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

Love in Ice



I took a lingering gaze at the sights in front of me. I felt at home here, even though I never saw this place from this angle. I looked left and right, and I knew why I felt excitement, even a little uneasy.

The UC hockey rink glittered in the light, the Blackhawks logo looking even more amazing. I longed to get on the ice, skating quickly from one side of the rink to the other. I wanted to fall to the ice, stopping shots at me like I did from time to time with friends.

I stood up to walk out of the UC, but I felt much slower than usual, and I nearly tumbled to the floor in an attempt at a regular step. I looked down and figured out why my legs decided to act sluggish and heavy.

Hockey skates were tied to my feet, goalie pads on my legs. Instead of the black tank top and red shorts I wore to bed last night, hockey attire stood in its place. I lifted my hands to tug at the jersey, but when I could not grasp it with my left hand, I stretched out my arms. My right hand had a goaltender's glove, while my left hand had the trapper.

I raised my hand to my forehead, bumping into something perched on my head. My goalie mask sat on my head, the decorated headgear perfectly balanced. I shrugged, taking cautious steps onto the slick surface. My feet easily glided on the ice, making me more relaxed as I skated over to a goal.

I skidded to a stop once I got there, frozen at the person standing there. The person lifted their head, eyes meeting mine. I stumbled a little, the ice a little more slippery than what it was just seconds ago. A gloved hand grabbed my arm, steadying me on my skates. Though the air I breathed seemed a bit warmer and thicker, I shivered.

It was a natural reaction, especially with the person who kept his stunning blue gaze steady with mine. His hand, though gloved similarly like my hand, managed to transfer heat through my entire body. My breath mysteriously gone, I asked myself in my head a question that had taken over my mind whenever the opportunity arose.

Why do I feel....different....when you look at me, Antti Niemi?

An insistent ringing stirred me from my sleep, abruptly sitting up with a hand on my racing heart. I made the pleasant discovery that my ability to breathe had returned, but also discovered that my arm still tingled with the warmth that ceased to make an attempt at fading.

It was just a dream, I forcefully convinced myself. Difficult to execute, it took me a few tries before I let myself forget the dream completely, my arm overcome by a numbing sensation. Riles, whose overnight ritual of sleeping at the foot of my bed was disrupted, peered sleepily at my own disheveled appearance. Still apathetic to the fact that his fur stood on end on his head, he stepped over to me, pawing at my crossed legs.

I chuckled lightly, laying on my stomach to allow Riles to lick my face. His tail wagged slowly, but happily, enjoying the attention I gave him by scratching behind his left ear. My cell phone, which acted as my alarm every morning, buzzed with the alert of a new message. Riles stopped his licking, moving over to the phone to sniff it.

I picked up my cell phone, flipping it open. One new message, the screen flashed. I looked at Riles, his questioning gaze making me laugh. I read the message, smiling.

From: Tazer
To: Alex
Hey Alex--
Team and I are off today. Some of us are heading to the park. Hang out with us?

After the party, I had exchanged numbers with players who asked, one of them being Tazer. We became good friends, him informing me when they were off, when they had practice, or when they had a game. If they had a game, I wished the players good luck over speaker. Whenever our schedules allowed it, we would hang out and get to know each other better. Sam had even agreed to hang out a few times when she could, and soon we both grew accustomed to calling the players by their nicknames.

Today, however, Sam worked, so she could not join us. It was only quarter to nine, according to my phone, and I pondered whether I should go or not.

"What do you think, Riles," I rhetorically asked the small dog, poking his nose softly. He responded with a bark and wag of his tail.

I quickly texted a reply in the affirmative, telling Tazer I could hang out with the guys in the afternoon. Shutting my phone, I stretched out before getting out of bed. I headed to the bathroom, Riles curling back up on my bed.

Half an hour went by, and I felt refreshed after the shower I took. Deciding to let my hair air dry, I clipped it up and got dressed into a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. I slipped on a coat and headed outside, Riles quickly following. I made sure he did his business before heading back to our apartment. Before I knew what I was doing, my mind wandered to the dream I thought I erased.

What did it mean exactly? The more I thought about it, the more I confused myself, it seemed. Rolling my eyes at the distracting thoughts, I pushed them away once more. Morning passed, and soon it was time for me to go hang out with the guys. As I got ready, I got another text from the captain.

