A Pair of Ice SkatesbyMugsyB©
Grace shook her head. "It's fine. Kayla, I'll be right back. I'm just going to make sure Mr. Forsythe gets back to his team."
Jamie chuckled as Grace led the way out of Kayla's room. "I really am sorry if I did something wrong."
Grace glanced up at him and smiled. "Wrong? Spending the afternoon with a sick kid and making her forget all her worries?"
"Well, I didn't mean to spend all my time with just her. I wonder if anyone noticed I was gone."
Grace shook her head. "Not until your teammates were ready to leave. Don't worry about it, Mr. Forsythe. You did a good thing today."
"You think so?" He sounded pleased. "I don't know about that. I mean, you're here every day making a difference in these kids' lives and I just dropped in for a few hours."
They paused by the nurse's station and Grace looked down the hall at where the majority of the staff and team were still gathered.
"You didn't even have to do that, and yet, here you are," she said.
When she looked up again, Jamie was leaning close and giving her an intent look.
"What?" She was surprised that she was able to speak around the sudden dryness in her mouth.
"I think you're pretty amazing."
She laughed. "We just met! You don't know anything about me."
"I know you're a nurse and you're great with kids. I know you've got a beautiful smile and I sure do like the sound of your laugh." He tipped his head to one side. "Hmm. Actually, you might have a point."
"About what?" Her heart thudded hard against her ribs. She couldn't recall the last time she'd felt this way around a man, if ever.
"I don't really know you."
He grinned. "We'll get to know each other tonight."
"Tonight? What are you--"
"I'm taking you for dinner. What time are you off?"
"Six, but you don't have to take me for dinner."
"Six. Great. I'll pick you up out front at six-fifteen. That should give you enough time to finish everything, right?"
Grace opened her mouth to respond but couldn't make a sound. In the end, it didn't matter. Jamie smiled at her again and walked away. She watched him rejoin his teammates and then she watched them all walk away.
Did that really just happen? She stared at the space he'd occupied in front of her for a long while before returning to work.
By the end of her shift, Grace had forgotten that Jamie Forsythe had asked her to dinner. The hospital got a little crazy and she was pulled in ten different directions until she was done.
She finished the last of her paperwork and said good-bye to everyone. Then she bundled up and headed outside. Without even looking around, she started to walk towards the train station, her face buried in her scarf. The sound of a honking horn had her turning around. And falling down hard when she slipped on an icy patch.
"Oh jeez! Are you OK, Grace?"
She looked up to see Jamie Forsythe hurrying to her side from his truck. "I-I'm fine." She put a hand down to lever herself up and grimaced when a stab of pain went from her elbow all the way up her arm.
"Let me help."
Under normal circumstances, Grace would get herself up but she was too surprised to manage it now. "Thank you."
Jamie helped her to her feet and kept his arms around her as she made sure she had all her belongings in her bag still. At last they smiled at each other and Grace felt her heart give a lurch when she looked into his eyes.
"Where were you going? You didn't forget about our date, did you?"
"N-no," she lied.
"Then were you trying to run away?"
Grace laughed and shook her head. "No and I won't be doing any running now anyway."
Jamie glanced down at her side where she could feel the cold moisture seeping through her pant leg. She could also feel the grit of the sand that had been sprinkled over the ice.
"Well, come on. I'll take you to dinner and you'll feel better."
Grace balked as Jamie tried to guide her to his truck. "I can't go out to dinner like this!"
"Well, then I'll take you home to change first." When she still hesitated, he gave her a friendly smile and let his arms drop. "I'm in no hurry to get to dinner. Are you?"
Grace couldn't say that she was. She'd managed to scarf down a sandwich less than an hour ago as she'd worked on some filing and she wasn't hungry. She did want to change out of her scrubs and now that some of the shock of Jamie's appearance had worn off, she admitted that she wouldn't mind spending some time with him.
"OK. Let's go!"
Jamie laughed at her sudden change in demeanor and helped her into the passenger seat. As he walked around to the driver's side, Grace snuggled down in her heavy winter coat. The interior of his truck was very warm and she let out a sigh.
Jamie climbed in beside her and reached for the temperature controls. "There." He cranked up the floor vents and Grace bit back a moan as the warmth swept over her cold legs. "That should help dry your pants."
"Where do you live? Is it far?"
