Status: Hiatus--Last Update was 7.23.12 (Chapter Twenty-Two PREVIEW)

Love in Ice



Getting to work that day was harder than it ever was before.

I walked into the PAWS shelter, my heart sinking as I approached the front desk. It was going to be a long day, but I convinced myself I could manage.

Carla, sitting up front today, stood as soon as she saw me. She asked, concern instantly coming over her face, "Alex, are you okay? What's in the box?"

I answered, getting to the area behind the front desk, "Someone broke into my apartment and took Riles. They did a number on some of my belongings, but nothing else was taken. I have little missing posters in the box so I can find Riles."

"Oh dear, I'm so sorry. That's beyond awful. You can definitely put up posters around here. We're going to find that little guy. I know we will."

"Thanks so much Carla. I'll be quick and then I'll get started around here."

After I put up a few posters around the shelter, I immediately went to work. We had a quiet day, not that many potential adopters as we hoped. It did make some sense; It was a couple of days before Christmas, and fresh snow lined the streets outside.

Just over two hours after my shift had started, my cell rang. Since there was not anyone waiting, I walked to the back and pulled out my phone. I smiled and said, "Hey there Nemo."

"Hey Alley Cat. I'm at the hotel, but not for much longer. I'll be at practice soon. Any luck with Riles?"

"So far no. The few people that were in here did look at the poster, but no one has seen him," I muttered into the phone. "It's only been a few hours, so it's still early. I'll be fine."

"I know you will. Riles is just like his owner; he'll hang in there until we find him."

My smile grew as he spoke to me. Riles certainly did have a strong spirit. The thought of him being just fine made me more and more confident that he would be okay.


"Yeah Alex?"

My heart raced as he said my nickname. Even if he was far away, he had the same effect on me as if he were right next to me. "Thanks. I'll see you soon."

"Definitely. I'd give you a hug now, but since I can't, expect a big one when I come back. Probably more than one big hug, just warning you."

I giggled lightly, "That's not really a warning, though. I'm looking forward to that."

"Not as much as I am. Talk to you later!"

I felt my face burn as I said "Good luck Antti" before we hung up. He already missed me, and we were not apart for too long.

Truth was I already missed him too.


I took a sip of the coffee in my hands. The hot liquid was bearable now that it had its time to cool off on the way to O'Hare. I was standing close to the arriving terminals, waiting for my best friend to return from his road game in Detroit.

He was very successful, to say the least. He got another shutout win, this time a 3-0 tally. About an hour after the game, he called me and we talked for a while. Of course it seemed too short when he had to hang up; The next day he was heading back to Chicago.

I decided to dress up a little bit that day, but I still remained practical, especially with the below thirty-degree weather. Underneath a ruffly black cardigan I wore a fitted, no-sleeved blouse with some warm pants and boots. The red blouse stood out from the rest of the outfit, especially with it all being black. I refused to put on a dress simply because I knew how brutal the nipping air would be for me, much to the displeasure of Sam.

Though the weather outside was an issue, Sam adjusted accordingly. She herself wore a long-sleeved dress, green at the top and gray at the bottom. She wore gray leggings and boots to keep herself from being completely cold.

We both had taken our coats off, the airport supplying more heat than really necessary. "Long time no see you two," a feminine voice called from behind us. Sam and I turned around to see a certain light brown-haired woman heading towards us with an adorable gray deer sweater with black pants and leggings.

"Leslie," we shouted, all three of us gathering into a group hug. It had been a while since we last saw each other. Even if we did talk on occasion, we did not nearly get together long enough.

We all chatted a little bit, exchanging small gifts. We proceeded to talk about our times away from each other, which was enveloped with lots of laughter. I saw someone coming out of the terminal, and I laughed once more. Leslie had her back turned to the terminal, so she was unaware of the person approaching her.

...Or rather, the elf.

Steeger jogged over to his girlfriend, snaking an arm around her waist. When Leslie turned to see the blond-haired man, she was beyond surprised. "Kristopher, what in the WORLD are you wearing?"

"Oh Leslie, I've just gotten into the Christmas spirit. I see you got here by reindeer," he replied joyfully, nudging her. Leslie leaned to him and gave him a quick kiss.

"Looks like I've got to get this elf back home. I'm so glad to have seen you. Merry Christmas," she said, giving us quick hugs before leaving with her boyfriend.

"Did you see the look on Leslie's face when she saw him with that costume? That was priceless," Sammy giggled, on the verge of full-on laughter.

"Oh yeah. So you're here to pick up Benny, huh? How's everything with you two?"

"We're going pretty good. Of course, we're still just friends, but...he did ask me out on a date," she said. We both squealed with happiness.

She continued, "We'll be going out after the game at home against the Preds. It sounds like fun, but I know I'll be so nervous."

