Authors: Suzan Butler
Tags: #romance, #sports romance, #hockey player, #texas highlanders, #blond hero, #pregnant heroine, #hockey romance
Sometimes what we don’t want is what we need...
Star goalie Cody Baker has the life he’s always dreamed of since he was a child. Not only does he get to play hockey in the national league, he managed to marry the perfect woman to support his dream. But now his wife is pregnant, his long-absent father wants to reconnect, and just like that, Cody loses control of the game.
Babies are the furthest thing from Josephina Baker’s mind. Thanks to failed birth control, Jo’s perfect life is in tatters. Bye-bye overseas vacations. So long, wild, sheet-scorching nights after road trips. Adieu lovely evenings out with the girls. Hello, morning sickness, long sleepless nights, and dirty diapers.
Spending the holidays with family only strains their already stressed relationship. Their red-hot marriage is as cold as snow and only the fire in their hearts thaw them out.
Heart and Snow
HEART AND SNOW
A Soaring Phoenix Press Publication, November 2013
Soaring Phoenix Press
Fort Worth, TX 76161
Print ISBN: 978-1-938927-08-9
Heart and Snow © 2013 Suzan Butler
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission. This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. They are productions of the authors’ imagination and used fictitiously.
Stock images from Illustrated Romance
Cover art by Shield Creative Designs
All images are used with permission from the creator.
Josephina Baker’s head throbbed in time to the loud machine gun fire on her husband’s video game. The surround sound speakers made her entire body vibrate. She could have gone upstairs and left Cody to his own devices, but it seemed wrong to leave him there. It was supposed to be their time.
They always loved spending the day after a series of road games together. They relaxed, they reconnected, they had amazing sex that would blow Joey’s mind. She missed that easiness they’d always had. Of course, the last month had morphed their relationship into a cool, tense silence.
She missed the way Cody would stay with her all day after a game, or they’d giggle like teenage lovers in the morning hours before getting out of bed. Babies changed everything.
“Yeah?” He didn’t look away from his game. The word itself was curt and distracted. He wasn’t really paying attention to her. Or he was ignoring her. Both were possible.
“When do you want dinner?”
“I don’t know. Whenever.”
Curt replies and distance was what she got these days. She rested her hand on her abdomen, the small bump just barely noticeable, if at all to anyone not her. Such a fuss this little thing had caused, and it wasn’t even through the first trimester yet. What did the next seven months have in store for them? She set her ereader down and stood up to leave. Her stomach was already churning again. Stupid morning sickness.
The game paused, catching her attention. The silence seemed odd after the last hour of guns shooting, people dying, and things exploding. Cody turned to face her. “Hey, where are you going?”
“Just upstairs. To the bathroom.”
To lose my lunch.
It was right on time.
“Oh. Are you hungry?”
“A little.” That was not quite right. She was starving, thanks to the little parasite growing inside her. Her appetite had doubled in the last month. The only thing that had kept her from eating everything in sight was the nausea.
“Want to go Burger Highway and get something?”
Burgers sounded amazing. The truth was, she was always hungry. And the throwing up? Ugh. She’d had it bad, so bad that it was nearly impossible hiding it from Cody. But she had been certain that she wasn’t going to go through with the pregnancy. They’d decided a long time ago not to have children at all. Then suddenly, she’d changed her mind. She was still reeling from that decision, and so was Cody. She regretted it so much, not telling him right away.
“I guess.” It was so uncomfortable talking to her own husband now. How weird was that?
“Okay, I’ll drive.” He stood up, towering over her on a normal basis, but then he seemed even more intimidating to her. It was strange, that he was so mad at her, and yet, he still offered things like driving her to get food.
Their eyes met, and her heart ached. His eyes were cold and distant, not like he normally looked at her. It was a wall he was keeping between them.
“Are you going to talk to me about this?”
His eyes darkened, anger heating up behind them. “Nope.” He walked away, toward the kitchen. She stood and followed, her bare feet thudding across the hardwood floor. She rounded the corner into the kitchen.
“We’re not discussing this right now.” He swiped his keys from the counter in a broad sweep of his hand. “We’re going to get dinner.”
“When can we discuss it? When I’m in labor with your child?” Sure, her tone had a little bit of a snap to it. His reluctance to talk was starting to chafe.
“Maybe.” For the first time, she saw an inkling of what he hid from her, the hurt she’d caused. But just as quickly as it came, he tucked it out of her sight. “You were the one who left me out of this decision. You kept it from me for weeks, so forgive me if I don’t really want to talk about it right now.”
“Do you want food or not?” The curt tone hurt, but she couldn’t blame Cody for that. She should have told him as soon as she suspected, but fear had kept her silent. She nodded. “Then let’s go, okay?”
She stared at him, tears slowly welling up in her eyes. She tried to hold them back but it was too hard. This stupid pregnancy was doing that. She’d never had trouble with tears before. She hated to cry.
His shoulders fell, his eyes softening with regret. “Look, Joey, we will talk… soon. I’m just not ready, yet.”
“When will you be ready?”
“I…” he sighed. “I don’t know, honestly, Jo. I still… there’s stuff I need to sort out.”
