“You’re not making this easy, you know,” I said. We sat in the car in Flower’s driveway, waiting for the windows to defrost.
“What do you mean?” She wore a smile that said she knew exactly what I meant. She warmed her hands in front of the vents.
“Every time you make those guys laugh it gets harder for me. I have to be so careful.”
Again, she played dumb. “Careful of what?”
“Not to screw up.”
She laughed, a tinkling little sound. I loved that sound, loved when we were alone together and it was just for me. There seemed to be plenty of Evie’s personality to go around but I liked knowing that part of it was mine alone.
“So you’re saying that I’m too good at making your friends like me?”
I leaned over the center console. “Yes.”
She came close, her mouth almost touching mine. “Sidney, there’s something you should know. Before we… go any further.” She gave me a big, slow blink. I stayed quite.
“I’m too good at a lot of things.”
She kissed me then, breaking into a smile against my lips. It made me smile too and that made for an awkward kiss. But it may have been my favorite one yet.
I took her home with me. Not to introduce her to the Lemieuxs, not to put her on the spot or parade her around in front of anyone. Just so she would know that there was a place for her in my life too. Evie helped herself to a t-shirt from an unfolded pile in my room and I pretended not to watch as she stripped to her panties and pulled it over her head. Then she climbed into my bed.
“Your laundry smells good,” she said as she snuggled down under the covers. I wanted to dive in there and maul her. I wanted to stand at the foot of the bed and watch her fall asleep in my sheets. I settled for a tie, slipped in next to her and gathered her against my chest. Evie traced her fingertip over my bare skin, sending my brain back toward the ‘maul’ option.
“You’re spoiling me.” Her hair was soft against my side.
She smiled. “I like sleeping next to you. When do you go away?”
“Friday. Just for a few days.”
Evie burrowed in closer and wrapped her arm around my waist. Her long bare leg went over mine, hooking me close. “Okay, I can probably go a few days.”
I wanted her to want to be with me every second of every day, the way I’d wanted her for the past five. It was like some alternate universe - I wanted her to be clingy. But that was selfish and could only end badly.
She rubbed her leg against mine, skin on skin. “Want to give me something to remember you by?”
I did and I would, as often as I could before leaving. Then again the moment I got home to make sure she didn’t forget. Her mouth was soft and willing. Her hips went flat beneath mine, the mattress holding her up like an offering. I teased her breast with my tongue, flicking her nipple until it stood at attention. She sighed and I kissed back up to her neck. My fingers teased her soft thigh then pressed into her cleft. A groan escaped my lips as Evie wrapped her hand around my shaft and stroked gently, as ready as I was, taking me right to her entrance. Once again she opened her eyes and watched mine as she guided me inside.
“Sidney,” she whispered. Her depth was intensely warm and forgiving, slowly taking every thought from my mind as it claimed every inch of my body. I kissed her quiet as I began to move.
Dear God, I thought. He was so heavy; massive chest and shoulders, those sturdy thighs and that muscular ass. His weight poured down over me like he was rolling a tube of toothpaste from the bottom to the top. Every last drop of pleasure squeezed right up to the brink.
“Baby,” he breathed. Neither of us would last long. Our first night together had been all grabbing and throwing, knocking over lamps and christening every available surface. Since then we’d been slow and kind. Sidney was taking the time to learn me and that made my heart squeeze – how easy it would be for him to take the prize and move along. There were no end to his options. But he stroked and sighed like he wasn’t going anywhere unless I went with him.
Bubbles started popping in my brain and I came. The firm plane of his shoulder muffled my tiny cry. I squeezed his body tight and rode out the orgasm as he patiently, politely waited until I’d had my fill. Then he moved harder, revving himself into the red. “Okay?” he asked softly. I kissed him with as much force as he thrust; it was all the answer he needed.
It was his game face, the face he made trying to see a way out from behind the net. Then it was gone as the focus broke and he dropped his head. His eyes closed and he moaned quietly as I felt him pump into me.
