Tip of the Ice-BergbyMugsyB©
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Rosana walked over to Matt's house a little after eight o'clock and smiled to see it lit up like a Christmas tree. In her nervousness, she fiddled with the metal tab at the end of her jacket zipper. She lifted her hand to ring the doorbell but someone must have been watching for her because the front door opened wide before she could touch it.
"You must be Rosana." The man who answered was tall and broad like Matt and he greeted her with a wide grin that she found infectious.
"I am." She stepped inside at his urging.
"Matt asked me to keep an eye out for you. I'm Scott."
"Nice to meet you."
Scott led the way further into the house, a hand on Rosana's shoulder. "Matt just got tied up with a fight out back."
"A fight?" Rosana stopped short in alarm.
Scott laughed and put a hand on her shoulder. "Not a real fight. One of the guys made a bet with someone else and they were arguing about who won."
Rosana was relieved to hear that. She didn't like violence and ever since that one night in college, she had shied away from conflict whenever possible. She knew she was overreacting, but she'd never been the most outgoing person, and confrontations were difficult for her.
As Scott led her through the house, pointing out different people, Rosana felt tiny. She met a few women, the significant others of a few of the guys, but most of the people there were tall, broad-shouldered, muscular men. Rosana wasn't short and she was far from slender but, as she walked through Matt's house, she felt almost dainty. It was a novel experience.
"Here he is." Scott's voice brought her out of her thoughts and she turned to see Matt coming through the patio doors with another man.
"I can't believe you took Campy's side," the man beside Matt grumbled. He pushed some of his long, dark hair off his face and scowled at Matt.
"Give it up, Costa," Matt replied with a smile.
Rosana stopped walking and felt her temperature soar when she saw Matt. He spotted her and a grin spread across his face.
"Rosana! You made it!"
He sounded so excited to see her that Rosana couldn't help but feel flattered. He hurried over, the dark-haired man following with a curious expression.
"I see you've already met Scott." Matt bumped fists with Scott. "I hope he kept his mouth shut about me."
Rosana laughed. "He was a perfect gentleman."
The men all shared identical surprised looks. Apparently the idea of Scott being a gentleman was as improbable as him being an alien.
"This is Darren Costa." Matt introduced the dark-haired man at his side.
"Nice to meet you." Rosana shook his hand and he winked at her before moving off into the crowd.
"Anyone going to introduce me?" A new voice spoke up from behind Matt.
He turned and clapped a hand on the shoulder of the man who'd spoken. The other man was fair-haired and a few inches taller than Matt and Scott. He kept his blue eyes on Rosana and gave her a lopsided grin that was very attractive.
"I'm Jordan Campbell."
"Oh, I know. Matt hasn't stopped talking about you since training camp started."
Rosana's eyes flashed to Matt's face in time to see him flush and scowl at Jordan. "Shut the hell up, Campy."
Rosana ducked her head to hide her smile but warmed all the way through at the revelation. At least she wasn't alone in her attraction.
Scott roared with laughter and Rosana looked up in time to see the man throw an arm around Jordan's shoulders. He dragged the other man away from her and Matt. "Come on, Campy. Let's give these two some time alone."
Matt watched them go and turned to Rosana with a sheepish smile as he rubbed a hand against the back of his neck. "Uh, sorry about that."
"It's fine." Rosana smiled and clasped her hands together in front of her.
They stared at each other, smiling shy smiles and not speaking. Then Matt straightened and held a hand towards her.
"Come meet some of my other friends."
Rosana nodded and went with him, shivering when she felt his fingers close around hers.
He took her around the house, introducing her to the rest of his teammates, as well as their spouses or girlfriends. A few kids were running around and Rosana watched them playing with a smile.
Rosana didn't notice the time passing until Jordan and a younger player came to say goodnight to Matt. She and Matt were sitting on his back deck with a few of his teammates, enjoying the mild fall weather. The sun had long since set but the light from the house lent a bright glow to the back yard.
"Thanks for the party, Matt," Jordan said as he shook hands with Matt. "See you tomorrow afternoon."
"Yeah, thanks for having us over," the younger player added as he shook hands with Matt as well.
"Thanks for coming, guys. See you at practice."
