely abandoned and gorgeous and fuck Jordan's life, he cannot get a boner while he's working. 

"Lie down on your front so I can get your shoulder." Jordan does his best not to yank his hands back like he wants to, like self-preservation is telling him to. 

He's not sure how well he succeeds, but Xander obeys the order without question, settling flat onto the table in one fluid motion. His stupid, long arms dangle down off the sides, so Jordan has to pick up the one nearest to him and lay it back on the tabletop so he can work. Which he does, absolutely not resisting the urge to trace the intricate swirls of ink covering every inch of Xander's skin. Nope. Not even a little. And the Nile isn't a river in Egypt.

"Holy shit," he breathes when he gets his hands on Xander's shoulder, his stupid personal turmoil pushed aside for the moment because, all evidence to the contrary, he is actually a goddamn professional. "A little tender, huh?"

"It's no big," Xander mumbles, his voice muffled against the table. "Nothing compared to before."

Rolling his eyes feels even more juvenile, but Xander seems to bring it out in him. "Compared to a torn fucking rotator cuff? Yeah, but that doesn't mean it's minor. You can't push too hard, or you're going to fuck up your shoulder before the season even starts."

He's expecting an argument, or at least some kind of pushback, but Xander just nods. "Yeah, I know. It snuck up on me. I'll be more careful tomorrow."

"Well—good," Jordan says inanely, digging his fingers in a little harder as the surface knots start to loosen. 

He can't think of anything else to say, and apparently neither can Xander, so he works in silence for a few minutes more. The lack of distraction is both a blessing and a curse, just like everything else with Xander. It gives Jordan time to notice little details that he usually tries to ignore. Xander's lashes, thick and dark and so long they brush his cheekbones when his eyes are closed. His hair, curling just slightly at the nape of his neck, glints of red and gold in the sandy brown. His shoulders, broadly muscled and tapering down to a narrow waist. 

It's tempting to linger, but Jordan is all too aware that any of the other players or coaching staff could walk in at any time. The last thing he needs is Marian asking more probing questions. He can justify working on Xander's other shoulder and his lower back, because the tension has spread, but eventually he has to lift his hands and say "I think that'll do it."

Xander's eyes flutter open and he slowly pushes himself up to a sitting position. "Holy shit, man," he says, rotating his shoulder. "Seriously, magic fucking hands."

Jordan forces his hand down from where it was rubbing at the back of his neck. "Just doing my job."

"Hey." Xander reaches for his shirt but doesn't put it back on immediately. "Are you doing anything Friday?"

"Just camp," Jordan says, a little confused. 

Xander shakes his head, the corners of his lips curling up. "I meant after. Can I maybe buy you a drink? Dinner?"

It takes Jordan a minute to realize what's happening, because it's so unprecedented. But when he does, it hits him like a ton of bricks. Xander is asking him out. Xander Richards is asking him out. What the actual fuck.

His stupid, stupid mouth is opening to say yes when his common sense takes over. Because yes, Xander is asking him out. Xander "One-Night Stand" Richards. Jordan's only been with the Wendigos for a couple of years, but it didn't take even a fraction of that time for him to realize that Xander isn't exactly a commitment kind of guy. All of his partners seem perfectly satisfied with the state of affairs, but Jordan hasn't seen any of them twice. 

And that—that's not him. As much as part of him is screaming to take what he can get, Jordan is pretty sure even Xander's dick isn't worth the aftermath. Seeing him every day, knowing what it's like to fuck him, to get almost, almost enough—  

"No thanks," he says, forcing the words out through a throat that keeps trying to close on them.



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