From: Tazer
To: Alex
Come downstairs--We're here. :D

Who's we? I grabbed my purse and slung it over my shoulder, putting my cell phone inside it. Zipping up my coat, I opened my apartment door, and without warning, Riles bolted out of the apartment. I shouted to him, "Riles, come back here! Where are you going?" Shutting the door, but not locking it, I ran after the troublemaker.

Someone had opened the front of the apartment building, and Riles escaped. I continued my chase after him, stopping short when I saw him barking at the feet of three people. Tazer had brought along Kaner, which was expected, but the third person I did not expect in the least.

"Is this your dog, Alex," Nemo asked as he squatted to Riles's height, accent noticeable as he talked. My dog barked excitedly, standing on his hind legs to greet the goaltender. Riles did something unexpected next: he gave Nemo's face a nudge with his nose, oddly affectionate.

The only other time Riles acted this way happened when he met me.

I nodded to him, replying, "Yeah, he's mine. I never really had a chance to show the team." I turned to the other two, addressing them as well when I continued, "Nemo, Tazer, Kaner, this is Riles."

The terrier wagged his tail happily when Nemo patted him on the head, licking his hand repeatedly. After Riles realized the two men behind him, he walked over to them. Kaner and Tazer got down to his height too, petting him softly. Riles nudged their hands, licking them as well. Riles seemed excited to meet them, and it was apparent by the smiles on the guys' faces that they were happy to see him.

Kaner commented, standing up, "Riles has got to be one of the coolest names I've ever heard for a dog."

Tazer asked, "How'd he get that name?"

I giggled, telling them how Riles came to be. "He had always been a bit on the wild side, getting riled up at every little thing possible. Based on his nature, and a little spin on the name Riley, I made up the name Riles."

Nemo gave me a smile, one that made his eyes shine as he said, "That's a good name for him. It really does fit."

My face surely took a light pink tint as I thanked him. Why it did that was beyond my comprehension. Tazer said to me, "If you want, Riles can come with us. After all, we are going to be outside today."

"Sure, thanks a lot. Let me just lock up my apartment. I couldn't before because Riles just decided to escape."

With a stern command to Riles, who sat at Nemo's feet, I hastily locked up my apartment and returned. Tazer signaled to get inside his car with a nod of his head. Kaner sat up front next to Tazer, who sat at in the driver's seat. Nemo opened the passenger's door and held out his hand, allowing Riles and I to climb in first.

Riles jumped in and sat at the far end seat, behind Tazer. I followed in, grabbing Nemo's helping hand. Just like when we first met a little over a month ago, heat pricked at my hand. My face turned a shade darker noticing Nemo's slightly flushed face. He climbed in after me, closing the door. Did he possibly....feel that heat?

It wasn't until about five minutes later when Riles walked over me and sat in Nemo's lap when both of us realized how our hands were still clasped together. Our faces grew darker in color as we let go, looking at the terrier getting comfortable as the car accelerated down the street. I realized, with a bit of fear, the rush of cold that replaced the warm, recognizing how similar it was to this morning.

However, that was only a dream. This contact was real, and I forced away the rather disappointed feeling of our disconnected hands. I shook my head to clear the forming thought of how the numbness felt vaguely familiar.

I commented, "Man, I don't think I've watched a game as close as I watched Sunday's game. That was just intense."

All three of them laughed in response to my reflection, nodding. Kaner added, "Yeah, that was pretty heated, if I do say so myself."

"How's Benny? Getting into that fight in the first period with Rypien made Sam go berserk over the phone. Though I'm not quite sure if she was furious over the fight or over the fact that Huey got a front-row performance."

"Eags is fine; he's a big guy, so I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't feel anything," Tazer mused, chuckling at the little nickname I made for Eags.

I turned to the goaltender sitting on my right, nudging him softly with my shoulder. I said, smiling widely, "You, Nemo, admittedly made me scream in the most positive way possible. Those two saves against Burrows in the third period just shocked me. Congratulations on the shutout!"

All the praise I gave to the goaltender made him blush, but he still had a smile on his face. Nemo gave me a playful shove, saying, "Thanks."

After fifteen minutes, we had arrived at a park. I immediately observed three other cars, knowing who was already here. The five of us climbed out of the car and made our way over to the picnic tables and benches. At the sight of seven other people, Riles bounded over to them. His first victims were Seabs and Duncs, who each stuck a hand out for him to sniff. The way his tail wagged, I would not have been surprised if he had attempted to tackle the two defensemen.