"Not far." Grace gave him directions and felt herself relax more the further they got from the hospital. Other than her pointing out where to turn, they didn't talk and she didn't feel awkward at all.
When they pulled into a parking spot at her condo building, Jamie smiled at her. "This looks like a nice building."
"I like it."
Grace led the way inside, more than aware of Jamie's large presence in the elevator and down her narrow hallway. Inside her front door, she paused and gave him a crooked smile.
"Don't worry about me." He held his hands up. "I can amuse myself while you go change."
Grace narrowed her eyes at him and he laughed.
"I promise not to go through your stuff or mess anything up or even breath heavy."
Grace had to laugh at that. "I'm not worried. Go sit down in the living room. I'll be a little while. I like to have a shower as soon as I get home."
When Jamie's eyes darkened and his smile thinned, Grace realized what she'd just said and blushed to the roots of her hair.
"Uh, yeah, so, the...living room. It's just there." She pointed and then fled down the hallway to her room.
For a long minute, Grace stood with her back pressed to her bedroom door. She shook her head at herself and managed to change out of her scrubs. Then she had the shortest shower of her life. She checked her elbow and side from her fall and saw a couple bruises forming, but nothing alarming. After getting dressed, she left her thick brown hair half-damp because she didn't have the patience to blow-dry all of it. Plus, the longer she took to get ready, the more aware of Jamie's presence in her apartment she became.
When she walked back into her living room, Jamie was standing in front of the window looking out. He didn't seem to hear her come in so she took the opportunity to study him. He looked so large in her tiny apartment. She'd never considered her apartment tiny before but she'd also never had a six-foot-three hockey player standing in the middle of it either.
"Are you ready to go?"
He jumped at the sound of her voice and spun around to face her. His mouth dropped open and he took a few quick strides until he stood over her. Grace couldn't move as he approached, transfixed by the intent expression on his face.
"You look amazing." He reached out a hand and touched one of her natural wavy curls.
Grace blinked, surprised by the compliment. Her face grew warm. "Thanks. But I'm not exactly dressed up."
Jamie's eyes flicked to hers and he grinned. "You're more dressed up than your nurse's scrubs and I didn't see how much hair you had before."
Grace lifted a self-conscious hand to her head, wishing now that she'd taken the extra time to tame it into a ponytail or bun or something. Jamie brushed her fingers away with a 'tsk' and then sank his fingers into her hair. She sucked in a breath and let her head tilt back from the force of his caress.
"It's so soft."
Swallowing, Grace nodded. "It's uh...still damp. Sorry."
Jamie shook his head and slid his fingers through the rest of her hair. He let it settle over her shoulders and touched her cheek before stepping back. "Don't be sorry. You look really pretty."
Compliments were as rare as days off for Grace. She felt tears prick the backs of her eyelids and turned away with a breathless laugh to keep from bursting into sobs. "We should get going. You must be hungry!"
Jamie followed her out of the apartment. They didn't speak as they rode the elevator back to the ground floor and Grace just about passed out when Jamie closed his hand around her fingers. When she looked at him, he just grinned and laced his fingers through hers.
"What do you feel like eating tonight?"
Grace shrugged, unable to speak while his fingers flexed around and against hers.
"I was thinking Italian. Do you like Italian?"
"It's not my favorite."
"OK. No Italian. How about...Korean BBQ?"
"I've never had it."
"Hmm. You sound less than enthusiastic about it."
Grace looked up at him and blushed when she saw his playful smirk. "I don't get out to eat much."
"No? I guess it would depend on your shifts, right?"
That and the fact that I have no one to dine with. "Yeah."
"Well, if you trust my judgment, I think I can figure out something we'll both like."
Grace gave him a shy smile as they left the building and walked to his truck. "I trust you."
"Good." He squeezed her fingers before helping her into the truck.
They didn't say much on the drive. Grace tried to guess a few times where they were going but all Jamie did was give her an enigmatic smile.
"Here we are."
Grace looked up at the building Jamie had brought them to. "Henrietta's?"
"Have you ever been?"
"No. I've always wanted to try it though."
Jamie grinned. "Score one for Forsythe!"
Grace laughed as they walked to the restaurant. Henrietta's had opened a few months back to rave reviews. It was a family owned and operated restaurant specializing in home-cooked meals such as mac and cheese and an award-winning meatloaf. Grace saw ads for it everywhere and always promised herself that she'd go there. One day.
