Tip of the Ice-BergbyMugsyB©
This is a story that had originally been posted on here a few years ago. It was revised and edited to be published with another of my 'Ice' stories in a short-lived hockey romance anthology. That book is now no longer available, so I decided to repost this here, for everyone to enjoy again.
If you remember reading it on Lit before, you may remember it a little differently but I'm very happy with the revisions to this story. I hope you still like it, and if you're new to it, I hope it's something you enjoy.
Take care and happy reading.
Rosana sipped her iced tea and glanced up when a large pick-up truck pulled up to the curb in front of the house next door. She stopped rocking on her porch swing and watched with interest as a man got out and dropped the tailgate on the back of the truck. Another man got out of the passenger side and they spoke in low tones as they unloaded several boxes from the truck.
Someone's finally moved in, she thought and set her glass down on the little table beside her. The neighbor's house had sat empty for several months before the 'For Sale' sign was switched to 'Sold!'.
The men walked up to the house with the boxes and returned a few minutes later for more. In all, they made five trips to the house and Rosana turned her attention back to the book in her hand.
It was one of the few remaining nice days of the summer and Rosana wanted to enjoy as much of it as she could. She flipped a page and didn't pay attention when the driver came back to the truck and shook hands with his companion. Rosana looked up when the truck drove away and tucked her chin down when the man left standing there turned towards her. She didn't want to get caught staring.
Too late. A blush stained her cheeks but she looked up.
Her new neighbor stood at the bottom of her porch steps with his hands tucked into his jeans pockets. Rosana's eyes widened as she took in his appearance. He looked to be about six feet tall, or at least several inches taller than she was, and she wasn't a short woman. He wore a long-sleeved shirt with no jacket and Rosana could see he was broad and muscular. There was a coiled tension to the man as well, which gave him the appearance of being larger. His hair was dark and messy and he had the dark shadow of beard stubble framing his strong jaw line. He offered her a lopsided smile that made her stomach flip.
"I'm Matt Robinson." He lifted his hand in a little wave. "I just moved in next door."
Rosana stared at him for a long moment and she offered a shy smile. "Hi."
He grinned and stepped up to her bottom step. "And you are?"
"Rosana." She eyed his feet on her step and forced herself to look into his face. She wasn't used to strange men introducing themselves. "Rosana Leighton."
"It's nice to meet you. I'm sorry if I'm disturbing you. I just wanted to come over and introduce myself."
Rosana let out a nervous laugh and shook her head. "Oh, I was just reading. You're not really disturbing."
Matt chuckled, a deep sound that made Rosana's heart patter. She smiled up at him and shut her book on her lap.
"What are you reading?" Matt asked, his eyes dropping to her novel.
"Storm Front by Jim Butcher."
"I've never heard of that one."
Rosana raised her eyebrows, thinking he didn't look like a book lover. She told herself not to judge people by appearance alone. Lord knows she'd had the same treatment often enough.
"Well, I won't keep you." Matt stepped back off her porch. "It was nice to meet you, Rosana."
Rosana smiled. "You too. I hope you get settled in all right."
Matt's mouth widened into a handsome grin and Rosana's heart did that patter thing again. Then he waved and walked back across their yards to return to his house.
Rosana watched him go, a smile playing around her lips. She shook her head after a minute and picked up her book to resume reading.
That went well. She'd grown up in a houseful of girls—three sisters—and her experiences with boys hadn't started until her late teens. Now she lived on her own and after some sketchy experiences at college, she was leery of meeting new people, men in particular. She often found refuge in her collection of books but she knew she couldn't hide from everyone and everything. She tried not to be so quick to judge and had to remind herself that not everyone was like the men she'd known before.
After rereading the same page five times and picturing Matt in the hero's role, she slapped it closed and walked inside. Her friend, Rhiannon, would be by soon to pick her up for dinner and she might as well start getting ready.
* * * *
A few days later, Rosana came home from work, too tired to be hungry after a busy afternoon. She covered a yawn as she hoisted her bag over her shoulder and locked the car. She was fiddling with her keys on her front porch when a man called her name.
She turned to see Matt jogging across the yard. "Hi, Matt. How are you?"
"Great. Are you just getting home from work?"