Rosana watched them go, then turned to Matt with a smile. "Was that kid old enough to be drinking?"
Matt chuckled and nodded. "Barely. That's Josh Virtanen. I think his twenty-first birthday was a couple months ago."
"I can't believe there are such young players."
Matt shrugged as he brought his bottle of beer to his lips. "I started in the NHL when I was twenty. A lot of guys get drafted when they're eighteen."
"And they play that young?"
"Not all of them but the good ones, yeah."
Rosana shook her head in amazement and tugged her coat closer around her as a breeze blew through the yard. She had been working at Burger King when she was eighteen. By twenty, she'd graduated to Dunkin' Donuts.
They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes, just listening to the people around them. A few more guys came to say goodnight to Matt and Rosana was impressed with how well-behaved everyone was. Not that she had a lot of experience with professional athletes but she hated to admit that she'd have believed the stereotypes before meeting Matt's teammates. Now she knew better. They weren't all rowdy, drunken boors. These guys were loud sometimes, but polite and genuinely friendly with each other.
Rosana noticed the time and gasped. "Oh, I should go."
Matt looked over as she stood up and shot to his feet. "Already?"
"'Already?'" Rosana laughed and nodded. "It's past midnight and I'm not used to being up so late."
"All right." Matt sounded so disappointed that she had to smile.
"I'll walk you home." Matt led her back through the house and out the front door with her, ignoring the calls of his friends and teammates.
"You don't have to do that." But Rosana was pleased that he wanted to.
Neither of them spoke until they reached the foot of her porch steps. Then Rosana paused and turned to face Matt. He was rubbing at the back of his neck again, his other hand shoved into his jeans pocket.
"I'm glad you came tonight."
"Thank you for inviting me. It was great to meet all your teammates." Rosana glanced across at the lit-up house next door and smiled when she saw several faces in the window closest to them. "You're lucky to have such good friends, Matt."
Matt followed her glance and tossed a rude gesture at his gawking teammates. Rosana laughed when she heard their responding hoots and hollers.
"Yeah. They're pretty great."
He turned back to look down at her and she smiled. Then his expression changed and he took a step closer. Rosana felt her stomach flip right over and she swallowed against the sudden dryness in her throat. Matt took another step and his large body threw a shadow over them from the lamppost at the end of the street. Rosana flinched when his face went dark and Matt froze.
"Are you all right?" he asked, his voice quiet.
She nodded and drew in a shaky breath.
Matt cocked his head to one side and took a step back as he shoved his hands in his pockets. "I thought you were having a good time tonight."
"I was. I mean, I am. I just...." Rosana shrugged, unsure of how to explain her hesitancy now after they'd become friends.
"Did my friends make you nervous tonight?"
Rosana's eyes snapped to his face. "What? Why do you say that?"
Matt shrugged and offered her a smile. "You seemed tense for the first little while. I thought maybe you weren't used to crowds like that."
A dry laugh scraped from her throat and she shook her head. "You could say that."
Matt studied her in silence. Rosana could see the muscles in his jaw clench and unclench. "Is it me?"
"I mean, I thought we were... getting along. You know, getting to know each other."
"We are." Rosana moved closer but Matt didn't say anything. She cleared her throat and looked towards her porch. "Uh, would you like to come inside for a bit? We could talk?"
He hesitated and Rosana felt her breath catch as she waited for his response. He shook his head but leaned close as her spoke. "I think I ought to get back to the party and my guests."
Rosana nodded, understanding but still disappointed.
"Can I come over in the morning?" Matt asked. "Are you working?"
"No, I'm off. You can come over if you want to."
"Yeah. I'd like to talk, Rosana." He grinned at her and pressed a warm kiss to her cheek. "Have a good night."
Rosana nodded, breathless, and watched him walk back across to his house. Then she walked inside her own and locked the door behind her.
* * * *
The next morning, as promised, Matt knocked on her door. She greeted him with a warm smile and they talked about the weather as Rosana led the way to the kitchen. As she put the coffee on, Matt pulled out a chair and sat at the table. Rosana twisted her hands together and sat across from him. She felt awkward and didn't know how to start talking about what had happened last night.
"I hope you know I consider you a friend, Rosana." Matt broke the silence. "I don't want you to think I'd ever do something to hurt you."