"Don't be, Sammy. He's a good guy, and from what I saw, he definitely likes you."

"You think so?"

"I know so."

She gave me a hug, saying, "Thanks so much, Lexa. That means so much. I can always count on you to cheer me up."

"You're welcome Sammy. And speaking of the devil, here he comes now."

She elbowed me playfully, muttering sarcastically, "You don't know how true that is."

We both laughed before Sam went to greet her soon-to-be boyfriend. I smiled, feeling very happy for them. I thought to myself, 'So if Benny and Steeger already are here, then where's--'

I nearly jumped out of my skin when fingers jabbed me on my sides, startling me away from my thoughts. Once I knew I was secure on my feet, I turned around to see who had unknowingly figured out one of my weaknesses.

Standing behind me with a crooked smile on his face, accompanied with deep laughter that jump-started my heart, was Nemo. His gray-blue eyes sparkled with mischief and joy that did not help my heart one bit. The black suit he wore fit him nicely, and I realized the solid navy blue tie he wore attributed to the blue reflected in his eyes. "Gotcha," he remarked, placing his arms around my waist and pulling me into one of his comfortable embraces.

I wrapped my arms around his neck and enjoyed the warmth engulfing me, especially where his body met my own. It may not have been that long, but I certainly did miss his hugs. "That you did, Nemo. Merry Christmas," I happily sighed, pulling away from him.

"Merry Christmas, Alley Cat. You know...Um...I know this might freak you out a little, but..."

He hesitated, looking down to me. His eyes gleamed beautifully, and he leaned down to my ear, whispering as I automatically held my breath, "You look so pretty, Alex."

I was almost certain my face matched the color of my blouse. It was the first time I heard him tell me that. He placed a light kiss on my forehead, and I noticed how red his face was as he pulled away. One of his hands pressed on the modestly exposed skin, hidden underneath the cardigan I wore. To say the least, my skin was burning. It certainly took a lot of courage for him to say what he did, and I quietly responded, keeping my eyes focused on his tie, "T-Thank you Antti...Y-You're looking v-very handsome yourself."

He caught the stumbling on my words, and one of his fingers tilted my chin upward to meet his eyes. I heard his breath catch, like mine had much earlier unconsciously, and in that instant I wanted something that completely perplexed me.

I wanted to kiss him...

Almost as if he had read my mind, Nemo began to lean closer to my face. My head spun slightly, and I was getting nervous. His eyes slid closed, and I felt mine follow suit. All I could rely on was the air between the two of us to determine how much distance remained, but I knew we were just a couple of inches apart at most. I suddenly became aware of where we were at when I heard a voice yell out from behind me, "Lexa!"

I started immediately, opening my eyes and taking a step back. I turned to the voice's owner, glaring at her with a surely scarlet face. She ran over to me, grabbed my wrist and said to Nemo, "We'll be right back. I won't hold her hostage for too long, don't you worry." She winked at him mischievously, and my face only blazed more. If it was not scarlet by now, then I would not know what would make it so.

Sammy pulled me into a nearby store that sold all sorts of knacks ranging from candy and other foods to books and magazines. She smiled and gave me another hug, squealing, "OH MY GOD, LEXA. DID I JUST SEE WHAT I THINK I JUST SAW? HE ALMOST KISSED YOU."

My eyes widened at the volume of her voice--and at the number of people both inside and outside of the store turning to look at us. I put my hand over her mouth and said, "Shh! Sam, no need to go telling the whole world what just happened! And key word almost."

"But Lexa, he was so close to kissing you! And you know what? He was absolutely checking you out. He was about to--"

"For the love of everything holy about the upcoming holiday tomorrow, you will stop that last sentence right there."

Sam kept her mouth shut, but she still donned a smug smirk. I mused, a smile tugging at the corners of my lips, "You are right though...He really was about to...kiss me."

"He even had a hand on your hip, and if that doesn't tell you he wants you, then I don't know what does."

I hit her shoulder moderately, and she whimpered, "Ouch! Lexa, what did you do that for?"

"That was your gift from me for interrupting us."

"Don't look at me; That was all Ben's idea. And wait a minute, SO I WAS RIGHT!" Another stern look and she immediately brought her tone down. "I totally told you that you are falling for Nemo. I knew it! You two are so fucking cute, and you're not even ba--ay-ay-ay--seeing each other yet!"

"Well be sure to pass that on to him. Nice recovery, Sammy. How are you so sure that he wants to be with me? Just because we almost kissed does not mean that he automatically has some feelings for me."

"Oh come on, Alex! I'm sure he does! Promise me this: If Nemo does make another move to kiss you, let it happen. You basically admitted to me that we interrupted you guys without a second thought. I know you want it as much as he does. Stop being so afraid of being in a relationship! Out of all the guys you know, he's the most trustworthy and he's not one to hurt people."

