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Chapter 8 Preview © iStock/AngiePhotos

Setting: On the eve of the NHL season, Andrew and the Leafs travel to Europe for exhibition games against the European Elite teams. The lengthy separation causes Caryn anxiety—was her time with Drew just a summer romance? Luckily, fall classes resume, providing much-needed distraction…

Chapter 8

Caryn’s classes at the university filled her days while Andrew and the team traveled in Europe. Fortunately, her study group reconvened the first week of the fall semester. Caryn realized she’d missed the group, especially Lauren Gentry, who had spent the summer with her family in Vancouver. She’d been so busy with Andrew that she and Lauren had just exchanged quick texts or emails. Caryn missed her friend’s quirky sense of humor—even her ability to make Caryn laugh, sometimes in the most inappropriate settings.

They’d shared many classes over the semesters, becoming friends and study partners in the group that met twice weekly. Depending on the course, one of the four group members would serve as the group’s leader, ensuring that all had mastered the material before each test or exam. Besides Lauren and Caryn, a senior finance major, Kevin, and a third-year accounting major, Bill, rounded out the group. Lauren’s contribution was her keen sense of marketing strategy, while Caryn added expertise in management functions.

They met in a coffee house near campus, its student-friendly atmosphere attracting several similar groups. Working together for the two previous years, they quickly fell into the usual routine—coffee or tea, snack, a few minutes chatting, then settling in for a busy two-to-three hours.

They teased her relentlessly when they caught her glancing at the Leafs’ site on her iPad during one of their first sessions.

“So, you’ve taken up hockey?” Kevin grinned at her from across the table.

“I don’t think it’s hockey,” Lauren retorted as she nodded at Caryn.

Caryn felt her face flush as Lauren grasped her hand and held it up so her ring was visible. “The correct question would be whom she has taken up with.”

“Stop, Lauren,” Caryn begged, laughing. “We’ll never finish this chapter.”

“You’re dating one of the Leafs?” Bill interrupted, his face lighting up with excitement. “You can get us tickets.”

“Stop!” Caryn leaned forward and buried her face in her textbook. “Lauren,” she said reproachfully, turning toward her friend.

“I go home for the summer, we exchange emails, and I get back and don’t even see you until Andrew leaves for Europe. I thought you were going to hook me up with one of his friends.”

“You’re dating Andrew Chadwick?” Bill questioned, playfully poking Caryn’s shoulder. “You can get us a suite, then, for one of our sessions.”

“Yeah, like we’d get anything accomplished,” Kevin put in sarcastically, as he tried to redirect their attention to the week’s assignment.

“Then for a midterm break,” Bill persisted.

“You’re the accounting expert, Bill,” Caryn said. “Get us through that course and we’ll see. I have no idea if he can get suites.”

Both men laughed as Kevin shook his head. “I’ll do your homework for the semester if he can’t.”

“Might be worth asking,” Lauren said and leaned to whisper in Caryn’s ear. “Then you can point out the bachelors on the team.”

———

The weeks that Andrew played in Europe passed more quickly than Caryn anticipated. Flowers arrived often and they tried to connect via FaceTime or Skype at least once a day. Even from such a long distance, Caryn could feel the warmth in Andrew’s voice, could almost feel his arms around her. She missed him so much and could only hope that he missed her as much—and was as eager to see her again as she was to see him. She planned to pick him up at the airport, but Andrew refused, not wanting her to drive to the airport late at night.

“I’ll catch a ride.”

“But I can’t wait to see you.”

“Honey, the plane doesn’t get in until after midnight. You have classes first thing in the morning. You don’t need to be out that late—or driving alone.” Even on the phone, Caryn could imagine that stubborn expression crossing his face. She wished they had Skyped so she could try to change his mind. If he could only see my eyes, I could convince him. Especially if he could see me in my PJs.

She laughed softly, then tried a different tactic. “Tom could come with me.”

“He could, but he’s got early classes too.” Drew’s voice was set. “I have a ride. We can get together after classes tomorrow.”

“That’s after eleven.” Caryn grimaced as she heard the whiny tone in her voice. That’ll make him take a later flight. I’m not a clingy, whining girlfriend.

“Yep, and I’ll just be getting up. I’m exhausted, Cary.” Andrew softened his tone. “I miss you, babe. I plan to devote the entire day to showing you how much I’ve missed you.”

In spite of her disappointment, Caryn’s skin tingled at the thought. Only Andrew can give me goosebumps from another continent. Caryn giggled and nodded even though he couldn’t see her.

“I’m holding you to that, Drew.”

“Don’t you worry about that. I’ve had plenty of time to plan the day.”

———

Late the following morning, Caryn’s stomach contracted with apprehension as she parked the car in front of Andrew’s apartment. What if I’ve built things up in my mind? Maybe it was just a summer romance. Maybe things will be different now. We’d known each other only a short time before he left.

She rang the doorbell and took a deep breath as she waited for Drew to open the door, nervously pushing the windblown hair away from her face. She pulled her light jacket more tightly around her as the brisk fall air whipped around the building. She shifted her feet, straining to hear his footsteps inside the door, wondering if he’d heard the bell and debating whether or not she should knock.

