This Piece of My Soul by Robyn M. Ryan
Release Date: January 24th 2017 by L. J. Burdett
Series: Clearing the Ice #2
Genres: New Adult, Romance, Sports
They believe love conquers all.
One of pro-hockey’s golden couples, Andrew and Caryn Chadwick live in the limelight reserved for elite professional athletes. On their second anniversary, Andrew receives an unexpected contract offer to join the Tampa Suns. As they look forward to a new adventure, neither foresees an event that challenges their love and threatens their marriage.
Until it doesn’t.
A sudden and senseless accident threatens Andrew’s life and inexplicably drives a wedge between the couple. Shattered by the incident, paralyzed by fear that it could happen again, Caryn finds herself at odds with her husband and unable to provide the support he needs—at the time he is most vulnerable.
As their perfect world crumbles, each makes choices that take Andrew and Caryn further apart. Distrust, fears, and secrets construct walls. This Piece of My Soul follows the joint and separate paths the couple navigate as each hopes to rediscover the love that can conquer all.
**Although This Piece of My Soul is the second book in the Clearing the Ice Series, it can be read as a standalone novel.**
Andrew Chadwick jerked awake as the phone vibrated on the bedside table. He glanced at the screen as he quickly pressed “ignore.” He slipped from the bed, hoping the noise and movement didn’t wake his wife. His eyes adjusted to the darkness and satisfied that Caryn still slept, he grabbed clothes and headed downstairs. Don Wilson calling in the middle of the night can only bring news I don’t want to hear. Andrew quickly texted a response to his agent, then dressed and splashed cold water on his face. He grabbed a Coke, and quietly opened the door to the courtyard patio. He sat in the Toronto predawn light, staring at the phone a few minutes before he returned the call.
Don apologized before Andrew could speak. “Sorry to call so early. I know you’re headed out today and had to catch you before you two fall off the grid.”
“What can’t wait ten days?” Andrew twisted the bottle cap and took a long drink.
“Tampa sent an offer sheet an hour ago.”
“Hudson signed with Chicago?”
“Late last night.”
Andrew sighed. “How much?” He closed his eyes and his agent relayed the amount and terms. Not what I want to deal with today. “The Blues’ response?”
“Just got off the phone with Jenkins. Andrew, if you sign the sheet, the Blues can’t match the offer without making some quick moves. This totally blows up their salary cap.”
“No indication they’re interested in a deal?”
Don barked a laugh. “Oh, they might sign the deal we discussed last month.”
Andrew’s fingers drummed against the table. “Your take on their lack of interest up to now?”
“The Blues can’t afford you long-term; you’ll be traded before your current contract expires.” Wilson waited a beat. “The Suns are a contender right now, Andrew. They want you to fill a huge hole in the starting line. This may be the offer you can’t refuse.”
“How long do I have?”
“Obviously, the Suns would like your answer as quickly as possible. They’re willing to fly us down so we can discuss this face-to-face, and you and Caryn can look at the area. I can hold them off a while, but probably not ten days.”
Andrew stood and walked across the patio. “No, I don’t want this hanging over our heads that long.”
“If you tell me your trip plans, I will rebook it out of Tampa.”
“Good try, Don, but no, I’ll take care of that.” He laughed a little. “Give me a few hours. I need to discuss this with Caryn and think things through.”
Slipping his iPhone into his pocket, Andrew stepped back inside. Way too early to wake Caryn. His thoughts drifted to the trip they were scheduled to begin that morning. An anniversary tradition that began with their honeymoon two years earlier. Destination his secret and Caryn packing according to his ambiguous suggestions—casual or formal, warm or cold, passport just in case. Despite her best efforts to pry information from him—even during their most intimate moments—Caryn never knew the destination until they arrived at the airport. Even then, he might insert a plane change mid-route.
Last year, she thought they were going to California’s wine country, but when the plane landed in San Francisco, he took her hand and led her to another gate. He laughed softly as he remembered her expression of delight, mixed with pure panic at the thought of getting on another plane that would take them over the Pacific Ocean to reach the final destination, Fiji. He’d pushed her to her limit…well, beyond her limit. Despite the unforgettable ten days in the lush secluded villa, he carefully planned this year’s trip to minimize her discomfort.
