Home > Valentine's Hearts (Owatonna U Hockey #5)

Valentine's Hearts (Owatonna U Hockey #5)
Author: R.J. Scott








My eyes burned. And no amount of rubbing them was helping.

“… the same thing all the time? Maybe we should experiment sometime. Do some hot and sour soup or beef and broccoli.” Ryker’s voice broke my concentration. I sat up, scrubbed at my face with my fingertips, and focused on the proposal that’d fallen to me to type up. Why me? I was the newest guy.

“Yeah, we should,” I called back to my fiancé who was dishing up our late lunch/early dinner in the kitchen behind me. Mind snapping back to work from Ryker, I stared at my laptop resting on my thighs and tried to pick up the threads of what was, in effect, a groveling letter from the U of A ag department to the company that’d been paying us to research and report on their seeds and would hopefully continue to do so. I began typing, blocking out everything and everyone in my space.

Furthermore, through our technology differentiator we have made great strides in understanding the microbial interactions of the latest Bygenta BG Triple Grow which have allowed us to lower the cost of drying time by 0.07 per bushel. Combining that with the higher yield growth and moisture advantage we see a possible change in bushels/acres needed to recoup additional seed cost from $3.81 BU/A to $3.27 BU/A. Further testing on Bygenta BG Triple Grow should show significant gains for hybrid high yield corn seeds if combined with above ground technology to combat the Southwestern Corn Borer. Additional testing could save farmers millions of dollars a year in management costs and—

The lid of my laptop snapped shut. “Hey,” I snarled. Ryker lifted the Dell from my thighs, placed it onto the coffee table, and then took its place. “I was in the middle of something.”

“I know, you’re always in the ‘middle of something,’ even on the weekends. You worked on Christmas Day and yesterday—and they were our two days off together.”

“I didn’t,” I lied.

“Don’t think I didn’t see you take your phone into the bedroom and then not come out for an hour.”

“I was…” I had no excuse really, because I’d been checking on overnight reports, but that was the job, and I had a deadline that coincided with Christmas Day, and then more on the twenty-sixth. Then I recalled a fact that made his accusations seem wrong. “How do you know what I was doing? You were in a turkey coma on the big day.”

“A turkey coma that would’ve been better snuggling with you on the sofa.” He was making it sound as if he was joking, but there was an edge to his tone. Why didn’t he get that I needed to put the hours in—the same as he’d done getting to be a pro hockey player? He’d done the hours, still did them, and now it was my turn. I had all that defense in my head, but he didn’t give me a chance to talk. “Eat.” He settled squarely on my lap, a huge bowl of chow mein in his hand. I huffed at the interruption just as my stomach grumbled. “See, you’re hungry.”

He held the green ceramic bowl out to me; his dancing hazel eyes alight. Sighing, I took the bowl as he plucked some chopsticks out of his back pocket. Cradling the bowl to my chest, Ryker wiggled his ass around a bit then gathered up some savory noodles, bok choy, and a fat mushroom and led them to my mouth. I opened and let him drop the food in. Then he gathered some for himself, and then for me, and so on. We sat chewing, staring at each other, the weight of him on my thighs pleasant and arousing. When his tongue danced over my lips I grunted and wished we didn’t have our meal between us. He licked in when I opened my mouth, moaning. He tasted of soy sauce and ginger.

“Do we have time?” I asked breathlessly when the kiss ended. He opened his mouth to reply just as his phone alarm sounded. We both mumbled in disgust. “Guess not.”

“Sorry, we have a game tonight.” He dropped a dry kiss to my brow and jumped up, leaving the chow mein behind. “We’ll pick this up when I get home, yeah?”

“Sure, yeah.”

His smile brightened the room. “Excellent. Finish that up. You’ll watch the game?”

“Of course. Go. You know how Coach gets when you’re late.”

He looked as if he wanted to say something more but he just nodded then ran off to change. Within minutes he was in a suit, his shades on, earbuds dangling round his neck, and his hand on the doorknob. I was still on our tan couch holding the bowl of takeout.

“Are you sure you can’t come to the game? Maybe we could go out afterward? Check out that restaurant that we were talking about having the reception at?” He stood waiting at the door.

“I have to get this proposal done or I’d go,” I explained for the fourth time. He forced a smile and bobbed his head, soft curls falling over his sunglasses. “As for that restaurant, I thought we’d decided it was too expensive for the reception.”

“No, you decided it was too expensive. But whatever. I have to go.”

I let the jab roll off my back. There were few things Ryker and I argued about, but money always seemed to be a problem. He tended to spend without thought, and I held onto every penny. I knew it was because of our childhoods. He’d grown up with Jared Madsen as a father, a hockey superstar who could afford to give his only child—at the time—anything he desired, from hockey equipment and cars, to cash for college. Then there was my childhood on a struggling dairy farm, wearing the same chore coat and boots until my feet busted out of them because my parents couldn’t afford new ones. A farm that my parents had ended up losing. The cost of this wedding was a constant source of contention.

“Ryker, don’t get pissy. I’m just saying—”

He threw a hand into the air then left, the slamming door jarring me. I blew out a long breath then pushed to my feet, tossing the bowl of takeout to the end table. I padded to the window to watch him. He stalked out of our brick building, cut through the small flower and cactus garden, and headed toward the arena. We could see it from our window. Brow dropping to the warm glass, I stared down at him until he disappeared from view.

“When will you learn to just shut up?” I asked myself then lifted my head and stepped out onto our tiny balcony. There was room for one chair and a tomato plant out here. I knelt beside the plant and touched the dirt. Dry. Everything out here was always dry. Heaving a sigh, I stood, went to get some water in a glass and my laptop, and came back out to give Mr. Roma a drink. Then I sat beside it, legs stretched out in front of me and I watched the sky for the longest time, wishing I had handled the most recent tense moment with Ryker differently.

“I just have to chill out, let him do the wedding his way, and everything will be fine,” I said to my tomato plant. “Just stop fighting him about costs. I mean, who cares if we blow every penny in our savings account? What’s financial security compared to having four hundred guests and shrimp canapés? What the hell is a canapé anyway?”

Mr. Roma just sat there in his pot, soaking up the sun. Man, I wished we had a dog. I missed dogs. I’d grown up with the best farm dogs. There was nothing like a dog at your side. They listened much better than a tomato plant. But there were no pets allowed here. To be fair, a small apartment with two men who worked/travelled all the time was no place for a dog. For a dog, we’d need a house. For a house, we’d need a down payment. For a down payment, we’d need to stop planning an extravagant wedding and put the cash aside. And here we were back at money again.

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