As a reader obsessed with sports-themed romances I'm excited to introduce you to an upcoming release that's the first installment in a new hockey series. Keep reading to get a tempting taste of This Piece of My Heart by Robyn M. Ryan, and its sweet and sensual romance between two people at a crossroads in their lives, and then count down the days until its May 2nd release. In honor of this first installment in the Clearing the Ice series make sure to fill out the form and answer the question below for the chance to win prizes in two separate giveaways!
For twenty years, Caryn Stevens dutifully followed the educational path dictated by her parents. That path had one goal—prepare her to one day assume her father’s position as CEO of the multi-billion dollar international company he founded. That and marry a man who would enhance her career and perhaps join her in leading The Stevens Company. Not too much to expect from your daughter, right?
Caryn has other ideas. Instead of returning home to Ottawa for another summer working at The Company, she’s designed a plan to stay in Toronto, take a couple of courses, and enjoy her Summer of Fun. She knew there was more to college than rigorous classes that held little interest and study groups to ensure she excelled in all her subjects. She had two years until she finished her undergrad, and then continue on to that coveted MBA at a prestigious business school.
Just this once, Caryn will set aside The Plan and enjoy life as a regular student. To actually get her head out of the books and maybe, just maybe find someone to make the summer—dare she say it?—exciting.
You see, there’s this hunk of a guy she’s noticed on campus the first few weeks of summer. Always running—maybe in training?—but, Caryn’s seen enough to get her heart pounding. Tall, well-built, with shaggy light-brown hair. Gym shorts that emphasize taut leg muscles. Sometimes wearing a t-shirt with cut-off sleeves. Bronzed muscular biceps—truly drool-worthy. Absolutely hot—and gorgeous in a totally guy type of way. Only problem, he had no clue she existed.
Andrew Chadwick has enjoyed life in the fast lane in the five years since he’d entered the ranks of professional hockey. Preparing for his fourth season with his hometown Leafs, Andrew intends to enjoy his summer down time—hang out with friends and family, keep in shape, and erase all memories from that disastrous two-year joke of a relationship that imploded in May.
Not that he has any plans to revisit his first few years in the pros. He’d eagerly sampled the attentions of a never-ending line of women who wanted nothing more than to spend one night with a professional athlete. Believe it or not, one-night-stands with absolutely gorgeous women whose names he never bothered to remember became tedious. And that steady relationship he tried for two years? Finding your so-called girlfriend in your own bed with some other guy certainly opened his eyes.
Maybe it’s time to cut the fun and games and concentrate on things that are important—Win the Stanley Cup, give his brother any support he needs as he starts his Internship Rotations, help his Mom and Dad around their house. Act like a grown-up at twenty-four?
He’s not particularly looking, but if he were to meet someone interesting…well, he’ll just see where things go.
Neither Caryn nor Andrew expected their two very different worlds to collide on a beautiful June day…
(Chapter 3 Scene: Andrew surprises Caryn when he stops by unexpectedly—just hours after they’d met. He invites her to dinner and they begin the process of getting to know each other.)
Caryn stood inside her closet, staring at possible outfits. What to wear for a date? I actually have a date with that gorgeous hunk waiting downstairs. She’d never been to EJ’s. It would be a new part of Toronto to experience. Having a car would feel so liberating, but she knew her chances of getting her parents on board with that plan were less than slim-to-none. Wonder if EJ’s is fancy? Well, it must be fairly casual if Andrew’s wearing jeans. Don’t overthink this. She reached for her favorite sundress. Which sandals? She chose the pair with the higher wedged heel, liking the way they made her legs look longer. She stepped into the bathroom to check her hair and to apply lipstick and mascara and stood by the full-length mirror, checking herself from all angles. At the last second she stopped to dab perfume behind her ears and took a deep breath. Be calm.
She saw him watching as she came down the stairs and noticed his eyes widen.
“You look terrific,” he said, giving her an approving look.
She felt her face warm as she walked out of her townhouse and beside him down the curb. They stopped at a sleek BMW convertible. He offered his hand as she slipped into the passenger seat and then walked around to his.
“This is wonderful,” she said, feeling the smooth leather interior beneath her fingers. “I’d have the top down whenever it was sunny and at least sixteen degrees celsius."
