This Piece of My Heart
Robyn M. Ryan
(Clearing the Ice, #1)
Publication date: May 2nd 2016
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance, Sports
For twenty years, Caryn Stevens dutifullyfollowed 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’sseen 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…
Only ten more minutes…Then, she’d make a quick stop at the small market nearby before heading home. Maybe she’d see that guy running again? A smile crossed her face as she visualized his tall muscular frame, shaggy light brown hair, taut muscles of his legs—gym shorts had to be a gift from God—and completely oblivious to her. Those earbuds must provide some hypnotic beat. After two years, how could shenot have crossed his path on campus before? No way she wouldn’t have noticed. Maybe he’d just transferred over from one of the other Toronto area campuses?
On autopilot, she closed her text book as the class ended, shoving it and her iPad into her backpack. Freedom beckoned.
“Ms. Stevens, a moment please.” Professor Miller’s voice stopped her.
She stood aside, allowing the other students to pass, then approached his desk.
“I wanted to discuss last week’s test. You seem to be struggling with the material.”
“It’s that obvious?” Caryn flashed a smile, her stomach churning inwardly.
Miller nodded, handing her the test paper. “Before you get too far behind, let’s see ifwe can get you a peer tutor. Or, if you prefer, you can schedule some time with me before class.”
Caryn looked at the page, the score sucking the sunshine from her mind. “I didn’t think I was this clueless. I’ve never had much luck with statistics.”
Miller perched on the edge of his desk. “Required course for your major?”
“A friend suggested I take it in the summer—it was supposed to be easier.”
Miller laughed. “Many students think that. But, the unfortunate truth is that you need to master the same material in a shorter time period.” He paused, studying her face. “If you want to wait to take it this fall, you can withdraw with no penalty to your GPA.”
Caryn thought for a moment. Dropping that course was tempting. More free time. Summer free time. But adding it to an already full fall schedule quickly crushed the temptation. “I don’t think that will work—my schedule’s already laid out for the next two years. Last thing I need is to take this course along with a full schedule. I’ll get through this. Thank you for the offer.”
He handed another sheet of paper to her. “These students are on campus this summer. I’ve taught them, so they’re familiar with this class.”
Caryn folded and tucked both into her pocket. “Thanks, I know what I’ll work on the rest of the day.”
Her appetite gone, Caryn considered heading straight home, but knew she’d regret it later. She stopped by the grocery to pick up a boxed lunch salad, some fruit and vegetables, then impulsively added a selection of energy bars on display near check out.
“You want all this in one bag?” The clerk knew her preference, but looked dubiously at the amount of groceries.
“I did go overboard, didn’t I? I think I can handle two. Of course, I forgot my cloth bag again.” She paid, then stepped to the side to pick up her backpack before accepting the grocery bags.
“You okay with these?”
Caryn laughed at the skepticism in his voice. “It’s not far—I’ll be fine. Thanks. See you tomorrow.”
Half-way across campus, she began to doubt her confidence. She shrugged the backpack toward the other shoulder and shifted the grocery bags. Her father’s ring tone blared in her pocket. “Shit,” Caryn whispered, as she briefly considered not answering. Her dad was the ultimate task manager. He never called just to say a friendly hello. But then, the man hadn’t built a self-made fortune with chitchat.
Instead, she jammed both bags into one arm while she dug the phone from her pocket. “Dad, what’s up?”
“Have a few minutes between meetings—how are your classes going?”
“Off to a good start. Summer semester is definitely worth it.” She cringed at the lie, glad they weren’t on Skype.
“How is your statistical analysis course?”
“You getting a tutor?”
“Why would you think I need a tutor, Dad?”
“I remember your last encounter with statistics.”
Ouch—of course he’d remember. “I guess that between my tutor and you, it sunk in. This time it’s much easier.” Caryn said a silent prayer her voice disguised the second lie.
“You know you need the strong GPA…”
“…I know—to get into grad school,” she finished with a light laugh. “I know the drill.”
She heard him sigh. “Not any grad school. We’re talking NYU, Stanford…”
“I know, Dad. Have I ever let you down?”
“This is your first summer semester. There are lots of distractions.”
Caryn’s laugh was curt. “It’s hard to find time for distractions, Dad. Don’t worry. I’m on my way home now to conquer my statistics assignment. I’m completely focused.” She balanced the phone on her shoulder as she shifted the grocery bags. “I’ve got to gonow. I’m overloaded with books and groceries. Give Mom a hug for me.”
“Remember, we’re visiting the plant in Taiwan next week. If you need anything…”
“I’ll get in touch with Lisa. I’m good, Dad. Have a safe trip.”
A frown creased her forehead as she rearranged her load. Thank God they’re going out of the country. Somehow I’ll pull this off. She turned, her eyes on the ground and as she took a step, she collided with someone, something—or maybe she’d walked into a tree. The impact knocked the grocery bags from her arms and sent her sprawling to the ground. Momentarily stunned, Caryn struggled to sit up asher backpack wrestled heavily with her balance. Her vision blurred, she vaguely felt someone lifting the bag from her shoulder and helping her to a sitting position.
“Are you all right?” A voice eventually pierced her dulled senses and she looked up, immediately drawn into a swirling brilliant blue whirlpool that she could not escape. “Youokay?” the deep voice repeated.
She closed her eyes to clear her mind, and when she reopened them realized she had been staring into a man’s eyes. The runner’s eyes. “Oh, it’s you,” she said without thinking.