A Pair of Ice Skates

byMugsyB©

A noise outside the truck broke them apart. Grace looked over her shoulder in a daze to see someone getting into the vehicle next to the truck and she was shocked to see the truck's windows fogged up. Jamie followed her glance and chuckled. She looked at him and he bent to brush another kiss over her lips before moving back to his seat.

"I think we should get out of here." He checked his mirrors and Grace could see the sexy curve of his lips as he sent her a sidelong smile. "Let someone else have this parking spot."

Grace couldn't form a verbal response so she just nodded. She spent the drive staring out the window at the snowy cityscape sliding past without really seeing anything. She was a little confused when they pulled up at a house in a suburb she wasn't familiar with.

"Where are we?"

"This is my place." Jamie shut off the engine and hopped out of the truck before she could say anything else. He hurried around to her side and helped her down. He saw the look on her face and grinned. "Don't worry. I didn't bring you here to take advantage of you. I live with my brother."

"Avery?" Grace recalled the mention of his brother from his story earlier. "I wouldn't have thought he'd live here."

"It is a long way from our hometown but after he finished university he found a job here. We got this place together when I got traded." Jamie didn't let go of her hand as he locked the truck and led the way up his front walk. "It's pretty great actually, having him here. I get a couple days off at Christmas and all the rest of the family come here for the holidays."

"That's good." Grace didn't know what else to say. Never having lived with siblings, she couldn't say how great one situation was over the other. Then she silently chastised herself for the thought. She didn't need to be turning all bitter and withdrawn again after Jamie had shown her such a nice time so far.

Nice. There has to be a better word for what he did to me in his truck. She smiled at the memory.

Jamie pushed open the front door. "Avery? You home?"

"Of course I am," came a distant reply from somewhere out of sight. "Not all of us have your blistering social life."

Grace raised her eyebrows and Jamie laughed at her expression.

"Don't worry. This is perfectly normal for him."

"Are you talking to me?" The distant voice was closer now and a second later, a man who looked like an older version of Jamie - minus the crooked nose - appeared in the front hall. "Oh, hello. I didn't realize you had company."

"This is Grace Brown. Grace, my brother Avery."

"Oh! This is the nurse you were telling me about?" Avery came forward and gave her a warm smile as he shook her hand. "It's very nice to meet you. Jamie here didn't stop talking about you after he got home earlier."

"Thanks, Avery." Jamie scowled at his brother. "I was kind of hoping you could wait at least a few minutes before you humiliate me."

Grace hid her smile from Jamie but shook Avery's hand. "It's nice to meet you too, Avery. Jamie told me some fun stories about you."

Avery's eyes widened and he turned a glare on his brother. "Already turning her against me, eh? I should have known."

Jamie grinned and slung a proprietary arm around her shoulders. "What'd you expect? Can't have her thinking you're better than me."

Grace flushed but joined in their good-natured laughter.

"Well, I'll leave you kids alone." Avery started to walk away. "I'm just finishing up some work in my office. Hope to see you again soon, Grace."

"He seems friendly." Grace smiled at Jamie, who hadn't removed his arm yet. "Nothing at all like you described."

He scoffed and gave her a squeeze before bending low to kiss her. "Just remember who took you to Henrietta's."

Grace laughed and let him pull her jacket off. "Are we staying here long?"

"As long as you want." Jamie laughed at her shell-shocked expression. "I'm teasing! I brought you here to give you those books."

"Oh, right. Well, that could have waited."

Jamie shrugged and took her hand again before leading her through the house to his room. She stood just inside the door while he browed his shelf for the novels. She looked around, blushing at the sight of his messed up bed and reminded herself that she was twenty-six years old, too old to be freaked out by standing in a guy's bedroom. Which reminded her of something else.

"Jamie?"

"Yeah?" He had one book in his hand and was searching for another.

"How old are you?"

He glanced over at her with a smile. "Why? If I'm too old will you stop seeing me?"

Grace gave a short laugh. "I wasn't aware we were 'seeing each other.'"

"Oh yeah. I claimed you back at the hospital." He straightened with two books in his hands and walked towards her. "Didn't you get the memo?"

Grace grinned back, helpless against his teasing. She was really starting to like it. "Don't change the subject. How old are you?"

"How old are you?"

"Twenty-six."

"I'm thirty-two."

"Oh dear." Grace let out a small sigh and shook her head.