I pondered the possibility once again. If he really did try to kiss me again--even thinking about it, and my face lit up--I would be kissing my best friend. Not only that, I would also be cheating on Vance. I still had to find Riles; It was just past midday, so I still had some time to find him before it got very cold.

"I'll think about it. I'm still with Vance, remember? I know I do want to be with Nemo, but I'd have to break up with Vance. We should probably get going. It's going to be a while before we get home."

"You've got that right. Hey, after I drop off Ben, I'm going to head over to your place so I can help out with finding Riles. We'll get the bastard that tried to ruin your Christmas."

Another voice that belonged to the blond man Sam had taken a deep liking to joined the conversation, declaring, "More like directly after we leave the airport. We'll come over to your place. I'm going to help, too."

"Thank you Benny, that's so sweet."

Sam said to him, "And by the way, this is for you from Alex here." She smacked his shoulder, and he barely flinched.

"Well, can't say that wasn't random. What was that about?"

"Yeah, yeah. Well we interrupted her and Nemo's romantic moment--and by we I mean you, Benjamin Eager. Alex, I'm telling you, that was all him."

"Most definitely. Only I could come up with such an evil plan," he said sarcastically, rolling his eyes. Benny gave me the classic one-armed hug and waited while Sammy and I hugged each other for a while.

"So...Nemo, huh," Benny prodded, earning a watchful glance from me. He continued, laughing slightly, "I won't tell anyone about your feelings for him, even though nearly the whole team's getting suspicious. And no Alex, I can't tell you how Nemo feels, you know that." He smirked, watching as I closed my mouth since he knew exactly what I was going to ask.

"I'll let you decide when you're going to tell him....I'll make sure she doesn't tell him either." He gestured over to Sam, making me chuckle slightly.

"Let me tell you, when you two finally are together--and don't look at me like that, I know it'll happen--I'll be one of the first to say 'It's about time'. Sam will probably beat me to it."

"You've got that right, Ben," Sam mused, grinning at me. I had no doubt she would be the first to say so, if it ever did happen. It was just in her nature to be that way.

"We'll be seeing you real soon," Sammy called over her shoulder as Benny and her began heading to her car. I walked back to the Finn, who sat in the seating area waiting for me while Sam had beckoned me to go with her.

Did my best friend really want us together...the way I wanted us together?

Or was he just teasing?

I pushed the questions away for now. No time to ponder about that now. "Ready to go, Nemo?"

He simply nodded, looking away. I noticed how his eyes did not seem to shimmer as brightly as they did when he first saw me. My heart ached at the sight.

"I'm sorry Antti. Sammy did the right thing, though. I do have a boyfriend."

"...I know. I'm sorry for trying to...kiss you. I feel like a horrible person..."

"Don't be," I whispered, making him turn to look at me. I slipped my hand in his free hand, and my heart accelerated. "You are so far from being a horrible person. And I'm not exactly sure where I stand with Vance right now."

Nemo's eyes brightened significantly, but he mused seriously, "You don't have to rush. Like I said before heading to Detroit, take it one step at a time. Just...forget this happened."

He pressed a soft kiss to my temple, continuing, "Besides, we've got to find Riles. I've got a feeling that we'll find him soon."

I let his words linger in my head for a minute. 'What if I don't want to forget,' I almost wondered out loud, surprising myself completely.

"Y-Yeah," I nearly forced out, very reluctant. Suddenly I moved closer to him and placed a soft peck on his cheek, staying for a few moments. His skin was warm against my lips, and after I pulled back, I saw his face burn as red as mine. The gray-blue eyes closed slowly, and I only imagined that he took in the feeling of the light kiss I gave him. When they opened again, he had a confused look on his face. Nemo was just genuinely curious, and I could easily distinguish that in his eyes.

"For being such a great best friend," I answered, smiling as a blush tinged my cheeks.

And for making me happy...

After a few moments, he stood up and turned to me, pulling me up. He told me, smile returning fully, "Now I'm ready." Both of us shrugged into our coats and bundled up for the weather outside.

We walked out of the airport together, keeping close to each other. Even though we were in all of the necessary winter attire, we were still shivering. I led him to my car, opening the trunk. He placed his things inside, and I shut the trunk, heading over to the driver's side. Before I could open the door, I saw Nemo's gloved hand open the car door. I smiled to him, who gave me a smile in return. Once I got settled, he shut the door and went to the passenger's side.

I pulled out of the parking lot to the airport, carefully heading onto the highway. There was moderately heavy traffic right now that moved fairly slower than usual due to the snow and ice. "After all the years I've been here, you would think I would know how crowded it was going to be," I mused to myself, defeated. Nemo laughed at my remark, and I grinned at him.

