A/N: Hi again, well here's the next chapter! I hope you enjoy this one as well. Not sure when I'll be able to update again, due to some changes in real life. But, just know that this won't be abandoned. Thanks!

Disclaimer: I do not own the Calgary Flames or anything associated with them.

Chapter 12:

Anna took one last quick look at herself in the mirror on the back of her bedroom door that Saturday morning. She ran her hands down the side of her black, v-neck sweater, smoothing down any creases or wrinkles in the process. As per Ryan, she wore a sweater and dark denim jeans, which sat over top her black boots from the day before.

Glancing at the time, ten-thirty, she wasn't in a lot of rush, but she grabbed her coat, nonetheless, and headed down the stairs. She decided she'd wait for Ryan down in Tea Extraordinaire.

Instead, of going straight for the dining area, she decided to see if the girls had made any coffee, recently. When she entered the break-room the smell of the coffee hit her full force and she was suddenly remembering the previous day. Blue orbs danced in her mind's eye. Those eyes… so enchanting; she was sure she'd seen them somewhere before.

Stop it, Anna, she scolded herself. The tinkling of the shop's bell had her remembering that she was supposed to be thinking only of Ryan and not thinking about another man's dazzling eyes.

That's probably Ryan, she thought quickly.

She hurried to pour herself and Ryan two cups of coffee in the to-go cups the shop had. And then she swiftly left the break-room, walked down the short hallway and straight into a hard body.

"Oh God," she exclaimed, staring straight ahead, hoping the cups hadn't spilled on her unsuspecting crash victim. "I am so sorry!"

"No worries," a silken voice assured. "I sure hope one of those is for me."

Anna barely held in her yelp of surprise. She'd heard that voice very recently. It was a voice that sent shivers down her spine. Her dark eyes darted up and were met by the bluest eyes she could ever remember seeing. God, they were beautiful…

She shook herself out of her revere before she said something completely embarrassing like, 'Marry me, please.'

"Evan?" she said instead.

He smiled, lip crooking up at one corner, pleased, he replied, "Hey, you remembered my name."

His praise had her blushing, "Um… yeah…" and apparently it had her practically speechless as well.

She continued to stare up at him. He smiled down at her—he was at least 6 feet tall and towered over her 5 foot 4 frame—and she couldn't help it, she was watching him in wonder.

"So…" he laughed. "Are one of those for me?"

She stared dumbly down at the cups in her hands. She'd poured it for Ryan… but she could always get him another. "Sure," she finally said.

Anna handed the cup to him and as he reached for it, their fingers brushed. Anna instantly felt a jolt of energy pulse through her. But it wasn't your every day regular jolt between two people that were attracted to each other. Something other than mutual like for each other had passed between them in the briefest of touches. Anna couldn't decipher it at all, but it was different than anything she'd ever felt before.

She needed to know if he'd felt it too. So, she glanced up to meet his eyes and saw the look of surprise on his face. Yep, he'd felt it too. She wanted to ask him what that was all about, or take time to analyze it. But something drew her attention away; a flicker in the corner of her eye had her glancing towards the counter. However, no one was there at the moment.

That was strange; I could have sworn I saw… Kristin? she thought unsurely.


She looked up to see Evan watching her curiously. The knowing look on his face almost made her feel like he knew shat she'd been thinking… impossible.

"Sorry," she murmured.

He shook his head to wave it all off. "You look like you're ready to go out… I was hoping I could get some company while I drink this?"

The look on his face, uncertainty with a mix of friendliness, was too hard to resist. Still, she looked towards the store front, unsurely. No sign of Ryan.

"Ok…" she answered hesitantly.

Anna followed him to a table; she took a quick glance back at the counter to make sure Kristin really wasn't around and found Michelle watching her instead, a big grin on her face. Once her friend noticed she was looking at her, she not so surreptitiously sent her a thumbs up and a wink too, which had Anna blushing automatically. She waved a hand at Michelle, hoping she'd get the shooing gesture loud and clear.

