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

Love in Ice



Alex stood in front of the kitchen sink, washing dishes. She had a relaxing March afternoon, napping for a few hours after doing laundry. Just as she put the last dish in the drying rack, she felt her cell phone vibrate in her pocket.

Curious, she pulled it out and looked at the screen. Alex could feel her heart racing when she saw the name "Antti" over a new text message notification. Not too long after reading the message, her face added a significant amount of color to itself.

Just on my way back from the airport, Wanna get something to eat?

She was not expecting a text from her returning best friend so soon, much less one for a dinner invitation. Alex scolded herself out loud, "Hold on Alex. Why are you even thinking about the possibility of it being a date? This is Antti, your best friend and nothing more, we're talking about."

The blue-eyed, bright-smiling, loveable Finn that she finally admitted--to herself and strictly no one else--having fond feelings for.

The one who became her best friend and who opened up to her in no time at all.

With a light sigh, she shook her head clear of the thoughts bombarding her mind. Instead, Alex typed out a text to the man and sent it.

Yeah, that sounds good. And you better not be texting while driving.

A few minutes later she got a reply. The second of that night that she was not at all ready for.

Okay, I'll be 20 minutes or so. Red light; safe texts or else no texts. ;)

Unfortunately the young woman had taken the moment to sip some of her water. When she read the message, she turned in the direction of the sink and spit it out to prevent herself from choking on it. Alex's face now burned scarlet, rereading the text from her best friend. Rubbing her hand over her face, she muttered to herself, "Wow, I must have the dirtiest mind in the world right now, and it's because of a guy who most likely doesn't even feel what I do or realize what he said..."

Walking over to her closet, she scanned over the clothes to see what she could possibly wear. Alex feared going too far on both sides of the spectrum, so she had to look for nice, casual clothing. She settled on a nice pair of jeans with a white, no-sleeved shirt. She also slipped on a pink cardigan, which she hoped shielded her from the cold.

Alex did not realize until she was standing in front of the mirror and applying makeup that she was taking great care in her appearance. She even had slipped on the golden flower bracelet he gave her, the one with the light pink centers. After some deep thought, she continued getting ready, going as far as spraying the sweet-smelling cherry blossom perfume on herself. She stopped herself once again, staring at herself in the mirror.

What in the world was she doing?

"Oh man, I'm losing it," Alex groaned to no one in particular, applying one last spray to her neck before putting the perfume away. It did not take her much more time to get dressed; she comfortably sat on her couch with her dog curled up next to her. She smoothed her hand over his fur, laughing when he nudged her hand in return.

Alex started when she saw her cell vibrate on the little coffee table. Just a quick check of the phone and she excitedly put on her coat, leaving her apartment with a gleeful farewell to her small companion.

Immediately after stepping outside, she did not even attempt to hide her bright grin or to slow her skipping heart. Antti stood across from her, leaning casually against the passenger side of his truck. His lips were upturned into a crooked smile, one he failed to recognize how much it affected his best friend. The glimmering blue-gray eyes stunned her into near silence; the only thing she could hear was her uneven rasps of air filling her ears instead of anything she was thinking of.

Her pause was noted in the Finn's mind, which ran through its own thoughts. Her young, flushed face showed her happiness--and a little of her embarrassment aimed towards herself--of her reaction towards seeing him. The light makeup brought out the depths of her brown eyes, bold yet innocent. Antti followed along her cute nose to her pink-colored lips, which were parted in a big smile. He stepped over to her, enveloping her in a warm embrace as he just barely skimmed his lips over her hair. Her sweet scent relaxed him, and he had to make an effort to pull back from their hug.

Alex's face burned deeper in color, realizing that she had not only taken a few seconds too much to scan his lips but also to ponder how tender they felt. With one last look, she dismissed the thought and instead moved to look into his eyes.

"It's nice to see you all healthy again."

Antti shook his head in agreement, crooked smile on his face again. "It...sure feels be healthy again. And I'm happy...I get to see you again."

