"I highly recommend if you're a fan of hockey romance, HEAs, and wonderful writing with characters you won't forget!" - Chrystal's reviews
It was supposed to be only one night. But one night can change your life forever. And even the most magical nights have consequences.
According to others I live a fairy-tale life.
But what appears picture perfect on the outside can crumble on the inside. And holding up appearances is the number one rule for anyone carrying the Ravelli name.
But what if one reckless night changes everything?
Sent to Boston to manage the Ice Tigers' franchise, can I break free from my overbearing grandfather?
I was betrayed and deceived. Now all I want is to win the Cup.
But what if the new team owner turns my world upside down?
Can Emilia convince me there's more to this world than stickhandling?
Two lost souls.
A secret that changes their lives forever.
An unexpected love story.
Center of Gravity is the first book in the spirited Ice Tigers Hockey sports romance series but can be read standalone. If you like second chance romances, swoon-worthy characters, and triumphs over life challenges, then you'll adore Isabella Cassazza's story of unexpected connection.
Buy Center of Gravity to dig your blades into ice-cold tension today!
Release date: February 25, 2020
Print pages: 332
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Center of Gravity: A Second Chance Sports Romance
“Emilia, how nice of you to grace us with your presence.” My grandfather’s voice is thick with sarcasm as I stumble into the conference room, practically tripping over Gianluca’s laptop case.
Damn, why does he have to put that thing behind him and not next to his chair like everyone else does? Or at least how I always do it.
Dodging one obstacle, I nearly tumble over a cable next, and heat spreads across my cheeks. My entire body is sweating, despite the air conditioner blowing ice-cold air in the room.
God, how I hate being on display like this.
I brush past the other managers, cursing inwardly when some of them deem it unnecessary to move their chairs toward the table and instead lean even farther back.
If I didn’t already know most of them despise me, their smug faces and behavior couldn’t be clearer.
The sales meeting began fifty minutes ago.
It’s the second time this week, but what was I to do this morning? Throw up all over the conference table when nausea hit me like a punch in the gut each time I tried to get up?
My grandfather waits until I’m seated in one of the uncomfortable chairs at the end of the long marble table before dishing out the next blow. “We’ve been waiting for the sales figures of the evening gowns.” He raises an eyebrow, staring me right in the eyes.
Shit. I’m not prepared.
I wanted to create a presentation yesterday and brainstorm some new ideas to increase sales, but I fell asleep in front of my laptop halfway through. I can’t show them my feeble attempts of a presentation without making another spectacle of myself.
No matter how much I sleep these days, it never seems to be enough. I’m tired all the time.
“Yeah….” Double shit, what am I supposed to say? Sales dropped again, despite our new ad campaign featuring a world-renowned supermodel. Two Italian actresses rejected our gowns, because they were “too old-fashioned.”
While it’s true our designs aren’t crazy inventive, their classic chicness sets us apart from other haute couture labels. Not that it matters. I was supposed to increase sales of our evening gowns, and I failed. Again.
“Yeah? Is that all you have to say? Don’t waste our time, Emilia.” He stares me down with his cold silver eyes, and my shoulders slump.
“Sales dropped again, but I have some ideas. Maybe I could work in the men’s department?” I shift in the designer chair.
Why do they have to be so hard and uncomfortable? It’s impossible to find a seated position that doesn’t make my back hurt after ten minutes in this thing. Design is not everything. Where’s the comfort?
“We have no more money to waste for your… ideas. Gianluca will take over.” He turns his head to the other end of the table, where said Gianluca is grinning like an idiot.
Of course he will. Another grand opportunity for him to save the day. He’s my grandfather’s favorite employee, after all. The grandson he never had. Right now, I’d like to punch the cocky look off his face.
To think, I once had a crush on him. Not even his sculpted cheekbones and come-to-bed, dark-brown eyes with the longest lashes I’ve ever seen on any human being can compensate for his puffed-up ego.
My grandfather turns back to me. “We’ve already discussed a new strategy, but you won’t be involved anymore. However, since you’re still a Ravelli—” At the other end of the table, Gianluca coughs audibly. Asshole. He used me and my last name to get closer to my grandfather, and he succeeded, didn’t he? “—I’ll give you one last chance. Another failure is unacceptable.”
I turn away from his gaze when my throat constricts. His words shouldn’t hurt me anymore, but they do. Countless times, he’s told me I’m not good enough to work for the Ravelli Group.
He’s right in some ways.