“Should I leave?” She avoided looking at him when she asked the question. She was too afraid that it was what he wanted. She picked at her fingernails instead. “I mean, I could go stay with my parents in the panhandle for a while”
His hand covered hers, stopping her incessant picking. He hated when she did that, but right then, she couldn’t help herself. Nervously, she glanced up at him.
“Let’s get some food. No more talk of leaving, because that’s not happening either.” His throat worked up and down with his swallows. “Jo, we’re having a fight. This doesn’t mean that we’re going to get a divorce or separate.”
“But you won’t even talk to me. That’s never happened before.”
“Because I don’t know to say to you. Marriage is about trust and communication, and we’ve had neither of those between us lately.” Shame filled her, because he was right. They’d created a life together, and he deserved to have a say in what they did with said life. And she had made a decision without her partner. That wasn’t how their marriage was supposed to work. That wasn’t how they worked.
“So, what then? What do we do?”
“Food,” he smiled at her, uneasy and tight, but it was at least a smile. “And then we’ll come back and watch a movie and then we’ll go to bed.”
“How do we improve communication if we’re still not talking?”
“I just… I need some time. Just give me that, yeah?”
She pinched the bridge of her nose with her thumb and forefinger.
She nodded, letting go of her nose and seeking his eyes. “Okay. But we have to talk soon. This baby won’t wait forever for us to make a decision.”
At least he wasn’t glowering at her anymore. He still wasn’t willing to talk to her, but it had only been a few days since she’d dropped this particular bomb on him. Maybe he was right, and he just needed some time. She’d take whatever he was willing to give her over the dead silence they’d had since that first day where they’d fought for hours. She really just wanted her husband back.
Cody crouched down in the goal, watching the puck while his fellow teammates drove down the ice at him. Practice was early this morning, and he wasn’t quite as awake as he should have been. Jo had kept him up late, though he’d willingly stayed up with her.
After the movie, he found she’d fallen asleep on him, dried streaks of tears on her face. They needed to quit watching those Nicholas Sparks movies. They always made her cry, especially now with her hormones raging.
And he really hated when his wife cried. As angry with her as he had been the last few days, he couldn’t stay mad when she turned the waterworks on, even when they were directed at a movie and not him. Though he was pretty sure that he’d been the cause of some of them lately, even if she hadn’t shown them around him.
He deflected the incoming puck with his stick and sent it out across the ice. Darren and Leo sped off after it, and Gavin Ferrara and Misha Kozlov made the next run at him. Those two were so close he guessed they might link up psychically. They worked well as a team, in tandem. If one of them had been a girl, he’d have sworn they’d have gotten married by now.
Gavin passed to Kozlov shot it at Cody with one of those wristers he was famous for. The puck flew over his raised glove and hit the red pipes, then dropped behind the goal line. He groaned as Misha and Gavin high-fived each other’s gloves and skated down the ice. Misha shouted out a long string of Russian that probably translated to something like “I’m awesome, bitches!”
Ten minutes of blocking puck after puck passed until Cody was just about ready to skate off the ice in frustration. His patience today was null.
Rogers blew his whistle and called the team back in to the benches. Cody slowly followed. He didn’t have his heart in the practice today. It was still at home, with Jo. They still hadn’t talked about this pregnancy thing. They’d just relaxed together and watched the movie. She respected that he wasn’t ready, and he was glad.
But the time was coming. He couldn’t claim he wasn’t ready to talk about it for long. Eventually, they would have to talk about what they were going to do. Hell, in seven months, there was going to be a baby in their lives. They had agreed early on in their relationship that they didn’t want children, and now here they were, faced with the very real possibility that they were going to be parents very soon.
, time for meeting,” Misha called to him. He didn’t understand most of the Russian murmurings that Misha spat out from time to time, but he knew that one. Twinkie. He wasn’t sure why he used that particular phrase. When he found out, he was sure a beating would be in store for the Russian.
“Shut up, asshole,” he snapped, and hopped on the boards next to where Rogers stood. He scowled at the blond jerk. He wasn’t in the mood to put up with Misha. He liked the guy, but he could be a complete asshat without even trying. The kid oozed arrogance and self-importance at times.
“All right!” Rogers raised his voice up high enough to drown out their exchange. “Now ladies, I don’t know what’s going on with y’all today, but it’s not flowing right. The drills are sloppy. Your reflexes are sluggish. You’re not thinking like a team.” Rogers set his clipboard down and put his foot up on the bench. He rested his arm on his knee. “We have half a season left. We’re about to be done for a couple weeks for the holiday break. After that, it’s All-Stars and a run for the playoffs. I need you guys in top form for this shit.”
A murmur of agreement went through the team. Christmas. That would mark the end of the first trimester for Jo’s pregnancy. That would put her giving birth in June. June was a good time. He’d be done with the season. They’d have time off to have this baby, and get into a good routine…
What was he talking about? They hadn’t made any decisions yet and already, he was thinking like he was going to be a dad. Which room would they sacrifice for it? That one across the hall from their bedroom? Or the one at the end of the hall? The office they never used? Which would be better?