He was referring to the busy schedule they both had. Shortly after Antti had recovered from the bad cold he had, winning a few games here and there, six of his teammates went to Vancouver to participate in the Winter Olympics. As for Alex, she continued diligently working on her studies, revealing to the man that she was graduating that June. After that matter of business, she would have to search for a job as a nurse, seeing as though most of her student loans were paid off. Thank goodness for the scholarships that made that particular situation much easier.

Even though their schedules were nearly filled with plans, the two friends made certain that there was some time dedicated to talking on the phone. For Alex, time seemed to fly by fastest after her three-day visit to see her parents in the suburbs. It almost came as a shock to the young woman when she realized that the calendar read 'March 21'.

A mere eleven games until the beginning of the playoffs.

"So am I. It wasn't that long since I last saw you..."

The young woman bit her lower lip instinctively, inhaling to control the sudden wave of nervousness flooding her senses. "...but I missed you. It probably sounds silly to you Antti, but..."

Her friend chuckled softly, a pleasant sound to her ears, and pulled her back into a hug. Antti pressed another kiss, this time to her forehead, and let his lips rest on her skin. He mumbled, "It's not silly because I missed you too." He lingered just a few moments more before adding a small amount of distance between them. His face burned red, just as his best friend's face did. Antti's lips tingled as a result of the touch, and he noted that with a sudden rush of warmth all over his body.

"So...Would you like to get going," he questioned, keeping his hand on her lower back. Their eyes met, and Alex nodded, smiling at him.

He continued once they were buckled inside the truck, "I had this one place in mind. Even though it's a little far, I really like it. Do you want to try it? Or did you want to stay closer?"

"No, that's fine. I like a little bit of change once in a while."

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As they were driving to the restaurant, Alex and Antti caught up with each other. She watched the unfortunate loss against the Coyotes, but she reassured her best friend that not only would he do well in the games in the near future, but also in the quickly approaching post-season. Antti felt a large pressure disappear from his shoulders as Alex made her case, and he was able to move ahead with the next game. He had been burdened with a heavy, negative mindset that had slipped in and settled without his notice until he met with the woman sitting next to him. Funny how it all went to the air as soon as he talked to her.

Alex noticed once they arrived there that it was not that long of a drive; only half an hour lapsed from her apartment to the restaurant they now stood in front of. The Burgundy was a small corner restaurant, the mini canopies the bold maroon color. Antti opened the door for her, and she smiled in thanks at his adorable chivalrous actions.

It was not too crowded; in fact, there were only two other booths in the front half of the restaurant that were occupied. At the entrance was a dry erase board listing the specials of the day. To the right were three rows of booths, two of which were connected side by side in the middle. On the far wall straight ahead was the counter along with stools to sit. Underneath the definitely aged cash register was a whole array of different candies and gums, almost like a very mini candy shop. Three more booths were situated along the left side with two more booths through the large doorway to the dining room.

The young woman liked the quaint feel of the little restaurant; it had just the right touches here and there to easily make it a "regular place". Judging by the numerous photos on the wall, she could tell there had been many regulars over the years it was situated on the corner of Irving Park and Austin.

A woman came from the kitchen area with a warm greeting and sat the two in a booth on the left side of the restaurant, which gave them a view of the busy streets outside. She introduced herself and noted that she would return in a few minutes, allowing them to decide what to eat. Antti and Alex scanned the menu, and Alex stole a few glances at the dark-blond-haired man. As if he could feel her stare, Antti lifted his gaze up to hers.

"What are you getting," he asked, staring into her eyes. Blushing, she replied, "Well, I was thinking of chicken on a pita...What about you?"

The blue eyes held some sort of amusement in them, and she wondered what he was going to say. "That's what I'm getting, too. It's my favorite thing to order here."

"Is it good?"

"Yeah, it's really great. You'll like it too, I'm sure."

