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@iStock/AngiePhotoThis Piece of My Heart, Excerpt: Chapter 4—Setting: Caryn and Andrew enjoy an evening of tennis and dinner as they continue to get to know each other. Only their second date, the spark between them is impossible to ignore. Caryn thinks Andrew is a grad student… A huge surprise awaits.

Caryn and Andrew played tennis the next evening, and Caryn surprised him with her ability, winning six-four and eight-six in two sets. He shook his head as he wiped his face with the towel.

“You didn’t tell me you were a pro.” His accusation accompanied a grin.

Caryn flushed as she shook her head. “Just lucky.”

“Takes more than luck to play like that, Caryn. You’re really good. Just don’t tell me you’re not in top form because you’re still sore from the other day.”

“I’m fine.” She laughed as she put her racquet back into its cover.

“How long have you been playing?”

“Since I was five. My parents travel a lot on business, so they sent me to camp for most of the summer. Tennis was the main activity. By the time I was fifteen, they asked me to teach. Then, I worked at camp all summer instead of being a camper.” She shrugged in embarrassment. “I haven’t played in so long.”

“Lucky for me. From now on, we’ll play doubles and find another couple to humiliate. You’re too good for me.”

“No, I’m not. You could have won if you’d wanted.”

“Nope, you’re really good, and you had me fooled. Maybe I should get you to give me lessons?”

“My pleasure.” She smiled mischievously as they walked toward the townhouse. “Remember, you said the loser had to cook the steaks.” Andrew started the grill on her patio while Caryn quickly showered and changed. She put the potatoes in the oven and prepared the salad while he took his turn in the shower. She poured a glass of wine and relaxed on a chaise lounge on the patio while she waited. She felt comfortable with Drew—had she only known him just a couple days?

He joined her before long, opening a bottle of beer as he perched on the chaise lounge beside her. “This might take the edge off on how badly you embarrassed me out on the court.”

“Well, maybe you can take tennis for PE.”

Andrew shook his head as he met her eyes, suppressing a smile. “My PE days are long gone.”

“Oh—I assumed you were a grad student.”

“No, not in grad school.” His blue eyes held her gaze. “I play hockey for the Leafs.”

Caryn nearly fell off the chair. He was a professional hockey player?

“Why didn’t you tell me before?”

“It didn’t come up. Then, after you met a couple of my friends from the Jays, I wasn’t sure you’d be interested in going out with a hockey player—a professional athlete?” A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.

“I kinda put my foot in it the other night, didn’t I?”

“A lot of guys can be jerks. I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t want to get involved with an athlete.”

“Have you just been on your best behavior so far?” She teased him with a smile.

Andrew shook his head. “Nope, what you see is what you get.”

“When did you start playing for the Leafs?”

“This will be my fourth season. I went from Major Juniors into the Leafs’ organization.”

“That’s exciting!”

“You like hockey?”

“Well, I am Canadian,” she said and laughed.

“I was going to say something the other night at dinner, then after Norris acted like such an ass, I figured it wasn’t exactly the right moment.”

“Don’t apologize for your friends.” She ran her fingers against his broad shoulders, feeling the strength of his muscles beneath the knit shirt. She lightly caressed the hair that brushed against his collar, then moving her hand behind his neck, she pulled him toward her. “Besides,” she said as his lips approached, “I think I like hockey players.”

The kiss was soft and lingering, in sharp contrast to Chuck’s crude assault on her lips the previous evening. Without thinking, Caryn slipped her arms around his neck, responding to the sudden jolt of electricity that coursed through her. Never had a kiss affected her entire being this way. When his arms closed around her, she pressed against his chest, her body tingling with anticipation.

What am I doing? I’ve never been kissed like this, never had someone make me feel this way. If I’m not careful…

She murmured a protest when the kiss ended, taking a moment to catch her breath. Caryn’s head buzzed and she had a hard time focusing as he studied her with those stark blue eyes. She felt her cheeks grow warm as he gently brushed the hair away from her forehead.

Caryn broke eye contact, looking down at her hands as she tried to collect her thoughts. She didn’t know Andrew. It was just their second time together. Did he expect her to…? She didn’t want him to think she was that kind of girl. But the way his kiss made her feel…

She snuck a glance at him. His fingers gently tipped her chin until he could see her face. She watched his eyes search her expression before he leaned to press his lips against her forehead. A smile hinted at the corner of his mouth.

“Time out so I can grill our steaks?”

Caryn tried to hide her relief with a quiet laugh, as she reached for his hand. “Come with me to the kitchen. You can get the steaks and I’ll check on the rest of the meal.”

***

Andrew stood where he could see Caryn through the kitchen window as he kept an eye on the steaks. He’d felt the unexpected spark that transformed a light kiss into a promise of much, much more. Definitely chemistry between them, but he’d sensed a conflicted response. Caryn sure kissed like she wanted more, but her subtle hesitation caused him to pull back. Gotta remember she’s a student, just twenty. Not that twenty-four is that much older, but his world brought him into contact with many different types of woman. Women who are more than willing to engage in casual sex—not even hoping for friends with benefits. No matter the city, there are women who specifically seek the pro athletes. Sure, when he was a rookie, he’d enjoyed it like a kid in the candy store. By now, the lifestyle had worn thin, and when he’d attempted the steady relationship with Monique, they obviously had different motives. And look how that ended.

Maybe that’s why Caryn intrigued him? His eyes drifted toward her. There had been other subtle signals of her uncertainly and discomfort with the obvious mutual attraction. She projected an aura of self-confidence that he suspected masked an inner insecurity. Innocence? This struck an unfamiliar chord within him, sensing in Caryn a vulnerability that he unexpectedly wanted to protect.

If they continued to see each other, Andrew realized that he did not want to pursue casual sex with Caryn. And he did not intend to make the same mistakes he had with Monique. Getting a little ahead of myself here. Caryn’s not the type of girl I should even speculate about starting a physical relationship this quickly. Unless he’d completely missed the signals, she wasn’t looking to jump into a relationship. From the little he’d learned so far, she had a tough academic schedule and some intense pressure from her father to excel. What’s with that? She certainly showed her frustration when she practically destroyed that statistics text. Maybe he could help her with that course? Spending some casual time with Caryn would give each of them a chance to get to know each other and see if a relationship develops.

He saw her look at him through the kitchen window and he winked and flashed a grin. He liked watching her face redden–he’d never expect that kind of self-conscious embarrassment from someone as beautiful as Caryn. Just another reason why he found her so intriguing.



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“This Piece of My Heart delivers a sweet love story that still sizzles — a must-read for anyone looking for the perfect happily-ever-after.” 
— Cara Lockwood, USA Today bestselling author of “I Do (But I Don’t).”

 

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