My inspiration muse seems to be taking the weekend off, which is really annoying because in the last two days I've chosen taking a nap and cleaning the bathrooms over writing. While taking a nap is generally the thing I like to do best, cleaning the bathrooms...really?
But, I having gotten back into "Spark of a Hero" which is the novel I'm determined to wright by the end of November and get released by the time you're all opening your shiny new Kindles and Nooks under the tree.
To that end, I had to delve into Lies in Chance and Fresh Ice since ""Spark" draws characters and storylines from both those books and is actually built around Collier James, who many of you might remember was Izzy Marks' best friend, and was deep in love with Izzy. Well, Collier is getting his own novel with "Spark" and I thought I'd wet your whistle for him with this election from "Fresh Ice." Enjoy!
Izzy found the rink without much trouble. What troubled her was how dilapidated it looked. She eased the car up the rutted drive to the ratty, cracked parking lot. There were few cars parked around the building.
“This is where you trained?”
Izzy shared Jenna’s doubt. “Yes, this is the place. I guess when Coach died, Collier sold it or something. Coach would hate how it looks.”
They got out of the car and walked into the cavernous building. Once inside, memories, good memories, flooded Izzy. The feeling was as powerful as the emptiness at her childhood home had been. Now I’m home.
On the ice, a few children, possibly stragglers from a recently ended birthday party, slid around on wobbly legs. Izzy led Jenna to the boards where they both leaned against the worn wood and stared at the children.
“So that’s how you started?”
Izzy shook her head. “No, I started out much younger. There were no parties here then, nothing like that. My parents put me into training on the ice and ballet classes off it. Every day, six days a week.”
“That sounds horrible.”
A tear welled in Izzy’s eye as she glanced toward the door that led to Coach’s office. She wiped her eyes and smiled at Jenna. “I loved it. I loved being here. This is where I belonged and I rarely felt I was missing out on a real life.”
“How could you not hate it?”
Izzy turned and leaned her back against the boards. “Well, let me put this into terms you can understand. Do you hate volleyball? All the hours of practice, the traveling, the aches and pains, do you hate any of that?”
“Well, that’s how I was with skating.”
“But Mom, I still have a normal life. I hang out with friends, I go to school.”
Izzy nodded. “When you were young, we knew you were going to be an athlete. We agreed you’d have as normal a life as possible. It was one of the few things we agreed on.”
Jenna’s eyes darkened. “You two really had no business getting married, did you?”
Izzy shrugged. “After a few years we fell into a routine and I didn’t question it often. I wouldn’t let myself think about it. I had you, and you filled my life plenty.” She squinted up past the rows of bleaches to the top of the seats. “Is that Collier?”
Jenna followed Izzy’s line of sight. “Looks like it. What’s he doing here?”
“Guess I’ll go find out.” Izzy climbed the steps and met Collier halfway.
“I figured I’d find you here.” Collier spoke in a low voice.
“You knew. About Jason and the money, and how everything would have been okay if only I was an obedient child?”
Collier nodded. “I’m sorry, there’s no way I could just tell you that. You needed to hear it from them.”
“As far as I’m concerned, Coach was the only parent I needed anyway.”
“How’s Jenna handling it?”
Izzy glanced at her daughter, who’d returned her attention to the children on the ice. “She’s taking it like she takes everything, calmly, and in stride. We’ll be okay.”
Collier wrapped his arms around her. “You know I’m always here for you.”
Izzy melted into his comfortable embrace, her tension easing. “I know,” she murmured against his beating heart. Unbidden, the image of Quinn’s face after their kiss flashed through her mind. She stiffened.
Izzy broke from his arms and nodded. “Yeah, I’m okay.” She looked around the arena. “So what’s the deal here, Col? What happened to the old place?”
Collier shrugged. “After Pop died, I couldn’t keep it up. I sold part ownership to a group who wanted to open the place to the public. You know, skating lessons, high school hockey games, birthday parties,” he nodded to the small group assembled at the concession stand. “I haven’t paid much attention. Obviously, it’s a bit worse for wear.”
“Still, the ice is in good shape. Care to put on a bit of a show?” Collier’s eyes twinkled.
“Tempting. Very tempting.” The memory of Quinn’s hands on her waist warmed her, emboldened her. “But I don’t have any skates.”
“Skate rental is right there. Come on. I’d love to see you skate again.” He led her to the counter.
“Are you joining me?” She arched an eyebrow.
Collier laughed. “Not a chance. I haven’t put on skates since the day I quit.” He walked behind the counter and stared at the rows of skates. “Size seven, right?”
“Better make it six. I’m not wearing thick socks.”
Collier handed her the skates. She sat on a bench and started unlacing them. “Col, I think there’s something I should tell you.”
