Light Up the Ice - Chapter 1
Summary: Aelin Galathynius has never really been into sports. Yes, she likes to keep in shape, and she works out, but watching people run up and down a field, trying to keep a leather ball away from each other? It’s always seemed a bit childish to her, and decidedly NOT a way for a grown adult to make a living.
Rowan Whitethorn has recently been drafted by the Terresen Staghorns, one of best teams in the EHL (Erilean Hockey League). And since he moved to Terresen from Wendlyn, it’s been hard for him to get more than 30 seconds alone from someone demanding a picture with him. Getting drafted straight out of college wasn’t exactly what he had in mind, but he’s not complaining. Until he accidentally meets a girl. More specifically, until he accidentally meets his neighbor. She seems to have no idea who he is and for some reason, that’s refreshing. But will she still want to be with him once he shows her the truth?
Author’s Note: Well, friends, here we are! My newest multi-chapter has begun! This is a spinoff of my one-shot Missed Dreams and Lost Sleep which, if you haven’t read, I suggest you read it before you dive into this one! You can find it HERE! I’ve been bouncing this idea off of @tacmc for about a month at this point and I am so excited to share it with you guys! Enjoy!
Keeping his feet moving was the only thing that kept Rowan Whitethorn from falling asleep on the ice. He harshly tapped his stick on the ice, letting his teammate know he was open for a pass. The puck glided across the ice to the other side, and he skated around the back of the net, changing his position to where he was supposed to be next.
He danced around the edge of goal, staying out of the way of the goalie and was ready, waiting. He didn’t see the stick of the defensemen in front of him, however, and his skate got tangled up in it.
He hit the ice, shoulder first, taking the other player’s stick with him and groaned. Before he could make a move to get back on his feet, he got hit in the chest with the puck. Hard.
Gasping and resting on his hands and knees, he heard the whistle blow.
“Whitethorn!” He looked up, finding Coach Brello skating through the neutral zone. “Where the hell is your head today?”
He made it back to his feet and winced as he rubbed at his chest through the thick pads. Ress retrieved his stick from the ice by his feet and clapped him on the shoulder.
Everyone knew Brello was fair, but he was harsh when it came to slacking off on the ice, whether that was at practice or during a game.
“Just didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, coach,” he said, standing to his full height of 6’4. “My building had a false fire alarm and we were all evacuated for most of the night. I’m here, I promise. It won’t happen again.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Let me make sure you can get some sleep tonight.” Almost as one, the entire team turned to glare at him. “Speed backchecks, let’s go! Line up!”
There were quiet grumbles as everyone skated to the other side. Rowan’s line sidled up beside him.
Lorcan, the Terrasen Staghorns’ captain, and Rowan’s left defenseman glared down at him. “Getting real sick of running drills thanks to assholes who can’t do their job at practice.”
Fenrys, his right winger, snorted from Rowan’s other side. “Says the one who caused us to run puck control drills for forty-five minutes last week because you bounced the Valg’s captain’s head off the ice.”
“He deserved it. He was playing dirty.” The sentence was more growl than it was words.
Gavriel, his right d-man, said under his breath, “If you don’t both shut up, coach will have us running a lot more than just backchecks.”
As the whistle blew and Lorcan and Gavriel took off towards the puck at the center of the ice, Fenrys nudged him. “You sure you didn’t finally get some last night?” There was a gleam in his dark eyes. “Didn’t finally sample some of the sweet things Terrasen has to offer?”
He turned away so the fastest forward in the EHL wouldn’t see the blush attempting to creep onto his already flushed face. “No, man, I wasn’t with anyone last night.”
Lie. It was an outright lie, but only because Fenrys was talking about spending some time in the bedroom. He didn’t say anything about the front lawn of his building or the diner down the road.
The whistle blew, alerting them that Lorcan netted the puck. He and Fenrys took off, having to go 2x2 until one of the pairs scored. They hadn’t lined up fairly, and Rowan planned to use that to his advantage. Two forwards against two d-men would typically be pretty evenly matched, but with Fenrys’ speed and Rowan’s puck handling, they would make quick work of their captain and alternate.
Fenrys beat him to the puck – unsurprisingly – and passed it to Rowan as he made to curve behind Gavriel. He chipped it with his stick, sending it around Gavriel, who expected it to skirt in front of his skates. Lorcan anticipated it though and had fallen back, ready for the forward to charge ahead. Fenrys wrapped behind the net and with expert skill, Rowan sent the puck to him and fell back. Lorcan had to decide, keep an eye on Rowan or keep Fenrys from netting the puck.
