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Malory (Wil) Wilson needed to recover from her divorce. A nice transition from West Coast life back to Aspen Creek, the small Colorado mountain town she grew up in would put things straight. The plan was foolproof until she discovered that the first man to break her heart, retired NHL player Christopher Douglas, also returned to Aspen Creek.
Christopher had taken enough hits in his career. He didn’t know his heart would take one when Wil returned to Aspen Creek. Hell bent on winning her over after having broken her heart years earlier, he will risk everything to get her back—including his life.
When the ice rink Malory’s father built faces being shut down the couple find themselves working together to save the business. However, forgiveness and newfound love just might come to a crashing end when Christopher’s archenemy skates into town bent on revenge.
Skating on thin ice, without a guardian angel looking out for Christopher, Malory could lose him forever.
The tires of Malory’s old red Jeep crunched the frozen snow over loose gravel. The sound curled her mouth into a smile. That was how winter was supposed to sound.
The sky filled with the orange and blue hues of a rising sun as the chill of the air stirred together with the heat from the vehicle’s heater. All of it brought back a flood of memories from her childhood. All of them warm and welcome.
She pulled her Jeep into a parking space in front of the large metal building that housed the ice arena. A huge banner above the front doors read, “Home to NHL Player Christopher Douglas.”
She shook her head. Well, she thought, at least someone claimed him. If memory was correct, he’d played for multiple NHL teams in his very short professional career. So he’d never called anywhere home for long, except Aspen Creek.
But everyone had started somewhere, including her.
Above the banner announcing the fame of Christopher Douglas was the name of the building. Aspen Creek Ice Center.
It was good to be home.
And home was where she planned to stay.
She didn’t see her father’s pickup parked on the side of the building. She’d told him she’d meet him there at seven. It was already seven-ten. He wouldn’t have headed off to breakfast without her. After all, he’d awakened her at four forty-five in the morning just to invite her.
She turned off the engine and pulled the keys from the column, placing them in the pocket of her coat. She might have been born and raised in the small Colorado town where people left their doors unlocked and the keys in their cars, but she’d been in California long enough to have picked up some less trusting habits. Sadly, those new habits had her locking part of herself away too.
She stepped out into the cold and quickly slid on her gloves. It was the kind of cold that took your breath away. It froze the inside of your nose, and when the wind blew through the valley, it burned your skin. She pulled the stocking cap from her pocket and pulled it over her head, making sure to cover her ears. She hit the lock on the door and slammed it shut. Then as fast as she could, without falling on her butt, she headed across the slick parking lot for the front door of the arena, which had been the love child of her mother and father years before she’d been born.
The heater above the door did its job. It took that pins-and-needles chill from her skin just enough to comfort her.
White concrete walls, which held bleachers on the other side, blocked the view of the ice rink from the door. There were no spectators at seven fifteen on a Wednesday morning, but the ice wasn’t empty.
Malory had been there enough times in the early morning to know that at least a dozen figure skaters and a few hockey players had already etched their presence into the glossy finish of the ice before they went about their day.
Malory stood there for a moment. She closed her eyes and just let the building surround her. When she opened them, the smiling faces of the hundreds that had graced the ice over the past forty years greeted her. Early photographs in black-and-white and later ones in color lined the corridor that lead toward the ice. The first set of eyes to catch her matched her own. They were her mother’s.
Malory stood and stared at the picture of her mother, then only twenty-two. She wore an Olympic medal around her neck and had a bouquet of roses tucked in the crevice of her arm. Hadn’t that been the very picture her father had hoped to recreate with her? Oh, he’d tried, but she was never the skater her mother had been.
She blew out a breath. Her parents had opened the skating rink with money her mother had won from competitions and endorsements after her Olympic win. People had laughed at them. The hockey player wanna-be and the washed-up Olympian. What good was it going to do to build an ice rink in a town of three thousand? But the gamble had paid off.
Young girls wanted to skate under Ginger Bromell-Wilson. Boys wanted to learn to play hockey from Harvey Wilson, the man who had almost made it to the NHL. Neighboring towns embraced the opportunity, and the Aspen Creek Ice Center was born.
Only four short years later Malory entered the picture. Another two and her mother was gone.
Malory had lived thirty-one years without her mother, but it still tore her apart. She didn’t know her. She didn’t have one memory of her except for the pictures that hung on the walls of the building her father had put up twenty years ago to replace the original structure. What Malory had was the sadness that her father had always carried in his heart.
He’d tried to replace Ginger, Malory now understood, with her. He’d tried to raise her to be an Olympian figure skater. But she was no Ginger Bromell-Wilson. She was only a look-alike with some of the skill.
Malory let her mother’s eyes follow her as she walked down the corridor toward the ice. There were no figure skaters on the ice as she’d first thought. She didn’t have to see it to know that. The sound was of a single skater. The short stops that tore up the ice and the sound of wood hitting the cold hard surface said hockey player. There was the sound of the puck sliding on the ice. The ping as the puck ricocheted off of the pole and the crack of the stick against the ice in a fit of anger resonated through the arena. Curses that flew from the mouth of the player confirmed that the player was an adult and had missed the mark of the net. A low laugh escaped her throat. You were never too old to enjoy indoor ice.
She turned down the short hall that led to the ice. The smell of adrenaline and sweat had permeated every crevice of the building over the years. It was a nasty smell, but it too made her feel at home.
Breathing deeply, she lifted her head to watch the hockey player she’d heard when she walked in. She saw him and gasped. He skated down the ice, around the other net, keeping the puck on the edge of his stick and then as he hit the blue line, he smacked the puck into the net. He turned back around, caught the puck with the stick, and then caught her eye.
The crooked grin that erupted on his face made her heart rate kick up. It raced so fast that she wasn’t sure her chest would hold it inside any longer. Fifteen years had passed since they’d last spoken, but not a day had gone by that she hadn’t thought of him.
Malory tried to will her feet to walk closer to the door he skated toward. She found the task hard to do. His hair was long and peeked out of the sides and back of his helmet. His dark eyes sparkled as he neared her.
By the time he’d unlatched the door, she realized she’d walked toward him and now he towered above her only inches away. At six foot three, he was an enormous sight in front of her. The skates added at least three more inches to his height. He wore no pads, but his shoulders were square and muscular under his loose jersey.
About the Author:
Bernadette Marie has been an avid writer since the early age of 13, when she’d fill notebook after notebook with stories that she’d share with her friends. Her journey into novel writing started the summer before eighth grade when her father gave her an old typewriter. At all times of the day and night you would find her on the back porch penning her first work, which she would continue to write for the next 22 years.
In 2007—after marriage, filling her chronic entrepreneurial needs, and having five children—Bernadette began to write seriously with the goal of being published. That year she wrote 12 books. In 2009 she was contracted for her first trilogy and the published author was born. In 2011 she (being the entrepreneur that she is) opened her own publishing house, 5 Prince Publishing, and has released her own contemporary titles. She also quickly began the process of taking on other authors in other genres.
In 2012 Bernadette Marie began to find herself on the bestsellers lists of iTunes, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble to name a few. Her office wall is lined with colorful PostIt notes with the titles of books she will be releasing in the very near future, with hope that they too will grace the bestsellers lists.
Bernadette spends most of her free time driving her kids to their many events—usually hockey. She is also an accomplished martial artist with a second degree black belt in Tang Soo Do. An avid reader, she enjoys contemporary romances with humor and happily ever afters.
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