Anna turned back around to find Evan watching her with an amused look on his face. "Everything all right?" he asked her, good naturedly.

Anna silently cursed her friend; it was hard enough not to blush around this guy on her own, she sure didn't need any extra help from her friend. She looked over her shoulder to shoot Michelle a glare, then turned back to face Evan, a hopefully calm smile on her face.

She slipped into the seat across from him. "Oh yeah, things are just peachy."

He grinned at her. "Peachy? I like that."

She stayed silent at the comment and instead watched him take a sip of the coffee she'd given him.

"Don't know how anyone could say coffee is for the devil," Evan started conversationally.

Anna smiled at her friend's eccentric-ness. Really, Julia had her reasons. The woman was energetic enough without the added caffeine. When she drank the stuff, apparently, it did funny things to her heart. And that's how she'd dubbed it "the Devil's Brew".

"Julia likes tea," Anna informed him. "She thinks it's calming as well as elegant. Her goal in life is to instil a bit of elegance into her fellow Calgarians."

"Well, she's doing a good job of that here," he assured. "It looks great. She's got good taste."

The way he was looking at her told her he wasn't just talking about the décor.

"Too bad about the tea, though," she joked, uncharacteristically.

There was something about this guy that had her at ease. It usually took her awhile for her to open up to new people. In any case, making jokes was definitely not something she did on her second meetings.

He laughed heartily at that, nodding his head. She enjoyed the sound of his laugh—a deep, throaty, sort of tremor, laugh—and was even more pleased that she'd caused it.

Anna was so lost in Evan's presence that when the bell tinkled she didn't connect the sound with the possible arrival of Ryan.

When a shadow fell across their table a moment later, Anna was momentarily surprised by the fact that Ryan was suddenly standing there.

"Anna?" he questioned, his face, not quite a frown, but not quite a smile, either.

"Oh hi, Ryan," she greeted, happily.

He managed to give her a small smile, but the in-between look settled on his face. She wondered if everything was ok, when she suddenly realized the look was for Evan.

"Oh," she breathed out. "Ryan this is Evan, Evan, Ryan," she introduced awkwardly.

Evan, she noticed, was looking at Ryan in much the same manner, but a glint in his blue eyes told her his look was just a tad bit more hostile. In any case, he stood up and held out his hand to Ryan. She stood up too and watched the two shake hands in a slow, deliberate manner, eyeing each other with a look Anna couldn't decipher.

"So," Evan began, after they let go. "Are you Anna's brother?"

"No!" Ryan choked out, looking really offended.

By the look on Ryan's face, he looked to be on the verge of having a major freak-out. Which was totally understandable, they were about to go on their first date ever, and to be asked if you were siblings was such a downer.

Really, she wasn't sure what was wrong with Evan's eyes. She and Ryan couldn't look more different. Anna's eyes were a dark brown; Ryan's were a greenish hazel. Though they both had brown hair, hers was so dark, it was almost black; whereas Ryan's was closer to the blonder side of the scale.

Anna looked to Evan, putting a hand on Ryan's arm. "Ryan," she started, "Is an old friend. We've known each other for a long time."

She looked up at Ryan, hoping to see the tense look on his face ease. But he still looked troubled.

Evan nodded. "My mistake," he said contritely.

Anna locked eyes with the tall man and something there told her he wasn't being completely sincere with his apology. She wondered where that had come from, that insincerity. He'd been nothing but, up until this moment.

You just met him, Anna, a voice said in her brain. You really don't know him…

She looked at him again, her face guarded. That was definitely true. Despite Evan's eyes and the familiarity she felt while with him, it didn't change the fact that she'd only just met him yesterday.

"Well," she spoke up, "We should get going…"

Evan nodded. "I'll see you later, Anna," he stated affectionately. "I think I've found my new coffee spot…"

She was sure her cheeks had a pink tinge to them. And the smile that overtook her face may have been a tad much, especially since she was annoyed with him, but she couldn't help it.