He chose wrong.
Turning to press Fenrys, the puck slid to Rowan’s waiting stick. Rearing back, with a crack that filled the empty arena, he sent the puck flying towards the goal. It caught in the netting and the goal horn blew.
“Looks like Mr. Whitethorn finally decided to show up for practice,” Brello hollered from the box where he and the assistant coach were manning the horn controls. He glanced at his watch. “Next line, reset the puck and go. They completed the full drill in less than 50 seconds. If you cross a minute, you’ll be running drive drills until my wife gets home from work.”
The entire team knew that Brello wasn’t married.
Skating over to the benches, the first line grabbed their bottles. Rather than drinking his, Rowan sprayed the water over his face and neck, shaking his silver hair out.
“Good misdirect, Rowan,” Gavriel, said, one leg swung over the wall separating the ice from the bench.
As he nodded his thanks, Lorcan said, “Use that against Red Desert tomorrow night and they’ll have no idea what direction you’re coming from.”
The rest of practice flew by. Rowan tried to keep his mind on the game, on practice, but his mind kept drifting back to last night. Back to the laughs that he’d shared with her; to the 24-hour diner she’d shown him down the street; to when he’d stood outside her door this morning and asked if he could call her and she’d said no, temporarily causing him to think back through the whole night. Had he been that far off on how she’d been looking at him? When she’d said he could just knock on her door and then shut said door in his face, a devilish smirk on those lips, he couldn’t do anything but stare. And then smiled as he headed to his own door down the hall.
Pulling his phone out of his bag, he saw it was just after 5:30. People with real world jobs would just be getting off work now, so maybe he could catch her just as she was getting home. Maybe they could grab dinner. As he sat down in the locker room to take off his skates, that plan went out the window.
“Kennedy brothers, Whitethorn, Bourne.” He glanced up to see Brello holding a clipboard. He suppressed a groan. “I want you clocking another 3 hours in the gym tonight. Do it here, do it at home. Hell, do it at Planet Fitness for all I care. But I want at least an hour of cardio, an hour of free weights and an hour of bands. The rest of you rest up. I’ll see you at 10:30 for pre-game ice time tomorrow.”
Knowing that Bourne lived in a fancy high-rise with a gym and the Kennedy boys had a gym at home, Rowan elected to use the facilities gym. It wasn’t often he could work out in solitude. His morning run was the closest he got, but only because he was up before the rest of the city was.
Since he’d been drafted by the Terrasen Staghorns, it had been nearly impossible for him to get more than 30 seconds alone before someone noticed him, but so was the life of a professional hockey player in the Erilean Hockey League.
Coming from Wendlyn, he knew nobody here, yet everyone seemed to know him. Luckily, a few of his teammates – specifically, his new line – hailed from the same lands, and he’d gotten in tight with them. They were now a force to be reckoned with, a perfect line of offense and defense and it was almost as if they had one thought process running throughout them.
That’s one reason that the girl from last night had been stuck on his mind. She looked at him like he was just a normal person, not a professional athlete. He wasn’t sure if she was very good at ignoring the obvious or if she genuinely didn’t know who he was.
Stripping out of his pads and putting on an old shirt from his days at the University of Doranelle, he tied the laces on his shoes and made his way to the gym. Might as well get this over with if he had any hope of seeing her again tonight.
Pulling the door open to her coffee shop, Aelin attempted to fight off a yawn. The little bell tied to the knob jingled, alerting Lysandra that there was someone coming in.
“Goooooood morning, boss, slash best friend, slash person who I love more than anyone else on this planet.” The dark-haired vixen called from behind the counter.
“Hey,” came a male voice from beside the door; Aelin’s cousin, Aedion.
She pointed a wet rag from where she’d been wiping down the counters in his direction. “Hush up. You don’t make my schedule.”
Aelin looked from her cousin back to her best friend, yawned, and said, “Somebody is obviously about to ask for another day off.”
“Blame him!” Lysandra said, pointing to Aedion, who immediately set his cup down and held his hands up in the universal gesture for I didn’t do anything. “He got tickets to the hockey game tomorrow night and wants me to go with him.”
Aelin fought the urge to roll her eyes and headed behind the counter. Lysandra handed her a cup of black coffee and she walked towards her office, sipping the sweet nectar as she unlocked the door. “I just don’t understand why you’d want to pay to watch a bunch of grown men play a child’s game.”