She was about to ring the bell again when the door opened and Andrew was suddenly before her, his blue eyes capturing hers as a smile spread slowly across his face. She felt her body warm in anticipation as he didn’t speak, instead reaching to gently brush his hand against her cheek. He grasped her shoulders and drew her inside the apartment and into his arms.

Caryn’s doubts faded as Andrew’s lips found hers, his tender caress expressing the depths of his growing feelings. He held her tightly against his chest, his hand lightly stroking her hair, and Caryn slipped her arms around his neck, pulling him closer to her, wanting the kiss to last an eternity.

He murmured her name as his lips traveled to her cheek, her neck, then back to her lips again, tenderness quickly becoming passion as Caryn responded with an emotion reflecting his. Her mind swirled and her knees buckled, and Caryn became aware of a growing ache deep within her. The kisses and caresses she’d imagined in her dreams and the way she felt about the man who held her now—all were wrapped inside this seemingly endless kiss.

She was vaguely aware that he had lifted her in his arms, protesting softly when his lips left hers for an instant. She was aware only of Andrew, of the strength of the arms that carried her, of the emotion she felt from his kiss, of the new, intense, and entirely pleasurable sensations he was awakening within her. She shut her mind to everything except the moment and the kiss, reaching to pull him beside her as he gently set her on his bed.

He kissed her temple, her eyes, her neck, his hands seeking her smooth skin. His gentle caresses caused Caryn to press her body closer against his, a soft moan escaping her mouth. Her lips found his again, her skin shivering in anticipation as his fingers opened the buttons of her shirt and lowered his lips to caress the base of her neck.

Caryn’s breath caught in her throat and her hands clasped his shoulders, suddenly desperate to bring his body yet closer to hers. His hand brushed against her waist as his lips met hers again, pulling her against him as he stroked her hips and then her thighs, the thin material of her pants separating them. Caryn looked at Andrew, his blue eyes darkened with emotion, reflecting his desire as their eyes met. He was about to speak when the phone rang, rudely shattering their private world.

His smile was wry as he looked at the phone and then shrugged as he reluctantly pulled away from Caryn and reached for it. She wasn’t aware of what he said, though she watched him intently, her body tingling and flushed from his touch. She shivered, suddenly chilled without his arms around her, without his body pressed against hers, anxious that he should rejoin her quickly.

He placed the phone on the table and turned toward Caryn. She tried to read his expression, then felt herself growing warm as he gazed on her body. She held her hand out to him, and smiling ruefully, Andrew reached to touch her cheek.

“I’m sorry, babe. Coach is asking some of us to practice drills and run plays with the new players.” He shook his head as he leaned to kiss her gently. “For two cents I’d skip it.”

“No, you won’t. I’ll be here when you get back.”

Andrew smiled as he slipped his hand to her shoulder, lightly caressing her skin before he slowly buttoned her shirt. Caryn’s hand rested on his arm, and Andrew gathered her into his arms and held her close for a long moment, before he pressed his lips against her forehead and reluctantly released her.

“Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

“I’ll be here.”

He pulled her to her feet and held her close to his side as they walked from the room. Caryn’s skin still tingled from his touch. He grabbed his jacket from where it lay on the back of the couch and pulled it on. He touched her cheek, gently raising her face toward his, lightly caressing her skin as he spoke.

“I’m sorry, Cary. I wanted to spend the whole day with you.”

She shook her head. “You’re home and I’ll see you later—that’s what matters.”

He leaned to kiss her, pulling her close to him, not wanting to leave. Caryn shut her eyes, once again caught up in a whirlwind of emotion, never dreaming that she could feel the way she did. The kiss ended reluctantly for both and Andrew’s voice was husky when he spoke. “Back as soon as I can.”

———

She watched him drive away. She shut the door, suddenly lighthearted and exuberant. He still cares about me. He couldn’t kiss me like that if he didn’t care…right? No one has ever kissed me like that. Her mind flashed on the guys she’d dated before moving to Toronto. She knew she had little to compare with him, but even her major crushes never came close to awakening her entire being the way Drew just did. Their kisses and fumbling attempts to go further had made it easy for her to keep them at arms’ length.

But they were not Drew. Caryn hugged her arms, sinking to the sofa, her mind replaying every kiss and caress, her stomach contracting again at the memory of the feelings he ignited inside her. Her dreams had not prepared her for his reception today, nor had they prepared her for the warm kisses, gentle touches, quickly rising passion. Did he feel the same about her? Right now, was he thinking about her, remembering how it felt to hold each other close?

What if the phone hadn’t rung? Would we be making love right now?

She shut her eyes, imagining the continuation of their embraces, suddenly nervous and apprehensive about what had almost taken place. She’d never even come close to giving herself to a man. Was she ready? Was this the right time? Was he the one? She didn’t even know how he felt about her. Was he just attracted to her? Did he love her? How did she feel, really? Was she in love with him? Or was this all a super-charged sexual attraction?

What will happen when Drew returns from practice?

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