“Okay, I won’t forget you,” I whispered.
Sometime in the night he must have woken up and set his alarm, because it rang at 8 AM. Disentangling myself from his warm limbs was torture. As I dressed I applauded my plan – everything I’d worn to the game I could wear to work, minus the Crosby jersey. I even had a clean top folded away in my purse. The only thing I hadn’t planned was leaving my car at the arena.
“I’ll drive you,” Sidney insisted. I hated to wake him but it was worth it to watch him pull sweats on over his naked backside. I whistled like a construction worker.
“Hey baby,” I wiggled an eyebrow at him. He turned, shirtless, and looked at me like I was an idiot. Then he flexed. Before his muscles could relax I was a boneless heap, flat on the floor. Sid lowered himself down over me.
“I don’t have anywhere to be for hoooouuuurssss,” he drawled. “So don’t play games you can’t win.” I settled for lying on the carpet as he put on the rest of his clothes.
When we got into the city, he drove right past the arena. “You, uh…,” I started.
“I’ll pick you up after work. Max has something planned for tonight.”
The idea of Max’s plans for any night was enough to make a grown woman blush. But that’s not what he meant.
“Don’t think about my friends like that!” Sidney cried.
A full practice after a hard-fought game was always a slog. It had been worse lately since I’d been expending my energy so fully on extracurriculars with Evie. But when I got tired I thought of the nights… and I got a second wind. And a third. So long as I didn’t slow down my game, no one was going to complain about my off-ice activities.
I lay face down on the trainer’s table as he worked out a sore spot at my hip. Hip flexors had always been a problem for me. As he dug into the swollen tendon I was silently glad that Evie and I had been taking it easy on each other. Our first night had been epic and three days later I was still feeling the effects.
One thought had been on my mind all day: Around sunrise, as the light started seeping into my room, I’d woken up. Maybe she’d moved or something, but I realized that we hadn’t set the alarm for her to make it to work. The last thing I wanted was to disrupt her life – that part was coming, if we stayed together. Road trips and summers away and all kinds of crazy things my life required. I already knew wanted that with her, at some point. But it couldn’t be forced and it definitely couldn’t come as a surprise. For now at least, her life was her own and I had to hope for good luck.
I unspooled her from my arms and quickly set the alarm. As I reached for her again, the dark bed sheets such a contrast with her delicate skin, I noticed a small scar behind her left shoulder. It was a perfectly straight line, half an inch long, raised like it hadn’t been stitched. I couldn’t believe I’d missed it before and I instantly felt bad, for two reasons. First, sometime at some point Evie had gotten hurt. It could have been ten years ago but the thought turned my stomach. Second, it was a tiny but forceful reminder that I didn’t really know anything about her. Not yet. I pressed my lips to the scar then covered us completely with the heavy, dark blankets. Nothing was going to hurt her while I was around.
“There you are, boss,” Max sauntered in wearing a t-shirt and spandex sport shorts. I swear his under clothes were the smallest on the team and he wore them openly, like he couldn’t wait to be scandalous in the background of some unsuspecting photo. “You like the plan for tonight?”
“Yeah. Evie said she’d come.”
He climbed up onto the next table. The trainer finished with a particularly harsh dig into my joint and left me with instructions to lie still for ten minutes.
“You really like her, eh? I can see it when you are with her.”
For all his bluster, Max was a romantic at heart. He just liked to romance every woman in sight. ‘Equal opportunity’ was Max’s motto, and so far he had never disappointed any of his customers. But he wanted to see everyone else happily shacked up, maybe because he knew we weren’t built for his lifestyle.
“I do like her. She’s…,” I was at a bit of a loss. It didn’t matter, Max just nodded. He’d been the Wizard behind the curtain the last few days – he knew exactly what I meant. “Thanks Max, you’ve been a big help.”
That smile always lit up his face like a five year old boy. “Wait until tonight!”
