tagRomanceReflections on Ice Ch. 08

Reflections on Ice Ch. 08

byMugsyB©

Hello all, and thank you for reading. Even though it may ruffle some feathers, I've got to add a disclaimer: For those of you who have enjoyed the story, and are looking forward to the conclusion, read on. If you so far haven't enjoyed it, hate the characters, and think they're stupid, then stop reading now. I guarantee you won't like the ending. I do, but I'm sort of biased.

As always, take care and happy reading. ;)


****

After she cried herself to sleep, Cassia woke sometime in the middle of the night, a loud voice echoing down the hall outside the room. She sat up, looking around her. The curtain was still open and the glow from outside illuminated most of the room. Cassia looked at the end of the bed, at the spot where Dylan had stood, and broken her heart.

She flopped back on the pillows, before scowling and rising to wrestle her way out of the damn bridesmaid dress. Then she walked to the bathroom, rinsed her mouth a couple of times and splashed some cold water on her face. After that, she got back into bed and stared out the window until her eyes burned.

In her mind, she relived the argument over and over, wondering where they'd gone wrong. She heard again the way Dylan had accused her of wanting to hook up with Alex. How he'd refused to listen to anything she said, and how he hadn't denied her doubts about their compatibility.

She rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling, tears trickling out of her eyes, dripping into her hair.

It wasn't like she'd been kind though. She didn't even know what had made her snap back at him. It had all turned into a horrible mess.

Maybe she'd been kidding herself, thinking there could ever be anything more than an act between them. She'd fooled herself for a couple weeks there, thinking they'd turned it into something real. It hadn't been real enough.

Then again, the ache in her chest told her it had all been too real.

In the morning, she woke, feeling worse than before and reached for her phone. She wasn't about to slink out of the hotel in that stupid dress and those shoes. She called Kyle and hoped he wasn't working. He answered on the third ring.

"Hey, Cass. What's up?"

"Where are you?"

"At home, why? Where are you?"

Cassia let out a breath. "I need a ride, and some clothes. Can you come get me?"

"What happened? I thought you went to the wedding with Dylan?"

"I don't really want to get into on the phone. Can you come get me or not?"

There was a pause and some rustling, like he was throwing back his bedsheets. "Yeah, fine. I can come. Where are you?"

She gave him the hotel name and address. "I'm in room 436."

"OK. I'll get there as soon as I can."

"Thanks." She breathed a sigh of relief as she ended the call.

It felt like an eternity but Kyle's knock on the door came barely thirty minutes after they'd hung up. She'd just climbed out of the shower, and wrapped herself in one of the hotel robes before answering the door.

"Hey." He handed her a bundle of clothes.

"Thanks." She took it with a grateful smile. "Give me a few minutes."

She went back into the bathroom to finish drying and getting dressed. When she walked out, Kyle was reclined on the bed, watching TV, remote control in his hand. He glanced at her before tossing the remote aside. He grabbed her dress shoes and she picked up the wrinkled dress, and they left.

In the car, Kyle kept quiet for a good ten minutes. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Cassia sighed and rubbed her eyes, striving to keep more tears at bay. "I don't know."

"Did Dylan do something? Should I be heading to his place to fuck him up?"

At that, Cassia laughed. "No. That's all right." She let out a breath, her smile fading fast. "This time, I think I fucked up. Bad."

After a moment of silence, Kyle reached over and patted her leg. "I'm sorry, Cass. Can I do anything?"

She shook her head and then stared hard out the passenger window, willing herself to keep it together until she could get to the privacy of her own bedroom.

Kyle didn't say or ask anything else for the rest of the drive, or even the rest of the day. He knocked on her bedroom door around dinner time and that was when Cassia smelled something cooking.

Our of sheer curiosity, she dragged her ass out of bed, wiped her tear-stained face and walked down the hall to the kitchen.

"You cooked?"

"No. Tyler did." Kyle shifted out of the way, and Cassia smiled at Tyler, who looked up from his chopping.

"Hey, Cass." Tyler set the knife down and wiped his hands on a towel. "How are you doing?"

"I've been better." She leaned against the counter. "You didn't have to cook."

"If I hadn't, you'd have gotten tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches."

Kyle scoffed as he turned to the fridge and poured Cassia a cup of juice.

"I like grilled cheese." Cassia took the drink with a smile.

"Told you." Kyle turned a triumphant smile on his boyfriend.