"Let's go, Anna," Ryan agreed.

He turned around abruptly and started for the door. She did a double take, surprised to see him moving so fast. She had to mumble a quick, "See you later," to Evan as she rushed after her long time friend.

"Ryan!" she called after him, he was halfway down the street where she could see his car was parked.

He glanced up looking angry and then a moment later his face became a mask of concern. His long legs had him standing in front of her less than a minute later. "Anna," he chided. "It's freezing out here."

He took her coat from her hands, threw it over her shoulders and held it closed with his hands, keeping her close. But still, she found he wouldn't meet her eyes when she tried to look at him.

"You're mad at me," she said sullenly.

He let out a sigh, finally looking her in the eye. There was the hurt look again. And once again, she was the cause.

"I'm just… confused," he confessed.

"About?" she prompted, eager to make things right.

"The way you explained who I was to that Evan guy," he told her.

She gave him a look to indicate that she was at a complete loss. "But… but… it was the truth…"

Another sigh. "Yeah, but you never said we were going out," he added, "On a date…"

Ahh… she understood now… This was a guy thing. Ryan was afraid that because she didn't disclose her relationship status to Evan that she was interested in him. That wasn't the case at all—

Well, ok, she was attracted to Evan, but that wasn't the reason why she didn't mention their date to him.

"Ryan," she said, exasperated, reaching her hands up through the coat to give his fingers a squeeze. "I didn't tell him because it's none of his business. I just met Evan yesterday. I don't know him well enough to give him all my personal details."

"Oh," he replied sheepishly, looking down at their touching hands.

"Oh is right," she added.

He looked her in the eye, the puppy dog look back. "I'm sorry, Anna. We haven't even started this date and I'm already acting like a jealous boyfriend."

Anna held back the cringe she felt coming on at the sound of the word boyfriend. "It's ok," she accepted his apology. "Let's just take this one step at a time. Ok?"

He gave her a smile that had her insides warming. "Ok," he agreed.

She stepped out of his grasp to put her arms into the armholes. And then she watched as Ryan held out a hand for her.

"Ready?" he asked.

She stared at his hand and then up at him. One step at a time… she reminded herself. She slipped her hand into his large grip. She could do this, she told herself. This was Ryan, her good friend…

Anna smiled happily as she glided smoothly along the ice. She was pretty pleased with Ryan's date venue. He'd somehow gotten a hold of Calgary Flames family skate tickets. An event hosted by the organization to thank season ticket holders and their families. Ryan wasn't a ticket holder, so he must have gotten them from a friend. The event allowed the fans to skate on Saddledome ice while some of the Flames players made appearances for autograph purposes.

She'd long since finished getting her autographs and was just enjoying her time skating. It'd been awhile since she'd last set foot on a patch of ice with her skates—a couple of years, she believed. And she also recalled that it had been Ryan to take her last.

Skating was one of her most favourite things in the world to do. And Ryan had, of course, remembered. It said a lot about how much he cared for her, she realized.

Anna searched for him and found him watching her with a happy, content look on his face from his spot between the team benches. She was at the end of the Flames bench and decided that closing the distance between them and fast would be a very good idea. So she sped up, skating towards him.

He held out his arms just in time and caught her easily. They twirled once with the momentum, coming to a stop a few feet away from the benches. Ryan was laughing, his arms holding her body close.

"Anna," he began, mock scolding. "We really need to teach you how to stop…"

She laughed too. "Why, this is so much more fun…"

She gave him a mock pout.

"Because," he started, as he tapped the tip of her nose playfully, and then letting the same finger trace along her lower lip, in a move that was too sexy for words. He leaned in close to give her his answer. "I can see you knocking us both to the ice, with me landing right on top of you… And then where would we be?"