Andrew leaned against the counter and gazed out the kitchen window, the darkness slowly retreating. Tampa’s offer cast a shadow over their plans, not just the anniversary trip but the upcoming move back to St. Louis before training camp. Caryn’s made St. Louis a second home, her client list managing corporate and individual social media accounts expanding monthly. Not to mention that her best friend, Lauren, just landed a marketing job in St. Louis and plans to move from Vancouver in just a few weeks.
He pushed away from the counter and wandered to the living room, closing his eyes and sitting back in the chair. It’s a no-win situation. If I sign the Suns’ offer sheet, the Blues will either decline to match—or worse, trade teammates to keep me.
His ambitions had never included owning one of the highest contracts on a team. But, if he didn’t sign the offer sheet, his agent’s prediction very likely would play out. Come March, he’d find himself playing on a different team, worst-case scenario traded to one of the teams in the midst of rebuilding.
The Suns were a contender now. They’d made it to the Stanley Cup Final last season. They couldn’t re-sign the league’s leading scorer, but extended the offer sheet to the Blues last night. The offer catapulted him into an entirely new level, both in terms of money and the pressure of replacing the team’s leading scorer. Andrew knew he could fill the slot—on the ice at least—but at what cost to Caryn, their friends in St. Louis, the chemistry that existed among his linemates?
He didn’t hear Caryn approach until her hand rested on his shoulder. “You’re up early, Drew. I planned to surprise you with breakfast in bed.” She pressed her lips against the top of his head. “Happy second anniversary.”
Andrew slipped his arm around her waist and drew her onto his lap. “My favorite day of the year,” he whispered before her kiss chased all thoughts of Tampa from his mind.
“Shall we just skip the breakfast part?” Her voice purred in his ear.
He closed his arms around her, his mouth finding hers. He shifted his body until he could stand with her locked in his embrace. He stepped across the room and gently placed her on the sofa, breaking the kiss with a soft curse as his phone vibrated in his pocket. He sat on the edge of the sofa as he pulled the phone from his pocket and glanced at the display. Don. Again. Now what?
“You’ve got something?” He caught Caryn’s questioning look at the impatient tone in his voice as he stood and began to walk across the room.
“Just spoke with Jenkins again. Wanted to see if they are open to revisiting our contract negotiations before you decide anything.”
“And?” He stopped for a moment, anticipating the response.
“He said their offer is on the table.”
“Take it or leave?” Andrew felt Caryn’s hand grasp his shoulder, but he shrugged it off as he continued pacing.
“More or less. You owe it to yourself to talk with the Suns. The Blues best offer is two years only. You could be looking at a long-term deal with Tampa.”
“Yeah. Give me a little more time. I’ll call you back.” He ended the call and tossed the phone across the table before turning toward the door. His mounting frustration threatened an angry release.
He held up his hand. “A couple minutes, Cary. I need to clear my mind.” Without waiting for her reply, he jerked the door open and stepped outside, closing it firmly behind him.
Caryn shut her eyes tightly, and then sighed as she picked his cell phone off the floor and set it on the table. Her first reaction when his phone vibrated had centered on the fear that something had happened to his parents—or his brother, Tom. From the few words he spoke, Caryn knew Andrew had received some news from his agent. Don was the only other person she could imagine calling this early…and it sounded like this was not their first conversation today. Drew obviously hadn’t expected whatever Don told him. Take it or leave? Contract issues? This early in the morning? Don knows we’re leaving today, but this early? Another trade? After his best season ever? Of course, that didn’t stop the Leafs from trading him to the Blues. I hate the uncertainty that hockey brings to our lives. But it’s part of the package I signed on for when he asked me to marry him. We’ll get through whatever it is… together.
Taking a deep breath, she headed toward the kitchen to begin preparing the “surprise” breakfast. Maybe this would help to restore the anticipation and excitement the day had promised.
