Wild Ice(88)

By: Rachelle Vaughn


He smiled. “It was always yours, Lauren.”

The laugh bubbled up inside her and she couldn’t hold it back. She flung her arms wide, encompassing the beautiful land surrounding them. “It’s actually mine!” She leaped into his arms and he kissed her with every ounce of love he had for her.

“I guess now you have a reason to stay,” he murmured against her lips. There was a smile in his voice.

“Looks that way,” she said with a smile. “I love you, JD. I love you a world-full.”

JD held her tight as Mel bounced up to them and a mourning dove cooed in the distance.





Epilogue



Lauren settled into her seat behind the glass and watched the Red Valley Razors warm up on the ice. It was the season opener and the NorCal Center was abuzz with noise and excitement. Fans filed into the building wearing jerseys embroidered with the names and numbers of their favorite players. The aroma of hot dogs, beer and pizza wafted from the concession stands. The giant JumboTron that hung above the ice was lit up with streaming images and the clock counted down the seconds until the drop of the puck.

The team looked sharp in their red and white jerseys. They took turns shooting practice shots at the net and the starting goaltender slid back and forth to stop the puck.

Lauren focused on the player skating drills directly in front of her. JD looked great on the ice. He looked cool and confident and she crossed her fingers in hopes he’d score a goal tonight.

Lauren’s focus on JD was interrupted when Kyle and his new girlfriend shuffled to their seats next to her. Kyle was loaded down with nachos and beer and Lauren bit her lip. Who could eat at a time like this? She was much too nervous for JD’s debut. His decision to return to hockey had been all over the headlines and sports broadcasters had been speculating about it for weeks. She wouldn’t be able to keep any food down anyway.

She fanned her fingers over her stomach and thought about the tiny life growing inside of her. She hadn’t told JD yet, but she planned on telling him the news after the game tonight. She didn’t want him to be distracted on the night of his big game any more than he already was. He was going to be ecstatic.

Lauren was glad Teal Manor had a lot of bedrooms because she planned on filling them up with lots of children. JD reassured her that the commute to Red Valley from Teal Manor would be worth it. The old mansion wouldn’t sit empty and dark as it had for so many years. It would be lived in and loved in and its rooms would echo with laughter and the pitter-patter of little feet. They’d cook messy meals in its kitchen and gather around the massive dining table during the holidays. She would teach their children about birds and wildlife and JD would teach them about hockey and teamwork.

She smiled to herself and surrendered the armrest to Kyle while resisting the urge to start biting her nails.

“Lauren, it’s good to see you,” greeted Kyle’s velvety smooth voice.

“Hey, Kyle,” Lauren replied with a smile.

“Lauren, this is Minnie,” Kyle introduced the tall curvy woman next to him.

There was nothing miniature about Minnie. She was built like a Mack Truck, but Kyle treated her like a delicate princess.

“Hi, nice to meet you.” Lauren reached across to shake hands. “I’m glad you could make it.”

Lauren smiled and couldn’t help but wonder if Minnie had been the one to break up Kyle’s latest band.

“We’re forming a new band,” Kyle told Lauren. “Minnie’s an awesome singer.”

“That’s great.”

Once Kyle was settled into his seat, he looked at the players circling the ice. “He looks good out there.”

“Yeah.” Lauren agreed.

“You brought him back to life,” Kyle told her.

It was poignant and beautiful and sounded like lyrics to one of his songs. The gratitude in his eyes caught her off guard. Instead of speaking, Lauren gave his hand a squeeze. They both knew how far JD had come.

She looked back over at the ice and found JD skating in her direction. He looked up at her and their eyes locked. The haunted look was gone and replaced with happiness, love and hope for the future. She smiled and waved and blew him a kiss.

JD “caught” the kiss and smiled in return.

Lauren looked over at Kyle who was feeding Minnie a nacho chip and then back at JD. Warmth filled her heart, soothing the flutter in her stomach.

Everyone deserved a second chance at love.