Melting the Ice Ch. 01byMugsyB©
Here's my latest and possibly the last one for a while. You can check out my profile for more info on the reason why, if you care enough. :)
This story isn't for anyone specifically - except maybe sprezzatura, since she seems to now be obsessed with this player. Don't lie, you!
There were, however, a few people who requested either a goalie story or a story about this goalie. Some requests were anonymous, but I suppose I can say that this story is for pepperpsu, bignsassy818 and evilpoptart.
For the rest of you, I hope you enjoy.
**Warning: here follows a story of romance, involving elements of HOCKEY. If you don't like the sport, or the combination, please don't bother going any further.**
Hayden jerked upright when the puck nailed the crossbar and flew off into the corner of the ice. His teammates shot after the puck and Hayden crouched in his ready position. He only relaxed when his teammates cleared the zone and took off for the bench to change lines. Turning, Hayden bumped his gloved hand once against the crossbar, thanking the metal rod for making a save when he couldn't.
Less than a minute later, there was a stop in play and Hayden lifted his helmet. He turned and picked up the water bottle on the net, squirting a stream of cool water into his mouth and over his face. So far, this had been an energetic game and he was blocking more shots than should be possible.
It's only Carolina for crying out loud. He gave a wry smile as he watched the black and red jerseys circle the ice in front of him. He'd played enough games to know that a team's standings in the league didn't make them pushovers. Sometimes the underdogs could surprise you.
His team, the New York Rangers, were facing the Hurricanes and the 'Canes had come out of the gate firing on all cylinders. Lucky for his team, Hayden Lindgren was in the right frame of mind. He was backstopping for a team that just couldn't seem to get it together.
A quick glance at the large screen overhead told Hayden they had exactly ten minutes to figure it out.
Come on, guys. He slid his mask down into place again. One more goal, that's all you need.
The game was harried for the last ten minutes. There were scrambles at both ends and Hayden took the puck to the pads several times. At long last, the buzzer sounded and it was over. Unfortunately for the Rangers, it wasn't their victory.
With a heavy sigh, Hayden skated off the ice with his team. In the locker room, the atmosphere was hushed. The guys on the team quietly went through the motions of changing, showering and packing their stuff up. They were back on the road that night and heading to D.C. next to face the Capitals.
"Sorry we couldn't get it together in the end, Lindy." Craig Darrow, captain of the Rangers, sat down next to Hayden on the bus.
"Don't worry about it." Hayden didn't meet his teammate's eyes.
As a goalie, he often felt responsible for the losses. His teammates, especially Craig, did their best to get him to shake the disappointment following a loss. Deep down, Hayden knew he wasn't the only guy losing the game but when it came down to it, all he knew was that he'd been the one to let in that last goal.
"Come on, don't beat yourself up," Craig went on when he saw the frown on Hayden's face. "It wasn't your fault."
Hayden shrugged and offered Craig a half-hearted smile. "It sure felt like it when the puck went over my shoulder."
Craig shook his head. "No, Hayden. Defense wasn't doing enough for you."
Again, Hayden merely shrugged. He knew he'd shake it off in time for the game in D.C. but for now, he wanted to wallow in his mistake.
I should be better, he thought with an inward sigh. I can be better, damn it.
It didn't take long for his teammates to pull him out of his funk. The bus ride to the airport was short and no one would let him just sit and rehash that last goal. Hayden was smiling as he boarded the plane with his teammates and laughing by the time he was buckled in.
He never could stay serious and miserable over a loss for long. As Craig reminded him, it was the end of October. They had months before they needed to start panicking about a playoff spot. Hayden shook off the last of his disappointment as the plane took off and he was in a better frame of mind in no time.
Natalie was frantic. Her exam was in less than an hour and she couldn't find her calculator. She was in the midst of tossing her dorm room around when her roommate, Madison, walked in.
"Natalie Johnson!" Madison exclaimed, startling Natalie. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"Hey, Madison. Have you seen my calculator?"
"Is that why you're turning our room into a disaster area?"
Natalie shrugged as she glanced around. She didn't think it looked any different from normal. She and Madison were not terribly rigid about their cleaning habits. She bent over to continue searching under her desk. "I need my calculator."
