Authors: Bernadette Marie
Tags: #Bernadette Marie, #Aspen Creek Series, #5 Prince Publishing, #bestselling author, #On Thin Ice
On Thin Ice
This is a fictional work. The names, characters, incidents, places, and locations are solely the concepts and products of the author’s imagination or are used to create a fictitious story and should not be construed as real.
5 PRINCE PUBLISHING AND BOOKS, LLC
PO Box 16507
Denver, CO 80216
ISBN 13: 978-1-939217-75-2 ISBN 10: 1-939217-75x
On Thin Ice
Copyright Bernadette Marie 2013
Published by 5 Prince Publishing
Author Photo: Damon Kappel 2009
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations, reviews, and articles. For any other permission please contact 5 Prince Publishing and Books, LLC.
First Edition/First Printing September 2013 Printed U.S.A.
5 PRINCE PUBLISHING AND BOOKS, LLC.
My most valuable player…I love you.
To my 5 favorite hockey players in the world! Your joy brings me joy! #64!!!
To Mom, Dad, and Sissy…thank you for giving me an amazing family so I could create ones people love.
To Connie…It is finally here. Thank you for being my advocate!
To Susan…I’d almost given up hope…but here is that book I poured my heart into. Thank you!!!
To Barb, Jerry, Jamie, and Debbie…thank you for sharing your Christopher with me. I will always carry him in my heart.
The journey to bring
On Thin Ice
to readers took years. The book, originally commissioned and contracted by another house, never made it to publication. When the other house dissolved
On Thin Ice
came back home to me where it belonged.
When I was first approached to write this book I didn’t have the foggiest idea where to start. Many first chapters were penned and erased. Then, one night in my sleep, a dear friend came to me in a dream. I’d lost this friend in a tragic accident on August 16, 1992. But there he was, big as life! “Hey, Bern,” he said as he always would. He wore hockey pads and carried a hockey stick. (Which I don’t think he ever played hockey.) But his long dark hair hung from under the helmet and I knew he was giving me a story.
There the character Christopher was born, named after my lifelong friend. (And the hair too.) He’d given me a lot of inspiration to do things when I was little and here he was telling me what to write.
So thanks Chris for giving me the basis on which to write this story! A hockey player (and everyone knows I’m inundated with hockey! So this was a good angle.)
Proof, you never know where your next great story will come from.
Welcome back to Aspen Creek! Enjoy your stay.
On Thin Ice
The tires of Malory’s old red Jeep crunched the frozen snow over loose gravel. The sound curled her mouth into a smile. That was how winter was supposed to sound.
The sky filled with the orange and blue hues of a rising sun as the chill of the air stirred together with the heat from the vehicle’s heater. All of it brought back a flood of memories from her childhood. All of them warm and welcome.
She pulled her Jeep into a parking space in front of the large metal building that housed the ice arena. A huge banner above the front doors read, “Home to NHL Player Christopher Douglas.”
She shook her head. Well, she thought, at least someone claimed him. If memory was correct, he’d played for multiple NHL teams in his very short professional career. So he’d never called anywhere home for long, except Aspen Creek.
But everyone had started somewhere, including her.
Above the banner announcing the fame of Christopher Douglas was the name of the building. Aspen Creek Ice Center.
It was good to be home.
And home was where she planned to stay.
She didn’t see her father’s pickup parked on the side of the building. She’d told him she’d meet him there at seven. It was already seven-ten. He wouldn’t have headed off to breakfast without her. After all, he’d awakened her at four forty-five in the morning just to invite her.
She turned off the engine and pulled the keys from the column, placing them in the pocket of her coat. She might have been born and raised in the small Colorado town where people left their doors unlocked and the keys in their cars, but she’d been in California long enough to have picked up some less trusting habits. Sadly, those new habits had her locking part of herself away too.
She stepped out into the cold and quickly slid on her gloves. It was the kind of cold that took your breath away. It froze the inside of your nose, and when the wind blew through the valley, it burned your skin. She pulled the stocking cap from her pocket and pulled it over her head, making sure to cover her ears. She hit the lock on the door and slammed it shut. Then as fast as she could, without falling on her butt, she headed across the slick parking lot for the front door of the arena, which had been the love child of her mother and father years before she’d been born.
The heater above the door did its job. It took that pins-and-needles chill from her skin just enough to comfort her.
White concrete walls, which held bleachers on the other side, blocked the view of the ice rink from the door. There were no spectators at seven fifteen on a Wednesday morning, but the ice wasn’t empty.
Malory had been there enough times in the early morning to know that at least a dozen figure skaters and a few hockey players had already etched their presence into the glossy finish of the ice before they went about their day.
Malory stood there for a moment. She closed her eyes and just let the building surround her. When she opened them, the smiling faces of the hundreds that had graced the ice over the past forty years greeted her. Early photographs in black-and-white and later ones in color lined the corridor that lead toward the ice. The first set of eyes to catch her matched her own. They were her mother’s.
Malory stood and stared at the picture of her mother, then only twenty-two. She wore an Olympic medal around her neck and had a bouquet of roses tucked in the crevice of her arm. Hadn’t that been the very picture her father had hoped to recreate with her? Oh, he’d tried, but she was never the skater her mother had been.