“I just got it a few weeks ago. Haven’t really had a chance to drive it much.” He glanced at her with a smile. “I’m eager to try a drive far away from the city."
“Give it a good road test?"
“Something like that. Find some country road twenty kilometers from nowhere, and see if it really goes zero-to-one hundred in however many seconds promised."
“You could take it to a road course,” Caryn said.
“Nah, too many rules and those folks take it way too seriously for me."
He found a parking space near the restaurant and offered his hand as she stepped from the passenger seat. He slipped his arm lightly around her shoulders as he drew her through the crowded sidewalk. Once inside, Caryn stood beside him as he gave his name to the hostess. Andrew Chadwick. That suits him. She saw his questioning smile as he slipped the pager into his pocket.
“Just making sure—you are at least nineteen, right?"
Caryn laughed and playfully swatted his arm. “Yes, I’m twenty."
Andrew nodded toward the bar. “Let’s get something to drink while we’re waiting."
Caryn followed him through the throng of people milling about the bar area, glancing at the huge monitors installed throughout the room, all displaying the same baseball game in progress. He finally spotted a seat near the end of the bar, taking Caryn’s hand as he led her toward it.
“Is this okay?"
“Sure, I’m fine. Don’t you want to sit, though?"
“This is good,” he said as he leaned against the bar, facing her.
“Do you come here often?"
“It’s a fun place to watch games.” He nodded toward the screen across the room.
“You like baseball?"
“I’ve been to a couple of Blue Jays games with my parents when they’re in town. I don’t know too much about the sport. I did play softball one semester for PE."
“Yeah?” He grinned speculatively. “What position did you play?"
“Wherever they put me. I wasn’t very good.” She reached for the glass of wine the bartender placed before her, and sipped it. “How about you?"
“Sure, I like all sports."
“Typical guy.” Caryn teased him with her smile. “Do you run every day?"
“When I can, I try to do at least ten kilometers.” Andrew’s blue eyes once again caused her to catch her breath.
She sipped her wine, hoping he hadn’t noticed. After a beat, she asked, “Do you run marathons or something?"
He shook his head, his eyes holding hers captive, his playful smile signaling he knew exactly the effect his gaze produced.
“Only sport I know how to play is tennis,” she added, breaking eye contact.
“Maybe we can play sometime? If you promise not to beat me too badly."
“Don’t worry. I haven’t played in a while. There are some courts near my place."
Caryn nodded. “Yes, they’re lit."
“How about tomorrow evening?"
She was about to say yes when she remembered that she’d agreed to go to dinner with a guy she didn’t even much like. When they’d seen each other at the bookstore the other day, she impulsively accepted his suggestion they go to a bistro near campus.
“I can’t play tomorrow night,” she said reluctantly, wondering, too late, if she ought to cancel her other plans.
“No problem. We’ll make it some other time."
“Friday?” Caryn felt her face flaming as she realized how eager she’d sounded.
Andrew nodded, as he took a sip of his beer. “You’ve got a date.” He looked past her shoulder and raised a hand in greeting as a tall, dark-haired man approached them.
“Haven’t seen you in ages, Chad,” the man said as he slapped his hand against Andrew’s. “Where you been hiding out?"
Caryn glanced at Andrew. Chad? Oh, short for Chadwick, of course. Does he prefer that or is that some sort of guy thing?
“I’ve been around. How was the road trip?” Andrew asked.
“Pretty dismal, as you already know. All Star break comes at a good time.” He glanced at Caryn, a speculative smile forming. “Was wondering why you were hiding over here in the corner. Now I get it."
Caryn felt her cheeks burning as Andrew rested his hand lightly on her shoulder. “Caryn, this is Rick Carson. Unfortunately, he’s been away from Toronto for two weeks and has forgotten his manners."
“Nice to meet you."
“The pleasure is mine,” Rick replied. “May I buy you a drink to make up for my lack of manners?"
Caryn shook her head as she suppressed a laugh. “No need."
Carson nodded toward the monitor closest to them. “Did you catch the Home Run Derby last night?"
“It was pretty good.” Andrew looked at the screen. “The American League’s got a lock on this game. Too bad you’re not playing."
