Chapters 1 & 2: Wacky Hijinks
When we left off, Joe-the-NHL-player was staying in his team owner’s house in order to keep it safe from intruders (a rash of which have been taking the town) while the owner is away, and because while he has his own house, he hasn’t put anything in it yet. Meanwhile, Emma, the woman who broke his heart 7 years ago and got him bounced off the NHL team and back to the minors, who happens to be the team owner’s daughter (and his mother’s business partner), is heading to that very same house in order to take a bath, relax, and enjoy her evening.
Again I say, there’s just no possible way this could go badly. Oh wait, I think I meant no possible way this can go well. Yes. Yes, that’s actually what I meant.
So Emma sinks into a bubble bath and her thoughts (conveniently) turn to Joe, who might I remind everyone, she has not seen in seven years, nor has she any real reason for him to come to mind at this moment other than plot contrivance.
They had never made love. But she still couldn’t forget the heat of his kisses, or the tender evocativeness of his touch (19).
Hence the virginal title, I suppose. Also, “tender evocativeness”? I have no idea what that is supposed to mean, let me be honest.
But that’s long enough in the bathtub for Emma! So she hops out, grumpy that Joe is in her thoughts, but she hears a noise. She realizes she’s not alone in the house, so she calls the sheriff.
The sheriff is also the son of her business partner. His name is Mac. He tells her to stay where she is, but she decides she won’t just wait around to be attacked, so she girds her loins—which is to say puts on a robe—and heads out to investigate after grabbing an undisclosed weapon.
Of course, readers know that the noise is not an intruder but is, in fact, Joe, who has just finished a swim, “his body still glistening” (20) in fact, and wearing only a towel. (Gee! I wonder what will happen!) He’s partway to the guestroom when he hears a noise and realizes there’s an intruder in the house. Heavens! He can’t let someone get away with burgling the team owner’s house when he just got back on the team and in the owner’s good graces!! So he, too, grabs an undisclosed weapon and heads for the kitchen, where the interloper is rummaging in a drawer (he assumes for a knife with which to attack him.)
Instead, the intruder attacks him and barely misses hitting him—with a marble rolling pin. Joe blocks the blow with what he’s grabbed from the pantry—a broom. There’s a fierce struggle after the rolling pin (and presumably, but not specifically, the broom) fall to the floor. Know what else falls to the floor? Joe’s towel. They struggle some more, now in close, and the robe falls open, because of course.
When Joe realizes it’s a woman he’s grappling with in the dark—one who’s damp and wearing a robe and thus probably not a burglar, to his credit he drops his hold and tries to stop everything. But Emma (he doesn’t know it’s her) is too incensed and she grabs a cookie jar with which to bean him. So there’s more wrestling and cookies fly everywhere. When Joe successfully dispatches of the jar, Emma grabs a bottle of wine. When he grabs for it, too, he gets her robe and she twists away.
So now we a dark kitchen, cookies strewn about, several baking and cleaning instruments tossed around, and a pair of naked former lovers, one of them (Emma) now continuously screaming, with the police on the way (although Joe does not know about that last part, and neither recognizes the other yet.) Attempting to subdue her without hurting her, and without letting her grab anything else with which to hurt him, he grabs her arms and “their naked bodies collided, chest to chest” (22).
Naturally, this is when the police spotlight shines in the kitchen window, revealing all. The two recognize each other and the situation they’re in.
The first chapter ends there, and chapter two ends with the sheriff, Mac, identifying his little brother Joe and asking if he can’t stay out of trouble. He’s accompanied by three deputies. Worse, they’re accompanied by a TV news station truck which came to the scene because the reporter heard about a possible break in at the home of the Carolina Storm’s owner.
Maybe I’m a sucker, but I love the fact that Joe tries to protect Emma.
Joe…moved instinctively to shield his female companion. Keeping his taller, stronger body positioned between the glare of the police spotlight and Emma’s lithe but curvaceous frame, he helped her retrieve—and then shrug on—her robe (23).
Granted, everyone can tell she’d been naked, and he still is, but it’s still a nice gesture, it seems to me, all things considered.
Joe asks his brother if he can put on his towel and Mac finally holsters his gun (as do his deputies). Granted, one of his deputies seems to have disappeared as there were three at the end of chapter one and now only two here in chapter two. MAGIC. (Like the magic pants!!) But at least no one is aiming weaponry at the couple any more… unless you count the TV cameras which are still rolling. Joe demands that the reporter, a Trevor Zwick, turn them off, but he refuses.
As does the cameraman, who recognizes Joe and asks, while the camera is filming, if the rumors that Joe has signed to the Storm are true. Joe says he can’t comment on that (since the press conference hasn’t happened yet) which only leaves the door open for Zwick to ask if he can comment on why he’s naked with Emma.
Mac (the sheriff) finally does his (sheriff) duties and shoos away the reporters and starts to get things under control. I hope Joe is a better hockey player than Mac is a sheriff.