He sat next to her. “What’s that?”
“I agreed to do something the other day. I agreed to skate at a charity thing in the spring. The one you’re playing at.”
Collier nodded, his eyes narrowing. “I’m guessing your hockey player had something to do with this?”
“Apparently,” she focused her attention on the ratty laces of the old skates, “he knew who I was all along.”
“Not surprising. He doesn’t strike me as a guy who wouldn’t know the identity of every attractive woman in Nashville.”
“You’re upset.” She finished lacing the skates and looked at him. “Be honest.”
He helped her stand on the carpet and smiled. “I’m not surprised, and I’m definitely not excited at the prospect of my best girl spending quality time working up a routine for the guy, but I’m not upset.”
“Not for, the guy. With, the guy. I’m skating with Quinn at the event.”
Collier’s expression darkened. “You’re skating with him?”
Izzy stepped on the ice and waved at Jenna. “Yes. I am. Turns out, he’s a good skater, and he can throw decently.”
“So it’s decided.” There was a sense of defeat in Collier’s voice. “You’ve already started working with him.”
Izzy nodded. “I gave my word, so yeah, it’s decided. You should give him a chance, Col. You might like him.”
Collier shook his head, but said nothing for a beat. “Well, we should see what we’re working with, shouldn’t we? I think your old music is in Pop’s office. Want me to go find it?”
I guess I didn’t expect him to love the idea of Quinn skating with me. “That would be great.”
Collier disappeared into the dark hall beyond the ice. A few moments later, “I Won’t Hold you Back,” floated through the speakers high above the ice. Izzy closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and started to skate. The years melted away, and with it, the shabbiness of her surroundings, until all that was left was smooth, fresh ice, and a black sky broken only by a silver spotlight on her. She had no conscious thought, she never did when she skated. She just moved as if her body was the link between the ice and the music, and her movements created the light between both.
Too soon, the music was over. Thin applause from Jenna, and the few people behind the concession counter barely reached her.
Izzy leaned against the boards, out of breath and waited for Collier’s commentary. “So, what do you think?”
“I think you’re insane. You’ve been out of this for almost twenty years. You think you can do a four minute routine with a hockey player and not be laughed off the ice?”
Izzy looked at Collier. “So what am I doing wrong?”
“You? You’re perfect. Every element you do out there it’s like you’ve been skating every minute of every day.”
“Really? You’re not just saying that?”
Collier shook his head. “You want my opinion? Dump the hockey player and skate a single.”
The old argument. “Col, we’re not going there.”
“Well it’s past time someone did. Pop always said you were better without a partner.”
“And my parents disagreed. Vehemently.”
“They paid my father to coach you and never listened to a word he said.” Collier’s face tightened. “Iz, think about this, because I know I have a million times over the years: If your parents had listened to my father, you and I might be living a very beautiful happily ever after.”
Izzy laughed, mostly because the earnest look on Collier’s face seemed comical. Then she realized he was serious, and she laughed harder, because the idea seemed even more comical. “How do you figure that?”
“I don’t want to go dredging up bad memories.”
Izzy waved a dismissive hand. “After what I heard today, why stop now?”
“Well since you asked; if you skated as a single, you wouldn’t have a partner. You wouldn’t have needed Jason. Jason wouldn’t have convinced you to sleep with him. You might have left skating at some point, but you wouldn’t have left Nashville. We would have stayed together long enough for me to prove to you that I’m an amazing romantic hero in spite of the fact that I don’t live on the ice.”
“I wouldn’t have Jenna.”
“Maybe you would. Maybe you’d have Jenna, only with lighter hair and my nose instead of Jason’s. The point I’m making, is that if you had a crumb of self confidence, you’d be practicing on wide open ice during the day, getting ready for an exhibition that would be aired on network television instead of trying to teach a muscle head how to throw you without doing any permanent damage.”
Izzy studied her friend. “You’ve been thinking about this a while, haven’t you?”
Collier nodded. “You came back, and I’m so thankful for that. And you’re skating again, which is awesome. But now I have to picture you skating with him.”
“He has a name.”
“Whatever. You have too much talent to waste trying to teach the unteachable.”
Izzy closed her eyes, recalling the strength of Quinn’s hands on her waist. “You haven’t a clue what you’re talking about, Col.”
“Maybe not. But I’ll bet he doesn’t disagree with me.” Collier nodded to the upper ring of seats.
Izzy looked over her shoulder. There, in the shadows, was Quinn. She blinked, and he was gone. An overwhelming sense of panic gripped her, and she started racing off the ice and up the stairs.
“Mom, what are you doing?” Jenna called from the other side of the ice.