Anna glanced from his greenish eyes back to his, previously unnoticed, full lips and back to his eyes. In heaven… her traitorous brain thought.

Luckily, someone chose that exact moment to bump into them. Anna twirled out of his grasp, smiling at him to show she was all right.

"I'm really having a great time," she proclaimed, looking around at the happy chaos surrounding them. "This is exactly what I needed…"

"You sound so surprised," Ryan replied, coming to take one of her hands in his. "I know you… I know what you like… what you need…"

She shook her head incredulously. She pulled her hand from his grip and skated away; she used the boards to stop her.

"That's because you've been my friend for so long," she argued, when he skated up next to her. She didn't look up, just continued to look down at the bench.

"Anna," he said gently. "I know you're scared… but I also know if we let this happen," he touched her hand to show her what he meant by this, "It could be something really great."

She was still torn. She really had no idea how she felt at the moment. All she knew was that she could imagine herself kissing Ryan and enjoying it.

Problem was she could imagine the same thing with Evan. And she totally knew she was jumping the gun with Evan—there really was no evidence to indicate that the guy liked her, after all—but Anna somehow thought, that if she was having feelings for two guys at once that maybe it wasn't right to really commit to either of them.

Anna looked up into his hopeful face. Still, she didn't have the heart to burst his bubble at the moment.

"Let's just enjoy right now," she suggested. "We can talk about serious stuff later, ok?"

He nodded, perfectly content to do just that.

"Good," she announced. "Now… why don't you…" she began to glide away. "Try to catch me, I dare you."

She giggled happily as he started to race for her.

"I don't know how that boy gets out of the dishes every time," Julia complained, as she washed a plate and passed it off to Anna to dry.

They'd just finished a dinner of pot roast and somehow Ryan had disappeared after he'd offered to clear the table.

Anna chuckled. "It's a manoeuvre he's perfected over the years. The old clear and run."

Julia laughed. "I suppose having two ladies in the house while growing up spoiled him. And I guess I have to take comfort in the fact that he has to do his own dishes when I'm gone," Julia said, pausing to give her the hairy eyeball. "You're not over here doing the dishes while I'm not here, are you?"

Anna laughed. "No way," she assured. "Besides, I haven't set foot in this house in months."

Anna loved being back inside the house she'd finished doing her growing up in. But when Julia had made her permanent move to Florida five years ago, she'd given the house to Ryan—in hopes he'd start a family—and Anna's visit's to the house became scarce.

"Why?" Julia questioned, alarmed. "This is your home too, honey."

Anna gave the woman a placating smile, hoping that would end the conversation. It didn't.

"It's a huge house. I may have given it to Ryan, but I'm sure he wouldn't mind having you as a roommate…" Julia hinted.

"You're probably right," Anna said neutrally. "But I like where I am now…"

She shrugged her shoulders in a 'whatcha gonna do,' gesture. Julia didn't hold back her wistful sigh.

"But you had a good time today?" Julia asked unsurely.

She nodded emphatically. "The best," she said whole-heartedly.

They'd finished off their time on the ice and made their way to the Fanatic hockey souvenir shop. There, Ryan had bought her a Flames Jersey with the number 34 on the back for Miikka Kiprusoff, her favourite player. She'd protested greatly at the extravagant gift, but Ryan's mind would not be changed. Anna had accepted it as graciously as possible.

"Good," Julia replied, and then after a moment's hesitation, she said, "You know I just want to see you find someone to be happy with, right? Whether it's with my son or not is up to you. I just worry about you, honey, are you getting out? Meeting anyone?"

She'd always considered Julia her friend. But every once in awhile her mother side came out to play.

"Actually," Anna began shyly.

She was about to tell Julia about Evan, but reconsidered. This was Ryan's mother. As much as Julia said she loved her like her own, she knew she wouldn't take kindly to Anna playing games with her son. Even if the Evan thing didn't amount to anything.

"I went to the movies the other day with Michelle," she finished.