"'Oh dear?'"

"Yeah. I was hoping you'd be closer to my own age."

Jamie's jaw dropped. "Are you serious? You think I'm too old for you?"

"You might be. I mean, you look great for your age and all." She ignored the color in her cheeks as she gestured towards him. "But I just don't see how this will work out."

Jamie sputtered for a second until she started to giggle. She clapped a hand over her mouth to try to stifle them but it was too late. Jamie caught on and barked out a laugh. Then he dropped the books and grabbed her around the waist. She shrieked and tried to hold on as he lifted her off her feet.

"Would an old man be able to do this?" He demanded and pushed her up against the wall. "Or this?" His lips came down on hers before she could draw breath.

This time there was no preliminary touching or gentle caress. Jamie claimed her lips and thrust his tongue inside. A breathless moan escaped her and she clung to him, her arms going around his neck. He was ruthless, sucking and tasting before adding gentle nibbles to her bottom lip.

Then she was being spun through the air until she landed among his untidy bed sheets with a soft thump. Jamie came down over her and kissed her again, resuming his exploration. He moved slower this time, tangling his tongue over and around hers until she felt dizzy and lightheaded.

His weight settled on her as he moved his hands up her sides. He squeezed her hips and stroked the bare spot of skin revealed when her movements made her shirt ride up. Grace sucked in a breath at the contact, fire ripping through her. Jamie lifted his head, his lips hovering over hers.

"Grace?"

Her eyelids fluttered until she focused on his face. His blue eyes were dark and a wicked smile curled his full lips up at the corners.

"Yeah?"

"Do you still think I'm too old?"

The question confused her until she gathered her thoughts. Then she laughed and shook her head. "No. I guess you've proven your point."

His eyes flickered and that was when she felt the insistent throb at her hip. Her eyes widened and Jamie chuckled. He bent down to kiss her again, a slow, lazy kiss. Grace was just sinking into it, that hazy fog settling into her brain, when Jamie rolled away. He lay on his back beside her for a long, silent moment before standing up.

"Come on." He held a hand out and helped her to her feet.

Feeling self-conscious now, Grace straightened her shirt and patted her hair. "Is something wrong?"

Jamie looked at her and let out a slow breath. "No. Nothing at all."

"Then why..." Grace couldn't bring herself to finish the question.

He touched her cheek. "As much as I'd like to, it's not right. Not tonight. I told you I didn't bring you in here to take advantage of you, and I meant it. Plus, my brother is right downstairs. Not exactly a turn on."

Grace laughed and followed him back down to the front door. They called 'good-bye' to Avery and Jamie drove her home. He walked her to her door where he got her phone number and gave her a very sweet kiss good night.

****

He called her the next day before his game. She was just on her way out the door to catch the train to work but she paused long enough to let the warmth of his voice seep into her.

"Are you going to watch the game?"

She laughed at his hopeful tone. "Probably. The kids usually want to watch the games when they're televised."

"Awesome! I'll score a goal for you."

"Can you do that?"

"What?! Are you kidding me?"

Grace laughed. She found that she enjoyed teasing him very much. She didn't feel so inexperienced or sad with him. It was like he was just a big kid himself even if the memories of what they'd shared the night before reminded her that he was most assuredly a man.

"Jeez. If I'd known you were this cruel I wouldn't have taken you out last night."

Grace made a noise of protest and Jamie laughed. "You're just not used to a woman not fawning over you and your career."

"That's true. Most of the time I don't even have to ask before they throw themselves at me."

"Are you trying to make me jealous?" She joked to cover the stab in her chest at the thought of him seeing other women.

"Would it work?"

"Probably not."

"Then no. I'm just trying to recover my bruised ego."

"Oh. Poor baby. If you weren't working tonight I'd say you should come to the hospital so I can patch you up."

"And kiss it better?"

Grace blushed even though he was miles away. "Sure. If you thought you needed it."

"I think I do. I think I need it more than you know."

Grace didn't know what to say to that. They listened to the sounds of each other's breathing before Jamie gave a short laugh.

"I guess I'll just have to work on you."

Grace frowned. "Work on me?"

"Yeah. Get you tickets to a game and turn you into a hockey fan."

"You could try."

"Hmm, that sounds like a challenge. I'll show you, Grace Brown. Just you wait."