“Izzy, you can’t run in those crappy skates. You’ll break something.”
“Watch me!” Izzy ran up the stairs and out the main door. From where she stood, she could see the entire parking lot, but saw nothing of Quinn or his car. Just a few scattered cars, the last of the birthday partiers inside. “Quinn!” She shouted through the cold air.
“What?” He emerged from the door behind her.
“Quinn!” She threw herself into his arms, careful to keep her feet on the wood planks beneath them.
“Wow…if I thought I’d get this reaction, I wouldn’t have stopped at the concession stand for a candy bar.”
His arms were warm around her, secure. “I’m so sorry.”
“Sorry? For what?”
She eased an inch away from his chest. “Well, for what Collier said.”
“Collier? Oh, wait, Singer Guy? He said something about me?”
Izzy studied Quinn’s face. “You know he’s a singer?”
Quinn smiled. “I know a lot of things, Miss Izzy.”
“How did you know I would be here?”
Quinn looked the tiniest bit guilty. “I stopped and talked to Cat who said you were off to see your parents. I figured that wouldn’t end well, and that you’d come someplace where you really felt good about yourself. So I thought I’d try your old training facility. I didn’t expect to see you in skates, but then I also didn’t expect a full snack bar either. So it’s a win for me.” He bit into the candy bar.
“Well I am glad you’re here. It’s about time you and Collier met.”
“I don’t think I need to do that.”
Izzy took his hand. “Quinn, if you and I are going to skate together, we are going to need some outside help. And that is going to include some coaching. And since my coach is no longer with us, Collier is the next best thing…he’s Coach’s son and he knows a lot about skating.”
“And about you.”
Izzy turned on him. “You two are going to get along, right?”
Quinn took another bite and chewed slowly. “I can’t promise anything.”
“Fine. Fine. I promise to get along.”
Izzy led him to the rink where Collier and Jenna were deep in conversation.
“Collier, there’s someone here I’d like you to meet.”
Collier looked over his shoulder at Quinn. “Hello, Hockey Head.”
“Hello, Singer Guy.”
Quinn’s hand tightened around hers. “Come on Izzy, you can’t expect us to play nicely right out of the box. Give us a few minutes.”
“You know, like dogs,” Jenna added with a grin.
Izzy wanted to turn the hose on both of them. “Fine whatever. Look, Quinn, we need a coach, and Collier can give us a lot of pointers. So go get some skates.”
“Do you need some cash, Quinn? I know you retired guys don’t always have a lot of cash on you.”
Jenna burst out laughing, but Izzy was horrified. Quinn went to get some skates, and Izzy glowered at her old friend. “Can’t you just be nice, for me?”
“Izzy, it’s too easy. Anyone else in the world, and you know I’d be nice. But Quinn Murray? Come on! There’s just too much material.”
“Well, wait until you see him skate.”
Collier’s grin widened. “You’re right. This could be fun. So much so, I think I’ll offer you my rink as a place to practice.”
Izzy beamed. “Do you mean it, Col?”
“They don’t have hockey skates in my size.” Quinn looked uncertain. “As for practicing here, I’m not sure.”
“Granted, it’s not NHL ice, but it was good enough to train a whole series of Olympic caliber skaters.” Collier glared at Quinn. “What, you’ll only skate at the Bridgestone Center?”
“No, nothing like that.” Quinn looked surprised. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend. I meant I didn’t know if it would conflict with your other, clearly thriving business ventures for the place.”
Collier followed Quinn’s line of sight to the now abandoned concession stand. He chuckled. “You got me there. Look, it would be perfect. It’s pretty much this dead all the time, except on Saturdays.”
“Oh it would be great to practice here!” Izzy couldn’t keep the smile off her face. “Collier, you’re the best.” She threw her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. She didn’t miss the wicked grin Collier fired at Quinn. Whatever, you two.
“Mom! Mom I was just sort of looking around this place and I saw the most amazing thing…” Jenna ran up to them, breathless and beaming.
“There are pictures of you all over the place. It’s so cool! You look so young!”
“Oh thank you. Yes, now that I’m ancient, it’s nice to see what I looked like in the Dark Ages.” She turned to Collier. “You never took down the pictures?”
Collier shrugged again. “I’m gone all the time. Clearly my business partners don’t give two craps about much besides the concession stand and the rental skates.”
“Well, whatever. Quinn, do you have your skates in the car?”
“Of course, but you know they’re hockey skates.”
Izzy waved her hand. “Go get them and let’s practice!”
Quinn studied the ice. “How about a pass or two with the Zamboni first?”
“No way Studs McHockey.” Collier held up his hand. “First show me what you’ve got. Then we’ll decide if you deserve fresh ice or not.”