The following is a sneak peek at a scene from Isabella: Book #2 in the House of Donato Series.  The new book is available for pre-order on Amazon, to be released in mid-June. I hope you enjoy!

They walked along in silence. While they’d been meeting with the professor, it had started to snow. As they walked, the world around them took on an almost mystical feel like walking through a snow globe. Giant, wet flakes of snow lazily drifted in the air and would occasionally catch on his cheek or eyebrow. Even though the air was getting colder, there was heat between them. A warmth in his heart when his thoughts came to Izzy. She was smart and beautiful and unbelievably kind. She didn’t seem to realize how beautiful she was with her deep, dark eyes. He longed to touch her skin as he held her gloved hand. He shook his head to clear his thoughts. How could he take the next step and tell her what and how much he thought of her? After all, she’d gone to all this bother for him. He knew she truly cared about him, not just as a tutor, but as a person. Perhaps it was time to take that next step and fight it out with Tom if it came to it. It would all depend on Izzy and if she was willing to go there with him.

“Hey, what time is it?” he asked her.

“Almost three. Why?”

“Would you like to go to a hockey game? A quick one?”

“A hockey game? Chad, you have to study and …”

“All work and no play make Izzy a dull girl. Come on,” he said, grabbing her hand and running in the opposite direction from hesmall_hockey_playerr house. “If we hurry, we’ll make it. These games don’t last long.”

Izzy had no choice but to run to keep up with him. He was tugging hard on her hand, and she was losing her breath. They ran up a hill towards the park that was in her neighborhood. She knew there was an outdoor rink there, but she didn’t have any idea what kind of game there would be in the middle of the afternoon on a Thursday. They kept running until they came up to the boards of the old-fashioned rink, where there were several young adults gathered around the outside of the rink looking in on a hockey game.

Inside the rink, there were ten small children dressed in miniature hockey uniforms, one team wearing red jerseys and the other blue. There were much smaller goals than a typical hockey game would have, both set up on the blue lines of the normal hockey rink. Four adults were out on the ice to ensure that the players understood what was required of them. The players were trying with all their might to play a hockey game. The biggest difference was that there were no goalies, but only players skating very, very slowly. Occasionally a player would skate off-course way past the blue line, and one of the adults would push them back in the direction of the play, all at a very reduced speed.

“Oh, Chad. It’s a PeeWee game. I should’ve known.” She looked over at him and smiled.

“You like kids, don’t you? I thought you might enjoy this. I’m their skating coach. Aren’t they great?” He chuckled as he turned his attention to the kids. A quick cheer went up amongst the spectators, who were mainly parents or grandparents, for one of the players who had very, very slowly pushed the puck into a net. An announcement came over a makeshift karaoke PA. “Katie McKinnon scores for the red team.”

Izzy turned to Chad. “Katie?”

“Yeah, boys and girls play together at this age. They’re so cute. Look how slow they skate. It’s like it’s in slow motion.” He laughed as they looked on as the players very carefully made their way across the ice towards the puck. Occasionally one of the youngsters, who were hardly older than toddlers, at age five, would fall and their stick would fall in front of them. Then they’d struggle, much like a turtle on its back, to right themselves on the ice. When this happened, an adult was nearby to assist them in getting back up.

“They really are adorable. They’re like itsy-bitsy versions of the grown-up players,” Izzy said.
A young woman who was leaning over the mid-section boards with her camera and long-range lens called over to them. “Hey, Murph. See how Justin’s doing better?”

“He is,” Murphy answered, talking over Izzy’s head to chat with the hockey mom. “Has Greg been working with him?”

“He has. They’re out on the pond every night until he carries Justin off the ice practically asleep.” She turned back towards the action as her son called out, “Look, mom. I did it!” She called back to him, “Way to go, baby!” Another announcement came over the speaker system. “A score for the blue team by Justin Kurlander.” His mother called out, “One more and you’ll get a hat trick, Justy.”

A tear started to fall from Izzy’s eye, and she wiped it away with her glove. Her mind traveled back in time to when she was young and used to stand with her parents and her sisters as they watched Tom’s games. It was a long road from where these kids were to where they’d ended up, but it had all been worth it, to watch Tom gain skills and become an exceptional player. She turned to Murphy, “Oh, God, they’re just so cute, Murph. I almost can’t stand it.”

The young mother turned back towards her and said, “Don’t tell anyone, but I love hockey season. Justin falls asleep early, so I finally get some time alone with Greg.” She turned back towards the rink. “Hmm, I’d better be careful, or I’ll end up with another one.”

Izzy laughed at the young mother, who was genuinely enthralled for her son. Izzy replied, “That can’t be all bad.”