I haven’t been a reliable employee so far. Since finishing my master’s degree in business, I’ve been living in the day with no aim or structure, hopping from department to department with no real interest in high fashion. Barely making some deadlines, I’ve relied heavily on other people to do my work and theirs. The other employees and managers learned not to count on me when it matters most. If I could just start from scratch and begin anew….
I’ve always known working for my family’s company wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life, but it’s way harder than I could have ever imagined.
High fashion isn’t my thing. I’m one of those women who would rather wear jeans, a T-shirt, and sneakers than evening gowns and high heels, but as a Ravelli, I have an image to uphold. And since I’m the sole heiress, I don’t get to decide what I want to do with my life.
“It won’t happen again.” I sit up straighter when the only thing I want to do is vanish from this meeting room unseen and hide from the world. No matter what I do, I’ll always disappoint him anyway.
“As you may or may not know, we’ve never established ourselves fully in the American market. We’ve decided to use sports sponsoring to increase brand awareness and to launch our new sportswear line overseas. An opportunity has presented itself to get involved with an existing hockey franchise. Yesterday, we bought a hockey team—the Boston Ice Tigers.” My grandfather raises both eyebrows.
What am I supposed to say?
Just because my father was a Swiss hockey player doesn’t mean I know anything about the sport. He should be aware of that more than anyone else. Isn’t he the one who threw out my mamma’s and papà’s things after they died and made them a taboo topic?
I fold my hands on the table, watching as my fingers interlace on the cold surface. When the silence in the room becomes deafening, I look up and find him still watching me with his silver eyes. I clear my throat. “Um… that’s great.”
“I’m glad you approve. You’ll fly to Boston tomorrow and take over the general management alongside the acting GM, Rob Hayden. I expect this team to be a successful marketing tool. Should this not improve sales figures in the U.S., I’m afraid there is no place in this organization for you anymore, Emilia.”
For a moment, I merely stare at him.
A hockey team.
I have no idea about sports management, and I’ve never even seen a hockey game in my life. My breathing speeds up, but I can’t get enough air in my lungs.
My mind is spinning. How will I make this work if what I suspect is true?
It’s my last chance, and I want to make this a success, but circumstances might be against me. No way am I telling him now. If he were to find out, he’d disinherit me on the spot.
“You leave tomorrow for Boston. Alessandra organized your flight. As we speak, she is putting together the information you’ll need about the team. She’ll have everything ready by tomorrow. Go home and pack.” He startles me when he comes to a stop right next to me, towering over me with his impressive frame.
At seventy, he’s the stereotype of an Italian patriarch with his stern look and impeccable attire, radiating power and authority from his sleek hair to his polished shoes.
I take a moment to compose myself before I stand up and hasten past him, his eyes following me, burning holes through the thin fabric of my silk blouse.
“I’ll make them a success,” I say, leaving the conference room with my head held high, and pray I’m right this time.
Alessandra has already called my driver to take me home. While we make our way back to the city center, I check my emails, begging the universe that the tests I ordered online have arrived today as scheduled. The tracking information says the elderly lady on the second floor has accepted the parcel on my behalf.
Relieved, I lean back in the seat and watch as we pass the mighty stone structure of the Colosseum.
When will I see you again?
I love Rome and its unique mixture of ancient history and contemporary architecture, and I’ll miss my walks in the historic city center, where art and culture mix like nowhere else I’ve ever been.
Nothing compares to the vibrating atmosphere of my beloved Piazza Navona, where I can hide amongst the tourists.
Thinking of having to leave Rome, my eyes well up. Crap, I don’t want Paolo to see me crying when he opens the door for me once I’m at my apartment. Being overly emotional is another symptom I can’t deny anymore.
Twenty minutes, one bottle of water, and the humbling experience of peeing on sticks later, the results in front of me confirm what I suspected all along is true. Two pink lines, two blue lines, and two purple lines stare right in my face.
No matter the color, the three sticks perfectly aligned on my porcelain sink all mean the same thing. Willing them to change their result, I close my eyes and open them again.
Unfortunately, the second line in each of them doesn’t magically disappear—not on a single stick. Instead, they seem to laugh straight in my face, mocking me, telling me what I already know. I’m screwed. Royally.
Nausea and the need to sleep all the time have indicated it, but now I’m sure. I’m pregnant, and my already complicated life has taken a turn for the worse.
By a man I spent one night with.
By a man I know nothing about but his first name.
This should be a happy moment, a moment shared with a loving partner, while happy tears stream down our faces and the love of my life kisses them away.
Instead, I feel numb, overwhelmed, and scared to death. I hold on to the sink for support, feeling its cold smoothness under my hand. A chill runs through my body, and I shudder.