Rosana nodded. "Yeah. I work at Tavistock and my shifts vary." She paused and cocked her head to one side. "Is everything all right?"
He gave her a sheepish grin and rubbed the side of his neck. "Uh, I don't mean to be a pest since I just moved in and we just met and all... but could I borrow something?"
Rosana laughed. "Sure. Just give me a minute." She turned to the door and unlocked the dead bolt. Glancing over her shoulder, she smiled at the sight of Matt still standing at the bottom of her porch steps.
What a gentleman.
"Do you want to come in?" She swung the door in and set her bag on the front hall floor.
Matt smiled. "You sure? I don't want to impose."
"It's fine. It's not as nice out today as it was when you moved in."
"That's true." Matt hesitated before climbing up the porch steps and walking in behind her. "Thanks."
"No problem." Rosana shut the door and smiled up at him. He seemed much larger close up but his eyes were still friendly and Rosana didn't mind the patter in her chest now. "So what can I help you with?"
"I need a toaster."
Rosana blinked. "A toaster?"
"Yeah. I know, it's one of the first things everyone buys when they move, right?" He laughed and rubbed his neck again. "I left mine with Scott and I haven't had a chance to go get a new one. I don't know this area very well yet so I don't know where the nearest shopping center is."
Rosana laughed. "Good grief. How have you been living without toast?"
Matt grinned and nodded. "I know. It's been a struggle."
They stood in her front hall smiling at each other for a few seconds and Rosana felt the heat crawl up her neck.
She cleared her throat and turned towards her kitchen. "Well, you can have mine for now."
"Won't you need it?"
"No. I can manage without it for a couple days." She grabbed it from her cupboard and turned around. Matt wasn't in the kitchen. "Matt?"
She laughed. He still wasn't forcing himself into her space. She liked him more already. Easy, Rosana, it's just the second time you've seen him. "You can come into the kitchen."
She heard his footsteps and then he filled the kitchen doorway. She held up the toaster with a smile and set it on the counter. Again, they fell silent and just smiled at each other.
"Uh, would you like some coffee?" Rosana blurted, desperate to fill the awkward silence.
Matt shrugged and nodded. "Sure, why not?"
Rosana smiled and turned to pull out the coffee grounds. Matt watched her move and she glanced over to see him move further into the kitchen. He met her gaze and grinned. Rosana watched him shift on his feet and her eyes were drawn to the fluid movement of his body. Under his modest jeans and t-shirt she could tell he was a big guy, with well-defined muscles. She'd never considered herself a sucker for a body, but she wasn't immune. He moved closer and leaned one hip against her kitchen counter.
"So how long have you lived here?"
"In Haddonfield? Or this house?" Rosana didn't look at him as she prepared the coffee.
"I've always lived in the area. I was born in Newark. I moved into this house about two years ago when my grandmother died."
"This was your grandmother's house?"
Rosana looked up as she pressed the start button on the coffee maker. "Yeah. She willed it to me."
Matt offered her a kind smile that gave her an unfamiliar jolt. "That must have been difficult."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I don't know how close you were with your grandmother, but to lose her, then gain this beautiful house ... ." He shrugged and hooked his hands in the front pockets of his jeans.
Rosana nodded in understanding. She'd been close to her grandmother but inheriting the house had made the loss a little easier. For months after her death, the place had still smelled of her perfume.
Shrugging off the memories, she turned to the cupboard and pulled out two mugs. "Why did you move to this neighborhood?"
"I work in Philadelphia."
"Really? And the commute doesn't bother you?"
Matt grinned. "I don't work an office job so my hours aren't the same as the average joe."
Rosana's curiosity was piqued. "And what is it you do?"
"I'm a hockey player with the Flyers."
Rosana cocked her head to one side and lifted a shoulder. "That should mean something to me, shouldn't it?"
He gaped at her but she saw the twinkle in his eye and knew he was teasing. "Don't you follow the Flyers?"
She shook her head. "I grew up with three sisters. Hockey wasn't a priority in our household."
Matt groaned. "Your poor father."
That made Rosana laugh. It was a familiar lament that she'd heard many times through the years, usually from her father. As much as he liked to complain, she knew her father loved the women in his life, and not just because he was surrounded by them at all times.