Madison made an annoyed sound and stalked over to her own desk. "Here, take mine," she said and tossed her calculator at Natalie.
Natalie squeaked in surprise when the device connected with her backside. "Thanks, Madison. Won't you need it today?"
"Nope." Madison flopped down on her messy bed. "You go ahead and ace that test. I want full credit when you do."
Natalie laughed. "Yeah, right. No one would believe that you helped me pass my exam."
Madison was an art history student and was notoriously terrible with math. If it wasn't for keeping track of her shopping expenses, Madison wouldn't even own a calculator.
"When is your test anyway?" Madison asked as she picked up a magazine and flipped through it.
"Did you do your thing last night to make sure you pass?" Madison asked with a suggestive eyebrow wiggle.
Natalie blushed and shook her head. She berated herself yet again for admitting to her roommate that she'd always passed an exam when she got lucky the night before. Last fall she'd been failing a course and had gone out for drinks with her friends the week of her twenty-first birthday. She'd been so depressed about school that she'd gone home with some random guy. The next day, she'd aced the exam and went on to pass the course.
It had happened twice more; once unintentionally and once on purpose, just so Natalie could see if it truly worked. Majoring in math meant she didn't go for the superstitious stuff, or the romantic, but she couldn't deny the fact that she'd passed three tests with flying colors after one night stands. She also passed tests without sleeping with random guys, so it wasn't a complete theory.
Madison laughed when she saw Natalie's expression. "Don't worry, Nat. I haven't said anything to anyone else."
"That's good," Natalie replied with a wry smile. "I'd have to let some of your secrets slip if you had."
Madison's eyes grew wide at the threat. They'd been roommates for three years now and knew far more about each other than they should. Madison wasn't a party girl or devious by any means, but she had some juicy secrets that only Natalie was privy too.
"And besides," Natalie went on as she rifled through the mess on her desk. "I didn't mean it when I said it was my good luck habit."
"I know, Nat. You were drunk when you told me about it. I just hope you don't let that mess with your mind."
Natalie tossed a narrow glance at Madison over her shoulder. "It won't. I'm so ready for this exam, it's not even funny."
"Good. We should go out for drinks after."
"Should we?" Natalie asked as she picked up a notebook and squinted at her nearly illegible handwriting. What the hell is this supposed to be?
"Well, it's Louisa's birthday this week and you don't have any more midterms after today. It'll be a double celebration." Madison paused and gave her a broad grin. "Maybe you can even change your good luck habit around."
"What are you talking about?" She was half-listening to her roommate as she moved to her closet to find something comfortable to wear. This exam would last about three hours for her at least, even though the class was given four and a half to complete it.
Madison giggled. "Your good luck habit. Instead of getting laid the night before, you can go out and celebrate after."
Natalie paused as she removed her ratty NYU sweatshirt to pull on a soft blue sweater instead. "You're kidding me. You're actually suggesting that I have a one-night stand?"
Madison shrugged and settled back with her magazine. "Just because it's not my thing, doesn't mean you have to deprive yourself. Just remember our agreement."
"Yeah, yeah. Have I ever brought a guy back here?"
Natalie and Madison had agreed years ago to never bring guys back to their room. In spite of the fact that dorm rules didn't allow guys into the women's rooms, several girls on their floor did it anyway.
"No, you haven't, and for that, I thank you." Madison grinned as Natalie straightened her sweater and double-checked that her jeans zipper was done up. "Now get out of here. You know you want to get there early to pick your usual spot."
Natalie tossed her friend a grin as she raced from the room. She returned a second later to snatch the calculator out of Madison's hand, muttering her thanks as she bolted again.
"Oh my gawd, am I exhausted," Louisa Mayberry groaned as she walked arm-in-arm with Madison and Natalie.
"Why? Did you work today?" Madison asked.
Louisa snorted and shook her head, tossing her strawberry blond locks over her shoulder. "Hardly."
Her father paid the bills. Madison and Natalie exchanged a look before Louisa spoke again.
"I was up so late last night trying to finish a piece." Louisa was in the media program at NYU and her dream was to be an international correspondent.
"Did you get it done?" Madison asked.
