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Authors: Jennifer Comeaux

Crossing the Ice (8 page)

BOOK: Crossing the Ice
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“I saw you yesterday working with Em on your choreography,” I said over the clacking of the shaker. “Have you always helped design your programs?”

“Just the last few years. Our old coach was pretty territorial and didn’t want to give up control, but she finally gave in when I wouldn’t stop bugging her with ideas.”

“From what I saw, you have some great ones.”

“Thanks. Emily’s awesome to work with. She makes us think about each movement in a way I hadn’t before. It’s giving me all kinds of new creative inspiration.”

“You sound really passionate about it.” I hesitated bringing up his career path after the way he’d reacted the last time I’d mentioned it, but I was hoping he’d open up more. “I know you said you’ve always been expected to be a lawyer, but if you have other talents…”

He took a long drink of water and slowly set down the glass. “My dad would probably disown me if I said I wasn’t going to law school. It’s a done deal anyway.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve already been accepted at UCLA. They deferred my enrollment until next fall so I could come here.”

I didn’t like to think about Josh moving back to L.A. even though I knew it was going to happen. It was just one of the many reasons I should be trying harder to kill my attraction to him. How did a girl go about doing that, anyway?

I poured the cocktail into a glass and placed it on the edge of the bar for Meredith. A couple of customers required my attention, so it was a few minutes before I returned to Josh with another question.

“Have you ever told your dad how you feel about—”

“You know anyone who can play the piano?” my boss Ronnie boomed at me as he came out of the kitchen. “Barry’s sick.”

“Uhh…”

Josh slowly raised his hand. “I know how to play.”

Ronnie stared hard at him. “You any good?”

“I’ve… I’ve been playing since I was a kid.”

Ronnie gave him another long look. “Well, you’re the only option I got. We’ll take care of your dinner, and you can keep all your tips.”

“I can pay for dinner.”

“Nonsense. You give me a couple hours work, I give you a free meal.”

“Sounds fair to me,” I piped in.

Josh nodded. “I can start in a few minutes.”

“Barry’s sheet music is in the piano bench,” Ronnie said. “If you know any other popular songs, feel free to get creative. Just keep in mind who your audience is.”

Josh and I smiled at each other, knowing very well the crowd’s demographic. Ronnie moved from behind the bar to greet two regulars, and I turned to Josh with my arms folded and my head cocked to the side.

“So, you’re an athlete, a dancer
and
a musician? If you tell me you’re a skilled artist, I’m gonna have to hate you.”

He laughed. “I can barely draw a stick figure.”

“Whew.” I swiped my hand across my forehead.

“Even if I was the next Picasso, though, I wouldn’t have told you.” He paused and held my gaze. “I don’t like the idea of you hating me.”

My stomach fluttered. Josh didn’t often make extended eye contact, but whenever he locked those sinfully blue eyes on mine, I became a mesmerized puddle of swoon.

“I um… I could never really hate you.” I broke away from his gaze as my heart beat in double time, and I scrambled to laugh off the whole thing. “You’re too good a tipper.”

I zoomed away and kept myself busy with the other bar patrons, not returning to Josh’s spot until he’d departed for the piano. I picked up his empty plate and found underneath it my tip and a beverage napkin containing a doodle. Looking closer, I saw it was a stick figure person playing a very lopsided piano. Written below it was —
Any requests?

I grinned and slipped the napkin into the pocket of my apron. After clearing the dishes, I plucked a dollar bill from my purse and went over to the piano.

“There shall be no judgment passed on my request.” I dropped the money into the empty glass on the piano. “I’d like to hear ‘Over the Rainbow.’”

His eyebrows rose with amusement. “
Wizard of Oz
fan?”

“I was obsessed with it as a child. I drew a yellow brick chalk road down the sidewalk by my house. There was also a very unhealthy attachment to a stuffed dog named Toto, but I digress…”

Josh chuckled, and I continued, “I know the sheet music for the song should be here because I’ve heard Barry play it.”

He cracked his knuckles. “I don’t think I’ll need it.”

He set his fingers lightly on the keys and rattled off the first few bars before looking up at me with a smile. I rested my elbows on the shiny black lid of the piano and leaned forward.

“You really know that song by heart?”

“If I tell you something, you promise not to hate me?”