"Pssh," Julia made the noise. "That's not what I meant and you know it."

Anna chuckled lightly. "I know. I'm ok, Julia, you don't have to worry about me."

"Saying it doesn't make it true," Julia sighed. "Go on, find Ryan. I can finish up here. Give him a scolding from me."

Anna grinned. "Will do."

She exited the kitchen and made her way through the dining room, out into the hallway with the stairs that lead up to the upper level. The house was pretty old, probably built in the early 1900's. It had been renovated over the years—a couple of times while she was in residence—to include all the modern conveniences, but it still had the details of that era.

The upper levels included four bedrooms and a room that was called the sun room, because of its huge windows. That was Anna's favourite room in the house, because that's where the library was. It was full of old books collected over the years. But what made it even more special to Anna was that when she'd first moved in here, Julia had discovered Anna's love of books. She had put in a section of shelves in there specifically for her to fill.

That's where Anna headed to first. She always liked to take a look at the things she collected over time. She stepped inside the dark with night room, switching on the light. Anna stood there taking in the wall to wall shelving, filled with books. Then she made her way to the shelves that housed her own books. She trailed her fingers over the spines; each one had a special memory to her, from the Princess Diaries by her favourite author, Meg Cabot, to the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. Each one was special, part of happy times.

"He… llo…"

Anna whirled around, startled by the child's voice. At first she didn't see anything. But she let that extra sense she had extend over the room and soon found a little boy hiding partly behind the door. Anna gasped; the little boy was so pale he was actually translucent. He was a ghost.

Even though he was pale she could tell by his features that he was of Middle Eastern descent. His clothes, jeans and a t-shirt that read 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,' told her the boy had died recently. Her heart broke for him; he couldn't have been more than six years old.

"Hi," she breathed out. She inched her way towards him, she could tell he was frightened. She knelt to the ground, folding her legs under her, a good four feet away.

He tentatively came out of his hiding spot. "Are… are you that nice lady… that girl… told me about? Annie?" he asked.

Anna wasn't sure what girl he was talking about, but they must have meant her.

She nodded. "My name's Anna," she said gently. "What's yours?"

He looked her over once, deeming her friendly, he answered, "Ali."

She gave him a friendly smile. "What can I do for you, Ali?"

He looked sad all of the sudden. "I saw my mommy crying. I… I don't want her to be sad anymore… I don't feel sick anymore…"

Anna could piece together what had happened to Ali. A childhood illness, most likely leukemia, had cut his life short. And now he probably wanted his mom to be at peace like he was.

"Can you… can you tell her not to cry anymore?" he asked, unsurely.

Anna nodded. That's what she did, conveyed the messages from the dead to the living. They usually ranged from 'be happy,' to 'I dropped my wallet behind the bed and it had the rent money in it.' Whatever they needed she considered it her job to give their messages.

"Thanks," he said brightly. Ali turned to walk out of the Sunroom door, but he paused, "That girl… she kept telling me to tell you… to please help her…"

Anna's eyes widened at that. Kristin?

Before she could ask Ali more about Kristin or even his last name, he'd disappeared. What was Kristin doing sending her cryptic messages through a six year old boy? She had never done that before.

"Kristin?" she called out. "Kristin, I want to help. Can you hear me?"

She didn't know what she was expecting, but nothing happened. She let out a sigh. For the first time in ten years, Anna was starting to think maybe it was time to go back to the place where it had all started. Maybe it was time to go home.

After having the revelation that it was time to start thinking about visiting her hometown, Anna decided to find Ryan, her original reason for coming upstairs. And of course she found him right where she knew he would be. The spare bedroom they called the den.

He looked away from the TV when he heard her footsteps and smiled at her. "Hey, I was wondering when you'd come and find me. Dishes done?"

"Very funny," she said wryly.

He gave her a hearty chuckle. And then he held out a hand to her. When she took it she was super surprised when he pulled her down into his lap.