"No, but I only have a couple edits to do." Louisa turned to the women on each of her arms and grinned. "And since tomorrow is Saturday, I'm so ready to cut loose tonight!"
Madison and Natalie laughed along with her as they made their way to a nearby bar. It wasn't far from their dorm and they soon escaped the autumn chill.
"There's a table there." Louisa pointed it out, standing taller than her two companions by a good three inches.
Madison nodded and followed, holding Natalie's hand. The bar wasn't too crowded but it was still early. Louisa slid into the narrow booth first and the other two women moved in. As they were taking their coats off and stuffing them out of the way, a waitress stopped by their table. They ordered a round of drinks and toasted Louisa turning twenty-one.
"Thanks you guys!" she said as they clinked glasses. Louisa took a big sip of hers and closed her eyes as she sighed in satisfaction. "Mmm, that's the best drink I've ever tasted."
Natalie raised her eyebrows. "You mean, this isn't your first drink?"
Louisa laughed and waved a hand. "OK, OK. It's the best legal drink I've ever tasted."
They chattered together for several minutes as they drank their first two rounds. The bar slowly filled up and Louisa's eyes started to wander over the people gathered around them.
"See anything you like, Louisa?" Madison asked as she rolled her eyes at Natalie.
Natalie covered her giggle with one hand and looked down. She was spinning a napkin around in place, seeing numbers and symbols from her exam in her mind's eye. There had been a couple of questions that had stumped her. She'd worked through them, of course, but they were still bothering her. All she did after any exam was doubt half her answers, thinking she'd missed an integer or exponent somewhere.
"Hmm," Louisa murmured in consideration. "There's some hot guys at that table over there."
Natalie had her head down, not looking up as Madison commented.
"Oh my. They're cute. Oh dear, except for that one with the crooked nose."
Louisa grinned. "I think they might be athletes or something."
"Why would you say that?"
"Athletes always have broken noses," Louisa told her, as if she were the authority.
Natalie did glance up then, offering her friends a wry smile. Out of the three of them, Louisa was the authority. Natalie had her few one-night stands along with a couple longer relationships and Madison was terrificly shy when it came to dating. Louisa on the other hand, she was a player, had been ever since they'd met. Natalie suspected it had something to do with being let loose in New York for university. Louisa's family lived in Cleveland, far from keeping an eye on Louisa.
"Athletes or not, they are cute, I'll give you that," Madison replied. "What do you think, Nat?"
Natalie shrugged, already turning her attention back to her napkin. She'd pulled a pen out of her purse and was scribbling numbers on the small slip of paper.
"Oh, for the love of Pete. Can't you stop doing math for one night?"
Natalie ignored her. The numbers started to make sense as she reworked the first problem that had given her issues during the exam. Dimly, she heard Louisa say something about leaving her alone. Madison replied with a comment about Natalie's sorry state of mind but Natalie wasn't paying close enough attention.
"Nat, do you think you can tear yourself away for two minutes?" Louisa broke through her thoughts a few minutes later.
Natalie looked up from her napkin, which was now covered in scribbles, and blinked at Louisa. "Why? Are we leaving?"
Louisa rolled her eyes as she reached into her purse for her ever present lipgloss. "No. Madison and I are going to go talk to those guys." She gestured casually towards the table of 'athletes' that she'd spotted before.
Natalie allowed herself a glance towards the table of guys and gaped in surprise. She hadn't noticed them before but now that she was looking, she realized they were hot, just as Louisa had stated earlier.
"Why do you need me for that?" Natalie asked, not looking away from the table of guys. There were five of them altogether and as Natalie studied them each in turn, they turned to look at the girls' table. "Oh jeez." She dropped her head and flushed in embarrassment. "I think they saw me looking."
"Good," Louisa replied and surreptitiously ran her fingers through her silky hair.
"What are you doing?" Natalie demanded as Louisa and Madison slid from their side of the booth. She'd heard Louisa's words a minute ago but they hadn't sunk in.
"We're going to the ladies room," Madison replied but she looked extremely apprehensive about it.
Natalie giggled and shook her head. "And after that?"
"We might take a little detour on the way back," Louisa replied, keeping her eyes on the table of men.
Sighing, Natalie straightened in her seat. "So I suppose you need me to keep this table for us?"
