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Icing on the Lake

Icing on the Lake by Catherine Clark
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Beach reads for snow bunnies–our wildly popular beach reads expand to winter! The author of Maine Squeeze is back with another funny, romantic novel, this time in the snow.

HarperCollins; June 2009
368 pages; ISBN 9780061957338
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Title: Icing on the Lake
Author: Catherine Clark

Chapter One

Stop. Stop! I commanded my skates.

"Look out!" I cried, seconds before I nearly smashed into a group of boys. Instead, I opted just to fall onto the snowbank, my legs crumpling beneath me, landing on my hip and lurching backward. Very smooth, Kirsten, I thought. Could I go home now? I'd had about as much embarrassment as I could take for one morning.

"Come on, girls," one of the boys said as he skated over toward us.

"Sure, where are we going?" my friend Jones (whose real name is Bridget, but no one calls her that) said under her breath to me as she helped me up from the ice. "I think I could follow him just about anywhere."

I fought back a laugh. Jones was right: Official Rink Guy, whoever he was, was extremely cute, but he also looked like steam might come out of his ears at any moment.

Then again, we were all sort of steamy, which sounds sexy, but wasn't, because it was only due to the fact that it was 12 degrees outside -- and everyone steams in that cold. Dogs' breath can be seen from a mile away, especially when they're sled dogs running across the frozen tundra --

Okay, so this wasn't Alaska, and this wasn't the Iditarod -- it was just Minneapolis, Minnesota, on your average late-December day.

And it was a gorgeously sunny day, which meant it was extra cold. We were at the park near my sister's house, which happens to have a huge cleared skating area, as well as a couple of enclosed rinks. The lake had some scattered ice fishing houses, which looked strange to me -- the last time I was here, I'd hung out on the beach and built sandcastles with my nephew Brett.

The rink guy still stood there glaring at us with disapproval. He had a whistle on a chain around his neck, and he was wearing a red sports-team type jacket with the name Sean stitched on the front, sort of like a varsity letter jacket. Sean -- I liked that name. He had blond hair, brown eyes, and was seriously tall. But then everyone looks taller on skates. Anyway, he didn't look cold in the twelve-degree, wind-chill-of-five weather. He wasn't even wearing a hat or gloves.

"Be a little more careful, okay? That's all I ask," he said.

"Careful? We are being extremely careful," Jones replied as she brushed snow off my back. (The good skaters never have snow on their backs.) "Have we killed anyone yet?"

"No, but there are lots of little kids skating here -- I don't want anyone to get hurt," he said.

"But if the adults get hurt, that's okay?" Jones said.

He smiled, and his whole face went from semi-tough-looking to very-gorgeous. "You're funny. But no. That wouldn't be too cool, either. Just take it easy. Don't do anything crazy, okay?"

He shook his head and skated off to rejoin his friends, or should I say, co-skating-rink rule enforcers. They were circling the skating area as a group, as if they were the rink police of south Minneapolis, on the lookout for skating crimes. I kept my eyes trained on Sean for a lap. Watching someone that comfortable on his skates really impressed me. He was skating so fast, completely in control, and he looked good doing it, too. He had to be an awesome hockey player.

My friend Emma was a good skater, too, but me? Not so much. I was more into soccer and softball. When we went skating and played Crack the Whip, like today, I just held on for dear life and hoped for the best.

"He's very good-looking, but he needs to lighten up," Jones complained as she, too, watched the guys skating around. "Hasn't he ever seen people play Crack the Whip?"

"Maybe it's not a big thing here," I suggested. "Maybe there are different rink rules or something."

"Yeah, well, ‘Crack the Whip' does sound a little . . . iffy. Doesn't it?" Jones asked.

"Iffy how?" I asked.

"A little sadistic. That's all I'm saying."

I punched Jones lightly on the arm. "You're the only one who would think that."

"Thank you." She took a deep bow, which made her wobble a little on her skates. "Whoa. That's harder than it looks. End of the Non-Stars on Ice show."

"Look at Emma," I said. "Speaking of stars on ice."

She was doing a spin, and the guys that we were watching had stopped skating to watch her.

"She's taken!" Jones pretended to yell across the ice, her hand cupped around her mouth. Then she sighed. "It must be difficult to be gorgeous and talented."

"Let me tell you about it," I said.

"Ha!" She laughed.

We call our friend Emma "Emma Dilemma" because everything eventually becomes a giant problem with her -- even the tiniest, most inconsequential things, like what to order for lunch or what shoes to wear. She's beautiful and sweet and has a tendency to be undecided, which is a bad combination because she always has some boyfriend or other pining for her while she goes out with another guy because she thinks she should give him a chance, too.

She constantly comes to her friends for advice. It can drive you nuts at times, but she makes up for it by being really nice and thoughtful. She never forgets important days for you, she's always bringing little gifts, and donating her slightly-used clothes and shoes (and boys) to charity -- meaning me and Jones, because Crystal, who completes our group of four, has a serious boyfriend.

Crystal, meanwhile, was tilting her face to the sun, hoping to feel some warmth. Crystal had a gigantic winter coat that always made me think of Kenny on "South Park" -- it's orange, with a big cone-like hood around her head that looks like an old diving helmet, only it has fur around the edges. Crystal and her family moved here from Colorado last year and she still hasn't adjusted to the low temps and the occasional four-day lack of sunshine.

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