If you haven’t read This Piece of My Soul, you may wish to skip this section! The first chapter (unedited) of This Piece of Our Being now appears at the end of This Piece of My Soul, and we’d love to share it with you—but NOT until you’ve read This Piece of My Soul!
For those who have waited patiently for the conclusion to the Clearing the Ice trilogy…read on…
Pulling the two positive pregnancy tests from her carry-on bag, Caryn Chadwick sank to the bed and focused on the bright bands that crossed each strip. Pink. My favorite color…at least when I was seven. My entire world defined by shades of pink…bedroom walls painted like cotton candy…bright pink flowers on curtains and bedding. Dad called me a pink snowball in my hot pink puffy ski jacket, scarves, gloves and boots. I only tolerated pink hair ribbons. “My signature color,” I’d tell anyone who’d listen. What seven-year-old even knows that term? Signature color? Of course, I know now that Mom and Dad already had begun molding me for the future they’d planned for my life.
“Signature color”—Mom’s influence, of course—from her dreams of pursuing fashion design and taking her portfolio to Paris. But, as she always said, love had other ideas. Dad’s career needed her more than she needed Paris. So we sometimes looked at her designs and discussed possible color combinations and fabrics. Some of my color combinations did cause her eyebrows to rise, but she never laughed. Lime green and lavender. Hot pink and turquoise. Sometimes the softer “Easter egg colors.” Robin eggs blue my favorite, I think.
Mom knew I had creative instincts, but never encouraged me to pursue anything beyond impromptu design sessions. I had a vague idea that I’d go to work with my dad. Mom said I’d be in charge of the company someday and that goal would always determine just how much energy I could devote to “other” activities. But, at seven, I envisioned my future—working in my father’s huge office, redecorated in shades of pink, of course…with maybe some lime green accents.
She heard the doorbell downstairs and Andrew greet his brother, Tom. We’ll need to leave soon. She carefully placed the tests back into her bag, next to the ultrasound photo that confirmed the baby’s due date—news she had yet to share with her husband. And wouldn’t until she was convinced they had reconciled. There are too many things we need to resolve first. Andrew can’t just walk back into my life and pick up where we left things in April.
The last time she’d seen him at the Rehab Center still haunted her. Love wasn’t enough to keep us together. He doesn’t trust me. He needs space from me so he can “concentrate” all his energy on his recovery. He came to Toronto to visit his parents, not look for me. He didn’t even know I was here until he saw my things in the townhouse.
Caryn looked around the bedroom one last time with a sigh. Ready to head back to Tampa. But, at least she would return with a glimmer of hope flickering in her heart. The unexpected encounter with Andrew that morning still unnerved her. After months of no communication in Tampa, we meet by chance in Toronto—the city where we fell in love?
Fate placed our lives on an unlikely collision course that summer day on campus almost five years ago.
Just as it did this morning.
Was it Fate that Andrew received the offer to sign with the Tampa Suns last year? If he hadn’t signed the contract, if we hadn’t moved to Tampa, would he’d be rehabbing from a head injury right now? Would he’d blocked that slapshot if we’d stayed in St. Louis?
One thing’s for sure—Fate had absolutely nothing to do with Drew telling me last April that love is not enough.
Caryn sighed, wanting to cling to the confidence Andrew had projected that afternoon when he promised they could work through the turbulence of the past months, move passed the accusations and betrayal, and allow their love to lead them forward…together. Maybe Fate will look kindly on our future.
She took a deep breath and then walked down the stairs.
Tom stood to greet her with a warm hug. “You doing okay, little sister?”
Caryn nodded with a smile. “I thought I’d see you tonight in Tampa.”
“I thought you were with Lauren in St. Louis,” he retorted with a smile.
“Sorry…I just wanted, needed some time alone.” She peeked at Andrew with a small smile. “But, I’m ready to go home to Tampa.”
“Your flight’s at seven, right?” Andrew confirmed.
“Yeah, I guess we should leave for the airport. Never know about traffic.” She reached for Andrew’s arm as he made a show of looking at his watch. She knew he’d tease her about her obsession about getting to the airport early. “Carry my suitcase for me?”