"Exactly." Louisa turned her face to give her friend a wink. "We might bring some company back."
"God help us," Natalie muttered but her friends were already gone.
She watched for a minute or two as Louisa pulled Madison through the thick crowd. The waitress appeared in another minute and Natalie ordered another drink.
Might as well, she thought. She suspected that if her friend Louisa got her way, she wouldn't return to the table at all.
Hayden had been reluctant to go out with his teammates. In the end, Craig convinced him that they needed a little stress relief after their loss to the Capitals the night before. They were back in New York for a two week home stretch and Hayden was glad for that at least. They didn't have another game until Sunday afternoon, so he had plenty of time to get over his disappointing showing in D.C.
"This place looks good," Brad Preston suggested as they walked outside a stretch of restaurants and shops.
Hayden nodded and followed his teammates inside the bar. It was busy inside and most of the tables were taken. Luckily, as they walked further into the main room, a group of people were just leaving a table. Craig and Brad headed right for it, claiming it before anyone else did. The other three followed close behind.
As Hayden took his coat off, he glanced around the busy bar. "I've never been here before."
The teammate on his left, Sidney Abbot, grinned. "It's a great place to meet chicks." He was a notorious hound dog.
Hayden rolled his eyes as the other guys with them laughed. Along with Sidney, Cam and Brad, Dave Gagliardi had come out. Craig was the oldest out of the five of them, and married, but Hayden knew he liked to spend time with the team whenever he could. It's what made him a good captain. As for the rest of them, they were single.
A waitress appeared at their table to take their drink orders. "What can I get for you guys?"
After she was gone again, the guys resumed their perusal of the bar.
"Busy tonight," Craig commented as he relaxed back in his chair.
Hayden met his eyes with a smirk. Craig wasn't on the lookout for a woman and took far too much enjoyment in watching the other guys scramble. Not that Hayden was the most active womanizer. He dated occasionally but it was difficult to hold down a relationship while playing in the NHL.
The waitress returned to their table with their drinks and they clinked their bottles and glasses together in a salute. They fell into easy conversation, discussing the road games and their upcoming match-up against the Islanders on Sunday.
"There's a smokin' hot chick over in that booth," Sidney said.
Brad turned his head to see where Sidney was looking. "Where?"
Rolling his eyes, Sidney shoved Brad's shoulder. "Don't look so obvious, man. Jeez, no wonder you don't have a woman."
Hayden chuckled as he lifted his bottle of beer to his lips. He liked his teammates and enjoyed spending time with them. He just didn't understand their desire to date. Their careers didn't leave much time to woo a woman and if they did date, more often than not, the woman ended up feeling neglected by the players' constant absence. It was the few and the strong that stuck around long enough to marry a hockey player.
"She is cute," Craig added.
Hayden flicked his eyes to the captain's face with a surprised glance. Craig met his gaze and shrugged. "What? She is. I've always liked redheads."
"Lindy, come on," Sidney scoffed, using the goalie's nickname. "Have a look. There, she's just standing up with one of her friends."
Hayden sighed but turned his head to look. He saw a tall, slender woman with long, light red hair and a shorter woman with shorter, dark blond hair, just sliding out of a booth. Seated was a third woman, with long, dark hair tied back in a ponytail, her face turned towards the table of hockey players. Her eyes widened for a moment and she looked down, her lips moving as she spoke to her companions. Then her friends disappeared into the crowd and Hayden listened as his teammates started talking again.
Except Hayden couldn't take his eyes off the woman left alone at the table. He was curious about why she'd remained at the table while her two companions left. She had her head bent over the table, barely looking up when the waitress stopped by to set a fresh drink down. Hayden could see her scribbling something and he smiled, wondering if she was writing on the table.
"Lindy? You with us, man?" Dave drew Hayden's attention away from the lone woman in the booth.
Hayden looked back at his four companions. "What? Did I miss something?"
"Sidney was suggesting a bet," Craig replied with an eye roll.
Hayden laughed and downed the last of his beer. "A bet? Do I even want to know?"
It was Sidney who answered. "Yes, because you're going to be in on it."
Hayden glanced again at the lonely brunette in the booth before turning his focus to his teammates. "What's the bet?"