Tyler rolled his eyes and tossed the contents of his chopping board into the pot on the stove. "It'll be another twenty minutes or so."

"Sounds good."

Cassia backed out of the kitchen, leaving them to it. A half hour later, they sat around her little table and ate a delicious meal of spaghetti and meatballs.

"That was really good, thank you, Tyler."

He grinned at her. "I'm glad you liked it."

"I'm just glad you ate." Kyle shot her a pointed look. "Have you eaten anything else today?"

She returned his look. "I didn't have much of an appetite."

Both younger men stared at her, clearly waiting for more of a response.

"I don't want to talk about it."

"Maybe you need to." Kyle lifted his glass to his lips. "Maybe you need to get it all off your chest."

She shook her head. She wasn't a fool. She knew exactly what she'd done wrong. What she needed was a way to make Dylan forgive her but knew she couldn't even blame him if he never spoke to her again.

Kyle reached over and squeezed her shoulder. "Are you sure you're OK?"

She met his eyes, hers filling with tears. "No." Her voice cracked and she sucked back a sob. "No, I'm not OK. I messed up, big time, Kyle."

"We've all messed up from time-to-time."

Cassia looked over at Tyler, sniffling. "You think?"

Tyler nodded and pointed at Kyle. "Look at how bad Kyle messes up. Like, all the time."

Kyle gaped at him. Tyler grinned back. "And I forgive him every time."

Cassia laughed and covered her face in her hands. She drew in several stuttering breaths until she had control of herself again. "Thanks, you guys."

Kyle stopped her from retreating to her room for a second. "My offer to fuck him up still stands."

Cassia patted his hand on her shoulder. "I know, and thanks. If I can manage to get him back, I want to keep him just as he is."

Kyle nodded and let her go.

Alone in her room, Cassia sprawled in the middle of her bed, on her back, staring at the ceiling. The light of day faded and still, she stared at nothing.

She turned her head to one side and spotted the tickets Dylan had left on her dresser. He'd left her tickets for a few of the remaining homes games, and she'd been considering taking her mom to one, or seeing if Janis would be up for it. She had no way of knowing if Dylan would even see her there, or if he'd care. For all she knew, he could have the tickets canceled and she'd be denied entry to the arena, not that she'd blame him.

Feeling lost, lonely and still a little hurt by everything he'd said to her in turn, Cassia rolled the other way, closed her eyes and counted sheep until she fell asleep.

****

Several days after the wedding, Cassia was at work when her phone started ringing. She pulled it out of her pocket, her other hand still holding the part she'd needed from the storage room. Janis' name and number flashed on the display and she answered.

"Hey, Janis. What's up?"

"Are you at work?"

"Yeah." Cassia continued to walk back to the Camry she'd been working on. Fernando was there, working just under the front end. She nudged him with a foot, handed over the part, and turned away. "Why?"

"When are you off?"

"The usual time."

"You and I are going somewhere."

Cassia sighed and rubbed her cheek with one grubby hand. "I don't feel like going anywhere tonight, Janis. Can I get a rain check?"

"No, it's not tonight. It's... like, now."

"What?"

"Can you get away early?"

"Janis, what's going on?"

"Come on, just go ask your dad. We need a spontaneous adventure."

"I'm not doing anything until you tell me what this is all about."

Janis sighed. "Don't you trust me?"

"Of course I do. Now tell me why you want me to ditch work and leave with you."

"There's a thing we need to go to."

"A thing?" Cassia frowned. "What thing?"

Janis hesitated before answering and Cassia shook her head. "If this is something to do with Dylan, the answer is no."

"You don't know what it is!"

Cassia recalled now that there was a team event today, something to do with a charitable kid's organization. Dylan had mentioned it before the wedding, and it made sense it would be this week, as it was spring break. She also knew she didn't want to go.

"Janis, I didn't tell you about me and Dylan so you could conspire to get us back together."

"Don't you want to be with him?"

More than anything. Cassia shook her head again, walking out the front doors to pace around the driveway. "It's not that simple. I can't just show up at an event and expect to be able to fix everything, with a thousand people hanging around."

"There won't be a thousand people."

"Janis..."

"Cassia, you told me yourself that you love him." Janis' voice was taking on a stubborn note. "And that you wish you had handled things at the wedding better."

That was all true. She'd gone for dinner with Janis a few days after the incident and spilled her guts about everything. The arrangement, the way they'd connected and how Cassia had fallen hard for him. Janis had been sympathetic to it all, never once judging, or making fun of Cassia. It was why they were such good friends.