Grace giggled. "I'm on pins and needles over here."

"Be careful, or I'll even resort to taking you to hockey practice with me, show you what I'm really made of."

"Wouldn't do much good since I can't skate."

"What?!" He sounded like she'd just told him she was really a man.

Grace laughed. "I can't skate. I never learned."

"But you're Canadian! Didn't your parents teach you?"

Grace's laughter died and she felt her breath catch in her throat. "I...uh, I guess...they never found the time." The lie felt like ash on her tongue. She just didn't want to start discussing her sad history now.

"Well. That's just something we'll have to work on."

"Sure. Listen, Jamie, I'm sorry but I was just on my way to catch the train." Grace hoped she didn't sound too abrupt.

"Oh right. Sorry, Grace. I'll call you in the morning."

"OK. Have a good game."

"Thanks. Don't forget to watch me!"

Grace managed a laugh and hung up the phone. She rubbed her chest where the ache persisted. She let her breath out on a sigh and shook her head. Jamie didn't know, he wasn't being malicious when he'd brought up her parents. She drew herself up straight and forced the old memories from her mind.

Later, at work, the kids insisted on turning the TV in the playroom to watch the hockey game. Most of the older kids sat down to watch and Grace caved and sat with Kyle, an eleven-year old with a broken leg.

"And who is your favorite, Kyle?" Grace knew Kyle was bummed to be missing out on his hockey season because of his leg but he never lost interest in his NHL team.

"Jamie Forsythe."

Grace had to smile at his swift response. Yes, Mr. Forsythe was a lot of people's favorite. She focused on the game and watched as the players seemed to skate in erratic patterns all over. Crunching hits gave way to scrambles for the tiny puck and the noise of the crowd rose and fell with the antics on ice.

All of a sudden there was a flurry at the opponent's net and then a goal and everyone -- in the hospital and at the arena -- went insane.

"Careful, Kyle!" Grace laughed and tried to restrain the boy before he hurt himself by flopping off the couch.

"Yes! Yes! That was Forsythe!" Kyle turned and high-fived the boy on his other side.

Grace looked at the screen. Sure enough, on the replay they showed Jamie batting at the puck until it went in. It wasn't as smooth or as pretty as some of the goals she'd seen over the years but it counted and that's all that mattered.

The cameras zoomed in on Jamie where he took his place on the bench. He was talking and smiling with his teammates. He looked up at the jumbo screen and when he saw himself, he gave a little wave and pointed. Grace squinted and it looked like he mouthed something, something that looked like it ended in 'you.'

Her heart fluttered when she recalled what he'd said earlier about scoring a goal for her. She'd shrugged it off but now she wondered if he'd meant that little message for her. From what she already knew about him, she thought it might be.

The warmth of that gesture stayed with her through the rest of the game and through the remainder of her shift. Even on the train ride home through the quiet dark streets, she couldn't keep the secret smile from touching her lips every time she recalled it.

When she got home, she picked up her phone and dialed Jamie's number. He'd said he'd call her the next day but she had his number and wanted to talk to him. She just hoped he wasn't already asleep.

"Hello?"

"Hi, it's Grace. Did I wake you?"

"No, I just got home about ten minutes ago."

"Ten minutes? The game ended at ten!"

He laughed. "Yeah, but some of the guys wanted to go out after."

"Ah. To celebrate?"

"Yeah. Does this mean you watched?"

"I sure did. The whole thing, I even saw your goal."

"Oh, I wanted to make it a better one for you."

Grace's heart skipped a beat. So it had been for her! "A goal is a goal. It was amazing no matter how it looked."

"Well, as long as you liked it."

Grace felt warmth spread from her head right down her toes. She shouldn't be so smitten already but Jamie was saying all the right things and making her feel like the most special woman alive.

"I'm surprised you called, Grace. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm glad you did, but is everything OK?"

"Oh yes. I just wanted to call and tell you what a great game it was."

"Thanks. That's nice of you to say, especially as you're not a real fan."

"Oh jeez. You're not going to let that go, are you?"

"Not until you give in."

A shiver raced up her spine at his words and her hand clenched around the phone. She wanted very much to give in to everything Jamie proposed. "I'll consider it."

Jamie laughed. "That's a start."

"Well, I guess I should let you get your rest after that workout."

"Sure. You must be tired after work too."

"I am. But I only work a half shift tomorrow and then I'm off all weekend."

