Laces and Lace

Page 13


Karson’s mouth turned up at the side. “Been stalking me?”
She laughed. “Please, if anyone is the stalker in this relationship, it’s you.”
“Maybe… But to answer your question, yes, I was offered, but my mom pushed me to go to school first to make sure that hockey was what I wanted to do.”
“Is it?”
“Hell yeah,” he scoffed with a laugh.
She smiled as she agreed. “You were born for it.”
“Yeah, I love it.”
Holding his gaze, she smiled as she said, “So you want to start a relationship with me when you have one foot out the door?”
“See, I thought about that, but then I figured that you’re the kind of girl that’s worth the trouble of a long-distance relationship. I know you want to stay here because your family is here. I would never expect you to go with me, but wherever I go, believe me, I’ll be yours only.”
“If this works, and the time came for you to leave, then you best believe you’ll be only mine. Don’t cheat on me, Karson King. I’ll kill you…with a hockey stick.”
Laughing, Karson said, “You think I don’t know that?”
Laughing along with him, she leaned into him as she asked, “So where are your mom and dad?”
“Wisconsin. My sister Kacey goes here though, plays for the women’s team.”
“Wisconsin is a good place to go to college, especially for hockey. Why come here?”
“They offered me a full ride. I couldn’t pass it up. Plus, your dad promised to mold me into a great player. He’s succeeded, I think.”
She nodded as their plates were delivered. “Yeah, he is good at what he does. Been doing it his whole life.”
“Yeah, my dad believed in him, so I did. Now though, I’m ready for the pros.”
Lacey agreed as she dug into her food, and he did the same. After swallowing, he asked, “Do you live on campus?”
“Yeah, I had to get out of the house before my dad smothered me. We get free room and board here since he is the coach. Even though he and Grady begged me to stay home, I decided to be a rebel and do what I want.”
That made him smile before he asked, “Why did they want you to stay home?”
Looking away, she shrugged slowly. “I don’t know, maybe because I’m the only girl? My mom passed away when I was seven from breast cancer.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, his heart going out to her.
She gave him a tight smile before she went on. “Thank you, but they’ve been a little smothering since then. I think they are scared I’ll get hurt, when I could take out anyone who tried to hurt me. They are nuts and overprotective, which reminds me, I’m sorry Grady did that. He’s a bonehead.”
“He loves you; I understand it. Anyone ever touches Kacey, and I’ll do the same. It’s a big brother thing.”
“I guess, but he goes over and beyond the big brother requirements. He’s treated me like a walking time bomb since the diagnosis. It’s annoying.”
Karson stopped and glanced over at her. He could see it all over her face. She hadn’t meant to tell him that. “Diagnosis?”
Clearing her throat, she asked, “Huh?”
“You said diagnosis.”
She laughed, waving her hand at him. “I don’t know why, silly me.”
Still looking at her, he said, “I know this is new, but I know when you are lying to me. Lacey, what diagnosis?”
Dropping her fork, she let out a breath before wrapping her fingers together in her lap. She picked at the nail polish that was flaking off her fingers. Karson watched as she took in a deep breath before letting it out again. Looking up at him, she said, “I had breast cancer.”
His heart stopped as she held his gaze. “You had it, too?”
“Yeah, that’s how they found out about it. My mom had, so I was at risk. They suggested I come in early, just as a precaution, and found it.”
“Do you still?”
“No,” she answered, shaking her head.
“Well, that’s good, great even, that you fought it. Why are you bashful about something like that? You should be proud that you are a survivor.”
“I am. It’s just that I’ve been sick for so long, and I am just now getting back to me. You know what I mean? Like, I still don’t look like me. I used to be healthy looking and my hair was so long, but the chemo took it, and then I—” She stopped suddenly and shook her head. “It’s just that I have this second chance and I want to make the most of it, but sometimes I am so scared that I’m not the girl I used to be.”
Turning to her, Karson took her hand in his. “I didn’t know that girl, but I bet she was as amazing as you are now. You’ve taken something that could be a tragedy and are capitalizing on it, wanting to help women feel sexy after something that could make them feel like they aren’t female anymore. Breast cancer is scary. I admire you for what you’ve overcome and for your plans for the future. You are amazing, Lacey, and gorgeous. Don’t ever forget that.”
Her mouth pulled up at the side as she looked away bashfully. He said, “And to let you know, I’ve fallen just a bit more for you. You blow me away, Lacey. The more I learn about you, the more I know this instant attraction to you is more than I thought. I hope you’re ready.”
Confused, she asked, “Ready?”