"Ryan," she protested at the intimate position; she was practically straddling his body. "Let go. You're mom is downstairs."

"Relax," he laughed, letting go of her, holding his hands up. "I'm not going to bite… unless you want me to, that is."

She groaned out loud at his corniness, but made no move to get off of him, she was entirely too comfortable.

This was the moment, she decided. She needed to tell him now that things could go no further between them.

Anna glanced up into his eyes, mesmerized by how green they looked, but also taken aback by the loving look they held.

"What's on your mind, Anna?" he asked gently, tilting his head to one side, as he gave her a considering look.

She had to look down, away, and her gaze landed on his broad, hard chest, covered in a plaid shirt. She lifted a hand and gave his chest an affectionate pat, once, twice, before settling it there.

"I… I don't want to hurt you, Ryan," she practically whispered.

A light tap on her chin had her head tilting up to meet his gaze. There was amusement there.

"Then don't," he said simply.

"But, I will," she assured.

"Anna, the only way you can hurt me is if you don't even give this a chance."

All he wanted was a chance? Couldn't she give him that?

"Can we take things slow?" she asked hesitantly.

He smiled. "I'll set my speedometer to turtle."

She gave him a push. "This isn't funny. I'm afraid of losing you"

He took hold of her pushing hand and brought it to his lips, placing a searing kiss to the palm of her hand. She could not contain the shiver of desire that pulsed through her.

"That won't every happen…"

She broke eye contact. "We should take things slow," she said definitively. "And… and maybe… see other people at the same time."

"Anna!" he exclaimed, incredulously.

"Wait," she protested, putting her hands to his shoulders. "Look, you shouldn't want to tie yourself down to me; there's probably someone better out there for you. Scratch that, there's most definitely someone better for you—"

She would have gone on; she would have spouted out a pros and cons list, she did that sometimes. But Ryan had other plans. He cut her off in the most effective manner possible.

Ryan's lips crashed over hers without warning. At first, caught of guard, she sat there, in his lap, frozen. But it was very hard to ignore the sensations his full lips were creating against her own. And the next thing she knew she was kissing him back, allowing his tongue entry at the slightest skimming against her lips. Her hands fisted against his chest, as his tongue danced alongside hers in the abyss of her mouth. She felt his hands sit at her hips, holding her tight, but otherwise being gentlemanly. Never mind that every inch of her suddenly screamed to be touched by those very hands.

She felt him attempt to pull back, but she made it hard on him; her hands snaked up around his neck to grasp at the hair at the nape of his neck. Her body arched into his, intensifying the delicious friction made by their moving bodies. She really had no idea what had suddenly come over her and it scared her.

This time when he tried to pull back, she let him. "Anna," Ryan began in strangled voice. "I care about you a lot. I would not mind being tied up to you… forever."

Her mouth formed an 'o' but no sound came out. Was he saying what she thought he was saying?

He chuckled at her reaction. "I can see that my intensity is scaring you. I'm going to back off. I'm happy to take things slow with you, but I refuse to see anyone else."


He put a finger to her lips, quieting her. "I won't. But if you think that's what you need to do, then I'm ok with you seeing other people. Just… don't tell me."

She blew out an unhappy breath. "It's not like that," she protested.

He shook his head. "Whatever, I just need you to know that I want to be with you."

He gave her a quick kiss that was on the verge of turning very passionate again, when they were distracted by Julia's exclaimed, "Oh my!"

They pulled apart to see Julia, moving faster than either of them had ever seen her move before, trying to get the heck out of there.

Anna let out a groan, as she buried her heated face into his chest. She felt the vibrations of his chuckle and she once again had to proclaim, "So not funny, Ryan! We just scarred your mom for life!" This only made him laugh harder.

Well that's it for this one. I really hope you enjoyed. Things are definitely heating up and getting more complicated and interesting.

I really hope if you're reading this you'll take the time to leave a quick review. I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks in advance!