Authors: rachelle Vaughn
“You can’t live your life for someone else,
She turned and
gave him a weak smile. “You’re right.”
* * *
Jace had given Violet a lot to think about. All day she’d been mulling over what he’d said about Phillip. He was right. Jace poured his whole heart, soul, body and mind into the game of hockey. Even when he became injured, he didn’t do it halfway. A tear of the meniscus wasn’t exactly half-assed. So then why was fearless, free spirited Violet James sitting on her hands for two years with a man who couldn’t, or most importantly
, give her the time of day?
On her way home from work, Violet chewed on her lip as the question ping-ponged around in her head.
* * *
Even though he had blown off the news about Violet having a
fiancé, Jace couldn’t deny that it had irked the hell out of him. Whether he wanted to admit it to himself or not, he had developed feelings for Violet and they weren’t just sex related. The mere thought of another man sharing her bed made Jace ball up his hands into fists and curse under his breath.
Christ, he needed to get his head checked. First his body had failed him, now his heart. He wasn’t about to be without his right mind, too.
The funny thing was, when she had first said the
, Jace had to admit he’d been a little relieved. He didn’t want to be in a quote unquote relationship, so this was perfect. Right? It took the pressure off of him. Now, if only he could convince his heart of that.
Jace paced the
empty living room and cursed his injuries. If it weren’t for his bum knee and shoulder, he’d be on the ice at the NorCal Center instead of brooding at home about his damn feelings and pining after a woman who was already engaged to someone else.
After she confided in him, they had made love in front of the fireplace like any other night.
Jace had plunged into her, silently pleading with her, demanding her to never go back to the man she called
. With fierce determination and passionate need, he’d poured himself into her.
Still, the next morning, Violet had gotten up and gone to work. Would she meet her fiancé later for lunch? Or would they have dinner together when Phillip was
finished with his patients for the day?
No matter how hard he tried, Jace
just couldn’t picture Violet with another man. What did she see in some snooty doctor anyway? No matter how many times he asked himself that question, it didn’t change the fact that she was indeed engaged to Phillip Krandall, snooty MD.
Why did she even bother telling him about Phillip and her engagement? She knew from the beginning that it was just sex. So why confess? Why complicate things? Why bring someone else into it?
Why did it bother him so much that she was engaged?
Ah, hell, he knew
why it bothered him, damn it. The thought of the woman he loved with someone else royally ticked him off.
There was that word again.
He crumpled it up and pushed it aside with the rest of his feelings. That four-letter word had no place in a real man’s brain. Hadn’t he been through enough in the past because of that stupid word?
Speaking of love, did Violet even love Phillip? She’d never talked about him before. She’d gone all this time without bringing his name up. When were they getting married? Was Jace going to wake up one morning and read about her wedding in the Lifestyles page of the
Red Valley Times
? Would he be strong enough to close the newspaper along with the chapter of his life entitled ‘Violet and Jace’?
It was difficult to pace the room like he wanted when he kept tripping over the damn questions.
In an effort to clear his head, Jace tried to think about something else. Now that he was stuck at home, thoughts of retirement grabbed hold of him and wouldn’t let go.
the issue. He had made some sound investments to help supplement his future. His ex-wife was the one who was all about the money. If they’d stayed together, she probably wouldn’t have let him retire.
. As long as he kept signing those hefty seven-digit contracts she was happy. That is, until someone with an even more lucrative stock portfolio came along and she jumped ship.
, on the other hand, was entirely different. She wasn’t in it for the money. Somehow Jace’s thoughts kept circling back to her. He had a feeling she’d be content with him if they lived in a single-wide mobile home or a shack on the wrong side of the tracks with questionable plumbing. And wasn’t that what love was all about? For richer or poorer? He couldn’t imagine a life where he didn’t wake up to her in his bed, or hear her laugh, or see those pretty green eyes glimmer when she talked. What good was it to be financially secure if he didn’t have someone to hold hands with on the deck while the sun sank below the tree line? He wanted someone to go out on the lake with. Someone to sit and watch the sunrise with, without cleaning out his bank account. Was that too much to ask for?
It was when that person was engaged to someone else.
Jace shook his head and took a swig of his beer. Either he was getting sentimental in his old age or something much worse. He was in love.
* * *
Jace was in a crummy mood and the massage from Violet did nothing to lift his spirits. This whole Phillip thing was really starting to wear on him.
He got up from the table and secured the towel around his waist. All he wanted to do was get a shower, go to bed and get some sleep before the game tomorrow. He
hoped to finally be cleared to play next week and couldn’t wait to get out on the ice. He looked forward to skating away his frustration. Maybe it would help clear his head. Nothing else was doing the trick, that much was for sure.
The idea of his Violet being with another man ate away at him.
Come on, Ace. Get it together, man
couldn’t shake the bad feeling in his gut. When things became serious, they never ended well. He’d taken the long road to get there, but Jace finally admitted to himself that he loved her. Unfortunately, loving Violet James was not an option. And that was exactly why he had to let her go. The sooner the better.
Violet asked him something about making dinner plans and he ignored her.