She grabbed a bottle of water and set the table after placing his favorite blueberry muffins—his mom’s recipe—in the oven. Checking the time, Caryn decided to take a quick shower and dress. She had no clue what Andrew had planned for their trip. She’d packed for warm weather as he’d suggested, adding some “just-in-case” clothes for cooler evenings. Ten days somewhere just the two of them, totally off the grid—no iPads, laptops, texting, and phones turned off. Only Tom knew how to reach them in case of an emergency. Drew called those ten days a selfish gift to themselves, giving them time to just be together before training camp and the season to come, bringing with it the many days they’d spend apart... But what if this… whatever it is… gets in the middle of our trip? Forces him to cancel? I know he has another year on this contract, but what if…?
Pushing the thoughts to the back of her mind, she focused instead on the day, the excitement that had rippled through her the moment she woke up. She couldn’t wait to learn his plans for this year… even if it did involve another incredibly long flight over water.
The muffins sat cooling on top of the counter when Andrew returned. He quickly pulled Caryn into his arms and kissed her temple as he apologized for walking out.
“What’s going on, Drew?” Caryn moved back so she could see his eyes.
“I’m not sure what to think.” His blue eyes locked on hers. “Remember when we talked about Don working with the Blues on a contract extension?”
“I know you’re not happy with the length of the new contract… just two years?”
“Yep, then we’re back in the same place we are now, without a ‘no move’ clause.” He paused and gently brushed the hair away from her forehead. “The Tampa Suns submitted an offer sheet last night.” Caryn started to ask a question, but Andrew continued, “I’m a restricted free agent. Any team can offer a contract to a RFA, but if the player signs it, the current team has a week to match the offer.”
“Tampa wants to sign you?”
“Yeah—their leading scorer, a free agent, signed with Chicago last night.”
Caryn smiled as she softly placed her hand against his cheek. “And they hope to entice you to take his place.”
Andrew laughed quietly. “I guess. The Blues already told Don if I sign the offer sheet, the Blues wouldn’t match it.”
“I guess Don already spoke with the Blues about a contract extension?”
“Yep.” He shook his head slightly. “The last offer they put on the table is the most they are willing to commit. I doubt I’m in their long-term plans.”
“Why not?” Caryn’s voice rose in anger. “You only scored the most points last year and the year before.”
Andrew placed his finger against her lips as he told them what Tampa had offered. “Don thinks the Blues can’t afford me long-term.”
Caryn broke eye contact as she looked down, processing everything. When she met his eyes again, she shrugged. “Would you want to play for the Suns?”
“Right now, I honestly don’t know. I do know that we need to make this decision together.”
“I’m happy anywhere, as long as I’m with you.”
Andrew shook his head. “You have friends in St. Louis—your best friend is moving there next month. Your business, your clients…”
“That’s the best thing about my job—I can work anywhere there’s a Wi-Fi connection. Lauren and I do a pretty good job maintaining our friendship long-distance. I don’t expect to see her very much anyway, at least not when you-know-who’s in town.” She gave him a knowing look and a smile. “Don’t you think you should at least meet with them and see what you think?”
“You mind if we rearrange our trip a bit?” His eyes captured hers again. “Maybe a stop in Tampa before we go to…” He laughed softly as Caryn looked at him expectantly. “Before we go where we’re going.”
“Drew! That’s not fair.”
He replied with a wink and glanced at the counter. “Are those what I hope they are?”
“Maybe. If I give you one, will you give me a hint?”
“I already told you what to pack.”
Caryn lightly swatted his arm as he reached for a muffin. “So… do I need to pack anything else if we go to Tampa?”
Andrew pretended to think as he bit into the warm muffin. “No, I think we’re good.” He guided her to the table. “Sit, I’ll serve you.”
Caryn’s eyes followed him as he pulled glasses from the cupboard and poured the orange juice. She shifted on the chair in anticipation of the upcoming ten days together—just the two of us.
He set a glass at each plate, and then brought the plate of muffins. He glanced at her as he sat beside her. “What are your feelings about private jets?”