"Really? That's perfect."

"Why?"

"Because I don't have a game until Monday night."

Grace didn't know what to say to that. All manner of images and thoughts popped into her head at the idea of spending an entire weekend with Jamie.

"You're still willing to go out with me tomorrow night?"

"Of course."

"Great. I'll let you go so you can sleep. Give me a call when you get home tomorrow."

"OK. I will."

"Have a good night, Grace. And thanks for calling."

"Anytime." She surprised herself by meaning it. "Good night, Jamie."

****

Grace almost couldn't wait until the end of her shift to call him. She was tempted to call him from the hospital and ask for a ride. She decided that she wanted to go home and make herself presentable before seeing him again.

For the first time since she'd started working at the hospital, she left at her assigned time right on the nose. The train moved at a snail's pace, or what felt like a snail's pace. At last, Grace was home and clothes came flying off as she got ready to jump in the shower. Then she remembered that he'd said to call when she got home. She scooped up the phone on her way to the washroom.

"Hello, Grace."

She shivered at the sound of his deep voice. Oh, she was in so far over her head. "Hi."

"I was almost afraid you weren't going to call."

"What?" Grace laughed and bent to turn on the taps in her shower. "I said I would, didn't I?"

"Yeah." He paused. "What's that sound?"

"Water. I'm just getting into the shower."

Jamie didn't respond. Grace could hear his breathing on the other end and frowned.

"Jamie?"

"You mean to tell me you're naked?"

Grace blushed at his blunt question. "Uh. Yeah." Good one, Grace. Very intelligent response.

"Jesus, Grace."

Grace blinked, surprised. He'd never sworn at her before but it made her smile. "Yeah. Naked. And I'm getting into the shower. So I'll be wet. And soapy. And naked."

"Now you're just being deliberately cruel."

Grace laughed at the ragged tone of his voice. "I'm sorry, Jamie. You're so easy to tease."

"Am I? Well, just be careful, Grace. What goes around, comes around."

Grace shivered and squeezed her eyes shut.

"So...now that we've established that you're home, and naked, when can you be ready to go?"

Grace let out a breathless laugh. "An hour should be good."

"Great. I'll pick you up in an hour."

"OK then."

There was another pause.

"Can you promise to be dressed and...not wet when I get there?"

Grace laughed again, a real laugh. "I promise."

"Good. See you soon."

"OK. Bye."

Grace put the phone down and took several deep breaths before she climbed in the shower. An hour later, she was staring at her hair in the mirror, wondering if she should tie it up. Jamie had seemed to like it down the other night but she was so used to keeping it up off her neck. Of course, she didn't know what he had planned and it was rather chilly outside...

She stopped herself and shook her head. No point in overthinking.

The buzzer went off and she hurried out of her room to let Jamie into the building. When she saw him come into her foyer, she blushed but didn't resist as he pulled her into his arms.

"Hi." He pressed a kiss to her lips and kept his eyes on hers.

"Hi."

They kissed again, lingering longer this time until Jamie all but pushed her away.

"What?"

He shook his head, his throat working as he swallowed. "I just...I was thinking about you naked in the shower."

"Oh." Grace looked down, feeling heat flood her cheeks.

"I still don't want to rush." He touched her cheek so that she looked up at him.

"OK."

They smiled at each other. Grace turned and gathered her coat and gloves so they could leave. Jamie drove them away from her apartment, not telling her where they were going. They chatted a little and Grace felt herself relaxing around him.

He was so easy-going and friendly. Grace imagined him always being surrounded by friends, being the life of the party without also being the obnoxious one. His smile was always warm and she didn't think she was the only one he made feel so at ease.

"You never did tell me what your plans are for the holidays." Jamie broke the silence that had descended when they stopped at a red light.

"Didn't I?" That's because I don't want to drag us both down. "What are your plans? You said that your family likes to come stay with you and Avery?"

"Yeah. My parents are flying in this weekend actually. My sister Shana is driving in next Saturday with her husband and my other sister Cara can't come until the 23rd. She's at McGill in Montreal and works part-time as much as she can."

"That must be nice to get everyone together."

"It is. It's great that they're all willing to come here instead of the other way around."

"Where do your parents live?"

"They still live in the same house in Moncton. My sister and her husband live in Vancouver now. My brother-in-law, Eric, is an architect."

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