Just like everything else. Grace pushed the thought away and smiled as the hostess led them to a table.
"One of the guys on the team brought me here not long after I'd been traded." Jamie pulled his jacket off and sat down. "I had the hamburger casserole and thought I'd died and gone to heaven!"
Grace laughed as she sat down. "Then I can't wait to try it."
"Oh, don't let me influence you." Jamie held up a menu. "There's more than enough for you to choose from."
Grace scanned the menu items and flushed when her stomach emitted a loud growl. Jamie didn't seem to have noticed so she kept her eyes on the menu until she picked something out. The waiter came by to take their orders and then Grace was left alone with Jamie, wondering what they could talk about.
"You probably thought I was a crazy person, asking you out today."
Grace let her eyes scan him in appraisal. "Not crazy. Strange, maybe, but not crazy."
"Oh, well, thanks for the compliment." Jamie rolled his eyes but he had the same smile on his face so Grace knew he hadn't taken offense.
"Come on, Mr. Forsythe. You're a hockey player. Don't you get unsolicited compliments every day?"
Jamie leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. "I don't get compliments from gorgeous nurses every day, no. And call me Jamie."
Grace gaped at him, her cheeks warming the longer he looked at her. He leaned even closer and Grace felt herself leaning towards him as well. They stared at each other and Grace couldn't look away from him. The warmth in her face started to spread until she felt a prickle of heat low in her abdomen.
At last she broke the stare and looked away. She cleared her throat and risked a glance in Jamie's direction to see him watching her with lowered lashes.
He smiled. "I was just thinking about how lucky I am to have met you today."
"W-what?" Grace gave a nervous laugh. Now she knew he was teasing her. What man said this sort of thing on a first date?
"I mean it. What, you don't believe me?"
"No, I don't." Grace shook her head and smiled.
Jamie blinked, looking taken aback by her response. "Why not? I can't be the only guy showing interest in you."
Grace's smile froze and she twisted her napkin in her hands. She hadn't dated anyone since college and since then, any interest she'd been shown had not always been welcome. She looked away and shrugged but was unable to say anything out loud.
"Grace? I'm sorry if I've made you uncomfortable."
They fell silent again and Grace felt bad for what she'd said. Every time she went out with someone, she let her emotional baggage get in the way of a good time.
Jamie broke the silence. "So Grace Brown, if you don't like hockey, what do you do in your spare time?"
Grace looked over at Jamie in surprise. "What?"
He shrugged and sipped his drink. "You don't like hockey. I'm just trying to understand what you do in your spare time."
Grace blinked and then burst out laughing. "When I'm not working or taking the train to and from work, I usually just read a book or watch a movie."
"What do you read?"
"Everything. Romance, historical, science fiction, mystery..."
"Who's your favorite author?"
Grace laughed. "I have to pick one? Hmm...that's a tough one."
"I like Christopher Moore."
"Christopher Moore? I don't think I've read any of his."
"You should." Jamie smiled. "He writes these hilarious books about everything from demons to angels to vampires. They're pretty good."
"I'll have to check for his stuff at the library."
"I'll lend them to you."
"Are you sure?" Grace folded her arms on the table. "You must not be in town that often. I wouldn't want to deprive you of your airplane reading material."
James chuckled. "I can manage. Anyway, I want an excuse to see you again after tonight."
"Oh." Grace looked down with a blush. When she looked back up, Jamie was leaning close again.
"So can I?"
"Can you what?" Grace was embarrassed to hear her voice come out huskier than before.
"Can I see you again?"
A laugh escaped her. "We're still together."
"I just want to make sure I book my time. I don't want to miss an opportunity."
Grace stared at him, her heart thumping and heat swirling low in her body. "Are you for real?"
He reached a hand out and cupped her cheek in his palm. "Do I feel real?"
She nodded, trapped by his deep blue eyes. The moment was broken when the waiter reappeared with their orders. Grace jerked away from Jamie and pressed a hand to her cheek, where he'd been touching her. Jamie didn't take his eyes off her as the waiter arranged their plates and asked if they wanted anything else. Grace dug into her food, relieved to have something to occupy her mind for a few minutes. After they were done, Jamie asked if she wanted dessert.