How am I going to care for a baby alone and in a city where I don’t know a single soul?
Not that I have close friends here, but at least I know my way around. The apartment is big enough for the baby and me, but in Boston, I’ll start in a hotel room. I don’t even know where to go for groceries and necessities, let alone how to navigate the medical system.
When I bury my face in my hands, my cheeks are already wet. My knees weaken, and I sink down on the floor. How did I end up here?
I never pictured myself as a single mom. In the future, I’d hoped to have a family of my own, but with a partner by my side, not alone on another continent with a baby.
A family of my own, a loving family, that’s what I dreamed about, not like the one I’m part of—if one can call my grandfather and me a family.
For him, the pregnancy will be the ultimate disappointment. A baby from a one-night stand is unthinkable in the Ravelli family, confirming again what a living, breathing disappointment I’ve been to him over the past twenty-six years.
Partially, he’s right. I’m working a job I loathe, although I maintain the perfect facade for the company’s sake, and now I’m pregnant and alone. What an ideal opportunity for him to tell me I’ll never be as perfect as she was—the daughter he loved above everything else in the world. The one I miss every single day.
So far, life has not been easy for me—not that anyone on the outside has noticed me struggling. They think my life is a fairy tale. To the public, I’m the always happy, always perfect-looking heiress to an Italian luxury clothing brand. The princess who seems to have everything as I walk red carpets in the latest Ravelli designs and date A-list celebrities as I travel the world without a single care in the universe.
If they only knew what it’s like to be me. It’s all a show carefully created by my overbearing grandfather to profit from my looks.
Beauty can be a curse. In my case, it is. My only worth to the company is my prettiness.
Am I stupid for trying over and over again to please him and meet his expectations?
Deep down, I know it can never be. My mamma’s footsteps are too big for me. She was the born manager with an affinity for numbers and strategic decisions and ready to take over the company at twenty-three, whereas I’m… I’m not even sure what I am.
I shake my head and bring my focus back to my baby’s dad instead of the depressing relationship with my grandfather.
When he left me without saying goodbye after our magical encounter, Matt made it clear that all he wanted was my body for one night. That unforgettable night made me dream of things I’ve never had, only to have my hopes crushed when I woke up alone with his scent on the sheets.
Unable to hold them back any longer, big tears drop down my cheeks.
How will I be able to care for another human being when I can’t take care of myself?
I’ve never needed a mother more in my life than at this moment, when I’m about to become one myself in a few months. But she’s gone. She won’t be able to help me.
How can I miss someone I only spent the early years of my childhood with?
Grief comes in waves—at least it does for me. Some days, I feel fine, only to be hit by a giant wave out of the blue the next day or night.
I hug myself as sobs shake my body.
Another unwanted thought enters my mind: What if something were to happen to me?
I can’t let that happen. The only person left to take care of my baby would be my grandfather, and no way am I letting him do to my child what he did to me. I can’t submit my baby to the same loveless childhood I had to endure.
Matt needs to be told—if I’m able to locate him.
He won’t be pleased with this development since he didn’t want me, save for a few hours of sexual satisfaction.
A baby wasn’t part of our deal. But even if he doesn’t want the baby, it’s his responsibility too. Should anything happen, I need him to care for my child—our child. I just have to figure out how to find him.
I sniffle. The tears have stopped now, but my nose is still running. I leave the bathroom to fetch the tissue box from the living room, but the box on the coffee table is empty. Fresh tears well up, but this time I refuse to let them out. Enough with the pity party, Emilia!
My life has been a mess so far, and not having tissues when they're needed is just the icing on the cake.
Enough is enough. My disorganized life has to end this moment.
I return to the bathroom and use toilet paper to blow my nose. See? I can make this work. It might not always be perfect, but I can do it. I’m responsible for a little one now.
My hand wavers before I put it on my belly. I don’t feel pregnant at this stage, but I want to address the little human being inside me.
“Hey, little one,” I say out loud. “It’s not exactly a good time for you to appear in my life. To be honest with you, it’s a total mess. But I promise you one thing. I will always love you. Unconditionally. Whether you pee your pants in kindergarten. Whether you suck at math or any other subject in school. No matter what. My love will not depend on you being successful. I’ll just love you and support you. I’ll always be there for you. I promise to get my life together. It will be us against the world, but I won’t let you down. Ever.”
I take a calming breath after my little speech and drag my heavy limbs to the bedroom.
Today has been an exhausting, emotional roller-coaster ride.
Tomorrow is another day, and I’ll figure things out then, for the baby and for me.
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