“Why do you always shut down when I try to make plans for the next day?” she asked, folding up her table.
Jace sighed. “I’m not…okay. Well, maybe I am. Look,
Vi, I don’t want you to make more out of this than it is. I can’t make a commitment to you…or anyone. I just don’t want you getting the wrong idea.”
Violet leaned her table against the wall and wondered where Jace was coming from. She was always throwing out the words “it’s just sex” to remind him and herself that she was under no false illusions about their quote unquote relationship. She knew good and well what the deal was. Why was he bringing it up?
“Right,” she told Jace. “Let me tell you the idea I have. I like being around you. I love sleeping with you and I want to know if you’d like me to bring a pizza over tomorrow. You have to eat, don’t you? It’s not like I’m asking you to put a ring on my finger.”
“No, you already have that,” he snapped.
The words were like a punch to the stomach and she hissed in a breath. “That’s a low blow, Jace.”
“Yeah, but it’s the truth.” He raked his hands through his hair and sighed. “Look, Vi, I just don’t want you to get the wrong idea about me.
“Are you sure about that? Or do you not want to give
the wrong idea?”
That hit a nerve.
As always, she was right. Jace was starting to get way too comfortable with her and knew he had to sabotage their quote unquote relationship somehow before one of them got hurt.
He stayed silent and she didn’t wait for his reply. “I know it’s just sex, Jace, but we’ve gotta eat sometime between the orgasms.”
“You should probably go.”
“Is that what you really want?”
I don’t know, Vi. All I know is that next week when they clear me to play I have to focus and get my head back in the game.”
“Do you think you’re ready
to go back?” she asked. “How’s your shoulder?” She knew how rigorous the game was and how the players often sacrificed their bodies for the sake of it. It was a viscous cycle.
He rotated his shoulder to back up his statement. “It feels better than it has in a long time. Thanks to you,” he added.
“Oh, well, I was just doing my job…most of the time.”
They grinned at each other, their little spat forgotten. For now.
She went to him and ran her hand over the shoulder in question. “Are you sure you’re ready?”
“Yeah. It’s still sore sometimes, but I can play through the pain.”
“Why would you do that to yourself?”
He sighed. “Vi, I’d play with it hanging out of the socket if I had to.”
“The game means that much to you,” she said, not questioning him further.
“Yes it does.”
He couldn’t explain to her how the
game of hockey made him feel. How cutting through the ice on his skates was his heartbeat and gave him a thrill every time he did it. How the roar of the crowd was his lifeline. How shooting the puck was his blood. How the smell of the ice, the taste of his own blood in his mouth, the sound of his stick on the ice were his oxygen. His teammates were his brothers. And the clock on the scoreboard represented life. It wasn’t something that could be explained to someone who’d never played hockey before. A lot of people wouldn’t be able to understand why an athlete let themselves be battered by the game and keep coming back for more. But it was in their blood.
Jace had made plenty of mistakes in his life
, but hockey had been the one thing he did right.
The doctor’s warning echoed in his head. “
One more hit like that and the muscle will probably tear
“What is it that you want out of life, Violet James?” Jace asked, silencing the voices in his head.
She pondered the question before answering thoughtfully. “Well, I always wanted my own business and to work for myself. It’s something I worked my ass off for. Now that I can check that off my list…” She thought some more. “I want passion. Spontaneity. I want someone to want me as much as I want them. And I want to grow old with them.” She looked over at him and smirked. “You sure got awfully quiet.”
“Why are you with him,
Vi? Really? Besides the fact that he played hero to your dad once.”
“I gave him my word.”
Was that really enough of a reason?
He was one to talk. He’d prolonged his hockey career way beyond its shelf life just because he was too stubborn to admit it was over and hang up his skates for good.
“I know what I
want out of life,” Violet continued. “It’s becoming clearer to me. All Phillip does is work and I don’t want to be like that, working my life away and not getting to ever
anything. Sure, I want a career I love, but I also want to set my own schedule and take time off to do what
want to do.” She looked at him, waiting for a comment.
“Hey,” he chuckled, putting his palms up. “You’re talking to someone who plays a game for a living and has summers off.”
want out of life?” Violet asked, turning the tables on him.
“I don’t know,” he answered, feeling uncomfortable all of a sudden. “To play until my shoulder gives out and then…”
And then what? Without hockey in the equation everything was an unknown.
“Is that why you’ve isolated yourself out here?”
Jace frowned. “What are you talking about? I have the guys over for barbeques all the time. You should see this place in the summer. Between the boat and the lake, it’s party central.”
“That’s not what I meant and you know it.”
you mean, Vi?”
“I don’t mean you’re isolated because of where you live, I was talking about you.
Your heart.” She rested her palm against his chest and felt his heart beating through the warmth of his skin. “You’ve isolated
from love. Just when I think you’re letting me in, you slam the door shut.”
“Yeah, well I’m isolated and you’re engaged.”
It stung, but it was the truth.
Violet walked to the wall of windows and looked out at the lake. “Do you like living alone in this big ole house?”
“It’s better than living with someone who’s with you for the wrong reasons,” Jace replied honestly.