Rosana smiled. She believed him and it made her feel even worse about how she'd reacted the night before. Now he might never try to kiss me. "I know, Matt. It's not you, I promise." She paused and shook her head. "I don't have the greatest track record with guys."
Matt's eyebrows lifted.
"I mean, oh, I don't mean that I've dated a lot or anything." Rosana felt her face heating up as she tried to explain. "I just, the guys I did date or go out with, they weren't all nice guys."
Rosana waited for him to say more but he just smiled and remained silent. She drew in a deep breath and tried again. "I dated this one guy, James, right after high school. Turns out, he'd made a bet with his friends to take my virginity before the summer was out."
Matt's jaw dropped and Rosana managed a smile at his expression. She hadn't meant to blurt it out like that. She dropped her gaze to her hands, twisting together on the table.
"Yeah. I've always been shy and quiet, usually with my nose in a book and they all thought I was this... I don't know, wild woman underneath it all." She lifted her eyes to Matt's face and smiled. "They were wrong."
"Were all your boyfriends like that?" Matt asked.
"No. And James wasn't my boyfriend. We went to a few movies, that was it." She sighed. "There were a few guys I dated in college but they all were mostly insensitive and pushy. All they wanted was to get in my pants. To be fair, it was college, and sex was probably on everyone's minds."
"But not yours?"
Rosana felt the heat all the way from her scalp to her chest and it worsened when Matt chuckled.
"I'm teasing, Rosana."
She let out a weak laugh and nodded. "I know."
"I'm sorry you had to deal with so many jerks in college, Rosana." Matt grinned when she lifted her head to meet his gaze. "I'm not like that."
"No! I never meant to say you were like them!"
Matt reached over and patted her hand. "I know you like me, it's all right."
Rosana gaped and covered her eyes with one hand as Matt laughed.
"I'm sorry. I'll stop teasing you."
Rosana shook her head and after another minute, managed to find the courage to look at him again.
Matt squeezed her fingers. "So why did you flinch when I started to kiss you?"
Forgetting to breathe for a moment, Rosana tried to tug her fingers out of his grasp. He wouldn't let go.
"Well, I... dating wasn't the only thing... that is, I had another... experience in college that sort of, stayed with me, you know?"
Matt's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean?"
Rosana met his gaze and drew in a deep breath before she spoke. "I went to a party with my roommate, off-campus somewhere. It was mostly guys in the house and I lost track of my roommate at some point. Some of the guys seemed nice and tried to talk to me, but they were drunk and... well, you know how shy I am. I just tried to stay out of everyone's way. I ended up in this big room, the dining room I guess, but the furniture was all moved out of the way." Rosana waved her free hand and gave Matt a weak smile. "Anyway, I was alone and all of a sudden, this fight broke out."
Rosana cringed at the memory. She'd been trapped in the corner as two big guys started wrestling around and everyone else poured into the room to surround them. Rosana had been pushed along with the crowd until she'd been jostled on all sides. The men continued to fight and the crowd egged them on and somehow, Rosana had ended up with an elbow in the face.
She'd cried out but in the noise of the crowd, no one noticed. With blood on her face and hands, Rosana had tried to edge out of the room. Someone in the crowd had grabbed her and for long moments, she'd been carried away, in the opposite direction from everyone. At first, she'd thought maybe the man holding her was trying to help but she could still recall the feeling of his hands smoothing over her bottom and up her chest. Luckily, someone had jostled the man and she'd struggled free. Afterward, she'd never known who'd grabbed her but it had been terrifying, to say the least. She'd walked home, alone, hiding her bruised and bloodied face and cried herself to sleep.
After she finished describing what had happened, Matt let go of her fingers and sat back. He had an unreadable expression on his face and Rosana bit her bottom lip, wondering what he was thinking. She felt the need to speak and wondered if he thought she was silly for reacting to him the way she had because of something that had happened so long ago.
"I haven't dated much since then and the guys I do date tend to get bored when I don't turn out to be the closeted sexy librarian they expect." She returned his half-hearted smile and looked away. "There was one guy who wouldn't take no for an answer." She hated to think of Nathan and the way he'd kept harassing her even after they'd stopped seeing each other. She gave Matt a brief synopsis of that relationship when he asked.