Riles sprinted towards Marian next, the right winger bending to his height. The brown terrier lifted his paw to the man's hand, who shook it with a chuckle. After his rather eccentric "assaults" on Hammer, Bur, Sharpy, and Byfuglien, Riles circled me and sat at my feet. I was immediately held in someone's arms in a tight embrace.


"BURR BEAR!" Everyone got a laugh out of our exchange, even Bur, whose chest moved with his laughter. I returned his hug as tight as I could before we let go. Only seconds after was I picked up off my feet and being spun around in another snug hug.

"How's it going, Alex? I see you've brought your dog with you."

I turned my head and looked at him, saying while ruffling his longer than normal hair, "I'm pretty good, Seabs. Enjoying your hold over me, seeing as how much you love to emphasize the fact that you're taller than me?"

"Come on now, Alley Cat, don't mess with my hair."

I retorted playfully, "Yes, because we all know that you take hours in front of the mirror to fix it. Right, Duncs?"

Said defenseman chuckled, saving me from his teammate, "That isn't too exaggerated from the truth, Alex. How'd you know?"

I laughed, giving him a quick hug in thanks and hello. "I'm a girl, Duncs, I know these things."

Sharpy and Byfuglien raised their hands over their heads, making me jump to give them a literal high-five. "You are impossibly tall, you know that?"

"Nah, I just think you're a bit impossibly short," Byfuglien, the taller of the two, jabbed with a little dramatic ruffling of my hair. Sharpy took his turn in messing with my hair after him, leaving me no choice but to poke him in the forehead to stop him.

"Ha ha, you two. I'll just make my way over to Hammer. He probably knows how to give a proper greeting," I mused, scooting over to the third defenseman's side and giving him a hug.

"You don't know that for sure," Hammer told me, returning the hug. Before he let go of me, he poked my sides, making me squeak out in surprise. The assembled players shared a laugh at my expense, Riles even barking at the attack.

"Oh, shut up," I said, laughing along with them. Directing their attention towards Riles, I continued, "As you may have already noticed, this terrier right here is mine. Bur, Sharpy, Duncs, Seabs, Marian, Byfuglien, Hammer, I want you to meet Riles, my little pride and joy."

We all enjoyed each other's company, ignoring the cold near-thirty-degree weather. Duncs brought his radio, so some of us sang and danced along to the songs playing. Riles managed to find an abandoned frisbee. He would run to chase the frisbee after someone threw it far, leaping high for the catches.

Soon enough the sun set, and the wind began gusting. The air suddenly chilled around us, making all of us shiver. Something freezing cold touched my nose, and I noticed with a new happiness that it was a snowflake. I looked up and saw the snowflakes falling to the ground, and I smiled. I loved the snow, and by some of the hollers of excitement, I could tell I wasn't the only one.

Soon after we parted ways, noticing the snow falling harder. I wished the guys good luck before leaving with Tazer, Kaner, and Nemo. "Thanks for asking me to hang out with you guys. I had a great time," I said to Tazer as he got in the front seat.

"No problem. You're stuck with us whether you like it or not, Alex," Tazer joked, turning to send me a smile.

We drove out of the parking lot of the park, heading to my apartment building. I shivered a bit, Tazer's truck still not completely warm. Nemo looked at me and whispered, "Cold?" I admitted, making the mistake of meeting his now gray eyes, "A little."

I felt his arm wrap around my waist, pulling me closer to him. I easily took in the warmth radiating off his body in waves, some of which reached my face. Nemo's small smile reached his steel-colored eyes, and my fingertips tingled when I noted the newly added color spreading across the bridge of his nose.

I wrapped my own arms around him, muttering a light, "Kiitos, Antti." I was certain that I surprised him by the little bit of Finnish I knew. Even so, his one-armed grip tightened softly, acknowledging my gratitude.

I easily could have stayed pressed against his side, I admitted to myself in my head, the nagging confusion tugging at my thoughts intensifying. Where did that come from?
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Here's the fourth chapter! It did take quite a bit of time to type, and I thank my twenty-seven readers, including my five subscribers, for being patient with me. I'm ever so grateful for your response.

I'm not quite sure how I'll update this story, but I'll try every Friday to type it up and then publish it by Sunday. Either way, updates will be rather sluggish....