"You need to at least try to talk to him."

"I have tried. I called him."

"And he didn't answer. That doesn't count as trying."

"It means he didn't want to talk to me. Why would it suddenly be different if I showed up at the event later?"

"He'll talk to you, Cass. Trust me."

Cassia stared across the street, seeing nothing but the hurt look on Dylan's face after they'd argued at the hotel. "I don't know."

"You have to try."

Cassia didn't know about that. If she didn't try, she wouldn't find out for certain that he didn't want anything to do with her. She could pretend a little longer that he'd just been busy when she called, and hadn't actively ignored her.

Instead, she heard herself agreeing to Janis' plan. Janis told her she'd come pick her up at her apartment in an hour. Cassia nodded and got off the phone before going to tell her dad she was taking off early.

He nodded and waved her off after securing her promise to come to Sunday dinner. She nodded and stripped her coveralls off. She grabbed her things from the office, clocked out, and hurried home.

As promised, Janis arrived an hour later, and they headed out in Janis' car.

"Have you talked to Carol since the wedding?"

Cassia scowled and shook her head. "No."

"Me either. I don't even think Olivia has. She's kind of disappeared."

"Maybe that's for the best." Cassia didn't want to say anything too rude about Carol, but she knew, after what had happened at the wedding, that she'd be fine if she never saw Carol again.

"I don't know what got into her."

"She was hurt, lonely and jealous."

"I guess. I've felt those things from time-to-time too, but I'd never hook up with a guy like Alex." Janis shuddered. "I mean, ew!"

Cassia laughed. "You don't have to tell me that. I sometimes can't believe that I fell for that guy."

"Did you?"

"What?"

"Did you actually fall for Alex?"

Cassia considered before answering. "I don't know. I thought he was a great guy and we had a lot of fun together."

"But did you love him?"

The word love only called one face to mind for Cassia, and it wasn't Alex. "No. I liked him, but I never loved him."

"So Carol is welcome to him."

Cassia snorted. "Yeah. She can have him."

They didn't say much for the rest of the drive. Janis told her the name of the location, and Cassia navigated while her friend drove through the less-than-familiar neighborhood, growing more and more nervous, the closer they got to the place.

She didn't even know what she'd say, beyond 'hello', and she didn't know if Dylan would even acknowledge her long enough to say anything more. She hoped so, but couldn't say she'd blame him if he walked away and never spoke to her again. But maybe she was being overly dramatic. They'd only been together for a few weeks. Sure, she'd fallen head over heels for him, but it wouldn't be a surprise if he didn't feel the same. She hoped, but she was a realist, after all.

"Is this it?" Janis leaned forward, eyeing the building to their right, with the multitude of cars coming and going.

"Probably. Look at all the people."

Janis nodded and looked for somewhere to park, while Cassia viewed the venue from her window. It was a neighborhood sports center, the kind with an ice arena, a basketball court, gym, and an outdoor football field, track, and tennis courts. There was a huge banner stretched across the main entrance, announcing the presence of the Dallas Stars, balloons all around.

Janis parked the car, and they headed into the building. The crowds weren't huge, but the event was on until the evening, so perhaps more people would arrive after the dinner hour.

Cassia stopped just inside the lobby at her first sight of a player in a jersey. She recognized Paul Scott and wondered briefly if he'd remember meeting her. Then she saw another player, and another, her heart stopping each time until she realized none of them were Dylan. She was a wreck.

"I don't think I can do this, Janis."

Her friend moved close to her side and linked their arms. "Come on. I'm here."

Cassia shot her a look before nodding. They started to walk through the crowds.

Past the entryway, they were directed towards the indoor arena, where several tables and booths were set up all over. Some for face painting, others with players seated at tables, signing autographs, and others serving snacks and drinks. Further in, there was a hockey skills training area and several carnival-type games, like ring toss and balloon popping.

"Holy cow."

Cassia turned at Janis' exclamation. "What?"

"Look at that. The back entrance is opened up too, and there's more outside."

Cassia nodded. It was an extensive set-up. She saw activities going on outside, and noticed as they got closer to the doors that there were several local youth activity groups helping as well, not just the Stars. People with name tags bustled around, handing out balloons, stickers and showing people where to go for certain activities.

"This is incredible." Janis squeezed her arm. "I love seeing the communities get together for this sort of thing. The kids must be having a ball."