“I’ll take the time off any day,” Carson retorted.
Caryn watched Andrew as the men discussed the All Star Game, not really listening to their conversation. She admired the way his navy knit polo shirt accentuated the muscles in his upper arms. His profile was strong, the light brown hair and dark blue eyes enhancing his athletic good looks. She sipped her wine as she watched the two laugh over a comment Rick had made, then felt her cheeks flushing as Andrew caught her gaze.
“Sorry. We’re probably boring you with this baseball talk."
“Not at all. I’m enjoying listening to you.” Andrew raised his eyebrows doubtfully, and Caryn impulsively touched his arm, letting her hand rest on his forearm.
“You’re not boring me."
A third man joined them, greeting Andrew and Rick, and then directed his attention to Caryn. “Someone going to introduce us?"
Carson spoke up. “Caryn, this is Mike Norris. Norris, this is Caryn. She’s with Chad."
“Nice to meet you,” Caryn said.
“You got a twin back home?"
“Sorry, only child."
Norris shook his head. “Too bad. What did you say her last name is?"
“I didn’t,” Rick said. “I don’t think Chad’s going to share that information with us."
Andrew laughed softly, and Caryn shifted uncomfortably under the men’s scrutiny. She focused on the video screen across the room, her hand tightening almost imperceptibly where it rested against Andrew’s arm. To Caryn’s relief, a timely home run diverted the attention from her to the game, and Andrew leaned toward her, nodding at her empty glass.
“Not on an empty stomach,” she said with a smile.
“Do you want to try somewhere else? I didn’t think it would be this crowded."
“I don’t mind waiting."
As if on cue, the pager buzzed, signaling that their table was ready. Andrew took it from his pocket, and Caryn slipped from the bar stool as he pulled some bills from his wallet and placed them on the bar.
“Going to ask us to join you?” Norris said.
“Not on your life.” He slipped his arm around Caryn’s shoulders and drew her against his side.
“You want some tickets to the game Friday? I’ve got some left—Yankees in town,” Carson said.
“Can’t Friday. Got a tennis date."
“Tennis? Didn’t know you played the game."
“Well, I’m about to find out how well I do. You’ll go easy on me, won’t you, Caryn?"
She pulled away slightly so she could see his eyes. “We’ll see,” she said with a playful smile.
“Well, if you want to go Saturday afternoon, let me know. I’ll leave tickets for you at will call."
“Thanks. I’ll call you."
Norris nodded at Caryn. “I bet she’d like the chance to meet Derek Jeter. Would you tell him your last name, Caryn?"
“Maybe so,” she said, more than a trace of annoyance in her voice.
The other two men laughed at her retort, and Rick clapped a hand on Andrew’s shoulder. “It was good seeing you. Get together to work out tomorrow morning?"
Andrew nodded. “Sure, see you there."
“Caryn, enjoy your evening. Glad we got to meet,” Carson said.
Andrew kept his arm around Caryn as he guided her through the crowded bar, and then he grasped her hand as the hostess showed them to their table. He leaned to whisper in her ear. “By the way, my last name is Chadwick."
“I kind of figured that out when you gave your name to the hostess.” Her eyes softened the hint of sarcasm. “Mine is Stevens."
“Yeah, I kind of figured that out when I saw your test paper.” A grin accompanied his retort.
“Ouch! Please don’t remind me."
“Sorry about Mike—he gets a little wound up sometimes."
Caryn shrugged as she looked up at him. “Highly annoying might be a better description.” She slid into the booth the hostess indicated, then Andrew impulsively took the seat beside her.
“I can see how you might think that,” he said as he handed her the menu. “Carson’s a good man, though."
“He seems nice.” She sipped her water, and then looked at him. “I assume he plays for the Blue Jays?"
“How’d you meet them?"
“I’ve known Rick for a couple years. We work out together when he’s in town and we get the chance."
“Do you play baseball?"
“Very poorly.” He rested his arm on the back of the seat. “You want to go to the game Saturday?"
“If you want to, but don’t feel obligated just because he offered the tickets."
“Feeling obligated has nothing to do with it, Caryn. Just so you don’t feel ‘obligated’ to go with me."
Caryn pretended to contemplate her answer. “No, I don’t think I do. I don’t have to meet Derek Jeter, do I?"