"Oh no." Grace patted her stomach. "I think I'd burst."
That was a mistake, calling attention to her body. Jamie's eyes darkened as he raked his gaze from her face down her torso and back up.
"You look fine to me."
Was she reading too much into it or had his voice dropped an octave? She had so little experience with these things.
"Well, I don't need dessert." She gave him a weak smile. "Slows me down when I need to keep up with the kids."
"I can relate." Jamie chuckled and fiddled with his water glass. "The trainers on the team try to keep us players on a regimented diet but it's hard."
"I can imagine."
"I try to be good but when we have a string of away games, it makes it hard to watch what you eat."
"I bet. You're always eating out." Grace smiled. "Well, if it makes you feel any better, you seem to handle it well."
Jamie's face split into a grin and Grace blushed when she realized what she'd just said.
"Grace, are you flirting with me?"
"No! I just...I..."
Jamie laughed and reached out to touch her hand. "Don't worry. I won't let it go to my head."
Grace smiled back at him. He made her feel so at ease. After making an ass of herself in the beginning, she felt much more relaxed.
"Does this mean that you'll go out with me again on Friday?"
"Friday?" Grace shrugged. "What's Friday?"
"My next off night. I have a game tomorrow."
Grace stared at him in silence. "You really want to see me again?"
He nodded and his fingers squeezed her hand. "I don't say anything I don't mean."
As Grace met his gaze, she had a hard time convincing herself that it was all real. She'd been the fade-into-the-background girl for so long that she didn't know what to do with a man who seemed attracted to her.
Just go with it.
She decided to listen to her inner voice and ignored the erratic patter of her heart. "These books you want to lend me, will you bring them over on Friday?"
Jamie grinned. "I'll give them to you tonight, if you like."
"You keep them in your truck?"
The waiter stopped by their table just then to drop off the bill. Jamie thanked him and paid.
"Are you ready to go?"
Grace stared at him. "Are you ignoring my question?"
He grinned and held her coat out for her to slip on. "Not at all."
Grace couldn't help but laugh at his playful smirk. She let it go, thinking that Jamie just liked to tease her. When he took her hand to lead the way out of the restaurant, she forgot all about questions and answers and everything but the way his rough palm felt against her own. Such a simple gesture and yet she felt like he'd just swept her into his arms.
The truck was cold when they clambered in and Grace shoved her hands in her pockets. "Oh God, I don't like when it's this cold."
Jamie laughed and cranked the heat to high. "It's amazing how fast it gets this cold, isn't it?"
Grace could barely nod around her shivering. Jamie looked at her and before she knew it was happening, he slid across the seat towards her. She sucked in a breath when his arms went around her and his warm breath brushed over her forehead. He tugged her closer and her nose bumped his chin. Then, for a long moment, neither of them moved. Heat flared in Grace everywhere Jamie was touching her, from his arms around her back to the leg he had pressed to hers.
"Warmer now?" His voice was husky and Grace managed to nod in response.
Indeed, the interior of his truck had jumped in temperature by what felt like eighty degrees. Grace felt sweat bead between her shoulders blades and an aching throb built between her thighs. She couldn't look away from Jamie's dark eyes, even when he leaned closer and pressed his lips to hers.
He kept it brief, moving his lips against hers for only a few seconds before pulling back.
"Why'd you stop?" Grace couldn't believe she'd just said it but the words had bubbled up before she could stop herself.
Jamie grinned and lifted a hand to touch her cheek. "I don't want to rush you."
Grace could appreciate that. She didn't want to be rushed. Somehow it didn't feel rushed with Jamie. The rational part of her brain told her to back off and let him be a gentleman. After all, they had just met that day. Then there was the other part of her brain, the part that controlled the fluttering in her stomach and the heat in her blood. That part was telling her to jump him. Now.
As she sat there, having her internal debate, something flickered in Jamie's eyes and Grace felt her lips part on a soft sound. Then Jamie's arms tightened around her and his mouth came down on her lips, harder this time. When she felt the gentle pressure of his tongue, she parted her lips. The first hot touch of his tongue to hers made her nerves tingle and she lifted her hands to grasp his coat.
Jamie angled his head and took the kiss deeper, sliding his tongue around hers. She shuddered and clung tighter to him as he devoured her. He controlled the kiss and where Grace might have been nervous before, she let him take control.