She giggled with a smile as the woman came back to the table. They ordered their food and shortly after the waitress walked away, the two friends fell into a little bit of silence. It was strange because both of them felt like they should start up a conversation, especially when it was in their nature to talk to each other easily. Now, the two friends felt a sort of tension, as if they needed to reveal an inner secret. The blue-eyed man certainly did not realize it until now, but his friend could have portrayed this as

Not that he would have minded, especially if she was fine with it.

If she was freaking out about it, she did a great job of hiding it, he noted with a small crooked smile. Her mouth twitched upwards a little as well, and she noticed how fast her heart raced in her chest. With a sigh, Alex asked her friend, "So how did you hear about this place?"

"One time after practice, some of the other guys were talking about different places to eat. Someone suggested The Burgundy, and I decided one day to try it out."

After that, conversation came much easier for them, and they nearly forgot about the strange moment of silence. The two were so, and rather unconsciously, engrossed in each other that they failed to realize the curious gazes of the waitress and another waiter.

"Hey Ralph. What do you think about them?"

"Nothing...Is there a reason I should be thinking about them?"

"Ugh, look at how they talk. Even though they're sitting across from each other and they could hear each other perfectly fine--"

"The restaurant is nearly empty, Darcy."

"True, but you can't deny how he leans in closer to her and vice versa. Not only that, but their faces just scream happiness! Of course, they also display how they're not together, but they both want to be. And judging by how they were sitting not too long ago, they were nervous because it was a situation neither of them were familiar with. Those two are probably best friends that are worried what will happen if they make a move because they think that their feelings won't be reciprocated."

"...What did you just say? How did you read that off of them?" Ralph looked at his coworker with a bewildered expression.

Darcy merely smirked, taking pride in recognizing the nonverbal cues much easier than he did. There was a bell ding from the back, and she went over to the kitchen to pick up the food.

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Meanwhile, Alex listened intently to Antti as he talked with her. His accented voice made her heart beat faster, and her lips were pulled up into a light smile. The two were interrupted when the waitress came with their food, setting it down in front of them. They thanked the waitress, and she reminded them to call if they needed anything else.

Alex got right to eating, suddenly ravenous. One bite of the chicken pita and she was in heaven. "My god, this is so good," she moaned, turning red after she realized what she did. Antti chuckled and remarked, "It's great, isn't it?" She nodded wordlessly, taking another bite. It was, for such a simply made sandwich, delicious and satisfying. She made a mental note for the restaurant; it was definitely going to be one of her top favorite places to eat.

After Antti and Alex ate what they could, they put away the leftovers in the to-go boxes their waitress gave them. Before leaving, the waitress gave them the check, and Alex said before Antti could, "I'm paying for my half."

"No, that's okay, I'll pay it all," he told her, grabbing the check.

He thought he had convinced her until she looked at him, pleading brown eyes and pouting lower lip. He tried to hold steady, but Alex's expression, as well as her hand touching his, made him give in. Antti could never refuse that face of hers, and his face added some significant color from the contact. They split the bill accordingly, and they paid. When Alex was looking another way, the waitress gestured toward her, silently asking the Finn if he and his companion were dating. He shook his head, and Alex looked up at an unfortunate time to see Darcy give Antti a wink.

A feeling inside of Alex made her insides lurch a little in pain and in...jealousy?

'Am I really...jealous,' she incredulously asked herself, trying to hide all the feelings from appearing on her face. She was certainly not going to disclose that information to anyone. Perhaps Sam, but definitely not Antti.

It was very treacherous territory.

She had to keep herself in check.

They left the restaurant, and Alex tried harder to push away those feelings as she climbed into Antti's car. Once they got it, Antti noticed a change in her demeanor. Without a second thought he reached over and took her hand, feeling the warmth building between their joined hands. He asked her, "Are you okay?"

She was silent for almost a moment too long before she responded, "Yeah, I'm fine. Why do you ask?"

"Oh...Just wondering."

Alex felt a little guilty from concealing her feelings, and instead she focused on the touch of his warm, slightly roughened hands. She knew she would have to release his hand, but she took her time to relish the warmth. Letting go of his hand with a blush, she gave him a half-smile before looking at her hand absentmindedly. The change became significant immediately, and she did not realize that he was looking at his hand as if he had lost something.