Dude, if you only knew
how far I was from hating you.

“You’re some kind of musical savant, aren’t you?” I asked.

“I have this thing where I can learn music by ear and never forget it.”

“And I ask you again — why are you going to be a lawyer?”

“Courtney!” one of the waiters called to me from the bar.

“Oops, I gotta go. I’ll be waiting for my song!”

I scrambled back to my post and hurriedly filled the drink order waiting for me. Josh looked very serious as he flipped through the song book. Soon the sounds of dinner chatter and clinking utensils were joined by the melodic tinkling of the piano, and I immediately recognized the song as “I Could’ve Danced All Night.”

Mrs. Cassar, one of our weekend regulars, slid onto a barstool and spun it so she faced the piano. “I’ve seen that boy here before.”

She was a brassy lady who always cracked me up, a widow who wanted to spend all her husband’s money in as many creative ways as possible.

“His name is Josh. He actually skates at my rink.”

“He’s simply adorable.” She ogled him shamelessly. “I could put him on a cracker.”

I giggled and poured Mrs. Cassar’s customary glass of merlot. She took the glass in hand, but her eyes never left Josh.

“If he skates as well as he plays piano, he must be marvelous,” she said between sips.

“He does. He and his sister are a really beautiful pair.”

“He skates with his sister? Isn’t pairs skating supposed to be
romantic
?” She breathed out the last word, which made it sound rather comical.

I snorted. “Mark and I have never been romantic. We’ve tried and failed to pull that off on the ice.”

“You should team up with
him
.” She pointed at Josh. “If I was fifty years younger, I’d strap on a pair of skates and grab him myself.”

“It’s a little too late for us to change partners,” I said, still laughing. “The Olympics are in seven months.”

As I went down the line, checking on my customers, I thought about Mrs. Cassar’s idea of Josh and me skating together. I knew what dancing with him felt like. Skating with him might send me into sensory shock.

When I heard the opening notes of “Over the Rainbow,” I turned to the piano and Josh sent me a bright-eyed smile across the room. I felt my own face lighting up, and I couldn’t stop grinning as I filled the sudden barrage of drink orders.

Mrs. Cassar went over to talk to Josh between songs, and I noticed he had the attention of many of the other women in the room. His tip glass was already overstuffed. Barry didn’t get that much love in an entire night.

As Josh resumed playing, Mrs. Cassar returned to her barstool and smoothed her wrinkled hand over her fiery red hair.

“He’s a very polite young man,” she said. “Turns out we’re almost neighbors in Hyannisport. I told him to call me if he ever needs anything.”

“Like a cup of sugar?” I joked.

“Or some other kind of sugar.” Her penciled eyebrows danced.

I burst into laughter and could only shake my head. I roared even harder when she stopped by the piano later on her way out and patted Josh’s cheek. The redness on his face was visible from across the room. I was itching to tease him about it when he met me at the bar at closing time.

“I heard you got a phone number tonight.” I giggled. “Mrs. Cassar is quite a fan.”

He turned pink again as he laughed. “She’s an interesting character.”

Ronnie walked up and slapped Josh on the shoulder. “Great job tonight. Plenty people asked if you’d be back.”

“Sure. If you ever need me to fill in, I’d be glad to.”

“How about playing on Thursday nights? Same deal — I’ll pay for your dinner.”

Josh thought about it for only a few seconds. “Yeah, I can do that. There’ll be some weeks where I have skating stuff, but I can give you my schedule.”

Even more time I’d be spending with him. Common sense fought the giddy feeling bubbling inside me, but it was losing badly.

Ronnie bid us goodnight, and I slung my purse over my shoulder. “Look at you, scoring a regular gig.”

“Maybe I can slowly work in some cooler music… make Thursdays the most happening night of the week here.”

“Is Stephanie going to wonder why your dinners last hours?”

He shrugged. “She knows I like to get out of the house.”

I was pretty sure he hadn’t told her he’d been hanging out at my place of employment multiple times a week. If he had, she would’ve been giving me even dirtier looks than her usual glares, and she probably would’ve treated me to another lecture about how I wasn’t good enough for her brother.

We walked together out to the parking lot, and the cool mist from the thick fog dampened my face. I pulled my keys from my purse as we neared the few cars remaining in the lot.

