Chapters 2: Small Town News
Having cleared out the reporters and most of the police officers, Joe can now think about Emma, who, recall, he has not seen in seven years but who, as romance novel readers understand, is The One (although Joe doesn’t know it.)
Joe realized that even though emotionally he could care less about her and wanted nothing to do with her, he was as physically drawn to her as ever. And more telling still, she couldn’t seem to stop hungrily staring at Joe any more than he could stop drinking in the sight of her (25).
Well, they are both half-naked, still. Also, that was not a typo on MY part that Joe “could care less”. Because of course, being able to care less than you do now means that you care some. I’d like to say it’s actually a clever choice on the part of the author, that Joe thinks he couldn’t care less but he does, but the “wanted nothing to do with her” part sort of suggests not. Sigh. I thought Harlequins had editors and proofreaders?
Joe grumpily explains to Mac that he’s a houseguest and internally thinks that the shenanigans were all Emma’s fault.
Emma huffed at him contemptuously. “You think I knew?”[…]
Joe shrugged [… ]“[…] It wouldn’t be the first time you accidentally on purpose got me in a heap of …” Trouble, Joe had been about to say.
Curious, Mac lifted his brow[…] “Something here I should know?” he queried dryly.
Joe shook his head no. He didn’t want anyone in his family learning about the mistake that had sent him back to the minor league, seven years ago, just hours after being called up to the NHL for the very first time (25).
So apparently NO ONE except Emma knows what happened between the two of them—not even that something had happened. That’s weird. I mean, so far all the text has told us is that Emma tried to run away and Joe wouldn’t help her, and they got caught with him sneaking her back into her dorm.
And I’m sure I’ll have more to say on Brown University having someone caring if students are out or not at a certain time when we get more information.
Emma and Joe verbally snipe at each other briefly before Joe manages to get rid of his brother and the narrative switches back to Emma’s POV. She says she’s about to get dressed and leave, but Joe wants answers, accusing her of being in on all the wacky hijinks of the evening as some kind of complex revenge scheme of her father’s as payback at Joe for ditching Emma after he’d taken her virginity (which hadn’t happened, but Emma hadn’t bothered to set her parents straight, supposedly because she thought she’d not be believed, but really? You’re going to let your irate father who has power over the career of someone believe that that someone took your “virtue” (27) and (emotionally) hurt you? You’re not a good person, Emma, if you think that’s okay.)
They agree that the events of the evening are going to be impossible to keep quiet, which is a problem because of Joe’s contract stipulating that he must stay away from Emma.
“I promised your father I would steer clear of you,” Joe said in a flat, dispassionate voice.
To her stunned amazement, Emma found his willingness to ditch her now hurt just as much as it had years before. Unable to help herself, she lashed out sarcastically. “Good job” (29).
Look, people get to feel how they feel. That’s how emotions work. So if Joe’s agreement to avoid the woman who, to his mind, broke his heart and set his career back by years hurts Emma, then it hurts her. But I feel like she should be trying to see his perspective on this and not place blame. Because it’s been seven years, for starters. And it’s not like Joe’s job didn’t hang on his agreement to the contract and rules.
Joe points out that her reputation is at stake too (I presume because small town morals and such) and she says she doesn’t care.
Emma cared about her heart. And her heart had been smashed all to pieces by this handsome athlete who lived and breathed only for his time on the ice. She didn’t care what it did to his career—she had no intention of letting him do the same thing to her again! (30).
I’m confused. I mean, I can see that she thinks he chose his career over her (seven years ago) and in fact Joe accuses her of deliberately not telling him who her father was (because he wouldn’t have dated her had he known.) And I can see how if she believes he’s a terrible guy who chose hockey over her and broke her heart, that she wouldn’t care about his career and thus wouldn’t do anything to help him salvage it. But short of telling her father that what actually happened was an attempted sexual assault, what can she say here that doesn’t implicate her, too? Granted, her father doesn’t have the power of life and death over her career, but it does seem like he’s got power over her (not to mention the power of disapproval that many parents have over even their grown children.) So… does she want the news outlets to claim that she and Joe were caught en flagrante delicto? That choice seems rather cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face, in my opinion.
We get a chance to see the beginning of the damage immediately as the incident already made the 11o’clock news. One of Joe’s many brothers, a doctor who was working at the medical center, saw it while in the lounge and called him. They watch the full film and it’s pretty horrible—they’re both identified, the reporters admit that the 911 call was a misunderstanding but they wonder if Joe has signed with the Storm if he was there for more salacious goings-on. I assume that the news station had the decency (and didn’t want FCC fines) to pixelate their privates, but they were naked when they had their hands in the air (when the police arrive.)
Despite all that, Emma spends the time of the running of the clip and the ensuing conversation with Joe vacillating between horror at what this might do to her career and fascination for Joe’s “Adonis-beautiful body, with broad shoulders and a powerfully sculpted chest, amazingly taut buttocks and long, sturdy legs” (31).
What? No Chris Higgins abs?
|(Had to. It’s been a while.)|
But geez, Emma. Shouldn’t you have been concerned about the impact on your business when you childishly declared that you didn’t care about your reputation? Oh well, better late than never, I guess.
Emma nearly starts to cry and asks what they’re going to do as she follows Joe to the front door (as he’s leaving for a hotel) only to be answered with agreement by her parents who have returned home.