Antti shook it off, driving off to her apartment. For some reason, he wanted to pull her into a hug and give her a kiss. The Finn's face gained color, wondering how she would react to him kissing her.

How he would feel when their lips touched.

Would his best friend panic?

Would she feel the same as he did?

Shortly after he arrived in front of Alex's apartment complex, his heart ached slightly at the thought of her not reacting the way he hoped. Antti got out of his side to open the woman's door for her, and he received a heart-racing smile. She asked, a hopeful tone in her voice that he detected easily, "Would you like to come up? I mean, if you want, because you might want to go rest or something or..."

Antti's lips curved upwards at her rambling, and he replied, taking her hand into his, "As much as I want to, I should probably get going. Thank you for the offer, though. If you want, I can come over tomorrow."

"Or I can come over to your place tomorrow or meet you somewhere else instead. How about it?"

"Yeah, we can do that."

Alex enclosed her arms around the man, burying her face into his jacket. Antti returned her hug, kissing the top of her head softly. She gave him a squeeze, smiling when he did the same before slowly backing away. Alex gazed into the cerulean orbs, trying to prevent herself from getting too captivated. She held a breath when Antti reached out to tuck some stray hair behind her ear, the skin warming up immediately.

"See you tomorrow, Antti," she breathed out as he moved his hand down to lightly grasp her arm.

"Good night, Alex," he mumbled while he pressed a kiss to her forehead. The woman's face blazed, and she watched as he got into his car and drove away, already wanting it to be the next day.

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My fingers trembled a little out of nerves as I drove over to Antti's. Yesterday we had agreed to meet at his place today after we ate. The guilt was consuming me because although his face may not have shown it, his eyes appeared conflicted and pained. I felt like I had done something wrong again, and I found myself fiddling with the golden flower bracelet after knocking on his door.

I decided that day to disclose my innermost feelings for Antti...

To Antti.

My fingers remained traveling over the bracelet, even as I heard the opening of the door in front of me. A warm hand clasped mine gently, and I raised my eyes to meet the eyes of the young man I had been thinking about nonstop. The nearly see-through blue color never failed to affect me, and it certainly did not now. Realizing he had greeted me with a wholehearted smile and bright eyes, I knew he was in no way cross with me.

"Nemo," I cried out excitedly, wrapping my arms around him. Without a thought he returned my hug, leaving me to take in his warmth before letting him go. I entered his apartment, Antti leading me in by the hand, and we sat down on the couch.

He stared at me with his brilliant eyes, pale blue and glinting. "Long time, no see."

I smiled at him again and playfully asked, "How come you don't teach me Finnish?"

My companion let out a crooked smile of his own and replied, reaching out his hand palm-up, "I didn't know you wanted to learn from me. Of course I can teach you."

I took his hand, blushing slightly both from the action and the heat that followed through with it. 'I probably won't get over that one,' I mused to myself. I would think that the more and more we took each other's hand, hugged, or anything of the sort, I would not be affected by it all.

Looked like I was wrong.

Still, it should not have meant anything to me. I doubted that Antti would feel even remotely the same feelings I did.

"I must warn you though. It'll take a lot of practice to get the pronunciation down. You don't have to worry; you've got help you...along the way."

His hesitation did not go unnoticed by me. I nodded, peering down at our joined hands. My heart involuntarily raced, and my face burned.

I ignored the possibility of a second meaning behind his words. No need to excite myself more than necessary. I still needed to think of a good time to tell him the truth about how I felt...

"Okay. Since you do know a little of the basics, I'll teach you other things. Let's start off easy. I am your paras ystävä. Best friend. Paras ystävä."

It was fairly easy for me to pronounce, and I mastered it with a few tries. Antti grinned at me, hearing the beautiful language through my voice. "You're a natural, Alex."

The blush from earlier only deepened, and I whispered a quick thanks in his native tongue. He continued, "Now here are two other words. They might be tricky, so I'll just teach you how to pronounce them first. Poikaystävä.*"

I repeated the word; he was right in it being a little more challenging, and I wondered what the next word was going to be.