The coffee finished brewing and Rosana poured it into their mugs. She offered cream and sugar to Matt and they moved to sit down at her kitchen table.
"Now that we've exhausted the topic of my career, tell me what you do."
Rosana raised her eyebrows at him and smiled. "Had we exhausted the topic?"
"Since you were so underwhelmed, I consider it exhausted." He grinned. "Obviously I'm going to have to come up with something else to impress you."
She wasn't aware that he'd been trying to impress. At this rate, her heart wouldn't settle for days. She sipped her coffee in an effort to calm her twitchy nerves before responding.
"I work at the country club." She set her mug on the table.
"Tavistock? What do you do?"
"I'm the assistant to the pastry chef."
"Oh, wow." Matt's eyes grew wide and he gave a low whistle. "I don't suppose you ever get to bring home leftovers, do you?"
Rosana smiled. "Occasionally."
"So, if I were to stop by... occasionally... would you be willing to share?"
"Perhaps." Rosana didn't know how she could be chatting so playfully. It had taken months for her to feel comfortable enough to banter like this with her previous boyfriends.
Matt lifted his coffee mug in a salute. "Rosana, this may just be the start of something beautiful."
Matt had first seen Rosana the day after he'd taken possession of his new house. She'd been walking to her car in the driveway and he'd been struck by the way she moved: short, brisk steps with her head angled down. After that, he'd kept an eye out for another glimpse of her. When Scott had helped him move the last of his things from their old shared apartment, he'd been pleasantly surprised to find her on her front porch. After a quick greeting, he'd left her alone, not wanting to appear too pushy. From her shy smiles and blushing cheeks, he'd figured she wouldn't appreciate him being too forward.
Now he was in her kitchen in the midst of being utterly captivated. She wasn't beautiful but there was something about her that he found intriguing. She was wearing a plain grey sweater that hung past her waist and a pair of well-worn jeans. Her dark hair was bundled up in a tight bun at the back of her head and she had on a pair of thick-rimmed glasses that all but hid her sparkling sapphire eyes.
Matt sipped his coffee, thinking of what he'd just said. "All joking aside, do you enjoy working there?"
"I love it. It's so close I can walk if I want, and I've learned a lot from the experienced chefs. We all work well together."
"That sounds great. I feel the same way about my teammates."
She smiled as she lifted her mug to her lips and Matt followed the movement with his eyes. He felt a long-forgotten stirring in his lower body and shifted in his seat.
"Your team. You're really a hockey player?"
He laughed. "I really am. On a real, honest-to-goodness NHL team."
"It must be great to be able to play a game for a living."
It wasn't the first time he'd heard that and it wasn't the first time he'd felt annoyance at the opinion. A lot of people held that view of professional athletes. As if it was easy to stay in shape, physically and mentally, and go out there almost every other night only to get hit by guys as big or bigger than himself. Matt knew he was a big guy and he'd grown up with hockey and ice in his very blood, but it was a tough job and he worked hard. He wasn't going to apologize for any of it.
Still, he wouldn't take out his irritation on Rosana. She seemed nice and probably just meant that she thought his job sounded ideal. Not many people in the world got to do what they loved every day.
His expression must have shown some of his annoyance because Rosana ducked her head. While she had her head bowed, Matt took the opportunity to study her. At six feet, he towered over the women in his life. Rosana looked to be about five-eight, maybe five-nine. He liked the idea of not having to bend in half to kiss her.
Even as the thought occurred to him, he stiffened. Where did that come from?
"So... I, uh, I'm surprised I haven't seen you around more." Rosana broke the silence.
"Oh, my hours aren't like the average person's." Matt sipped his coffee. "I sleep late and work late nights. And I'm away from home for almost half of every month."
Rosana's forehead furrowed. "You travel that much even in September?"
"Not usually. It's preseason right now, but I am heading to Phoenix with the team in the morning."
"Phoenix? They have hockey in Arizona?" She sounded so surprised that he had to laugh.
"Surprisingly, yes. There's a team in Texas as well, and three in California. Now that you live next door to a hockey player, you ought to read up on this stuff."
She smiled and he knew she realized he was teasing.
Matt downed the last of his coffee and slid the mug across the table. "Thanks for the coffee, Rosana. I should get home and do some more unpacking."