"Are you opposed to Christmas music?"

"Not at all."

"So you wouldn't mind if I turned on the radio to the Christmas music station?"

He shook his head negatively, and once we had come to a complete stop behind the car in front of me, I tuned in to 93.9 FM. That station was famous around Chicagoland for its around-the-clock playing of the holiday tunes. Being around the city, I heard several different opinions of it, and there was one opinion almost everyone I was acquainted with had.

Starting the Christmas music before even Thanksgiving had come around was just wrong.

The song playing when WLIT came on was "Jingle Bell Rock". Nemo's deep laugh filled my car, and I raised an eyebrow, looking at him.

"Last year in Rockford, the team sang this song, and it was made into a video. I sang a couple of lines, too. That was pretty funny."

He sang along to the Christmas tune, his beautiful accent turning the song into his own.

Jingle bells chime in jingle bell time
Dancing and prancing in Jingle Bell Square
In the frosty air

I joined him, grinning as we sang together the next group of lyrics.

What a bright time, it's the right time
to rock the night away
Jingle Bell time is a swell time
to go gliding in a one-horse sleigh

We continued singing until the end of the song, and even by then we barely moved closer to the city. Throughout the car ride into the city--forty-five minutes of stop-and-go traffic until the Addison exit ramp, where it finally picked up--the two of us sang to the Christmas songs on Lite FM. When we arrived at my apartment, I noticed that Sam's bright yellow Charger was on the street, meaning that she and Ben were already here.

I parked carefully behind them, and we both got out of the car. Sam got out of her car and met me on the sidewalk, asking, "Did traffic get bad when you guys left? We've been here fifteen minutes already!"

"Yeah, it sure did. Really? And what did you two do while you waited for us?"

"Just talked. I might have annoyed Ben with Christmas music," she said, smirking deviously. I shook my head, laughing.

"You didn't warn him about how much you loved Christmas songs, did you?"

"Aww Lexa, of course I didn't! It wouldn't have been so much fun otherwise."

Ben's deep voice chimed in, annoyance hinting at it slightly, "Oh, she played that Christmas music alright. And worst part is, she played 'All I Want for Christmas is You' over and over again."

"Don't blame me, Ben. Blame 103.5," Sam retorted, emphasizing the 'one-oh-three-five'. I giggled at her not so subtle--at least, not so subtle to me--hints to Ben. I had a feeling it had nothing to do with Kiss FM, even if it had played that song over three times in a row in the past. It must have been Sam's attempt to tell Ben her feelings. By the faint smirk on her face I was dead on.

Nemo came to stand beside me during our little conversation, bringing his bags with him. I suggested, "Well then, let's get inside before we freeze, shall we?"

The others nodded quickly, liking the sound of that idea. We quickly assembled into the apartment complex, and I led the way to my apartment. Opening the door, we walked inside. I had cleaned it since the incident, so everything was in its place but one thing.


After settling in, we sat ourselves at stools next to the center island. Ben asked, looking at one of the original flyers, "Has anyone called about the little guy yet?"

I answered, sighing lightly, "No, not yet. I know, it's been a long while, and the weather hasn't exactly been the greatest....But I still believe he's out there somewhere. Maybe sheltered from the cold--"

The phone rang, causing me to jump and stop my train of thought. Nemo, who sat the nearest distance away from the phone, stood and told me, placing his hand on my wrist, "I'll get that."

The three of us stayed silent as he talked to the person on the phone. Nemo suddenly looked around and, taking a pen and a piece of paper he found, scribbled down something that peaked my curiosity. He hung up and walked over to us as I asked, "Who was that?"

"Someone who saw the flyer. She said her name was Macy Coral."

"What did they say," Sam asked, all of our interests focused on what he learned.

"She saw Riles--and about three or four other dogs--being taken out of a van in cages to this house." He pointed to the address he wrote on the paper, continuing with a certain strain to his voice, "There's more..."

Nemo hesitated, then finished in the same strained tone, "They're using the fight against each other, and tonight...happens to be their first match."

I froze, absolutely horrified. Sam let out an audible gasp, and even Ben's eyes widened in shock. "How much time do we have," Ben asked, looking at the clock. 2:17pm.

"Sundown is when they start."
♠ ♠ ♠
The Girls' Outfits

Hey there readers! If you read my latest journal entry, you know why this full update came to be so quickly. I had an idea that struck me, and I absolutely had to write it, especially when it flowed right.

There were 24 reads on the preview alone, and I was so excited to write. Thank you guys so much! Your input really helped me to see whether to post it so soon or not. I hope you enjoyed this update! As usual, comments would be greatly appreciated!