"Tyttöystävä**. That one I'm sure will be hard, so I'll help you out..."

He slowly sounded out the five-syllable word, and I could see why it was difficult. The first two syllables seemed to be exactly the same.

"T...Teh...Teh...No, that's not right, is it?"

He chuckled lightly at my silly attempts, saying, "Not quite. It's like you're saying the word 'too' in English, but the 'T' sound is much softer."

I shifted my gaze downwards and listened as he repeated the second unknown word. He continued, letting go of my hand and placing both of his under my jaw with his fingers lightly grazing my skin, "I'll feel your jaw move down a bit twice when you pronounce this word. Go ahead and try a few times."

I did so, but his skin touching mine in such a sensitive spot made it tougher on me to even speak in the first place.

He shook from laughter once more, suddenly reaching for my sides. I tried moving away, squeaking a bit while doing so; I knew exactly what he was going to do. He was much quicker though, and he was able to get his fingers wiggling along my sides. I hysterically laughed, remotely remembering how he knew of my weakness. When I finally got my hands to block his from continuing the tickling, I stood up and quickly ran to find a hiding place.

Antti seemed to get the message and chased after me, playfully tugging me into him by the hips. He laughed before saying, referring back to the unofficial Finnish lessons that I forgot out of the moment, "Don't stress, Alex. You're doing amazing. Here..." He moved some of my hair that had rested on my cheek behind my ear before he continued, voice deep but quiet, "Haluan autta sinua....***"

Nemo tilted my chin upward and, before I could even properly meet his eyes, he swiftly leaned closer until I felt warm lips softly embrace my own. The immediate stimulation was powerful enough to completely stun me into silence and shroud my brain. Warmth flowed quickly throughout my body, and sure enough I had the most concentrated in my cheeks and lips. These lips on mine were his, not any other guy's but his.

I was shaky on my feet; my knees were just as unsteady. The hand on my chin slowly moved to rest on my cheek, keeping our lips together. Something, I was not sure what, warmed me from the inside out, and my heart rate seemed unimaginably fast. My eyes widened, and I realized the tugging in both my mind and my heart finally revealing the instinct to kiss him back--oh, how much I wanted to--but by the time the thought popped in my mind, he retreated with a contradictory set of reflections in his eyes.

First I saw the excitement and happiness in them--eyes dilated, never-ending blue eyes gleaming. Digging deeper I noticed the slight dejection that reduced the radiant color just so, and it almost made me panic.

Breathing for me became something I needed to be conscious of, hearing myself panting delicately. Antti's own breathing came in short rasps, and I came to realize what exactly was happening to us.

We were both intensely affected from the kiss. And in the same manner as well.

He sighed silently, taking a few steps back and redirecting his gaze away from me. Instinct--and honestly a fear of any possible regret on his part--drove me on at this point; I carefully ventured over to the man and, turning his head to face me, allowed my lips to crash onto his. The spark returned as soon as the contact was repeated, not losing its stronghold over me.

Antti, positively startled, hesitated before placing his hands on my waist and pulling me closer. Our chests were nearly pressed against each other. I could feel his heartbeat through my fingertips, influencing my own heart rate to increase. He gingerly molded our lips together, his moving gradually along mine.

How in the world was I not sure of his feelings?

Had it been the hesitation for my feelings that caused the doubt for his?

With my cloudy mind, either explanation seemed plausible to me.

My hands traced his broad shoulders, stopping when my arms hung loosely around his neck. Nothing in that moment could have conquered the exultant feeling.

Absolutely nothing.
♠ ♠ ♠
***Haluan autta sinua....--->Let me help you...

Roughly brought to you by Google Translate.

Hello readers! I was just so excited (once again) with getting this chapter out, that I decided to edit and rewrite last night.

Thanks for the comments! I was really happy when I saw the feedback and all the people who read the preview. I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter! I loved writing it! Comments are still very much appreciated!