"Yeah." Cassia looked around, hearing nothing but raised voices and laughter all around. The kids she saw were all smiling and having fun, and she felt like a wet sock. "I don't see Dylan."

"Well, he's got to be around here somewhere. Should we go check outside?"

Cassia shrugged. "I don't know."

Then someone called her name and they both turned to look. Jake Brown came up to them, a wide grin on his face.

"Hey, Cass. Dylan didn't mention you were coming."

Cassia managed a smile. "I wasn't sure if I could make it." It was clear that Dylan hadn't advertised their break-up. "Jake, this is my friend, Janis. Janis, Jake Brown."

They shook hands. "Nice to meet you, Janis."

"And you, Jake." Janis smiled at him. "Are you a hockey player, too?"

Cassia snorted with laughter. "He's the captain of the team, Janis."

Janis flushed but still smiled. "I'm more of a football fan, myself."

Jake laughed. "Not surprising. It's great that you were able to come."

"Yeah." Cassia swallowed, her gaze darting around the crowded venue. "I don't see Dylan."

Jake twisted around, looking with her. "Last I saw, he was with the kids at the skills corral."

"Corral?" Janis laughed. "Are they cattle?"

"Sometimes it does feel like herding cattle, when it comes to kids." Jake turned back with a grin. Someone waved for Jake's attention from a nearby game booth, and he took a step in that direction. "If I see Dylan, I'll tell him you're here."

Cassia nodded. "Thanks. Good to see you, Jake."

"You too." He winked and hurried off to see to his duties.

"He's nice." Janis watched him go.

Cassia squeezed her arm. "You're nearly married, girl."

"Doesn't mean I can't appreciate fine things." Janis tilted her head to one side. "Like that backside. Damn."

Cassia burst out laughing and steered her friend away from the games and Jake Brown. "Come on. The skills corral was back here."

They walked that way, the butterflies going mad inside Cassia's stomach. Then she saw him. He straightened, stick in hand, and watched a kid take a shot, the puck sailing into the net on the other end of the little space. Excited, the kid spin around and high-fived Dylan, who laughed and cheered him on.

Cassia froze, pulling Janis to a stop beside her. Janis looked at her, a frown knitting her forehead.

"Cassia?"

"I can't do this."

"We're already here." Janis patted her hand and looked over at Dylan as he started talking to the next kid in line. "Just go say 'hi.'"

Cassia shook her head. "This was a mistake. He's not going to want to talk to me."

"Of course he is. No man agrees to go along with a pretend dating scenario unless he likes the woman."

Cassia blinked and turned to her friend. "What?"

"Oh, come on, Cass." Janis was grinning. "I know you think he did it just because he's a nice guy, which he is, a really great guy, actually. But there's no way he agreed out of the kindness of his heart."

It had never occurred to her that he'd gone along with her plan for any other reason than that. She shook her head. "What?"

Janis laughed. "I'm telling you, he's liked you from the start, and he'd never snub you if that's the case."

Cassia's mind spun at Janis' words. "I don't know."

"I do." Janis let go of her arm and started walking closer to the skills area. Cassia gasped and hurried to catch her friend, but not before Janis lifted a hand in a wave. "Hi, Dylan."

Dylan looked up, a grin on his face from the antics of the last kid he'd been helping, and spotted the two of them. His smile slipped when he saw Cassia and she felt her heart leap, lodging somewhere in her throat.

That's when she spotted Tristen, who'd been helping him, and Tristen lifted his hand in a friendly wave.

"Hey, Cass. What a surprise."

Janis reached back and grabbed Cassia's hand, hauling her closer so they wouldn't be shouting across the last several yards.

"I'm Janis, Cassia's friend." Janis shook Tristen's hand. "And you are?"

"Tristen Sturgess." He grinned and reached over to pull Cassia close with one arm. Turning with her, he faced Dylan. "Why didn't you tell me she was coming?"

Dylan stared at Cassia, his smile still there, but no longer in his eyes. "I didn't know."

For a second, no one spoke and Cassia could feel her cheeks going pink. She looked down, unable to meet Dylan's eyes any longer.

"Why don't you take a break, Dylan." Tristen dropped his arm from Cassia's shoulders. "Go get a drink with Cassia. I think we were about to rotate stations soon anyway."

Dylan glanced at his teammate with a slight nod. Cassia looked at Janis, who nodded.

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