She laughed, a light, airy sound that made him drop a hand to his lap to adjust his pants. "Don't you mean packing? You just said you're leaving tomorrow."
"That's easy." He waved a dismissive hand as he stood up. "Suit, sweats, socks and underwear."
That pretty blush crept up her neck to her cheeks again and Matt shoved his hands into his pockets to keep from touching her. She looked far too appealing. He hurried from the kitchen and walked towards the front door before he followed that train of thought too far.
Rosana followed him down the hall. "Don't forget the toaster."
Matt turned and took the toaster she held towards him. Their fingers brushed as he grabbed it and he froze. He found himself smiling at her and she smiled back. It was a full minute later before he realized how close they were standing.
Straightening, Matt took a step back and gave her an awkward wave with his free hand. "Uh, well, thanks for the coffee."
She grinned. "You already said that."
Now he could feel the heat creeping up his own neck. He backed up another step and smiled. "OK. I'll see you around then." He fled before he could say anything else that would embarrass him.
When he was safe inside his own home with the door locked, he relaxed. He leaned his back against the door and let his breath out on a slow exhale.
He was in big trouble.
* * * *
Rosana saw Matt several times over the next couple of weeks. He was right when he said he wouldn't be around much. She did see him come and go in the evenings when she wasn't working and occasionally they'd chat over coffee on the front porch.
He was a great guy, funny and easy to talk to. Rosana was amazed at how they never seemed to run out of things to talk about. She laughed over his stories about growing up in small-town Ontario and he loved hearing about her youth with her sisters. Never once did he make her feel uncomfortable and she was glad she'd had the courage to invite him in when she lent him her toaster.
In spite of the promise to herself to not get involved with someone she didn't know that well, Rosana found herself intrigued by Matt. He didn't seem like the other men she'd dated. He wasn't pushy or domineering and he was the first guy she'd met who didn't try to seduce her in some effort to get her to let her hair down.
The sun was just setting one evening late in September when she heard a knock on her front door. To her surprise and delight, it was Matt on the porch.
"Hi, Rosana." He greeted her with a smile that warmed her right down to her toes. "Long time, no see."
She laughed. They'd talked earlier that day when she'd been on her way to work.
"Hi, Matt. Would you like to come in?" The question was automatic. It was something she did far too often when Matt was around but she couldn't help herself.
"Thanks, but not right now. Some friends are coming over in a bit. I'm having a housewarming-slash-season opener party."
"Season opener?" Rosana had the fleeting thought that she should have spent at least a little time learning about his job.
Matt didn't appear to mind her blank stare. "Yeah, we play the first game of the regular season in a week."
"Already? It's September still."
Matt smiled and leaned one shoulder on the door frame. "We start the first week of October and it's a long season. You should try to follow the games."
Rosana shook her head. "That seems pointless since I'd have no idea what's going on. Other than seeing the puck going into the goal, I don't have a clue what the game is about."
"I could teach you."
Matt's offer made Rosana smile. Not because she was interested in learning more about hockey, but because she was interested in spending more time with him.
"Well, if you're hosting a party tonight, shouldn't you be getting ready?"
"Right! I came over to see if you were free tonight."
Rosana's heart skipped a few beats. "Why?"
"You should come over. You can meet my teammates and have some fun."
Rosana liked Matt and was comfortable around him but she wasn't sure if she could deal with the entire team. "I don't know...."
"Some of their wives and girlfriends will be there," Matt added, as if sensing her hesitation. He took a step closer and smiled down at her. "I'd really like it if you could come."
That did it. She nodded and his face split into the most amazing grin.
"Great! I'll see you later." Without another word, he bounded down the porch steps and jogged to his house.
Rosana watched him go and took her time backing inside and shutting the door. She leaned a shoulder against it and rested her forehead on the cool metal. So much for a quiet evening of reading. Her mind was spinning and her heart was thumping hard.
She hadn't felt like this about a guy in a long time. Not that the guys she'd dated had been as all-around appealing as Matt.
With a sigh, Rosana pushed herself off the door and wandered through the house. She tried to go back to reading her book but in the end, she couldn't concentrate. After that, she went upstairs to change for the party.