“I don’t know. Don said the Suns would send a plane for us—unless that’s going to stress you too much.” A grin spread slowly across his face. “I can book commercial flights if you prefer.”
Caryn took a deep breath. “You know I’ll be glued to your side if I get on a private jet.”
“Wouldn’t have it any other way.” He cupped her chin in his hand. “Seriously, we can fly commercial.” She felt him watching her face closely for a reaction.
“No, I’ll be okay. I made it through those flights to and from Fiji last year. I think I can handle anything now. We don’t fly over water to get to Tampa?” she asked quickly.
Andrew laughed softly. “Only briefly if we do. It’s on a bay and the Gulf of Mexico.”
“Just so it’s not one of those really small planes.” Caryn bit into a muffin, hoping to mask her apprehension.
“I’ll have Don check that out.” Andrew reached in his pocket for his phone, and then pushed back his chair. “That’s right, last time I had my phone I was throwing it across the table.”
Caryn bit back a laugh as she watched him stride toward the living room, and then reached for her orange juice. She shifted the thought of a move to Tampa to the back of her mind. Our true home will always be Toronto. Where we live the rest of the time really doesn’t matter. She heard Andrew questioning Don about the private jet and felt her cheeks flush as he walked back into the kitchen, meeting Caryn’s eyes as he listened to Don’s response.
“So no Cessna or propeller plane? Let me check with Caryn.” He looked at her with a grin. “He’s pretty sure it’s a Gulfstream, probably the latest model.”
“Just like my dad’s. Okay, I’ll do it, but if I see anything that seats less than five, we’re going to renegotiate.”
Andrew’s laugh was soft. “I’m with you on that one, babe.” He repeated her response, listened a moment, and nodded as he ended the call. He slid into the seat beside Caryn. “Your stipulation’s now added to the offer.”
“Drew, he’s not telling them that?”
“Sounded like it to me.” He tipped her chin as he leaned to kiss her. “If they are willing to put that kind of money of the table, the size of your private jet will not be an issue.” He kept a neutral expression as Caryn felt her face redden.
“Great first impression. They’ll think I’m a bitchy diva or something worse.” Caryn buried her face in her hands. “Please call Don back and tell him never mind.”
“Nope. You think I want to get on some prop plane?”
“Then don’t make it sound like I’m one of those demanding…”
Andrew silenced her with a kiss. “I’m just teasing you. The jet’s been at the airport since they sent the offer—a nice big private jet.”
Caryn swatted at his arm. “When do we need to leave?”
“As soon as I finish these muffins.” He glanced at her from the corner of his eye. “Did you pack your bikini?” His blue eyes were hypnotic as he captured her gaze.
“Do I need it?”
“Not necessarily.” He reached to pick up the phone. “I’ve got just a couple calls to make and, no, you can’t eavesdrop.”
Caryn leaned to kiss him before she stood. “Don’t worry, I have no desire to spoil your surprise.”
By the time she was an eight-year-old tomboy growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Robyn M. Ryan definitely knew what she wanted to do when she grew up—play major league baseball or write. This goal grew throughout elementary and high school, first composing novels featuring favorite TV and music personalities, then venturing into sports writing. Attending UGA’s journalism school launched her career in public relations, which included an internship with the Atlanta Flames NHL hockey team. At that time Robyn wrote books she and her friends wanted to read. With the encouragement of a writers group on twitter—WritersThatChat—This Piece of My Heart, a hockey romance, and the first book in Robyn’s series Clearing the Ice was published May 2016. The second book in the series, This Piece of My Soul, introduces the Tampa Suns professional hockey team. This Piece of My Soul is set for release January 24, 2017.
Besides writing, Robyn’s passions include following NASCAR and the New York Rangers, reading all the great books in the sports romance genre, and splitting time between homes in Atlanta and Palm Coast, with two brilliant Westies who definitely rule both homes.
As do many writers, Robyn chooses to write using a pseudonym—hers is a combination of her sons’ names, a contribution from her youngest nephew.
Thanks for stopping by! :)