I felt a thousand pairs of eyes on me. Everyone in the building must know. Every person on the street must sense His presence and be waiting, watching to see who He interacted with. In this city, Sidney Crosby got capital letters. The elevator seemed slow, the lobby too wide. I spotted his gleaming black Mercedes down the block and hurried over with my head down.
“You’re going to crash into someone,” he said, suddenly appearing before me so that I crashed into him. I jumped back startled. He wore that ageless, mile-wide grin like he’d just cracked himself up. I swear you could see it for a mile around. With one hand on my shoulder to steady me, Sidney leaned down. “Don’t look so nervous,” he stage-whispered. A wool hat was pulled down over his ears, a dark overcoat covered his huge frame. Surely that couldn’t be enough to hide him – I felt the atmosphere pulling in around him, like he was a center of gravity.
“I’m… I’m not,” I tried pathetically to cover my surprise. I hadn’t expected to feel so cagey.
He kissed my cheek quickly then the smile was back. “Want me to take off my hat?”
I dragged him toward the car. We’d have a dog pile on the sidewalk if so much as a single person spotted him. Of course his girly laugh didn’t help much. When we were safely into the car, he tossed his hat at me.
He took me home to change, but told me only to wear something casual. I found a sweater in my closet, brushed my hair and came out to find him elbow-deep in my underwear drawer.
“Bring these,” he tossed something over, I caught it and folded, holding it up. Plain white bikini underwear. He looked from them to me.
“Boy scout,” I laughed.
As we drove across town, my stomach growled loudly. Not five minutes later he pulled into the parking lot at a sushi restaurant. It was nearly seven and the place was hopping. I took a deep breath, wondering if this was it.
“Wait a sec,” he said as he parked, then came around my side and opened the door. It made me giggle. I climbed out, right into his chest as he stood there unmoving. There was an unfamiliar look in his eye.
“Front door or kitchen door?” he asked. That was it: simple, immediate and up to me.
Deep breath. “Is it too soon?”
He shrugged. “Maybe.” His hand slipped into mine, warm and solid. “Maybe not.”
I knew what it was then, the look in his eye that I didn’t recognize. It was fear. Not just fear of being seen, or being seen with a girl, but fear that I would say no. Eventually this would have to happen. Maybe if we said it was no big deal then it was no big deal.
The smile he gave was worth the risk.
I don’t know what came over me. I’d never used the front door at this place even when I arrived by myself. But something told me this was the time, that the longer we waited the scarier it would get. That morning I had told myself that Evie’s life needed to be as important as mine if we were going to work. But there was also no way it could work without this.
“Front door,” she said. I nearly fainted.
The restaurant was packed and we were headed upstairs to the private room. I held her hand, kept my head up and lead her through the crowded room. People saw me – it passed through the diners like a wave. I always felt their recognition even as I tried not to acknowledge it. I was just a person on his way to dinner, holding hands with a beautiful girl. It was perfectly normal for my palms to be sweating, right?
“Evie!” Jordan shouted as she topped the stairs. He wore a plaid shirt with rolled up sleeves and jeans – he was a giant cowboy at heart. He hugged her then Flower and Vero did the same. Kris came around the table, with someone right behind him.
“Beth!” Evie said. Her roommate smiled like she’d been crowned Miss America. She hugged Evie then stepped back into Kris’s arm. Evie looked from one to the other and moaned in jealous disbelief.
I draped my arm over her shoulder. “Again with the thinking about my friends!”
We sat around a u-shaped table with a sushi conveyor in the middle, grabbing dishes as they went by. Jordan was next to Evie and tried almost every plate. When he reached for another, Evie took the last from underneath his arm.
“I don’t get any food if you sit before me!” she said. Watching her eat sushi was adorable – the pieces were big but there was no silverware, meaning every slice was one huge mouthful. Evie gave up after a couple and took to biting them in half.
“Having trouble fitting that in your mouth, Evie?” Max called from across the table. I would have hit him if he were any closer, but she didn’t even pause.