“You’ll have to let me know if you have any more song requests,” Josh said.

“You said you can learn music by ear, right? So if I give you any song, you can learn how to play it just like that?” I snapped my fingers.

“You name it, I’ll play it,” he said with a determined look in his eyes.

I smiled. “I’ll start working on my list.”

I turned toward my car, and Josh headed in the opposite direction for his. As I hit the unlock button, I heard Josh say, “Court.”

I wheeled around. He’d never called me Court before. I liked it. A lot.

He shoved his hands in his pockets and shuffled his feet. “Have a good Sunday.”

“Thanks. You too.”

I slowly walked backward to my car and climbed inside, wincing as I bent my knee. Turning the ignition, the only response I received was a sickly, sputtering whirr. I repeated the motion three times, but there was no sign of engine life in sight.

“Come on, stupid car.” I slapped the steering wheel.

Who knew how much repairs would cost, not to mention the hassle of being without a vehicle. I tried once more to start it and groaned when it failed on me yet again.

A tapping sound on my window startled me, and I jumped. Josh stood next to my door.

“Trouble starting?” he asked as I opened the door and stepped out.

“I don’t think it’s the battery because it’s making a noise.” I pressed the lock button on my key fob. “I guess I’ll get it towed to the shop tomorrow.”

“You know a mechanic who’s open on Sunday?”

“Mark’s dad owns a shop. He won’t be open, but he’ll let me leave the car there so he can work on it Monday. I can’t be carless for too long.”

“I can give you a ride home,” he said.

“Oh, I don’t want to make you go out of your way. I’ll go ask Meredith if she can take me.”

“I don’t mind at all.” He waved for me to follow him as he started toward his car.

I hung back for a moment but then followed him. He opened the passenger door of the black sedan before walking around the front of the car to the driver’s side. I slid into the dark leather seat, and when we were both buckled in, I got that nervous feeling that I’d had when we’d danced. We weren’t nearly as close as we’d been then, but sitting in the small car in the dark with the fog all around us, it felt just as intimate.

Josh turned the key, and music blared through the speakers at an ear-splitting level, just the way I liked it in my car, too.

He quickly powered off the stereo. “Sorry.”

“No, I listen the same way. Was that Muse? I didn’t recognize the song.”

He didn’t directly answer as he drove us toward the exit. “Um… yeah.”

I was confused by the hesitation in his reply, so I reached for the jewel case atop the stack of CDs under the stereo.

“Wait.” His hand shot forward and grabbed mine.

An electrifying sensation sped from my hand to every nerve ending in my body. The car had stopped moving. Everything had stopped moving. Except Josh’s thumb, which brushed lightly over my knuckles, creating a whole new and even more stirring sensation inside me. I couldn’t breathe.

Josh pulled his hand away and gripped the wheel like he was on a roller coaster, holding on for dear life. “Sorry, I um… I’m just not supposed to show anyone the CD.”

“Oh.” I took slow breaths, still trying to shake off the buzz of Josh’s touch.

He resumed driving, deftly maneuvering the stick shift as we accelerated onto the main road. I saw him glance in my direction a couple of times.

“If you promise not to tell anyone I have it…” he said.

I shifted in my seat so I was angled toward him. “You can trust me.”

We stopped at a red light, and he looked into my eyes. My attempt to breathe at a normal pace suffered a massive setback. When his gaze flickered momentarily down to my mouth, I became sure I was going to need CPR.

A horn honked behind us, and Josh turned back to the road.

Damn green light.

“The CD is an advance copy of Muse’s new record,” he said. “It’s not being released until September, but my dad got it for me. I didn’t mean to get all weird. It’s just that if any of it gets leaked, he could get in a lot of trouble.”

“I totally understand. I definitely won’t say anything.”

He braked and made a careful left turn. “Are you pretty familiar with the band?”

“Yeah, I know most of their songs, even the early stuff.”

“You have to hear this song.” He flipped on the CD player and pressed the track button a few times. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever heard.”

He set the volume loud but not where we wouldn’t be able to talk over it. The beat of the song did indeed sound very unique. While my ears were fully engaged with the music, my eyes were fully engaged with watching Josh drive. There was a graceful power in the way he handled the wheel and the stick shift, much like how he handled himself on skates.

BOOK: Crossing the Ice
9.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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