She blew out a breath. Her parents had opened the skating rink with money her mother had won from competitions and endorsements after her Olympic win. People had laughed at them. The hockey player wanna-be and the washed-up Olympian. What good was it going to do to build an ice rink in a town of three thousand? But the gamble had paid off.
Young girls wanted to skate under Ginger Bromell-Wilson. Boys wanted to learn to play hockey from Harvey Wilson, the man who had almost made it to the NHL. Neighboring towns embraced the opportunity, and the Aspen Creek Ice Center was born.
Only four short years later Malory entered the picture. Another two and her mother was gone.
Malory had lived thirty-one years without her mother, but it still tore her apart. She didn’t know her. She didn’t have one memory of her except for the pictures that hung on the walls of the building her father had put up twenty years ago to replace the original structure. What Malory had was the sadness that her father had always carried in his heart.
He’d tried to replace Ginger, Malory now understood, with her. He’d tried to raise her to be an Olympian figure skater. But she was no Ginger Bromell-Wilson. She was only a look-alike with some of the skill.
Malory let her mother’s eyes follow her as she walked down the corridor toward the ice. There were no figure skaters on the ice as she’d first thought. She didn’t have to see it to know that. The sound was of a single skater. The short stops that tore up the ice and the sound of wood hitting the cold hard surface said hockey player. There was the sound of the puck sliding on the ice. The ping as the puck ricocheted off of the pole and the crack of the stick against the ice in a fit of anger resonated through the arena. Curses that flew from the mouth of the player confirmed that the player was an adult and had missed the mark of the net. A low laugh escaped her throat. You were never too old to enjoy indoor ice.
She turned down the short hall that led to the ice. The smell of adrenaline and sweat had permeated every crevice of the building over the years. It was a nasty smell, but it too made her feel at home.
Breathing deeply, she lifted her head to watch the hockey player she’d heard when she walked in. She saw him and gasped. He skated down the ice, around the other net, keeping the puck on the edge of his stick and then as he hit the blue line, he smacked the puck into the net. He turned back around, caught the puck with the stick, and then caught her eye.
The crooked grin that erupted on his face made her heart rate kick up. It raced so fast that she wasn’t sure her chest would hold it inside any longer. Fifteen years had passed since they’d last spoken, but not a day had gone by that she hadn’t thought of him.
Malory tried to will her feet to walk closer to the door he skated toward. She found the task hard to do. His hair was long and peeked out of the sides and back of his helmet. His dark eyes sparkled as he neared her.
By the time he’d unlatched the door, she realized she’d walked toward him and now he towered above her only inches away. At six foot three, he was an enormous sight in front of her. The skates added at least three more inches to his height. He wore no pads, but his shoulders were square and muscular under his loose jersey.
“You did come home.” The crooked smile returned to his lips.
All she could do was nod.
“Well, I’ve waited a lot of years to see you in person.” He dropped his stick to the floor and bent down to her. He grabbed the lapel of her coat and pulled her to him, crushing his cold lips against hers.
The assault of his mouth against hers made her head swim. She couldn’t think enough to push away or even enjoy the moment. Shock riddled her entire body and paralyzed her. By the time she gave into the kiss, which wasn’t just a peck, but a full-out possession of her lips, he rocked back and looked down at her, still holding tight to her coat.
“Wil, it’s been a long time.”
Tears almost erupted from her eyes when he called her Wil. She’d never cared for the shortened version of her last name as her nickname, but she’d grown used to it. However, no one had called her that since she’d left Aspen Creek. Her mother had given her the nickname and her father had never even called her Malory. Neither had Christopher Douglas.
Christopher took a step back and let go of her coat. His dark eyes scanned over her and settled on her face. “You look petrified. Or are you just frozen? California girls don’t do cold.”
Snapping into the moment, she narrowed her eyes on him. “I’m not a California girl, thank you very much.”
“She speaks.” Humor lit his eyes and her anger throttled.
She pursed her lips and drew in a deep breath. Oh, she had a lot to say to Christopher Douglas. She’d been planning and rehearsing it for fifteen years. For now she let it settle into her belly and warm her.
“Where is my dad?” she asked through gritted teeth.
He smiled that smile again and then unsnapped his helmet and lifted it from his head. His hair had curled from sweat, and she hated that it made him even sexier.
“He headed over to Mom’s for breakfast. He said to bring you with me when you got here.”
“Bring me with you? You’re having breakfast with us?” The tone in her voice was shaky and she wished it wasn’t. Just because he towered over her and stood there looking like a god, she didn’t need to lose her nerve.
“Yeah. Give me ten minutes.” He gave her a wink and walked passed her to the locker room.
Malory stood where he’d left her and fumed. What was it about the man that always made her turn into a mindless twit?
She tightened the scarf around her neck and started for the door. They may have grown up tried-and-true friends. They might have known every secret the other ever kept and had once promised each other—she figured they were nine—to live together forever. But things changed. And when you were eighteen they changed overnight. Now at thirty-three she didn’t see any reason to accept his friendship or his amazing, sexy kisses.