“Just warming up for the big game later,” she deadpanned, pressing her leg against mine under the table.
For the second time in two nights, she made Flower choke on his drink.
An hour later we were back on the road. Max loved to plan activities. Mostly he loved to see and be seen in the newest and coolest places. So I parked next to him at the aquarium.
“You are a sick bastard, Max. You take us for sushi, then to the aquarium?” Evie asked. She held my bicep in both hands, tucked in against my side. This would be even more public that the restaurant but she showed no hesitation.
Night. Life. read the sign across the front of the building and people in all sorts of dress made their way inside. The lights were lower than usual and bars had been setup in the foyer. Music thumped through the place, different kinds coming from different directions. The huge rotating cylinder tank was lit so the tropical fish seemed to glow in the dark.
We bought beers and a few people in line give us slaps on the back, saying hello. Evie followed me toward the coral reef, Max leading the way. We walked from tank to tank, examining tiny fish and marveling at the big ones that swam in slow circles, seeming to stare back at us.
“Look at that one,” she whispered. I took the excuse to get very close and press a tiny kiss to her ear. She didn’t turn. “I ate that one for dinner!”
It had been a long time since I’d visited an aquarium, but the experience was totally different in the nightlife setting. Evie bobbed to the music, bumping against me in a delightful way. We shed our coats and I kept a hand around her waist. With so many exotic things to look at no one was noticing us, but it still felt great to be in a public place with her. First hurdle: cleared.
She went right to the glass at the octopus tank, squeezing in front of Jordan. The octopus was climbing the glass, its suckers stuck to the opposite side barely an inch from her face. If she’d been five years old she couldn’t have looked more excited. As it moved, the suckers stuck and released – within seconds we were all pressed to the glass.
“Octopus!” Flower yelled and wrapped himself around Vero, flailing his arms and making her scream. They collapsed into giggles that gave me a pang of jealousy – I wanted that kind of closeness.
Evie seemed to sense it and came close to me. Then she shook like she was being electrocuted and whispered, “Jellyfish!”
The tank was behind me and it was even cooler than the octopus. Translucent jellyfish drifted motionless in black light, eerie and ethereal in their stillness. It made me hold my breath. Evie turned her chest into my arm, lifted onto her toes and planted a kiss on my cheek.
“This is fun,” she whispered. “Now take me to the crocodile!”
By the time we were done oohing and aahing, it was past 10 PM. I yawned so big I had to cover my face with both hands. The boys laughed at me.
“Somebody keeping you up at night?” Jordan asked, blonde hair sticking out from under his baseball cap like a little leaguer.
“It’s true that they say about professional athletes,” I said.
“What?” he asked, suddenly excited. The giant puppy wants a treat. “What do they say? I don’t know.”
I rolled my eyes. “Guess no one’s ever said it about you then.”
They gave up the fight and let us go home. It was cold out as we reached our respective cars. I realized that in less than a week these guys had become my friends and I hadn’t even noticed. That’s how great they were. I wrapped Max up in a bear hug.
“Thanks, Max,” I whispered.
“You were perfect,” he said.
Sidney fired up the heat and the seat warmers, which were my favorite part of his fancy ride. We waited for the car to warm up. Six days, I kept thinking. Six days.
“Your car is still at the arena,” he pointed out. I just nodded. “Want to get it?” I shook my head. We drove back to his place. Again I’d packed something for the morning just in case. I took last night’s t-shirt off the chair where I’d hung it and slipped it back on. Sidney was in bed first, looking like the world’s most incredible body pillow. Instead of giving me the far side, he moved over. I slid in next to him.
“I made it warm for you.”
I couldn’t help put lay on my back and look up at him. The brown of his eyes seemed black in the dim lighting, bottomless. His pale skin glowed healthily. And that smile… I smiled back.
“Thank you,” Sidney said. “I know it’s….”
I knew it too and so I couldn’t let him finish. This was not a night to be ended with apologies for things we couldn’t change.
“Can’t wait to do it again,” I told him.