“Didn’t plan on that.” He grinned, brushing his hand against her hair.
“Do I have to confess that I don’t have a clue who he is?"
Andrew laughed, slipping his hand to her shoulders and squeezing her gently. “Your secret’s safe with me. He’s the Yankees icon. Norris probably figured he’d score points with you if he introduced you to Jeter."
Caryn shrugged. “Tell him I’m not interested. Hanging around a professional athlete is not exactly my idea of fun."
A look of surprise momentarily flickered across this face. She shifted closer to him. “But I’d love to go to the game with you."
“I’ll call Rick for the tickets."
“‘Chad.’ Do you go by that?"
“Chad to the guys, Andy to my mom and dad and friends I grew up with, Andrew to my brother and everyone else."
“No one calls you Drew?"
She smiled at him. “You look like a Drew to me."
“It’s all yours, then."
The rest of the evening passed quickly, neither aware of the time, surprised to realize it was nearly midnight when the waiter removed the dishes from their table. “How early is your first class?” he asked as they walked to his car.
“Seven forty-five tutoring session."
Andrew groaned softly. “Sorry. I should have kept an eye on the time. You’re going to be cursing me when your alarm goes off in the morning."
“I’ll be okay. I’m usually up early.” The ride to her townhouse passed quickly, both comfortably quiet. Caryn debated whether or not she should invite him in. Would he take that the wrong way—think it was an invitation to go to bed with her? Not that the idea hadn’t crossed her mind. But they’d just met. She didn’t want him to think she was an easy conquest. If he only knew the “vast” extent of her experience, which was….none. Caryn didn’t realize she’d chuckled out loud until she felt Andrew’s eyes looking at her expectantly.
“Going to share the joke?"
Caryn shook her head. “I was just thinking that today turned out so much better than it started in class."
“Even though you got hammered by someone almost twice your size?"
“Highlight of the day.” She smiled as he stopped the car in front of her home. He helped her step up from the low seat and slipped his arm around her shoulders as they walked to her door.
“I had a nice time, Drew. I really enjoyed the evening,” Caryn said as she reached into her purse for her key, reluctant to end the evening. She took a deep breath and said in a rush of words. “Would you like to come in?"
Andrew’s eyes studied hers for a long moment, then shook his head with a soft smile. “We both have early mornings.” He took the key from her and unlocked the door, then gently grasped her shoulders. “Thanks for having dinner with me.” He lightly touched the hair that fell against her forehead. Caryn wished she knew what he was thinking. Maybe she’d misread the chemistry she’d felt all evening. “If you give me your phone number, I’ll call you,” he said.
Suddenly shy and as self-conscious as a schoolgirl on her first date, Caryn told him the number as he entered it on his iPhone. He smiled as he pressed call. When the phone rang in her purse, he winked at her. “Now you have my number, too. Or should I look for you on Facebook?"
“I don’t have a Facebook account."
“No Instagram photos?” he teased.
“Dad would have a stroke. No, I stay off social media."
“What’s with that? I thought everyone communicates on social media."
Caryn shrugged, averting her eyes. “Long story. Maybe another day?"
“But you’ll accept a text from me?"
“I might.” She cut her eyes toward him playfully. “But I will answer the phone if you call."
He slipped his phone into his pocket, then touched her hand as she reached for the doorknob.
He kissed her gently, his hand cupping her chin briefly. “I’ll see you soon, Cary."
She watched him walk down the sidewalk and waved as he got into his car, feeling strangely light-headed and almost giddy. It must be all the wine we drank, she told herself as she stepped inside, knowing in her heart that was not the reason.
FIND THIS BOOK AT GOODREADS here.
From early childhood, Robyn M. Ryan knew she wanted to write. This goal grew throughout elementary and high school, first composing novels featuring favorite TV and music personalities, then venturing into sports writing. Attending UGA’s journalism school launched her career in public relations, which included an internship with the Atlanta Flames NHL hockey team. At that time romance novels did not feature pro athletes, so Robyn wrote the books she and her friends wanted to read. Many years later, this manuscript received a serious critique and edit. This Piece of My Heart, a hockey romance, is the first book in Robyn’s series Clearing the Ice.
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