“Not at all,” she said, as a wry grin crossed her face.

Chad took Izzy’s hand. “So, seen enough?” He started to tug at her hand. “I know you want to get back to study.”

She pulled her hand out from his grasp. “We’re not going. It isn’t over. I wanna watch Justin get a hat trick.” As soon as she had finished her sentence, all of the spectators around the rink erupted with cheering as Justin did just that. The tiny-sized hockey player very slowly and very carefully pushed the puck across the line into the net as he fell face forward onto the ice. Izzy jumped up and down. “Way to go, Justin,” she cried out. She turned towards Chad, smiling from ear to ear, and in her exuberance, gave him a big hug. He, of course, hugged her in return, however, after a second or two passed, she realized that she was within his embrace and quickly pulled herself back.

“Sorry. I got excited.” His big blue eyes were staring back down at her, a slight grin on his face. He was waiting, wondering what would happen next.

“It’s okay. So did I.” He kept his hand on her shoulder as she turned her attention back to the hockey game. After another two or three minutes of extremely slow PeeWee hockey, the official on the ice blew his whistle, and another announcement came over the speaker. “Thanks for coming folks. That’s our game for today. Red team, five. Blue team, three. We’ll meet again at this time next week, pending severe weather. Good game, kids.”

“That’s it? It’s over already?” she asked, turning towards him.

“I said these games don’t last long.” They turned their back to the rink. He took her hand as they started walking away. “They only play one ten-minute period.” He swung his hand with hers in a playful way. “Like Cindy said, they tire out pretty easily. They’re just little tikes.”
“Aww, but I was just having fun,” she said, and she pulled her hand away.
When she dropped his hand, Chad bent over and picked up some of the fresh, wet snow that had fallen that morning. “Well, you make your own fun in this world.” He was lightly packing the snow in the warmth of his hand, then he moved a few feet away from her and flung the newly-shaped snowball in the spot between her head and her collar. The snowball hit her directly in the neck and started to melt down into her shirt.

“Hey, that’s a cheap shot, mister.” She immediately bent over and started gathering snow into her hands to make a ball to retaliate. All of the other spectators had walked off in the other direction towards the parking lot, and she and Chad were now alone with their snowball fight. He had an advantage over her with bare hands and had quickly formed two more snowballs and thrown them with intricate precision, one landing on the side of her head and one a glancing body shot.

She’d attempted to make two snowballs in her gloved hands and hurled them haphazardly back in his direction, but this was not her game. She’d always failed miserably at snowball fights, and Tom had always won. She usually ended up crying uncle as he either tickled her mercilessly or held a snowball over her head until she gave up. This time, she was determined to win in whatever fashion she could. But snowballs weren’t going to work, so perhaps an unexpected body check would do.

As Chad prepared his next two snowballs, after landing another two good shots, she ran with all her might, lowered herself and tackled him at the knees. He fell to the ground with Izzy on top of him, faces inches apart and nose to nose. They were both breathing hard after their exuberant play as he held her close to his body.

“No fair,” she whispered through her breathless voice, her arms locked against her body within his embrace.

“Oh, yes, fair,” he said. He brought his palms up to hold her face between his hands and kissed her hard and deep. She returned the kiss as one of his hands started to drift towards the back of her neck to deepen the kiss even further. She pulled away quickly and pushed up against his chest, to steady herself and stand upright.

She stood over him as he lay in the snow. “I’m going home. Good luck tomorrow, Murph,” she said, then turned and started walking away. Every bone in her body wanted him. Her heart was pounding, and she found herself breathless as she walked even though she hadn’t exerted herself that much. She had to try hard not to seem angry because she wasn’t angry. She was turned on and majorly turned on at that. God, that man was sexy. She called out as she walked away. “See you tomorrow, after the test.” She kept walking and with every step that pounded on the snow-covered sidewalk, her heart beat in unison. How did he know that a PeeWee game and the joy of watching children play would be so heart-warming to her? It was as if he was able to read her like a book. She had to figure out a way of keeping her hands off of Chad Murphy and soon.

Chad had sat up to watch her walk away. Leaning up on one elbow, he watched her retreat from their little snowball scene. He didn’t think she was angry, thank God. She was aroused and that was good. He lay back down and looked up at the sky, as the snowflakes drifted lazily around him from the gray and cloud-filled sky. The bare lindens and poplars in the park stood as silent sentinels standing guard around him as his mind lingered on the taste of her lips and eagerness of her embrace. Yes, he’d fight Tom for the right to date her. He touched his fingers to his lips. The sweetness of her kiss was more than worth it. For now, though, he needed to go home and take a cold shower.

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