“You can just let me out here,” Caryn directed as the car neared the Toronto airport’s curbside check-in stations. The beautiful clear skies promised a smooth take-off and her careful online check of the weather en route to Tampa had revealed no summer thunderstorms to disrupt the August afternoon flight. The assurance of no anticipated turbulence helped to settle Caryn’s usual pre-flight jitters.
“You’re flying international,” Tom reminded her. “I know how much that suitcase weighs.”
“Yep. Bet you’ll have to pay the over-weight penalties,” Andrew predicted with a smirk. “Sure you don’t want to fly a private jet?”
“By myself? Hardly.”
“I told you I’d fly down with you, then head back to Toronto.”
“Save the money, Drew. I’m fine.”
Tom pulled into the short-term parking lot and grabbed her suitcase from the trunk. Caryn picked up her purse and carry-on, but Andrew took the carry-on and slipped the strap over his shoulder.
“Seriously, Drew? You’re going to carry my turquoise bag?”
He shrugged. “So you don’t like the look?”
Tom stopped in front of them, held up his phone and snapped a photo. “I’ll send that to you to post on his Instagram.”
Caryn giggled, imagining the comments Andrew would receive from both his teammates and fans. “Thanks. I’ll forward it to Lauren.” She peeked at Andrew from the corner of her eye.
“Thanks.” His smile softened the sarcasm. “A year ago, we were heading to Tampa on a private jet.”
“I remember,” she answered with a sigh. “But, that’s because the Suns wanted to sign you.”
“And you don’t think they’d send the jet again if I asked?”
“I know they would. No need to take advantage.” She pulled her passport and boarding pass from her purse and handed them to the agent. She watched as the suitcase disappeared on the carousel and then looked up as Andrew spoke.
“Even though Kelly and Terri are meeting you, please get help with that suitcase.”
She flashed a smile as they moved away from the counter. “Yes, dear, I promise.” It was her turn to smirk.
“So, do you belong to one of those fancy sky clubs?” Tom looked at Caryn as they walked through the main concourse.
“No, I haven’t traveled enough to justify it. Though, if we get the contracts we’re pitching in California, or that Vancouver project, we probably will.”
“Who’d have guessed four years ago that managing pro athletes’ social media accounts would mushroom into an international venture?” Tom tipped an invisible hat toward her. “Now, with you offering seminars for front office staff, don’t you worry about losing clients on those teams?”
Caryn laughed as they stopped in a food court near security. “Not at all. Most have enough to do just managing the team accounts. Not many want to add supervising individual player accounts—unless there’s a huge problem.” She glanced at her watch. “Guess I am here way early.” She frowned as Andrew aimed a knowing smile towards her.
“And we’re supposed to be surprised?” he asked and then pretended to wince as Caryn jabbed his arm. “We can get something to drink.”
“You guys sit—I’ll get it. Cokes? Water?” Tom asked.
Andrew watched his brother walk across the food court, and then took Caryn’s hand and led her to a table. “We should be heading off to somewhere exotic.”
Caryn looked at him with a small smile and sat on the chair he held for her. If only that were possible.
Andrew sat beside her and then gently hooked his fingers under chin, lifting her face until he could see her eyes. “One day soon.”
Caryn’s eyes filled with sudden tears, and she shook her head as she pulled away, impatiently swiping her hand across her face. “Andrew, how do we even begin to work things out?” she asked in a hoarse whisper.
“If we work together, we can do anything.” His voice was firm.
She looked at him, her amber eyes demanding the truth. “And we just forget all the accusations, everything that we…”
He answered before she could finish the question. “All I know right now is that I love you, Caryn. I love you, and if you give me the chance, we will work through everything.”
Caryn nodded, but didn’t respond. Could things be different this time? But, how do we undo all the damage to our marriage? Andrew may believe what he says right now, but what happens when he’s back in Tampa? Working with Kristen? Will I be welcome at the Rehab Center? Or will that door continue to slam in my face? Can I re-open myself to believing that my future includes Andrew?
She shut her eyes and then took a deep breath, determined not to think beyond the present moment. Her stomach contracted suddenly, her pregnancy once again making itself evident as the nausea rose in her throat. She pulled away from Andrew abruptly, shaking her head at his questioning glance.