Aedion had stood and followed her into the back office Aelin used as her base of operations. He dropped a few envelopes on her desk and Aelin immediately began to open them, yawning again. Bills, ads, and teenage resumes; the usual mail she received. “Children don’t beat the shit out of each other when they play,” he said. “These guys do. It’s awesome.”
“Ooh.” The sarcasm lacing Aelin’s tone as she threw the sales flyers in the trash was evident.
“Come on, Aes,” he said, sitting in the chair in front of her desk. “My boss gave them to me because he can’t go. I really think Lys would have fun. Please?”
Turquoise and gold eyes met across the desk. Looking at her cousin, his bottom lip jutted out like a petulant child, she rolled her eyes. “Of course, I’ll let her have the night off. I’ll just cover the barista shift tomorrow night. It’s not a big deal.”
Aedion jumped up and ran around the desk, planting a loud kiss on his cousin’s cheek. Aelin pushed him away as she fought off another yawn.
“Okay, that’s the fourth time you’ve yawned since you stepped foot in the door,” Lysandra said, leaning on the frame of the doorway separating the office from the front of the Staghorn Café. “What’s up?”
Aedion turned and looked her up and down. “You didn’t finally get laid, did you?”
“Ugh, Aedion,” Aelin groaned. “You’re practically my brother. You don’t get to ask things like that.”
“Yeah, Aedion,” Lysandra said, smacking him on the shoulder and plopping into the seat he had just vacated. “But I’m the best friend, so I do. Who’s the lucky guy?”
Letting her head fall into her hands, she said, “I did not finally get laid.” She put emphasis on finally since so were they. It had only been 3 months since she and Chaol decided they just didn’t work as a couple. They were actually great friends now, his current girlfriend working as Aelin’s baker, filling her shop with the delicious scents of freshly baked bread and pastries. She and Nesryn got along surprisingly well, considering the awkward way they knew each other.
“The fire alarm got pulled in the building at, like, three this morning. I had to sit on the front lawn until the sun rose and they cleared the building for us to go back in. I’m just tired, that’s all.”
“So there wasn’t a guy involved?” Aedion asked, and the tips of Aelin’s ears involuntarily turned pink as she thought about him.
Lysandra squealed and shoved Aedion out the door. “Man the counter, babe.” She slammed the door in his face and sat back in front of the desk, her green eyes huge as she waited for Aelin to fill her in. A muffled “I don’t even work here!” could be heard through the door. Lysandra sat, waiting.
Aelin couldn’t stop the smile that broke across her face, causing Lysandra to squeal again. “It was him, wasn’t it? Your neighbor?”
“Rowan,” was all Aelin said, and Lysandra cried, “You got his name?!”
So Aelin gave her the quick recap of the night, from waking up to the alarm screeching to turning around and seeing Rowan in nothing but boxer-briefs, to watching the sunrise and grabbing breakfast from Emrys’ Diner down the block. By the time Aelin finished, she could tell Lysandra was already trying to decide what kind of dress she should wear as the maid-of-honor in their wedding. Her green eyes were wide and she asked, “What’s his last name?”
Aelin opened her mouth and then closed it. Somehow, she hadn’t gotten it last night. They’d mostly talked about trivial things; movies they liked, their favorite breakfast foods, the path Aelin normally took when she was running.
“I’m not sure,” Aelin said honestly.
“You have to find out! What if it’s like “Johnson” or “Peters” or,” she gasped. “Cox?”
Rolling her eyes, Aelin pointed towards the door. “Out. You can have tomorrow night off. Enjoy watching the man-children ‘beat the shit out of each other’,” she said, quoting Aedion.
Blowing a kiss across the desk, Lysandra jumped up and ran back out front.
Yawning, Aelin took another long drag of her coffee.
She was exhausted. She hadn’t gotten to run this morning or take a shower or even start her laundry from the night before. But it was worth it.
Glancing at the time on her computer, she saw it was 11:45 in the morning. She wouldn’t be home until nearly 10:00 that night. Hopefully, he wouldn’t stop by when she wasn’t home. Hopefully, if he did, he wouldn’t take her lack of answer as a lack of interest.
Hopefully, she’d be seeing him again tonight.
Tag List (people who told me they’d be interested, I’ll start a full tag list on Ch 2): @abigailmadeline, @tacmc , @bbyshadowbat , @tiny1hallie , @photofeesh , @queenoffantasy , @otaku-trash-sendhelp1000-7 , @yourejustassaneasiam3 , @eternally-reading , @queen-archeron .