"He doesn't still bother you, does he?" Matt's voice was hard.
Rosana shook her head. "No. A good hardcover book has more than one use."
Matt smiled again and rubbed a hand over his chin. He got up and leaned one hand on the back of his chair.
"You want to give me a tour?"
She blinked, surprised by the change in subject. "A tour?"
"Yeah." Matt smiled at her, all traces of his previous expression gone. "I've never seen your whole house."
Rosana shrugged and nodded. "Sure." She didn't know how she should react to his request but since he wasn't making her feel silly for sharing such a mortifying and scary experience with him. She'd never have wanted him to treat her any differently.
She walked with him through the house, showing him the living room and her modest entertainment center. Upstairs, she hurried past the bedrooms and ended the tour in her favorite room. Matt's eyes popped open wide when he stepped inside her library. She smiled and walked past him to sit down in the oversized easy chair in the middle of the room.
Matt began a slow circuit of the room. "I didn't think it was possible to own this many books."
Three of the four walls were lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and all the shelves were filled, some two books deep. After moving into the house, Rosana had had her father build the shelves and she'd bought the chair specifically for this room. She spent most of her time in here and loved having all these books at her fingertips.
"How'd you end up with so many?"
Rosana shrugged. "I buy them, I get them as gifts. I like to go to used book stores. I've found some good ones there, even if some of them have seen better days."
Matt pulled out a book that was missing a front cover. "I can see that."
Rosana smiled as he flipped through a few more books. When he paused at one section and picked up a few different ones, she walked over.
"Would you like to borrow some?"
"Me?" Matt smiled down at her and held up the paperback in his hand. "I don't read much."
"Don't you get any free time when you're traveling?"
Matt nodded and replaced the book on the shelf. "I guess so."
"So take a couple with you. I don't mind."
Matt laughed and waved a hand at the shelves across from where they stood. "I wouldn't even know what to choose!"
Rosana laughed with him and walked around to pick out a couple she thought he might enjoy. "Here, start with these. If you like them, let me know and I can find more like those."
Matt looked down as she placed them in his hands. He met her eyes and she smiled at him, wanting to say so much more than 'I hope you like the books.' Something must have shown in her face because Matt's eyes darkened and before she knew it was happening, Matt had his arms around her and his lips were covering hers.
She sucked in a surprised breath and clung to his arms as he brought her right up against his body. She didn't even feel self-conscious about her glasses as his mouth slanted over hers and she parted her lips for his gently probing tongue. Her body sagged at the first touch of his tongue on hers and his arms tightened around her.
She heard the dull thud of the books hitting the floor but she was focused on Matt and how he felt. Lord, but he tasted good and Rosana's mind was spinning as he continued to kiss her. His mouth moved over her lips, his tongue danced with hers and his muscles were hard everywhere she touched. She felt lightheaded and fought to stay on her feet as his hands fisted in her shirt, tugging it above the waist of her pants.
At last he pulled back and smiled into her dazed eyes. He pressed another light kiss to her lips and helped her stand upright. She hadn't realized until that moment that he'd had her bent back over his arms. Every inch of their bodies were pressed together and Rosana looked away as she straightened.
"I've been wanting to do that for a while now," Matt confessed.
Rosana let out a nervous laugh and tried to pull down her shirt. Matt was still holding her too close for her to move with ease. He cocked his head to one side and smiled at her struggles before he stepped back. His hands remained on her waist and Rosana glanced up at him through her lashes as she managed to pull her shirt down all the way.
"Have I made you uncomfortable?"
She shook her head.
"Why won't you say anything?"
"I...." Rosana couldn't think of anything to say. She cleared her throat and tried again. "I hope you like the books."
Matt laughed and pulled her close. He kissed her once more before releasing her. He took her hand in his as he scooped up the books in his other hand. "I think I will."
They walked back downstairs and stopped at her front door. Matt gave her a questioning look and she felt her heart stutter when he leaned down to kiss her again. It was a short, sweet kiss and it made her toes curl.
"I'll talk to you tomorrow," he said before letting her go.
She nodded and held the door open for him.
"Thanks for the books, Rosana."
She smiled and didn't stop smiling when he disappeared and she shut the front door.
* * * *