“I’ll be right back,” she said. “I’m a little carsick.” She looked around, spotted the restroom and rushed toward it. She barely made it to the cubicle, the nausea getting the best of her as it had so often during the weeks before she’d learned she was pregnant. She leaned against the stall’s dividing wall as she stood and closed her eyes until the dizziness passed.
Andrew waited near the restroom, concern clouding his thoughts. Is she sick? Fighting a migraine? Or just carsick, like she said? If the same thing hadn’t happened earlier…
He looked at his brother when he stepped to his side. “Making sure she doesn’t ditch you?” Tom teased.
“Said she was carsick. She had a similar episode back at the townhouse.”
“Maybe the surprise of seeing you today?”
Andrew scowled, then slowly nodded his head. “Perhaps. She may feel better once she’s on the other side of security.”
“Maybe. I’ll check her as much as I can, at least make sure there’s no fever or migraine looming.” He held Andrew’s gaze. “I have no doubt the past months have taken a toll on her.”
Andrew nodded, his eyes drifting toward the exit to the rest room. “Understated as usual.”
Tom clapped a hand on Andrew’s shoulder. “I’ll grab a table over there. Water or soda may make her feel better.”
Caryn walked to the sink to splash water on her face. She rinsed her mouth with water, dabbed her cheeks dry, and then stepped from the restroom.
Andrew stepped to her side, and she saw the concern in his expression.
“Are you all right?”
She nodded, but didn’t speak as he led her to the table.
Tom pulled a chair back for her, then sat in the chair beside her. “How about some water or a soda?” he asked, offering both bottles.
“Water, please. Just got a little carsick, Tom. I’m fine.” Caryn sipped the drink as she saw Tom examining her face closely. She held out her arm. “Go ahead and check my pulse, Dr. Tom. I’m okay.”
Tom smiled, but first rested his hand against her forehead before taking her pulse. “Migraine?”
“No, really, I just got carsick, Tom. I feel much better now.”
“You wouldn’t try to fake it, would you? I can understand you wanting to get away from my brother, but…”
Caryn cut him off with a laugh, even as she noticed the slight irritation flicker across Drew’s expression. “Believe me, Tom, the last thing I would do is board an airplane if I had any glimmer of an oncoming migraine.” She nodded toward Andrew. “I’d stay here with my personal physician and let someone take care of every little need.”
“Including making chicken soup?” Tom challenged.
“No, your mom’s, of course.”
Andrew leaned to kiss her forehead. “Offer’s open, migraine or not.”
“Tempting as it sounds…” She glanced at her watch, then looked at the security lines. “I really should get moving.”
“You feel well enough to travel?” Andrew persisted.
Tom smiled, then leaned to kiss her cheek. “Hang in there, Caryn. My brother can be fairly dense, but he catches on eventually,” he whispered. Caryn giggled as Tom straightened and looked at his brother. “I’m going to pull the car around.” He turned back to Caryn. “I’ll see you in Tampa soon.”
Andrew watched as Tom walked toward the door, then shifted his glance to Caryn, relieved to see the color returning to her cheeks. She suppressed a grin as she looked at him.
“I don’t suppose I want to know what Tom just said to you.”
He took the bottle from her hand and set it on the table beside them, and then gently brushed the hair away from her forehead, his fingers lingering on her temple.
“I wish you’d stay,” Andrew said quietly.
Caryn shook her head firmly. “I need to help Lauren with all these opportunities she’s lined up. If all goes well, we’ll receive invitations to meet with some of the West Coast businesses.”
“Please schedule me on your calendar.” He stood and then gently pulled her to her feet. He grasped her hand as they walked toward the security line. “Text me when you’re boarding?”
“I will.” Caryn pulled the boarding pass and passport from her pocket.
“And catch up on your sleep when you get home.”
“I’ll start during the flight, don’t worry.”
Andrew set her bag on the floor, then wrapped his arms around here. “I don’t want you to leave.”
She pressed her face against his shirt. She needed time alone, no matter how much she yearned to stay with Andrew. After a long moment, she pulled away slightly so she could see his face.
“Tell your mom and dad I send my love. We’ll talk when you return to Tampa.”
He nodded silently, then kissed her forehead, reluctantly released her, and walked beside her to the security line entrance. Caryn looked over her shoulder at him until he was out of sight, wishing more than anything that things were different and Andrew were returning to Tampa with her.